Travelling in the Dominican Republic is pretty easy in the grand scheme of things. Years of tourism agreements with the US provides a haven for simple travel and as some of the travel snobs would say; very ‘touristy’ – a general breeze to get around.
If that’s not how you roll and you want to get down and dirty with some raw and not-often-travelled places – look no further than Dominican Republic’s less than fortunate neighbour, Haiti. Which is sadly more famous for a horrific natural disaster in 2010.
How To Get There
Caribe tours are probably the best choice of a few and that’s who we went with. There are two options to get from Dominican Republic to Haiti, we took the option of Santo Domingo to Port-Au-Prince but there is also an option of going between Cap-Haitien and Santiago. The border crossing points between the Dominican Republic and Haiti close at 6 PM Dominican time, and do not re-open until 8 AM the next morning. Arriving after 6 PM means you may not be able to cross until the following morning. We paid around $60 for ticket and tax.
Getting Back Overland
Santo Domingo to Port-au Prince: 2 daily buses leaving at 9AM and 11AM. Price is pretty much the same coming back. Haiti’s side of border crossing is very relaxed in comparison to DR’s where we had a random baggage check which took the good side of an hour.
There are security, violent crime and health concerns surrounding travel in Haiti. It had a very similar vibe as backpacking in Papua New Guinea (you can read more about that here) and you shouldn’t be wandering around the streets of Port-Au-Prince with your rasta hair, peace sign fingers and Havaianas like it’s your second week in Chiang Mai.
We stayed in Pétionville and got a motorbike taxi into Port-Au-Prince for a look around and it was full of chaos. There were two of us and it felt very edgy, like we were aliens who had just landed our spaceship as Haiti’s capital is hardly well-trodden. I wouldn’t like to be a girl travelling here. Woman danger is a lot worse than man danger. I don’t want you ladies to think I’m being patronising when I say I wouldn’t recommend you backpack here – certainly not alone anyway.
An aid worker told us that there has been many cases of men dragging local women into an alley-way and members of the public to have witnessed and and not helped out. It’s a lot more primitive here than your mainstream backpacking route. This is not a civilised place where you can take your cheesy selfies and easily connect with the locals.
The Haitians still celebrate the 1804 massacre, where the remaining white population (roughly 5000 people) of Haiti were murdered on the order of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. They even have a celebratory saying which roughly translates as; “kill the white man” – and this was said in our face a few times. Splendid!
I’m not trying to unnecessarily be a scaremonger or make the Haitians out to be better or worse than anyone else, I’m just keeping it real. It’s no picnic and it’s a complex country which faces economic disparity, violent crime and a massive hangover after one of the biggest earthquakes in history. Just make sure you stay in Pétionville, stay vigilant and don’t wander around Port-Au-Prince after dark. Also don’t expect accommodation to be cheap! The very best I could do was $90.
Stay safe and enjoy the off-the-beaten-track travel, just don’t try and be a hero.