A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Haiti
Life in Haiti
Haiti, especially the capital Port-au-Prince, is a bustling and crowded country with high levels of poverty and unemployment throughout. While much of the infrastructure is somewhat lacking, and much of it is in the process of development, Haiti nonetheless has many areas of stunning natural beauty; it has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that is an enticing draw for tourists and expats alike.
Transportation in Haiti
The most popular form of transportation in Haiti is the ‘tap-tap’. These modified vans and trucks have wooden benches attached to them and are an economical way to travel around the country, though perhaps not the most comfortable. It is also possible to hire a private car or a chauffeur driven vehicle in Haiti, though expats and tourists must note that many of the roads in Haiti are in a poor state and many of them are simply dirt tracks rather than paved roads.
Haiti’s main airport is located in Port-au-Prince, while the Cap-Haitian airport lies to the north of the country. There are also minibuses available in some of the country’s larger towns and cities, which may prove more comfortable than a tap-tap if you are traveling a long distance.
Safety and Security in Haiti
Haiti is affected by problems in terms of safety and security, and many governments advise avoiding certain areas of the capital of Port-au-Prince altogether, such as the Bel Air, Carrefour, Cite Soleil and the Martissant neighborhoods. Due to the instability of the political system in Haiti, there are frequent protests, some of which run the risk of turning violent and are therefore best avoided.
Tourists and expats are advised not to travel with large sums of money on their person and also to remain vigilant at all times when traveling throughout the country. Women are also advised not to walk alone and to remain in a group at all times.
Due to the high levels of poverty in Haiti, particularly as a result of the 2010 earthquake, many people are still living in makeshift tents on the streets and as such it is not advisable to walk around after dark. While levels of criminal activity remain high in the country, tourists and expats are less targeted than they used to be, though it is advisable to be especially diligent when leaving any of Haiti’s airports.
Healthcare in Haiti
The level of healthcare in Haiti is very poor, though some areas have better healthcare systems in place than others. It is strongly advisable to avoid the water when traveling throughout Haiti and to always carry a personal supply of bottled water, which is readily available. Cholera outbreaks have become a common occurrence and with the current level of healthcare, it is advisable to steer clear of any food or drink that has been prepared with local water.
Malaria is also a major problem throughout Haiti, so anti-malarial medication is strongly advised for visitors and expats. Washing in streams or lakes on the island is not recommended as you may be liable to catch a whole host of waterborne diseases.
Haiti’s emergency response infrastructure is also quite poor, including ambulance services. Many travelers and expats living in Haiti who have gone on to develop serious medical conditions while in the country had to be evacuated to the USA in order to receive medical treatment. Ensuring you have evacuation insurance and comprehensive health cover is therefore strongly recommended.