The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The western one-third of Hispaniola is occupied by the country of Haiti. To the north lies the North Atlantic Ocean, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south.
Options for getting around the country include bus service, 'gua-guas' (pronounced "Gwa-Gwas": small battered vans or trucks that serve as a collective taxi running fixed routes that are very cheap but can also very overloaded), domestic air flights and charter air service. There is no rail system in the country. Most towns and cities have regularly scheduled bus service, if not by one of the big bus companies, then by gua-gua. The bus lines are most often simple, independently run operations, usually only connecting two cities within a region (Southwest, East, North) or between one city and the capital (with stops made for any towns on the route). Because of the geography of the country, to get from one region of the country to another you have to go through the capital.
The official language of the DR is Spanish but it is the variation spoken in the Caribbean. Don't be surprised if you have a lot of trouble understanding Dominicans. They will understand you if you speak standard Spanish but you may not be able to understand them. Most Dominicans understand this and may indeed take some pride in their variation. If you speak some Spanish, most Dominicans will try hard to make sure you understand them. English is understood by a lot of the population, especially in Santo Domingo and tourist areas.
One of the best spots in the Colonial District of Santo Domingo to shop is the several blocks long outdoor mall, El Conde street. It offers everything from street vendors to knock-off name brand clothing for extremely inexpensive prices. There are some very pleasant outdoor restaurants that serve as perfect spots to people watch and drink Presidente (their most popular beer). During the day, there are also several touristy shops where you can buy cheap presents for the family back home including authentic paintings and beautiful jewelry.