Sad to say that when Christopher Columbus first stumbled across the island of Hispaniola in 1492 he little realised that it would become divided into two distinct Republics, half of its lush landscape headed for criminal and political strife. The Republic of Haiti, once known as 'the pearl of the Caribbean', shares this island with the Dominican Republic, but it seems the two countries are worlds apart. One is a tourism magnet, the other largely a pariah where only the brave set foot.
Haiti is a fascinating country, its people friendly and energetic, but a combination of crime, civil disturbance and a mysterious voodoo religion have left most of it high and dry on the world tourism map. It was one of France's richest colonies, but today Haiti languishes as one of the world's poorest nations, its politics descended into chaos, its natural resources plundered, and corruption and crime rife.
Haiti was struck by a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010 that killed nearly 300,000 people and devastated local infrastructure. Many major landmarks in Port-au-Prince were destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the National Assembly building. Local infrastructure was all but destroyed, and hospitals, communication systems, and transport are basically non-existent. Tourism is discouraged, but intrepid travellers intent on visiting will find many volunteer opportunities in the embattled country.
The fact that dozens of sleek cruise liners still visit a corner of Haiti is proof that there is light in the darkness. The glittering white liners head out from Miami, USA, to disgorge passengers on day visits to the cordoned off port of Labadee, adjacent to Haiti's colourful city of Cap-Haitien, on a bay on the northern coast. Here visitors are assured of their safety as they shop for souvenirs, sample local cuisine and generally enjoy themselves.
The official currency is the Haitian Gourde (HTG), divided into
100 centimes, but US Dollars are also widely accepted. Credit cards
are welcome nearly everywhere, but ATMs are scarce and the few
there are in Port au Prince are often out of order. Travellers
cheques are difficult to exchange.
|HTG 1 =||US$ 0.02||Â£ 0.02||C$ 0.02||A$ 0.02||R 0.20||EUR 0.02||NZ$ 0.03|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
Malaria and dengue fever occur in Haiti and travellers are recommended to take the necessary prophylactics. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for those arriving from an infected country in Africa or the Americas, and hepatitis and typhoid vaccinations are also recommended. Medical facilities in Port-au-Prince are of poor quality, and virtually non-existent elsewhere, so medical insurance with evacuation cover is essential, and it is advisable to bring all required medications from home. Visitors should only drink boiled or bottled water and ice should be avoided. It is recommended to avoid buying food or drink from street vendors.
All foreign passengers to Haiti require a valid passport, onward or return tickets, and all necessary travel documentation for their next destination. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Haiti within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. Yellow fever vaccination certificate exemptions apply to those who did not leave the airport/aircraft when transiting through the infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Foreign Embassies in Haiti
Cap-Haitian is situated on the north coast of Haiti between the Atlantic Ocean and the Morne du Cap. Its surroundings have a lot to offer including art galleries, museums and beautiful pristine beaches. About 20 minutes west of this metropolitan area lies the area called Labadee, a paradise of lush mountains and turquoise blue Atlantic Ocean. Labadee is bursting with history, bright crafts and colourful people, as well as some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. The internationally known beach of Labadee is being operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, but the town of Labadie is a small fishing village called 'Habitation Labadie'. It is an eclectic mix of affluent hill-perched villas and traditional Haitian dwellings. Further west along the coast is the breathtaking Baie d'Acul, which is almost completely closed off to the ocean and resistant to any storm. Christopher Columbus used this bay as a shelter during his first voyage on the Santa Maria. Across the bay, many small islands and reefs complete the vista.
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