Learn more about Haiti – Q&A

A bit of geography…

Where is Haiti located?

The Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean country located on the island of Hispaniola, a territory it shares with the Dominican Republic.

Its capital is Port-au-Prince and the highest mountain is Pic la Selle, reaching an altitude of 2,680 meters.

Its total population is around 11 millions, speaking French and much more predominantly Haitian Creole.

When is the best time to travel to Haiti?

Good news! The best time to travel to Haiti is, in fact, the coldest time in Europe or Canada: winter!
From November to April, the dry season, Haiti welcomes you warmly with average temperatures between 25 ° C and 30 ° C, 26 ° C and 29 ° C for the sea temperature.
With its humid tropical climate, nothing better to spend Christmas holidays under the coconut trees. December, January and February are the favorite months to visit the country, enjoying the sun, more frequent winds, and less rains.
The rainy season runs from April to October, with more intense months like August and September where hurricanes can occur. The temperatures are also warmer there, reaching 36 ° C.

A bit of History

What are the important dates in the history of Haiti?

The Battle of Vertière in 1803 was a turning point in the history of the nation: the victory against the French army of General Rochambeau, marked the creation of the Republic of Haiti. In 1804, Haiti became the first independent black republic in the world.

Haiti is also the only independent French-speaking territory in the Caribbean.

After being one of the first Caribbean holiday destinations in the years 1950 to 1970, the country missed the democratic transition after the fall of the Duvaliers (François known as “Papa Doc”, then his son Jean-Claude known as “baby doc”). Haiti, then nicknamed the Pearl of the West Indies since colonial times, is experiencing a resurgent democracy and is trying to organize and rebuild itself after the violent earthquake of January 12, 2010.

Today, despite a volatile political situation, Haiti is clinging to its natural tourist resources and its geographical position to attract visitors and foreign investors.

What currency can I use? Is it better to change the money before going or change on the spot?

The currency used in Haiti is the Haitian Gourde.
Previously indexed to the Francs, it was indexed in 1912 to the American dollar as a result of the American occupation, at the rate of 5 gourdes to one American dollar.
This indexation was then abandoned in 1989, giving the gourde a now floating exchange rate.

This rate has nevertheless remained in Haitians habits who continue to use the Haitian dollar in monetary units, equivalent to 5 gourdes, to evaluate the amounts of goods and services. Don’t be surprised to see prices displayed in Haitian dollars, when you have gourds in hand! Haitians, used to calculating transactions in Haitian dollars, have developed fluency in mental arithmetic to make their purchases in gourdes or US dollars. The two purchasing currencies in the country.

It is not recommended to travel with a lot of cash in general. There are ATMs in banks, supermarkets and petrol stations in major towns. However, not all of them take international payment cards and have opening hours. That’s the reason why PAP’PADAP! Travels are all inclusive to alleviate the worries of paying cash tourism services.
For extras and other shopping activities, we recommend that travelers have their pocket money in US dollars, with the option to change it on site to Haitian gourdes if necessary.

A bit a Culture…

What language do we speak in Haiti?

The official languages ​​in Haiti are Haitian Creole and French. Having been a former French colony, French is part of the official language although it is only spoken fluently by less than 10% of the population.

Although Creole is predominantly borrowed from the 18th century French language, it also has influences from Portuguese, English, Spanish, Taino (indigenous) and especially West African languages.

Since 1987, Creole has been recognized as an official language just like French, thanks to the mobilization of many Haitian writers and intellectuals.

America has a big influence in Haiti, so you can find more and more establishments speaking english for their customers. Most of our guides and solidarity partners are english speakers.

What is voodoo?

Much more than a religion, voodoo is perceived, for practitioners, as a culture mixing dance, art, music and philosophy.

Voodoo originated in West Africa, under the kingdom of Dahomey. This practice spread to the Caribbean and America during slavery. Perceived as devilish, the practice of voodoo was carried out clandestinely because it was prohibited under the French colonial empire.

Voodooists (sèvitè in Haitian Creole) believe in a supreme creator who is the Good Lord (Bondye in Haitian Creole), but they direct their cults to the spirits (lwa in Haitian Creole) who intervene in the affairs of daily life. They can invoke lwa according to their request:

  • Papa Legba: guardian of the crossroads
  • Erzulie Freda: spirit of love
  • Simbi: spirit of rain and magicians
  • Kouzin Azaka: spirit of agriculture
  • Marassa: twin children of Bondye
  • And many others…

Often criticized by Protestants, the cult of voodoo has gradually taken its place by integrating Catholic movements into this practice.

In fact, voodoo was recognized as an official religion in 2003 under the presidency of Aristide.

In Haiti, voodoo is practiced by about 2% of the population.

A bit of taste…

What do we eat in Haiti?

The ingredients that make up Haitian gastronomy are quite similar to other countries in the Latin Caribbean area. Chicken, goat or beef meat, as well as queen conch are part of the daily life of Haitians. They are often accompanied by rice, plantains, yams or even lam verab (breadfruit).

The typical Haitian dish consists of white rice or rice mixed with beans, accompanied by vegetables cooked in sauce and a little meat or fish. Add some fried plantains and you got  the most popular haitian street food!

Fish and other seafood are the delight of the inhabitants living near the coasts.

The dishes are much less spicy than in the rest of the Caribbean (Guadeloupe, Martinique), surely because the Indian influence is less there?

Depending on the season, mangoes, bananas, passion fruits, and other exotic fruits are in abundance.

Haitians drink Prestige, the only national beer since 1976! On the liquor side, they drink Clairin (local brandy made from sugar cane) and Barbancourt Rum, renowned worldwide for its quality and history.

A bit of practical information …

Is it dangerous to travel to Haiti?

If we are to believe the visionaries of government sites in France or the United States, it is advisable to avoid all non-essential travel to Haiti.
Due to the volatile political situation in the country, protests against the current government mainly affect large Haitian cities.
However, that doesn’t mean Haiti is a dangerous country. Many countries around the world have found themselves facing political difficulties, yet that does not make them any more dangerous. Unfortunately, the risk is everywhere.
PAP’PADAP! Travels makes the safety of travelers its number one priority.
Our driver guides are perfectly familiar with the routes they take during PAP’PADAP ! Travels stays.
They respect and sign the PAP’PADAP! Travels safety chart.

Can we rent a car? at what price?

Of course, it’s possible to rent cars in Haiti. The most well-known rental companies like Avis, Thrifty or Dollar are located at the airport and in Pétionville. It’s possible to rent any type of car, the most common rentals being SUV or 4×4 type vehicles, more suited to the country’s roads. But it is also possible to hire economic cars if you plan to stay in town. Depending on the type of vehicle, prices vary between $ 50 and $ 150 per day.

However, we do not recommend that travelers rent a car if they are unfamiliar with the country or if they have never driven in Haiti. Like any foreign country, it is preferable to hire the services of a driver with a car, who knows the country and the road pretty well. This is what we offer at PAP’PADAP! Travels.

To ensure the safety and comfort of our travelers, we have established partnerships with drivers and driver associations for better authenticity! 

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