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Thread: Just back from Haiti, trip report .....

  1. #1
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    Default Just back from Haiti, trip report .....

    Some friends invited me on a trip to Haiti and I figured why not. I expected he worse and was not disappointed, but lets start.

    I decided to fly to Port Au Prince (bus is all day thing) and fly out of La Isabelle airport (small airport in Santo Domingo). I traveled with a good friend and 45 minutes later was there (vs 9 hours on the bus).  Ticket was 220.00 one-way. 

    From my friend who lives there: If you do decide to take the bus. Metro is once a day and tad more expensive but nicer, Caribe Tour is twice a day and has wi-fi on board and arrives close to the Oasis.  A hint, go and buy the ticket a day early and you can pick your seat (for me that would be great, like 1A, I get motion sickness at times). He doesn’t, just picks the prettiest  girl to sit next too :-). 

    We stayed in Petion-Ville, the upscale suburb of Port au Prince. We booked a 4 star hotel called the Royal Oasis the was centrally located (about $110 a night on Expedia which included free airport pick up, a $40.00 bonus)) and was nicer than expected.  Nice gym, good wi-fi, big rooms, good and quiet A/C and pleasant people. 

    My friend had lived there before so we had a built in guide. But, if you your thinking of winging it alone, this is not the place. You need to know where to go and when and even then it could be a little dicey. I was told our hotel was the best for exploring  (Munchies, a upscale diner/bar is just up the street and a great place to hang out). 

    The first think you learn Haiti is NOT CHEAP. No-one could really explain this but many people go to the DR, buy goods and return to sell there. It’s sorta counter-intuitive, poorest country in the Caribbean and one of the most expensive. 

    That night we walked around a little but there were only a few streets that were recommended.  Its a weird feeling being the only white soul AND it does draw a lot of attention. 

    Next day we hired a van to tour ($150.00 for the day ) he showed up with a truck an we countered-offered for 100.00 He passed (really).  I asked the desk for a recommended driver and we got a great car an driver for the same ($150.00). 

    We saw the markets (oh my, it took a few hours in traffic, sometimes moved a few inches a minute.) and every corner and street is a market of humanity.  The trash (my friend could only live there a few month before leaving for a while to re-gain his health), congestion and chaos was unmatched in any place I have every been (and I’ve been to a lot of places). 

    Then we hit the museum, the destroyed cathedral and the now non-existent Palace.  Our high-light was going to the observatory (on top of the mountain, just a look-out area with an amazing view, area called Laboule 12). The drive up the mountain was busy and slow (lots of little towns on the way) and then the air cleared, people were smiling more  and was clean with even a few nice restaurants and stops on the way.  The area we liked the best was called Kenscoff, and to be honest another day exploring the area would be fun (as said, many little villages and even found a great bakery for our sweet tooth.)  The city sucked while away from the not so organized chaos is was cool.  

    We got back at 5 and I was exhausted. Later on we wound up at Munchies (as noted, one of the few places you can hang out as a foreigner, a two level bar/restaurant with a little bit of everything :-). People we talked to there explained about 25,000 ex-ptas live in Haiti and its easy to see why.  My friend who lives there is treated like a king, but he has learned the customs, the language and make them laugh (very important) and has tons of friends. But this takes patience, work, desire and compromise in living style.

    Heaven for some, hell for others.  For single contacts it was suggested to use Badoo or Tinder but I observed walking around (and yes, the women are so curious) that few have smart phones (they hold the old text only phones), so Im not sure if using these apps you would meet the person your really looking for and yes the GF potential is amazing by just walking and smiling.  Also, there is no English or Spanish and as we found out many can read from a translator, so good luck

    Oh, when you land you can pick-up a digi-cell phone card that will include data almost anywhere. Prices like Orange or Claro but to most Haitians, this is a fortune.

    Ok, back to the trip.

    Next day was a walking tour  of Petion-Ville. We walked all over and ended on top of the hill where Caribbien Market is (and it’s nicer than any market I’ve seen on the whole island, including the DR). Lots of Audi’s and big cars (yes there is real wealth here but away from the every day ilife.  We had lunch there in the bakery. We walked back (three is a safe number) but never felt threatened and saw the flower markets, fruits and again that not-so organized markets (and paintings everywhere). 

    That night we had big plans (Sat night big night out for the clubs) but alas we got stuck at Munchies in a  big rain storm, so we were all back at 11 (which is even late for me). If you are a clubber, then the Best Western hotel might be a better choice.  Two big name clubs Jet set and Barak  are in the area (walking) but we never made it. But that area ,we were told by our local, that is a little dicey to walk around at night, esp if drinking (he was accosted once late at night). 

    Next day I left (had some friends coming in) and my travel partner stayed a few more days.  It was sorta funny, Haiti has DST but no one knew it. I got to the airport a few hours  early  (it was Sunday when the time changed)  and low and behold the plane left on the old time (and that 20 minutes early).  So I got back at a great  time. After I landed I asked the taxi how much back to Sosua, he said $210.00 I offered 125 and he laughed at me. I called Uber (there in 8 minutes) and got back for $110.00 . It took a good three hours, but I was home at 10.00, perfect. 

    Some reflections and thoughts: 

    ** There are two airlines out of La Isabelle airport, Air-Century was great, Sunrise was a little tacky and same price. 

    ** I was expecting the worse and thats what I found. Haiti is not for everyone. My friend loves it (he even now speaks Creole)

    ** People who you do meet are warm, friendly and polite (like drivers, hotel workers, maids etc) and are proud of their country

    ** Its easy to see why you could get sick — trash, stench, poor air quality, no clean water  (told my maid she lives in a penthouse compared). The two trash trucks I saw were broken.  But as noted, in the mountains it was different. 

    ** Like the DR, quick transport is provided my motos, just make sure they understand where you are going.  Maybe carry your hotel card. 

    ** If you come, come with someone has been there before AND GET OUT OF THE CITY

    ** Seems to be a class structure depending how dark you are, if light, your considered a threat by the darker ones (as explained to us by a clubber). Light have the good jobs. 

    ** If Bill Clinton walked the streets he would get mugged. Total rip-off. No-one got anything and the U.N just made everyone sick. 

    Now back home in Sosua and I feel like i’m in a 5 star country :-).  Gracias Diios. 

  2. #2
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    Thank you for that trip report. I have never for a moment wanted to make such a trip and your report just confirms my lack of desire as being the correct course if inaction.

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    Very nice, informative review.

    We were also surprised at how expensive Haiti is.

    Culturally, it's quite different than the DR.

    Too bad you didn't make it to Hotel Oloffson, an incredible old-school wooden hotel that is a prominent piece of P-a-P history. The hotel hosts Vodou concerts every Wednesday night led by the proprietor, white Haitian/Puerto Rican/raised in NYC Vodou preist Richard Morse, cousin of former President Martelli. His band is called RAM. Vodou music was another surprise: simply melodic and beautiful, just the opposite of what you'd expect.

    One thing I noticed: Haitians do NOT like their picture taken, exactly the opposite of Dominicans. Our guide said it had to do with two issues: 1) a religious concern, and 2) Haitians are angry at relief workers (i.e. white people) who come, live lavishly away from the Haitian problems (we had Christmas dinner at the residence of a US diplomat in the embassy residential compound surrounded by 15' razor-wired and monitored walls, and double entry checkpoints; it was like a gated community near Disney) , take pictures of locals and do nothing.

    One other take on Haiti: there is art everywhere. I mean everywhere. It's as much part of Haitian life as water and oxygen.

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    A friend of mine went and booked a hotel in Port au Prince for a week. After a couple of days he couldn't bear it any more and came back, relieved, to the DR. I'm determined to visit and experience the country soon for myself, but I'll probably stick to the north.

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    Very nice report, Im Dominican and a Dominican friend living in USA wanted we visit Haiti in one of his visit to DR, I told him better talk about it later, just sent the link of this thread to him to read it, so I think we should plan very well before go there, this post made me clarify more or less how could be a visit to our neiborgs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drstock View Post
    A friend of mine went and booked a hotel in Port au Prince for a week. After a couple of days he couldn't bear it any more and came back, relieved, to the DR. I'm determined to visit and experience the country soon for myself, but I'll probably stick to the north.
    Quote Originally Posted by Riva 31
    Very nice report, Im Dominican and a Dominican friend living in USA wanted we visit Haiti in one of his visit to DR, I told him better talk about it later, just sent the link of this thread to him to read it, so I think we should plan very well before go there, this post made me clarify more or less how could be a visit to our neiborgs.
    The key is hiring a credible driver/guide who knows the area.

    I have such contacts if you ever need such people referred to me by Embassy diplomats.

    If you are in the P-a-P area, find a hotel in Petionville, a much safer and upscale area. Just understand it's spendy there.

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  9. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cobraboy View Post
    The key is hiring a credible driver/guide who knows the area.

    I have such contacts if you ever need such people referred to me by Embassy diplomats.

    If you are in the P-a-P area, find a hotel in Petionville, a much safer and upscale area. Just understand it's spendy there.
    Thank you, will keep that on mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by windeguy View Post
    Thank you for that trip report. I have never for a moment wanted to make such a trip and your report just confirms my lack of desire as being the correct course if inaction.


    my thoughts exactly

    interesting reading, though, thanks!

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  12. #9
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    It’s been many, many years since we’ve been in Haiti.  Each time, I stayed at the Royal Haitian Hotel, Mr AE used to work for Mike and Bill McLaney in one of their many casinos, before we got married.  When woven wood window shades were all the rage in late 70s, the Manhattan company I worked for opened a factory in Haiti, making them using Haitian cotton. I used to fly there to monitor their accounting.

     Never left the capital, and never wanted to return after the factory was closed.  The poverty was appalling, and I’ll never forget the women walking along the street, pausing to squat and pee, then continue on.  The hotel was like an oasis from the reality that was outside the property. 




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    8 of the 9 neighbors I have on the top floor where I live are Haitian.
    I've learned a lot about them folks and their country.
    No offense but I think I'll stay my *ss right here in the DR.

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