24 Hours in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

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.

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  1. You have been to some seriously screwy places this year. Sounds like you liked Haiti though, may have to check it out.

  2. That is VERY high for Haiti. I have been in PAP and did a taxi tour as you said for $10 I think a few years ago.

  3. Haha, yes Kevin it was high, we wouldve preferred $10 but I don’t want to take away from the city and country which we both really enjoyed.

  4. I agree that the tour was overpriced, and it was an annoyance to have to have all the extra costs that were not added on. Like I said to you before, you notice once you get there that you could have easily done it on your own at the fraction of the price.

    Look forward to seeing some of your pics. You can see some of mine here if you want.


  5. Goodonya for visiting Haiti. Lovely country run by crooks for years. I feel for the good people and hope it turns around. Haven’t been in years but hope to get back one day.

  6. Hello Lee, a friend just sent me the link to your site and I am very impressed. There is so much information on your site that you could write 10 books.
    The reason he sent it originally is because I was just in Haiti as well. I also stayed at the Oloffsen and toured around PAP. I agree with you that it was very nice and much better than expected. I see you have been to African hellholes as well so you know what real poverty and despair is.

    The major problem with Haiti is that the government has screwed the people for years. At one point a few decades ago, Haiti was actually the top destination in the Caribbean. This is clearly not the case anymore.

    However, there have been signs of encouragement. Bill Clinton has given his stamp of approval and hopefully money and non corrupt officials will use the money wisely.

    I will certainly be watching your site and reading some of your previous adventures. I wish I could join you, way to do it young-I am 54 with 2 kids.

  7. Haiti is the worst place I have ever been. I have not been to Africa but all around Latin America working for various aid organizations and I can plainly say that.

  8. Alex, believe me that Haiti is not the worst place in the world.

  9. Yolande Pierre says

    Hey gyus,

    You have visited Port-au-Prince,the Capital of the Republic of Haiti. all of you except for Alex had a good time, if I may say, despite of the circumstances. I would advise you to travel with a body who could expose you to the country side as well as neighborhoods in PAP. check with credible organizations whose members travel to Haiti every year working with the least fortunate in education, health care and social issues. such as FAVACA, the Home Town Associations and there are many who will be glad to take you on a ride with them. Of course, you will have to pay your own way. But it will worth your time if you are willing to share your skills. Haiti is comprised of 10 geographical departments.

  10. Regine Pierre says

    It was good to have the experience however you missed the beaches, and some interesting places as Jacmel, Cap Haitian, etc. You need to come back!

  11. Hey Lee, I can imagine that traveling to every country in the world doesn’t necessarily afford you the pleasure to experience ALL the beauty a country has to offer, but I would hope that your goal is to at least try to depict the country in its best light. I’m disappointed that your Haiti trip was not only so brief but also in many ways served to support the false notion that all that Haiti is, is poor, dirty and criminal. As previously mentioned in the replies, Haiti is a beautiful country with a spectacular countryside and beaches. This trip seemed a little rush with the main focus being getting to the more attractive goal destination of the Dominican Republic. Maybe one day you can revisit Haiti and when you do go the beautiful artisan locations, countryside, or beach resorts and post those pics. Perhaps on your next visit you might find that one of their beaches should make it on your top 30 and at the same time contribute and not minimize Haiti’s efforts to rebuild itself.

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