Port-au-Prince is the capital and largest city of Haiti.
Presidential Palace Prior to Earthquake
Port au Prince airport (PAP) is served by several major airlines - primarily American Airlines and Delta - as well as smaller flights from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other spots in the Caribbean. Taxis from the airport to your destination in Port au Prince will be about $20 for standard fare. Try to bargain down to $15. Tap taps going to all places past the airport and will cost about 10 gourdes (25 cents).
From Santa Domingo, Caribe Tours runs a once-daily bus to Petionville (in the hills above Port-au-Prince) that leaves at 11:00 am. A ticket costs $40 USD one-way + $26 USD tax and + 100 Dominican Pesos. Unfortunately, this bus drops you off in Petionville after dark so make prior arrangements with a trustworthy person to meet you and transport you to your lodging. Terra-bus may also still be servicing the Santa Domingo-PAP route.
Another, less expensive option, is to take a gua-gua (Dominican minibus) from Santo Domingo (departing a few blocks north of Parque Enriquillo) for 380 DR pesos (~10 USD, 5 hrs) and arrive in the border town of Jimani. From there it is a 4km walk or a 50 DR pesos ride by motoconcho to the border post. The border is apparently open 09:00-18:00 (but don't rely on it). It is very easy to cross the border without submitting to any immigration procedures on either side, and although it would probably be illegal, it saves a few dozen dollars on bribes and is much faster too. Apart from entering the DR when a soldier takes a look at the passport, nobody does any inspection - immigration or customs. Entering Haiti legally is pretty quick - fill out the green form and pay whatever amount the official asks (100 DR pesos for me). There are no ATMs at the border. Moneychangers give gourdes for DR pesos and US dollars. Rates are fair. There is plenty of local transportation from the border to Port-au-Prince. Crowded tap-taps and buses can take you to Croix-des-Bouquets for 50 gourdes (1.5-2 hrs), from where it is another hour to P-au-P proper (bus, 5 gourdes). Road ranges from very bad to good, and is prone to flooding. Peruvian UN soldiers at the border have confirmed that the road to P-au-P is safe to travel with no incidents of robbery or kidnappings, but definitely try to arrive in P-au-P before dark (January 2011).
Tap-taps run along prescribed routes throughout the city. Most routes cost 10 gourdes (2 Haitian dollars, $0.25 USD), though to get across the city you may need to utilize multiple routes, each of which charges separately.
Taxis typically are about 500 gourdes and should only be utilized during daylight. After dark, prices rise substantially and you are at substantially greater risk for being mugged.
- The National Palace The National Palace famously collapsed during the earthquake and offers one of PAP's most startling reminders of the quake's power. Adjacent to the palace is one of PAP's many tent cities, whose over 1000 residents occupy what used to be the most beautiful park in Haiti, the Champs-de-Mar.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption PAP's largest cathedral is just down the road from the palace and is likewise a shell of its former glory. Residents continue to pray outside it's broken husk, and funerals are frequently held in a plaza behind the main building.
- The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien For $1 admission, you will be led on an individual guided tour through a chronology of Haitian history. Each period is divided into a muraled section containing paragon items of that time: the anchor of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus's flagship, is the centerpiece of the exploration age section.
- Marche de fer (Iron Market) A densely packed market of vendors selling everything from crafts such as voodoo paraphernalia to fresh food such as turtles. It a challenging, stressful, and maddening place to walk through as throngs of desperate merchants grab you and tight huddle of shoppers, stalls, and moving goods impede your every step, which requires you to swim through humanity. You will find a breathtaking inventory of hand crafted art: sculptures, masks, staves, paintings, globes, tea sets, coconut belts, etc.
There are at least two banks with ATMs: Scotiabank and Sogebank. The closest Scotiabank to downtown is at the intersection of Blvd Jean Jacques dessalines and Rue Pavee. Even the ATM is closed on Sunday. Banks here close very early, even on the weekdays.
Eating out in Port-au-Prince is surprisingly expensive. Even at modest restaurants a full plate of food will usually cost around 200 gourdes. A good amount of food from street vendors will even cost up to 100 gourdes.
- Foodies (near the National Palace) A clean fast food joint serving hamburgers and fries. Expect to spend about 120 goude for a cheeseburger, fries, and drink. Ask for the owner, a Haitain of Lebanese ancestry, who will answer your questions in Brooklyn English.
- Pizza Garden, one of the best pizzerias in the whole city, although it is hard to find if you do not know its location. There is "Old" Pizza Garden and "New" Pizza Garden, the latter being as a result of a split in co-owners. The décor is typical of a Haitian café, with handcrafted tables and lamps. The atmosphere feels intimate due to the soft lighting. Try the extra cheese pizza.
- La Souvenance, 48 Rue Geffrard, (509) 257-4813. One of the best restaurants, it features French cuisine, some of it with a Creole twist.
There are grocery stores all over town at least two in the center of town, both located on Capois. The Big Star Market in the Champ de Mars area and the Primera Market nearby the Hotel Olafson.
- Crémas, an alcoholic beverage made of coconut and vanilla.
- Rhum Barbancourt
- Biere Prestige
- Only drink Bottled Water!
There are not cheap places to stay, just less expensive choices.
- Wall's Guesthouse A clean secure compound popular with missionaires located in Delmas, a residential neighborhood, far from the action of Port-au-Prince. The electricity is constant and so is the cold water. You may be placed in a room with other people but, considering the low number of visitors, this is unlikely; however, you will be sharing a bathroom. A buffet-style breakfast and dinner are complementary. If you do not mind the toilsome journey from the guesthouse to interesting parts of Port-au-Prince, then consider the place for $30 per person.
- Palace Hotel The cheapest hotel in the centrally located Champ de Mars. A good choice if you want to stay out late in Champ because the hotel is so easy to return to. A faded grand balcony occupies the entire second floor. There is a vintage feeling of being where aristocrats used to hang out. It is a lonely place as they are almost no other Western travellers. The accommodations are rough: electrity and running water (no hot water) are on and off. The cost of a double can be negotiated down to $40.
- Hotel Oloffson An illustrious hotel with unmistakable past grandeur which has served as a mansion, Marine base, and now a popular hotel for Westerners in Haiti. The guests--such as UN employees, filmmakers, academics--all mingle easily with the owner, Richard, and each other on the long front desk, which also doubles as a bar/restaurant. The cost of a single/double is about $70/$80. If you have are traveling with many, consider a suite; they are huge.
- A recommended guide is Jean Eteme Lundg (cell: 740-0703 or ask for him at the Oloffson desk). He charges $15/day. Try to ask for price advice before entering the Iron Market because, he like other guides, do not want to be seen as undermining the merchants.
You should not be outside on the streets after dark unless you are wandering around the busy Champs de Mars area.
- United States, ☎ 229-8000 (fax: 2-229-8028), .