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Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Popular conceptions hold that just to visit Port-au-Prince is to take one’s life in one’s hands, an image bolstered by the violence and kidnappings that followed the 2004 coup. Thankfully, the reality is a little calmer than the perception and visits by foreigners overwhelmingly pass without incident. Operations by the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH) have largely neutralized the gang problem, and although kidnappings do still occasionally occur, targets are almost ­exclusively rich Haitians.

However, street crime is a fact of life in Port-au-Prince, so take sensible precautions. Don’t be ostentatious with valuables, carry only what money you need and don’t keep your cash in your back pocket as the pickpockets are skilful.

Rather than crime or gang violence, Port-au-Prince’s worst problem for visitors is actually the traffic. The jams, the drivers treating the roads like a war zone, the potholes and the endless procession of vendors, beggars and street kids all conspire to make getting from A to B an exhausting process. Sidewalks are jam-packed, frequently forcing pedestrians onto the roads and into the paths of oncoming taptaps (local buses or minibuses).

Avoid walking at night where possible. Aside from the crime risk, streetlights are almost nonexistent, so broken pavements (and open sewer channels) present a genuine ­accident risk.

Unless you have a valid reason and are accompanied by a local, avoid visiting the bidonvilles, such as Cité Soleil and Cité Liberté.

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While you're there

Medical services

Hôpital du Canapé Vert (2245-0984/0985; 83 Rte de Canapé Vert) Excellent doctors and emergency service, recommended by expats.

Hôpital Français (2222-2323, 2222-4242; 378 Rue du Centre)

Hôpital François de Sales (2223-2110, 2222-0232; 53 Rue Charéron)

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