Haiti up close
Money & costs in Haiti
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
Where can you change money in Haiti? How much is a bottle of beer, a burger or a bus trip? Find out here.
You’re standing at the carousel in the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, and your thrilling getaway in Haiti is finally about to kick off. There’s a lot to think about: did you confirm your ride to your hostel? Which restaurant did you decide on? Does that sad handle going around the carousel by itself belong on your luggage?
If you read our guide to getting to Haiti, you knew to bring USD$10 to pay the tourist fee due when you land. Nice work!
Before you rush out to meet the festive heart of the Caribbean, don’t forget to get out cash. Changing currency can be confusing, so allow us to break it down for you – you’ll be a change-chucking champion in no time!
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 wherever 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.
There are a few bills and coins for you to get familiar with – and they’re all very colorful, which makes it fun and interesting.
Photo: Franck Fontain
Bills, bills, bills
There are two different coins and seven bills currently in use in Haiti.
The coins are:
- 1 HTG – the physically) smaller of the two coins.
- 5 HTG – the larger, more common coin.
The bills are:
- 10 HTG – the smallest bill, a light, grey-ish purple.
- 25 HTG – the vintage one! It’s the only bill still in circulation that hasn’t been redesigned.
- 50 HTG – this pink bill features François Capois.
- 100 HTG – the blue bill, featuring Henri Christophe on one side, and Citadelle Laferrière on the other.
- 250 HTG – yellow and brown, this bill features Jean-Jacques Dessalines on one side, and Fort Décidé on the other.
- 500 HTG – Haiti’s only green bill! It features Alexandre Pétion one one side, and Fort Jacques on the other.
- 1,000 HTG – the most colorful bill, with president Hypollite on one side, and Marché Vallière on the other.
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.
Photo: Mikkel Ulriksen
The best place to change US dollars or any other currency to Haitian gourdes is at a bank. Their rate is fairly stable. If you are caught in a bind, supermarkets will gladly offer to change US dollars for you, as well, at a slightly higher rate.
How much for...?
Here’s the thing about shopping – for anything – in Haiti: there aren’t really any prices set in stone. The items that do have a set price are either extremely affordable, or ridiculously expensive.
When it comes to the basics, like food and drinks, it will depend on where you go. Supermarket prices tend to vary, but stay in the same range. A large 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola might only vary by 15 to 25 HTG at three different supermarkets. If you’re going to the farmers’ markets, you can expect more standard prices there. A large mamit (an empty tin of tomato paste used as a measuring tool) of dry, white rice will most likely be the same price from six different vendors in the same market.
You can expect to pay around 125 HTG for a large (1.5 liter) bottle of water, about the same for a bottle of imported beer, and around 400 HTG for a mid-range bottle of wine.
When dining out, expect to pay about 70 HTG for a soda, 220 HTG for a coffee, and 600 HTG for a meal.
For things like transportation, costs depend on two things: the first is where you’re going, and the second is the price of gasoline that day. If there has been a recent gas price increase, transportation costs usually bear the brunt of that. To avoid surprises and ensure you carry enough change, it’s good to speak to a local and jot down the current prices for any destinations you may have during your stay.
Things like arts and crafts seen in the streets come with wiggle room for haggling. In some tourist destinations, the salespeople can be pretty forward - take your time to get a sense of what things are worth. If you are in Pétion-Ville by Place Saint-Pierre or at Champ-de-Mars, you will be blinded by walls of paintings stretching as far as the eye can see, and the artists there are more understanding and will generally settle on a decent price that works for both parties.
It’s good to have a local with you during these haggling sessions, because they may be more informed about the general cost of things in a specific area.
With this comprehensive beginners’ lesson, we hope you’ll have a smoother time navigating Haiti and all the beauty it has to offer – and get the most for your gourde!
Artisan gift shop in Jacmel
Photo: Franck Fontain
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