Crime in Haiti - Travel safely the World Nomads way

Haiti, sadly has a high crime rate largely due to poverty, lack of employment and more..

The level of crime in Haiti should be regarded as beyond horrific. There are no "safe" areas (with the exception of Labadee an area leased by a cruise ship company - see our Is Labadee Safe? article). Some areas are worse than others, but there is a very real danger of violent crime everywhere in Haiti, and this includes but is not limited to assault, armed robbery, murder, kidnapping, rape and any combination of the above.

No Police

Do not let the presence of the UN Stabilisation Force MINUSTAH or the Haitian National Police (PNH) lull you into a false sense of security. Both groups tend to be highly visible and heavily armed with assault rifles and pump action shotguns, but they have other things on their mind than policing.

Serious violent crime can and does happen all the time. To make matters even worse, after the earthquake some five thousand prisoners, most of them violent offenders, escaped from prison and remain at large.


While it is true that the rate of kidnapping has declined since it reached a peak in 2006, it's still "incredibly high".

People have been kidnapped while travelling, at work, off the street, and at home. A number of those people had security precautions, but they were not secure enough.

The motivation for kidnapping in Haiti tends to be financial, and kidnappers show no discrimination based on age, gender, or nationality, or race and they do frequently target children.

To make matters more horrific, many kidnap victims who are returned (many are not) report being beaten, tortured, and sexually abused.

Kidnapping risks in Haiti are not the same as in South America for example, and measures that are adequate elsewhere have been proven inadequate for Haiti.

Crime Gangs

Haitian criminals tend to operate in groups of two to four and more often than not are highly confrontational and violent. Seriously injuring or killing their victims during robberies or home invasions is not an uncommon tactic for Haitians, as they believe that it lessens their target's opportunity to resist.

Don't think that simply giving a criminal what they want will enable you to escape without harm, they often hurt people just because they can.

Public Transport Risks

Criminals have been known to watch travellers arriving at the airport, following them and then attacking them brutally. Be on guard for this in the same way you would when withdrawing money from a bank, as criminals use the same strategy.

Do not use public transportation including "tap-taps", unless you really have a pressing need to find out what being stabbed feels like. Public transport has been the site of numerous stabbings, robberies and kidnappings.

High Crime Areas

Difficult because it's the capital, but do not go to Port-au-Prince if you can avoid it. If you do, under no circumstances visit the insanely high crime level slum areas Carrefour, Martissant, Cite Soleil, the Delmas road area, and Petionville.

Certain road areas should also be ruled out. The urban route Nationale #1, airport road (Boulevard Toussaint L'Ouverture) and the connecting roads to the New ("American") Road via Route Nationale #1 have seen numerous incidents of violent crime including murder, robbery and carjacking (unless you're travelling in one of those nifty armoured cars and happen to be carrying an assault rifle yourself. Even then, you might have problems).

No Fun Carnival

Things get worse during holiday season. Christmas, and especially Carnival see a rise in almost every aspect of crime with large numbers of people are on the streets and many are drunk, high, carrying weapons and often all three at once.

During Carnival season, random stabbings become a very real risk. This is crime where the motive is to stab, not to steal, with many people injured without being robbed.

The traffic snarls to a stop, large group violence occurs at the drop of a hat and there is little sense to any of it. Street musicians roam around and start up impromptu gatherings called "Rah-rahs" this often start off as quite a fun experience with people dancing and singing in the street, but they often end in an orgy of violence and destruction for no apparent reason.

It is very difficult to tell as an outsider whether or not the Rah-rah that has just formed is affiliated with a political movement, or a drug gang. As rival drug gangs and political groups are prone to having open shoot-outs on the street, this can be a major problem.

Travellers have been killed simply due to stopping to listen and participate in one of these events.

Political Instability & Chaos

Of course the major cause of this crime is the political instability. What cohesive government existed was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake.

As a result of this, chaos reigns and protests and demonstrations occur with some regularity, and they turn violent with little to no warning.

If you see a large crowd gathered, remain as calm as you possibly can and leave the area as quickly, doing your best to avoid any confrontations on the way out. The same rule applies in general if you see large crowds or roadblocks. While you may be tempted to wander over to see what is happening, the best advice is to leave your curiosity alone and just leave.

Personal Security

Haiti is one of the most violent dangerous places on earth. Most of the time, these crimes are committed by local people against local people, but criminals don't restrict themselves and you will be in danger at all times.

Make very sure you have adequate security arrangements suitable to Haiti. If you're staying in a private residence, make sure there is a full time security guard who can be trusted. Do not use public transport, arrange for a rental car or better yet, an armed escort.

Be very, very, very, very, very careful at all times.

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  • globe-trotter said

    With such high crimes in Haiti, those who still choose to go there are it seems, tired of living.<br>There are thousands of safe places in our planet that one can go to so why choose such a lawless country ?

  • Paul Belony said

    Whoever wrote this is a hatemonger, an ennemy of Haiti and a scavenger.<br>You are an ignorant coward hidden behind an ugly mask spittinng amplifying lies <br>on the fate of a country that is still strugling,after a devastating earthquaque.

  • said

    Whoever wrote this is spot on. This is the EXACT condition to be found in Haiti. <br><br>There is no negative conclusion to be drawn about the people of Haiti by this article. <br><br>This article simply describes the horrific living conditions and overall state of Haitian society. <br><br>Every word is true, true, true. Haiti is a dangerous place for one and all.

  • Emily said

    This information is not accurate in the slightest. Yes, Haiti is dangerous, but to say something like "Do not use public transportation including ‘tap-taps’, unless you really have a pressing need to find out what being stabbed feels like" is not only a lie but incredibly unprofessional on the part of World Nomads. This article cites zero facts or statistics and is based purely on stereotypes, likely written by someone who has never spent a day in Haiti.

  • safetyhub said

    Emily, there is a great deal of research which goes into these articles, and then a great deal of effort to write them in a particular style. Among the research conducted is a survey of other online forums, of government advisories, NGO information, and of course from travellers. In this case the article was written by someone with a great deal of travel experience in the region. <br>Among the information we survey and collate was this little gem written in April 2011 about a post-quake visit to Haiti in 2010. It is a typical example of the kind of information we found (before you read it can I invite you to submit your own piece on crime in Haiti... we'd incorporate it into an updated safety piece. my email [email protected])) This from LP's Thorn Tree:<br>"There is enough rubble in PaP to fill the Hoover Dam 6 times. That means it can take up to an hour to drive 3 miles. Add to this the fact that there is no electricity in most of the city at night (the big hotels have it and there are some generators) and you have streets that are hard to navigate and a dicey security situation. It is absolutely by no means safe in PaP for a single woman traveling alone. All the UN and NGO people we interviewed have curfews and many travel in caravans through the city. The poverty is crushing and anyone who looks like they have money can be a target. Haitians also don't appreciate white tourists coming there simply to gawk at them--and there are plenty of those. I was shocked (disgusted) to see that "donors" to certain charitable organizations were allowed to walk through the earthquake-victim tents and ICU wards and take photographs of suffering Haitians lying in their beds. Don't expect anything to be cheap--agriculture stopped in the 80s and Haiti imports 70% of its food. But your main expense there is going to be transportation. You will need a fixer who you pay on a day rate to get you around the city and probably do some translating for you. Educated Haitians speak French and maybe some English but most people speak Haitian Creole. Don't get me wrong--Haiti is a fascinating place with a lot of wonderful people. If you go, I'd recommend flying into PaP, if you really want to see "the devastation" and then taking a local flight up to Cap Haitien. There you will find some real Caribbean beauty and the quiet you say you are looking for. Cormier Plage, for example, is a stunning place to stay with great food. In PaP, as another poster said, the Hotel Oloffson is a must-see and the Quartier Latin in Petionville has phenomenal food."<br>

  • Swissmiss said

    Hmm, reading your article makes me wonder where you got your information from. If is is from the same sources as most Media outlets then i understand. Have you ever been to Haiti? Well i have, just last september. I (white european) actually stayed in Deltas, an area that you claim to be a slum and highly dangerous. There are different Parts in Delmas and where i have stayed i felt completely safe!! We even visited My friends
    Family in carrefour. We stayed in petionville as well which for your Information is not a slum but the area where Most of the rich People of Haiti live! It makes me so angry to read all this megativity and prejudices! Haiti as a whole Country is deemed a dangerous Place yet the small village i stayed at in Les Cayes was paradise in earth. People didnt have locked doors. Wouldnt they get some type of protection if it was all that dangerous?? Haiti is a beautiful country with a very rich cultural heritage and just lovely people! Give Haiti a break! And for that matter Time for foreign colonial Powers to leave alone!

  • safetyhub said

    Swissmiss, glad to see you took our number 1 tip for staying safe and got yourself a guide with local knowledge (your friend with family in Haiti). I'd hazard a guess and say that's exactly why you had such a trouble-free trip.
    If there is an international conspiracy of "the media" and "foreign colonial powers" then I'm not on their email list - have never heard from them.

    However, I'd love for you to write a piece for us about how to travel safely in Haiti. Contact me at [email protected] Even if you're not a writer I'd be happy to assist you with the process and we can post your 'blog' here on the Safety Hub.

  • susie said

    Yes, Haiti has issues, but where did you get your information from? You didn't even bother to compare it to other islands with high crime rates nor did you post beautiful pictures of Haiti. I'm not going to waste my time to do that for you, because ignorant people like never change their minds. I know a lot of people that visit Haiti year after year and they have great experiences. You make it sound like it’s a nightmare. I doubt you ever been to Haiti, you left out the beautiful culture, the arts, food, beautiful beaches and how tourist is growing. You sound so ignorant and I will never come back on your BLOG! People please do your own research, because this blog is slanted!

  • Chris Whiye said

    I laughed hysterically while reading this. Haiti is one of the safest places I can possibly imagine. This entire article is absolutely ridiculous. "No Police" = Anyone who steals in Haiti will be brutally punished by the local population. They are much better than the police at keeping crime at an absolute minimum. "Kidnappings" = There actually hasn't been a kidnapping in Haiti in many years. For a population of almost ten million, it's statistically much safer than most first-world countries. "Crime Gangs" = The only 'gangs' are drug-smugglers who do everything possible to avoid attention, so they're definitely not going to steal or hurt anyone. "Public Transport Risk" = The 'tap-taps' are only dangerous because of car accidents, which is a risk everywhere in the world. I've never heard of one story of anyone ever being robbed, stabbed, or otherwise having a negative experience on a 'tap-tap' in Haiti except for car accidents. "High Crime Areas" = There really are no 'high-crime' areas in Haiti. The 'infamous' Cite Soleil is much, much less dangerous than any major American city. "No Fun Carnival" = Locals with grudges against each other might get into a fight at a festival. No one else would ever be involved. Such festivals are much, much less dangerous than Saint Patrick's Day in any American city. "Political Stability & Chaos" = The media makes it seem like there is perpetual chaos in Haiti, but if you're actually there, or talk to people who are there, it makes the media seem like a comedy-show. Some teenagers might burn some tires in the street before their parents catch them and spank them, and the media will claim it's large-scale rioting & chaos. "Personal Security" = Haiti is one of the safest countries I can possibly imagine. I can walk alone anywhere knowing that if I trip on a rock and fall, that any Haitian will help me up. I don't believe that the author has ever actually been to Haiti, and I think the other countries in the area have bribed him into scaring away tourists from Haiti. That's fine, because I like my secluded beach paradise away from most tourists. You want to know what 'real' danger is like, then go to the Dominican Republic; you'll probably end up naked in the middle of nowhere, beaten half-to-death, wishing you went to Haiti instead.

  • Melanie Rose said

    I went to Haiti in the past year due to a funeral and I knew that Haiti was a dangerous place, but I didn't fully understand how much danger I was in. When the article explained why not to ride a tap tap, my heart froze because I had been on one during my trip and I feel so blessed that God had protected me. Ever since the devastating earthquake, a beautiful country has turned upside down. It's so sad to know that Haiti has turned into a violent and harmful place. My parents would always explain to me how amazing the country was and how beautiful the scenery was when they were younger. Haiti really does need some prayers because what it has become... is not pretty.

  • Medjine Jean Claude said

    Haiti is a country that has issues like all other countries. This article is racist and the information is wrong. Every country has their own safety problems. I have walked around at 1 am in Haiti without anything going wrong. People need to stop puting Haiti down and trying to make it seem like we are a but of barbaric savages that kill for fun. Respect us please.

  • Jeff V. said

    It's tragi-comic to see all the Haitians here besmirch the author in every way possible to try to deflect from the reality that exists in their country. Traveling to Haiti is taking one's life in his hands. I traveled there with a volunteer organization after the earthquake, and even with a large group we needed significant security measures to insure our safety. There is no conceivable reason to travel to Haiti for pleasure. There are many other islands in the Caribbean that are safer and offer an equivalent (if not much better) experience. If you're white and you must go there, hire security or at minimum a local guide to help you navigate the pitfalls.

  • James said

    There is no racism in this article. Why do people always look for reasons to complain about one thing or another? He never mentioned one single time about violence only coming from black communities. Im sure if this was an island off the coast of NY it would contain all the same words. Everyone experiences things in certain ways. It doesnt mean it needs to match up exactly to your personal experience. Are you to say that whomever describes the horrors of having their child kidnapped is full of s#%t simply because it didnt happen to you? Get a life and stop looking for reasons to complain. Do i dare even write the word "christmas" in front of your eyes, or is that highly offensive for precious eyes to see? Haiti has been great for some and a nightmare for others. Same as Manhattan, Soho, Tokyo or wherever else crime can happen. Bet you wouldnt walk down those streets all by yourself. But im sure you will say you have.

  • Joanna said

    I came back from a week long trip to Haiti (Jacmel and Port au Prince) last Saturday. I am a middle aged white woman, I travelled with a white friend.
    We travelled alone, to see and learn about the country, without a guide or "minder". The hotel in Jacmel had no doors to the bar/restaurant, just arches to the street. Not sure how I'd feel about that in my native Atlanta, but there it felt just fine. At NO TIME, ever, did I feel remotely endangered. We walked back from restaurants at night, greeted people we encountered, and were greeted in return. We had many, many lovely conversations with people who were keen to talk about their country, its problems, its politics and its rich culture and history. It did make a huge difference that I speak French. If we as Americans refuse to learn foreign languages, we really do limit ourselves.
    Yes, Haiti is desperately poor. Yes, Port au Prince is overcrowded and still a mess after the earthquake. Yes, we took the precautions we always take with cell phone, money, camera when we travel. And the traffic really is horrendous. But the crime rate in the DR is double what it is in Haiti, and in Jamaica it's 4 times as high.
    This blog post has NOTHING to do with the country I just visited (and, by the way, it was Carnaval season)

  • Jon said

    Next time you want write something about Haiti I strongly encourage you do a little research on Haiti first. And on behalf of all my Haitian zo-koko-tet-fey-languet manmanw

  • MamaT said

    I've been to Haiti a half dozen times and this article is outrageous. I've flown into PAP and stayed in St Mark and Pierre Payen. I've flown into Cap multiple times. The last trip I even brought my daughter along. I've walked the streets of Cap, Berard and Grand Rivière and shared the gospel with people. I've sat in doorways and engaged in friendly debates. I rode from the airport thru Cap with my duffle bag in a open bed Toyota truck while people walked by and I was stopped in traffic. Not one person even looked like they thought about grabbing my bag. I've visited homes, businesses, schools and hospitals and the Haitian people have been nothing but warm and welcoming. Shame on you for the inaccuracies depicted in this article.

  • Stina Craft said

    This article is ill-informed and extremely closed minded. People that travel the world like myself for both business and pleasure, know that unfortunately most people around the world feel ALL Americans have the "American Exceptionalism"syndrome, i try to work hard to dispel this judgement but this article sums up WHY they think that......
    Shame on you for spreading hate and judgement

  • Jana said

    My mother's best friend went back home to Haiti to attend her mother's funeral a few years ago. She came back to America in a body bag. Once She landed in Haiti got a cab. Moments later she was robbed and killed. The saddest thing ever.

  • Eudi said

    OMG! Where you stay to write this article? There are no "safe" areas (with the exception of Labadee an area leased by a cruise ship company - see our Is Labadee Safe? article). Some areas are worse than others, but there is a very real danger of violent crime everywhere in Haiti...
    Can you tell me why you write this article? That depends on how you define crime, poverty and violence. We’re raised in compounds with common courtyards and we know that what you have, you have to share with your neighbors. You stand in front of your neighbor’s house and you ask, “Did you drink coffee already today?” You know that your success and your family’s success depend on the community’s well-being. That’s the model we have.
    But it’s hard for a little country to rise up, especially in our case. We’re still paying a toll because of the independence we got [from France in 1804] in one of the best revolutions the world’s had. The war against us never ended when we got our independence.
    There are no "safe" areas in Haiti please don’t do this you know is not true because if is true it will be better to say "Haiti is the most dangerous country on earth". May God bless you!

  • Eudi said

    When I finish to read this article and I want to contact them directly I go to the country of residence to choose my country you know what Haiti is not in the list. I can't understand this, you write an article about a country and you don't put it in your list. Why??????? Maybe Haiti is too dangerous you don't put it in your list just to make sure HAITI don't infect the others safe country in your beauty list. I'm strongly agree.

    One day everyone will know and will see the truth about Haiti. Where you are I encourage you to come in Haiti and see the difference between this fucking article and the reality this beautiful island.

  • John said

    I have spent the last 10 years making trips to Haiti including taking groups there for the last several years. This article is complete crap and seems to be based on language from State Department travel warnings, though even those warnings, which are often over-hyped, admit that crime is far less frequent outside of Port au Prince. I have not experienced a single problem in all my years of travelling there. For those interested in touring Haiti, Jacmel and the Cap Haitien area are great destinations.

  • Jameel said

    I am an Afrodescendant in the USA. The alleged life for Haitian citizens sounds like what everyday life is like for me and my people here in the United States of America

  • Laurene Chatelain said

    This is bullshit What do you based your comments on ?! I’ve been living in Haiti all my life, the way you’re taking about my country is like if I go out I’ll get kidnapped. Yes there are some dangerous areas just like ANY countries. And for your information there hasn’t been any terrorist attacks like in the US where people decide to explode bombs anywhere So please shut up and make your research next time you’d like to write about a country!

  • Rebecca said

    You should be ashamed of yourself for writing this article. Your absolutist language is inaccurate almost across the board and at times just flat-out lies. Do not go to Petionville? Petionville is a diverse, vibrant suburb that is home to many affluent Haitians. As a white European or American traveler, you will definitely be in the minority. You may have troubles communicating if you don't know any French or Creole (like most Americans who are shamefully unilingual). You should be careful traveling alone at night, though statistically the problems that are likely to arise are less about violent person-on-person crime and more about lack of adequate infrastructure (not enough street lights, sewer grates, etc., including in many neighborhoods of Port au Prince). And yes, you will have poor Haitians asking you for money, as you would in many poverty-ridden countries around the globe. Haiti has been victimized enough; it doesn't need uninformed "travel writers" like you spouting careless, fear-mongering exaggerations. I have been many times and will return again; it's a shame that Haiti's tourism industry has been decimated, as more foreign travelers would help the Haitian economy in a way that empowers Haitians themselves.

  • jb said

    Really..get a life so called writer. You have nefarious intentions and you are definitely misguided. I'll go to Haiti anytime before I go to your so-called civilized countries. Have you ever been to Brownsville, NY? Leave Haiti alone and see us prosper.

  • Shelly said

    Being somewhat conflicted to comment on this website after reading how great Haiti is and 'safe' it is to travel to. My story unfortunately follows what the US travel warnings describes. I traveled with a mission group of 14 (adults and teens) to Haiti (Port Au Prince) on Dec 17 to do a week of mission work in an orphanage. This has been a regular trip taken by a couple of my friends/teens who have loved the people of Haiti and work they accomplished while there. We were picked up from the airport by two Haitian locals (one of which was the owner of the guesthouse where we were to stay) in two vehicles, some adults with teens in one van/ three of us women, priest and local driver in the other truck. Within 10 minutes of our trek to the guesthouse, our truck was stopped by three Haitian men on motor cycles and robbed at gunpoint. We were accosted, pulled out of the vehicle and searched/groped by men screaming to "give us money", all while pointing their guns at our heads and chests. Obviously this terrifying experience is one I look forward to forgetting. We ended up sending the adults and teens back home that very day with the rest of us needing to stay to get temporary passports the next day from the US Embassy. While at the embassy, we were told that since the UN has pulled out of Haiti, the country has had an increase in violence & crime which has been unsuccessfully controlled. In the couple days we were there, we did meet wonderful Haitian people, and my heart goes out to all those in Haiti, even the desperate, violent men we encountered. Think twice about traveling now, and if so travel with the utmost caution with some sort of emergency backup plan! We lost our passports, phones, prescriptions, id travel credit card, little cash, food etc. We thought we were seasoned on how to travel to Haiti, invinsible of any of these crimes, but clearly and sadly we were not.

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