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Hotels in Haiti are Expensive

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti- If you can afford 40 USD a night for a hotel room, then I invite you to come to Haiti. This is truly an great country for traveling, though the hotel costs are far beyond the purse strings of the average traveler.

There seems to be very little competition for hotels in Haiti, as there seems to be very few people traveling here. Many hotels have seemingly already gone out of business a decade ago, the few that remain are either for the luxury classes or are decrepit, ill kept love hotels.

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti- If you can afford 40 USD a night for a hotel room, then I invite you to come to Haiti. This is truly an great country for traveling, though the hotel costs are far beyond the purse strings of the average traveler.

There seems to be very little competition for hotels in Haiti, as  there seems to be very few people traveling here. Many hotels have seemingly already gone out of business a decade ago, the few that remain are either for the luxury classes or are decrepit, ill kept love hotels.

The USA business model in this circumstance would decree that with such a lack of demand the price should be lowered to out play the competition, but this is not the Haitian model:

[adsense]Haiti hotels seem keen to gamble on taking all that they can get when they can get it. Haiti hotels live for today. Apparently, it seems to be good business in Haiti to face a drop in tourism with heighten hotel prices, rather than the converse. Apparently, the idea behind this seems to be that if you have a third of the clientele that you once had, you should charge each person three times the former price to break even.

Hotel in Cap-Haitien, Haiti

I walked out of many hotels in Haiti. My quick retreats where sparked not only in disgust for the rough conditions of the hotels, but for the price they were trying to charge me. I would gladly pay $5 – $10 to stay in these hotels, as this is their international value, but $40 is absurd. In over 10 years of travel, only two times had I ever paid more for accommodation — and both of these times was while driving back across the USA last summer with my family.

$40 a night for a bottom of the barrel hotel room — in a country where a meal is $2, a bus ride $1 per seat hour, and transport in the back of a pickup truck costs 50 cents — left my mouth agape. Because of the cost of hotels,  Haiti is not a cheap country for travel.

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I arrived in Cap-Haitien fresh from the Dominican Republic. The $12 a night that I was paying in Sosua for a really comfortable, clean apartment in a hotel seemed pricey to me, but I had no idea what I was in for in Haiti. The most recent version of the guidebook had budget hotels in this city peg at around $12 to $15 a night. Not a good price, though not enough to knock me off the scent.

What I quickly found was that these prices were doubled and tripled since the earthquake in Port au Prince. And the hotels were not willing to budge on the price.

“It is amazing what they will try to charge you for a hotel room there,” my friend Andy warned me before traveling to Haiti, “they think that you have an endless supply of money and can pay any price.”

I have been in tight spots with expensive hotels before, and I have always managed to find a way to talk the price down. Here in Haiti, the hotel receptionists were as brick walls. I walked out of two hotels two times each in Cap-Haitien, before journeying on to a third.

[traveldeals]

The first hotel was an honest shit hole, they wanted $40 a night for one of the worst rooms I have yet seen in my travels. I offered $20 a night — the guidebook had them pegged at $12, a guy in the street told me the price was actually $10.

No go.

“That price would not be good for me,” the young man behind the reception counter spoke.

I walked out, expecting to be stopped at the door.

My expectation was unrequited.

I went to another hotel that once had $15 a night rooms, they now want $56. This was also one of the worst hotels that I have ever walked into in the 46 countries that I have traveled to. I offered $20, $25, even $35. No, the price was $56 to sleep in a vacant slum — one that charged four times less just a couple years before.

Both hotels would not budge. I offered lower prices and walk out of them two times each. The receptionists just watched me go. It was evident that they would rather take no money than give me a lower price — even though the amounts that I was offering were truly extortionate. The hotels knew that I would have to stay somewhere, and they hedged their bets that I would give in and pay four times the amount of an acceptable price at their hotel.

I went to a third hotel, the price was $40. I fought hard — real hard. In that moment, I figured that if I was going to spend $40 to sleep in squalor, that I would rather pay twice as much to stay in the luxury tourist hotel down the road. There was a sense of logic value at work, and I had finally found my limit: I would rather pay a higher price, live in luxury, and get my money’s worth than be extorted.

I fought over the price with this hotel — it was the last “budget” place in town. I argued. I was denied. I then packed up whatever vagabond pride I could muster, and turned to walk out the door to the tourist hotel.

But just as my foot touched the sidewalk the young guy behind the counter called me back in. The Universal Hotel in Cap-Haitien agreed to take me in at a rate of $60 for two nights — 30 USD a night.

Door of $30 a night hotel room in Cap-Haitien -- it can be opened with a butter knife.

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A thriving, lasting tourist industry rarely begins with five star hotels and resorts but, rather, a thriving tourist industry is built on the back of $5 a night hostels. First, the travelers with small budgets will come, then a place becomes trendy and the tourists with backpacks — who happily pay twice as much as their budget stricken fore bearers — follow, and then, on the back of these pseudo adventurers, the middle aged tourists with money will come and a location on the globe will prosper.

The travelers and backpackers will tell their parents about their travels, show them photos, and plant a little seed in their minds: they could take their vacation THERE too. And they do, as a one time backpacker hub is transformed into a tourist carnival.

It has happened like this all over the world.

You must sometimes use a small minnow to catch a big fish. The budget hotels in Haiti are trying to fish with trophy sized bass as the bait on the ends of their lines — and few fish are biting.

This idea on tourism perhaps sounds fantastical, but if you look at some of the thriving tourist industries in the world today — the ones that have lasted, not the here today, gone tomorrow resorts — you will find that many of them were the backpacker bases of yesterday. In the 60’s and 70’s young travelers with little money blazed trails through Southeast Asia, Goa, Nepal, Mexico, Central and South America, Morocco. These places began there tourist as gathering points for young travelers and eventually grew into enormous complexes for tourists on vacation with lots of money to spend.

I could see this happening in Haiti, if only the wheels could begin turning. If Haiti could attract the travelers, the backpackers, I believe that it could then entice the big spending tourists to come again. Haiti once once the Caribbean’s center of the tourism universe. Then the country politically collapsed upon itself, just to be topped off by consistent streams of bad international press — images of kidnappings, two waves of AIDS scares, and now the deluge of images of the earthquake — further drove the knife into the belly of Haiti’s tourism industry.

Shower floor of expensive hotel room in Haiti flooded from the drain

I only saw two other backpackers in Cap Haitien during my stay, and they were on their way out of the hotel I was staying in disgust. Beyond that, the only foreigners I saw in Haiti were a few volunteers on their way back to the Dominican Republic and a group of church people with Canadian flags attached to their every part.

Tourism is a perpetual search for the next big SPOT. Haiti has potential, but the wheels of the country are not spinning towards these ends. Rather, the hotels are taking whatever they can get from whoever they can get it from for today, with little regard for tomorrow. If I was able to find $5 to $10 a night hotel rooms, I would have stayed in Haiti longer, I would have gone to more places, ate more meals, taken more transportation, drank more beers. I also would have told other travelers to follow me — go here, it is amazing, interesting, beautiful, the people are hospitable, friendly, and you can afford to travel there.

But I can not write these words. The days that I was in Haiti were some of the best traveling that I have done in a long time, but the hotels are too cost prohibitive for me to recommend the country to anyone whose pockets do not overflow with cash. And I fear that people with this kind of money have no interest in sleeping in a Haiti love hotel. A week of staying in the worst hotels in Haiti could cost a traveler upwards of $200. In  comparison, a week in an all inclusive beach resort in the Dominican Republic costs $500.

As I watched the kids from Portland turn around in disgust and walk out of the $40 a night hotel in Cap-Haitien, I really hoped they took their money to the $80 luxury hotel on city’s outskirts, as they would have at least gotten value for their money. It is easy to walk out of an overpriced hotel, it is easy to walk out of a country.

The extreme cost of accommodation in Haiti is perhaps a one way ticket to the Dominican border.

Haiti Travelogue Entries — Caribbean Travelogue Entries — Haiti Travel Photos

Filed under: Accommodation, Caribbean, Haiti, Money

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

20 comments… add one

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  • Bob L March 13, 2010, 6:23 pm

    I always wonder what happened to some of the tourist places that caught on, but not completely. Not being a real budget traveler, and usually being on the move fast I have found myself sometimes staying in places that were obviously once touristy places but were also obviously past their prime, or they never quite got there. This is both in the US and other countries.

    Would be an interesting thesis for an MBA…… or not 8^)

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 14, 2010, 9:09 am

      Bob,

      This is excellent, and something that I have been meaning to document for some time — I have just been collecting photos. I really love abandoned resorts and places made just for rich tourist who never came. They are all over. I remember one time in China I flew in and stayed for a night at a hotel in Pudong just outside of Shanghai. The next morning I walked out and found and entire tourist complex and amusement park thing that was completely shut down and abandoned. It was as if someone just flipped the switch on the place, and either everyone went home or no one ever came.

      It is interesting also how next to many of these broken down and abandoned ex-resorts there are often new resorts, of the same exact mold, being built.

      This would be a good study — to document the fall of tourism.

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • anonymouse March 15, 2010, 8:39 pm

    Makes me wonder if you could squat these abandoned places. With a team of 6 travelers, 12 hours of dark and 3 night watch shifts of 2 people and 4 hours each. All would get 8 hours rest. Leave no trace and everybody must be ready to exit at a moments notice.

    Just a radical thought.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 16, 2010, 11:47 am

      There could have been other options — I could have just spent half the price of one night’s accommodation and bought a bicycle and a tarp and went out to sleep in the bushes, but that was not my strategy at the time.

      Though it is my impression that squatting abandoned buildings in a Haitian city may not be the best place to sleep — as there is a good chance that they are already occupied at night, and one fellow with a pistol can easily take anything they want from six unarmed backpackers. But the main reason why I don’t think this would work so well is that 6 foreign travelers will attract a lot of attention in Cap-Haitien, and, as the streets of this city are full of people, there is a good chance that you would be noticed pretty quick and end up with a crowd of Haitians hanging out with you all night long — which probably would not be the worst thing in the world if you did not feel like sleeping.

      Your suggestion is correct, there could have been other options to avoid the overpriced hotels, but I was not prepared to test them out.

      Thanks for the comment,

      Wade

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  • Simon Coleman November 25, 2010, 4:31 am

    I was actually dreaming of a isit to Haiti and was quite thrilled when I found your blog, however, now I am not too sure. $30.00 per night is outrageous. Even in it peak seasons, we can provide and received brilliant accommodation in Thailand or many Asian countries for this type of dollar.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 25, 2010, 11:33 am

      Yes, the hotels in Haiti are ridiculously expensive. Foreigners seem to have to pay 4X the actual rate, and the hotels are not easy to get to bend on this: they would rather see you walk away that accept a fair price. Good idea to stay in SE Asia.

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  • Simon Coleman December 3, 2010, 4:49 am

    I was actually dreaming of a visit to Haiti and was quite thrilled when I found your blog, however, now I am not too sure. $30.00 per night is outrageous. Even in it peak seasons, we can provide and received brilliant accommodation in Thailand or many Asian countries for this type of dollar.

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  • Robert D'Avanzo May 30, 2011, 8:59 am

    I was recently in Cap Haitien and agree with your comments. I stayed at the Roi Christophe, which would be OK anyplace else for $40 per night except they charge $100 in Haiti. All the other guests I met were aid workers on expense accounts from charity groups and that is the problem. Another example of “do gooders” doing bad. I could not afford to eat at the grossly overpriced hotel restaurant, but when Save-the-world pays, they can. In Haiti, you either stay at a place like this or pay a little less for complete squalor and I would love to find out I am wrong. Haiti is a beautiful country and I found the people to be lovely. Since the economy could use a boost, I hope Haiti could start attracting more real travelers instead of just aid workers.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 30, 2011, 3:33 pm

      Yes, this is really sad. The save the worlders roll in with more money than they know what to do with and pay any price, driving up the cost for any other “blanc” wanting to travel in that great country to a price they cannot afford. The problem is that few travelers are going to drop $100 per night for $40 rooms (or $40 for $5 rooms) and almost no high end tourists go to Haiti. This leaves a “tourism” industry that is heavily funded by the save the worlders with, as you say, expense accounts (spending more donation money in one day than a Haitian spends in three months). Man, Haiti is a beautiful country and could have a thriving and long lasting backpacker/ budget to mid range tourism industry if hotels and restaurants were not priced on aid worker budgets. Sort of sad really, as these people are suppose to be in Haiti to help the Haitian people and they just gentrify the place to the extend that a grassroots tourism industry cannot even get started.

      I really wish that I could tell everybody to go to Haiti, enjoy that wonderful place and the great people, but I can’t. it is just too expensive. Flop houses should not cost $40 per night anywhere in the world, especially in a country where you can eat for 50 cents. If the cost of hotels were lowered to what they should be — $5 to $10 per night or, in the case of nicer places, $40 — then there would be nothing that could stop the travelers from pouring in, leaving money at every turn, funding a tourism industry in a country that could really benefit from it.

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  • Robert D'Avanzo May 30, 2011, 7:26 pm

    And Wade, it made me angry to actually see where people’s donations end up…funding US and Canadien and UK groups to stay at luxury hotels with swimming pools for months. My vacations are paid for by my hard work. I would be ashamed to stay at a top hotel pretending to help the poor on money someone donated. Yet they had the nerve to ask ME why I was there as if I was the one who should justify it to THEM. All the money donated and yet so many people in Haiti are in such need. It just doesn’t get to them. Since I couldn’t afford to eat at the hotel, I bought food at the market and gave some to the street kids each time. I dare say I did more to help in Haiti than many of the aid workers and mission types and no one had to donate a penny to me. (My advice to readers who are thinking of donations: find out first where your money goes. Do representatives of the charity group stay in five or one star hotels? Does your money go to corrupt politicians?)

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 30, 2011, 8:39 pm

      Right on Robert, right on,

      NGOs, taken as a whole, are the biggest businesses on the planet. Most are peddlers of poverty — they benefit financially off the suffering of others, taking donations from well meaning people and pocketing them in the form of good paychecks and expense accounts or even worse. All too often it is the big “charities” are the ones who can afford to make themselves look legit through advertising, but these are the most crooked of the bunch. There is really no regulation of NGOs — which are not even necessarily non-profit organizations as many people assume. Plain and simple, the more profitable poverty is the more poverty there will be.

      For what, 50, 60 years (or far longer) welfare states have been big in the world — people have been sending millions in donations to poor people all over the world — but what has changed? Many NGOs say that poverty, sickness etc . . . are worst than ever. It is all marketing ploys to keep themselves afloat.

      Of course, this is a big issue, so such singular statements as I’m making here are not all inclusive. There is just a pattern that I’ve observed when traveling, and many of the “save the world” organizations are peddling the poverty of others.

      I agree, putting money directly into the local economy does more for people than sending donations to the bloated middle men staying in luxury hotels.

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  • W G December 18, 2011, 11:27 pm

    I certainly agree with you all on the matter, however if you really want to experience the Northern part of the country, contact us. I own a tour operator in Cap Haitian and I know how difficult is it to be competitive, since our professional tour guides and securitour officers work directly with us, we lower the cost for the tours to provide a more reasonable offer. Destination North Haiti is the only private travel company that believes in sustainable tourism in the whole country. If you find another, I bet you will not find more than that.

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  • Dan January 24, 2012, 10:56 pm

    Some of the comments that follow this article have painted development workers with a broad and biased brush. First of all, most of the people actually working to improve conditions in Haiti are Haitians and live at home or with friends. Most of the foreign people improving the lot of Haitians do NOT stay at the Roi Christophe, the Mont Joli or Cormier Plage, though, as you have noted, there are a few clowns that do. The majority of foreign workers live in more modest accommodations: Haitian homes, apartments, guest houses, rooms behind or over shops, factory floors, missions, nan ti kay yo out in the countryside or single rooms in local hotels that cost a fraction of those expensive places you mentioned. The people you saw at the fancy hotels are not the people in the field actually listening to Haitians detail what they need to recover, treating injured and sick people, feeding kids, increasing agricultural viability and production, and other jobs the people there really say they need. The foreign workers doing actual useful work do not have enough money to inflate accommodation rates in the places you want to stay. You probably won’t see any of them in town, except in the marketplace or getting parts at a hardware store. Not at the Roi Christophe.

    If the author really feels that O’ Kap needs a good clean $10 per night hotel, he should open one. I look forward to staying there! I am not sure how that math works out, but he seems to think it will.

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    • Wade Shepard January 30, 2012, 10:39 am

      Funny that you seem to be 100% convinced that you know what you’re talking about here.

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  • Robert D'Avanzo May 27, 2012, 7:18 am

    The points made by Wade and myself are the truth. During my two visits to Haiti since the earthquake, I stayed at top hotels. I stayed in these hotels not because I wanted to spend the money (I usually stay in $6 a night hotels in Central America!) but because it is difficult to find a place in Haiti that isn’t really horrible for a low price. For example, I paid $100 to have a crappy room at the Olaffson that they wouldn’t be able to give away in the USA . Each time I stayed in the most deluxe place, it was loaded with aid workers. I met them and talked with them by the pool. Their trips were paid for by donations and I have yet to figure out what any of them did to help Haiti. This is not to smear anyone who is in Haiti to help or the aid workers who practise what they preach. I just think people need to be aware that with all the mega bucks donated, so little actually goes to help.

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  • Robert D'Avanzo May 29, 2012, 6:56 am

    And, I know this thread is about expensive hotels, but I just have to add something more: During a stay at an expensive, overpriced hotel in Port Au Prince, one of the save-the-worlders I met was complaining about her taxis never showing up on time. I realized she doesn’t go out except by taxi and eats all meals in the expensive hotel restaurant. I asked why she just doesn’t use the tap tap (local bus) as it runs so often. “Oh, no, we are not allowed to mix with Haitians. It is too dangerous.” That comment really depressed me. And, yes, I firmly believe these “charity” groups with expense accounts drive up prices in Haiti. They are the majority of guests at high end hotels and restaurants.

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    • Wade Shepard May 29, 2012, 8:00 am

      Very honestly spoken here. Couldn’t agree more completely here. Such actions as volunteering, donating, helping the poor are often filed away into the “good” section of many people’s world views, but it is only when you look a little deeper do you see the dirt. It is absolutely amazing how big the “save the world” industry has gotten. I’m not talking black and white here, there are organizations that actually walk the walk, but they are often diluted by those out to make money off of human suffering. One night for an aid worker to stay in a nice hotel in Haiti could feed and house an entire family of Haitians for a month.

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  • Robert D'Avanzo June 9, 2012, 6:54 am

    Additional information: the “lovely” Universal Hotel pictured here now has a mention in a blog about bedbugs. Someone claiming they had gotten multiple bites. Well, I guess that place is out!

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    • Wade Shepard June 9, 2012, 7:59 am

      Haha, and all this time I been wondering where my little hitchhikers went.

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  • Emmanuelle laguerre July 12, 2013, 12:50 am

    Why Haiti?
    My family and I had a very bad experience in Saint Thomas Virgin Islands for our vacation there 2 years ago.
    We stayed at a well known hotel for $125 a night which is very expensive compared to the $60 or $70 a night. Our big surprise was to see roaches crawling in the room. When we reported that to staff, they tried to explain that some guesses before us brought them in, and then they said that things like that always happen on tropical .We did not make a big deal at it, not to mention that I don’t even say the name of the hotel.You can understand that it is a $125 per night hotel room. We would not be disappointed if it was a $40 hotel room per night.

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