Haiti is a tropical island with its share of beaches and mountain landscapes. It also offers a thrilling edge that adds to its growing reputation as an adventure and cultural cool-hunter destination.
Haiti is now resurfacing after been missing in action for years from the Caribbean tourism scene. It’s now one of the most unique and exciting tourist destinations for visitors.
The country is, however, not well traveled and it can be challenging to find information on going there. Read on for some useful information about Haiti, to help you prepare for your upcoming tour.
Here are 7 things you should know before traveling to Haiti.
1. Travel to Haiti Safely
It’s not a wonder that most travelers are concerned about their safety during their Haiti vacation.
The main reason is due to the past turbulent and violent occurrences in the country. Nowadays, however, Haiti has become a less violent country and pretty welcoming for tourists.
Just like in other places, observing travel safety measures is paramount in Haiti. It’s advisable to avoid areas with political demonstrations, avoid night walks when you’re alone, keep your valuables safe and it’s essential to stay aware of your surroundings.
To have the best moment in Haiti without worrying much about the safety issue, you may consider hiring some of the best tour operators. Haiti is much welcoming for tourists, so don’t let safety issues hinder you from experiencing this amazing country.
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2. People and Greetings
Haitians are social people, great in telling proverbs. You need to learn a few local greetings and phrases to help you tap into this part of their culture. Simple gestures like saying ‘bonjour’ and nodding in respect create a friendly atmosphere with the locals.
‘Cheri’ is a moniker used by perfect strangers to create an atmosphere of kindness when addressing each other.
It’s also important to know that Haitians don’t like people taking photographs of them. This is mainly due to the many photojournalists visiting the nation in recent years, showcasing negative aspects about them to the world.
With that in mind, it’s advisable to keep away your camera until you’ve established some rapport with the people. You should also seek permission to photograph and showcase the photos after you’re done taking photos.
3. Haitian Food
World’s famous Haitian cuisine is a blend of several influences comprising Arab, French, West Africa, and Taino Natives. Both the contemporary and traditional dishes carry a uniqueness that’s only typical to the Island of Haiti.
This is simply what makes Haitian cuisines appealing for visitors. What makes Haitian dishes zippy and distinct is the combination of deep spice with a touch of Scotch bonnet chili peppers.
Another great thing with Haitian cuisines is that they can be spicy as you wish. Spicy food lovers get to enjoy hot peppers and spiced, pickled vegetables on their favorite dishes.
For seafood lovers, Haiti has an abundance of fresh seafood such as lobsters, fish, and conch. If you’re a non-vegetarian, you’ll also get to enjoy their tassot (spiced, dry meat) and the tasty griyo (fried pork).
For Vegans, you’ll get to try out plenty of Haitian staple recipes such as rice, fried plantains, beans, and ornmeal.
For dessert, you’ll be spoiled for choice with plenty of fresh tropical fruit such as avocado salads. For drinks, Barbancourt rum will serve you well in cocktails or a frosty prestige beer for a quick cool.
4. Learn to Negotiate While Travelling to Haiti
Once you’re in the airport, you’ll find many people swooping in to help for a tip. Know that you need to keep your wits about you in the airport before locating a trustworthy driver.
Similar to most airports in developing countries, you will be bombarded with offers for tours and taxis once you emerge from customs.
You should, however, not allow them to intimidate you by taking your luggage as they’ll use it as a bargaining chip to convince you to hire them.
The ideal way to manage this is by preparing in advance, that is, knowing your destination, how far it is, and a rough estimate of how much it costs to get there.
Being properly prepared will help you negotiate the prices before going into the car. You can also avoid all this confusion and hassle by organizing transport in advance.
5. On Clothing, Money, and Bugs
Haitians pay attention to their public appearance, and you’ll find them nicely dressed in western style clothing. However, Haiti is tropical, so you’ll need some comfy, light clothes and shoes to allow you to comfortably walk around the different places.
Consider to also carry some sunscreen and mosquito repellant. Haiti does have malaria, so try keeping the mosquito away using a repellant during cocktail sundowners as they resurface as the sun begins to set.
For money to use during your visit, you should consider carrying dollars in cash. Most of the available ATMs, which dispense Haitian currency aren’t always reliable. It’s easier withdrawing money from the ATMs just outside the customs area.
Another key thing to note is that Haitian currency isn’t convertible. That’s why you should take out or convert the amount that you only need to avoid having a bunch at the end of your trip.
6. Don’t Drink the Water
You shouldn’t drink the water, including washed fresh vegetables and ice. Try eating anything that’s cooked.
It’s safer to carry a refillable water bottle that you can top up with filtered water, mostly available in hotels.
This will also enable you to cut down the number of plastic water bottles you may have to purchase during your stay. The water is, however, safe for swimming and bathing.
7. Add Time Into Your Schedule
Don’t be tricked by how places appear close to each other on a map of Haiti and assume you’ll get to your destination within no time.
You’ll find that most highways have a single lane in each direction. Not to mention, questionable road conditions and the huge traffic.
That’s why you need to plan for the unexpected by adding more time into your things to do in Haiti.
You will find yourself stuck on the road due to things such as goats and donkeys blocking the road, or the bus breaking down.
To ensure that you don’t get angry or frustrated due to such delays include some extra time in your schedule, and you’ll comfortably go with the flow.
Experience Haiti at Its Best
Haiti is a country with a rich and complicated history. It also includes diverse coastal and stunning mountain landscapes.
This combination is what makes traveling to Haiti so fascinating. With all the above-mention things about Haiti in mind, you’ll definitely have the best experience of that Haiti has to offer!