Changing Money

The most competitive rates are available at the exchange houses - called casas de cambio - that are prevalent in tourist areas and stay open seven days a week, usually from 8 am to 8 pm. You can also change money at banks (bancos) whose typical foreign exchange hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 am until 3 or 4 pm; banks in malls might be open as late as 8 or 9 pm. Banks do not change currency on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays.

TIP: Do not confuse banco with a banca, which is a place for buying lottery tickets and betting on baseball games.

With less competition on weekends, though, some casas de cambio will buy dollars at less favorable rates on Saturdays and Sundays, so you may want to change enough money to carry you through till Monday. Weekends are also a handy time for visiting an ATM. (The monies you withdraw from your account back home will be deducted at the official rate no matter what day of the week it is.)

You can also exchange money at the official rate at Western Union offices, which are found in almost all tourist hubs and in some supermarkets. Your hotel may well change money, too, but you'll have to weigh the gains in convenience versus what are often much less competitive rates - at some all-inclusive resorts, for example, you might receive only half the number of pesos you would at a bank or casa de cambio.

When changing money and cashing travelers checks at any official outlets such as banks, Western Union offices, and casas de cambio, you'll need to present a valid passport. And wherever you change money, it's a good idea to ask for plenty of small bills (RD $20 notes or less), which will come in handy on numerous occasions. Don't expect taxi drivers or motoconchistas, for instance, to be able to make change for large bills.

SCAMS

No matter how great a rate you're offered, it's best to avoid money changers who operate on the street. They may be practiced scam and sleight-of-hand artists who love to prey on gullible extranjeros (foreigners). One notorious tactic is accepting a US $100 note, changing it into pesos, handing over the money, and then suddenly shouting, "The police are coming!" -then grabbing back the pesos and returning a US $1 bill to their unsuspecting mark before fleeing down the street. Another infamous trick involves "rolling" bills. The con artist folds the money around his finger so that what appears to be a stack of 10 or 20 bills is actually half that amount - counted twice.

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