Haiti Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In Haiti
There are numerous hazards to be encountered driving abroad in Haiti. In Port-Au-Prince, rubble from the earthquake still blocks side roads and many pavements are now impassable forcing pedestrians onto already crowded roads. Animals will be encountered in the road in both city centres and in the countryside. 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.
Avoid driving in Port au Prince if you can and stay away from dangerous areas such as – Croix-des-Bouquets, Carrefour, Martissant, the port road (Boulevard La Saline), urban route Nationale 1, the airport road (Boulevard Toussaint L’Ouverture) and its adjoining connectors to the New (“American”) Road via Route Nationale 1. The main roads mentioned have been the scene of car jacking and you should never get off a flight and pick a car up at the airport. There are few road signs and its all too easy to stray into the wrong area.
Away from Port Au Prince, driving is less chaotic and roads will be less busy. In my experience, some of the worst driving is likely to be displayed by camionette/tap-tap drivers who will be rushing to reach their destination, in an overcrowded and often non -roadworthy vehicle. Always drive with caution when there are a lot of tap-taps in the area. Roads are often in poor condition and potholes may cause drivers to execute unpredictable and dangerous maneuvers in heavy traffic. Drinking and driving is illegal in Haiti, but people frequently drive after drinking, especially at night and at festival times.
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 law or common sense rules of the road. 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, animals, mechanics working on vehicles parked on the street, and vendors and their wares dipping in and out of traffic lanes. Haiti’s unwritten rule of the road is that any vehicle that breaks down, can 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.
In summary- driving abroad in Haiti is likely to be a test of nerves. If you attempt it employ the usual rules for driving in the developing world – drive confidently but ultra defensively and always, always expect the unexpected.
Haiti Car Rental –
Hertz, Europcar , Budget, Dollar,Avis,Thrifty have branches here though things change often. I had a rental arranged with Europcar in Cap Haitien and when I went to collect the car I found the office had closed down. If you book a car before you go to Haiti, check before you travel that the reservation is still valid. Also expect high rental costs – $150 per day is the norm with little or no insurance.
Most of the local companies mentioned on the internet such as Sima car rental no longer seem to have functioning websites. This company still seem to be operating (March 14)
Also I know a company called New Life operate in Cap Haitien but don’t seem to have a website
Haiti Self Driving Rules –
By law no rental vehicle can be taken to Dominican Republic.