Language: Haitian Créole (Kreyòl) and French. French is typically only spoken in government and business.
Currency: Haitian Gourde (HTG) and United States Dollar (USD).
Appropriate Dress: Haitians tend to wear Western-style clothing. For women, try to avoid wearing short shorts and form-fitting clothing like tight tank tops and leggings. Should you wear any yoga/workout style leggings, simply tie a flannel or jacket around your waist to cover up. Loose, finger-tip length shorts are fine to wear. When you are attending a church service, it is highly recommended to wear a skirt or dress (below the knees) and to have sleeves on whatever you wear. For men, you will most likely get too hot in any pair of jeans. REI has an exhaustive list of options for cargo pants, convertible pants, and shorts for daily wear. T-shirts work great, but try to avoid wearing any tank tops, cut-off shirts, or shirts with offensive slogans. For church service, a collared shirt is great matched with long pants and nice shoes (no flip-flops or sandals.) Business attire is also recommended if it isn't too hot.
Food:Rice, beans, corn, meats (mostly pork as well as chicken, goat, and seafood), eggplants, sweet potatoes, and lots of fruits are typical foods used in Haitian meals. Expect most of your food to be a bit spicy. It's important to bring small snacks with you. Make sure the food you are eating is properly washed and cooked as cholera can be spread by kitchen utensils and foods being cleaned with contaminated water. It's important to listen to your body in this time as well as it will be adjusting to the diet change!
Weather: Spring and autumn are typically the more rainy seasons in Haiti. Winter and summer are always dry, July being the driest month in the summer. It is cooler in the mountainous areas of Haiti while Port Au Prince is generally around 80-90 degrees fahrenheit. Because it's in the Caribbean, expect humidity!
Transportation: Depending on the organization you are traveling with, there is a likely chance you will be walking a lot. Around town you will see buses, taxis, mopeds/motorbikes, and 'tap taps' which carry about a dozen people.
Cultural Norms: It's considerate to acknowledge each individual as you walk in a room. You can shake a hand, kiss a cheek, or give a hug. A standard greeting is "Bonjou, kouman ou ye?" (Good morning, how are you?) You will most likely be meeting a lot of people! Ask "Koman ou rele?" which translates to "What is your name?" A few general responses you could use are "bon bagay" (good thing) or "bél" (beautiful). Clicking of the tongue is considered impolite and is a sign of protest/disgust, be careful not to do it!
Health Information: Immunizations include, but are not limited to: Typhoid, Hepatitis A series, Hepatitis B series, Rabies, Routine (especially tetanus), Malaria preventative. An anti-diarrehal medicine is recommended as well as bug repellant to avoid bug bites (particularly mosquito). Read more information at cdc.gov.
Airport Customs: There is a $10 fee you must pay as you enter the airport in Port Au Prince. Make sure you pack a $10 bill in your carry on! It's very important to keep a photocopy of your passport as well.
Gifts: Be cautious when giving gifts to people.Small treats and toys are okay to give to children, only if you have enough to equally go around. If you have a specific gift for one person, try to give it discreetly or in private.
Important Gear To Pack:
-Hat with brim
-A roll of toilet paper (toss it, don't flush it)
-A couple dozen single serve Gatorade powder packets (life saving!)
-Small container of hand sanitizer
-Poncho with hood
-Anti-bacterial wet wipes/body wipes
-A Camelbak/Contigo/ or Nalgene water bottle to store clean, filtered water
-Small flashlight -Small battery-powered fan (if accommodations don't have A/C)
-Small first aid kit
Current Travel Advisory: The U.S. Embassy issued a Travel Warning on January 11th, 2016 in light of the current presidential elections. More information can be found here.
Important Reminders: Don't drink any tap water (be attentive to this when showering/washing face). Don't rinse your toothbrush/retainer with anything except purified bottled water. Make sure the food you are consuming has been properly prepared. Be frugal with clean water and electricity. These resources are precious to Haiti!
Keep safe and follow these tips to have a great, healthy trip in Haiti!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!