Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

The joys and the pangs of "todo incluido"

  Dominican Republic - January 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Before this press trip to the Dominican Republic, I had never before tested the so-called "todo incluido" or "all inclusive" formulas. Nor had I ever stayed in a large, standard western-style hotel on a tropical beach... Now I know, and this kind of thing, even star-ridden, is not for me.

Star Hotels

Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

When I say "it's not for me", I mean for my "real" travels. The ones I normally do during my holidays, on my savings, with my good old bag and in complete independence...

Careful, eh, I'm not complaining about being invited to star hotels in the Caribbean! That would be downright indecent...

No, it's just that it's the first time I've discovered, very concretely, the tourism industry in all its "splendour". That I'm enjoying a stay that doesn't resemble the ones I usually prepare for myself.

It's a shock, necessarily ... ????

1. The bracelet

First, there is the blow of the bracelet. You are adjusted around the wrist at the check-in.

This precious sesame gives complete freedom inside the gilded cage and allows you to enjoy meals and drinks at will. The dream? Not necessarily.

Between the "continental" buffets and the Italian restaurants, it is difficult to eat "local" in these hotels. It was only at the very end of my stay that I managed to taste the lobster I was dreaming of...

Yes, I've worn four bracelets in one week! We changed hotels every two days... My preference goes to the Barbie style in fluorescent pink plastic, very flattering on the tan at the end of the stay, and to the ethnic look with string and wooden medallion.


But to tell the truth, I would have done well of this kind of ornament. I do not like being badged, stuck, and even less during a time dedicated in principle to relaxation, carelessness, oblivion, far from the usual shackles ...

2. The colonial helmet

When a scissor stroke finally delivered me from the bracelet, at check-out time, in the lobby of one of those big hotels, I couldn't help screaming: "I'm free!!! Liberada!!!!" This made the wearers weary of the inevitable colonial helmet.

By the way, is this damn colonial helmet really necessary? I guess so, it must be something the customers like, some kind of exotic fantasy. At every resort we've been to, the luggage guys were wearing one...

The bearers of a big hotel pose for me, all smiles, in their colonial uniform. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
The bearers of a big hotel pose for me, all smiles, in their colonial uniform. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

Good. The bracelet, the helmet, passes again ... But it's not just that.

3. Huge resorts... far too big!

In fact, what I do not like at all these huge resorts is that it takes a lot of time to get from your room to the reception, from the reception to the bar, from the bar to the beach, from the beach to the restaurant.

We even give you a map, at the time of check-in, to help you find your way, so it's great.

Large 4-star hotel in Bayahibe. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 4-star hotel in Bayahibe. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

At each new hotel, I got lost. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of rooms in different buildings, several restaurants and bars, conference and entertainment rooms, up to three-four pools, or even two receptions, shops, not to mention any spa , casino, lounge, disco, etc.

In short, better not to forget something in his room. It takes at least ten minutes to find the path, plus another ten minutes to retrace his steps. And five good extra minutes, if we planted reception or restaurant, compared to the appointment.

One of the journalists in our group had a pedometer. I would have to ask her if she took the time to calculate how many kilometers she did in a day, without even moving from the hotel.

OK, OK, it's too big. Pass again ...

4. Artificial decoration

The other thing is that it lacks authenticity, necessarily. Everything is artificial, built to suit Western tastes.

There's a very American side to Disneyland, with the themed restaurants (Italian, Asian, romantic with red hearts everywhere), the "dream" décor, the activities and entertainment organised on the beach. Not forgetting, of course, the indispensable television in the room, equipped with all the comforts.

There is even more "romantic and exotic" for lovers: marriage. on the beach

Everything is ready for the newlyweds who have chosen to say yes on a Caribbean beach. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Everything is ready for the newlyweds who have chosen to say yes on a Caribbean beach. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

All these resorts are legion in the Dominican Republic. They look like small, secure residences, surrounded by beaches. The atmosphere is quite fake.

Around, in the field of vision of bracelets wearers, the environment is also treated. White sand beach with guard in uniform, well blue pools well disinfected, sumptuous gardens with exuberant vegetation, sometimes with a flamingo basin.

Flamingo pond, in a big hotel. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Flamingo pond, in a big hotel. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Pruning branches and coconut. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Pruning branches and coconut. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Every morning, the beach is cleaned of plant debris and other waste deposited by the tide. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Every morning, the beach is cleaned of plant debris and other waste deposited by the tide. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

Every morning, employees climb trees prune branches and coconuts that could hurt someone in their fall. Others line bags on the sand, where they pick up debris and other debris from the tide to deliver a clean, immaculate beach to customers.

Okay, the coconut palms and the beach are domesticated. Pass again ...

5. Tourist enclaves cut off from local life

But the most annoying, in my eyes, is that in this type of establishment, we stay between each other. We do not have contact with the locals, other than the staff. In short, we only frequent other Westerners in need of sun and azure sea.

Of course I'm in. And I enjoyed without sulking the happiness of lying there, on one of those superb beaches, facing the waves of the Caribbean or the Atlantic... I would have the bad grace to pretend that I didn't enjoy it. On the contrary!!!!

Beach of a big hotel, on the Samana peninsula, near Las Terrenas. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Beach of a big hotel, on the Samana peninsula, near Las Terrenas. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

But, how can I put it... When it comes to sunshine and tropical exoticism, I'm a bit of a spoiled brat. All this, thanks to my favourite formula: dry flight + backpack or wheeled bag, far from the "all inclusive".

I've walked on a lot of almost deserted beaches in Asia and I don't go a year without seeing coconut trees. During my holidays, I often manage to find modest, but comfortable bungalows, with "sea view" and almost nobody around. Take a look at Islander Paradise on the island of Siquijor in the Philippines, or Island Retreat on the Togian Islands in Sulawesi.

So, inevitably, I taste in a very relative way the charm of a beach full of deckchairs and red people shining with sunscreen, where we can not even hear the surf because of the noisy sound of an aquagym class or the roar of a parasailing outboard ...

Beach of a big hotel in Punta Cana ... Not the kind of beach "dream" according to my criteria. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Beach of a big hotel in Punta Cana... Not the kind of "dream" beach according to my criterias. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

6. I want wifi!!

To continue on the Schtroumphf grogon and spoiled child mode, my worst nightmare in all these sumptuous hotels was the internet. Despite the so-called luxury of facade, only one out of four offered the wifi self-service in the lobby. For others, I struggled between connection code to buy at an exorbitant price, computers configured with an impossible home browser, mandatory Ethernet connection while I forgot my cable ...


And as all these hotels are often eccentric, we are supposed to find everything we need without the need to go out, difficult to escape to make a trip to the neighboring country to find an internet center ...

Yeah. I've been through a lot, haven't I?


Good go. I stop doing the wrong thing. I admit, I had a wonderful week. Now that I'm back in the winter greyness of Brittany, I realize it well ...

So, all-inclusive or not?

In short, the torments and joys of "todo incluido" will be experienced differently depending on your temperament, depending on what you expect from your holidays...

The formula will suit those who just need a break in the sun, without having to worry about anything, and who do not aspire to anything else. Comfort and idleness!

As for those who appreciate independence, like me, and who wish to go more to meet the country and its inhabitants, they will have every interest in organizing themselves, by focusing on small pensions and family hotels.

Finally, to continue in the same vein, I invite you to (re)read my interview with the sociologist Rodolphe Christin: Has tourism killed the spirit of travel?


  Dominican Republic - January 2009

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  1. I am ashamed. Between Mercure de Rouen and a 5 star in Punta Cana, there's still no picture.
    Even if connecting to the web remains a challenge ...

  2. Thank you for this story very fun !!!! There, I am at Mercure de Rouen ... And, I have to pay for my internet connection ... grrrrrrr !!!!!!

  3. In any case there are advantages and disadvantages to each trip formula. There is no rule for a good trip. But for a trip with children, the backpack is not easy to manage. I am more option flight and backpack but children up to a certain age, they prefer to be with other children who speak the same language as them.

  4. What's nice about traveling is to alternate
    One week in guest houses, then one night in a ***** with thick carpeting, king size bed, bathtub, Jacuzzi, swimming pool (with bar 😀 ), chic restaurant, beautiful women in evening dress and the staff who open the doors and furnish you with the irresistible "Good morning Sir ! »…
    If we have the means, we can also do the opposite 8)

  5. @ Sylvie: Totally agree with you when you say, "There is no rule for a good trip. I do not pretend to believe that my way of traveling is better than others. Everyone chooses what suits him best, according to his family situation, his budget, his temperament, the time he has, his desires of the moment, etc.
    Traveling with children imposes other constraints. But it is also often a great opportunity to meet the inhabitants. I will always remember this fabulous trip I made to Sulawesi and the end of the road with "my" little Dutch family. With their three blond children, we immediately aroused sympathy and curiosity wherever we went.

    @ Alimata: I confess: after several weeks of backpacking on the rustic way and "lonely traveler", it happens to me, at the end of the course or in the middle, to sometimes offer me, on the occasion, one or two nights in a great hotel, or a meal in a chic restaurant. I savor even more the fresh sheets of the king-size bed, the staff to the care, the refined decorations, having lived a little more "rough" the previous weeks. Especially in Thailand, for example, this kind of chic place is still very affordable for a European stock exchange.
    But I do not have the means yet to opt for the opposite solution ...

  6. Damn, me who likes to bring back my strawberry, I missed the beginning of the discusion.
    That's it, I tested the all-inclusive in Rep. Dom. and Mexico and I appreciated (I admit, I love the 5 stars), at the same time, not too much opportunity to do otherwise or eat when you leave the hotel ???

    Now in Malaysia or Thailand, no interest, because it is very easy to find to eat at the exit of the hotels (special dedication Fat Mum in Langkawi), at a ridiculous price and you can easily move.
    I took the taste of 5 stars in Asia, 60 euros a night in KL with top service for example, it's not even the price of a 2 star in France.

    In fact, thank you for your blog that gives me every time cravings satay skewers (I have addresses in Paris for those interested).

    Waiting for good WE and a small salute of the vineyards of Nantes.

  7. Hello Gulick, you do well to "bring back your strawberry"!

    Your experience goes a little in the same direction as mine. That's one of the reasons I like traveling to Asia so much. In Thailand, in particular, you can eat everywhere, at any time, for three times nothing, in addition it is often super good, and it is indeed very easy to move. It fits well with my way of living on a trip ...

    As for hotels chic, it is true that we can take taste in Asia, since their rates are very affordable, compared to hotels of the same category in France.

    On the other hand, in Rep Dom, often star-studded hotels are too out of place compared to the local "real life". Not easy to get out. For my part, I can not say that I did not appreciate receiving a 5-star welcome, on the contrary. But, I still prefer a little more simplicity if it allows to be more free of his comings and goings.


  8. Never set foot in these big hotels. I spent a week in the Dominican Republic, but it was in a hotel with twenty rooms, which had just finished work and who was making prices to let it be known that he was ...

  9. Hello Guitho, thank you for your testimony.

    It was a first for me, these great hotels ... On my very first trip there, nine years ago, for a vacation, I had traveled in a packbacker way, staying in small establishments and guesthouses. On a future trip, I would choose modest accommodation again, I think. Even in Asia, the more "chic" places where I spent the night, did not look like those huge structures.

  10. Congratulations on your blog, very well done, I'm a fan of the part "pack your bags, or put in your bag," I do not know too much.
    Personally, I do the 2, all inclusive, circuits and back pack.
    It is true that back pack trips bring greater satisfaction to me that trips all inclusive because more authentic. But for example during my trip to Jordan recently, I talked a lot for 3 days with the driver of the bus and that's almost what I liked the most. Meetings are everywhere.
    Good continuation.

  11. Hello Valerie, and thank you for the compliments!!!! 😀

    I'm glad the "In my backpack" section pleased you. I will complete it and enrich it with photos next week, because I will again prepare my bag ... for Thailand !!! 8)

    I evoked, here on the mode of humor, this type of stay "all-inclusive" by noting that it suited my temperament pretty badly. But I agree with you: interesting meetings are everywhere.

    Moreover, I have sometimes seen "packbackers" to be much more sheep, conformist, disrespectful and closed-minded, than tourists having opted for the organized trip, with the desire to discover the country, the people, the culture…

    Good luck to you too for your different trips, whatever the formula chosen. The key is to stay curious, open, tolerant.


  12. Hello Corinne!

    We leave next Monday dive in the Philippines. Thanks to your site, I will experiment with small structures. Eh yes ! I have long years behind me, luxury tastes, so it's a great adventure ... I do not care, but there is a bit of that. While appreciating the comfortable charm of these hotels, I still felt like I was missing the point.
    There, where it's not going anymore, is that we always have a trip on the fire, and you always have to update your cool addresses. Because I rest on you, me! We had to give ourselves bad habits.
    In any case, thank you again for your reports.

    See you soon

  13. Hello Françoise,

    I wish you an excellent stay in the Philippines. As you say, I have to keep updating my addresses ... I'm late on this page. I hope in any case that you will find your happiness in those that I could already indicate.

    Have a good time!!!