A collection of Haiti travel and backpacking resources including Haiti travel, entry visa requirements, employment for backpackers, and Spanish phrasebook.

Backpacking Haiti

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Haiti? Here you will find information on working in Haiti, entry visas, Haiti hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

A guide for backpacking around Haiti. Get important travelers information when it comes to Haiti including visa requirements, employment opportunities, common Spanish phrases and translation, as well as Haiti hostels.

Facts About Haiti

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere and is a country that is plagued by violence and political instability, making it a poor choice of destination for the faint of heart. However, beneath all the troubles lies a fascinating culture, rich with local myths and magic, as well as some breathtaking scenery.

Be aware that the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to Haiti due to the unstable political situation and the threat to personal safety.

  • Capital City – Port-au-Prince
  • Currency – Gourde (HTG), some companies accept US dollars but it is rare. Note: exchanging currency for anything other than US dollars can be difficult.
  • Time Zone – GMT -5
  • Language – French, Creole, English is spoken in some of the major cities
  • Telephone services – Country code: 509. International access code: 00.

Climate

Haiti has a tropical climate and has high levels of humidity in coastal areas. Haiti lies close to the Caribbean plate, which runs to the north of the country, meaning that tremors can be felt from time to time. More of a problem is Haiti’s presence in the middle of the hurricane belt meaning that the country is often subject to severe tropical storms during hurricane season, which runs from June through to November. If you do travel in Haiti during these months be sure to keep up to date with local and international weather updates. More information on hurricanes can be found at nhc.noaa.gov at the National Hurricane Center.

Things to See and Do

Haiti is not a typical tourist destination and as such, you will get the most out of your visit to the country by completely immersing yourself in local culture. Some of the best experiences are relatively ordinary activities such as exploring the bustling markets, travelling on a ‘tap-tap’ or trying the local food. Making contact with a native Haitian will make your trip go much more smoothly as a local guide will be able not only to help you navigate the country but also to understand its rich and complex heritage.

If you are in Haiti during the days preceding Ash Wednesday you will get to experience the country’s carnival season with all-night street parties complete with local food and music.

Travel

Travel in Haiti is often difficult due to frequent roadblocks set up by both police and local armed gangs. Add this to poor road conditions and vehicle maintenance and you have a recipe for some rather dangerous journeys. The most common method of transport in Haiti is the bus; known locally as a ‘tap-tap’ these are often made from trucks fitted with benches, which act as rudimentary seats. Tap-taps will stop on request and are by far the cheapest method of transport. However unless you have a conversational knowledge of Creole or are with an experienced guide they aren’t recommended.

Taxis are a much safer method of transportation, provided that they are licensed. Taxis are often four-wheel drive vehicles and are much more comfortable and also much safer for journeys on the unpredictable roads of Haiti. Of course with this security comes a higher price tag and taxis are an expensive way of getting around. However, if you are travelling without an experienced guide it is certainly worth the extra cost.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against taking public transport and recommends that you travel with a reliable guide. Although this may not always be possible you should at all times be particularly aware of your personal safety and do not take any unnecessary risks to get a cheaper fare.

Accommodation

Organising accommodation in Haiti while not actually in the country can be tricky at best. There are many guest houses available in Haiti and finding one can be made easier by employing a local guide or by making enquiries of the religious institutions which are associated with several of the safer places to stay.

Camping while in Haiti is really taking your life in your hands. Parties of looters are a fairly frequent occurrence and so threat to personal safety is high. Haiti is not a place to enjoy the “great outdoors”.

Health

If you are travelling in Haiti and you fall ill, the best possible option is to be transported out of the country for treatment. For this reason it is especially important that you obtain fully comprehensive travel insurance and make sure that it covers the cost of an air ambulance. Haiti’s health service leaves a lot to be desired and if possible you should avoid having to use it at all costs.

If you are on medication it is vital that you take enough with you to last your trip. Be aware though that if the situation in the country changes and you are unable to leave, it is unlikely that you will be able to obtain additional medication. For this reason travel to Haiti by people suffering from a serious medical condition is not recommended.

Malaria is often a problem in Haiti so make sure you have enough medication with you for your entire journey and that you take all precautions to avoid insect bites. This is especially important given the prevalence of the particularly nasty dengue fever which cannot be vaccinated against and can, in some cases, be fatal.

Haiti has the highest level of HIV/AIDS affliction outside of sub-Saharan Africa so it is important to be especially careful while you travel in the country. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Crime

As backpacking destinations go Haiti is not one of the safest. The capital city, Port-au-Prince is probably the most dangerous place to be in the country. There have been many incidents of kidnapping for ransom as well as random shooting of civilians and armed robbery in the streets. While in the capital city it is not recommended that you travel alone even during the day. Walking the streets of the city is not recommended and whilst driving you should have all doors locked and windows rolled up.

There are some “safer” areas of Haiti, which are inhabited by foreigners, for example the areas of Petionville and Bourdon. These are seen as relatively safe during daylight hours, but again, travel at night is not recommended.

Haiti is a desperately poor country and as such pick-pocketing and theft of valuables is rife. This means that becoming a victim of crime a fairly likely scenario. The Foreign and Commonwealth office has produced a leaflet for victims of crime abroad.

Useful Links

fco.gov.uk, Travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office concerning Haiti.

wikipedia article with a good introduction to Haitian culture; a useful background reading to help understand the country’s heritage.

HaitiWebs.com has some more information on the country, including its literature and art.

VolunteerAbroad.com has a few listings for volunteer opportunities in Haiti.

Entry Visas for Haiti

The British government advises against all but essential travel to Haiti due to the frequency of kidnappings and violent crimes against tourists. As a British citizen you do not require a visa if your stay is under 90 days. In addition to your passport, which must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry you will require a card which is issued on arrival in Haiti. This card must be kept for the duration of your stay and then returned to the Immigration authorities upon your departure. It is advised that you contact the Haitian embassy in Paris before travelling to the country for up-to-date advice.

There has been no British Embassy in Haiti since 2005, and the British consulate’s public operations have been suspended. For all visa enquiries or any other problems that would usually be addressed to the British consulate it is recommended that you contact the British Embassy in the Dominican Republic.

Useful Addresses

The Haitian Embassy in Paris should be contacted before travelling to Haiti for advice regarding travel: Address: Rue Theodule Ribot 10, 75827 Paris, France Telephone: (0033) 01 47634778

The British Embassy in the Dominican Republic should be contacted for all consular and visa related enquiries while in Haiti:

Address: British Embassy, Ave 27 de Febrero No 233, Edificio Corominas Pepin Santo Domingo Telephone: (001) (809) 472 7905 Commercial, (001) (809) 7373 Consular, (001) (809) 472 7111 Embassy Fax:(001) (809) 472 7190, (001) (809) 472 7574 Chancery Email: brit.emb.sadom@verizon.net.do

Foreigner Work Permits in Haiti

Haiti has a national unemployment rate of around 70% so finding paid work in the country is not likely, although there are a few opportunities to teach English. Because of the security situation in Haiti opportunities to volunteer are limited and often require a specialist skill such as medicine or a TEFL certificate.

Finding positions can be difficult but this article gives advice on how to go about finding a volunteer program in Haiti.

How to Say Common Spanish Phrases

Although French is widely spoken you will find that many Haitian people appreciate you trying to communicate in Creole, even if you do have to revert to French or English in the end. Below are a few useful French and Creole phrases to get you started.

Meeting People

English
French
yes
oui
no
non
thank you
merci
you are welcome
de rien
please
s’il vous plaît
excuse me
pardon
hello
bonjour
goodbye
au revoir
good morning
bonjour
good night
bonne nuit
I do not understand
Je ne comprends pas
Do you speak…?
Parlez-vous…?
English
anglais
French
français
What is you name
Comment vous appelez-vous?
Nice to meet you
Enchanté de faire votre connaissance
How are you
Comment allez-vous?
Good
bon
bad
mauvais

Directions

English
French
map
carte
left
à gauche
right
à droite
straight on
tout droit
far
loin
near
près

Methods of Transport

English
French
Where is…?
Où se trouve…?
How much is the fare?
Quel est le prix du billet?
Ticket
billet
A ticket to…, please
Un billet pour …, s’il vous plaît
Where are you going?
Où est-ce que vous allez?
Where do you live?
Où habitez-vous?
Train
le train
bus
un autobus
underground
le métro
airport
un aéroport
train station
la gare
bus station
la gare de bus
underground station
la station de métro
departure
le départ
arrival
une arrivée
parking
le parking

Time

English
French
What time is it?
Quelle heure est-il?
Today
aujourd’hui
yesterday
hier
tomorrow
demain

Accommodation

English
French
hotel
un hôtel
room
une chambre
reservation
la réservation
Are there any vacancies?
Avez-vous des chambres disponibles?
No vacancies
Complet
Passport
le passeport

Places

English
French
post office
la poste
bank
la banque
police station
le poste de police
hospital
hôpital
chemist
la pharmacie
shop
le magasin
restaurant
le restaurant
museum
le musée
church
une église
square
la place
street
la rue

Shopping

English
French
How much does this cost?
Combien cela coûte?
I will buy it
Je le prends
I would like to buy…
Je voudrais acheter…
Do you have…?
Avez-vous…?
open
ouvert
closed
fermé
postcard
la carte postale
stamps
des timbres
little
un peu
lot
beaucoup
all
tout

Meals

English
French
breakfast
petit déjeuner
lunch
le déjeuner
dinner
le dîner
vegetarian
végétarien
cheers!
à votre santé!
the bill please
l’addition s’il vous plait

Drinks

English
French
drink
la boisson
coffee
le café
tea
le thé
juice
le jus
water
l’eau
beer
la bière
wine
le vin

Food

English
French
meat
la viande
fish
le poisson
vegetable
le légume
fruit
le fruit
potato
la pomme de terre
salad
la salade
dessert
la dessert

 

Haiti Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers.

Sorry, no hostels have been registered for this country yet.

There you have it, the ultimate Haiti backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Haiti.