What it’s like traveling to the Dominican Republic right now

May 29, 2022

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If you’re looking to travel to a place where the only question you’ll ask yourself is, “Is it too early for a pina colada?” then the Dominican Republic just might be for you.

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Visitors from all over are currently welcome to travel to the Dominican Republic seemingly restriction-free. Vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers are welcome with no need to show any proof of COVID-19 vaccination status and no PCR or antigen test required to enter (though it’s always wise to take one prior to departure).

Flight prices on JetBlue have dropped to as low as $308 round-trip from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), with other viable options from Newark, Nashville, Boston or Chicago, to either Punta Cana, Santiago or Santo Domingo. Between the lax entry protocols and the cheap flight prices, it’s no wonder why the Dominican Republic recently broke records for the most tourist arrivals in its history, bringing in 600,000 visitors just last month.

The only requirement to enter is each passenger must fill out an e-ticket administered by the government of the Dominican Republic. This did not seem to be advertised anywhere and left many travelers scrambling at the gate at JFK to quickly fill out this vital document on their phones. A JetBlue employee announced people should simply google “Dominican Republic e-ticket” and the first option would be the correct one, but be wary. There are many scams out there. The e-ticket is free. If you’re on a website that asks for your credit card information, do not put it in. All that’s required for the e-ticket is to fill out your personal information, flight number, passport number, where you plan to stay and how long you will be in the Dominican Republic. There were no questions about COVID-19.

Once you have your ticket booked and your e-ticket filled out, you’re on your way to paradise. Many passengers on the flight to Punta Cana did not wear a mask. Upon arrival there were signs in Punta Cana International Airport asking people to wear masks, though most people walked around maskless. There were still a few signs about COVID-19 testing requirements, but overall the virus did not seem to be much of a concern to most locals I met.

A sign at the airport reminding people they would need a COVID-19 test to return to some countries. (Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

The Dominican Republic is known to have some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. However, there has been a recent influx of sargassum seaweed, and I was disappointed to see Playa de Arena Blanca, where I was based, completely covered in seaweed.

Related: Cancun and the rest of the Mexican Caribbean battle a sargassum seaweed invasion

Sargassum covers a beach in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

I stayed at VIK Hotel Arena Blanca All-Inclusive for a steal of $70 per night. Despite the seaweed-infested beach, I was pleasantly surprised by how much bang I got for my buck. There were three pools, a private beach, a gym, COVID-19 testing on-site, unlimited food, coffee, and fruity rum-spiked drinks to fulfill my tropical dreams. Round-trip transportation from the airport was not included. However, with my Booking.com Genius discount, I was able to get a taxi to the hotel for only $5. Most employees were wearing masks but none of the patrons were.

VIK Hotel Arena Blanca. (Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Related: Here’s what happened when I stayed at the cheapest all-inclusive resort in Egypt

If you want to find a beach that has no seaweed, head to Playa Macao. It’s about 20 minutes north of downtown Punta Cana, and the trek is well worth it. Easily one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, the coastline of Playa Macao is a perfect contrast of white pristine sand and crystal-clear blue waters. You can rent a beach chair for $10, enjoy drinks out of fresh coconuts and take a dip in the salty waters of the Caribbean.

Playa Macao. (Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

If you’re into snorkeling, I highly recommend this small-group sailing and snorkeling catamaran tour. It’s about a four-hour excursion, including “unlimited happy juice,” with options to paddle-board. Though the weather was overall terrific for my short three-day trip, there were overcast conditions while I was on the snorkeling tour. Overcast or not, bring sunscreen.

Related: 12 of the best far-flung dive and snorkel spots to add to your bucket list

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

As my Dominican Republic getaway neared its end, I needed to take a COVID-19 test within one day of my departure in order to get back into the U.S. Though I typically carry the Binax now home tests, my shipment had been delayed and didn’t arrive in time, so I was stuck paying for a test at my resort. Luckily, an antigen test was only $12 and I had my results within five minutes. Be sure to double-check your information on the report of your test results. After close examination, I saw that they had typed in an incorrect passport number, which they were able to fix once I brought it to their attention.

Related: Your Guide to at-home COVID-19 Tests for International Travel

If you are headed back to the U.S., a COVID-19 antigen or PCR test is required within one calendar day of your departure, and a Dominican Republic e-ticket exit form is also required. Similarly to takeoff, many passengers, myself included, didn’t seem to know an e-ticket for exiting the country was required, leaving us huddled up by the check-in counter frantically filling out this form on our phones. JetBlue also required a passenger assessment form to be filled out prior to arriving at the airport. It asked specific questions about COVID-19, including but not limited to whether you had taken a negative test within one calendar day, and/or if you had a medical or humanitarian exemption from testing.

I was unable to check in to my returning flight on JetBlue through the airline’s app because I was headed to a “restricted destination” (U.S.). I had to wait until I arrived at the airport to check in to my flight, where they quickly confirmed my negative test result report. I was asked to show my e-ticket several times, but I was only asked to show my negative COVID test results once.

(Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Since I could not check in online, I arrived at the airport three hours early, expecting a long line of tourists waiting to return back to their respective origins. However, after filling out my e-ticket, I was through security and passport control in about five minutes, giving me ample time to spend in the VIP Lounge, thanks to the Priority Pass membership included with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. There I enjoyed some snacks and coffee before my flight back to New York.

The VIP Lounge at the airport. (Photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy)

Overall, traveling to the Dominican Republic — with the exception of the required negative test to come back to the U.S. — felt somewhat like travel pre-COVID-19 days. There were hardly any masks in sight, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves without the fear of the virus.

Featured photo by Kaitlyn Rosati for The Points Guy. 

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