Currency used in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Peso, written as RD$ or referred to as DOP on some financial web sites, is currently (October 2003) selling at about RD$37 = US$1. This is the rate the webmaster recently obtained at various cambios (money exchange) in Boca Chica. The official rate is typically lower.
US Dollars can be used almost everywhere in the tourist areas, but your change will likely be in Dominican Pesos and store owners frequently take a peso or so off the exchange rate, in their favor. Outside of the tourist areas however, Dominican Pesos are expected and it can be difficult to find a place to exchange your dollars. Canadian and European currencies can readily be exchanged and change houses located throughout the tourist areas but generally are not accepted by merchants. The same can be said about travelers checks.
US Dollars or Other Currency.
Note that it is almost always best to change only US Dollars for Dominican Pesos. While various other currencies such as Canadian, English, Italian, German, Swiss, etc. can be exchanged for Dominican Pesos quite readily in the tourist areas, one will save 10-35% by first converting to US Dollars at a good rate before coming to the Dominican Republic and then changing US Dollars for Dominican Pesos.
Where to Change.
One option is to already have exchanged some money before you leave. This saves you time but you need to do it where you can get a decent exchange rate. You can also use the below service to redeem any remaining Dominican Pesos after your trip back to your home currency, for the best possible rate. I recommend the below link:
Upon arrival in the Dominican Republic, you will also have the opportunity to purchase Dominican Pesos at a change booth located right at the airport. The cambio just before passing through immigration at the Santo Domingo airport actually pays as good of a rate of exchange for US Dollars as the best of the cambios, so go ahead and exchange your money at the airport if you like. This is unusual compared to most international airport cambios.
Money can be changed for Dominican Pesos at many change booths located throughout the world in international airports but they give a poor exchange rate. These should only be used as a last resort should you need to convert your Dominican Pesos back into another currency after you have already left the Dominican Republic. I have seen change booths that will buy or sell Dominican Pesos in Newark and Miami airports. Remember, foreign coin money is not accepted at any cash exchange.
Counterfeit Money / Damaged or Defaced Money
Be aware that counterfeiting is a problem (local and foreign currency). When changing large bills (US$100), place a mark on each bill so that the cashier cannot return you the money, claiming it to be counterfeit. Tell the cashier your bills are marked and show the mark to avoid any fast-switching. When receiving Dominican pesos (RD$500 and higher), hold the bills flat out in front of you and tilt the bill towards and then away from yourself. Look...