Port-au-Prince is the capital and largest city of Haiti. In this beautiful city, you will find Haiti's museums, natural wonders, forts, restos, parks, and many suprises here. It is also near a commune called Pétionville. This city is where a lot of Haiti's development happens so be sure to visit!
The city is large and bustling, starting very early in the mornings. There's been a lot of rebuilding and new construction since the 2010 earthquake, but in some places you may see rubbles or small tent cities. There is a large expat community as well, mostly aid workers and the like. There are a number of good places to eat and places to sleep, especially in the wealthy suburb of Pétionville but also in Port-au-Prince proper.
Presidential Palace Prior to Earthquake
Port-au-Prince airport (PAP) is served by several major airlines primarily Air Canada, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines and Delta Airlines 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 will cost about 10 gourdes ($0.25) and a community-created route map can be found here: http://taptapmap.org
There are no trains.
From Santo Domingo: Caribe Tours, Capitol Coach Line and Terra Bus each run very modern buses daily to Port-au-Prince, each of the 3 companies departing from their own station along Av. 27 de Febrero. Caribe runs to Pétionville (in the hills above Port-au-Prince) that leaves at 11:00 am. Most all tickets currently cost $40 one-way, plus serious tax/border fees of about $26 and 100 DR, depending on the direction. Unfortunately, Caribe Tours' bus drops you off in Pétionville after dark so make prior arrangements with a trustworthy person to meet you and transport you to your lodging.
Another, less expensive option, is to take a guagua (Dominican minibus) from Santo Domingo departing 4 blocks NW of Parque Enriquillo, just W of Av Duarte, from a small parking lot within the elevated expressways of Espresso 27 de Febrero). http://horariodebuses.com suggests guava buses leave every 45min, but this is not always the case. Price is 400 DR (about $10, 5+ h permits a quick rest/meal stop) and arrive in the border town of Jimani. From there it is a 4 km walk or a 50+ DR ride by motoconcho to the border post. The border is apparently open 08:00-18:00 (if it respects its times).
In the past it was very easy to cross the border without submitting to any immigration procedures on either side, and although probably illegal, saved a few dozen dollars on bribes and was much faster too. Things are changing: passport control is now generally required leaving the DR, not just entering the DR. Entering Haiti legally is quick: fill out the green form and pay whatever amount the official asks (around 100 DR). There are no ATMs at the border. Moneychangers give gourdes for Dominican and American currency. Rates are fair. Protect Haiti's small green card in your passport, allowing you to leave Haiti without risking a penalty.
There's usually plenty of local transportation from the border to Port-au-Prince. Crowded tap-taps and buses can take you to Croix-des-Bouquets for about 75 gourdes (1-2 h), from where it is another hour to Port-au-Prince (bus, 5+ gourdes per route, summary network map @ http://taptapmap.org). Road ranges from very bad to good, and is prone to flooding. Peruvian UN soldiers at the border have confirmed that the road to Port-au-Prince is safe to travel with no incidents of robbery or kidnappings, but definitely try to arrive in Port-au-Prince before dark.
Tap-taps run along prescribed routes throughout the city. Most routes cost 10 gourdes ($0.25), 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 be used only 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 Port-au-Prince's most startling reminders of the quake's power. By the beginning of 2014 the structure had been razed. One of Port-au-Prince's many tent cities was located across the street from the site of the palace. The tent encampment has now been cleared and the site is again home to one of the largest parks in Haiti, the Champs-de-Mar.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption Port-au-Prince'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 its broken husk, and funerals are frequently held in a plaza behind the main building.
- The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien For $1, 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.
- Fort Jacques One of Haiti's few national parks, Fort Jacques is outside of Port au Prince about 45 minutes up the mountain in the village of Fermathe. The weather is cool (you might need a light jacket some days) and the view is spectacular. You'll get a great view down to the city from a preserved pine forest. The history of the fort is self-evident, but local boys will gladly show you around and practice their better-than-expected English for a couple of dollars (well worth it). They are also willing photographers for this beautiful setting. A great escape from the heat when the beach isn't in order.
- Marche de fer (Iron Market) A densely packed market of vendors selling everything from crafts such as voodoo paraphernalia to fresh food. It is 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.
- Village Artistique (Artist Village). Though technically Croix des Bouquets is not Port au Prince, it is so connected with the city (only separated by a river) that it might be considered a suburb. The iron artisans here recycle old iron drums (containers) and make stunning art pieces. In the neighborhood of Noailles you'll recognize the location as you see dozens of metal art pieces hanging outside of the homes of the artists, and signs advertising the shops. The artists have collaborated in making a beautiful and quaint little area including ornate streetlights and an enormous metal-working-woman sculpture. Prices are the best you can find, and the experience of seeing the work being done is priceless.
Often there will be roadside vendors as well selling really nice handmade crafts. There are some near the UN base and on the Pan-American Highway.
There are at least two banks with ATMs: Scotiabank and Sogebank. The closest Scotiabank to downtown is at the intersection of Boulevard Jean-Jacques-Dessalines and Rue Pavée. Even the ATM is closed on Sundays. Banks here close very early, even on the weekdays. An ATM can also be found at Epi d'Or at Delmas 56. You get the daily exchange rate in HTG with a fee.
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. Pétionville has good options as well.
- Coin Vert (Delmas 3) This is Haitian home-cooking at its best. Lovely open-air indoor seating and outdoor courtyard with beautiful gazebo has a laid-back feel. Here you'll find delicious fish, goat, lamb and other traditional Haitian fare with great service and a cold beer or other beverage. Sunday they serve the traditional soup jamou. Prices are around 400HTG or less for a generous meal.
- Kokoye (Delmas 31) This restaurant is hugely popular with locals, and for good reason. The atmosphere is lovely with ample indoor as well as patio seating. The staff are the friendliest I've had at any Haitian restaurant. And the food is absolutely amazing with great menu options. Two can have a healthy portion of lobster tail with fries or plantains and a large salad plus great rum punch for around $30.00US.
- Marie Belliard (Petionville) Possibly the best bakery and café in the city, Marie Belliard carries signature pate and other pastries. You can also find lovely cakes here and get a good cup of coffee. The decor is simple with a view of the street. Popular with locals.
- Foodies (near the National Palace) A clean fast food joint serving hamburgers and fries. Expect to spend about 120 gourdes for a cheeseburger, fries, and drink. Ask for the owner, a Haitian of Lebanese ancestry, who will answer your questions in Brooklyn English.
- Epi d'Or (several locations including Delmas 56 and Petionville) For the Haitian version of a fast-food chain, this is it. You'll find a wide range of Haitian and international "snack" foods like pizza, burgers, ice cream, etc. Air conditioned and fairly comfortable to sit and people-watch. It's a popular hangout for the locals.
- Pizza Garden, 36 Rue Chavannes, Petionville. 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. Keep in mind that this is not typical American or European pizza. edit
- Le Daily Cafe, (next to the US Embassy). A tasty lunch spot, they use locally produced goods from a USAID-funded agriculture project and have different dishes each day -- usually a meat or two (fish, chicken, etc) and some vegetarian options. edit
- Rebo Expresso (Petionville) A charming little café very much influenced by American and European influence. Great seating options if limited space. Delicious coffee and paninis.
- La Souvenance, 48 Rue Geffrard, ☎ +509 257 4813. 6:30-11PM, closed Su-Mo. One of the best restaurants in town, it features French cuisine, some of it with a Creole twist. Mains from $20. edit
- Papaye, 48 Rue Metellus, ☎ 3513-9229. A very nice, expensive restaurant. Really good main courses and good service. Delicious! $18-28. edit
Everywhere you go in Haiti, there is delicious food available. Safety is always a concern when eating street food, but you can get recommendations from trusted locals. Delicious snack foods include banana chips ("papita") a recognizable by the yellow product carried in baggies in a basket on heads of vendors. Fruit is also widely available and generally speaking, the thicker the peeling, the safer. Fritay is a general term for fried food, and generally consists of pork cubes (grio), goat ("kabrit") or chicken ("poul") with fried plantains ("bannan") and a spicy garnish called "pikliz." Bottled and safe soft drinks and water are also easily found on the streets and are much cheaper than in stores. They are often frozen in salt water, so you'll want to give the top a good wipe before taking a drink.
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 Oloffson.
Traditional alcoholic drinks include the rum sour and Crémas, an alcoholic beverage made of coconut and vanilla. Rhum Barbancourt is the best local rum, the 5-star is the highest quality and 3-star is decent. Biere Prestige is the local lager and is quite good.
Bottled soft drinks are available on the streets for much less than in the stores, but be aware of the going rate, or you'll pay more than you need to.
Only drink bottled water!
The Caribbean Lodge hotel is made out of shipping containers!
There are no 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 that 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 as 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 can be 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.
- Caribbean Lodge, Blvd 15 de Octobre (near the US Embassy), ☎ +(509) 2943-2116 / 3156-7439. Formerly the Handal Villas, this place is a group of little houses you stay in. The rooms are quite nice, with a bed areas, couch, table and chairs and a little kitchenette. There's also a pool and restaurant. not too expensive. edit
- Executive Villas, 35 Blvd Toussaint L'Ouverture (between Blvd Theodat and Blvd 15 de Octobre), ☎ +(509) 2943-2116 / 3156-7439, . A new hotel with rooms in shipping containers. The rooms are clean and have air conditioning and cable TV, it's better than it sounds. There's a bar and restaurant on the premises and a pool, plus a gym and laundry. not too expensive. edit
- Hotel Oloffson, Ave Christophe 60, ☎ +509 2223-4000, . An illustrious hotel with unmistakable past grandeur which has served as a mansion and a marines base and is 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. If you are traveling with many, consider a suite; they are huge. Singles from $70, doubles from $80. edit
An excellent driver to take you around is Marco, for $150 you'll have him as early as you wish and as late as you please. He'll negotiate access to places you otherwise won't be admitted and knows many out of the way local haunts. He has an amazing wealth of experience and will keep you safe despite the crazy traffic. Contact him on +509 3720 3108 or firstname.lastname@example.org
As in any unfamiliar place, you should not be outside on the streets after dark unless you are wandering around familiar and well-lit areas. However, outside of Cité Soleil and Carrefour, Port-au-Prince is very safe to walk around during the day, and still quite safe in the evening. The greatest danger you will face is the crazy traffic and the potholes and missing man hole covers that have been scavenged to sell for scrap metal. It is false that Haiti is one of the most dangerous places in the Caribbean, but there is always potential danger wherever you go and precautions should be taken.
Finding a dependable and honest Haitian guide will ensure that you have an extra pair of eyes watching out, and that you don't wander into more dangerous areas. Haitians appreciate foreigners who come to their country and want to experience their life as they do rather than shutting themselves into the air-conditioned hotels. They will admire your desire to enjoy Haiti, and will reward you with respect.
- China, 10 Place Boyer, Pétionville, ☎ +506 2575568. edit
- Japan, HEXAGONE 2F, Angle Rues Clerveaux et Darguin, ☎ +509 2256-5885 (, fax: +509 2256-9444), . edit
- United States, Tabarre 41, Blvd 15 Octobre, ☎ +509 22 29 8000 (fax: +509 22 29 8028), . edit
- Pétionville, a wealthy suburb with lots of nightlife, bars and restaurants.
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