by Jose Kevo
March 23, 2005
Much to my enlivenment, Independencia was about the only place/thing in the country that had somehow sidestepped price increases. A room with private bath still cost RD450/$15 a night, just like back in the late ‘90s and even during the holiday season! This was compared to the highly touted, budget-friendly Hotel Aida asking RD1,200/$40 for a night on nearby Calle Conde. Check first to see if Independencia suits your standards, especially if only staying a few nights.
Independencía's rooms are bare basic, with a comfortable bed and chair. The large closets don't have much use without hangers, but at least they provide room to stash bags for increasing the limited floor space. A fresh coat of paint brightened the interiors, and the same worn carpet at least had been cleaned. Toilet paper, towels, and soap are provided, the shower having decent pressure and warm water. Chilled water for drinking is dispensed free of charge in the main hallway, but you'll need your own container.
At no point recently did this area experience one of the capital's notorious rolling brown-outs, when power gets shut-off anywhere from 2 to 8 hours at a time. The desk clerk said they have a generator, as always reported before, but should electricity go off, expect to be in the dark unless they've acquired a back-up power source. Potentially worse is not having use of the fan, especially in the daytime.
I've never bothered making reservations, which could be questionable as to why there's not more business. Lack of publicity, including Lonely Planet's discontinued listing based on my previous recommendations, further keeps this place a secret, though now it shouldn't. Independencía has more than cleaned up their act. First impressions may have guests wondering if this establishment rents rooms by the hour. While there's been some interesting characters disguised as guests, safety and security has never been an issue. No one passes the front desk that isn't registered.
Located at the intersection of calles Arzobispo Nouel and Estrelleta, unwelcome noise could be the biggest turn-off. If traffic circling the park by 7am doesn't rouse you, children in the nearby schoolyard will. Ongoing commotion also impedes daytime napping. Hand-cranked slats substitute glass for windows. Closing them helps keep out heat but does little for curbing sound. Fortunately, mosquitoes and flying insects have never been a problem with the absence of screens.
Parque Independencia, across the street, is my designated hotel lounge. Dominicans secured independence in 1844 at the Puerta del Conde, further significance added with Altar de la Patria honoring three national heroes, their tombs guarded by sharply dressed soldiers. A favorite is the benches around the lush gardens for enjoying downtime without having to stay tucked away in the hotel.
From journal Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle