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Holidays in Haiti

Understanding Haiti

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere Tourists who are unsettled by grinding poverty probably should visit elsewhere However, for those with patience and an open mind, Haiti reveals a rich culture that is unique among post-colonial nations

It is extremely helpful when traveling in Haiti to have a local contact, through a church, a hotel, or just through making friends with someone Experiences like dining locally, riding on a tap-tap, or strolling through one of the insanely crowded outdoor markets are great fun and very worth doing, but much safer and easier if you have a trusted Haitian to go along as a guide and interpreter


Tropical; semiarid where mountains in the east cut off trade winds Haiti lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms from June to November Experiences occasional flooding, earthquakes and droughts


Mostly mountainous, with a wide, flat central plain to the north The highest point is Chaine de la Selle at 2,777m


Haiti was inhabited by the native Taino Indians when Christopher Columbus landed on December 6th 1492 at Mole St Nicholas Columbus named the island Hispaniola The Taino were a branch of the Arawak Indians,a peaceful tribe that was weakened by frequent violent invasions by the cannibalistic Carib Indians Later, Spanish settlers brought smallpox and other European diseases to which the Taino had no immunity In short order, the native Taino were virtually annihilated There is no discernible trace of Taino blood on Haiti today The current inhabitants have exclusively African and/or European roots In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola and in 1697 Spain ceded the western third of the island to France Through the development of sugar and coffee plantations, the French colony of Saint-Domingue flourished, becoming one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean Enslaved Africans were brought to Haiti to work on these French plantations Work conditions for slaves on Haiti were the harshest imaginable, as sugar and coffee plantations required intensive labor The French imported an enormous slave labor force, which ultimately vastly outnumbered the French planters 10 to 1 In August 1791, Saint-Domingue's nearly 500,000 slaves revolted, burning every plantation to the ground and killing all the Frenchmen they could find After a bloody 13 year struggle, the former slaves ousted the French and created Haiti - the first black republic - in 1804 Since its revolution, Haiti has not had a stable government It has had 32 coups over the centuries - a series of military dominations that focused on maintaining power and extracting wealth from a large peasant base A lack of government and civil unrest led to the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 While order was brought about and much infrastructure was developed in Haiti by the United States, Haitians resented the occupation of their country The withdrawal of Americans by President Roosevelt in 1934 left a power vacuum that was filled by Haitian military elite The Forbes Commission in 1930 accurately noted that "the social forces that created instability still remain--poverty, ignorance, and the lack of a tradition or desire for orderly free government" The following 20 years saw ruthless struggles for power that ended with the ascension of François Papa Doc Duvalier Duvalier's brutal dictatorship lasted nearly thirty years, with his son, Jean-Claude Bébé Doc Duvalier assuming power after Papa Doc's death in 1971 Bébé Doc was ousted in 1986, followed by more bloodshed and military rule that culminated in a new Constitution in 1987 and the election of former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president in 1990 After a coup d'etat, Aristide went into exile Most of his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he returned to office in 1994 after Haitian General Raoul Cedras asked the United States to intervine, negotiating the departure of Haiti's military leaders and paving the way for the return of Aristide His former prime minister, René Préval, became president in 1996 Aristide won a second term as president in 2000, and took office early in 2001 However, accusations of corruption were followed by a paramilitary coup that ousted Aristide in 2004 Since then, Haiti has been occupied by UN peacekeeping troupes MINUSTAH and has once again elected René Préval as head of state in February 2006

Talking in Haiti

See also: French phrasebook, Haitian Creole phrasebook

The official languages of Haiti are French and Haitian Creole Kreyòl Ayisien, which is a French-based creole language Haitian Creole is the native language of the masses, while French is the administrative language, even though only 15 % of Haitians can speak it, and only about 2% can speak it well Creole is, however, a separate language and not mutually intelligible with French, and most Haitians will not be able to understand you when spoken to in French Many Haitians are very appreciative if you take the trouble to learn a little bit of one of the official languages preferably Creole, rather than using an interpreter or expecting them to speak English Haitians working in tourist areas usually speak English well enough for conversation

What to do in Haiti

You could go to visit Champs-de-Mars, once the most beautiful park in Haiti, but now covered in tents housing people made homeless by the earthquake It was a public place where people went to relax and hang out with friend or their girlfriend, before the quake It is located near the National Palace—which is not in a better condition either, as it's completely a collapsed ruin now

Buying stuff in Haiti

The Haitian gourde, pronounced goud in Creole, is the currency of Haiti It's notionally divided into 100 centimes, but as the exchange rate as of July 2009 hovers around 40 gourdes to the dollar, you're unlikely to see these Haiti has become famous for its very informal yet interesting bustling marketplace Everything is sold here ranging from the curiously appealing to the dullest of objects for rather inexpensive prices Haggling is wise and recommended and not doing so may cost you precious dollars There are various large retail supermarkets in the capital that offer a variety of items Haiti is a world of crafts waiting to be sought after

Although by law, merchants are required to quote prices in gourde, rarely do they do so Instead, virtually everything is priced in "dollars" -- not USD but Haitian dollars which are equivalent to 5 gourdes This practice is a holdover from the US occupation of Haiti in the early 20th century, during which the gourde was pegged at 5 gourdes to the US dollar

Food and eating in Haiti

Haitian cuisine is typical of Caribbean métissage - a wonderful mix of French and African sensibilities It is similar to its Spanish Caribbean neighbors yet unique in its strong presence of spices Roast goat called 'kabrit', morsels of fried pork 'griot', poultry with a Creole sauce 'poulet creole', rice with wild mushroom 'du riz jonjon' are all wonderful and tasty dishes Along the coast fish, lobster and conch are readily available Haiti has a very fine collection of fruit including guava, pineapple, mango Haiti's most prized fruit, banana, melons, breadfruit, as well as mouth watering sugarcane cut and peeled to order on the streets Restaurants in the bigger cities provide safe and delicious meals, and precautions are taken with the food and water to keep things safe However, even in resorts with purified water, it is not always safe to assume that raw vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes have been properly washed In smaller or more humble venues make sure to eat fruit and vegetables that can be skinned or peeled, drink bottled drinks only, make sure any ice is from a clean water source, and make sure any meat is well cooked

When bottled water or boiled water is not available, a freshly opened coconut provides water and electrolytes with minimal health risk

Drinking in Haiti

Haitian rum is well-known 'Barbancourt 5 star' is a top drawer drink 'Clairin' is the local firewater made from sugarcane that can be bought on the street, often flavored with various herbs that can be seen stuffed into the bottle 'Prestige' is the most popular beer, and is of good quality and excellent taste Also be sure to try the 'Papye' drink, a sort of papaya milk shake that is deliciously refreshing beyond words on a hot day Cremas is a tasty, creamy alcoholic beverage that is derived from coconut milk

Accommodation in Haiti

There are many guest houses throughout Haiti However, these are quite hard to find while overseas Many of these guest houses run about 25 to 35 dollars a night and include 2 to 3 meals during the day Sometimes these houses are associated with orphanages eg, Saint Joseph's Home for Boys

Saint Joseph's Home for Boys is in Delmas 91, near Pétionville

Fondwa Guest House is at the bottom of the hill from Anbatonèl a small village 1/2 way between Léogane and Jacmel

Camping is a high-risk activity in certain parts of Haiti and is not recommended

Working in Haiti

Haiti's unemployment rate is the highest in the Western Hemisphere - over 80%

Cities in Haiti

aquin  cap-haitien  carrefour  delmas  derac  desdunes  dessalines  gonaives  grande riviere du nord  hinche  jacmel  jeremie  kenscoff  lascahobas  leogane  les cayes  limbe  miragoane  mirebalais  ouanaminthe  petionville  petit goave  pignon  port-au-prince  port-de-paix  saint-marc  saint-raphael  verrettes  

What do you think about Haiti?

How expensive is Haiti?
Meal in inexpensive restaurant3.27 USD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)60.61 USD
McDonalds meal4.19 USD
Local beer (0.5 draft)1.35 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.78 USD
Cappuccino3.28 USD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)0.71 USD
Water (0.33 bottle)0.71 USD
Milk (1l)2.32 USD
Fresh bread (500g)1.74 USD
White Rice (1kg)1.59 USD
Eggs (12) 3.55 USD
Local Cheese (1kg) 4.57 USD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 8.1 USD
Apples (1kg) 11.2 USD
Oranges (1kg) 8.51 USD
Tomato (1kg) 1.83 USD
Potato (1kg) 5.29 USD
Lettuce (1 head) 1.66 USD
Water (1.5l)1.93 USD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 9.4 USD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.53 USD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.18 USD
Cigarettes2.2 USD
One way local bus ticket0.56 USD
Monthly pass for bus22.07 USD
Taxi start0.54 USD
Taxi 1km0.55 USD
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.29 USD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment80.85 USD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 8.49 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 776 USD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 717.6 USD, your travel companion

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