You know that feeling you get when you are forced to give a speech in front of a large audience? The wobbly knees. The slightly (hopefully) shaking hands. Then the feeling you get afterwards knowing it is over and wasn’t as bad as you thought, if not maybe a tad bit exhilarating. That was the feeling I had almost every second I was outside of my hotel room on my 2015 backpack trip to Haiti.
You have been told that if you just act confident, like you are supposed to be there, and pretend you know what you are doing, nobody will notice (and they probably don’t) your wobbly knees and shaking hands. That’s probably true, but it doesn’t make the experience any less terrifying.
Haiti was hard. At least it was for me. Back in 2015 I chose to go to Haiti for my first international solo travel experience. At this point in my life I had not travelled widely outside of the U.S. I had been to Canada on multiple occasions, and Mexico several times, although always with friends or family.
First International Solo Trip
In the Spring of 2015 I was unemployed for several months. I left a job I had had for over 7 years. I wanted to get out of the country and go do something exciting, but I was low on money. Using the search on Skyscanner to rank plane tickets by price I found that I could fly round-trip to Haiti for just a little over $400, what a deal!
Having no idea what was going on in Haiti until I did a little research. The country is poor, the average income is less than a dollar a day. But it turns out Haiti is also full of amazing beaches, nature, and architecture. The largest castle in the western hemisphere is in Haiti!
It would have been easy to hire a tour guide. It would have been easy to pay for an American style hotel. I didn’t have a lot of money to work with I wanted an authentic experience. I wanted to stay in a Haitian hotel, eat Haitian food and travel using public transportation.
My trip was only 9 days and I wanted to make the most of my time in Haiti. I had a pretty ambitious schedule while also padding my days with plenty of extra time to account for any delays or mishaps.
Getting Around Haiti
Getting around Haiti was the most challenging part of my trip. I don’t speak French, or Haitian Creole, and outside of the tourist areas, not many Haitians speak English. In fact there aren’t even very many “tourist areas” to begin with.
The map I brought was next to useless, none of the streets have names, and especially in the capital Port Au Prince, nothing looked like it did on the map. It was 5 years after the major earthquake that destroyed much of the city but everything was still rubble. After wandering around for an hour I finally hired a local “guide” to help show me around the city.
Walking in Haiti is probably the least efficient way to get around. Thankfully a white American standing around looking stupid on the streets of Haiti is a bit unusual. I could literally stand on almost any street for less than a minute and the ubiquitous moto drivers would pull up and offer me a ride. Slightly terrifying swerving through traffic in a large city, but a cheap and fast way to get where you need to go!
I will delve more into the transportation issue in Haiti, with some maps and a good explanation of how to get around. Haiti is a challenging country and anybody that is planning on going on a trip there should take the time to read up on how to get around. Check back for more Haiti articles soon! If you are planning a trip consider some of my other Haiti articles.