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Quick Facts
CapitalPort-au-Prince (Haitian Creole: P�toprens)
Governmentelected government
Currencygourde (HTG)
Areatotal: 27,750 sq km
land: 27,560 sq km
water: 190 sq km
Population7,063,722 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageFrench (official), Creole (official)
ReligionRoman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3% (1982)
note: roughly half of the population also practices Voodoo

Haiti (Haitian Creole: Ayiti, French: Ha�ti) is a Central American country that occupies the western one-third of the Caribbean island of Dominican Republic. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south.

Regions

Administrative divisions 
9 departments (d�partements, singular - d�partement); Artibonite, Centre, Grand 'Anse, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, Sud-Est

Cities

  • Port-au-Prince - Capital
  • Cap-Haitien
  • Gonaives
  • Jacmel
  • Jeremie
  • Les Cayes
  • Miragoane
  • Port-de-Paix
  • Saint-Marc

Understand

Climate

Tropical; semiarid where mountains in the east cut off trade winds. Lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October. Experiences occasional flooding and earthquakes and periodic droughts.

Terrain

Mostly rough and mountainous.

highest point 
Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m

History

The native Arawak Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island - Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE and after a prolonged struggle, became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history since then, and it is now one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Over three decades of dictatorship followed by military rule ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE was elected president. Most of his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he was able to return to office in 1994 and oversee the installation of a close associate to the presidency in 1996. ARISTIDE won a second term as president in 2000, and took office early in 2001. However, a political crisis stemming from fraudulent legislative elections in 2000 has not yet been resolved.

Get in

By plane


International travelers will arrive in Haiti at Port-au-Prince (PAP) Airport. 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 flunctuate wildly because, like most things in third world countries, there is no set price on any commodity. Therefore, it is advisable to get in touch with a local to negotiate the plane prices for you ahead of time to avoid gouging.

In addtion to avoiding rather dangerous and inadequate public transportation system by bus and tap-taps, flights offer a safe passage into and out of of Port-au-Prince from other parts in Haiti where the risk of violence and kidnapping is very small.

By train

By car

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 prohibitively expensive (i.e. $90 dollars from PAP to Leogane) but offers safety and comfort that cannot be found in riding tap-taps or buses.

By bus

The people of Haiti call a bus something that sounds like "tap-tap" and they're made from pickup trucks with a boxlike cabin attached. In this cabin are wood benches to serve as seats. They are often painted bright colors, sometimes with flowers, and always have some slogan, such as "Jesus vous amie" ("Jesus loves you").

Tap-taps are the most economical way to travel in Haiti with the ticket prices usually under a dollar. 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-taps.

By boat

Get around

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Eat

Haitian cuisine is a wonderful mix of French and African sensibilities. Roast goat called 'kabrit', chunks of fried pork 'griot', poultry with a Creole sauce 'poulet creole', rice with wild mushroom 'du ri jonjon' are all wonderful and tasty dishes. Along the coast fish, lobster and conch are are readily available. Haiti has a fine collection of fruit including guava, pineapple, mango, 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 wonderful meals, and precautions are taken with the food and water to keep things safe. 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, make sure any meat is well cooked.

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

Drink

Haitian rum is legendary, 'Barbancourt 5 star' is a top of the line 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 a bland but sufficable beverage.

Sleep

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

Saint Joseph's Home for Boys is in Delma 91 in Petionville. Fondwa Guest House is at the bottom of the hill from Anbatonel (a small village 1/2 way between Leogane and Jacmel).

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

Learn

Surviving through decades of political and economical instability, the Haitian people are very weary and want nothing more than the basic necessities of life. As it is with spending time with other people who live with the barest necessities of life, Haiti teaches its visitors what is really important in life and offer glimpses of how the world can become a better place.

There are many ways to approach Haiti but always keep an open mind about how the Haitian way is different than our own. There are many lessons to learn as well as many beautiful things to see and beautiful people to meet.

Work

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Stay safe

from the US State Department http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_917.html :

Americans are reminded of the potential for spontaneous demonstrations and violent confrontations between armed groups. Visitors and residents must remain vigilant due to the absence of an effective police force in much of Haiti; the potential for looting; the presence of intermittent roadblocks set by armed gangs or by the police; and the possibility of random violent crime, including kidnapping, car-jacking, and assault. Due to concerns for the safety of its personnel, the Department has ordered the departure from Haiti of all U.S. Embassy non-emergency employees and all family members of American embassy personnel. American citizens who remain in Haiti despite this warning are urged to consider departing.

Stay healthy

Health care is, on average, non-existent. Hospitals are too far and few inbetween. People with pre-existing medical conditions should make sure to bring their medication as well as being in a good physical condition to travel in a third world country.

The biggest concern in Haiti for traveller is malaria, hydration, and personal hygeine. One should make an appointment with a travel clinic for anti-malarial prophylaxis. Hydration requires 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. Personal hygeine requirements depend heavily on the facilities available. However, washing oneself with outside water such as creek or lake is not recommended due to risk of water-borne diseases.

Depending on your itinery, you may have to walk a lot so comfortable footware is crucial for avoiding blisters. Hiking boots are recommended as well as a pair of slippers.

Respect

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