Planning a dune buggy adventure in the Dominican Republic? Here’s what you need to know before you go

When a country has close to 1000 miles of coastline, it makes sense for travelers to flock there to enjoy its abundant sand, sea and sunshine-infused bliss. But with tourism officials projecting that hotel rooms will grow to nearly 100,000 by the end of 2018, the destination has to offer fun, inland activities too, right? Well, the country in question – the Dominican Republic – definitely does that. And guess what? Dune buggy riding across dusty, country roads is one of them. Dune buffy ride in the Dominican Republic

However, take note. There are a few things you need to know before you sign up for an adrenalin-pumping ride through deserted and winding back roads.

What to Wear

•  You are going to get really dirty, so do not plan to wear a cute outfit. Select clothes that will wash easily or old ones you can discard when you’re done. That goes for shoes, too.

•  Ask your tour operator if they provide protective eye gear, and if they do not, plan to take your own. Believe me when I tell you that glasses and/or sun shades alone are no match for the pesky dirt particles that fly relentlessly at your eyeballs. From the moment you rev that buggy engine and press the gas to go, dust and grime assail you at every angle. Protective eye gear for going on a dune buggy ride

•  Whether you opt for a head wrap or a baseball cap, that’s up to you, but covering your hair is a must if you hope to avoid ending up with it caked with dirt. Bear in mind that one of those fashionable Instagram-ready hats will not do. You’ll be moving fast, and wearing a helmet, so your hair covering has to be something that fits well under it.

• Take a bandana-style buff or large handkerchief so you can cover your nostrils and lower half of your face. If you’ve ever watched a western, there’s a reason that ranch hands and slick cowboys have those pieces of square cloth slung low across their necks. When the going gets tough, it covers their face and keeps the trail dust out. The same principle applies on this kind of outing.

What to Bring

•  Sunscreen is a must-have in any tropical, warm-weather country, and the Dominican Republic is no different. Even when cloudy, only about 20 percent of ultraviolet rays are filtered out, so that leaves a whole lotta room to get a serious sunburn if you don’t lather up!

•  Depending on how far your hotel is from the starting point, I’d advise you to plan for water and a few healthy snacks to tide you over between meals. Most tours last about three hours from start to finish. There are no snack machines or stops along the way for food.*

•  Even if you pay for the tour with a credit card, cash will come in handy for tips (and small monetary gifts, if you feel so inclined). You may also want to buy action-packed photos taken by guides along the way, if you want to take home visual memories of the ride. Personal cameras and phone selfies are discouraged because you are likely to drop the equipment or veer dangerously off the road while trying to set up the perfect shot. Dune buggies stop at village in La Romana Province, Dominican Republic

What to Expect

•  A bumpy ride, so leave anything that may get tossed or lost at your hotel.
•  Dirt, dirt and more dirt.
•  A choice between a single-seater and a double-seater buggy. The price varies.
•  Difficulty reaching the pedals if you are under five feet two. Ask for a booster seat, if needed.
•  Interactions at various stops along the way. My tour took us through a village, to a cave, and a local beach where you could meet and speak with locals. Do not be surprised if conditions look very different to what you are used to. Domincan Republic

Final Two Tips:

1. People ride at various speeds, and the roads are pothole ridden. The trick is to leave a little distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you in order to minimize the dust that gets kicked up by its wheels.

2. Don’t be afraid to make friends with the kids!

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*Note: I took this tour in La Romana Province, which is a little over an hour out of Punta Cana. Tour inclusions may vary depending on where you are and the provider.

8 Made-for-Instagram spots in Montreal, Canada

I visited Montreal in July 2017 for a business conference and extended my trip to incorporate a weekend stay so I could explore the area in my spare time. There’s so much to see and do in that wonderful city! I plan to write a separate post soon with recommendations for general must-dos, but first I’m excited to share my picks for some of the best made-for-Instagram spots.

Parc du Mont-Royal

Perched high above an urban park that was designed by the same landscape architect that did Manhattan’s Central Park, Mount Royal Park has a lookout point that gives you sensational views of the city.  If the weather is good and you’re in the mood for a little exercise, you can walk there from the downtown area and hike to the top. The climb will get your heart rate pumping, so be mentally prepared for that. Not in the mood to break out a sweat? No problem. Just call a taxi cab or Uber.

Montreal, I have one word for you: Enchanté!

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Vieux-Port de Montreal

The old port of Montreal is a great place to visit because there’s always something going on.  Whether you want to go zip lining or take a slow stroll along the river, eat from a food truck or dine in a restaurant, it’s all up to you. What’s more, there is a giant observation wheel there that is an iconic landmark. It gets #instalove 24/7.

#AboutLastNight

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Palais des congrès

The multi-colored glass walls of Montreal’s convention center, Palais des congrès de Montréal, are like visual beacons competing for your camera’s attention.  A striking combination of 332 colored panels and 58 transparent ones, the end result is like a beautiful kaleidoscope that creates a neat backdrop for your pics.

Notre-Dame Basilica

This jewel in Montreal’s hat serves as a parish church, and is one of the oldest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Canada.  The interior will stun you with its ornate design and works of art that are spread throughout the sanctuary. At special times of the year, I heard you can sit in the second-floor balcony and hear their organist play beautiful pieces from great composers.

Old Montreal

Almost every street corner in Old Montreal is aglow with ‘Gram potential. Brimming with beautiful, historical buildings – many of which date back to the 1600s – this neighborhood is a thriving community and tourist mecca ripe for exploration. I particularly liked the train tracks because they gave me the whimsical feeling of old-world adventure.

The stoops

Slightly different to the wider versions seen at the front of New York brownstones, the stoops in Montreal lead to very elevated doorways that make them stand out against the flowered trellises and imposing architecture of the many lovely neighborhoods. Side note: Before snapping the photo, I’d caution you to ask permission from the homeowner before just going to sit on their stoop like I did. LOL.

Downtown Montreal is all about that stoop life.

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Saint Joseph’s Oratory

A magnificent dome church on top of a hill, this building was founded in 1904 by a man named Brother Andre who started out as a doorkeeper at the Collège Notre-Dame across the street. It is said he saved money from his tips to pay for construction on the building that is now a place of worship, art, music, and culture. I didn’t go inside, but I learned it had more than  200 nativity scenes from over 100 countries on display.

Maison Saint-Gabriel

This museum is a throwback to the 1600s, a time when Marguerite Bourgeoys set up a place to house “king’s daughters”  – young women sent from Paris to Montréal to find husbands. I suspect those that didn’t marry ended up living a not-so-easy life, because they lived off the land with not much outside help, and survived by using primitive tools and sleeping in narrow beds and drafty rooms for comfort.

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