Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What to expect - For Anyone Traveling to the Port Au Prince Airport in Haiti

A quick guide for anyone traveling to the Port Au Prince Airport -
As a caveat to this information - This is current as of August 2011 -- Things change in Haiti all the time so be sure to ask clarifying questions of the organization you are working with prior to your arrival. 
            Just prior to landing, you’ll receive immigration/customs paperwork.  Fill out the paperwork as completely as possible.  Make sure you have the correct address from the organization you're working with.  

2.        When you land, you'll walk off the plane onto the runway and walk 100' to the bus.  It’s a city bus type and will take you to about 400yards to a large building where you’ll walk in to you'll be guided onto a bus to take you to immigration and baggage claim.  This is a converted aircraft hangar it’s a large area without many walls.

3.       You may be asked for the paperwork before you get your bags, but then again they may not ask for it. Continue into the building and you’ll see people surrounding the baggage conveyors on the right.  This will feel chaotic to most Western travelers, but just go with the flow.  It's normal.

4.       Make sure to get several luggage carts first – you’ll need them and sometimes there aren’t many available.  It didn’t cost us anything to use the carts. 

5.       Then, get your group together in an area to collect your baggage.  MOST people should stay in that area with your carry-on bags and pack the checked luggage on the carts when you get them.  Then a few members of your group can grab your bags from off the conveyor.  – This is not an expedient system, but it works.  There were nine of us (including 4 small children) and we got all of our luggage - even though it took about 2hours from the time we arrived until we left the baggage area with our luggage.

6.       When you have all your luggage packed on the carts head toward the exit.  STAY TOGETHER – NO ONE SHOULD LEAVE THE BAGGAGE AREA without the rest of the group.   You are not more than 30ft from the exit to your rear if you are facing the conveyor belts. 

7.       The guards at the exit may or may not ask to review your paperwork.  If they ask about meds or other supplies you have with you fine you'll need your proper documentation, but if they don’t ask just keep walking out toward the parking lot where the vans/taxis will be waiting.

8.       THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL bombarded by insistent requests from drivers wanting to help you with your carts of baggage to take to their vehicle.  Some will even try to say that they are there to pick you up.  Again - there is NO danger, but you will have to be pretty aggressive with some of the drivers depending on their response to your request not to help.  

9.       If the person you're supposed to meet is not right there as you exit the baggage area, - don’t panic :) .  Just DON’T let ANYONE push your carts or carry your bags if they are not a prearranged person to pick you up.  Continue to your right, down the open air tunnel/walkway toward the parking lot and we will meet you there at the end of that walkway if we don’t see you before. 

10.   Once you reach the end of the walkway you should see the people who are there to greet you or to meet your prearranged driver.  Tips for drivers who load all of the luggage Depending on what they do, we tipped each of the 4 guys, 5.00each after the van was loaded.  

I hope this is helpful.  

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