Punta Cana is an incredible value destination and is a most-booked vacation for Penyak Travel. This is a fabulous and affordable way to get started on your first all-inclusive resort trip. The Dominican Republic is an island offering the true Caribbean vibe but also an awesome destination for value-based travel. Here are top considerations for traveling to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
All Things Airport Traveling to Punta Cana
You will want to make sure you start your trip right, and that starts the moment you touchdown. Here are some tips for airport navigation and booking at Punta Cana.
The Right Jetport for Your Trip
There are a few airports in the area and the Dominican Republic is a large island, so make sure you take ten minutes to verify you are making the best decision about booking your flights. Or, call Penyak Travel and for no fee, we’ll set you up with all the best bookings.
You want to make sure you fly into “PUJ” which is Punta Cana International Airport. Watch out for the “and surrounding airports” options! Santo Domingo and La Romana are a lot further away by a few hours. Most of the all-inclusive resorts are clustered around Punta Cana, so you won’t want to waste time driving hours from the airport if you can avoid it!
Arrival and Departure Service
This VIP service fast tracks you through Customs and Immigration. As soon as you get off the plane, someone will meet you, usually with a sign to greet you and take you directly to a separate line right to Immigration. They look at your passports and stamp them and you’re on your way. You will also have access to a nice lounge where you’ll wait while the attendant retrieves your baggage for you. This service is about $100 per person for a party of two. You save a bit on three or more, at $85 per person.
The departure service is much the same, and costs $200 per person, including the lounge. $175 per person is the rate for three or more. The VIP departure lounge can be accessed for a fee of $50 or $35 if you have an American Express Card. This includes the rooftop infinity pool access! Priority Pass membership may also help lower that rate.
E-Ticket Immigration Form
This mandatory step when traveling to Punta Cana is a COVID-19 holdover, and is a way to track who is coming in and out of the country. This needs to be completed both on arrival and departure. Simply go to the Dominican Republic tourism website and at the top you’ll see the E-ticket button. Some information about your stay is required and upon completion will generate a QR code to show.
When You Arrive, Head OUTSIDE
The area inside the airport (PUJ) once you arrive is all dedicated to timeshares. For the first time traveler to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, this can be a time wasting maze to navigate. The people staffing there are salespeople and may not be super helpful in helping to find your transfer.
Take a walk outside and skip everyone inside the airport. The transportation is outside the building and you should head there, too!
Pre-booking airport transportation versus using a taxi is recommended. The two companies for private transfers we love are Renny Travel and Dominican Airport Transfers.
There is a difference between group and private transfers and knowing this ahead of time will help you weigh the cost versus benefit of a private transfer or group transfer for your vacation. The decision will come down to your travel style and preferences.
Shared transfers are typically what you find on the resort website (unless you have paid and booked a VIP transfer or an elevated level room.) These are usually vans or shuttles with other resort guests. They will also make multiple stops, picking up other passengers and guests. The Cap Cana area, for example, features shared transfers at about $15 per person round trip and for about $50 more, you can get a private transfer which is quick and direct.
Passports for Travel to Punta Cana
You will need a passport book, not a passport card to travel into Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your return date home. This is a best practice for travel abroad, so keep your passport current!
Travel Tip: A passport card is suitable for cruises and to cross land borders in Canada and Mexico. You cannot use the card for international air travel. Just get the book!
Beach Considerations in Punta Cana
Not all beaches are created equal and Punta Cana is no exception. If the beach is an important factor in your Dominican Republic vacation, Janet recommends Bavaro Beach and areas south of Punta Cana. The Atlantic side to the north of Punta Cana is just not as nice for swimming.
Vacation Clubs a.k.a. Timeshares
A lot of the resorts have vacation clubs which are essentially the more antiquated timeshare. AM Resorts (Dreams, Secrets, etc.) are very popular in Punta Cana and one of our favorite brands. They will offer a breakfast presentation about their vacation club. Free spa credits, dinners, and other complimentary offers are in exchange for high-pressure sales pitches that range from two to five hours. Don’t waste your vacation on that.
Resort Standards are not Always Standard
There can be different levels of expectations and services under the umbrella of a single brand. Be aware, in Punta Cana and many other popular all inclusive resort destinations, there can be several properties with similar brand names offering different levels of service. Quality of food, service, amenities, rooms, updates, etc. can all differ a lot. One Secrets or RIU can give you a different experience in one place versus another. Some brands offer more consistency, but you’ll always have differences. It is the same way not all Courtyard Marriott properties are the same.
Currency Concerns and Tipping Tips
There is no need to exchange your money in advance. Tips are gladly accepted in USD. Janet and George recommend $100-$200 in cash in small bills per week of travel set aside for tipping purposes. This is at your discretion, but if you’re getting good service, it’s recommended. Listen to the podcast about our tipping tips!
This is not just for cancellations but is also a great sanity saver for medical emergencies while at your destination. Medical insurance is mostly likely not going to cover you in an international hospital. Just as a timely example, if you were traveling in Punta Cana flying with Southwest over Christmas break, travel insurance would have helped to cover those concerns beyond what the airline was covering for flight delays. It’s always good to have peace of mind to really enjoy your vacation.
Parting Thoughts for Traveling in Punta Cana
Punta Cana is a renowned destination for golf. There are several PGA courses and George, our resident golf guru recommends packing your clubs if you have a trip centered around the green. Rentals can get expensive fast.
Weather is great year around. You’re going to be warm. Eighty degrees in January is pretty typical. It can get to the low seventies at night and can lead to some chilly water temperatures. Pricing is always going to be best in September through December, not during a holiday.
Group trips, bachelor parties, and spring break friend groups are wildly popular her. The resorts often have casinos here. This is a best value destination for so many reasons! Destination weddings are affordable here, but the documentation is difficult. This would be perfect for a symbolic ceremony.
Always plan early. This is imperative during peak times: Spring Break, Christmas, and New Years. We have actually written about some tips for you to get the best deals during the guaranteed peak travel season, but ultimately, start looking at your trip now!
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