Special Travel Circumstances in Haiti

The official currency of Haiti is the gourde, which has a variable exchange rate. Visitors will notice that most establishments in Haiti price items in an unofficial currency known as the “Haitian dollar.” (One Haitian dollar is equivalent to five gourdes.) Others give prices in gourdes or even in U.S. dollars. It is always a good idea to clarify with vendors which currency -- the gourde, Haitian dollar, or U.S. dollar -- is being used in a given transaction, as price tags often bear a number without indicating currency. The currency itself shows a value in gourdes. U.S. dollars are the currency of choice at the Labadee Beach cruise ship port-of-call.

Travelers' checks are often difficult to change in Haiti, but credit cards are widely accepted and some establishments accept or cash personal checks. At least one local bank chain has ATMs around Port-au-Prince that are compatible with some U.S. ATM cards. These ATMs are frequently out-of-order, and there have been reports of overcharging and robberies at the ATMs.

Haiti, like most Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes and other storms. Hurricane season runs from approximately June 1 - November 30 each year. In August 2012, Hurricane Isaac swept through southern Haiti causing flash flooding, and in October 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit. The combination of drought and hurricanes destroyed many crops in 2012 contributing to food security issues. The Government of Haiti led a professional and organized response during and following Hurricane Sandy. Nevertheless, the lack of infrastructure and rescue services, combined with impassable roads and bridges, hindered rescue and relief efforts.

Daily weather information in Haiti is available from national and international media. The Haitian meteorological service provides hurricane warnings via national radio. Most information local media broadcast only in Kreyol and/or French. Warnings are also available on the internet from many sources, one of which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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