At a current count of five million plus annual travelers, Punta Cana International Airport, or PUJ as it's known in the industry, is rapidly approaching the Dominican Republic' Ministry of Tourism's target goal of ten million travelers annually. A rather ambitious and robust goal, there is no indications that this will not be achieved sooner rather than later. In fact PUJ sits in second position of the busiest airports in the Caribbean, only trailing Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The way that infrastructure and accommodations are rapidly being developed in Punta Cana only solidifies the likely attainment of this goal within the next decade and perhaps quicker than that.
PUJ services several direct flights from the Americas as well as Europe. The top five direct connection cities in terms of passenger traffic in order from greatest to least include Toronto, Paris, Miami, Panama City, and Montreal. One thing to note is that there are not a lot of options domestically. So let's say you were looking to take a side trip to Cabarete on the northern coast. You would have to rely on a rental car or shuttle transfer to make the 5 hour trek. Similarly with the capital of Santo Domingo being only three hours away by car, it is not feasibly from a time and money standpoint to fly between the two cities.
When arriving to PUJ from overseas, the first thing that happens after disembarking from the plane is that one joins a line to get a tourist card and visit an immigration booth. The lines can appear daunting at first but they move rather quickly. After purchasing the $10 tourist card and getting your passport stamped, it's time to locate your luggage in the baggage claim area. Here's where I will give a bit of advice. Summon a porter in a Punta Cana Resort buttoned shirt to come help you. They will quickly gather your bags and expedite your process through customs. Many times they will zip you right past, without having to put anything on the conveyor belt, saving time and any potential issues with security, delivering you effortlessly to the outside exit. Make sure to tip the porter adequately for this service provided.
Renting a Car
Instead of going straight ahead to exit the airport and wait for a transfer, if you rented a car you will hang a right after customs and come to a large hall with several rental car vendors. After checking-in, the attendant will escort you to your car, which will be located among one of a few parking spaces right outside the exit or the car will be pulled-up for you in that area. The attendant will do a walk-around of the car checking for marks, spare tire, and gas level. You will then be on your way. When coming back it can be a little trickier. Follow the signs that say rental car return all the way back to that exit you used to pick-up the car. Watch for buses, shuttles, workers, and tourists walking around as it can get rather congested. Once back where you picked up the car there is a good chance a parking space will not be available. This can be handled one of two ways. The first is to park as close as possible to the last space where you came from and run in to grab the attendant. The other is to park the same way and call them from your car to come outside. The last thing you want to do is park in a stall marked for usage by the airport. Security will arrive on the scene very fast and put one of the front tires in a boot. Who knows what will happen after that.
It may seem outrageous, but it is advised to arrive to the airport three hours before your flight. Lines can move rather slow so I don't doubt the necessity of this. Also an exit tourist card will need to be purchased for $20 if it hasn't already been added to your ticket. Additional measures when traveling with pets include having a Dominican Health Certificate issued within seven days of flying home as well as purchasing stamps for it (a tax of sorts, I suppose) at the airport. Ask for Animal Sanidad to verify your pet is cleared to fly.
Those are a few things to know when flying in and out of Punta Cana International Airport. Their system may seem quite foreign but have patience and everything will work out. Don't get hustled by workers looking for a bribe and check to make sure all your things are intact and where they need to be before leaving.