Tools For Travelers

  1. A smile and a sense of humor: Smiles are international currency. They help in a good situation to make it better, and they work in a bad situation to turn it around. Haiti, for all its wonderfulness, is hot, dusty, humid and surprising to the first or long-time traveller. An acceptance that you will make more than your share of mistakes this first day and a smiling response to that reality will help you enjoy your time in transit.
  2. Three words: bonjou (good day), tanpri(please), mesi (thank you). Use them without hesitation as often as you can.
  3. A black or blue pen: You will need to complete some paperwork at the airport before entering into Haiti. They do not accept it in pencil, or red pen and the officers often do not speak your language to explain.
  4. You will be required to pay a $10 tourist fee.  Have this is cash.
  5. You may encounter person(s) who want to help you locate your bags, collect your team’s luggage tags and assist you through customs. Tipping them would be appropriate. Follow the general guidelines in #6 for terms.
  6. A baggage handler: They are wearing matching bright-colored t- shirts and are there for your convenience. Choose one who speaks English (ask him how many children he has to see if he can say more than yes and no) and agree on the price for each bag up front ($2 is appropriate). At the end, he may ask for more, but you’ve arranged your price. Smile, say thank you in a definitive manner.
  7. A back-up plan: What happens if your contact doesn’t show up at the airport, the flight is delayed by a day and your driver drove back to headquarters, or your cell phone doesn’t work as expected?
  •  Establish a place to meet (e.g. a guesthouse with the address and phone number)
  • Know that the uniformed individuals (whether baggage handlers or passport control) will usually speak English and let you use their phone for a $1 or two.
  1. A list of phone numbers: There is no directory service in Haiti. Make sure your phone is set up to call internationally. It will require Oil for dialing out of the US, then 509 (Haiti’s country code) and eight numbers after that. If your phone doesn’t have international capabilities, you can purchase a phone or a local SIM card at the airport’s Digicel or Vodaphone stores – before you exit baggage claim.
  2. $1 bills: Until you have and understand the local currency, one dollar bills will go a long way towards buying items and services. US coins will not be accepted. Keep your bills handy, but not in a place that is too easily accessible to anyone but you.
  3. Your eyes: Watch with interest; learn with determination. The Haitian people have a distinct history, culture, and love of life. You’ll see it in every aspect of their lives — how they move, where they stand, how they deal with their children, what they eat, how they laugh. Putting your attention in a book, your smart phone, or in conversations only with the people you came with will rob you of a remarkable experience.