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    Flag, Coat of Arms, and Tourist Board

    Haiti occupies the western third of Hispaniola Island, the second largest island in the Caribbean’s Greater Antilles. Haiti is the first black republic in history when slaves revolted against their French colonizers to claim their freedom in 1804. The poorest country in the Americas was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 2010, compounding Haiti’s already precarious situation. Tourism is an important part of the economy, and Haiti’s resilient inhabitants are eager to welcome you to their recovering paradise. Haiti is misunderstood as a destination and a nation, and has a rich and fascinating culture and story to tell.

    Haiti is shaped like a horseshoe, opening to the Caribbean Sea in the west. The terrain undulates between mountain ranges and fertile valleys, from a high point of almost 9,000 feet down to sea level. Largely deforested, with soil eroded down to the bedrock, Haiti grows fewer crops each year. La Gonave, and La Tortue are the largest of Haiti’s numerous offshore islands. Haiti’s many rivers originate in the mountains; only Artibonite is navigable for any distance. Earthquakes are not unexpected, as Haiti sits on a slip-strike fault, the Enriquillo.

    Haiti’s climate is warm, humid and tropical, with an average temperature of 75 degrees in Port-au-Prince. Temperatures at higher elevations are usually 10 degrees lower. May is the rainiest month of Haiti’s April through November rainy season; annual rainfall is 54 inches. Haiti is susceptible to hurricanes and earthquakes. The red-bellied Hispaniolan Trogon is Haiti’s national bird, endangered due to soil erosion. The Hibiscus is the unofficial national flower, used to make a refreshing beverage.

    Population and Culture
    Haiti’s culture is a mosaic of West African, French, Spanish and indigenous Caribbean people, united forever by their colonial history. Vodou (voodoo) is strongly associated with Haiti, is practiced alongside Catholicism, and is considered a religion rather than black magic or superstition. Creativity inhabits everyday life in Haiti, which is manifested in art: painting, music, dance and artesania. Haiti has the lowest literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere; it is estimated that little more than 50% can read and write. More than 80% of Haitians live in extreme poverty.

    Music and Dance
    In Haiti, music and dance are part of life, a way to celebrate, heal and express oneself. Music united Haitians, giving them a common ground in an unstable political environment. Kompa is a form of music unique to Haiti, adapted from the Merengue, with African rhythms. Rara is a Haitian celebration held during Lent and carnival season, with musical performances in parades. Lyrics are in Creole; historically Rara grew out of protests by African slaves. Twoubadou is Haitian peasant folk music, played on acoustic instruments. Lyrics are usually romantic.

    Haitian food (Manje Kreyol) blends culinary styles, ingredients and cooking methods from African, French, Spanish and indigenous inhabitants. Rice and beans are a staple in the Haitian diet; add fried pork and you have the national dish, Griot. Ti Malice is a spicy sauce of tomatoes, onions and scotch bonnet peppers. Mamba is a savory, spicy peanut butter, usually served with cassava bread. Haiti’s world-famous Barbancourt Rum is distilled from sugar cane juice, rather than from molasses like most rums.

    Architectural Design
    The Citadel, the largest fortress in the Americas, sits on a mountaintop at 3,000 feet. The ruins of Sans Souci Palace are popular with visitors. Once called the Versailles of the Caribbean, the palace was built by Henry Christophe, a freed slave turned kleptocrat. Jacmel, the cultural and handicrafts capital of Haiti, had been tentatively accepted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO when the earthquake hit. Haiti’s fifth largest city, a sort of Caribbean New Orleans, Jacmel is undergoing a restoration sponsored by the UN. Most Haitians live in two-room shacks with a porch, built from native plants and covered with mud or plaster.

    Useful Links
    Visit the Haiti Tourism website for more information about this Caribbean destination.

    Information provided on this page were derived from a combination of internal research and readily-available outside sources, such as destination tourism offices, official press releases and marketing media kits.

    Fast Facts

    Capital: Port-au-Prince

    Size: Haiti is 10,714 square miles.

    Population: 10.17 million (2012)

    Location: Eastern Caribbean, Greater Antilles

    Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time

    Motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood”
    The motto on the traditional coat of arms is “L'union fait la force” [“Union makes strength”].

    Anthem: “La Dessalinienne”, “The Dessalines Song” (English)

    Language: French and Haitian Creole are the official languages of Haiti; only 10% (the elite) of the population speaks French. The origins of Haitian Creole are in dispute; some believe it’s a pidgin French invented by the slaves; others believe it’s a French maritime dialect. English and Spanish are spoken in tourist areas.

    Climate and Temperature: A tropical marine climate means that Haiti has distinct wet (April to November) and dry (December to March) seasons. Annual rainfall is 54 inches, with temperatures between 77 and 85 degrees.

    Electricity: 110 volt 60 cycles, the same as the US.

    Currency: The national currency is the Gourde (ISO Code: HTG). The U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere. Exchange services are available in many banks or hotels. The current exchange rate is about 1.00 USD to HTG 42.50 (as of November 2013).

    Banks and Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted in most tourist establishments. Cash advances are available in some banks and ATMs.

    Banking and ATMs: Local and international banks have a wide coverage in urban areas. A limited number of ATMs are available and often don’t function.

    Telephone: Haiti country code: 509. Local numbers have increased to 8 digits. The first digit indicates whether it is a landline phone (2) or a mobile phone (3 or 4). The mobile operators have sales counters at the airport.

    Water: Drink bottled water only.

    Medical Care: The hotel has a list of private doctors available in case of emergency. The air ambulance services may be required for cases requiring transport to medical facilities in the region. Many pharmacies are available.

    Driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Renting a car is not recommended due to the poor road conditions.

    Dress Code: Casual, but in good taste (short shorts, bikinis, bra-type tops are undesirable in public places). Topless sunbathing and nudity are prohibited by law.

    Public Transportation: Transportation is part of Haitian folklore: the famous tap-taps flowing through the city, but are not generally used by foreign visitors. Private taxis and rental cars (cars and 4 × 4) taxis are available from several agents. Local travel agents can also arrange rental of cars and minibuses with drivers and guides for transfers and excursions.

    Internet Access: Major hotels offer Wi-Fi access in public areas and rooms. Internet cafes and hot spots are available everywhere.

    Travel Information
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    By Air
    Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP) is outside of Port-au-Prince and is easily accessible by air. Major airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and Air France, fly regularly to Port-au-Prince. Several local airlines offer regular flights in aircraft up to 19 seats, to the following cities: Cap-Haitien, Jérémie, Les Cayes and Port-de-Paix. Taxi services and air cargo airplanes or helicopters can also be arranged for various other destinations.

    Entry Documentation
    A valid passport (valid for at least six months after you depart Haiti) as well as return and onward tickets are required for all visitors to Haiti.

    Visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days. A visa is required only for citizens of Cuba. Dominicans, Colombians and Panamanians do not need a visa if they hold a valid American, Canadian or Schengen visa. Visitors must have a valid passport from their country of origin.

    Customs and Immigration
    All persons traveling to and from Haiti must clear Customs & Immigration.

    Departure Tax
    A US $55 departure tax applies to all ticketed air passengers departing from Haiti, and may already be included in the price of your airline ticket.

    Each visitor is allowed to bring 1 liter of spirits; 1 liter of alcohol; and 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 1 kg.


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