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Port-au-Prince is the capital and largest city of the Caribbean country of Haiti.
The city's population was estimated at 987,310 in 2015 with the metropolitan area (aire métropolitaine) estimated at a population of 2,618,894.
The city of Port-au-Prince is on the Gulf of Gonâve: the bay on which the city lies, which acts as a natural harbor, has sustained economic activity since the civilizations of the Arawaks. It was first incorporated under the colonial rule of the French, in 1749. The city's layout is similar to that of an amphitheatre; commercial districts are near the water, while residential neighborhoods are located on the hills above.
Its population is difficult to ascertain due to the rapid growth of slums in the hillsides above the city; however, recent estimates place the metropolitan area's population at around 3.7 million, nearly half of the country's national population.
Port-au-Prince was catastrophically affected by an earthquake on 12 January 2010, with large numbers of structures damaged or destroyed. Haiti's government estimated the death toll to be 230,000.
|POPULATION :||City: 987,310 / Metro: 2,618,894|
|TIME ZONE :||EST (UTC-5)|
|LANGUAGE :||French (official), Creole (official)|
|RELIGION :||Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%|
|AREA :||36.04 km2 (13.92 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||18°32′N 72°20′W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.77% |
• Female: 51.23%
|ETHNIC :||black 95%, mulatto and white 5%|
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+509|
The culture of the city lies primarily in the center around the National Palace as well as its surrounding areas. The National Museum is located in the grounds of the palace, established in 1938. The National Palace was one of the early structures of the city but was destroyed and then rebuilt in 1918. It was destroyed again by theearthquake on 12 January 2010 which collapsed the center's domed roof.
Another popular destination in the capital is the Hotel Oloffson, a 19th-century gingerbread mansion that was once the private home of two former Haitian presidents. It has become a popular hub for tourist activity in the central city. The Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince is a famed site of cultural interest and attracts foreign visitors to its Neo-Romantic architectural style.
The Musée d'Art Haïtien du Collège Saint-Pierre contains work from some of the country's most talented artists, and the Musée National is a museum featuring historical artifacts such as KingHenri Christophe's actual suicide pistol and a rusty anchor that museum operators claim was salvaged from Christopher Columbus's ship, the Santa María. Other notable cultural sites include the Archives Nationales, the Bibliothèque Nationale (National library) and Expressions Art Gallery. The city is the birthplace of internationally known naïve artist Gesner Abelard, who was associated with the Centre d'Art.
On April 5, 2015, the construction of a new LDS Temple in Port-au-Prince was announced.
Prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the island of Hispaniola was inhabited by people known as the Taíno, who arrived in approximately 2600 BC in large dugout canoes. They are believed to come primarily from what is now eastern Venezuela. By the time Columbus arrived in 1492 AD, the region was under the control of Bohechio, Taíno cacique (chief) Xaragua. He, like his predecessors, feared settling too close to the coast; such settlements would have proven to be tempting targets for the Caribes, who lived on neighboring islands. Instead, the region served as a hunting ground. The population of the region was approximately 400,000 at the time, but the Taínos were gone within 30 years of the arrival of the Spaniards.
With the arrival of the Spaniards, the Amerindians were forced to accept a protectorate, and Bohechio, childless at death, was succeeded by his sister, Anacaona, wife of the cacique Caonabo. Anacaona tried to maintain cordial relations with the Spaniards, but this proved to be difficult, as the latter came to insist upon larger and larger tributes. Eventually, the Spanish colonial administration decided to rule directly, and in 1503, Nicolas Ovando, then governor, set about to put an end to the régime headed by Anacaona. He invited her and other tribal leaders to a feast, and when the Amerindians had drunk a good deal of wine (the Spaniards did not drink on that occasion), he ordered most of the guests killed. Anacaona was spared, only to be hanged publicly some time later. Through violence and murders, the Spanish settlers decimated the native population.
Direct Spanish rule over the area having been established, Ovando founded a settlement not far from the coast (west of Etang Saumâtre), ironically named Santa Maria de la Paz Verdadera, which would be abandoned several years later. Not long thereafter, Ovando founded Santa Maria del Puerto. The latter was first burned by French explorers in 1535, then again in 1592 by the English. These assaults proved to be too much for the Spanish colonial administration, and in 1606, it decided to abandon the region.
As the colony grew, they set up a hospital not far from the coast, on the Turgeau heights. This led to the region being known as Hôpital. Although there had been no real Spanish presence in Hôpital for well over 50 years, Spain retained its formal claim to the territory, and the growing presence of the French flibustiers on ostensibly Spanish lands provoked the Spanish crown to dispatch Castilian soldiers to Hôpital to retake it. The mission proved to be a disaster for the Spanish, as they were outnumbered and outgunned, and in 1697, the Spanish government signed the Treaty of Ryswick, renouncing any claims to Hôpital. Around this time, the French also established bases at Ester (part of Petite-Rivière) and Gonaïves.
Although the elimination of the flibustiers as a group from Hôpital reinforced the authority of the colonial administration, it also made the region a more attractive target for the English. In order to protect the area, in 1706, a captain named de Saint-André sailed into the bay just below the hospital, in a ship named Le Prince. It is said that M. de Saint-André named the area Port-au-Prince (meaning "Port of the Le Prince"), but the port and the surrounding region continued to be known as Hôpital, but the islets in the bay had already been known as les îlets du Prince as early as 1680.
In 1770, Port-au-Prince replaced Cap-Français (the modern Cap-Haïtien) as capital of the colony of Saint-Domingue.
In November 1791, it was burned in a battle between attacking black revolutionists and defending white plantation owners. It was captured by British troops on June 4, 1794.
In 1804, it became the capital of newly independent Haïti.
During the American occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), Port-au-Prince, garrisoned by American Marines and Haitian gendarmes, was attacked twice by caco rebels. The first battle, which took place in 1919, was a victory of the American and Haitian government forces, as was the second attack in 1920.
On 12 January 2010, a 7.0 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, devastating the city. Most of the central historic area of the city was destroyed, including Haiti's prized Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince, the capital building, Legislative Palace (the parliament building), Palace of Justice (Supreme Court building), several ministerial buildings, and at least one hospital. The second floor of the Presidential Palace was thrown into the first floor, and the domes skewed at a severe tilt. The seaport and airport were both damaged, limiting aid shipments. The seaport was severely damaged by the quake and was unable to accept aid shipments for the first week. The airport's control tower was damaged and the US military had to set up a new control center with generators to get the airport prepared for aid flights. Aid has been delivered to Port-au-Prince by numerous nations and voluntary groups as part of a global relief effort. On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, an aftershock rated at a magnitude of 5.9 caused additional damage.
Port-au-Prince has a tropical wet and dry climate and relatively constant temperatures throughout the course of the year.
Port-au-Prince’s wet season runs from March through November, though the city experiences a relative break in rainfall during the month of July.
The city’s dry season covers the remaining three months. Port-au-Prince generally experiences warm and humid conditions during the dry season and hot and humid conditions during the wet season.
Climate data for Port-au-Prince
|Average high °C (°F)||31|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||27|
|Average low °C (°F)||23|
|Source: Climate & Temperature|
The metropolitan area is subdivided into various districts (communes). There is a ring of districts that radiates out from the commune of Port-au-Prince. Pétionville is an affluent suburban commune located southeast of the city. Delmas is located directly south of the airport and north of the central city, and the rather poor commune of Carrefour is located southwest of the city.
The commune harbors many low-income slums plagued with poverty and violence in which the most notorious, Cité Soleil is situated. However, Cité Soleil has been recently split off from Port-au-Prince proper to form a separate commune. The Champ de Mars area has begun some modern infrastructure development as of recently. The downtown area is the site of several projected modernization efforts in the capital.
Port-au-Prince is one of the nation's largest centers of economy and finance. The capital currently exports its most widely consumed produce of coffee and sugar, and has, in the past, exported other goods, such as shoes and baseballs. Port-au-Prince has food-processing plants as well as soap, textile and cement factories. Despite political unrest, the city also relies on the tourism industry and construction companies to move its economy. Port-au-Prince was once a popular place for cruises, but has lost nearly all of its tourism, and no longer has cruise ships coming into port.
Unemployment in Port-au-Prince is high, and compounded further by underemployed. Levels of economic activity remain prominent throughout the city, especially among people selling goods and services on the streets. Informal employment is believed to be widespread in Port-au-Prince's slums, as otherwise the population could not survive. Port-au-Prince has several upscale districts in which crime rates are significantly lower than in the city center.
Port-au-Prince has a tourism industry. The Toussaint Louverture International Airport (referred to often as the Port-au-Prince International Airport) is the country's main international gateway for tourists. Tourists often visit the Pétionville area of Port-au-Prince, with other sites of interest including gingerbread houses.
Prices in Port-au-Prince
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.10|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$10.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$44.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$57.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$2.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.10|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$6.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.09|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$2.20|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$4.00|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.20|
Transportation - Get In
Port-au-Prince airport (IATA: PAP) is served by several major airlines, primarily Air Canada, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines and United Airlines as well as smaller flights from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other spots in the Caribbean. Taxis from the airport to your destination in Port-au-Prince will be about USD20 for standard fare. Tap Taps going to all places past the airport will cost about HTG10 (USD0.25) and a community-created route map can be found here.
From Santo Domingo: Caribe Tours, Capitol Coach Line and Terra Bus each run very modern buses daily to Port-au-Prince, each of the 3 companies departing from their own station along Av. 27 de Febrero. Caribe runs to Pétionville (in the hills above Port-au-Prince) that leaves at 11:00. Most all tickets currently cost USD40 one-way, plus serious tax/border fees of about USD26 and DOP100, depending on the direction. Unfortunately, Caribe Tours' bus drops you off in Pétionville after dark so make prior arrangements with a trustworthy person to meet you and transport you to your lodging.
Another, less expensive option, is to take a guagua (Dominican minibus) from Santo Domingo departing 4 blocks NW of Parque Enriquillo, just West of Av Duarte, from a small parking lot within the elevated expressways of Espresso 27 de Febrero). suggests guava buses leave every 45min, but this is not always the case. Price is DOP400 (about USD10), allow about 5h for the journey including a quick rest/meal sto) and arrive in the border town of Jimani. From there it is a 4km walk or a DOP50+ ride by motoconcho to the border post. The border is apparently open 08:00-18:00 (if it respects its times).
In the past it was very easy to cross the border without submitting to any immigration procedures on either side, and although probably illegal, saved a few dozen dollars in bribes and was much faster too. Things are changing: passport control is now generally required leaving the Dominican Republic, not just entering the DR. Entering Haiti legally is quick: fill out the green form and pay whatever amount the official asks (around DOP100). There are no ATMs at the border. Moneychangers give gourdes for Dominican and US currency. Rates are fair. Protect Haiti's small green card in your passport, allowing you to leave Haiti without risking a penalty.
There's usually plenty of local transportation from the border to Port-au-Prince. Crowded tap-taps and buses can take you to Croix-des-Bouquets for about HTG75 (1-2h), from where it is another hour to Port-au-Prince (bus, HTG5+ per route, summary network map. Road ranges from very bad to good, and is prone to flooding. Peruvian UN soldiers at the border have confirmed that the road to Port-au-Prince is safe to travel with no incidents of robbery or kidnappings, but definitely try to arrive in Port-au-Prince before dark.
Transportation - Get Around
Tap-taps run along prescribed routes throughout the city. Most routes cost HTG10 ($0.25), although to get across the city you may need to utilize multiple routes, each of which charges separately.
Taxis are typically about HTG500 and should be used only during daylight. After dark, prices rise substantially, and you are at substantially greater risk of being mugged.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
- Marche de Fer (Iron Market) A densely packed market of vendors selling everything from crafts such as voodoo paraphernalia to fresh food such as turtles. It a challenging, stressful, and maddening place to walk through as throngs of desperate merchants grab you and tight huddle of shoppers, stalls, and moving goods impede your every step, which requires you to swim through humanity. You will find a breathtaking inventory of hand crafted art: sculptures, masks, staves, paintings, globes, tea sets, coconut belts, etc.
There are at least two banks with ATMs: Scotiabank and Sogebank. The closest Scotiabank to downtown is at the intersection of Boulevard Jean-Jacques-Dessalines and Rue Pavée. Even the ATM is closed on Sundays. Banks here close very early, even on the weekdays.
Eating out in Port-au-Prince is surprisingly expensive. Even at modest restaurants a full plate of food will usually cost around HTG200. A good amount of food from street vendors will even cost up to HTG100.
- Foodies (near the National Palace) A clean fast food joint serving hamburgers and fries. Expect to spend about HTG120 for a cheeseburger, fries, and drink. Ask for the owner, a Haitian of Lebanese ancestry, who will answer your questions in Brooklyn English.
- Pizza Garden, one of the best pizzerias in the whole city, although it is hard to find if you do not know its location. There is "Old" Pizza Garden and "New" Pizza Garden, the latter being as a result of a split in co-owners. The décor is typical of a Haitian café, with hand crafted tables and lamps. The atmosphere feels intimate due to the soft lighting. Try the extra cheese pizza.
- La Souvenance, 48 Rue Geffrard, . Tu-Sa 06:30-23:00. One of the best restaurants in town, it features French cuisine, some of it with a Creole twist. Mains from USD20.
There are grocery stores all over town at least two in the centre of town, both located on Capois: the Big Star Market in the Champ-de-Mars area and the Primera Market nearby the Hotel Olafson.
Sights & Landmarks
- The National Palace The National Palace famously collapsed during the earthquake and offers one of Port-au-Prince's most startling reminders of the quake's power. Adjacent to the palace used to be one of Port-au-Prince's many tent cities, whose over 1000 residents occupied what used to be the most beautiful park in Haiti, the Champs-de-Mar, but the residents have now been evicted.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption Port-au-Prince's largest cathedral is just down the road from the palace and is likewise a shell of its former glory. Residents continue to pray outside its broken husk, and funerals are frequently held in a plaza behind the main building.
- The Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien For USD1, you will be led on an individual guided tour through a chronology of Haitian history. Each period has its own mural and contains paragon items of that time: the anchor of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus's flagship, is the centrepiece of the exploration age section.
Safety in Port-au-Prince
You should not be outside on the streets after dark unless you are wandering around the busy Champs-de-Mars area. Many travellers and guide books rate Port-au-Prince as the most dangerous major city in the Caribbean in terms of crime and personal safety, even more so than, say, Kingston, Jamaica or Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.