Travel guide to Haiti

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The ancient traditions of Voodoo are practiced throughout Haiti, a major influence on daily life. Haiti is a dirty and poverty-stricken country to travel in, but its' people and their humourous attitude to life make up for any perceived inconvenience.

Facts

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Local name
Republique d'Haïti
Capital
Port-au-Prince
Size
27,750 sq km
Principal Languages
French and Creole
Principal Religion
Catholicism
Inhabitants
6,867,995 (2000
Government
Republic
Geography
The island of Hispaniola is shared by Haiti - which occupies the western third - and the Dominican Republic. There are several mountains clad in rainforest, and some respectably large rivers. But you also come across large tracts of eroded mountains and deserts.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Haiti doesn't have any real high and low season; there is no particular time of year that sees more tourists than any other. But the weather may well be a decisive factor in planning when to visit. The rainy-seasons fall in April to May and again in September to October. These periods have very heavy rainfall - especially in the evenings.

Literature

Lonely Planet Dominican Republic and Haiti Haiti and the Dominican Republic: The Island of Hispaniola

Local conditions

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Currency

Gourdes, 1 Gourde = 100 centimes

Tipping

A ten per cent tip is the norm in restaurants. In bars, the bartender expects a small token as well. Anyone who carries a bag for you gets a tip too.

Timezone

Haiti is four hours behind GMT. When it's noon in the UK, it's 8 am in Haiti.

Weight and Measures

Haiti uses the metric system.

Photography

There are no serious restrictions on photography in Haiti. Of course, it's never advisable to take picture near military installations and in airports. If you want to capture the local people on film, it is a good idea to ask first. The answer will usually be a big smiling affirmative.

Drinking water

The local water in Haiti is considered a genuine health hazard. Don't ever drink it. All water for drinking and brushing your teeth should be bottled. Also, accept no ice cubes in drinks.

Electricity

110 Volts AC/50 Hz

Behaviour

A smile will get you a long way in Haiti. Don't be put off if the locals sometimes appear sceptical towards tourists at first, they soon come around. Haitians like to poke fun at visitors, a good-spirited habit to be taken with a smile. Especially in the countryside, it is customary to greet strangers you meet.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 8.30 am to 1 pm Monday to Friday, and in some larger cities again from 2 pm to 4 pm. Shops are open from 7 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. Some shops close early on Fridays, and most are open for business Saturdays as well. Offices are open from 7 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday

Food and drink

Haitian cuisine is a mixture between Creole and French. Creole cooking is a lot like Caribbean, only spicier. A particular specialty is Griot, deep-fried pork and rice with Djon Djon, small dark mushrooms. The local Haitian Barbancourt rum is excellent.

Disabled travellers

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and few resources are set aside to improve conditions for the disabled. Wheelchair users will find it very difficult to get about.

Holidays

Independence Day: January 1 Ancestry Day: January 2 Americas Day: April 14 Flag Day and University Day: May 18 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: August 15 Death of Henri Christophe: October 8 Death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines: October 17 All Saints Day: November 1 All Souls Day: November 2 Vertières Day: November 18 Discovery of Haiti: December 5 Christmas: December 25 Easter: March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Camping in Haiti is not a leisurely activity. There are no facilities available, and you often have to travel through rough terrain to get to a suitable spot.

Hotels

Those hotels that have experience with putting up tourists are often rather expensive, and the standards are not too high.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are no Bed & Breakfasts or guesthouses in Haiti.

Hostels

There are no youth hostels in Haiti.

Local transport

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Planes

There are daily departures between Port-au-Prince and Cap Haïtien. Other airfields are only serviced by chartered planes.

Bus

The cheapest form of transportation is the system of buses. The service is extensive and also a good way to meet people. Haitians don't bother with bus stops. You just flag down the bus anywhere and shout to the driver when you want to get off.

Trains

There is no train service in Haiti.

Taxi

It is not easy to find a regular cab in Haiti. Nick's Taxis is the only company that have radio-controlled cars and drive by the meter (phone: 25 77 777).

Car rental

All the major rental companies are represented in Haiti. Prices are steep, though, due to the number of accidents on the country's roads.

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