Driving Guide

Haiti Driving Guide

Haiti is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.

2021-08-05 · 9min read

Haiti is one of the most misunderstood nations in the world. With prevalent political unrest, high crime rates, and frequent natural disasters, it is one of the countries that isn’t recommended to foreigners. However, former visitors and seasoned travelers would say otherwise. Haiti has a rich culture and deeply-rooted history that would surely grab anyone’s attention.

Haiti is so much more than the misconceptions attached to its name. From stunning ruins to gorgeous beaches, the country is an underrated gem. Whether it’s for leisure or humanitarian purposes, visit Haiti and immerse yourself in the vibrant and boisterous life the country has to offer.

How Can This Guide Help You?

When traveling to a country that’s the furthest from a tourist destination, it’s important to know all the rules and guidelines to ensure a safe trip. It’s essential always to remember these advisories, especially if you plan to drive in the country. Haiti is one of the nations where foreigners must always stay alert and vigilant, so reading about your travel destination is crucial.

This smart guide will tell you what you need to know about IDPs, licenses, and driving in Haiti. All the important information regarding any Haiti driving advice and the top road trip destinations are also included. So be sure not to skip this guide for a safe and stress-free stay in Haiti.

General Information

Haiti is a country in the Caribbean that occupies the western region of Hispaniola. If you wish to visit the country, it’s important to know all the essential details about it, especially if you have plans of driving in Haiti. Locations, regardless of where you’d be in, is no easy feat; it’ll always be challenging one way or the other. So before you jet off, make sure you know all the current news and updates to be safe and prepared for Haiti.

Geographic Location

Haiti is a country in the Caribbean that occupies the western side of Hispaniola island. Its Capital is Port-au-Prince, which is the commercial center of the nation. The city is also particularly known for the natural disasters that hit it.

The Dominican Republic borders Haiti to its east, which also covers the remainder of Hispaniola. The Atlantic Ocean borders it to its North; Cuba, which is around 80 km away, is found on its west, and Jamaica is located to its north. Haiti also has jurisdiction over Navassa Island, an uninhabited islet found 35 km west of the Jamaica Channel.

Languages Spoken

The official languages in Haiti are French and Haitian Creole. French is used as a high-level language and is spoken during formal occasions. You can see French being used in official documents, educational systems, and media. It is also the standard written language in Haiti. However, even if it is an official language, roughly 5% can only speak French, and there are typically the Elite living in urban areas.

The second official language in Haiti is Creole, which is considered as a low-level language. More than 95% of the total population can speak Creole, which is a mix of Taino, French, and other West African languages. Creole also has three dialects according to the region: the Northern, Central, and Southern dialects. Since the language isn’t considered high-level or prestigious, it is typically not used in official matters.

Other minority languages spoken in Haiti include Spanish and English. Driving in Haiti with a map isn’t entirely reliable. So it’s a must to know some phrases in Creole because English isn’t widely spoken.

Land Area

Haiti has a land area of 27,750 sq. km., making it around the same size as Maryland. Around ⅔ of Haiti is made up of rugged mountains that extend westward from the Dominican border, forming the northern and southern peninsulas around Golfe de la Gonave.

History

After arriving in Hispaniola in December 1492, Christopher Columbus found a kingdom led by a cacique. After years of continuous exploitation, especially by the French during the seventeen century, the indigenous people in the western region of Hispaniola were exterminated; and Africans were brought in as slaves. By the eighteenth century, Haiti had become France’s richest colony and was dubbed “the pearl of the Antilles.”

After continuous resistance since 1791, the Haitians finally gained their independence in 1804 and eventually changed their name from Saint Domingue to Haiti (Ayiti in Creole). In January 2010, an earthquake occurred and heavily impacted the country’s capital. It left over a million people homeless and killed around 300,000 individuals. To this day, Haiti is still trying to recover from the worst disaster in its history.

Government

Haiti has a population of almost 11.5 million people. It has a republic government and a constitution that was adopted in 1987. Under the executive branch, you have the prime minister and the President that the people elect to serve for five years.

Haiti’s legal system is based on the Napoleonic civil law, and its judicial branch has four levels, namely the Cour de Cassation or the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, civil courts, and magistrates’ courts. The judges of the Court of Cassation are appointed by the President and must serve for ten years.

Lastly, the legislative branch has a senate and chamber deputies who are responsible for legislation, as well as electing a President. The 30-seat Senate has a term of six years, while the 99-seat chamber of deputies has four years.

Tourism

Haiti is one of the Caribbean countries that is incredibly rich and diverse, as it is a melting pot of French, Caribbean, and African cultures. Although Haiti is not a popular tourist destination anymore due to the crimes and natural disasters that frequently happen, its golden age in tourism was after World War II.

  • Back in the 1950s, multiple bars, clubs, and entertainment areas were set up, and the country was known to be loud and colorful. It was also an excellent spot for tourists since the cost of living in the country was low. But recently, tourism has been weak due to the multiple travel advisories surrounding Haiti. However, many travelers still stop by as the country has many beautiful spots to visit.

IDP FAQs

Haiti is one of the countries that require an IDP to drive. An international driver’s permit, also called an international driver’s license, is an unofficial document that translates a tourist’s driver’s license, which is beneficial in any international travel. If you have plans of driving in Haiti, here’s a summary of all the important facts about IDPs that every foreign driver has to know.

Does Haiti Accept International Driving Permits?

Do know that Haiti accepts international driving permits, especially if your license is not in English. If you’re traveling through land borders or renting vehicles, a driver’s license must be accompanied by an IDP. So if you plan to drive in Haiti, make sure to carry an international driver’s permit. Local authorities will also ask for your IDP at checkpoints.

How Long is an IDP Valid in Haiti?

If your IDP is from the International Driver’s Association, then its validity would range between one to three years. Before choosing your IDP’s validity, consider all your current and future travels. Suppose you’re visiting more countries shortly after your stay in Haiti, and this will go on for the next few years. Then it’s best to choose an IDP validity of three years.

How Do I Get an IDP in Haiti?

Remember that you cannot obtain an IDP from an institution or organization outside your home country. However, if you’re in Haiti without an IDP, you can get one from the International Driver’s Association.

The application process is completely online, and you’re guaranteed to receive your permit no matter where you are since IDA ships worldwide. Be sure to fill in the application form and submit the requirements, and you’re good to go. If you want to know more about IDPs, you can check out the IDA website’s FAQs page.

Renting a Car in Haiti

There are a lot of ways to explore Haiti, but the best way is traveling by car. For tourists, remember that driving in Haiti now is more common than you think. Haitian public transportation is not exactly safe, so it is advised to have a private vehicle. And although the streets and highways in Haiti may intimidate you, having your own car would be the safest way to get around the country. Here are the things you need to know when renting a car in Haiti.

Car Rental Companies

Renting cars is beneficial if you have plans of exploring the country or driving in Haiti’s provinces. Since public transportation is lacking and unsafe in Haiti, tourists can rent vehicles from the airport or major cities like Port-au-Prince. Some reputable rental car agencies that have multiple branches worldwide are:

  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Hertz
  • Sunnycars
  • Dollar
  • Right Cars
  • Sixt
  • Thrifty

Do note that some companies will not allow their cars to be driven out of the country. Car rental agencies like Budget do not permit customers to drive their vehicles across borders, so if you plan on doing so, make sure the rental company allows it.

Documents Required

Most car rental companies have the same requirements globally, and agencies in Haiti will ask you to present the following documents:

  • Driver’s license
  • IDP
  • Passport
  • Debit/credit card

Remember always to bring your license, as this serves as proof that you are a legal driver in Haiti. However, presenting your license may not always work. If you are 18 years old, car agencies might reject your application since they have older minimum age requirements, typically within 21 to 25 years.

Vehicle Types

Rental car companies have a wide variety of vehicles to offer. So be sure to choose your car wisely. One of the most common rental vehicles in Haiti are intermediate cars. This type of car can carry around four to five passengers and minimal luggage. If you want to cross rugged terrains or have off-road activities, an SUV would best suit you. You can also opt for a luxury car if you’re prioritizing comfort and want the vehicle with the best amenities.

Car Rental Cost

There are many important things you’d have to know before getting behind the wheel. Suppose you have plans of driving in Haiti. The quotes for rental car prices is something you should research, especially if you have a budget.

Do know that the cost of rental cars in Haiti differs, and they’re known to be quite pricey since accidents are common. The rough roads also tend to leave some minor damage to the cars, further affecting the rental rates. The average cost of a rental car in Haiti would be around $91 per day, but do know this is bound to have changes. The average prices, according to car type, are as follows:

  • Economy - $47 per day
  • Compact - $47 per day
  • Full-size - $99 per day
  • SUV - $47 per day
  • Full-size SUV - $105 per day
  • Compact SUV - $41 per day
  • Intermediate SUV - $55 per day
  • Standard SUV - $56 per day
  • Luxury SUV - $123 per day

Remember that these prices may go up if you rent or purchase additional accessories like GPS devices, chargers, batteries, car seats, and other equipment you could use for outdoor activities. Also, remember that mileage fees depend on the company. When you’re driving in Haiti, and the distance you cover exceeds the limited mileage, the rental agency will charge extra fees.

Age Requirements

You must be at least 18 years old to drive in Haiti. However, if you want to rent a car, you should be 21 to 25 years old. Car rental agencies typically offer a Young Driver surcharge for customers below 25, so you don’t have to worry if you haven’t reached this particular requirement.

Car Insurance Cost

Car rental companies typically sell insurance as well. However, insurance costs will depend on what packages you’re purchasing. Keep in mind that there are different insurance policies, and whatever you bought domestically might be applicable overseas. So before you set off, make sure to discuss car insurance with the rental car company to settle the fees you’ll be paying.

Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is very important if you plan on driving in Haiti. Quotes for rental car prices differ among agencies, and if you’re hesitating to spend money on it, remember that driving in Haiti is unpredictable. Accidents and collisions aren’t uncommon, so it’s better to prepare yourself for the worst, especially if you’re not used to driving on similar roads. Rental car insurance in Haiti may cover:

  • Loss Damage Waiver or Collision Damage Waiver (LDW/CDW)
  • Participating Credit Cards
  • Natural Disasters, Ice Break
  • Theft, Fire, and Associated Guarantees

Note that you may have already purchased particular insurance before, so always double-check to make sure you won’t end up spending extra.

Haiti photo by K. Mitch Hodge

Road Rules in Haiti

Haiti’s road rules are very lax, and traffic enforcers aren’t there to watch over the people. However, there are unspoken rules and general tips and guidelines for drivers in the country. Also, it’s important that visitors still follow the road rules even if locals do not. Knowing the road rules can help you get the most of your international travel. Read on to know about Haiti’s traffic rules, so you’ll be prepared to drive after you arrive.

Important Regulations

Haiti’s infamous reputation with its roads has become a must for both local and foreign drivers to follow the different road rules and regulations. However, due to the lax implementation, the accident rate remains high. If you’re visiting Haiti, make sure to follow all the basic road regulations to avoid run-ins with the law and accidents that might spoil your trip.

Drunk-Driving

Just like many countries, drink-driving is illegal in Haiti. However, the specific limit for blood alcohol concentration in the country is unknown. Many tourists have shared their experiences with drunk drivers, and as much as driving under the influence is prohibited, many locals still drive intoxicated.

As foreign drivers, this shouldn’t mean you could set aside all road rules and drive under the influence as well. So be sure to avoid driving after consuming alcohol to reduce the chances of violations and road accidents.

Be Prepared Before Your Drive

You must always be prepared before you set off for a trip, especially if you plan on traveling to places like Haiti. Driving in Haiti can be quite challenging, so there are some things you have to ensure for a safe and stress-free drive.

The first thing you have to do is double-check your documents. Make sure you have your passport, license, IDP, registration, insurance, and other related documents. Another thing to check is your vehicle; there shouldn’t be any damages, and your car has to be working fine. You should also have all your emergency items like a warning triangle, fire extinguisher, and other tools.

Things to Remember While Driving

Foreign drivers must always be alert and vigilant while driving in Haiti. There are many hazards on the road like rubble or animals. Since driving laws are implemented lightly, many locals tend to drive recklessly. So tourists should always drive defensively to avoid accidents. Car doors and windows must be locked at all times due to cases of petty crimes and carjacking. Furthermore, traffic signs and road markings are lacking. Thus, drivers should always be aware while driving.

If you are feeling sleepy or tired, find a safe parking spot to rest. You must always have your full attention on the road when driving in Haiti because small lapses of judgment, such as driving when you’re starting to feel drowsy, might lead to accidents.

General Standards of Driving

Every country has certain standards of driving for the convenience and safety of their drivers. Driving in Haiti has many challenges, but at the same time, having your own vehicle is the safest way to travel in the country. And even if there are many advisories about bad road conditions, tourist driving in Haiti is now more common than you think.

Rental car companies will give you the option to rent a manual or automatic transmission, and both types have their pros and cons. However, it is advised that it’s better to drive manual cars in Haiti due to the current road conditions. Aside from deteriorating pavements, many of the roads are winding and located in the mountains, further allowing the ability to shift gears to be at an advantage

Speed Limit

Although there are speed limits implemented, most locals don’t follow them and continue to drive recklessly. This is why there is a high accident rate in Haiti. However, foreign tourists must still follow the speed limits and should drive defensively for their safety. The speed limits implemented in Haiti are as follows:

  • Urban speed limit - 50 KpH
  • Rural roads - 50 KpH

Seatbelt Laws

Even if driving laws are lax, seatbelts must be worn at all times. Seatbelts can minimize casualties and major injuries from road accidents, which are unfortunately common in Haiti. For tourists who aren’t used to Haitian roads, seatbelts are a must. Potholes and reckless drivers usually take first-time visitors back, prompting them to always wear their seatbelts.

Driving Directions

Although driving in Haiti can be quite chaotic, don’t forget that you’re a foreigner, and you must still observe proper road rules as much as possible. Remember, when entering roundabouts, vehicles on the right have priority. Additionally, since the driving side is on the right, overtaking must be performed on the left. Do note that overtaking in Haiti may be dangerous due to its road conditions, so only carry out the maneuver if necessary.

Traffic Road Signs

  • Haiti lacks road signs and pavement markings, and most of the time, road lanes can’t even be distinguished. Thus, many locals violate traffic rules and cause road accidents. The few road signs that were built were adapted from the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic in 1968.

Haiti isn’t one of the countries that signed the international treaty, but they are one of the countries that adopted the agreements, particularly road signs’ uniformity. The traffic signs are categorized into several types, namely:

  • Informative signs - inform drivers or gives them instructions

*Hospital, Telephone, Gas

  • Warning signs - alert drivers of probable dangers ahead

*One Lane, Hairpin bend, Sharp curve

  • Priority signs - indicate the priority of vehicles about to pass intersections

*Yield, Stop

  • Restrictive signs - forbid drivers from certain actions

*No Entry, Wrong Way

  • Mandatory signs - tell drivers what they must do

*Speed Limits, Keep Left/Keep Right

  • Special regulation signs - indicate drivers from multiple lanes about specific regulations or warnings

*One Way, Pedestrian zone

  • Direction signs - give information or direction about a location to drivers
  • Additional panels - supplement other road signs

Again, remember that Haiti only has a few marked roads. So always exercise caution when driving. Be vigilant as vehicles might come barreling in, and cars can be all over the place on highways. If you’re not confident in driving in Haiti, you can always opt to hire a chauffeur.

Right of Way

When driving abroad, it’s important to know when to yield to other cars. Giving way to other vehicles can avoid confrontations and altercations, making your drive stress-free. Although many locals don’t follow the right of way in Haiti, it’s essential that tourists still practice these road rules while they are on foreign lands. The right of way in Haiti indicates that:

  • At an intersection without traffic signs, the vehicle from the right has priority over the one coming from the left
  • Cars on a secondary lane must yield to vehicles on a priority lane
  • Drivers must yield to rail vehicles, such as trains or trams
  • Vehicles turning left must give way to cars arriving from the opposite direction
  • Vehicles turning right may proceed at intersections without road signs
  • Drivers must give way to police, fire trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles

The legal driving age in Haiti is 18 years old. However, most rental car companies require their customers to be at least 21 years old. Most agencies require their customers to pay a Young Driver fee if they are below 25 years. If you’re not yet 25 years old, just remember that paying extra will be worth it since you’d have the perks of using a private vehicle.

Laws on Overtaking

Passing, also known as “overtaking,” is a maneuver wherein a car vehicle catches up and passes the vehicle ahead of it. In Haiti, overtaking should be on the left except in one-way and busy streets. Drivers must remember these rules when they have plans to overtake a vehicle:

  • Overtaking is prohibited if vehicles are near or at crossroads, hilltops, bends, and level crossings
  • Before overtaking, drivers must honk their car or flash their warning lights to alert the vehicle ahead of them

*If the driver ahead has seen or heard the signals, they must then veer to the extreme right to accommodate the vehicle behind

  • Drivers can only overtake if no vehicles are coming in the opposite direction
  • Drivers must pass a vehicle from the left and keep a distance of one meter; they can only go up to the right once the one-meter mark is completely passed
  • Overtaking is prohibited if the vehicle ahead is traveling at the speed limit implemented in towns and cities (30-50 KpH)
  • Drivers are not allowed to overtake if this would lead to danger or disturbances within the area

Driving Side

It can get very rowdy on Haitian highways, as cars are driven in the wrong lanes, and traffic signs are lacking. You'll find crowded roads, too, especially on main roads. But do know that Haiti drives on the right side of the road. U.S. citizens will find it easy to navigate the Haitian roads.

As much as possible, follow the road rules even if many locals do not; that is, drive on the appropriate lane, especially if you’re on two-lane roads. If you come from a country that operates on the left side, try conditioning yourself to drive on the right before you arrive in Haiti. Roads can get very crowded, prompting locals to drive all over the place, but make sure to drive on the right side even if you’re tempted to do the opposite.

Driving Etiquette in Haiti

Traveling in Haiti is a challenge, so you must prepare if you have plans to drive. Continue reading to know about what you should do if you find yourself in unfavorable situations in Haiti.

Car Breakdown

Car troubles are usually the furthest thing from any traveler’s mind, but in Haiti, you’d have to open your mind to the possibilities of this happening. Many roads are unpaved and ridden with potholes; animals flock the streets; debris from the 2010 earthquake are driving hazards— these are just some of the reasons that could lead to your car breaking down, so it’s important to know what to do in case you find yourself in these circumstances.

Here is a list of things you should do in case you experience car troubles:

  • Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers
  • Slow down and try to pull your car to the side of the road
  • Stay in your car to avoid pedestrians and other vehicles, as Haiti is known to have jam-packed roads

*If it is safe to exit, put up flares or reflective triangles for oncoming motorists to see

  • Call roadside assistance
  • Always remember that Haiti has a law requiring on-site repairs for vehicles that have broken down

*If your car needs to be towed, then consider getting a different vehicle or booking a room if it’s past nightfall

  • Always inform people where you’re going beforehand

*This is very helpful if you’re experiencing car troubles when driving in Haiti; if your distance from major cities is quite far, informing people, like hotel staff, of your travel plans can aid in the quick location of your vehicle

Additionally, here are some essential emergency services:

  • Police - 114
  • Fire - 115
  • Ambulance - 116
  • Red Cross - 118

Before its closure, MINUSTAH, a UN peacekeeping force in Haiti, used to be the first hotline to contact during emergencies. People were advised to contact MINUSTAH first before the police since Haitian police don't always respond immediately.

Police Stops

Patrolling police officers isn't common in Haiti. In most cases, cops can even be difficult to reach. And although there are driving laws, they are implemented lightly, so violators aren’t often reprimanded.

However, if you encounter police, just be sure to have all your documents, such as your passport, driver’s license, IDP, car registration and insurance, and other related papers. Remember to bring these documents with you because, in the end, you’re still a foreigner, and you don’t want the risk of getting fined.

Asking Directions

The official languages in Haiti are Haitian Creole, commonly known as Creole, and French. However, other widely spoken languages include Spanish and English. Suppose you’re not comfortable talking to locals when you’re driving in Haiti. A map might be useful in normal circumstances, but remember that street signs and other signages are lacking in Haiti. So you must resort to communication when on unfamiliar roads.

Haitians are very friendly people, so make sure to greet them first before asking for help. Note that it is customary in Haiti to be polite and friendly, especially in rural areas. And if you think you are surrounded by locals who can’t speak English, here are some basic phrases that you can use to make your trip easier:

Creole

  • Bonjou - Good morning
  • Bonswa - Good afternoon/evening/night
  • Mesi ampil - Thank you very much
  • Pa gen pwoblem - You’re welcome
  • Oui - Yes
  • Non - no
  • Eskize m - Excuse me
  • Mwen pa konen - I don’t know
  • Mwen pedi - I’m lost
  • Es’ke ou ka ede mwen? - Can you help me?
  • Komen pou’m fe pou’m ale… ? - How can I get to… ?
  • Vire agoch - Turn left
  • Vire adwat - Turn right
  • Ale dwat - Go straight
  • Konbien tan nap pran pou'n rive la - How long does it take to get there?
  • Es'ke nou ka mache rive la'a - Is it within walking distance?

French

  • Bonjour - Hello/Good morning
  • Bonsoir - Good evening
  • Bonne Nuit - Good night
  • Au revoir - Goodbye
  • Oui - Yes
  • Non - No
  • Merci - Thank you
  • Excusez-moi - Excuse me
  • De Rien - You’re welcome (casual, informal way)
  • Je vous en prie - You’re welcome (formal)
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider? - Can you help me?
  • À droite - To the right
  • À gauche - To the left
  • Où est… ? - Where is… ?
  • Est-ce qu’il y a… près d’ici? - Is there… near here?
  • Est-ce que c’est loin/proche? - Is it far/near?
  • Est-ce que je peux y aller à pied? - Is it within walking distance?

Checkpoints

Drivers may encounter checkpoints within Haiti, but they’re usually common in border crossings. The checkpoints within cities are typically established to oversee and secure the area, especially since there is a high crime rate. As tourists, make sure you have your passport, driver’s license, IDP, car registration and insurance, and similar documents.

Other Tips

Vehicular accidents are very common in Haiti, especially since the roads are poor and the locals aren’t exactly responsible drivers. If you’re visiting the country, you must know what to do in case you get involved in an accident. Thus, be sure to continue reading to know the protocols if car crashes occur.

In Case of Accidents

Getting into an accident is the last thing you’d want to happen. However, most tourists usually don't prepare themselves for the worst; but if you’re visiting countries like Haiti, it’s important to come prepared and exercise precaution. If you have plans to drive, you have even more reason to ensure your preparedness and safety before arriving in Haiti.

These are a few things you must always remember if you get involved in an accident:

  1. Contact emergency hotlines or the police, especially if there are injured people.
  2. Before checking on other parties involved, make sure you and your passengers are safe; check for any injuries or unconscious people.
  3. Be sure to document the entire scenario; take pictures and videos you will use when reporting to authorities.
  4. Exchange information with other parties involved
  5. Contact your insurance company as soon as you can, and inform them of the accident.
  6. Lastly, always keep in mind that accidents can potentially attract aggressive mobs; to avoid further injuries or complications, proceed to a safe place like a police station.

Driving Conditions in Haiti

It’s very important to know about the country you’re visiting, especially if you plan to drive there. Haiti’s roads are far from the best, and many natural and human factors contribute to this. So before you get behind the wheel, make sure to read this guide to know what to expect from Haitian roads.

Accident Statistics

Road accidents are, unfortunately, common in Haiti. According to the WHO data published in 2018, the road accident deaths in Haiti reached 1,713. This can be attributed to many factors, such as:

  • Overspending
  • Drunk driving
  • Potholes, animals, and other road hazards
  • Lack of road signs

Whenever tourists arrive in Haiti, they’re always being warned about the country’s bleak road conditions. However, due to the high crime rate, it is still advised to have a private vehicle. So if you’re not that confident in driving, it is recommended to hire a chauffeur instead.

Common Vehicles

Transportation used in Haiti is highly varied; however, most locals travel by foot. Only around 26% of Haitians own a private vehicle, and the remaining 74% either walk or refrain from traveling at all. The most prevalent public transport locals use is tap-taps. These vehicles can be seen with painted artwork in vibrant colors on their sides; tap-taps also function like taxis to the locals. You'll also find a few private vehicles in Haiti.

Other common vehicles you would see are pickup trucks and motorcycles, which also operate like tap-taps. But riding on them can be quite dangerous since passengers onboard always exceed their limit. This is why it’s recommended to drive in Haiti instead of getting around through public transport.

Toll Roads

There are currently no toll roads in Haiti, so you don’t have to worry about paying any fees while driving. Although Haiti’s roads are a huge problem, the government hasn’t set up any tolls yet that could manage the congestion as well as maintenance of the highways.

Road Situations

The majority of roads in Haiti are relatively poor. Around half of their highways are paved, and it’s usually the national and main roads that are in good condition. The rest of the streets have lesser quality and have many potholes; the 2010 earthquake also resulted in many rubble and debris. These road hazards have made some streets impassable, forcing pedestrians to walk on the major roads that are already crowded.

Road conditions directly impact traffic, and the crowding of pedestrians and vehicles altogether has made driving in Haiti challenging. Aside from the lack of traffic signs and marked pavements, drivers have to keep an eye out for small animals flocking the roads. If you want to prepare yourself, you can search for content online related to driving in Haiti; videos would also give you a virtual tour of what to expect from the country’s roads. Knowledge of Haitian roads can help you better navigate the roads in Haiti.

Driving Culture

Haitians are known to be quite reckless drivers. Many locals don’t follow the traffic laws, and police usually don’t reprimand people for disobeying road rules. Over speeding is the top cause of fatal crashes, and many drivers don’t have good road sense.

Many news reports are showing what it’s like to be driving in Haiti. Videos and pictures of numerous fatal crashes can also be found online, so it’s important to have good road sense when driving in the country.

There are also multiple travel advisories depending on where you’re traveling to, and most foreigners are advised not to drive in these areas. However, more seasoned travelers share their experiences and advise future tourists to rent a private vehicle nonetheless. If you plan to drive in Haiti, just make sure to navigate the roads with a high degree of caution.

Other Tips

It’s already known that driving in Haiti is quite dangerous. However, traveling through your own vehicle is the best way to get around. Here are some additional driving tips and information that foreign drivers may find crucial during their stay in Haiti.

Are They Using KpH or MpH?

Haiti, like the majority of the world, uses KpH as its unit of speed. Compared to MpH, the values you’d see on your speedometer would be significantly higher. So if you’re coming from a country that doesn’t use KpH, it would take some getting used to.

Traffic signs are lacking, especially if you’re driving in Haiti’s provinces. Thus, you must know the speed limits beforehand. If there are speed limit signs present, all you’d have to do is follow them. Using KpH over MpH shouldn’t be the top of your worries when driving. Instead, be sure to stay alert and vigilant since many drivers are reckless and roads are in poor condition.

Is it Safe to Drive at Night?

If you’re not used to driving in Haiti, it’s best not to drive at night. Many roads are unlit, and plenty of locals drive without using their headlights, so expect to see motorcycles, cars, and trucks operating even with minimal to zero lighting. It’s also common to encounter pedestrians in the middle of unlit roads. So to avoid all forms of accidents, avoid driving at night.

Things To Do in Haiti

It’s very crucial to know all the important documents you’d need to settle down in Haiti. Whether it be for work purposes or not, a residence permit is important to validate your stay in the country. A driver’s license is also essential if you have a private vehicle since public transport is generally unsafe. Continue reading to know about the residence permit and driver’s license in Haiti and how to get one.

Drive as a Tourist

Driving in Haiti is no joke. You’re faced with crowded highways, reckless drivers, and many road hazards. Nevertheless, you must still try to be a responsible driver. Make sure to bring your driver's license, IDP, and rental car documents before getting behind the wheel. If you don’t have an IDP yet, you can get one from the International Driver’s Association.

IDA issues international driver’s licenses that are accepted in over 150 countries and translated into 12 languages. Your IDP does not serve as an official document that permits you to drive.

However, an IDP clears up miscommunications and bridges language barriers with officials who might have a problem with your license. If any of these authorities don’t understand your license or need further verification in a different language, they can always check your IDP for confirmation.

Work as a Driver

You can work as a driver in Haiti, but you would need a Haitian driver’s license. Public transportation is not the safest mode of travel, nor is it the driving job most people choose. So you can opt for delivery or even personal driving jobs instead.

Work as a Travel Guide

If you wish to be a travel guide in Haiti, know that it is so much more than being proficient in Haitian history and culture. You will serve as a translator for the tourists and ensure that they have no issues with their stay in the country. Some of the requirements to becoming a tour guide in Haiti include:

  • Proficiency in one or more foreign languages
  • No particular certification; however, a degree in tourism greatly helps

*A BS tourism and management certificate will allow you to obtain a regional tourist guide card after two years

*A degree in geography, history, arts, or foreign language can also help you get the position

  • National Guide-Interpreter Diploma

*This increases your chances of getting hired

Before looking for work, note that job openings for tour guides are very few in Haiti. This is all because of the tourist influx, which is relatively low in the country. Full-time travel guides are rare, and there is no real career development in this field. So make sure to think about the long term before applying as a tour guide.

Apply for Residency

Although Haiti is a country foreigners generally don’t relocate to, there are still travelers and humanitarians who decide to settle down there. Before you move to Haiti, you would first need a residence permit, and here are all the things you need to know when applying for residency in Haiti.

Applying for a Residence Permit

Moving to Haiti isn’t something most people would consider. Still, humanitarians and other travelers who have fallen in love with Haiti may get a residence permit if they wish to relocate to the country. The documents you’d need to obtain a residence permit are as follows:

  • Letter of request to the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration

*The letter must state the reasons for the request

  • Scanned biographical page of your passport
  • Scanned signed contract or a letter from your employer
  • Medical certificate not older than 30 days
  • Two passport-sized photographs
  • Scanned boarding pass from your last return to the country
  • Birth certificate (a French translation is required)
  • Bank certificate from a Haitian bank
  • Criminal record from your country of origin
  • Proof of payment of 5,000 gourdes

Before your application gets approved, an interview will also be conducted, and your fingerprints will be recorded. The Haitian residence permit, or permis de séjour, will be in the form of a booklet; it should also be renewed annually. It should also be registered at the local police station in the town or city you’ll be residing.

Renewal of a Residence Permit

As mentioned, a residence must be renewed annually. A renewal fee that hasn’t been paid between October 1 to October 30 will have a surcharge with a 10% increase each month. This fee will be paid to the General Tax Administration, and a failure to comply will result in proper security measures against the foreigner. There is an exception for diplomats or consuls and their families, clergies, and foreigners working for the Haitian government.

Other Things to Do

It’s not easy living in Haiti, and most people that reside in the country are usually there for volunteer work. No matter your reasons for relocation to Haiti, it’s always essential to know how to obtain important documents, particularly driver’s licenses. Make sure not to skip this guide if you want to learn how to get one.

How Do I Apply for a License?

Although only a small percentage of Haitians own vehicles, it’s still important that you have your own, especially since public transport isn’t generally safe. However, before you get to drive, you must first have a driver’s license. Here’s all you need to know, from types of licenses to how to apply for one.

What are the Types of Licenses in Haiti?

The Haitian Traffic Code established by the Vehicular Traffic Decree of 2006 states five types of licenses. They are:

  • Type A - for vehicles that weigh <3,500 kg

*Shall not be issued to minors below 16 years old without the permission of their authority; costs 500 gourdes

  • Type B - for vehicles with or without trailer that weighs >3,500 kg

*Shall not be issued to minors; costs 500 gourdes

  • Type C - for motorcycles without a sidecar

*Shall not be issued to minors below 15 years old; costs 500 gourdes

  • Type D - for animal-powered vehicles

*Costs 100 gourdes

  • Type E - for heavy machinery like bulldozers, loaders, and excavators

*Shall not be issued to minors; costs 500 gourdes

How Do I Apply for a Haitian Driver’s License?

When applying for a driver’s license, the applicants must be able to provide the following documents:

  • National identification card
  • Medical certificate for hearing and vision
  • Written authorization from parents or guardians for applicants who are minors
  • Tax registration number

If you wish to learn how to drive, you must have authorization from the police, and a license will be granted for three months. It can be renewed at the request of driving instructors in accredited Haitian driving schools. To get this type of permit, you must have the following:

  • Medical certificate for hearing and vision
  • National identification card
  • Tax registration number
  • Written authorization from parents if the applicant is a minor

In order to get a license, applicants are also required to pass a theoretical and practical driving exam. Candidates should first enroll in a driving school and score 17 out of 25 points on a written exam to have a driving permit. Obtaining a driver’s permit also allows the applicant to finally take the practical exam.

How Do I Renew a Haitian Driver’s License?

A Haitian driver’s license must be renewed every five years, and you may be required to undergo a test if deemed necessary. If the office has found any anomalies or decides you are unfit, your driver’s license will not be renewed.

Top Destinations in Haiti

Road tripping in Haiti is the best way to get around. From fortresses and ruins to waterfalls and white-sand beaches. The best way to get around would be by driving in Haiti. The regions are all connected by land, so if you want to spend more time on the road, road tripping is definitely for you. Here are some of the best tourist destinations you shouldn’t miss if you’d visit Haiti.

Bassin Bleu

Bassin Bleu

Hidden in the mountains 12 km northwest of Jacmel is Bassin Bleu, where waterfalls link together three pools. The crystal clear pools attract many local tourists, and kids can be seen jumping from rocks towering above the waters. A local guide can help you reach the site, as the path going to Bassin Bleu is quite uneven.

Among the three pools (Bassin Clair, Bassin Bassin Bleu, and Bassin Palmiste), Bassin Clair, which is nestled at the bottom of the waterfall, is known to be the most beautiful. With stunning greenery surrounding the area, Bassin Bleu is the perfect getaway from Haiti’s crowded streets.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Port-au-Prince, you can fly to Jacmel to drive to your destination quickly. From Aéroport de Jacmel JAK, head southwest and turn right onto RD 41/Route Départmentale 41.
  2. Turn right onto Ave De La Liberte and continue to follow Route de L'amitié.
  3. Then make a left turn twice.
  4. Continue straight.
  5. Turn left twice, and then make three right turns.

Things to Do

Bassin Bleu is one of Haiti’s top attractions, especially since it looks like an oasis. Here are some fun things you can do if you’re planning to swim in its waters.

1. Explore the Bassins

Before doing further activities like diving, make sure to explore the area and see the Bassins (and the falls!) for yourself. Take your time in admiring their striking color, as well as taking in the jungle-like ambiance the place gives off. If you are staying there for a longer period, note that guests could stay at tables and seating areas to relax or have a meal.

2. Swim in the Cobalt-Blue Pools

There’s no better way to spend your time in Bassin Bleu besides swimming and reveling in the crystal blue waters. Visitors might get taken aback by how vibrant the hue of the pools are, but don’t worry, as they are completely safe to wade in.

3. Jump and Slide Down Natural Water Slides

Those who want a little more thrill can have a water park experience at the Bassins, albeit more natural than the man-made parks. Visitors can jump off the high points around the pools or slide down the natural slides for a more adrenaline-induced activity.

Citadelle Laferrière

If you think you can’t find stunning castles in countries like Haiti, then you’re completely wrong. The Citadelle Laferrière was a fortress built in the late 19th century right after Haiti was finally independent of France. Built on top of the mountain, the Citadelle appears imposing; this serves its purpose since it was created to be a safe space if the French decide to attack.

Although the French never returned, the fortress still sits atop with its architecture intact and cannons in place. Citadelle Laferrière is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the top tourist destination in Haiti. So make sure to drop by and visit one of the most majestic historical structures you can find in the country.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Toussaint Louverture International Airport, head west, then take the 2nd exit at the roundabout.
  2. Continue driving from Boulevard Toussaint Louverture onto Rue Flerio.
  3. Make a right, a left, and then another right onto RN8.
  4. Turn left onto Rue Grande Plaine.
  5. Turn left onto RD-303.
  6. Make a slight right onto Route Nationale #3.
  7. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit.
  8. At the next roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Route Nationale #3.
  9. At the following roundabout, take the 1st exit and stay on Route Nationale #3.
  10. Make a slight left twice.
  11. Turn left onto Route Nationale #3 and then turn right.
  12. Turn left and then turn right.
  13. Make a slight left, then turn right.
  14. Turn right onto Route Nationale #3.
  15. Turn left twice and then keep right.
  16. Turn right, and your destination will be on the right.

Things to Do

People who aren’t aware of Haiti’s history would be surprised to know that a citadel exists. Citadelle Laferrière is a stunning fortress that travelers can explore, and here is a list of the most fun activities you can do when you’re visiting the structure.

1. Tour Around the Ruins

Of course, one way to explore and know the Citadelle’s history is by joining a guided tour of the place. Walk along the stone-paved trails and climb up the staircases to see and experience not only the heritage site itself but the vast landscape around it as well.

2. Go Horseback Riding

At some point, reaching the final part of the trail may require the help of a vehicle. However, visitors can go horseback riding for a more fun alternative. But if you’re active and into trekking, then feel free to see the end of the trail by foot.

3. Take Snaps of the Stunning Scenery

Citadelle Laferrière isn’t a museum wherein you’re most probably prohibited from taking photos. With the stunning architecture coupled with the beautiful landscape, it would be impossible not to take out your camera or phone and take a snap of the place.

Kokoye Beach-Haiti photo by Chor Tsang

Kokoye Beach

The Caribbean is known for its beaches, and Haiti is no different. One of the best beaches in the country is Kokoye Beach, which is found on the southern coast of Haiti; the white sand and turquoise waters make it the perfect tropical getaway if you want a taste of summer at any time of the year.

The beach is also a popular spot for tourists who want to escape the bustling city, especially since visitors can do various activities. Those who want to revel in the ocean can go swimming and snorkeling; on the other hand, those who want to relax on land can enjoy some drinks or go glamping (glamorous camping) to experience the Haitian wilderness.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture, head west.
  2. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit, then continue onto Boulevard Toussaint Louverture and keep right.
  3. Make a slight right onto Boulevard Toussaint Louverture.
  4. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Boulevard Toussaint Louverture.
  5. Turn right onto Ave Haile Selassie.
  6. Then make a right turn at Delmas 2.
  7. Turn left onto Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
  8. Turn right onto Route de Delmas.
  9. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Boulevard La Saline.
  10. At the next roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Boulevard Harry Truman and continue onto Route Nationale 2.
  11. Make a slight right onto Route Des Rails.
  12. Continue on Route Nationale 2 and onto Route Des Rails. (Take note that Route Des Rails turns slightly right and becomes Route Nationale 2.)
  13. Turn right.

Things to Do

Haiti may not be a popular destination to visit, but it still has some beautiful beaches. Here are some things visitors can do while they’re staying at the gorgeous Kokoye Beach.

1. Try Out Glamping

Glamping or “glamorous camping” is a new way for travelers to experience nature. Instead of sleeping in the usual cramped tent or booking a room in luxury resorts, you can have a unique mix of the two through Glamping.

2. Go Stargazing at Night

Having a cloudless night sky is the perfect time to go stargazing in Kokoye Beach. It’s a bonus if you’re out glamping as well, since you have easy access to the open area. If you’re an astronomy enthusiast, don’t forget a pair of binoculars or a telescope for a clearer view of the sky.

3. Have a Feast by the Beach Side

Visiting Kokoye Beach won’t be complete if you don’t have a taste of their mouth-watering Haitian cuisine. What’s even better is their fresh seafood and farm produce that are immediately incorporated into their dishes.

Explore the Caves

If you want a more adventurous activity within the area, you can explore the caves on the north end of the beach. But do know that it would be better to visit them if you’re a proficient swimmer, as it would take a 15 to 20-minute swim to reach the caves.

Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien

Learn more about Haiti’s history by visiting Musée du Panthéon National. The museum is home to multiple exhibitions of Haiti’s past, chronicling its era of slavery, independence, and modernization. Some artifacts you’d see in the museum include Taíno pottery, the very pistol King Henri used to take his own life, and even Emperor Faustin’s crown.

It’s important to immerse yourself in the history and culture of a country you’re visiting, so make sure to drop by Musée du Panthéon when you go to Haiti. It’s one of the best places to know more about Haiti and how it became the nation it is today.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture, head west.
  2. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit.
  3. Drive straight, then keep right to continue Boulevard Toussaint Louverture.
  4. Make a slight right.
  5. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Boulevard Toussaint Louverture.
  6. Turn right onto Ave Haile Selassie.
  7. Turn left onto Delmas 2.
  8. Turn left onto Rue Saint-Martin, then turn right to continue onto Delmas 2.
  9. Turn left onto Rue des Frontis Fortis.
  10. Turn right onto Rue Montalais.
  11. Turn right toward Ave de la Liberte.
  12. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto Ave de la Liberte, then make a slight left onto Avenue de la République.
  13. Turn right onto Ave de la Liberte. Your destination will be on the right.

Things to Do

Getting to know a country’s culture and history is something tourists should always do. So if you’re visiting Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien, make sure not to skip some of these activities.

1. Take a Look at the Exhibit

Since you’re visiting a museum, one of the top things to do is definitely pay attention and know about the artifacts on display. Since not only are you learning about Haiti’s history, but its culture and heritage as well.

2. Take Some Photos of its Unique Architecture

Before you leave the museum, make sure to take some photos of its unique facade. Haiti’s original Taíno inhabitants inspired the architecture, so if you want a keepsake of a mishmash of Haiti’s past and present, go ahead and take as many photos as you want.

3. Visit the Tombs of Haiti’s Founding Fathers

Aside from the artifacts on display, guests can visit the mausoleum that holds Haiti’s founding fathers’ bodies. Some may think it’s a slightly morbid and macabre attraction, but do know that Haitians are proud to display the tombs of the people they consider their heroes.

Saut-Mathurine-Haiti photo by Anthony Rosset

Saut-Mathurine

Saut-Marthurine is one of the hidden gems on the south coast of Haiti. It is the largest waterfall in the country, and tourists can revel in the beauty of the waters as they run through a ravine and cascade into the crystal clear pool below.

Half of the pool can be accessed by tourists, while the other half is filled with jagged rocks, mossy floors, and lush jungle vegetation, giving off a prehistoric vibe. Rapids also form at the far end of the waterfall and continue down the ravine.

Since Les Cayes is one of the cities that visitors don’t usually go to, Saut-Mathurine remains to be one country’s undiscovered gems. So don’t hesitate to visit the majestic waterfalls and experience one of Haiti’s natural wonders.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Port-au-Prince, you can fly to Les Cayes to drive to your destination quickly. From Antoine-Simon Airport, head southwest and turn right onto Ave Des Quatre Chemins.
  2. At the roundabout, continue straight onto Ave Des Quatre Chemins/HT-7.
  3. Drive onto Route Nationale 7/RN7 and continue onto HT-7.
  4. Turn right.
  5. Then make two left turns.

Things to Do

Saut-Mathurine is a stunning waterfall in Haiti that is also used for electricity, besides serving as a tourist attraction. Here is a list of things to do when visiting the falls.

1. Take a Dip in the Waters

Besides viewing the falls, if you feel like swimming, you can go to the accessible side of the Saut-Mathurine and wade in the clear blue waters. Don’t forget to bring swimwear and brace yourself once you get in, as the pool can be quite cold even when it’s sunny.

2. Have a Meal at the Restaurant

Are you feeling hungry? Don’t worry since there’s a restaurant on site. Suppose you haven’t packed any food and drinks. You can head to the restaurant to grab a meal. Remember, you’ll need all the energy you can get, especially if you plan to go back for a swim.

3. Buy Some Local Crafts

If you think that pictures in Saut-Mathurine aren’t enough keepsakes, you can visit the boutique that sells local crafts. Not only are you getting yourself a souvenir, but you’re helping local businesses in the country as well.

If you want to enjoy driving towards these road trip destinations without ever being stopped by law officials, securing your IDP will help. So, if you don’t have one yet, you can always apply for one from the International Drivers’ Association website and get your printed copy within 30 days and a couple of hours for the digital copy.

Suppose you want to receive the latter within 20 minutes; you may top up your payment with $30.

Get your International Driving Permit in 2 hours

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