Haiti is a fairly safe country. Haiti's crime rate compares to Long Beach California's crime rate, so it's a pretty safe country. Haiti ranks around being the 7-5th safest countries in the Caribbean, which trumps some other popular Caribbean destinations.
When traveling to Haiti, be sure to keep up with latest news. Demonstrations can happen, but aren't very common.
It's not the best to travel at night, but there are tourist, police, and UN officers marching around, especially during the night.
Be sure not to carry large amounts of money, or show in some way that you have a lot of money on you. Though it does not happen much, you can risk being mugged or injured. Be especially careful when carrying money around beggars.
Be very careful in Haiti, as the country is having issues with cholera. You should be safe if you stay away from contaminated water, and poorer areas. If you come across with anyone who is infected, be sure to immerse, and wash your hands and apply anything to kill germs
Sanitary conditions in Haiti are poor. Tap water should be avoided. Drink bottled water only.
Health care, while well below the standards of that in developed countries, is available in all large towns and cities. Many smaller towns and villages also have health clinics. However, medical equipment and a wide variety of medicines may be in meagre supply.
The biggest concern in Haiti for travellers is malaria, and dehydration. One should make an appointment with a travel clinic for anti-malarial prophylaxis. Hydration requirements can be fulfilled by preparing one of the many water purifying systems as if one were going camping or by buying bottled water once in Haiti, which is widely available and inexpensive by western standards. Washing oneself with water from places such as creeks or lakes is not recommended due to the risk of water-borne diseases.
Depending on your itinerary, you may have to walk a lot. Comfortable footwear is crucial for avoiding blisters. Hiking boots are recommended as well as comfortable sandals.
See also: French phrasebook, Haitian Creole phrasebook
The official languages of Haiti are French and Haitian Creole Kreyòl Ayisien, which is a French-based creole language, with 92% of the vocabulary being derived from French and the rest primarily from African languages and native Taino, with elements of Spanish. Haitian Creole is the native language of the masses, while French is the administrative language, even though only 15 % of Haitians can speak it and only about 2% can speak it well.
Creole is mutually intelligible with French on the most basic level, so the competent French speaker should be fine in limited circumstances. Many Haitians are very appreciative if you take the trouble to learn a little bit of one of the official languages preferably Creole, rather than using an interpreter or expecting them to speak English. Haitians working in tourist areas usually speak English well enough for conversation. In towns along the border with the Dominican Republic, it is easy to find people who speak a conversational level of Spanish.
Mission groups/teams often find a translator very helpful in order to communicate during their trips.
One thing a missionary or other visitor to Haiti learns very quickly is that Haitians are a very dignified people; they have their pride, despite all they have had to endure. There are some beggars and pedlars in the cities, but they are the exception, not the rule. Expect no kow-towing. Impoverished Haitians will always accept gifts, but they will almost always stand straight, look you in the eye, and repay you with a sincere "Mesi" thanks.
Haiti is a nation of fairly conservative norms. Modest dress when exploring Haiti's cities is advised, especially for women. The smart visitor should look people in the eye, wave hello, and treat them with friendship and respect, as equals, no matter how poor or desperate their living conditions may seem.
Try to learn some basic words of Haitian Creole.
Ask permission before taking pictures of locals they often ask you for money. Never walk about sticking your camera in people's faces or taking pictures randomly. Do not solely take pictures of the piles of trash you may see in some of the bigger cities such as Cap-Haïtien or Port-au-Prince or anything else that Haitians are not proud of as it is offensive. However, people have no problem with foreigners taking pictures of beautiful scenery, cultural events or historical sites.
Carry a few gourdes in your pockets for the kids who carry your luggage/shine your shoes/hail your tap-tap at the airport but be alert for pickpockets.
Sometimes visitors to Haiti walk about handing out candy or dollar bills. While many people, especially children, will accept your offering, this is offensive to most people as it compromises the dignity of Haitians.Carry an extra water bottle and food to share with your driver, guide, or interpreter.
Be patient as nothing moves fast in Haiti. Most people will find your whining amusing at best and severely insulting at worst.
Carry a few photos of the area where you live, your workplace, or your family to share with friends you make. These are the things that transform you from just another tourist into a real person. More often than not, the people will return the favour, and you might just find a friend.
Your emotions are real. It is okay to feel overwhelmed if you have not experienced this type of culture difference before. If you are easily affected by signs of poverty, Haiti is not for you. Be polite but not intrusive. It is normal to ask questions of the locals. Remember that you are a guest in their country. Do not expect to be treated as a king or a queen though you might get some extra privileges because you are foreign. Haitians are warm and helpful people.
The people on the Gonâve Island have quite possibly less contact with Westerners than say those Haitians in Port-au-Prince. The children shout "blanc, blanc, blanc" as you walk by. The children on the saline flats will readily walk with you, show you how to skip stones off the water and try very hard to communicate with you. They may try to charge you for picking up a shell from the flats and up to USD6 to take a picture of their donkey. You do not have to pay, but out of respect, do not take the picture. They appreciate being asked if you may take their picture.