After a warm up night of Creole food and voodoo in the French Quarter of New Orleans because of a forced layover we made our way down to Port-Au-Prince (PAP), Haiti after an American Airlines connection in Miami. At the International airport in PAP, we were greeted by the usual Caribbean steel drum band except they were dressed in Western Union shirts which I found funny. Customs were a mere formality and we met our guide right outside of baggage claim.
Jacqueline, from Voyages Lumiere, a British National who is on her second tour of duty in Haiti was a very informative and well spoken guide. She certainly knew her stuff and handles a lot of the western tourists that come into PAP. She was highly recommended by a couple of Travelers Century Club guys who were in PAP just a few days before me. Overall, the tour was very good but I found it to be overpriced for what it actually was.
My friend Jake and I paid $330 between the two of us for basically 4 hours of a city tour plus two $40 bus tickets to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. So if you take out the $80 for the bus tickets, then $150 went to the tour which included the guide and driver and they charged us $50 for each of airport pick up and bus station drop off which I find a total shakedown. The guide was very nice and was very good so I didn’t want to say anything but those prices are robbery. You could easily tour the city yourself in a taxi tour or on foot (although it is ungodly hot and humid) for a fraction of the price. Also, if you are paying for a tour, that should include airport pick up and drop off. Even if it is simply included in the price, I’d rather not know I’m paying extra for something that should be included. It’s kind of like airlines charging for checking bags and annoying everybody-just include it in the price of the ticket and nobody will bitch about it. However, if you are looking for a tour around PAP or Haiti in general, do use Jacqueline because she is very knowledgeable and very nice and of course-she speaks English!
PAP itself was way better than I was expecting-which was basically the dregs of humanity. It was actually really nice. There were a ton of parks, the roads were paved, the people were wonderful and the food was excellent. We ate lunch at an awesome place in the posh suburb of Petionville called La Coquille which has a Creole style buffet. The food was great, it consisted of plantains, black rice and beans, a sort of mac and cheese and several meat dishes like pork and chicken. It was very good. It was also not included in the tour either which I found strange too, it was only $12 for lunch but I hate having to divvy things up like that especially with the guide for such insignificant money.
The main sights were the Presidential Palace, some parks, statues, the views and the famous Iron Market which had to be the highlight of the city tour. It resembled a Middle Eastern medina with its million vendors and tight little walkways and people harassing you to no end. The goods they sold were basically everything under the sun plus food and then some awesome voodoo artifacts on the roof. Voodoo is the national religion and to me is very interesting. The guide astutely led us around as we attracted a legion of followers around the market. It was actually a lot of fun and the best part was playing some of the local kids at the end of our tour. They were posing for pictures on the roof and were adorable.
Finally, we made our way to the Hotel Oloffsen which is where we stayed. It is a crumbling mansion kind of place that you may see on Bourbon Street with a lot of charm and has hosted celebrities such as Mick Jagger which I thought was really cool. The restaurant was very good and the whole place was very laid back. The cost was $84 and that too, was not included in the tour which was fine but again, if I’m doing a tour, I just like to pay one price for everything.
Anyway, yesterday morning we headed to the Caribe Tours bus station and hopped on the bus to Santo Domingo which took about 11 hours all together with delays, traffic and a 2 hour border stop. The bus itself was pretty nice and the air conditioning was great. The legroom however, left a lot to be desired. It was more uncomfortable than a 10 hour African bush taxi as my legs barely fit in the space and were unable to be moved. However, the food they served on the bus on each side of the border was really pretty good and they gave free water as well. We finally arrived into Santo Domingo last night and are staying in Zona Colonial.
I forgot to bring my chord to upload pictures from my camera to the computer so I will add those when I get back to the States. I have some great pictures as PAP was very photogenic.