Those brightly painted trucks are called tap taps and they run regular routes just like city buses. They are incredibly cheap . . . and crowded . . . but they work just like any city bus. You go to the tap tap stop, find the one going your direction, pay and get on. When you get to your stop, simply yell, "Merci" and they will stop and let you off. It is also fair game to call out "merci" at any point on the ride if it's more convenient for you. You don't have to go from stop to stop.
You may share a seat with four other people and a few chickens or goats on the way to market, or in one case with a very large soldier with an even larger gun, but no matter how crowded, there is always room for one more person.
Are they safe? Probably not but they are great fun, very cheap and they get you where you want to go.
They call it a tap-tap, I call it an adventure! Crawl in or on these colorful truck/art canvases and they'll take you wherever you need to go. If you're looking for comfort or air conditioning, forget about it, but if you want a story to tell your grandkids, hop on! The drivers never miss a pothole and it appears as though the only traffic law is bigger goes first. Not sure what the cost is to ride in one.
My wife and I arrived in Labadee via the Celebrity Silhouette. Labadee itself is the private destination for cruise ship passengers from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises. Cruising is a fun, no worry way to island hop.
The Columbus Cove Express is a tender boat that ferries cruise passengers from the cruise dock to the Columbus Cove area of Labadee. The boat ride is free and provides a nice water tour before arriving at the Cove.
Exploring Labadee on foot was a great way to enjoy the island. If we took the tram we would have missed so many hidden areas of beach along the way; which would have been a shame; they were quite nice.
If coming from the United States, you will probably fly America Airlines (the only American carrier to PAP) or Air France (do this only if traveling LIGHT!). There are a couple of other foreign carriers from other countries in the area, but I don't know the names.
The best way to get around Port-au-Prince is by private vehicle. I would recommend traveling to Haiti only if you have friends, families, or other known contacts to visit. Public transportation consists of 'tap-taps' (pick-ups and trucks in which you tap on the side or window to let the driver know you want out) and taxis, which are little more than private vehicles usually overloaded with passengers.
While the use of these modes of transport is definitely an experience for the uninitiated, it is also very dangerous for foreigners.
There are those who will tell you that it is absolutely necessary to have a four-wheel drive in Haiti. This is true only if you plan to visit far into the interior (check with those that know the routes). For travel around Port-au-Prince any car with a reasonable ground clearance will do. Our 12 yr old VW Fox Wagen is a great car for PAP. It is small, inconspicuous and can climb any hill, or traverse just about every pothole. The roads to the beach resorts north of town are relatively easy to travel (watch your speed and look-out for those who don't) as is the road to Jacmel and the beaches there.
The airport can be a fun and a scary place all at the same time. I recommend that you hold onto your bags as tightly as possible when exiting the airport. You will be paying people money if they get ahold of your bag.
I recommend that you ride at least one tap-tap (the taxi) and one motorcycle (another form of a taxi). The ride is definately different than any experience that I have ever had before. I will never forget my first ride in either of them
At the time I was in Haiti, American Airlines had the monopoly on flights to Haiti. Flying between NYC and Port-au-Prince and Miami and PAP. I flew via Miami and the flight was short and uneventful--about two hours. The odd thing is that, even though the flight is so short, a hot meal was served. It seemed that the flight attendants were serving the meal before we even reached cruising altitude. This, although seemingly ordinary, was really bizarre. Also, because there was the one choice, service was bad and the attitude of the attendants to the Haitians was disgustingly condescending. Hopefully, American has begun cultural sensitivity and tolerance training...
Driving is agressive here so be prepared. Now, if I've sufficiently scared you off from driving, a fun, but just as daunting alternative is the tap-tap. A tap-tap is a colorful bus that's usually so crammed full of people that there are, literally, people hanging off of it. Combining the potholes and the breakneck speeds, it's really frightening to watch. It's an experience and I wish I could say it's a great way to meet the Haitians, but it's usually so cramped that conversation is somewhat difficult.
I contacted Crazyhaitilady for referral for a hightly recommended driver and car that I saw listed here on VT. I got in contact with her friend Alex, made arrangements with him over the phone and via email. I never met him because he sent a substitute to pick me up at airport, (despite his promis to introduce me to the substitute driver upon my arrival). The driver took me to a gas station for $160 US worth of gas for a RAV4 type vehicle. After I complained and asked for detailed pricing, they brought the price down to $111 USD. The driver took us to our apartment and grocery store nearby. He dropped us off at the hospital the next morning. We remained at the hospital 3 days (the driver had the key to the car.) Then Alex had him take car on Thursday leaving me stranded in Port au Prince Hospital because he "thought I needed the car until Friday" despite verbal and emailed conversations stating I needed driver and car until Tuesday. I told him I didn't care which car was used as long as it was filled with gas or he refunded my full tank. Alex vanished with out leaving any alternative arrangements. I ended up having to rent a car from Budget at the airport (which required $2,000 credit card hold.) I emailed Haitilady for help with her referred "friend" and I have not heard from her since. I think its a scam because Alex, as she describes here, hustled me and Haitilady never responded after the scam. It was very scary, but I'm glad we were not kidnapped or worse.
Budget rents cars for about $57 a day INCLUDING full insurance at cheapoair.com. Great deal, if you have a high limit for credit card hold. Driving in Port au Prince is WILD, but doable if you have good nerves and someone who knows the area with you to direct you. Otherwise, its hard to find anything as the streets are not clearly labeled.
Drivers are available at rental car companies. I would recommend using ONLY drivers associated with a rental car company so you have some recourse and can avoid the scam I got into. Once outside of Port au Prince, the roads are great and the scenery is breathtaking!
While in Haiti a rental is a great option, but unfortunately rentals in Haiti are very very expensive.
Avis is usually the best choice, which is by the airport. Memory rent car is also a good choice on Clercine before you reach Tabarre. Using public transportation is definitely not for the average person, you will experience fatigue from the heat and over crowding. And riding public transportation in Port-Au-Prince is not recommended for safety reasons.
If you want to visit the provinces the best option is flying. Tortugair airways is my personal favorite and I highly recommend flying with them. Prices are around $140USD round trip. There's also a new airline called Tropical Airways I used them once In February to go to the Carnival in Cap - Haitien.
Pricing is around $125USD.
You can fly into the Haitian airport. Several major airlines still fly there. However, I recommend taking a cruise. There are several privately owned islands off the coast that are owned by cruise lines, and so are much safer, cleaner, etc.
The only Haitian public transportation is really the local 'top tops' which are a cross between a taxi and a bus - they're basically pickup trucks with a very brightly painted cover on the back. Haitians believe there's always room for one more, so they are very crowded, and not always real safe. There aren't many taxis (if there are any), and you want to avoid the bus system at all cost. So, you really need to have hotel provided transportation to and from the airport.
Fly from Miami or the Dominican Rep to Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
American Airlines flies from Miami. Air France flies once a week from Santo Domingo.
It's probably best to get a 'tourist card' via the airline/travel agent/embassy before you go.
I stayed in the super-comfortable little Hotel Prince which has an intoxicating view of the cerulean sea.
How to get about in Haiti? Taxi (with chauffeur-guide) from outside main hotels, or tap-tap min--bus, or bus.
A great way to get around Labadee is via their free tram. The tram shuttles cruise passengers from the dock area to several of the beaches, BBQ areas and shops on the island.
More Regions in Haiti