Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Haiti, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Haiti is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Most of the main roads have been cleared of rubble following the January 2010 earthquake, although some rubble might remain in certain areas and impact traffic. A few roads remain impassable due to damage from the earthquake. People regularly walk on the side of the road and street-side vendors ply their wares on the existing sidewalks. Small animals (pigs, dogs, goats) are often encountered in the city and larger ones (cows and donkeys) will unexpectedly cross country roads. Cars are supposed to be driven on the right side of the road in Haiti, but few roads have lane indicators and drivers use whichever side of the road is open to them. Traffic is extremely congested in urban areas, and hours-long traffic jams develop throughout the country.
Driving in Haiti must be undertaken with extreme caution. Traffic is usually chaotic; those with no knowledge of Haitian roads and traffic customs should hire a driver through a local tour operator or hotel. Roads are generally unmarked, and detailed and accurate maps are not widely available. Lanes are not marked and signs indicating the direction of traffic flow seldom exist. Huge potholes may cause drivers to execute unpredictable and dangerous maneuvers in heavy traffic. The Haitian government lacks adequate resources to assist drivers in distress or to clear the road of accidents or broken-down vehicles blocking the flow of traffic. While drinking and driving is illegal in Haiti, people frequently drive after drinking, especially at night.
Public transportation in Haiti consists primarily of “tap-taps” that run regular routes within urban areas and between towns in the countryside. A handful of public buses exist in the capital. Neither is considered reliable nor safe. Regular marked taxis are nonexistent. We strongly discourage the use of “tap-taps,” public buses, and taxis. They pose the risk of vehicular accident - “tap-taps” in particular are hazardous because they are open and passengers are often ejected during an accident – and have been the site of numerous robberies and kidnappings in the past.
Never ride in open vehicles that lack seatbelts or on motorbikes without helmets. If you are visiting Haiti, to assist in humanitarian projects, you should confirm that your sponsoring organization has arranged to provide safe, reliable transportation during your stay. U.S. citizens have suffered life-threatening injuries and some have been killed after being thrown from open vehicles or motorbikes in accidents in Haiti. Those who drive in Haiti should do so defensively and conservatively, should avoid confrontations such as jockeying for position, and remain aware of the vehicles around them. Drivers should carry the phone numbers of people to call for assistance in an emergency, as Haitian authorities are unlikely to respond to requests for assistance. When traveling outside of Port-au-Prince, drivers should caravan with other vehicles to avoid being stranded in the event of an accident or breakdown.
Although Haitian law requires that applicants pass both a written and a driving test to qualify for a driver’s license, many Haitian drivers appear unaware of traffic laws. Signaling imminent actions is not widely practiced and not all drivers use turn indicators or international hand signals properly. For instance, many drivers use their left blinker for all actions, including turning right and stopping in the road, and others flap their left arm out the window to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Drivers do not always verify that the road is clear before switching lanes, turning, or merging. When making a left-hand turn, drivers should be aware that traffic may pass on the left while they are attempting to turn. This is legal in Haiti. The driver passing on the left has the right of way even when the car being overtaken has its left-hand turn signal on and is attempting to turn left.
Speed limits are seldom posted and are generally ignored. Speeding is the cause of many fatal traffic accidents in Haiti, as are overloaded vehicles on winding, mountainous roads and vehicles without brakes. Poor maintenance and mechanical failures often cause accidents as well. Drivers should be particularly cautious at night, as unlighted vehicles can appear without warning.
Right of way is not widely observed in Haiti, and there are few operational traffic lights or traffic signs. It is advisable at most intersections to stop and verify that there is no oncoming traffic even if it appears that you have the right of way. Drivers can be quite aggressive and will seldom yield. Walls built to the edge of roads frequently make it impossible to see around corners, forcing drivers to edge their cars into the road at intersections to check for oncoming traffic.
In addition to vehicles, a variety of other objects may appear on the road in Haiti, such as wooden carts dragged by people or animals, small ice cream carts, animals, mechanics working on vehicles parked on the street, and vendors and their wares. Haiti’s unwritten rule of the road is that any vehicle that breaks down, must be left exactly where it stopped until it can be repaired, even if it creates an enormous backup of traffic. Cars often remain in the roadway for hours or days while often extensive repairs are carried out in-situ. Vehicles are often abandoned in the road or by the side of the road. These are often identified by tree branches extending from the rear of the vehicle. There are few marked crosswalks and sidewalks, and pedestrians often wend their way through traffic in urban areas. Additionally, motorcycles on Haitian roads tend to maneuver in between traffic on both the left and right sides of vehicles, as well as into on-coming traffic. Drivers should check all their rear view mirrors prior to changing lanes or making turns to avoid colliding with other traffic.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.