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Haiti

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Royal Oasis
Royal Oasis - dream vacation

115, Rue PanaméricainePort-au-Prince

Best Western Premier Petion-Ville
Best Western Premier Petion-Ville - dream vacation

50 Angle Rue Louverture & GeffrardPort-au-Prince

Moulin Sur Mer
Moulin Sur Mer - dream vacation

Km 77 Route Nationale #1Saint-Marc

Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel
Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel - dream vacation

147, Avenue Jean Paul IIPort-au-Prince

NH Haiti El Rancho
NH Haiti El Rancho - dream vacation

Impasse Des HotelsPort-au-Prince

Le Plaza Hotel Port-au-Prince
Le Plaza Hotel Port-au-Prince - dream vacation

10 Rue Capois Champ de MarsPort-au-Prince

Kinam Hotel
Kinam Hotel - dream vacation

Place St Pierre, Rue Pinchinat, Petion-VillePort-au-Prince

Haiti (Haitian Creole: Ayiti, French: Haïti) is a Caribbean country that occupies the western three-eighths of the island of Hispaniola. The eastern five-eighths of Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south. Haiti is a country with a troubled past, and its future still remains uncertain. Decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability, dictatorship and coups, among other things, have left it the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.

Understand

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Tourists who are unsettled by grinding poverty probably should visit elsewhere. However, for those with patience and an open mind, Haiti reveals a rich culture that is unique among post-colonial nations.

It is extremely helpful when traveling in Haiti to have a local contact, through a church, a hotel, or just through making friends with someone. Experiences like dining locally, riding on a tap-tap, or strolling through one of the insanely crowded outdoor markets are great fun and very worth doing but are much safer and easier if you have a trusted Haitian to go along as a guide and interpreter.

Climate

Tropical and semiarid where mountains in the east cut off trade winds, Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms from June to November. Experiences occasional flooding, earthquakes and droughts.

When traveling to Haiti it is very important that you bring a first aid kit. Be sure to include a lighter, flashlight (due to Haiti’s constant power outages), Pepto-Bismol, instant ice packs, Motrin, and Tylenol, water purifying tablets (just in case), bug spray, sunscreen, Benadryl, etc. Be sure to not drink the water and any drinks made with the water unless you are on an American-run base with guaranteed purified water.

Terrain

Mostly mountainous, with a wide, flat central plain to the north. The highest point is Chaine de la Selle at 2777 m.

History

Haiti was inhabited by the native Taino Indians when Christopher Columbus landed on December 5, 1492 at Mole St Nicolas; see Voyages of Columbus. Columbus named the island Hispaniola. The Taino were a branch of the Arawak Indians, a peaceful tribe that was weakened by frequent violent invasions by the supposedly cannibalistic Carib Indians. Later, Spanish settlers brought smallpox and other European diseases to which the Taino had no immunity. In short order, the native Taino were virtually annihilated. There is no visible trace of Taino blood on Haiti today, and the vast majority of Haitians are descendants of enslaved Africans, however, genetic studies have shown that both European and Taino admixture are more common than often believed.

In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola and in 1697 Spain ceded the western third of the island to France. Through the development of sugar and coffee plantations, the French colony of Saint-Domingue flourished, becoming one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean. Enslaved Africans were brought to Haiti to work on these French plantations. Work conditions for slaves on Haiti were the harshest imaginable, as sugar and coffee plantations required intensive labor. The French imported an enormous slave labor force, which ultimately vastly outnumbered the French planters 10 to 1. Even within the minority of free people in the colony there were major divisions, between the "petit blancs" (small whites) who did not own slaves and worked in trades or as overseers, the "grand blancs" (big whites) who owned slaves and plantations and the "free coloreds" who were descendants of slaves and whites and occupied all strata of free society from wealthy landowner to poor day-laborer. The whites, who were largely born off the island and only came to Saint Domingue to make a fortune instituted a racist caste system designed to deny the "free coloreds" the relatively powerful position they had gained by the mid 18th century. However, all those inherent tensions (and the overriding tension of slavery) came to a head when the French Revolution broke out in the metropole in 1789 and all this talk of "freedom" and "equality" meant that everybody - including the big whites - wanted to overthrow the colonial order up to that point, ultimately resulting in a slave uprising and the collapse of the whole slavery and plantation based society.

In August 1791, Saint-Domingue's nearly 500,000 slaves revolted, triggering an almost continuous civil war in which the inherent tensions between the various groups of Haitian society erupted. After a bloody 13-year struggle, that was influenced and in turn influenced the Napoleonic Wars as well as the American War of 1812, the former slaves ousted the French and created Haiti, the first black republic, in 1804. Unfortunately, one of independent Haiti's first leaders, Jean Jacques Dessalines, who proclaimed himself Emperor Jacques I perpetrated a massacre against the remaining white Haitians, killing almost all of them and driving most of the rest into exile. Jacques I was assassinated two years later, setting the precedent for a lot of violent transfers of power, which however usually ended with death not exile of the losing side. Haiti was hampered by the ravages of the wars, as well as a lack of major trading partners which was further complicated by the refusal of any major power to acknowledge Haitian independence. France only accepted independence in the 1820s after Jean Pierre Boyer agreed to pay a 150 million francs indemnity to France in exchange for recognition of independence - a major source of Haiti's crushing debt and a sum France has duly collected most of and never so much as apologized for. The United States, itself a slave holding nation, did not officially recognize Haiti until the Civil War eliminated Southern resistance in the Senate to such a move - six decades after Haiti had thrown off the colonial yoke.

A lack of government and civil unrest led to the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. While order was brought about and much infrastructure was developed in Haiti by the United States, Haitians resented the occupation of their country. The withdrawal of Americans by President Roosevelt in 1934 left a power vacuum that was filled by Haitian military elite. The Forbes Commission in 1930 accurately noted that "the social forces that created [instability] still remain--poverty, ignorance, and the lack of a tradition or desire for orderly free government."

The following 20 years saw ruthless struggles for power that ended with the ascension of François (Papa Doc) Duvalier. Duvalier's brutal dictatorship lasted nearly thirty years, with his son, Jean-Claude (Bébé Doc) Duvalier assuming power after Papa Doc's death in 1971. Bébé Doc was ousted in 1986, followed by more bloodshed and military rule that culminated in a new Constitution in 1987 and the election of former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president in 1990.

After a coup, Aristide went into exile. Most of his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he returned to office in 1994 after Haitian General Raoul Cedras asked the United States to intervene, negotiating the departure of Haiti's military leaders and paving the way for the return of Aristide. His former prime minister, René Préval, became president in 1996. Aristide won a second term as president in 2000, and took office early in 2001. However, accusations of corruption were followed by a paramilitary coup that ousted Aristide in 2004. Since then, Haiti has been occupied by U.N. peacekeeping troops (MINUSTAH), mostly from Brazil.

Culture

The New World Afro-Diasporic customs of Vodou are widely practiced in Haiti and mixed with Catholicism. Vodou (also spelled Voodoo, et al.) arises from Yoruba religion from Nigeria, plus elements of indigenous Taino culture.

Holidays

  • January 1: New Year's Day and Independence Day
  • January 2: Ancestry Day
  • May 18: Flag and Universities Day
  • August 15: Assumption
  • October 17: Anniversary of the Death of Dessalines
  • December 5: Discovery Day
  • December 25: Christmas

Regions

Cities

  • Port-au-Prince — Haiti's big, crowded, and chaotic capital city.
  • Cap-Haïtien — the country's second biggest city, on the Atlantic coast near some beautiful beaches and interesting old forts.
  • Gonaïves — here, on 1 January 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines signed Haiti's Act of Independence, establishing the world's first black republic.
  • Jacmel — a relaxed town with a beautiful historic center and a claim not easily dismissed to be the country's artistic and cultural capital, albeit in ruins following the earthquake.
  • Jérémie — Haiti's westernmost and profoundly isolated town is a sleepy little charming place.
  • Les Cayes — Southern Haiti's principal port and a popular jumping off point for Île à Vache.
  • Petionville — a wealthy and much safer suburb of Port-au-Prince, where you will find most of the capital's nightlife, restaurants, wealthy Haitians, and foreigners.
  • Port-de-Paix — the main city in Haiti's drug-smuggling coast, with the opportunity to hail a ferry to Tortuga Island, a virtually undiscovered tropical paradise—albeit well discovered through the centuries by any famous pirate worth his salt and not a few wealthy drug lords.
  • Port-Salut — President Aristide's birthplace, home to miles of gorgeous, empty white sand beaches.

Other destinations

  • The Citadelle Henri Christophe (also known as Citadelle Laferrière) is a fortress located on a high mountain in Haiti overlooking the city of Milot, Haiti. At the base of the mountain stands the ruins of Palais Sans Souci.
  • Labadie - a private port used by cruise ships.
  • The 27 historic vestiges of Mole Saint Nicolas, North West, a strategic bay at the enter of Canal du Vent, also called Gibraltar of America. Good site for sports too (wind surf, kite surf, mountain bike, hiking..).

Gonâve Grande Source

Get in

Visas are required only by citizens of Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Panama. Citizens of other countries can stay three months without a visa.[1]

By plane

International travelers will arrive in Haiti at Port-au-Prince (PAP) at the Aéroport Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport or Aéroport International Cap-Haïtien in the North. The plane tickets can be purchased via many online ticketing sites and agencies. There are intra-Haiti flights available as well. Prices on these flights can fluctuate from time to time due to inflation but, depending on the airline, are usually between $125-$132 return from and to Port-au-Prince, cheaper between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. A really cheap, dependable and popular airline is Sunrise Airways In addition to avoiding rather dangerous and inadequate public transportation system by bus and tap-taps, flights offer a safe passage into and out of Port-au-Prince from other parts in Haiti.

Airlines such as American Airlines, Delta and Spirit serve Port-au-Prince from the US. Air Canada, Air France and Caribair, among others, also offer international flights to and from Port-au-Prince.

Lynx Air flies from Fort Lauderdale and Miami to Cap-Haïtien. MFI (Missionary Flights International) fly to Cap also from Florida, but only registered non-Catholic Christian missionaries are welcome aboard. Other international airlines serving Cap-Haïtien include Sky King, Turks and Caicos Air and Pine-apple Air.

By road

From Santo Domingo, Caribe Tours runs a once-daily bus to Petionville (in the hills above Port-au-Prince) that leaves at 11AM. A ticket costs $40 one-way, $26 USD tax and 100 DR. Unfortunately, this bus drops you off in Petionville after dark so make prior arrangements with a trustworthy person to meet you and transport you to your lodging.

There is also a crowded border crossing between Dominican Republic and Haiti in Dajabón/Ouanaminthe. The border is open only during the day. From here you can catch local transport to Cap-Haïtien.

Another, less expensive, option from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince, is to take a gua-gua (Dominican minibus) from Santo Domingo (departing a few blocks north of Parque Enriquillo) for 380 DR pesos (about $10, 5 h) and arrive in the border town of Jimani. From there, it is a 4 km walk or a 50 DR pesos ride by motoconcho to the border post.

The border is apparently open 09:00-18:00 (but don't rely those times). It is very easy to cross the border without submitting to any immigration procedures on either side, and although it would probably be illegal, it saves a few dozen dollars on bribes and is much faster too. Apart from entering the DR when a soldier takes a look at the passport, nobody does any inspection: immigration or customs. Entering Haiti legally is quick: fill out the green form and pay whatever amount the official asks (around 100 DR). There are no ATMs at the border.

Moneychangers give gourdes for DR pesos and US dollars. Rates are fair. There is plenty of local transportation from the border to Port-au-Prince. Crowded tap-taps and buses can take you to Croix-des-Bouquets for 50 gourdes (1.5-2 h), from where it is another hour to Port-au-Prince proper (bus, 5 gourdes). The road has variable conditions and is prone to flooding. Peruvian UN soldiers at the border have confirmed that the road to Port-au-Prince is safe to travel with no incidents of robbery or kidnappings, but definitely try to arrive in Port-au-Prince before dark.

Get around

By car

Cars may be rented through Hertz, Avis, etc. Taxis in Haiti are usually in the form of SUVs or trucks, as most of the roads are long overdue for repairs, in addition to plethora of unpaved roads one faces while travelling in Haiti. The price is often fair (i.e., 450 gourdes, or $11.53 at 39 gourdes to a dollar, from Port-au-Prince to Léogâne), but offers safety and comfort that cannot be found in riding tap-taps or buses.

By bus

"Tap-taps" are the most economical way to travel in Haiti. Haitian tap-taps are modified trucks or vans and are ubiquitous throughout Haiti. A raised wooden canopy-like cabin usually sits over the truck bed while wood benches are attached to the bed and serve as seats. Tap-taps are frequently painted bright colors, and often bear a religious slogan, such as Jesus vous aime ("Jesus loves you").

In Port-au-Prince, most routes cost 10 gourdes ($0.25). They are also quite convenient as they will stop anywhere along the route: simply yell "merci!" to get the driver to stop. However, they are sometimes overpacked and can be quite dangerous to ride in the mountain roads where the road conditions are less than ideal. First time travellers who do not speak conversational Creole are advised not to travel by tap-tap without assistance. There are also school bus versions of tap-taps used for longer voyages. These are often modified school buses.

A more comfortable alternative for long distance travel are minibuses. These congregate at various lots throughout the city, organized by destination. Seats to Jacmel, for example, cost about 150 gourdes (30 Haitian dollars, $3.75), while the more comfortable front seat may go for 200 gourdes ($5).

Talk

See also: French phrasebook, Haitian Creole phrasebook

The official languages of Haiti are French and Haitian Creole (Kreyòl Ayisien), which is a French-based creole language, with 92% of the vocabulary being derived from French and the rest primarily from African languages. Haitian Creole is the native language of the masses, while French is the administrative language, even though only 15 % of Haitians can speak it and only about 2% can speak it well.

Creole is mutually intelligible with French on the most basic level, so the competent French speaker should be fine in limited circumstances. Many Haitians are very appreciative if you take the trouble to learn a little bit of one of the official languages (preferably Creole), rather than using an interpreter or expecting them to speak English. Haitians working in tourist areas usually speak English well enough for conversation.

See

Port-Au-Prince has some landmarks, structures and statues, such as a large pair of hands holding the earth. Many of these are close to the airport. This city is the largest in Haiti and was the most affected by the earthquake. You will still see evidence of the disaster, such as crumbling buildings, but much reconstruction has taken place. When you go a short distance outside of the city, you will have a better idea of the devastation. There are still people living in the "tent village," which extends for about two miles and is made up small tarps draped over sticks stuck in the ground. As you go on, you may pass one of the mass graves dug after the earth quake, but you probably will not realize it is a grave. It's on the side of small mountain, and the grass has grown over the turned earth. There are no markings but you will sometimes see people there or flowers placed in memory.

Haiti has beautiful scenery if you know where to find it. If you are travelling or staying with someone who knows the area well, ask if there are any nice beaches or mountainous areas nearby. St. Marc, along with some other cities, has a beautiful mountain range that can be hiked. At the top of these mountains are some historical artifacts, structures and incredible views of the ocean.

Do

Champs-de-Mars was once the most beautiful park in Haiti but is now covered in tents housing people made homeless by the earthquake. It was a public place where people went to relax, before the quake. It is located near the National Palace.

Buy

The Haitian gourde is the currency of Haiti, denoted b y the symbol "G" (ISO code: HTG). A1 Although merchants are required to quote prices in gourdes by law, virtually everything is priced in "dollars"--not US but Haitian dollars, equivalent to 5 gourdes. This practice is a holdover from the US occupation of Haiti in the early 20th century, during which the gourde was pegged at G5 to the US dollar.

Haiti has become famous for its very informal yet interesting bustling marketplace. Everything is sold here ranging from the curiously appealing to the dullest of objects for rather inexpensive prices. Haggling is both wise and recommended, as most Haitians will charge foreigners at least double the market rate. There are various large retail supermarkets in the capital that offer a variety of items at fixed prices. Haiti has a world of crafts waiting to be sought after.

Eat

Haitian cuisine is typical of Caribbean métissage, a wonderful mix of French and African sensibilities. It is similar to its Spanish Caribbean neighbors yet unique in its strong presence of spices. Roast goat called 'kabrit', morsels of fried pork 'griot', poultry with a Creole sauce 'poulet creole', rice with wild mushroom 'du riz jonjon' are all wonderful and tasty dishes.

Along the coast fish, lobster and conch are readily available. Haiti has a very fine collection of fruit including guava, pineapple, mango (Haiti's most prized fruit), banana, melons, breadfruit, as well as mouth watering sugarcane cut and peeled to order on the streets. Restaurants in the bigger cities provide safe and delicious meals, and precautions are taken with the food and water to keep things safe.

However, even in resorts with purified water, it is not always safe to assume that raw vegetables (such as lettuce and tomatoes) have been properly washed. In smaller or more humble venues make sure to eat fruit and vegetables that can be skinned or peeled, drink bottled drinks only, make sure any ice is from a clean water source, and make sure any meat is well-cooked.

When bottled water or boiled water is not available, a freshly opened coconut provides water and electrolytes with minimal health risk.

Drink

Haitian rum is well-known. 'Barbancourt 5 star' is a top drawer drink. 'Clairin' is the local firewater made from sugarcane that can be bought on the street, often flavored with various herbs that can be seen stuffed into the bottle. 'Prestige' is the most popular beer, and is of good quality and excellent taste. Also be sure to try the 'Papye' drink, a sort of papaya milk shake that is deliciously refreshing beyond words on a hot day. Cremas is a tasty, creamy alcoholic beverage that is derived from coconut milk.

Sleep

There are many guest houses throughout Haiti. However, these are quite hard to find while overseas. Many of these guest houses run about 25 to 35 dollars a night and include 2 to 3 meals during the day. Sometimes these houses are associated with orphanages (such as Saint Joseph's Home for Boys).

  • Saint Joseph's Home for Boys is in Delmas 91, near Petionville.
  • Fondwa Guest House is at the bottom of the hill from Anbatonèl (a small village halfway between Léogâne and Jacmel).

Camping is a high-risk activity in certain parts of Haiti and is not recommended.

Learn

Haiti's illiteracy rate is the highest in the Western Hemisphere at approximately 49%.

Work

Haiti's unemployment rate is the highest in the Western Hemisphere at over 80%.

Stay safe

Since the earthquake on January 12, 2010, many people are still living on the streets in makeshift shelters. There have been a number of protests and an increase in criminal activity. Use proper judgment when traveling in Haiti. Overall, do exercise a heightened level of caution based on common sense. Do not carry huge loads of cash around, or walk late at night in dark streets.

Women should not walk alone on the island. The number of people that fled to the island after the earthquake is unknown, but the atmosphere on the island has changed some people. Even when women walk with other men, Haitian men may still utter remarks. They are not afraid to maintain eye contact, and their stares may make one uneasy. It is best to be polite, but be engaged in your immediate group. There have been reports of thieves stealing passports from distracted travelers at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.

Stay healthy

Sanitary conditions in Haiti are poor. Tap water should be avoided. Drink bottled water only. Washing oneself with water from places such as creeks or lakes is not recommended due to the risk of water-borne diseases. Several diseases can cause dehydration, as can sweating a lot because of the hot climate. Hydration requirements can be fulfilled by preparing one of the many water purifying systems as if one were going camping, or by buying bottled water once in Haiti; it is widely available and inexpensive by western standards.

Health care, while well below the standards of that in developed countries, is available in all large towns and cities. Many smaller towns and villages also have health clinics. However, medical equipment and a wide variety of medicines may be in meager supply.

Various mosquito-borne diseases are a concern in Haiti, and precautions against mosquitoes are strongly recommended. Malaria is common and most travellers will need anti-malarial drugs. Dengue fever is also fairly common. Zika fever is also a concern, especially for women who are or may become pregnant.

Check with your doctor, a tropical medicine specialist, or a local hospital or clinic, preferably at least 6 weeks before your trip, to find out what immunizations and anti-malarial prophylaxis they would suggest. There is now an oral cholera vaccine which also gives partial immunity to various causes of travellers' diarrhea; that may be a good idea for Haiti.

The US government Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a page with advice for travellers to Haiti.

Depending on your itinerary, you may have to walk a lot. Comfortable footwear is crucial for avoiding blisters. Hiking boots are recommended as well as comfortable sandals.

Respect

One thing a missionary or other visitor to Haiti learns very quickly is that Haitians are a very friendly and down to earth people, despite all they have had to endure. There are some beggars and peddlars in the cities, but they are the exception, not the rule. Expect no kow-towing. Impoverished Haitians will always accept gifts, but they will almost always stand straight, look you in the eye, and repay you with a sincere "Mesi" (thanks).

Haiti is a nation of fairly conservative norms. Modest dress when exploring Haiti's cities is advised, especially for women. The smart visitor should look people in the eye, wave hello, and treat them with friendship and respect, as equals, no matter how poor or desperate their living conditions may seem.

Try to learn some basic words of Haitian Creole.

Ask permission before taking pictures of locals (they often ask you for money). Never walk about sticking your camera in people's faces or taking pictures randomly. Do not solely take pictures of the piles of trash you may see in some of the bigger cities (such as Cap-Haïtien or Port-au-Prince) or anything else that Haitians are not proud of as it is offensive. However, people have no problem with foreigners taking pictures of beautiful scenery, cultural events or historical sites.

Carry a few gourdes in your pockets for the kids who carry your luggage/shine your shoes/hail your tap-tap at the airport (but be alert for pickpockets).

Sometimes visitors to Haiti walk about handing out candy or dollar bills. While many people, especially children, will accept your offering, this is offensive to most people as it compromises the dignity of Haitians. Carry an extra water bottle and food to share with your driver, guide, or interpreter.

Be patient as nothing moves fast in Haiti. Most people will find your whining amusing at best and severely insulting at worst.

Carry a few photos of the area where you live, your workplace, or your family to share with friends you make. These are the things that transform you from just another tourist into a real person. More often than not, the people will return the favor, and you might just find a friend.

Your emotions are real. It is okay to feel overwhelmed if you have not experienced this type of culture difference before. If you are easily affected by signs of poverty, Haiti is not for you. Be polite but not intrusive. It is normal to ask questions of the locals. Remember that you are a guest in their country. Do not expect to be treated as a king or a queen (though you might get some extra privileges) because you are foreign. Haitians are warm and helpful people.

The people on the Gonâve Island have quite possibly less contact with Americans than say those Haitians in Port-au-Prince. The children shout "blan, blan, blan" as white people walk by. The children on the saline flats will readily walk with you, show you how to skip stones off the water and try very hard to communicate with you. They may try to charge you for picking up a shell from the flats and up to $6 to take a picture of their donkey. You do not have to pay, but out of respect, do not take the picture. They appreciate being asked if you may take their picture.

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Neighbourhoods of Martissant, Carrefour, Bel Air and Cité Soleil, in the Port-au-Prince area (see Advisory)

These areas continue to be dangerous due to criminal activity and the local authorities' lack of capacity to ensure order. Personal safety and a police presence are not guaranteed. The police are unable to respond in a timely manner to calls for assistance in these areas, and it is strongly advised to avoid going out after nightfall.

It is imperative that Canadians travelling to these areas have suitable accompaniment. You must ensure that you are expected by family members, friends, colleagues, local business representatives or organizations able to meet you as soon as you arrive at the airport or border, and to guide you in your travels. The use of public transport of any kind is not recommended. As the security situation can change at any moment, check with the organizations, institutes or hosts that are taking care of you to receive the latest updates on the region to which you are travelling.

National Carnival

The National Carnival will take place in Gonaïves from March 2 to 4, 2014. Expect large crowds and traffic disruptions. Be particularly vigilant during this event.

Crime

The security situation is hazardous and very unpredictable. Remain extremely vigilant wherever you are in the country. Criminal activity is especially evident in large centres such as downtown Port-au-Prince, where armed gangs continue to operate. Many gang leaders escaped from the national penitentiary during the January 2010 earthquake and are still at large. Others have fled the capital.

Although travel in the parts of the country less affected by the earthquake presents less of a risk, exercise extreme caution and do not travel after dark.

There have been several recent reports of violent incidents along Route Nationale 2 from Petit‑Goâve (Ouest Department) to Miragoane (Nippes Department). Criminal gangs have committed robberies by erecting roadblocks. If you have to travel through this area, remain extremely vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.

There has recently been an increase in armed robberies targeting travellers, particularly foreigners of Haitian origin, arriving on international flights at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. In most cases, the victims’ vehicles are followed by criminals on motorcycles. Be extremely vigilant when leaving the airport.

Murder, kidnapping, armed robberies, burglaries and carjackings have been known to occur even in daylight hours. The general Haitian population, regardless of social class, can be considered at risk of being kidnapped. Although rare, there have been kidnappings involving Canadians and other foreign nationals, including missionaries, aid workers and children. Most victims have been released after a ransom was paid. In some exceptional cases, however, victims have disappeared or have been killed.

Never walk alone. Keep windows closed and doors locked when travelling by car. Avoid showing visible signs of affluence, such as expensive-looking jewellery or cameras. Remain cautious with new acquaintances offering friendship or hospitality. Foreigners, including Canadians, are viewed as wealthy. If confronted by thieves, do not resist.

Remain alert to small groups of loiterers, especially near your residence. Keep doors and windows secure at all times. Instruct domestic staff to permit only pre-authorized visitors whose identities have been verified into your home. Keep all visitors under close surveillance.

Avoid photographing individuals without first obtaining their approval. Be cautious when photographing scenes in poor or urban areas, where people may feel exploited or insulted by being subjects of such activities.

Demonstrations and unrest

Haiti periodically experiences social unrest, particularly during election periods.

Demonstrations are frequent, and protest marches and strikes may occur at any time in the capital, throughout the country and on main highways. Local transportation services may be disrupted. Avoid large crowds, as they can turn into violent demonstrations. Monitor the situation through local news broadcasts and stay inside during political gatherings and demonstrations. Be aware that curfews could be in effect.

Rioting and related violence can occur on little or no notice.

Road travel

Already narrow and poorly maintained, roads were made worse by the January 2010 earthquake. Most vehicles are also in poor condition. Few traffic lights operate and those that do are limited to urban centres. Traffic signs are rare. Driving at night and in bad weather should be avoided, even in the city. Streets are rarely lit, and unlit vehicles are common. Vehicles are often abandoned on or beside the road. Many people drive while intoxicated and do not respect traffic rules.

Since there are periodic disruptions of fuel supplies, fuel tanks should always be kept at least half full.

Because of the lack of police and roadside assistance services, you should carry a mobile phone and a list of contact numbers in the event of an emergency. However, coverage for cellular telephones can be intermittent in some rural areas.

Public transportation

Avoid all public transportation, especially informal taxis (“tap-taps”) to and from the airport. Buses are mechanically unreliable and overcrowded.

Marine transportation

Ferry accidents occur due to the overloading and poor maintenance of some vessels. Do not board vessels that appear overloaded or unseaworthy.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Health care services were severely affected by the January 2010 earthquake, particularly in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs, as most hospitals and emergency health care centres were either severely damaged or completely destroyed. Already scarce and below Western standards prior to the earthquake, health care services tend to be overwhelmed easily. Emergency response is not guaranteed, as there are not enough ambulances to provide adequate service. Life-threatening emergencies may require evacuation by air ambulance at the patient's expense. Outside the main centres, basic emergencies may not be handled in a timely manner.

Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care.

Medications sold in Haiti may be of inferior quality to those available in Canada. Pharmacies may carry expired medications.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs can result in lengthy legal proceedings, heavy jail sentences and fines. Canadians have been arrested for drug trafficking after they agreed to check in bags for new acquaintances.

Laws

A Haitian driver's permit, which is required for vehicle operators staying more than three months, may be obtained on presentation of a valid provincial driver's licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP). For stays under three months, an IDP is recommended.

Legal fees can be very high and judicial procedures are slow. Some Canadians have experienced a lengthy detention period (in some cases, over a year) before being sent to trial. Prison conditions in Haiti are extremely difficult. Penal facilities are overcrowded, unsanitary and under-resourced.

Money

The currency is the gourde (HTG), but prices are often quoted in Haitian dollars (fixed rate of 5 gourdes to 1 Haitian dollar) or U.S. dollars.

Most leading hotels accept major credit cards. American and Canadian travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted, and Canadian currency is never accepted. Canadian bank cards may be used to access funds from some automated banking machines (ABMs), but the withdrawal limit is much lower than in Canada. Haitian ABMs have proved unreliable in the past and should not be depended upon in emergency situations. Be extremely vigilant when using ABMs in Haiti due to a high risk of robbery. It is advisable to deal directly with a teller.

Climate

On January 12, 2010, a strong earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck close to Port-au-Prince. The earthquake caused widespread loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure. Power and telecommunications are still severely disrupted. Health services remain extremely limited.

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities. Flooding and landslides have caused tremendous damage to many parts of the country in the past. Travel to affected areas can be severely restricted and could be hazardous.

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