Your Ultimate Port-au-Prince Travel Guide 2023
Are you looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure? Then a visit to Port-au-Prince, Haiti is just the ticket. Located on the Caribbean coast, the city of Port-au-Prince offers a unique blend of history, culture and natural beauty. From exploring historic monuments to sampling local cuisine, this vibrant city has something for everyone. To help you make the most of your stay, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to visiting Port-au-Prince. You may also want to check out our Havana travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Port-au-Prince
- Visit The National Palace: The National Palace was once the residence of the Haitian President and is a stunning architectural landmark. Although it was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake, you can still admire its grandeur and historical significance.
- Explore The Iron Market: The Iron Market is a bustling marketplace with vibrant stalls selling a wide range of goods, from handicrafts to spices and fresh produce. It’s an excellent place to pick up souvenirs and immerse yourself in the local culture.
- Admire The Art At The Musée Du Panthéon National Haïtien: The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien houses an impressive collection of Haitian art and artifacts, providing an excellent insight into the country’s history and culture.
- Stroll Through The Champ De Mars: The Champ de Mars is a large public park that offers stunning views of Port-au-Prince. You can also find a variety of food vendors and performers, making it an excellent spot to relax and soak up the local atmosphere.
- Hike To The Fort Jacques: Fort Jacques is an 18th-century fort that offers incredible views of the city and its surroundings. Although the hike up can be steep, the breathtaking views at the top make it all worth it. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to see some of the country’s fascinating history.
Where To Stay In Port-au-Prince
- Pétionville: This is the most popular neighborhood for tourists and expats, with many hotels, restaurants, and shops. Pétionville offers a more upscale and modern experience than other parts of the city.
- Delmas: This is a residential neighborhood that is becoming increasingly popular for travelers due to its proximity to the airport. It offers a more local feel and a chance to immerse oneself in Haitian culture.
- Tabarre: This is another residential neighborhood with a mix of local and expat residents. It has many modern amenities and is home to many NGOs and businesses.
- Turgeau: This neighborhood is centrally located and offers a mix of residential and commercial areas. It is a popular choice for those who want easy access to downtown Port-au-Prince.
- Canapé Vert: This neighborhood is known for its green spaces and tree-lined streets. It is also home to some upscale hotels and restaurants.
Top Port-au-Prince Hotels
- Karibe Hotel: This luxurious hotel boasts a spa, fitness center, and several outdoor swimming pools. The rooms are spacious and elegantly furnished, with balconies that offer stunning views of the city. Karibe Hotel is located in the upscale neighborhood of Petion-Ville, where you’ll find many restaurants and boutiques.
- NH Haiti El Rancho: This modern hotel features a restaurant, bar, and a rooftop terrace that overlooks the city. The rooms are bright and comfortable, with contemporary furnishings and all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. NH Haiti El Rancho is located in the residential area of Pacot, close to several attractions and landmarks.
- Royal Oasis: This five-star hotel is one of the most luxurious properties in Port-au-Prince. It features an outdoor pool, a casino, and a spa that offers a range of treatments. The rooms are spacious and elegantly decorated, with marble bathrooms and plush bedding. Royal Oasis is located in the heart of Petion-Ville, where you’ll find many shops, restaurants, and nightlife options.
- Le Plaza Hotel: This historic hotel dates back to the 1950s and has been recently renovated to offer modern amenities and facilities. It features a restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool, as well as a fitness center and business center. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, with classic decor and all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. Le Plaza Hotel is located in the downtown area, close to several museums and cultural sites.
- Palm Inn Hotel: This budget-friendly hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms, with basic amenities and facilities. It features a restaurant and bar, as well as a small outdoor pool. The rooms are simple and functional, with comfortable beds and clean bathrooms. Palm Inn Hotel is located in the residential area of Delmas, close to several shops and restaurants.
Where To Eat In Port-au-Prince
One of the best things about traveling to a new city is getting to experience the local cuisine, and Port-au-Prince is no exception. From traditional Haitian dishes to international fare, there is something to please everyone’s palate in this vibrant city. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Port-au-Prince:
- La Belle Epoque: This charming restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century mansion and serves up French-inspired Haitian cuisine. Diners can enjoy a candlelit dinner on the patio or sip cocktails in the elegant bar.
- Magdoos: If you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern cuisine, head to Magdoos. This cozy restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, serving up delicious kebabs, hummus, and falafel.
- La Souvenance: For a true taste of Haitian culture, visit La Souvenance. This restaurant is known for its traditional Haitian dishes like griot (marinated pork), fried plantains, and akra (fritters made with cassava).
- Le Coq d’Or: This popular restaurant is a great spot for a casual meal or a night out with friends. The menu features a mix of Haitian and international dishes, and the lively atmosphere is perfect for soaking up the local culture.
- Boukan Guinguette: If you’re looking for a laid-back spot with a great view, head to Boukan Guinguette. This waterfront restaurant serves up fresh seafood and has a relaxed vibe that’s perfect for watching the sunset over the water.
No matter where you choose to eat in Port-au-Prince, be sure to try some of the local specialties like pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables) and Haitian coffee. Bon appétit!
How To Get Around Port-au-Prince
Getting around Port-au-Prince can be challenging for visitors, but there are several ways to navigate the city.
- Taxis: Taxis are readily available throughout the city, but be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi. Always use taxis that have a meter, or agree on a price before getting in.
- Tap Taps: Tap Taps are the most popular and affordable method of public transportation in Port-au-Prince. These are brightly painted, overcrowded vans that follow set routes around the city. Be prepared for a tight squeeze, and make sure to flag down the right Tap Tap for your destination.
- Motorcycle Taxis: Motorcycle taxis, known as moto-taxis, are also a popular way to get around the city. These can be found at most street corners, and are particularly useful for navigating through traffic-clogged streets.
- Car Rental: If you’re planning on exploring outside of Port-au-Prince, renting a car may be the best option. However, driving in Haiti can be challenging and chaotic, so be sure to drive defensively and keep your wits about you.
- Walking: Walking is always an option in Port-au-Prince, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and stick to well-lit areas. The streets can be crowded and uneven, so comfortable shoes are a must.
No matter how you choose to get around, always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Petty crime is a common occurrence in Port-au-Prince, so keep your valuables close and avoid travelling alone at night.
If you’re planning a trip to Port-au-Prince, it’s important to know what kind of weather to expect. The city has a tropical climate, which means it’s generally hot and humid year-round. However, there are some variations in temperature and rainfall depending on the season.
- Spring (March – May): Spring is a great time to visit Port-au-Prince as the weather is mild and pleasant. Temperatures typically range from 25°C to 29°C (77°F to 84°F) with lower humidity levels than in the summer. There is also less rainfall during this time of year, so you’ll be able to enjoy outdoor activities without having to worry about getting drenched.
- Summer (June – August): Summer is the hottest and most humid time of year in Port-au-Prince, with temperatures often reaching 32°C (90°F) or higher. Rainfall is also more frequent during this season, so be sure to bring waterproof gear if you plan on spending time outdoors. Despite the heat and humidity, summer can be a great time to visit if you don’t mind the weather conditions.
- Fall (September – November): Fall in Port-au-Prince is still warm and humid, but temperatures begin to cool off slightly and rainfall decreases. Average temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F), making it a comfortable time of year to explore the city. However, it’s important to note that hurricane season is at its peak during the fall, so be sure to stay informed about any potential weather threats.
- Winter (December – February): Winter is the driest time of year in Port-au-Prince, with lower humidity levels and little rainfall. Temperatures typically range from 22°C to 27°C (72°F to 81°F), making it a comfortable time of year to visit if you prefer cooler weather. However, be aware that winter can be a busy time for tourism in Haiti, so prices for accommodations and flights may be higher than in other seasons.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Port-au-Prince, be prepared for warm temperatures and high humidity levels. Bring lightweight, breathable clothing and plenty of sunscreen, and don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. With a little planning and preparation, you’ll be able to enjoy all that this vibrant city has to offer regardless of the weather conditions.
Best Time To Visit Port-au-Prince
When planning a trip to Port-au-Prince, it is important to consider the best time to visit. The city has a tropical climate, which means it can be quite warm and humid throughout the year. However, there are some months that are better for visiting than others. The best time to visit Port-au-Prince is between November and March. During this time, the weather is typically cooler and drier, making it easier to explore the city. Additionally, this period falls outside of the hurricane season, which can sometimes affect the Caribbean from June to November.
If you are looking for a more budget-friendly time to visit Port-au-Prince, consider visiting during the low season from April to October. Although the weather may be slightly hotter and wetter, this is when you can find the best deals on accommodation and flights.
It is worth noting that Port-au-Prince is a busy city and there are many festivals and events throughout the year. Some of the most popular events include the Carnival celebrations in February or March and the Independence Day celebrations in January. If you plan on visiting during these times, be prepared for large crowds and higher prices. Overall, the best time to visit Port-au-Prince depends on your personal preferences and travel plans. No matter when you choose to visit, you are sure to be enchanted by the vibrant culture and warm hospitality of the Haitian people.
How To Stay Safe In Port-au-Prince
Port-au-Prince has a reputation for being a dangerous city, but there are ways to stay safe while visiting. Here are some tips:
- Stay Aware Of Your Surroundings: It’s important to be alert at all times and stay aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone at night, and don’t wander into unfamiliar areas.
- Keep Valuables Out Of Sight: Thieves target tourists, so keep your valuables out of sight. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or carry large amounts of cash.
- Use Taxis Or Private Transportation: Use taxis or private transportation arranged by your hotel or tour company. Don’t hail taxis on the street.
- Stick To Well-Lit Areas: If you do need to walk around at night, stick to well-lit areas and be aware of any potential dangers.
- Follow Local Customs: Respect the local customs and dress modestly. Avoid getting involved in local political issues or demonstrations.
- Be Cautious When Taking Photographs: Be cautious when taking photographs and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Some areas and people may be sensitive to being photographed.
- Trust Your Instincts: If you feel uncomfortable or sense danger, trust your instincts and leave the area immediately.
While Port-au-Prince may have safety concerns, taking common sense precautions can help you stay safe during your visit. By following these tips, you can enjoy the city and have a memorable experience.
Port-au-Prince Customs and Etiquette
As with any destination, it’s important to understand the local customs and etiquette of Port-au-Prince before you visit. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Dress Modestly: Haiti is a conservative country, and it’s important to dress modestly, particularly in religious and government buildings. It’s also a good idea to cover up if you’re out in the sun, as the locals are not used to seeing a lot of skin.
- Respect The Culture: Haitian culture is steeped in history and tradition, and it’s important to be respectful of this. For example, Vodou is a central part of Haitian culture, and while it might not be something you’re interested in, it’s important to respect it as a belief system.
- Greet People Properly: In Haiti, it’s common to greet people with a handshake, followed by a kiss on each cheek (left, then right). This applies to both men and women, and is considered a sign of respect.
- Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: As with any big city, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings. This is particularly important in Port-au-Prince, where crime is a problem. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry, and always be aware of your surroundings when you’re out and about.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions: Haitians are generally friendly and welcoming, and they’re usually happy to answer questions about their culture and way of life. If you’re unsure about something, don’t be afraid to ask.
By being respectful of local customs and etiquette, you’ll not only make a good impression on the locals, but you’ll also have a more rewarding and enjoyable experience in Port-au-Prince.
Other Things To Know About Port-au-Prince
Before you plan your trip to Port-au-Prince, it’s important to have a basic understanding of some key information about the country. Firstly, Port-au-Prince is the capital city of Haiti, a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The official language of Haiti is Haitian Creole, which is spoken by the majority of the population. French is also an official language, and many people also speak English.
The currency in Haiti is the Haitian gourde (HTG), which is named after the famous Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture. You can exchange your currency at local banks and exchange bureaus, and credit cards are also accepted at many hotels and restaurants in Port-au-Prince.
Haiti is in the Eastern Standard Time zone, which is 5 hours behind GMT/UTC. This means that if you’re traveling from Europe or North America, you may experience jet lag and need some time to adjust to the time difference.
It’s also important to note that Haiti is a developing country, and while Port-au-Prince has a lot to offer visitors, it may be different from what you’re used to. It’s important to approach your travels with an open mind and be respectful of the local customs and culture. Overall, understanding the language, currency, and time zone in Port-au-Prince can help you better prepare for your trip and make the most of your experience in this vibrant and unique city.
Port-au-Prince Travel Costs
Traveling to Port-au-Prince can be a budget-friendly experience if you plan ahead. Here are some travel costs you should consider before heading to this vibrant city.
- Accommodation: The cost of accommodation in Port-au-Prince varies greatly depending on the type of accommodation you choose. If you’re on a tight budget, hostels and guesthouses are the best option with prices ranging from $10 to $30 per night. Mid-range hotels cost around $60 to $100 per night while luxury hotels can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per night.
Transportation: Transportation in Port-au-Prince is quite affordable with shared taxis, known as tap-taps, costing about $0.50 to $1 per ride. Private taxis are more expensive, costing around $10 to $20 for a trip within the city.
- Food and Drink: The cost of food and drink in Port-au-Prince is relatively cheap. Local street food such as griyo (fried pork) and plantains cost about $2 to $3, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant costs around $10 to $20. A bottle of water or a can of soda costs about $1.
- Activities: Many of the top attractions in Port-au-Prince are free to visit, such as the Iron Market, Place Saint-Pierre, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Some attractions, such as the National Museum of Haiti, have an admission fee of around $5.
The average budget for a backpacker in Port-au-Prince is around $30 to $50 per day, while mid-range travelers can expect to spend around $100 to $150 per day. If you’re on a luxury trip, you can expect to spend $200 or more per day.
Finding Affordable Flights To Port-au-Prince
Port-au-Prince may not be the easiest destination to reach by air, but with a little effort, you can find affordable flights. The city is served by the Toussaint Louverture International Airport (PAP), which receives flights from major cities in the US, Canada, and Europe.
The key to finding affordable flights is to book well in advance and be flexible with your travel dates. Also, consider flying during the low season, which runs from May to November when the weather can be humid but still pleasant. During this time, flights and accommodations tend to be more affordable. Another tip is to sign up for alerts from various airlines and travel websites. You can receive notifications about discounts, promo codes, and flash sales, which can help you save on airfare.
You may also want to consider booking a package deal that includes your flight and hotel stay. These can sometimes offer substantial savings compared to booking separately. Additionally, you may want to explore alternative routes to Port-au-Prince. For example, you can fly to a nearby airport and take a bus or rental car to the city. Keep in mind that flying to Port-au-Prince can be a bit more expensive than other Caribbean destinations such as Punta Cana, so it’s important to budget accordingly. But with some planning and research, you can find affordable flights and make your dream trip to Port-au-Prince a reality.
Backpacking Port-au-Prince Suggested Budgets
For backpackers, Port-au-Prince can be a budget-friendly destination. However, it’s important to plan ahead and keep track of expenses to make the most of your money. Here are some suggested budgets for backpacking in Port-au-Prince:
For those on a tight budget, it’s possible to get by on less than $30 per day. Hostels and guesthouses are affordable, and street food is cheap and delicious. Free or low-cost activities like exploring the markets or walking through historic neighborhoods are plentiful. Expect to use public transportation or walk as taxis can be expensive.
With a budget of $50-$70 per day, backpackers can enjoy a more comfortable stay in Port-au-Prince. Mid-range hotels offer clean rooms and air conditioning, and meals can be had in restaurants for a reasonable price. Guided tours and activities such as visiting museums or taking a boat trip are possible at this budget level.
For those with a more generous budget of $100 or more per day, Port-au-Prince offers luxury accommodations, high-end dining options, and organized tours to explore the city’s cultural and historical sites. Private transportation and hiring a guide can make your trip even more comfortable and stress-free.
No matter your budget, it’s important to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings. It’s recommended to avoid walking alone at night, not to display valuables and always take taxis or transportation recommended by your hotel. Keep in mind that even small expenses can add up, so it’s important to plan ahead and be mindful of your spending. With the right preparation and budgeting, backpacking in Port-au-Prince can be an incredible experience.
Port-au-Prince Money Saving Tips
Traveling to Port-au-Prince can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be expensive. If you are traveling on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several money-saving tips that you can follow to make your trip more affordable.
- Eat Local: When it comes to food, you can save a lot of money by eating local. Not only will you save money, but you will also get to experience authentic Haitian cuisine. Some of the best places to find local food include street vendors, local markets, and small restaurants.
- Use Public Transportation: While there are taxis available in Port-au-Prince, they can be expensive. Instead, opt for public transportation, such as buses and tap-taps (colorful buses). They are a lot cheaper, and you’ll get to see more of the city.
- Bargain: When shopping in markets or dealing with street vendors, bargaining is a common practice. Don’t be afraid to haggle over prices, but remember to be polite and respectful.
- Choose Accommodations Wisely: If you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodations, avoid staying in the city center. Instead, consider staying in guesthouses or hostels that are located in the suburbs. You can also check for homestays or short-term apartment rentals.
- Drink Tap Water With Precaution: Although it is not recommended to drink tap water in Port-au-Prince, if you need to drink it, use a water purification system or bring along a filter water bottle. It will help you avoid the cost of buying bottled water.
- Visit Free Attractions: While Port-au-Prince has some great tourist attractions, not all of them require a fee. Some free attractions to visit include the Iron Market, National Museum of Haiti, and Place des Héros de l’Indépendance.
By following these tips, you can save a lot of money during your visit to Port-au-Prince. Remember that the key to budget travel is to plan ahead and to be flexible with your itinerary. Bon voyage!
What To Pack For Port-au-Prince
When packing for a trip to Port-au-Prince, it’s important to consider the city’s warm, tropical climate. Here are some essentials to include in your luggage:
- Light And Comfortable Clothing: Pack lightweight and breathable clothes like cotton t-shirts, shorts, and sundresses. Avoid tight-fitting clothes or anything that may attract unwanted attention.
- Comfortable Shoes: Bring comfortable shoes for walking on uneven streets and sidewalks. Avoid high heels or open-toed shoes that may not be appropriate for certain areas.
- Sun Protection: The sun in Port-au-Prince can be intense, so make sure to pack sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
- Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes are common in Port-au-Prince, so bring insect repellent with DEET to protect yourself from bites and mosquito-borne illnesses.
- First-Aid Kit: Pack a small first-aid kit with essentials like bandaids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any prescription medication you may need.
- Waterproof Bag Or Case: Consider bringing a waterproof bag or case to protect your phone, camera, and other electronic devices in case of rain or water activities.
- Cash And Travel Documents: Make sure to bring cash in small denominations and keep important travel documents like your passport and visa in a secure and waterproof location.
Remember to pack light and bring only what you need, as overpacking can be a burden when traveling around Port-au-Prince. By including these essentials, you’ll be prepared for a comfortable and enjoyable trip to this vibrant Haitian city.
Can You Drink Tap Water In Port-au-Prince?
No, it is not recommended to drink tap water in Port-au-Prince or anywhere in Haiti. The country’s water and sanitation infrastructure are not yet developed, and the quality of water is questionable. To stay healthy and avoid water-borne diseases, it’s best to stick to bottled or filtered water.
You can easily find bottled water in Port-au-Prince, which is sold in many shops and supermarkets. Most restaurants and hotels also offer bottled water or have a filtration system that ensures safe drinking water. In addition to drinking, it’s also essential to avoid tap water while brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, and bathing. You may also consider carrying water purification tablets or a portable filter to be extra cautious. Remember, staying hydrated and healthy is crucial when traveling to any new destination, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Other Things To See And Do In Port-au-Prince
While Port-au-Prince may not have as many tourist attractions as other Caribbean cities, there are still plenty of interesting things to see and do in the city. Here are some additional activities to consider adding to your itinerary:
- Visit The Iron Market: This bustling marketplace is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs, clothes, and local goods. You can find everything from handmade crafts to fresh produce.
- Tour The National Museum: The National Museum of Haiti houses a vast collection of Haitian art, history, and culture. It’s a great way to learn more about the country and its people.
- Take A Walk In The Botanical Gardens: This beautiful garden is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s filled with exotic plants and flowers, and you can even spot some local wildlife.
- Attend A Voodoo Ceremony: Voodoo is a major part of Haitian culture, and attending a ceremony can be a fascinating experience. Just be sure to show respect for the traditions and beliefs of those practicing.
- Explore The Champs De Mars: This park is a great place to relax and people-watch. You can also see some of the city’s most impressive architecture, including the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince.
- Visit The National Pantheon Museum: This museum honors some of Haiti’s most important figures, including its founders and leaders. It’s a great way to learn more about the country’s history and culture.
- Enjoy The Nightlife: While Port-au-Prince may not have the same nightlife scene as some other Caribbean cities, there are still plenty of bars and clubs to explore. Check out some of the local hangouts for a taste of the city’s nightlife.
Whether you’re interested in shopping, history, or culture, Port-au-Prince has something for everyone. With a little bit of planning, you can have an unforgettable experience in this vibrant city.
The Bottom Line
Port-au-Prince may not be the most popular tourist destination, but it offers a unique experience that cannot be found elsewhere. The capital city of Haiti is full of historical sites, beautiful architecture, and vibrant culture. When visiting Port-au-Prince, make sure to plan ahead and do your research. Stay in a reputable hotel, be mindful of your surroundings, and respect the local customs. Despite its challenges, Port-au-Prince is an incredible destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. So book your trip, pack your bags, and get ready to explore this fascinating city!