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Luperon: Comments and Advice from Cruisers

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 26, 2008 05:36 PM

Published: 2008-06-26 17:36:21
Countries: Dominican Republic

Report from Cruising Compass
26 June 2008

Luperon is a convenient stopover on the beaten path and because it’s still relatively inexpensive, it makes a it a good spot for most cruisers. But hassle-free, it is not. According to current posts from cruisers on the cruising forums, Luperon is still ripe with government-sanctioned bribery.

According to Cruising Guide author, Stephen Pavlidis, "Domincan's are finding new ways to raid our wallets. Too bad they can't standardize their process and stick with it, but then again, that's the DR and bribery is just part of going there for now. If you pay, then you make it harder for those that follow you, if you refuse to pay, be prepared to endure comments and stares from those that are used to accepting bribes."

To Pay or Not to Pay
"Bribes are always a tricky subject. While it is simply good manners to offer the visiting officers a cold drink when on board (and something they've come to expect), bribery is entirely up to you (and is also something they've come to expect). Much of it depends on the mood of the officers involved. Often one will ask you for a "gift" for the Commandante, or perhaps the Commandante will be so bold as to ask himself. Sometimes saying "No entiendo," meaning "I don't understand" will suffice, other times they persist. But I have never heard of anyone refused admission for not paying a bribe, although the intimidation factor is high and in their favor."

There are conflicting reports about fees. Be sure to ask for receipts. They are generally given out by most Governmental agencies. Besides the Commandante and his translator, Agriculture inspectors will also visit your boat.

Cindy's Island, a Hanse 342 reported, "When the agriculture inspectors arrived, they quickly inspected our refrigerator (we had no fresh produce or meats aboard) and asked about pets (we had none). There were two fees and we got a receipt for both. The officers were courteous and professional."

Here is a breakdown of their fees which total about $113 US (34 foot sloop, with two onboard):
- Commandante - no fee, tip requested
- Immigration - $63 (includes two 15 day visas)
- Tourist Card - $10 (card is stamped by a couple of officials and then put in a box, no receipt to take with you)
- Port Authority - $10
- Agriculture - two fees of $10 each
- A 90-day visa extension costs 300 pesos, or about $9

For S/V Paper Moon, with a dog onboard, the total fees came to $135 US in Luperon, including tips.

Be careful of people impersonating officials and asking for money. Some even offer receipts which are copies and not valid. It’s hard to know when you are being duped. Some cruisers only discover the fact after the "real" Commandante shows up.

Local Assistance
You can call on VHF Channel 68 for "Unity" (Derek and Ester), and ask them about any information you may need. If they are home, they will reply to you. They loved the DR so much, they bought a condo and keep their 41 Morgan O/I anchored in the harbour.

Luperon is a huge harbour so you won't have any problem anchoring. Make sure you lock everything up, before leaving your boat, and lock your dinghy including the gas tank.

If you cruise with pets, you can take your dogs ashore but bring them on a leash. The Yacht Club may not allow you to bring the dogs, but everywhere else they are welcome as long as they are not a nuisance.

Some cruisers reported that Ocean World Marina near Puerto Plata was easy to check into and accommodating.

Chuteman, crewing on a cruising catamaran reports, "The Marina will be two years old in November and is very, very nice. The Adventure Park and Casino are not my thing but it did not affect my enjoyment of the marina. Although geared toward bigger boats (e.g. high concrete docks) we had no problem with our cat. There were less than 10 boats there, which reflects the hurricane season. The staff were extremely helpful, professional and friendly.

There is a Government office in the Marina. We were visited by at least six officials. The Marina staff helped facilitate (translation and moving officials via golf carts) to speed up the process.

Officials included Customs, Immigration, Drug, Agriculture, animal control and Navy. It was hard to keep up with the flow. I didn’t witness any bribes being exchanged but lots of small fees, which could add up if you had a large crew. There were only three of us.

Each official was professional and treated us well. A few looked inside the boat but very casually, including the drug officer who wanted my bag opened. But as soon as I lifted the top she was satisfied and did not want to go any further. When we were ready to depart, they monitored it very closely and once the paperwork was done, we were required to drop the lines and push off."

Luperon is still known as the Caribbean’s safest hurricane hole and some consider it a true tropical paradise. If you go, be prepared and get the latest news from those whose wake you follow.