Is Haiti Safe? | Gringo’s Travel Guide
Is Haiti safe? The question was running through my mind as I passed immigration in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.
It was my first trip to the stunningly beautiful, yet woefully undeveloped Caribbean nation and I hadn’t a clue what to expect. Nobody I knew personally had actually experienced the country firsthand.
Plus, there seemed to be a sense of civil unrest in the air. The capital, Port-Au-Prince, was filled with protests and riots — and these Haiti riots were supposedly spreading northbound to Cap-Haïtien, where I’d be traveling.
An uneasy feeling instantly hit as I walked out the airport.
If I’m being honest, that feeling never really went away during my quick trip to Haiti. The only time I could truly relax was when I’d lock myself away in the hotel and gaze out on the city below from my balcony view…
Because Haiti is dangerous on the surface.
It’s dirty, undeveloped, and the rule of law is more of an afterthought. Yet nothing bad ever happened to me while in the country.
In fact, I found the local people, albeit impoverished, to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. Going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure this tourist had a great time in the country.
The country isn’t a noobie travel destination, but it’s not murders’ row, either. The crime statistics in Haiti back this up too. The reality is safety in Haiti is a nuanced topic — yet the riots and protests make things worse.
We’ll cover all that below, including topics like:
Is Haiti Safe? | My Honest Opinion
Haiti is not safe.
This is not a country you can walk around after dark in. This is not a country you can even walk around during the day in — unless you know the area and exactly where you’re going.
I don’t believe the Haitian people to be a violent bunch overall, but I know the level of poverty throughout the country is astonishing. There’s simply too many desperate people here.
From my short trip to Haiti, I saw levels of poverty I didn’t even know existed. And I’ve traveled around the third-world. I’ve spent a lot of time in Colombia, Mexico, and even Haiti’s next door neighbor — the Dominican Republic.
Many consider those countries “third-world” places or developing nations. If so, then Haiti is “fourth-world” or worse.
You will not find any first-world amenities throughout cities and towns in the country. Hell, you’ll be lucky to find them at some of the beach resorts.
But here’s the thing…
Statistically-speaking, Haiti is less violent than all of the countries I listed above. You’re less likely to get robbed, raped, murdered, or kidnapped in Haiti than in Colombia, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic.
It just doesn’t feel that way because the country is so undeveloped.
I had zero issues my whole time in Haiti, and a fellow female nomad from Japan I exchanged information with throughout the trips enjoyed her week stay in the country, as well. A safe stay!
Haiti is impoverished, but the country is NOT inherently dangerous.
Still, there’s some violence here and you have to take a solid amount of precautions here to ensure your safety.
You absolutely must stay in this hotel if you visit Cap-Haïtien.
If you're visiting Port-Au-Prince, I recommend staying here.
Haiti Crime Rates
Enough of my fluff though, let’s dig into this piece and take a look at actual crime stats in Haiti.
There’s just one issue with this idea…
It’s damn difficult to find accurate crime statistics in Haiti. Remember my whole spiel about the country being fairly undeveloped? Yeah, so are the agencies that are supposed to record crime stats throughout the country.
As such, take the statistics found below with a grain of salt — because they may not paint the whole picture.
The murder rate per 100,000 people in Haiti is around 10.04 (Source). That means about 10 people out of every 100,000 are murdered in the country.
This may seem high, but it’s important to remember that many other Latin American countries feature much higher murder rates. Places like El Salvador have a murder rate that hovers around 60 killings per 100,000 people. Venezuela sits around 56 per, where Brazil’s murder rate is around 30.
Even other Caribbean countries feature much higher murder rates. Jamaicas murder rate is 57 per 100,000, while Puerto Rico sits at 18.5 per. Hell, Haiti is even safer than the Dominican Republic — which has a murder rate of 11.5.
Haitians simply aren’t as violent as many others, but the country still is not safe.
While murders aren’t that common, armed robbery tends to be an issue. According to OSAC, airport robberies are not uncommon:
Armed robberies against motorists and pedestrians continue to increase. This year marked a sharp increase in robberies of travelers arriving at Toussaint L’Ouverture airport (PAP). More than 70 U.S. travelers reported being the victims of robbery shortly after departing from the airport in 2018 (Source).
Suffice to say, there’s a lot of risk when traveling to Haiti. Which is why the U.S Department of State tends to recommend novice travelers stay away…
What the U.S. Department of State Says?
While I tend to take what the U.S. Government says about my travel plans with a grain of salt, there’s no denying their embassies keep a keen eye out for safety concerns within the country.
Here’s what the U.S. Department of State currently says about traveling to Haiti and staying safe:
Travel Advisory: Level 3
Reconsider travel to Haiti due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping.
Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common, and incidents of kidnapping have occurred. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.
Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport. The U.S. Embassy requires its personnel to use official transportation to and from the airport, and it takes steps to detect surveillance and deter criminal attacks during these transports.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in some areas of Haiti. The Embassy discourages its personnel from walking in most neighborhoods. Only adult family members over the age of 18 are permitted to accompany U.S. government employees assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. U.S. government personnel in Haiti are prohibited from:
Visiting establishments after dark without secure, on-site parking.
Using any kind of public transportation or taxis.
Visiting banks and using ATMs.
Driving outside of Port-au-Prince at night.
Traveling anywhere between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
Visiting certain parts of the city at any time without prior approval and special security measures in place.
That’s not exactly a positive take on safety in Haiti. In fact, it’s downright bad — and justified. Haiti is not a safe place, especially for novice travelers. While I didn’t have an issue and found locals quite friendly, this isn’t a country for the feint of heart.
Hell, even the government of New Zealand warns their citizens to avoid the country:
The security situation in Haiti is unpredictable and crime levels are high throughout the country. Murder, armed robbery and carjacking is prevalent and there is an increased risk at night and in isolated areas. Local law enforcement’s response to crime is often limited.
New Zealanders are advised to exercise a high degree of vigilance at all times, particularly in Port-au-Prince and near Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic. We recommend avoiding travel after dark and the use of public transport, including shared taxis (tap-taps) and buses. We also recommend making adequate security arrangements to avoid traveling alone in Haiti. The presence of one or more traveling companions with reliable local knowledge may help mitigate the risks.
Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the airport in Port-au-Prince to carry out robberies or carjackings. We recommend traveling with doors locked and windows up at all times and arranging transport from the airport before arrival. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery or carjacking as this could lead to an escalation in violence.
There is a threat of kidnapping in Haiti. Most kidnappings are financially motivated and victims are often targeted due to their perceived wealth. It is therefore advisable to avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable, such as jewelry and mobile devices.
New Zealanders are advised to take particular care when withdrawing money from banks, as criminals have been known to target customers as they leave banks.
Suffice to say, there’s a consensus amongst governments that traveling to Haiti can be dangerous. Still, many travelers visit the country every single year and have zero issues. With proper precautions, you should be able to stay safe in Haiti. But you’ve got to take those precautions.
Haiti Protests, Riots, and Safety Concerns
If someone would have asked me awhile back…
Is Haiti safe?
My answer may have been slightly different, yet there is a developing situation in Haiti that you cannot prepare for. That’s the likelihood of protests and riots throughout the country — especially in Port-Au-Prince.
On my first trip to Haiti, I was beyond nervous. Just the week before I was set to land, riots and protests broke out in Port-Au-Prince. The already dangerous country was seemingly more dangerous than before.
I had thoughts about cancelling my trip…
But ended up going to Haiti anyway.
This was perfectly fine in 2019, however, it seems things have taken a turn for the worst as we move into 2020.
Protesters have vowed to continue rioting until the sitting President Jovenel Moïse is no longer in power. Their issues with the longstanding President are vast, including allegations that he stole millions, if not billions, in oil money from Venezuela (Source).
These protests and riots have forces many hotels and businesses to shutdown, even international companies like Best Western have been forced to permanently close (Source).
The rioting and protest have forced the country to almost completely shutdown. Children can’t go to school, businesses can’t stay open, and roads have been permanently blocked.
Suffice to say, traveling to Haiti is difficult. With the riots going on, it’s a straight up nightmare these days.
How to Stay Safe In Haiti | 6 Tips and Tricks
Now, I do not advise going to Haiti these days. I hope that’s clear after reading this article. However, I know some of you vagabonds will be heading down to the Caribbean anyway.
So I wanted to dish some tips and tricks out for you. Things that’ll ensure you stay safe in Haiti…
Stay at a Nice Hotel
First and foremost, you MUST stay in a nice hotel while in Haiti.
Airbnb options are slim and probably not that safe. Cheap hotels will be awful in the country, and again, not that safe. You must spend some money to stay in a decent hotel while in Haiti if you care about staying safe.
This isn’t a country for budget travelers!
But enough of the fluff, I wanted to give you specific hotel recommendations to ensure you stay safe…
If you visit Cap-Haïtien, you should stay in this hotel.
If you're visiting Port-Au-Prince, I recommend staying here.
Hire Professional Tour Guides
Haiti is not a place where you just rent a car and cruise around the country without a care in the world. That’s not how it works here.
Roads are dangerous, online maps aren’t always accurate, protesters block the roads, and you probably don’t speak “Haiti French” to ensure you can ask for directions if you get lost or robbed.
So when you want to enjoy some of the natural beauty Haiti has to offer and take in some of the sites, you need to hire a professional tour guide.
The best way to do so is by asking your hotel to arrange a tour for you. It won’t be cheap, but if you’re staying at a nice hotel, they’ll have a bilingual guide who offers great tours for you.
Don’t Flash Your Wealth
If you insist on mingling outside the resort or hotel while you’re traveling around Haiti, make sure you don’t flash your wealth around.
Just by being a foreigner, you’re perceived as wealthy by the local Haitians. This can make you a target for robbery or worse.
There’s absolutely no reason to further this stereotype by wearing fancy clothing and jewelry. Or by using your electronics in public. That’s not something you do in Haiti, fam.
Dress down, only use your phone/camera to snap some quick pics, and keep a low profile.
Stay in the Hotel After Dark
Is Haiti safe at night? Ha!
Haiti is dangerous enough during the day. I do NOT recommend you venture out into the city after dark. You should be back in your hotel before the sun has set while in Haiti.
While things used to be a bit safer, the riots and protests have changed all that. You do not want to get caught outside the hotel when the sun is down.
Not trying to be a fear monger here, but messing around outside the hotel after dark in Haiti is not a great idea these days.
Don’t Get Wasted
If you do decide to go out after dark and have a few drinks, make sure you stop at that. Don’t get wasted in the country right now. Things are simply way too dangerous these days to add any additional risks.
Being a drunk foreigner in Haiti is beyond dangerous these days.
Sure, have a few drinks at the hotel bar and unwind. But don’t think good things are gonna happen wandering around Haiti three-sheets to the wind one evening.
Wifi and sim cards just don’t always function like they should in Haiti. As such, you’ll want to have some form of backup internet in the country.
This can be essential when you need to use Google Translate while in Haiti or when your hotel has a wifi issue.
I've found this backup wifi provider is the absolute best!
Is Haiti Dangerous? | Verdict
You already know my answer here…
Yes, Haiti is beyond dangerous these days.
While I don’t believe Haitian people are a naturally violent bunch, the combination of rampant poverty and nationwide riots and protests ensure this is not a safe country.
If you want to risk it, feel free to check out Citadelle Laferrière and Sans Souci Palace in the north of Haiti near Cap-Haïtien. I went on a full day tour here and it was incredible — and pretty safe.
However, Port-Au-Prince is a NO-GO these days and you can find better beaches in other countries.
It’s truly not worth the risk in Haiti right now due to the riots and protests, but the information above may help you stay safe if you feel the need to check things out yourself.
In that case, best of luck to you!