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By No owner — last modified Aug 13, 2018 01:36 PM

 Dominican Republic - Formalities


In all DR ports, no departure is permitted after 1800 hours.  Arrivals can arrive at any time, but it is preferred that you arrive between 8AM and 4PM if possible.

In all ports you must announce your arrival to the COMMANDANCIA by VHF channel 16.  If no answer, report directly to the Commandancia on arrival.  The Commandancia is the office of Marina Guerra, which is the Coast Guard.  You must check in with them as well as Immigration.  Some Ports require Customs as well.

Fly the yellow Quarantine Flag when you arrive and also the Dominican Republic Courtesy flag. Wait to be boarded, as it is illegal to land before clearance.

Ports of Entry

To enter the Dominican Republic you must arrive at a “Puerto Habilitado” (Ports that have clearing in and out facilities).

On the North Shore this includes: Manzanillo, Luperon and Puerto Plata. If you arrive at Monticristi, they will send to Manzanillo for Immigration for you.

On the East Coast you can clear in or out at Santa Barbara de Samana, as well as Cap Cana and Punta Cana.

On the South Coast you can clear in or out at Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and Casa de Campo. At Las Salinas, althoug a Port of Entry, it is best just used for clearing out.

Clearance Procedure

Officials to see are:

  • Immigration for the Visa
  • Coast Guard for papers from previous harbour and despacho to next harbour
  • Department of Drug Enforcement to check for illegal drugs
  • M-2 which is Intelligence and who goes along with the drug inspection officer
  • Customs may appear and require a form to be filled out. This does not occur in every port and not all the time.  The requirement exists but is inconsistent as most customs work is directed to commercial yachts.

    All officials will ask for tips throughout the DR. There are places where one clearance fee can be paid that covers all, including tips. In other places there are various "invented" fees, which are outlined on the individual port pages. This custom is a form of "direct tax" as the officials get paid so little per month. The entire country works on tips and commissions, so in short, get accustomed to it or don't sail to the DR.

    A 90 day cruising permit will be granted on arrival (and can be renewed for an additional 90 days). For details of charges to pay see Fees. Some marinas will offer a clearance service with an all-inclusive charge. Sometimes this is much simpler than visiting all the various offices, which for some can be lengthy and complicated.

    Any boat that comes into a DR harbor is under DR jurisdiction.  If they do not want to stay, the authorities may permit them to depart provided they have not set foot on land.  If they have set foot on land, then they must clear in and clear out.

    The DR is concerned about illegal emigration and drug smuggling and monitors ports closely.  Most cruising boats are not searched.  However, if a boat meets the profile, such as coming from Jamaica and /or an all-male crew, it is likely it will be searched.  Additionally the DR has agreements with the USA.  If a vessel is clearing out to the US mainland or Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, usually an additional step that requires that dogs come on your boat, will be required.

    Moving Harbour to Harbour within the DR

    The Coast Guard (Marina Guerra) issues the Despacho from harbour to harbour. Despachos are issued only to "Puertos Habilitado" (Ports that have clearing in and out facilities). Stopping between official ports may be done with your Despacho provided you have a reason, such as needing to take a rest, mechanical work etc. Whilst there is no official charge for a local despacho to go to the next DR harbour, the Coast Guard usually expects $20 to $25 to "clear out to a local destination".

    Departure Clearance

    When you are ready to leave the DR, you must get an International Despacho from Marina Guerra.  Depending on where you are clearing to, you will be asked to pay a "tip" (not voluntary) for the time involved. The most expensive departure would be to the US mainland, Puerto Rico or the US Virgins, as the staff and dogs must be brought in from Santo Domingo. This to comply with US requirements imposed on the DR. For an easier check-out, pick a non US destination and then take it from there.

    Note that once you have been issued with a Despacho, you must depart within 1 hour or your Despacho will be taken away and you will have to obtain a new one the next day.

    In some ports, Despacho conditions might be more relaxed if you are simply moving to the next port with a domestic Despacho.

    If the weather is "strong", the Coast Guard may refuse to allow you to depart as at times they close down the coast (including commercial craft).  Your departure Despacho will be withheld until conditions are deemed safe. Some cruisers have expressed anger about this in the past, but the DR has their own reasons for maintaining the safety of their coast and the security of their environment.  There have been occasions in the past when boats have been lost, in particular on the north coast in heavy weather, where the vessel has ended up on the coast, leaking fuel into the sea.


    • All harbours in the DR are on heightened alert as the vigilance against drug runners has increased, which can at times cause a short delay when clearing in or out.
    • Several ports are best to avoid, unless one has special permission (e.g., Puerto Plata's commercial harbour and Azua).
    • Some of the intermediate ports get more traffic and the officials at those ports are easier to deal with. Some ports or anchorages like Punta Macao on the east end, have a reputation for asking for a fee for stopping, although such requests do not have to be honoured.
    • See this Useful Clarification of Fees in the DR by Frank Virgintino, which explains very well how the system works here for visiting cruising yachts.


    If wishing to stay for more than 6 months

    For stays of longer than 90 days, foreign-flagged yachts may have to apply for a "Certificate of Navigability" in order to obtain a despacho to leave the country. The cost for the Certificate is more or less $20 US per foot. Once the fee is paid, a "Certificate of Navigability" is issued for one year which is renewable.

    The best way to get this Certificate is in Santo Domingo at the central Coast Guard Office (expect to pay a tip), not at the local port.

    In certain cases the issuing of this certificate includes a criminal records background check, therefore your departure is likely to be delayed if application for it is not made at the right time.

    No such certificate is required for stays of less than 90 days.

    See DR Crusing Guide for more information.

    Last updated May 2017.


    All visitors must have a valid passport.

    For most nationals, a 30 day Tourist Card is issued on arrival. It is easily renewable. Citizens of Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Perú, South Korea and Uruguay do not require a Tourist Card or a visa.

    See here for a list of countries covered by a Tourist Card.

    If wishing to renew the Tourist Card after 30 days, fees are payable depending on how long you wish to stay in the country. See Fees below for details.

    If a visa is required, all applications must be authorised by the authorities in the Dominican Republic.

    Last updated May 2017.


    Customs may appear when you clear-in to the DR and require a form to be filled out. This does not occur in every port and not all the time.  The requirement exists, but is inconsistent as most Customs work is directed to commercial yachts.

    Firearms are checked by the boarding officer. One should have certificates of ownership.

    Last updated May 2017.


    Cases of ciguatera have been reported on the north coast between Samana and Puerto Plata.

    In some of the inland communities, and rural communities, where there is standing water and poor drainage, there has been some reported cases of malaria.

    ZIKA VIRUS ALERT: (September 2016) There have been recent safety alerts from the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, and Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding travel to parts of Central and South America, Africa, southern Asia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific islands. The Dominican Republic is an area of interest with reported cases and possible active virus transmission. There is growing concern about the rapid spread of the ZIKA Virus and the impact of the virus on pregnant women and babies. ZIKA is transmitted by mosquitos in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and there is currently no cure or vaccine. This situation is evolving rapidly, so please refer to the CDC’s dedicated website if you are intending to cruise in one of the effected areas.


    If you want to re-flag your boat under the DR, you will have to pay import tax. It is high because there is a tax of about 30% followed by a selective import tax on top of that of another 20%. With sales tax then added of 16%, this is a pricey option. Most well off Dominicans that are in the yacht clubs, have their boats with an American Flag. They pay $43 to bring their boat into the country and then every year they pay a foreigner renewal fee of $300 or so.


    Arrival Fees

    The only official fees that cruisers must pay when clearing into the DR are:

    • US$73 - a one-off fee per boat (for the 90 day cruising permit).
    • US$18 for a 30-day Tourist Card per person.

    Fees are paid to Immigration and a receipt issued.

    The coast guard, along with M-2 (Intelligence) and Department of Drugs may board on arrival. There is no charge for their services or for that of Customs (however it is normal to give a tip).

    Renewal Fees

    Tourist cards can be renewed as follows:
    30 days to 3 months: $2,500 pesos
    3-9 months: $4,000 pesos
    9-12 months: $5,000 pesos
    And so on, up to 10 years.

    Domestic Clearance Fees

    Despachos from port to port will be required and will be administered by the Coast Guard. Officially, there is no charge for them, however we have been advised that a tip for this service of $15 (for domestic zarpe) and $25 (for an international zarpe) is customary and normally requested. For an international zarpe to the US or US posession, a higher tip of US$50 is the norm as this is a more complicated procedure.

    Other Fees

    Whilst overall the authorities in the DR are showing greater compliance with the official rate list, there are some ports (such as Samana and Luperon) where a number of unofficial fees are still being charged - such as harbour entrance fees, anchoring fees, garbage disposal, pet landing fees etc.

    Crew Lists: There is a fee to enroll or disenroll crew if they want to leave the boat and fly out: US$20. This is only charged for crew who were on board on arrival in the DR.

    Harbour Charges: Individual harbours may assess fees for such services as garbage collection or for an agricultural inspection, or for entry into the bay (US$10).

    Department of Ports: The DOP may also request an anchoring charge although they have no jurisdiction to do so. They can only charge for use of a government dock. This fee is US$.70 cents per foot for each 24 hours, whether you stay for one hour or 24 hours.

    Last updated May 2017.


    Wider Caribbean's Marine Protected Areas (CaMPAM)
    A useful database of MPAs in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. All Marine Parks are MPAs, and therefore if wanting to find out about any marine parks in the islands you are visiting, details and location can be sourced via this website.

    Local Customs

    Working for tips ("cielito" or "propinita") is a very big part of the Dominican culture. Sometimes cruising sailors complain about having to give a tip or refer to it as a request for a bribe. It is however, part of the culture here, so get used to giving a small reward/gift graciously and if necessary smile nicely and just say 'no'.

    Avoid being dismissive or rude if you are asked. Respect and courtesy is highly valued at all levels of Dominican culture.


    Pets must have a Health Certificate issued and signed by a licensed Veterinarian. The Certificate should contain the name and address of the owner, the complete identification of the animal (name, breed, sex and age).

    The pet must have:
    (1) been examined within 30 days and not more than 365 days prior to departure and found to be free of any infectious diseases.
    (2) Been vaccinated against rabies. The Rabies Vaccination Certificate (which should have been given between one month and twelve months prior to entry) should include the date of vaccination, product name and serial number. Triple vaccination (distemper, lectopirosis, hepatitis) and parvo-virus vaccine certificate.
    (3) Dominican Republic Veterinary Health Certificate issued within 15 days of travel.

    For more information contact the Office of Animal Health - tel (809)542-0132. For animals other than cats or dogs, they have to be authorised by Direccion General de Ganadara Tel: 809 542 2858. Forms from

    Holly Redmond
    Holly Redmond says:
    Apr 21, 2018 02:50 PM

    We arrived in Luperon in March 2018 and have spent nearly a month and a half here. The people are some of the friendliest that we have ever encountered. No issues with theft or safety whatsoever. The pricing is a welcome break after coming from the Bahamas. We pay $2 a day for a mooring, $1 per 5 gallons of water and luch at Las Velas is $3. We have also used one of the local canvas shops for a $300 dinghy chaps. Patulas Restaurant has become one of our favorites along with Wendy's Bar and Las Velas at Puerto Blanco. Kat, the owner of Patula's has been very helpful in recommending and even organizing some of the trips throughout the Island. The waterfalls are only a short ride away from the harbor and is a must do. One of the best beaches we have ever seen is also a relatively short, yet beautiful ride to Cambioso. La Islabella is another short ride with a fun beach. Santo Domingo, although on the south side of the island is about a days trip on what are surprisingly modern busses. We have done so much here in the Dominican Republic and all the while safely moored in Luperon Harbor. Don't just stop at Georgetown in the Bahamas, come down to Luperon!

    Cornelis says:
    Feb 11, 2018 10:21 PM

    Anybody? A USA produced boat, 18 years old to import in DR taxfree possible based on CAFTA or NAFTA ? Should be possible but what then with sales tax. Is there still a sales tax after 18 years...? If nobody has the answer : Wich tax lawyer to contact? bst grts

    EvenKeel says:
    Feb 04, 2017 05:40 PM

    I was not suggesting the extortion was part of the hold up. I was just writing these facts as a result of our detention.
    My point is only, if you go to DR be careful, you won´t sail the way you want. That's it.
    I'm sailing for nearly 30 years all over the world, so I'm quite aware of what should happen or not.
    Anyway, thank you for justifying the DR point of view as you did, but I'm quite sure there are more reports of robbery and attacks than disasters at sea.

    Sue Richards
    Sue Richards says:
    Feb 03, 2017 02:04 PM

    Posted on behalf of Frank Virgintino - author of the DR Free Cruising Guide:

    The real issue is one of safety and you will find it throughout the Greater Antilles and for good reason. Heading east from Cuba, Hispaniola or Puerto Rico, strong NE winds, E winds and SE winds can cause difficult conditions especially near capes and highlands - such is the case between Salinas and Barahona/Punta Beata. I once spent 7 days "locked up" in San Juan due to strong NE winds, because the Coast Guard would not let us depart.

    The Coasts Guard of the Greater Antilles is very aware of vessels moving in high winds and large seas. Frequently motors quit on boats due to sludge in the tanks clogging filters and many times boats are lost and crew injured or worse. In the case of the Dominican Republic, when winds become strong, the Coast Guard in Santo Domingo review wind and sea conditions and make a "small craft" decision for the entire island. Sometimes it is extended to include commercial craft as well.

    The writer of this report suggests that the hold up was related to extorting an extra tip. There is no question that tips are a way of life in these countries, but in the case they describe, the orders did not come from Salinas, they came from Coast Guard Central in Santo Domingo. Once the Coast Guard there decides that "small craft warnings go up", it is no different than in the States; boats are advised to stay in harbour. In the DR, because of the need for a despacho, truly one cannot leave. This can lead to upset and frustration, but it comes out of a commitment of the Coast Guard doing their job.

    Let's take the reverse. High winds and large seas are the conditions and the Coast Guard allows boats to depart. Someone loses their boat and/or gets hurt and then asks "why was I allowed to depart in those conditions?"

    When we are cruising, all manner and sorts of things happen and not always to our satisfaction. However, to cruise happy (and safe), as we visit different countries, we must realise that we subject ourselves to their jurisdiction and judgement. While we may be captains and masters of our little ships, we are subject to local laws and customs.

    EvenKeel says:
    Jan 28, 2017 01:59 AM

    There is a new administrative disposition in the DR. It is supposed to protect the sailors and the fishermen from bad weather risks.
    The Armada is still giving the «despacho» but now, under the order of a «weather coordinator». Colonel Perratas Mieres is the official in charge for the time being, and believe me, he will protect you more than any «mother hen» could ever think of.
    For example, when 25 knots of wind is forecast at Puerto Plata and Samana (Atlantic coast), he will hold all despachos for the Caribbean Coast too, even if it´s forecast 5 to 8 knots gusting 12! The result is you cannot leave the place you’re in! It´s like if someone, in your birth land, says: «Fresh wind forecast in the Great Lakes - California Coast is closed.»
    This is why we had to stay 4 supplementary days in Salinas.
    To get an international despacho, we had to go to Barahona, an easy 30 miles step from Salinas.
    There, same story. 7 days and 30US$ for prolongation of the stay! Winds between 5 to 15 knots, seas 1 to 2 feet. And it lasted 7 days.
    We tried to explain the «boat is built to cross oceans» and we have «weather knowledge and facilities to get forecasts», but the commandantes of the Armada are totally afraid of Mieres, and would only check the SMS sent by the colonel, answering us: «Mañana... maybe».
    Colonel Mieres sees no difference between a light fishing boat and a 40 foot long-range cruiser. I really believe he sees no difference between 10 knots and 35 knots of wind either.
    At least, when the wind started to blow a little, Mieres decided everything will be delivered soon.
    It took 1 more day to get everything in order -40 US$ of mandatory propina included (but not due), to be freed from our chains, and I mean it, because you really feel like in prison in your boat.
    Thank you to Sarayu for their support all along this unsupportable episode. This is an experience I’ll hope to never experience again.

    Sue Richards
    Sue Richards says:
    Nov 16, 2016 12:32 PM

    There is a chandlery contact in Luperon on the north coast.
    On the south shore in Boca Chica near the yacht club is a marine store.
    Also in the south in Santo Domingo is a marine dealer called Automarine. They have full chandlery as well.
    Our thanks to Frank Virgintino for this prompt summary.

    wmcc says:
    Nov 14, 2016 01:33 PM

    Hi everyone, I am looking for somewhere to buy some basic emergency flares in the DR, preferably in Samana or along the North coast. We are on a charity kayak expedition and unfortunately were robbed of our flares and a number of other items. Also looking for somewhere to make some basic fibreglass repairs (or at least buy the supplies for).

    Ogrot says:
    Mar 18, 2016 01:02 AM

    From March 2016:
    1.8 USD per foot for a berth in Boca Chica Marina (Zarpar).
    Officials are friendly, but they all tell you to talk to the agent at the marina (who will charge you 250 USD). So when checking out I would strongly advise to start the process early. There is no need to pay the agent anything. Total cost for me ended up being the 75 + 15 + 15 USD (i.e. the boat + two persons - all paid to the Immigration office at the port on entry) plus 20 USD to the coast guard after the boat had been searched and we were clear to leave.
    It took 2 hours arguing before I could leave though, but better that then paying 250 USD to the agent.
    I'm on a budget, knowing what I know now, I would have skipped the DR and gone straight to Isle La Vache in Haiti. Free anchorage, and no hassle.
    The Capitan of the Marina Zarpar is a good man! But the agent there is willing to say a lot of rubbish to have you pay him.
    Olav Grottveit
    SY Rainmaker

    Miki says:
    Feb 28, 2016 08:48 PM

    Engine failed and sailed into pretty bay in the South near El Soco, Romana. Moored in front of top end hotel. Within half an hour friendly policeman arrived in hotel dive boat. Told us we had to leave and I explained engine kaput. Gave him $20.00 and he said we could stay only behind the little island in centre of the bay. So he towed us there and we sailed off in the morning. Anchored off Isla Catalina, no problem, likewise Isla Saona. Engine broke off Boca de Yuma and anchored 50 yards up river in 2 meters, delightful place. Again policeman arrived with fisherman gave him $30.00 and coffee, Very helpful guy and called a mechanic for us. Left 2 days later. Anchored in Miches and early morning taken off to Police station. Usual transaction all very nice and dropped back to boat after checking despacho and stuff. Anchored in Sosua North end of the beach. Fair swell. No official visitors here. It is a shame they have this unusual policy about no anchoring in the DR, but great officials. Recommend smiling and being friendly!

    Sue Richards
    Sue Richards says:
    Oct 26, 2015 08:47 PM

    Posted on behalf of 4Tux:
    March entry to Puerto Plata: $12.50 per person for tourist visa document (immigration) for 30 days. That has recently been extended officially to a 60 day tourist visa. Other fees for entry were $75. A grande total of $100 for two persons and a vessel. Luperon is charging about double that amount for entry plus harbor entry fees, anchoring fees, landing fees.

    Cade Johnson
    Cade Johnson says:
    Jan 11, 2015 12:44 PM

    I arrived in Luperon in 2009 by sea, and have swallowed the anchor and moved inland. So I cannot provide a first-hand account of check-in and check-out as currently practiced, but several Luperon expatriate residents have recently reported that very few boats are visiting Luperon. Some that have reported being charged undocumented fees by the current port captain. For example, one recent boater reported being charged for only staying a few days and "not spending enough money in town". Naturally such rumors are difficult to substantiate. Port captains change every six months or thereabout and some are honest - but since the traffic rate is now so reduced it will be relatively difficult to obtain current information.
    On the bright side, the Puerto Blanco marina has had a facelift and is under new and invigorating management (NW corner of the bay).

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    Cruising the Caribbean: Free Cruising Guides Unveils New Website  (15 Oct 2015)

    A Cruising Guide to the Dominican Republic 6th Edition: Now Available at FreeCruisingGuides

    A Cruising Guide to the Dominican Republic 6th Edition: Now Available at FreeCruisingGuides  (22 Aug 2014)

    Dominican Republic: New Requirement for Visits of more than 90 days.

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    Dominican Republic check-in: Customs now a requirement

    Dominican Republic check-in: Customs now a requirement  (16 May 2013)

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    Dominican Republic, La Caleta Marine Park (nr Boca Chica): Environmental Protection Department Ban Anchoring  (13 Mar 2013)

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    A Thinking Mans Guide to Voyages South - the many facets of Caribbean Cruising  (10 Jan 2013)

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    New Edition of Dominican Republic Cruising Guide Now Available Online  (25 Feb 2010)

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    Dominican Republic - Current Entry Procedures  (19 Nov 2009)

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    Dominican Republic - New Clearance Procedures to Stop Bribery   (11 Jun 2009)