The Land Tourism
While elsewhere almost
the entire Caribbean has taken up the universal ambiance
of tropical tourism, Haiti has remained uniquely Haitian,
a land of unexpected beauty, rich in art and culture,
steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. In the
1950s and 60s Haiti was becoming quite the
chic tourist destination but political turmoil, AIDS and
an economic embargo wiped it from the tourism map. Today
it remains, the land which tourism forgot.
For those who prefer a place apart from the usual tourist hustle Haiti has
much to offer. The richest most exotic culture in the
Caribbean. Striking scenery. Friendly people. Small, uncrowded, inexpensive hotels. Good restaurants. An
abundance of quality arts and crafts, uniquely Haitian,
and at bargain prices.
Three Ways to Visit
there are three ways to visit Haiti. Several cruise lines
include brief stops at Cap Ha´tien and a visit to an
isolated northern beach in their itinerary. For a real visit there are a number of
small but comfortable hotels in all the main towns. These
still offer the flavor of times past where one
meets colorful characters and often senses the
presence of mysterious goings on.
American Airlines serves Port-au-Prince out of Miami
and New York. Air Canada connects with Montreal and Air
France with Europe. The Miami flights in particular are
often overbooked. At the Miami end there is usually a
long line of Haitians with piles of shopping to check in.
The normal international check in time of at least two
hours before departure should be adhered to. If you
arrive late there may be no seats left. Tip: If you
travel light with only carry on luggage ask your travel
agent to get your boarding pass issued with your ticket.
You can then go straight to the departure lounge and
avoid the long slow check in line entirely.
An alternative way to visit Haiti is by car from the
Dominican Republic. The D.P. is especially popular with
European visitors and small numbers make an
excursion to Haiti a part of their visit there.
For ground transport in Haiti a car and driver are
recommended. This can easily be arranged at your hotel.
There are no traffic lights in Haiti and few traffic or
road signs. Local knowledge, experience and skills are
needed. Haitians are skilled and remarkably courteous
drivers. They are not expensive and a local
guide is indispensable.
The native Creole cuisine of Haiti is tasty,
inexpensive and good. The French influence is seen in a
number of excellent restaurants and in the availability
of a wide range of French food and wines in supermarkets.
Italian, Chinese and other ethnic restaurants are also
found. Haiti makes good rum. Barbancourt is one of the
finest in the world. Haitian coffee is also especially
Holidays and Festivals
Haiti has a number of
colorful holidays and festivals. This is an example.
Prices are usually provided in gourdes
or in Haitian dollars. There currently are about 40 gourdes to
one U.S. dollar and U.S. dollars are widely
accepted. Prices in galleries may be in U.S. dollars.
Elsewhere the $ sign denotes Haitian dollars.
Various tropical diseases are present, especially in
rural areas but not so prevalent as to be of special
concern to the short term visitor. Bottled water is
recommended for drinking. It is readily available. The
incidence of AIDS is high though probably no more so than
Bangkok, and perhaps less than Key West. In Haiti AIDS is
following the Asian and African pattern of predominately
heterosexual transmission. This is not a good destination
for a sexual holiday.
French is the native language of educated Haitians but
most are multilingual and English is widely spoken. The
peasants speak Creole, a patois, French in vocabulary but
African in grammar and syntax. If you speak French Creole
is not too hard to pick up on.
Except on entering and leaving visitors
are unlikely to have any contact with the bureaucracy. Upon entering the country immigration will issue
an entry permit for which there is a small fee. Keep this
document. It is required upon departure. Public servants in Haiti are
generally paid very little and must make whatever extra they can,
however they can. Customs may ask you to pay some moderate fee as "duty"
for your camera or some such. The easiest solution is to pay it. If the
amount seems a bit too much some friendly bargaining is o.k. If this
happens you are not being singled out as a visitor. Haitians are treated
Haiti Main Page