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Haiti Guide

Driving

Haiti is one of the Caribbean's less travelled gems but those who dare to venture here won't be disappointed. This wonderful island is shared with the Dominican Republic. By car, tourists can explore the capital, Port-au-Prince, before getting out into the open countryside in order to discover natural wonders, secluded beaches and mountainous terrain.

Driving Tips for Haiti

Driving can be a challenge around the island as the roads are in poor condition following the 2012 earthquake. Signage is sparse and written in French. As most roads have potholes, it is advised to hire durable four-wheel drive vehicle.

Driving licences: a full UK driving licence or International Driving Permit is valid in Haiti.

Which side does Haiti drive on: the right.

Speed limits:
Dual carriageways and highways (outside urban areas): 75mph (120kph)
Provincial or national roads: 68mph (110kph)
Local roads: 50mph (80kph)
Urban roads: 31mph (50kph)

Alcohol limits: drink-driving is illegal―unlike in the UK, which has a limit of 0.08 percent―but this law is rarely enforced.

Driving age: there is no minimum driving age, but car hire firms demand that drivers are at least 21 years.

Seatbelts: aren't required to be worn by either drivers or passengers but wearing them comes highly recommended due to challenging road conditions. The same logic applies to child restraints.

Mobile phones and GPS: drivers may use their mobile phone while at the wheel, but this practice isn’t recommended. GPS use is legal and can prove vital due to the scarcity of road signs.

Cost of fuel in Haiti: due to fluctuating pump prices, fuel may be considerably higher in price here than in Britain.

Car hire and fuel payment: those that wish to rent a vehicle will need to leave a cash deposit or produce a valid credit card. Petrol stations across the land are rarely able to accept credit cards so having enough cash to hand for fuel is advised.

Insurance: is not a common concept here so it is advised to take out full coverage. Most rental companies include basic liability of some description.

Traffic and parking: Haiti, especially the capital of Port-au-Prince, is notorious for traffic jams. On roads in the countryside, traffic comes in various different forms, ranging from livestock and pedestrians to broken-down vehicles. Parking is a free-for-all here.


Transport

Taxis
Taxis come in the form of trucks or SUVs, given the nature of the roads around the country. Prices are cheap compared to the UK. A typical fare for a guided trip around Port-au-Prince for the day could be as low as £6.

Buses
It is possible to get a bus here from the Dominican Republic. Caribe Tours runs once-daily coaches from the Dominican's capital, Santo Domingo, to Petionville at roughly £25 per person (one-way). Domestic bus travel is cheap, with fares around Port-au-Prince as little as £0.10, while tickets for the ride between Port-au-Prince and Jacmel are about £3.

Airports
Haiti has two international hubs: Toussaint Louverture International Airport near Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien International Airport in the north. There are currently no direct flights from the UK but it is possible to fly to North American, Cuban or Caribbean cities with carriers such as United and American Airlines and then transfer. From the UK, a typical return fare costs between £600 and £800. British nationals aren't required to arrange a visa prior to travelling to Haiti. Taxis from Port-au-Prince’s airport to the city cost around £12.

Explore

Exploring Haiti

The majority of visitors to Haiti begin their explorations in the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Here, the main activities are trips to the National Palace, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and the National Museum, which costs less than a bar of chocolate to enter.

After Port-au-Prince, tourists usually head to Cap-Haitien. The country's second largest city has an admirable location on the Atlantic coast. While there are things to do in the centre, most tourists use Cap-Haitien as an access point to Haiti's most beautiful beaches, while historians enjoy trips to the old forts.

Historians might also be interested in visiting Gonaives, the setting of the birth of the first-ever black republic in 1804 when Haitian Revolution leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines signed the country's declaration of independence.

A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Port-au-Prince are the towns of Jacmel and Jeremie. While the former is known for its beautiful historic centre and as the artistic and cultural capital of the country, the latter is one of the nation’s most isolated destinations, laden with friendly inhabitants.

Our Travel Editor’s Recommended Drives

Southern Coast – this shore boasts Victorian towns such as Jacmel as well as outstanding national parks like Park Macaya. Thankfully, the roads in this part of the country are much better than they are elsewhere.

Cap-Haitien – Haiti’s second city is much more relaxing than Port-au-Prince and provides an ideal base for excursions to the Citadel and idyllic beaches such as Plage Labadie.

The Southern Claw - this part of the country, known in short as the Claw, is home to cloud forests and jagged rock formations, in addition to some of the island's best bird-watching spots. The 'City of Poets', Jeremie, can be accessed via this route.

Saut-Mathurine - one of the Caribbean's most photogenic waterfalls is well worth the effort to get here. Its remote location means that it has been protected against harmful human intrusions.

Holidays and Festivals

New Year’s Day (1 January)
Ancestry Day (2 January)
Epiphany (6 January)
Easter (March/April)
Pan-American Day (14 April)
Labour Day (1 May)
Flag and Universities Day (18 May)
National Sovereignty Day (22 May)
Assumption of Mary (15 August)
Dessalines Day (17 October)
United Nations Day (24 October)
All Saints’ Day (1 November)
All Souls’ Day (2 November)
Armed Forces’ Day (18 November)
Discovery Day (5 December)
Christmas Day (25 December)

Weather

Haiti enjoys a typically tropical climate, meaning that warm temperatures are experienced throughout the year. Unfortunately, with this comes intermittent rainfall. As with many countries in this part of the world, location dictates minor variations in the weather. Along Haiti's coast, humid conditions are experienced. In the resorts located in the hills, temperatures are much cooler. The best time to avoid Haiti is between June and September, as this is when the hurricane season is in full effect. While there might not be any typical tourist season, December and February are considered the best months to visit and when temperatures regularly top 30°C.

Practical Stuff

Haiti Travel Tips

Whenever not in the clutches of a natural disaster, Haiti is arguably the Caribbean's most adventurous destination. Away from the gritty cities, the best locations are found well off the beaten path and boast unbeatable natural beauty.

Haiti contact numbers
Country code - (+509)
Emergency services – 114
Police – 114
Medical – 118
British Embassy – +509 3744 6371
British Consular Emergency Services – +509 3744 6371
Canadian Embassy – +509 2812 9000
US Embassy – +509 229 8000

Money matters
The gourde, the Haitian dollar and the US dollar are widely accepted here. Due to the unreliability of ATMs, tourists are advised to make sure they bring enough cash with them or sufficient travellers’ cheques, which can be changed in banks only.

Health and safety
The country's health problems have been worse than ever before since the 2010 earthquake. Visitors are advised to get the appropriate vaccinations for typhoid, diphtheria and hepatitis prior to travelling here. Due to the risk of cholera, only bottled water or fully-cooked food should be consumed. Malaria and dengue fever can be avoided by making sure skin is covered at sundown or sunup.

Fitting in…
Greeting Haitians is incredibly important, as is haggling with them over goods. Public displays of affection should be kept for private settings, as should donning skimpy clothing.

Visas for Haiti
Citizens of the UK, the EU, the US, Canada or Australia don't require a visa providing they stay in the country for less than 90 days. Having a passport that has six months’ validity is an entry requirement.

Electricity
UK and European travellers are advised to bring adaptors with them as flat pronged plugs are used here. The voltage is 220-110 at 60 Hertz.

Business hours
Shops: 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00, Monday to Friday, 08:00 to 12:00, Saturday
Banks: 09:30 to 13:00 and 15:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday

Helpful phrases
Bonjou – Good morning
Mesi – Thank-you
Souple - Please
Wi/non – Yes/no
Eskize mwen – Excuse me
Komon ou ye? – How are you?

All cities in Haiti

We compare car rental suppliers in each of the following cities: