Haiti is a country I always wanted to visit since I found out 2 years ago that Nigerians could travel visa free. At the time I only traveled with my Nigerian passport so I always tried to go places that where I would not have much issues visiting with my Nigerian passport. I however did not want to visit Haiti solo because I did not know what to expect.
Fast forward to 2018, my friend suggested that we visit Haiti for her birthday trip. I jumped on the opportunity and we booked our tickets in April.
When we arrived in Haiti, I immediately felt nostalgic. Why? Because Haiti reminds me of Nigeria.
If you don’t plan to get a guide who will drive you around in Haiti, you have to rent a car. We rented a car with Hertz and we were quoted $308 online. After arriving at the Hertz counter, we were charged $525 including insurance. I was livid because I was under the impression that I was only paying $308.
Traveling in Haiti could be challenging but it is also adventurous. This island is filled with a lot of beautiful gems that should not be missed. Just like anywhere else in the world, leave room for things not to possibly go as planned while visiting Haiti.
First Impressions of driving in Haiti:
Driving in Haiti is an adventure on its own. Some major roads are tarred but majority are not tarred. The roads are rocky and the terrain is very mountainous! Driving from one city to another inevitably includes going up and down a mountain so a 4×4 is absolutely crucial. A 100 mile journey which in ideal situations could be a 2 hour drive is a 5 hour drive in Haiti because of the roads and terrain.
As a result of self driving in Haiti, I was in for an adventure and also issues that comes with exploring a new place. I encountered adventure and issues almost everyday. Dealing with these situations was proof that I was more resilient than I gave myself credit for.
Day to Day Breakdown
Day 1 and 2: Port-Au-Prince
Port-Au-Prince is the capital of Haiti. It is a very congested city and driving here requires caution and patience. I have witnessed drivers starting another lane on the side of the road which often leads to traffic.
Mural in Port-Au-Prince
Things to do:
Drive to Petion Ville and see amazing views of the colorful houses in the hill
Buy art in Petion Ville (there are several merchants but there is one with a lot to display in front of Kimani Hotel)
Visit the Napoleon Museum
Visit the Iron Market
Eat at La Fouchet or Observatory
Fruit stand in Port-Au-Prince
Where to stay:
Ble Fle Guesthouse
Navigating with google maps- Google Maps works in Haiti but if is notorious for taking the car through back roads. I have heard that waze works better but I never tried it!
Day 3 and 4: Jacmel
Jacmel is a port town South of Port Au Prince. The drive from Port Au Prince to Jacmel was tasking because of the terrain. The drive time was 8 hours as a result of getting lost and continuously turning back due to the navigation taking me through weird routes. I visited the Parents Beach and bought the most delicious lobster, plantain and avocado combination I have ever tried from one of the beach huts. The meal cost $10 and it was superb! You can purchase the lobster meal at one of the huts opposite the entrance of the beach!
As seen in Bassin Bleu
Things to do:
- Visit Bassin Bleu- It is made up of 3 waterfalls and definitely worth the visit! The entrance cost $2 approximately!
The first waterfall in Bassin Bleu
The drive from Jacmel to Bassin Bleu was 1 hour and we met a guide at the entrance of Bassin Bleu. He told us he would take us to the Bassin and we can give him whatever we want after.
The 3rd and most beautiful waterfall in Bassin Bleu
2. Eat at hotel Cyvadier:
It’s beautiful, the food is delicious and the restaurant if right by the water.
Enjoyed drinks and sunshine at Hotel Cyvandier
Where to stay
Hotel Inoubliable or Hotel Cyvandier.
I didn’t like the fact that the guide had 2 of his friends follow us to Bassin Bleu and they asked for whatever we could give them afterwards stating that their friend would not share the money we gave him with them. We gave them 1000 gourd each ($15) for the tour which lasted about 1 hour 30 minutes. This totaled $45 for the tour whereas, we were only going to pay $15 for one person. Beware of this.
In retrospect, I should have told the guide that we were hiring only him and not his friends but we did not think his friends would also ask for money.
Bassin Bleu is beautiful so it was definitely worth it!
Leaving Jacmel on the way to Cap Haitian, there was a huge protest by the people. This led to several road blocks and military involvement. The military was shooting tear gas from their trucks to disperse the crowd. We were so terrified and got out of Jacmel ASAP!
Day 5: Cap Haitian
Cap-Haitian is also port city in Haiti. I see Haiti in general as a very rough diamond because it has so much potential to be a perfect holiday destination but not much is being done to keep the island clean. This is very apparent in Cap-Haitian. The drive from Jacmel to Cap-Haitian was 12 hours total and upon arriving in Cap-Haitian, we were greeted by piles of refuse on the roadside. This caused flooding issues which I will discuss soon.
Things to do
- Drive around the city center. Cap-Haitian is colorful and the center has a lot of colorful doors.
- Food: Eat at Bouakye or Lakay Restaurant
Where to stay
On the first night we stayed at Habitation Des Lauriers Hotel and it is on top of the mountain and extremely hilly. Our car got stuck on the way up the hill and some people had to push us up the hill. This was not free and they asked us for money after we got to the top of the hill. I appreciated their effort because the hill was very steep and willingly gave them money but my friend and I joked that nothing is free in Haiti.
We changed hotels and stayed in Metro Residences afterwards. However, the water shut off overnight and the internet was horrible!
My main issue in Cap-Haitian was the flood. We were driving to the hotel one night after dinner and it started raining heavily. Because of the pollution issue in Cap Haitian, the refuse clogged the gutters so the water level kept rising. At a point, the water was as high as the tire of the 4×4. The only thing that made sense was to park the car and wait till the rain reduced or stopped. We waited in the car for almost 3 hours for the rain to stop and the water level to go down.
Day 6: Labadee
Labadee cannot be missed. A day trip to the port in Labadee from Cap-Haitian is absolutely worth it. The drive was 32 minutes from Cap-Haitian and the roads were tarred so it was an easy and laid back drive. Labadee was my favorite part of my trip to Haiti. The beaches are beautiful, deserted and the water is so clear!
Things to do
- Take a boat to Amiga and Paradise beach from the Labadee port.
The boat ride to Amiga Island takes 45 minutes, and another 30 minutes to Paradise beach.
Paradise beach. It is not deserted compared to Amiga beach which was deserted!
Day 7: Citadel Laferriere, Milot, Haiti
Citadelle was built in 1804 and it is a UNESCO heritage site. Citadelle was built by Henri Christophe in order to protect himself and the locals residing in the area from attack by the French. It is a magnificent fortress that sits at the summit of a mountain. The total distance from the base of the mountain to the Citadel is 8km. We drove to the base where you rent can a horse because the hike up the Citadelle is tasking. The horse ride was 1km from there which was about 15 minutes each way!
We met with a tour guide in Milot who took us to the Citadelle and showed us around. The total for the guide, horse and entry into the Citadelle was $35 per person. The guys in charge of the horses guided me to the top of the Citadelle on foot and told me that their fee was not included in the horse package. I was a little confused because I assumed this was already included in the cost of the horse ride. It would have been impossible for them to give me a horse and expect me to ride it up a hill on my own. Right?
The Citadel is well maintained but some parts are closed off because they are still unstable after the earthquake.
Canons and Canon Balls found in Citadelle
Tip: Get to the Citadel early. Its at the top of a mountain so it gets really hot in the afternoon. It’s best to visit in the morning.
I disliked how they hit the horse in order to tell it to go faster or climb the hill. Generally, I don’t ride on animals while traveling except in I HAVE to. This horse ride reinforced the reason why I do not like animal riding and the other alternative would have been to hike. I am not sure what I would have done different in retrospect because the hike is tasking but I did voice my concern with the guides and politely asked them to stop hitting the horses- which they did.
Day 8: Return rental in Port Au Prince, fly home
After visiting the Citadel, we drove to Port Au Prince the same day, returned the rental the next day and flew back to Chicago.
Tip: While renting the car, take pictures of every scratch on the car. The rental company take a $1500 deposit and they inspect every inch the car before giving you back the deposit. The pictures taken before driving the car out of the lot are therefore needed to protect yourself incase you are charged for something that was already there!
As I stated earlier in this post, Haiti is a rough diamond in my opinion. It could be a top tourist destination if the resources are utilized efficiently. Haiti however is worth a visit and I believe in a few years, tourism will pick up in this Caribbean island!
Things to note
- Driving in Haiti requires prior knowledge of reading a map. Sometimes, if the navigation tells me to follow a route, I will look at the map on my phone and determine the best route to take.
- A sim card can be purchased on arrival at the airport and it cost $10 for 6GB. Service in Haiti is generally good.
- Haiti has 2 currencies. Haitian Gourd and Haitian Dollar. The currency exchange changes money to gourd so it is best to ask restaurants for the bill in gourd.
- The major languages in Haiti are French and Creole. People generally speak both interchangeably so if you don’t have a guide, basic knowledge of French is helpful!
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