He who would travel happily must travel light.
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry, 1900 - 1944
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Haiti

Background

Haiti

The native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by COLUMBUS in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. In 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006. A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010 with an epicenter about 15 km southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince. An estimated 2 million people live within the zone of heavy to moderate structural damage. The earthquake is assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years and massive international assistance will be required to help the country recover.

About

WARNING: Effects of the January 2010 earthquake, political tension, and high crime have resulted in travel advisories being issued by foreign governments. Infrastructure may be damaged or inadequate, and looting, intermittent roadblocks set by armed gangs, violent crime including kidnapping, car-jacking, and assault remain commonplace. In addition, a cholera pestilence threatens Port-au-Prince as of October 2010. With the notable exception of Labadee, travelers to Haiti should remain alert and aware of their surroundings.

Haiti (Haitian Creole: Ayiti, French: Haïti) is a Caribbean country that occupies the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola. The eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south. Haiti is a country with a troubled past, and its future still remains uncertain. Decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability, dictatorship and coups have left it the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.

Read more about Haiti in our Haiti travel guide »

A travel warning has been issued for Haiti

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Haiti

Full name
Republic of Haiti
Capital
Port-au-Prince
Location

Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic

Geographic coordinates

19 00 N, 72 25 W

Area comparative

slightly smaller than Maryland

Border countries

Dominican Republic 360 km

Coastline

1,771 km

Climate

tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds

Terrain

mostly rough and mountainous

Lowest point

Caribbean Sea 0 m

Highest point

Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m

Natural resources

bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydropower

Population

9,719,932

Ethnic groups

black 95%, mulatto and white 5%

Religions

Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%

Languages

French (official), Creole (official)

Government type

republic

Independence

1 January 1804 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 1 January (1804)

Chief of state

President Rene PREVAL (since 14 May 2006)

Head of government

Prime Minister Jean-Max BELLERIVE (since 7 November 2009)

Internet country code

.ht

Internet users

1 million (2009)

Airports

14 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Cap-Haitien, Gonaives, Jacmel, Port-au-Prince

Other countries in the region