How to travel overland from Santo Domingo to Haiti (Cap Haitien)
I’ve taken a break from the main articles on the site for a while. Mostly because I’ve forgotten a lot of the things I’ve done while traveling and I need time to make some stuff up. In the meantime here is an answer to a question no one has asked me: how to travel to Haiti cheaply, safely and comfortably from the Dominican Republic. I’d best get this down on paper before I forget the details too.
I travelled to Cap Haitien, a beautiful coastal city in the north of Haiti at the beginning of December. The Dominican bus company Caribe Tours run a service from Santo Domingo to both Cap Haitien and the capital Port Au Prince. The travel time is usually given as roughly seven hours. In reality it’s closer to nine hours when you take the Cap Haitien traffic into account.
- Caribe Tours office is located on Esq Leopoldo Navarro, Av de Febrero, Santo Domingo…basically a short taxi ride from the Colonial zone
- There is a special International office at the bus station (just to the left at the front of the building) for the Haitien routes, the staff are friendly and informative while the manager speaks good English.
- It’s a good idea to reserve your seat the day before. MAKE SURE YOU BRING YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOU! It will be needed to print your ticket. You can also buy a return ticket if you want. I need to note that I carry an Irish passport so I don’t need a visa for either country. Always best to check if you require one before you go.
- The ticket costs $30 (one way), you will need to bring an additional $27 dollars with you to the office when you “check in” before boarding the bus. This is for the entrance and border fees which the company take care of for you. On the return journey from Cap Haitien to Santo Domingo the fees only cost $20. I believe this is because there is a $10 exit fee from Haiti and a $10 entrance fee to the Dominican Republic.
- The bus leaves the main Caribe Tours station in Santo Domingo at 9 am. You’re encouraged to be there at 8 for check in. On the return from Cap Haitien the bus leaves at 8am. I’m guessing this is because of the one hour time difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
- Now you’re ready to go! The buses are comfortable and air conditioned. The wifi even works pretty well until you reach the Haitian border. When you check in at the office they will take your passport off you and give it back to you on the bus. You’ll also get a snack – a basic meat and rice dish and a bottle of water. Nothing fancy but nice nonetheless.
- The border town is called Dajabon. Each bus has a “conductor” as well as a driver and they will take you through the border crossing procedures. It turned out to be surprisingly quick and efficient. Again, your stamped passport will be given back to you on the bus. On the way back from Haiti your bags will be checked briefly at the border post. It will also be the last chance to change back your Haitien gourde (probably). The guys at the border here will give you a good rate. To my surprise they gave me the exact dollar amount they were worth.
- Once you reach the border it’s only about an hour or two to Cap Haitien depending on traffic. The evening we arrived it took the guts of an hour just to get into the city centre due to gridlocked traffic.
- One word of warning. If you’ve put luggage in the hold make sure you hold onto your ticket slip. At the bus station they are extremely anal about not handing out bags without tickets…which is good in a way. In another way if you’ve lost your ticket there will be a brief moment of panic while you scramble on the ground looking for it after it fell out of your pocket while they refuse to hand over your backpack.
- Oh one last thing. The Caribe Tours station in Cap Haitien only opens in the morning time so you can’t reserve your seat the evening before for example. Usually it is fine to turn up at 7 that morning and book your ticket there and then (like I did), the bus isn’t very full at this stage. Alternatively if you have your dates set in stone you can have your return ticket booked in Santo Domingo.
- Now you’ve made it to Haiti, Pearl of the Antilles! There’s nothing left to do but enjoy the fantastic scenery, interesting history, and the hustle and bustle of one of the friendliest cities you’ll probably ever be in!
The information currently available for this journey on the net is quite sparse, even the Caribe Tours website don’t give a lot of information on it. So much so I emailed the company just to double check this route was still in operation. There has been an increase in tensions between the two countries in recent years but none of this is obvious to you as a visitor in completing this trip. It was a smooth, professional and extremely scenic ride in places.
Be sure to check out the incredible Citadelle LaFerriere and Sans Souci palace while you’re here. If you’re into your beaches you are also spoiled for choice. A short taxi ride away is the cruise port of Labadee, and there are also several beaches such as Paradise Beach and Amiga Island to check out. But all that is for another day. Right now I’m returning to rack my brains in an attempt to remember everything I did in India, apart from counting the number of times I saw folks taking a dump in public.
Any questions on Haiti , or public pooping, give me a bell in the comments.