Questions, concerns or doubts? We’re here to put your mind at ease. When's the cheapest time to fly? Do I need a visa? How much should I tip? Should I have paté or spaghetti for breakfast? This is where we answer your most frequently asked questions.
Basketball players, Jacmel
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
Within the cities, there’s a good selection of boutique hotels to suit your budget and style. Airbnb is gaining popularity too, with dozens of offerings from art-filled family homes to free-standing villas where you can sip rum sours in your own infinity pool.
Looking for a true introduction to Haitian cuisine? Port-au-Prince houses the best names in the business, such as La Coquille, La Réserve, and Presse Café in Pétion-Ville, Gingerbread in Pacot, or Le Plaza in downtown Port-au-Prince. These restaurants are great places to sample typical Haitian cuisine. For a special treat, Le Florville in Kenscoff has a popular Sunday brunch. It’s a great way to enjoy a relaxed Haitian dining experience.
For some of Haiti’s famous seafood, head to Océane and Coin des Artistes in Pétion-Ville. Their produce is almost entirely locally sourced, and it’s great to know you’re supporting local fishermen.
In Jacmel, head to Hotel Florita, Hotel Cyvadier or Alliance Française.
Most local Haitians prefer to stay on the safe side by drinking bottled water. If you’re on the move, you can purchase smaller bottles of water from supermarkets and kiosks.
If you are staying with a host or in an Airbnb, your best bet is to buy a refillable 5-gallon bottle of water. Major supermarkets in Port-au-Prince sell treated water refills at a very affordable price. In most neighborhoods, you'll also find water refill stations where you can refill your 5-gallon bottles for 15-50 Haitian Gourdes. You won't find them on Google maps, but you can ask around for the nearest "Station d'eau".
Bottled water is cheap in the cities and not always available in small towns and on the road, so stock up before you venture out.
Haiti is home to stunning beaches, unique Creole language and cuisine, a proud heritage of hard-won freedom and independence, and inspiring historical attractions.
It's also home to the Caribbean’s premiere art scene, with an abundance of galleries and artist-owned initiatives showcasing distinctive Haitian styles. You’ll find thriving artist colonies in Jacmel, Grand Rue in Port-au-Prince and Noailles in Croix-des-Bouquets.
The culturally curious can catch the Thursday-night Vodou rock show in downtown Port-au-Prince, or witness the whirlwind of costumes, music and performance during one of the many annual festivals.
One of the best things about Haiti as a travel destination is that it’s relatively free of juggernaut five-star resorts that dominate the landscape in other more well-trodden Caribbean destinations. In Haiti, you can ditch the noisy crowds and find much more down-to-earth experiences of beachside paradise.
Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has been on the road to reconstruction. For several years, national icons lay in rubble and whole city squares cordoned off for repair, but the Caribbean nation is now recovering well. With tourism vital for continued prosperity, keeping visitors safe and satisfied is a priority for locals and government policy reflects this.
Almost a decade on, a new generation of tourists are discovering what makes Haiti so special. Haiti is becoming a sought-after experience for adventure-driven travelers, the culturally curious, and Millennials who’ve visited the Caribbean already and are seeking something different.
The current generation has grown up with images of Haiti suffering the effects of the 2010 earthquake, but the last decade has actually seen a decrease in political unrest, inequality and crime. Haiti remains poor, but it’s perfectly safe for visitors to walk around the cities on foot or travel across the country to see the many cultural icons and natural wonders, either alone or with a local guide.
In fact, the 2019 Global Peace Index ranks Haiti at #87 out of the 163 countries on the list. According to the list, Haiti is more peaceful than many popular tourist destinations like Morocco, Brazil, Thailand, Kenya, the Philippines, Mexico, India and - interestingly - USA (ranked #128).
As in any large city in the US, people visiting should take sensible precautions when in Port au Prince or Haiti’s other cities. While some parts of town are safer than others, it is common to see foreigners walking around unaccompanied in the streets of Port-au-Prince.
While political unrest can be a cause for worry, it should be noted that most of these events affect very specific politically active groups, not individual people going about their daily life, or foreigners.
Current travel advisories: The US consulate currently has a Level 3 travel advisory for Haiti (issued 11 June 2019), and recommends that travellers stay safe by changing currency in advance (so you can avoid banks and ATMs), avoiding demonstrations, not attempting to go through roadblocks, and booking official, professional transport from the airport to your accommodation.
Haiti’s currency is the Haitian gourde. You’ll often see it abbreviated as HTG or GDES – both mean the same thing. You should see prices displayed in HTG most places you go, as the Haitian government made it law in March of 2018 that all prices in all businesses in Haiti should be reflected in HTG. This is a sign that the local economy is regaining ground, and that more and more travellers from around the world are seeking out these warmer climes.
If you do have US bills - small ones - keep some of them with you too as you can still use them in many places with a high volume of visiting customers.
The best place to change US dollars or any other currency to Haitian gourdes is at a bank. If you are caught in a bind, some supermarkets can change US dollars.
The confusing "Haitian Dollar"
Sometimes, while bargaining for artwork, or while shopping in farmers’ markets, you will hear prices discussed in "Haitian dollars" or simply "dollars." Usually, this doesn't mean American dollars. Confused? Not to worry!
One Haitian dollar is equal to 5 Haitian gourdes. So 20 Haitian dollars for a pile of oranges is actually 100 HTG, 10 Haitian dollars for a motorcycle ride in Pétion-Ville is actually 50 HTG, and so on.
For a 5-day short trip to Haiti, you can budget around USD $400, excluding flights. This estimate includes:
- - 4 nights in a highly-rated boutique hotel (with breakfast)
- - Delicious creole street food for lunch
- - Beachfront fine dining experience for dinner
- - Entry to galleries, museums, live music nights and national parks
- - Cold water and sodas from street merchants
- - A couple of taxi rides for those late nights in Pétion-Ville
- - Plus a little spending money, so you can bring some art home with you
On a budget? Savvy travellers can make USD $400 last for a whole two weeks.
The cost of flying varies depending on season as well as location. Return flights from New York during spring, for example, start at USD $400 return. You can read more about how to find the cheapest flights to Haiti here.
Most Haitians tip at major restaurants. In tourist areas, anything extra is graciously accepted, no matter where you're eating, sleeping or shopping.
In the heart of the Caribbean, Haiti is warm all year round - around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Select a wardrobe that will be comfortable in warm weather, and able to keep you cool if you plan on going on hikes and other adventures.
Haitians like to dress smartly, so pack something a little fancy for restaurants and events. If you'll be here in time for Carnival, that's a whole different story!
To enjoy a smooth-sailing Caribbean escape, check out our packing essentials guide.
Haiti’s dry season officially runs from November to March. With lower humidity and little rain, the dry season also provides the best conditions for surfing, snorkeling, diving and trekking. This is when the seas are at their calmest (and most photogenic).
The downside of visiting Haiti during the dry season is that everyone else wants to, making it a little bit tricky, and sometimes expensive to secure a flight to get there. Particularly during December and January, tourism peaks and Haitians living abroad tend to come back to Haiti for end-of-year celebrations with their friends and family.
In the summer months from June to August, the weather is warm and the beaches are beautiful. With fewer tourists, you’ll find destinations quieter and locals will have more time for you.
For travellers who want to explore the island’s landscapes, culture, history and art at their own pace, and don’t mind getting caught in the rain on the way to their pina coladas, the summer season will repay you with the cheapest flights and accommodation.
To find key calendar dates to help you book your trip, read our article on how to choose the best time to visit Haiti.
If you're travelling on a shoestring or want to reduce your air-miles, consider finding overland transport to Florida. Return flights from Florida to Haiti start around USD$250.
Haiti’s inter-country infrastructure is reasonably well-developed, with most towns and tourist destinations connected via a network of roads to the major cities of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Cap-Haitien. Within the cities, you can get around using buses, tap-taps and motos.
With so many ways to get around, public transport in Haiti can be daunting, but we’ve got you covered.
As long as you have a credit card, yes. You can easily hire a car through a recognised international chain in Port-au-Prince or Cap Haitien. You can hire everything from SUVs to luxury cars, with rates starting at USD$45 a day.
Make sure you keep your identification and hire papers on you at all times, so that you can be quickly on your way if you happen to get pulled over by traffic authorities.
Some car hire companies offer guides or drivers. While your GPS will work fine, the traffic can be chaotic and the roads heading away from the cities toward Haiti's hidden wonders can be tough for travellers not used to offroad driving.
Americans, Canadians and most Europeans can visit Haiti without a visa at all, as long as you plan to stay for less than three months. You can find the full list here.
After three months, you'll need to regularize your status. If you are planning to stay in Haiti for a long stretch of time, make sure that you keep this in mind and book your travel arrangements accordingly.
Get vaccinated before you go: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Tetanus shots are all recommended, but depending on your level of risk your doctor may recommend more.
Purchase medical insurance in advance and keep in mind that emergency response services, including ambulances, are very limited in Haiti.
The usuals: live animals, weapons, pornography and drugs. You can bring in 1L of liquor, 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars (good to know if you're heading to Haiti via another Caribbean destination!).
Yes. Wifi is widely available in accommodation and restaurants.
If you bring a smartphone, you can buy a SIM card for less than USD$5, then add internet data for less than USD$20, allowing you to use Google maps and other handy apps when outside of wireless range.
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