Haiti

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 17 June 2014.   This advice contains new information under Health (chikungunya virus). We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Haiti at this time because of the unpredictable security situation and high levels of violent crime.

Haiti overall

Summary

  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Haiti at this time because of unpredictable security situation and high levels of violent crime.
  • If you do decide to travel to Haiti, you should exercise extreme caution.
  • The security situation in Haiti remains unpredictable.
  • You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. We recommend you monitor the local media for new safety and security threats.
  • Foreign aid workers have been the target of kidnapping, and other violent crimes. You should take precautions to ensure your personal security, particularly at night.
  • There is an ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti which has been active since 2010. The outbreak is especially severe in the department of Sud Est, while Port-au-Prince and other areas of Haiti are also affected. Thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been infected. See the Health section for more information.
  • We strongly advise Australians who are considering going to Haiti to undertake volunteer work to ensure they have made appropriate arrangements for placement prior to arrival in Haiti. Finding a placement with a charity in Haiti on arrival is usually not possible.
  • In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 22 kilometres west of the capital Port-au-Prince, causing many thousands of casualties, and widespread damage to critical infrastructure, including health services, roads, telecommunications and other utilities.
  • Hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. In the event of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
  • Given the unpredictable security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency. Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Haiti for the most up-to-date information.

We strongly advise Australians who are considering going to Haiti to undertake volunteer work to ensure they have made appropriate arrangements for placement prior to arrival in Haiti. Finding a placement with a charity in Haiti on arrival is usually not possible.

If you are travelling to Haiti through the United States of America, or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Local immigration authorities may request evidence of a valid yellow fever vaccination if you are travelling to Haiti from a yellow fever endemic country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) website contains a list of yellow fever endemic countries.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/Political tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Haiti at this time because of the unpredictable security situation and high levels of violent crime.

The political situation in Haiti remains unpredictable with the risk of violence and social unrest. Local authorities, including the police, often have limited capacity to control developing situations or provide assistance.

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent. Foreigners caught up in demonstrations have been attacked. We recommend you monitor the local media for new safety and security threats.

Crime

The level of crime in Haiti is very high and the police have little ability to enforce laws. Local authorities often have limited capacity to provide assistance, even if you are a victim of a serious crime.

There is a high incidence of violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault and carjacking. The risk increases at night and in isolated areas. You should avoid travel after dark. The road leading to the Port-au-Prince airport is vulnerable to carjacking. When driving, you should ensure that windows are up, doors locked and valuables are out of sight.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

There is a high risk of robbery and assault when using public transport, including taxis.

Foreigners taking photographs are often regarded with suspicion and have been assaulted, particularly in remote areas.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and how to access your funds in Haiti.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You should be careful to avoid the loss or theft of your passport. Travellers are likely to experience significant delays and expense arranging replacement travel documents in Haiti where there is no resident Australian mission.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Travel by road is dangerous due to aggressive driving practices and poorly maintained vehicles and roads. Traffic laws and speed signage are routinely ignored. You should avoid travel by public transport, or driving late in the evening as many main roads have significant damage and detours may transit narrow secondary routes through dangerous neighbourhoods. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Haiti, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and may lead to imprisonment and fines.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

There is an ongoing cholera outbreak which has been active in Haiti since 2010. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest report indicates that the outbreak is especially severe in the department of Sud Est, while Port-au-Prince and other areas of Haiti are also affected. Thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been infected. Cholera causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can be fatal if left untreated. Correct food hygiene and preparation are essential to minimise the risk of contracting cholera. We advise you to drink only bottled or boiled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek immediate medical advice if you suffer from diarrhoea.

The earthquake on 12 January 2010 caused severe damage to local hospitals and placed considerable strain on the provision of healthcare. There are shortages of medicine and other medical resources. There is inadequate public sanitation posing a risk of disease outbreaks.

Medical facilities in Haiti are scarce and well below western standards. Private medical care is very expensive. Doctors and hospitals will require up-front cash payment before commencing treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (usually to Miami) would be required, costing in excess of $A25,000.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Haiti is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. You can find out more information at the World Health Organization website.

Mosquito-borne illnesses, including malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya virus and filariasis, are common in Haiti, particularly during the rainy season (June to December). We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. Seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headaches as they are symptoms of both dengue fever and Chikungunya virus.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, typhoid, rabies and leptospirosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Haiti. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Trinidad and Tobago:

Australian High Commission, Port of Spain

18 Herbert Street, St Clair
Port of Spain
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Telephone: (1 868) 822 5450
Facsimile: (1 868) 822 5490
Website: http://www.trinidadandtobago.highcommission.gov.au/
Email: australianhighcommission.pos@gmail.com

Following the January 2010 earthquake, there has been widespread damage to telecommunications. Australians in need of consular assistance should contact the Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago. If disruption to communication links prevents you from doing so, you should direct your enquiry through the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince, between numbers 75 and 71 Delmas Road, telephone: (509) 2 249 9000.

If you are travelling to Haiti, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Haiti is in an active earthquake zone and is subject to hurricanes. Emergency services in Haiti are ill equipped to cope with a major disaster. You should be prepared to evacuate at short notice in the event of a natural disaster and ensure your travel documentation remains up-to-date.

Earthquakes: On 12 January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 22 kilometres west of the capital Port-au-Prince, causing many thousands of casualties. There remains damage to critical infrastructure, including health services, roads, telecommunications and other utilities. The earthquake damaged public sanitation infrastructure and increased the risk of disease outbreaks.

For more information on earthquakes, see our Earthquakes travel bulletin.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, including the Caribbean. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure for more information on tsunamis.

Hurricanes: Hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

If you are travelling to Haiti during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location.

We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.