Haiti, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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Sad to say that when Christopher Columbus first stumbled across the island of Hispaniola in 1492 he little realised that it would become divided into two distinct Republics, half of its lush landscape headed for criminal and political strife. The Republic of Haiti, once known as 'the pearl of the Caribbean', shares this island with the Dominican Republic, but it seems the two countries are worlds apart. One is a tourism magnet, the other largely a pariah where only the brave set foot.

Haiti is a fascinating country, its people friendly and energetic, but a combination of crime, civil disturbance and a mysterious voodoo religion have left most of it high and dry on the world tourism map. It was one of France's richest colonies, but today Haiti languishes as one of the world's poorest nations, its politics descended into chaos, its natural resources plundered, and corruption and crime rife.

Haiti was struck by a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010 that killed nearly 300,000 people and devastated local infrastructure. Many major landmarks in Port-au-Prince were destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the National Assembly building. Local infrastructure was all but destroyed, and hospitals, communication systems, and transport are basically non-existent. Tourism is discouraged, but intrepid travellers intent on visiting will find many volunteer opportunities in the embattled country.

The fact that dozens of sleek cruise liners still visit a corner of Haiti is proof that there is light in the darkness. The glittering white liners head out from Miami, USA, to disgorge passengers on day visits to the cordoned off port of Labadee, adjacent to Haiti's colourful city of Cap-Haitien, on a bay on the northern coast. Here visitors are assured of their safety as they shop for souvenirs, sample local cuisine and generally enjoy themselves.

Information & Facts


This being one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, and economically depressed, few business visitors come to Haiti. If embarking on a business trip to Haiti, business visitors should consider hiring a translator to ensure smooth communication. Business hours are generally from 8am to 4 pm.


Haiti enjoys a tropical climate and the weather is generally hot and humid, with sultry, warm nights. The rainy season runs from October to May and there are often severe storms during the hurricane season, between June and October, when there is the risk of flooding and hurricanes.


The international dialling code for Haiti is +509. The outgoing code is 00. There are no area codes. The landline telephone company, mainly government owned, provides an inadequate service. A GSM mobile network has recently become available. There are a few Internet cafes in Port-au-Prince.


Haitians are proud people despite their poor circumstances and appreciate being treated with respect. It is advisable to show willingness to learn a few basic Creole phrases, and to ask permission before taking pictures of locals. In rural areas it is considered indecent for women to have bare legs or shoulders.

Duty Free

The duty free allowance for goods brought in to Haiti are 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 1kg of tobacco, one litre of spirits and a small bottle of perfume for personal use. Pork, coffee, matches, drugs and firearms are prohibited.


110 volts, 60HZ. The plugs in use are the eastern type with two flat, parallel prongs.

Getting Around

Transportation in Haiti is a challenge after the 2010 earthquake. Many roads in urban areas are impassable. The local means of public transportation in Haiti are brightly painted minibuses and trucks known as 'Tap-taps', but visitors are advised not to use these in the cities for safety reasons. Public taxis and rental cars are available, but visitors are advised to be cautious before retaining a taxi and to drive with windows closed and doors locked in rental cars. It is best to obtain a reliable local driver or guide.


Malaria and dengue fever occur in Haiti and travellers are recommended to take the necessary prophylactics. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for those arriving from an infected country in Africa or the Americas, and hepatitis and typhoid vaccinations are also recommended. Medical facilities in Port-au-Prince are of poor quality, and virtually non-existent elsewhere, so medical insurance with evacuation cover is essential, and it is advisable to bring all required medications from home. Visitors should only drink boiled or bottled water and ice should be avoided. It is recommended to avoid buying food or drink from street vendors.


Creole is the official language, and French is widely used; English is spoken in the capital and at Labadee cruise port.


The official currency is the Haitian Gourde (HTG), divided into 100 centimes, but US Dollars are also widely accepted. Credit cards are welcome nearly everywhere, but ATMs are scarce and the few there are in Port au Prince are often out of order. Travellers cheques are difficult to exchange.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Haiti require a valid passport, onward or return tickets, and all necessary travel documentation for their next destination. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Haiti within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. Yellow fever vaccination certificate exemptions apply to those who did not leave the airport/aircraft when transiting through the infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Haiti has a bad reputation for the safety and security of visitors, because of a high crime rate and civil unrest, and both the British and US governments advise against all but essential travel to Haiti. This, however, does not apply to the enclosed cruise port of Labadee. Kidnapping, armed robbery, gang violence, pick-pocketing and various other horrors occur regularly in the country, although not usually directed at foreigners. Since the 2010 earthquake, there has been little policing, and criminal activities such as looting, robbery, and assault are at their highest recorded levels. Travellers are urged to refrain from walking in the cities without a guide. Travellers should also be aware that, since the earthquake, there have been warnings issued about cholera outbreaks, and that the country's infrastructure is seriously depleted.


Local time is GMT -5.


Hotel bills generally have a tax of 10% added, and a service charge of 5%. Restaurant staff in Haiti should be tipped around 10% of the bill. Taxi drivers can be given a discretionary tip if they are helpful and efficient.

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