SANTIAGO AIRPORT, Dominican Republic- What to do about extremely early flight departures? What do you do when your flight is set to leave at 3:27 AM from a foreign city where you have no friends, no form of personal transportation, and a tight budget?
Do you pay for a hotel room for an entire night just to leave at 1AM?
Do you lounge around the city drinking coffee and sitting idle until taking a midnight taxi to the airport?
Or do you take the last run of cheap transport to the airport and wait 8 hours for your flight to leave.
In cities that have cheap, all night transport to the airport — where you know the lay of the land, know of good places to hang out, and have a hotel that will store your bags for free — there is no problem: an early morning flight just means that you don’t have to pay for a night of lodging without much suffering. Just hang out in the city until it is time to go, pick up your bags, and then ride the subway, bus, or train to the airport right before check in time.
But what do you do when you have an early flight out of cities where the cheap transport dries up in the evening? In places where you don’t know of good places to wait out the night? Where you don’t have a hotel that will store your bags and let you wait? In cities where the only form of transport that runs all night long are overpriced taxis?
For us, we choose the airport hotel option. We come to the airport in the evening, set up camp, and wait. It is free to hang out in airports. It is not so bad either — much better than paying for a hotel room or trying to negotiate a cab fare in the streets at 1AM.
We rode in to Santiago from Sosua on the last bus out. We arrived at 8 PM — 7 and a half hours before our flight was scheduled to depart. We then went in search of a taxi to the airport.
It is possible to take collectivos — cheap public taxis — from Santiago to the airport, but this requires making two connections. Add to this the fact that we have a baby, are traveling past her bedtime, are planning to camp out all night at the airport, have all of our bags strapped to us, and it surprisingly becomes worth paying the few extra dollars for a nudge at comfort and convenience by taking one taxi instead of three.
It was still relatively early in the evening when we arrived in Santiago, and we were in a good position for negotiating a reasonable taxi fare. We haggled with a couple troupes of cab drivers and got to come down to a price we were willing to pay — we had all night to find a taxi, or flight did not leave for another 7 hours. We were in no hurry.
Though I can’t say that the remaining pesos in my pocket were destined to stay there for much longer no matter what. When you have $10 left of a currency which will be null and void to you in a matter of hours, it is a bit of an impropriety to fight too hard to hold on to it. It is a ridiculous affair to try to exchange your last couple bucks of a currency, no, you just spend it . . . on something.
Giving this, when we said 200 pesos to the airport, and — after extensive haggling — a taxi driver said 350, we got in. 350 pesos was more than what we aimed to pay, but it was half of the drivers’ initial quote, which seems to be the going rate for a foreigner to take a taxi between Santiago and the airport.
We were on our way out of a country, our few scraps of Dominican money now meant little to us, we spent the rest on ice cream.
We now sit in the airport. I am writing a travelogue entry, and Chaya and Petra are pacing around looking sleepy. Petra is grumpy that she does not have a bed, Chaya is grumpy because Petra is grumpy, I look into my computer screen and pretend that I don’t notice anything — life is good, la, la, la, la, la.
This is a night in the airport hotel, with family. Last night travel was comfortable, tonight it is not comfortable, tomorrow night will more than likely be comfortable again.
This is the way of travel.
“An uncomfortable bed free is better than an comfortable bed unfree.”
Santiago Airport Hotel.