Guaguas, carro publicos, a metro system, and my personal favorite, motoconchos… oh my! There are a handful of ways to travel around here in the Dominican Republic, all of which I have had the pleasure of experiencing in my short time here.
Guaguas – a small minibus type vehicle that packs people in like sardines, usually without air conditioning, and usually (siempre) have loud music playing. There are larger guaguas in the capital and in major cities, and there are also smaller ones, but best believe they fit as many people as they can.
Carro publicos – I have tried explaining this to a couple friends back in the states and I think this is the easiest way… Imagine a used, 1999 (or older) version of a Toyota, Honda, or smaller make of a car, and then picture stuffing in about 7-8 people per car including the driver: the driver, one in the middle console area, and one in the seat, and then about 4 or so across the back. It costs approx. 30 pesos (not even $1 USD) depending on your journey and you pass the driver the money at some point throughout your journey. It’s best to have menudo (or change) because that way the driver doesn’t have to break bigger bills. And then when you reach the spot nearest to your destination, you simply say “chofer, donde puedas” or “chofer, where you can (leave me)” and he (yes it’s usually a male) pulls over and lets you out.
Metro in Santo Domingo is impeccable – clean, quick, easy to use, and relatively cheap. Definitely one of my favorite forms of travel when I am in the capital.
Motoconchos – basically a motorcycle that can take you anywhere relatively quickly, always with a helmet of course, PC rules and all. Just make sure you hold on tight and off you go. Also, I learned that it doesn’t matter where you put your hands on your driver… a personal dilemma I had my first time on a motoconcho.
I was off to my volunteer visit, and the last leg of the journey required that I take a moto for 45 minutes up the mountain… well, first time on a moto, I climbed on and held on to this man I had just barely met. Thinking my hands were maybe to high on his chest, I slid my hands down to his lower waist and after about five or so minutes on his hip bones, I decided I went to low and slide my hands back up, too high, back down. All the while, I’m sliding forwards and backwards on the moto to make sure we are able to get up this leg of the dirt road mountain path we are on. Needless to say, my moto driver thanked me for an interesting ride and I blushed and apologized for not knowing where to put my hands. The waist is fine, just pick a spot and stay in that general area.