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Travel to Labadie Haiti Village

LABADIE VILLAGE, Haiti- “I live in my own little world, but it’s okay, they know me here.”

I read this painted on an inside panel of a boat taxi as I rode into Labadie village on the north coast of Haiti. I had paid 60 cents to ride in a tap tap (the back of a pickup truck with 20 other people) from Cap-Haitien to Labadie beach and then 10 gourde, or 25 cents, for a boat to the village.

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LABADIE VILLAGE, Haiti- “I live in my own little world, but it’s okay, they know me here.”

I read this painted on an inside panel of a boat taxi as I rode into Labadie village on the north coast of Haiti. I had paid 60 cents to ride in a tap tap (the back of a pickup truck with 20 other people) from Cap-Haitien to Labadie beach and then 10 gourde, or 25 cents, for a boat to the village. The Royal Caribbean cruise lines leases a beach called Labadie which is near to the village, though in reality, it is thousands of miles away. There is a large fence that surrounds the beach where 6,000 cruise ship passengers play in the water for a few hours before being swept off to another play place.

The cruise line passengers are not permitted to land on Haiti proper. Apparently, they feel it is safer that way.

Where the cruise ship passengers play is where the road ends. To go further, you need to go by boat. There is no road access into Labadie village.

Boat taxi to Labadie Village, Haiti


The Men

People of Labadie, Haiti

“We sit here all day because we don’t have work,” a group of Haitian men explained to me in the village of Labadie on the north coast of Haiti. They were all smiling really big as they spoke.

I don’t think I have ever looked upon a group of idle men seeming so happy to tell me that they did not have to go to work. Usually, these statements flow contiguously with sallow faces and are often followed up with, “It is very bad here.” But these men did not say this, rather, they stared off across their village, which sits in a cove accessible only by sea, and asked me what I thought of their home.

“It is very beautiful here,” I had to admit. The sun was shinning, the sea lapped against the shore not 100 meters from where I stood, and a green range of hills rose up out of the village floor to a blue sky above. The men agreed with me and laughed.

“We look at this all day,” one of the men said and waved his arm out to present the scene that stretched out before us, “because nobody here works.”

“The problem with Haiti,” one of the men began, “is that everybody is poor.”

“But everybody talks to each other here,” I replied, “not like in America where everyone just walks straight ahead without talking to anyone.”

“Yes,” one of the men picked up the refrain with laughter, “that is all we do, we sit and talk to each other.”

The men continued to laugh, and I did not have the heart to remind them that the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines reputedly employs 200 people from around their village of 5,000. I just laughed along, and thought it refreshing that a group of full grown, healthy looking men could sit around all day chatting with me in the sun without starving to death.

“I think that it may be difficult for you here,” one of the men spoke, “you walk here and everyone wants to talk with you.”

“This is why I travel,” I confirmed.


The Disappointment

Fishing boat in Labadie, Haiti

Imagine the traveler’s disappointment when they find the end of the rainbow only to realize that they can’t stay.


The Hotel

Hotel in Labadie Haiti

“But you were charging $25 a night just three months ago,” I pleaded with the owner of Norm’s Place in Labadie.

“Well the situation in Haiti has changed,” Norm’s wife spoke without remorse.

The new price was $40 per night to stay in her abandoned hotel, the last hotel to remain open in the village of Labadie.

“But there is nobody traveling here!” I continued my haggle.

“That is the price, you can pay it or not.”

I offer $30 — no — I offer $35 — no, the price is $40. I then offered $80 for three nights, the highest price that I have ever offered to pay for accommodation in 10 years of travel.

“$40 per night is the price,” the woman spoke again.

“I will pay $80 for three nights or leave tomorrow,” I restated my position, figuring that this business owner would want the additional $40.

She didn’t.

40 USD per night was the price.


The Carpenter

Carpenter in Labadie, Haiti

As I walked off the boat into Labadie, I asked a young man, who was a fellow passenger on the boat, where I could find Norm’s Place — the hotel I wanted to stay in. He said that he would show me, and we walked together along the shore, through a boat workshop, and up and down little paths that wove in between small cubicle houses made from concrete and rebar that were seeming splattered down upon the earth in random order.

Villages seldom abide by any semblance of a grid system. Villages are much too organic to grow straight.

The path twited between houses, and small children ran to the doors of their home to watch my approach. One pioneering group yelled out “Good morning” over and over again. I returned the greeting twice just to realize that I would be quickly caught in this call and response cycle for infinity if I did not break it off fast. So I walked with young man, whose name was Evans, through the streets of his village.

“How many people live here?” I asked him.

4,600 was his reply.

I then asked him if he liked living here in Labadie. His eyes sparkled and his lips broke into a deep smile as he nodded his approval of his home village.

On first glance, the small stretch of land known as Labadie that rides between the sea below and the hills above is beautiful. Evans’ smile indicated to me that this impression could be long lasting.

Evans left me at the gate to Norm’s Place and I went in to squabble about the price. I walked out once and ventured through town in search of another hotel. I found Evans in front of his home. I told him that the price of Norm’s was too expensive for me, and he gave directions to another hotel. This hotel was closed. A sign on the door read “by reservation only.” I returned to Norm’s and paid 40 USD for a single night.

During the course of my walks that day I ran into Evans again. I found him working in a carpenter’s studio in front of his home.

Haiti carpentry workshop

“Are you a carpenter?” I asked.

He confirmed my rather base observation by holding up the circular saw that he was holding in his hand. He lead me into his workshop. The little shack was lined with shelves, boards, half finished projects, nails, and saw dust. Outside of the workshop were piles of scrap wood. Evans said that he helps builds houses, boats, but seemed most proud of his finish carpentry. He showed me some shelves that he made, and then a little model boat. But his real pride was inside his home.

We walked together across the path and through the front door of his concrete cubicle. Behind the front door was a bare gray concrete room filled with ornate, well carved, and glistening wooden furniture. There were a few couches and a chair or two.

Haitian furniture

“Did you make these?” I asked rhetorically.

He answered that he did, and smiled as I looked over his handiwork. Beyond the end of the road in Haiti there are men who still take pride in lagging behind the world of plastic, assembly lines, and fabricated wood. Here there are people who put time into their professions and allow themselves to be defined by their trade. The carpenter seemed to put himself into his work, he took his time, and as I watched him work, he did so with a smile.


The Diver

Fisherman diver in Haiti

“The problem with Haiti is that people work too hard here,” a young Haitian man told me as I was sitting by the bay of Labadie.

“What is your work?” I asked him.

“I am a diver. I work on that boat over there for a Cuban man.”

I had just seen him wading to shore in his underwear a moment before. I asked him about his work. He told me that he dives for lobster, conch, crab, and fish.

“Do you use any gear?” I asked, thinking of the reports I have read of skin divers going far down below the sea on their own power and lung air.

He looked at me and tried to figure out my words. I rephrased the question, “Do you use an air tank like SCUBA diving?”

He said that he did.

“How do you catch the fish?”

He made a motion with his fingers to indicate that he shot them with a spear gun.

“Tonight there will be a dance there,” the diver spoke as he pointed off towards the center of the village, “and voodoo.”

I nodded my head.

He then added, “and putas.”

I said that I may go.

He asked if I wanted to buy honey. I said that was not exactly what I was looking for. The diver’s father was a honey gatherer, he would go into the forest and smoke the bees out of their hives and take the honey. He talks of the health benefits of taking one spoon of honey each morning. I imagined sticky honey spewing all over the contents of my bag.

We then talked about traveling.

“I have traveled twenty times in my life,” the diver told me, and then added that the place that he wanted to travel to most was Miami.

“There are a lot of Haitians there,” I added.

He knew this already.


Hello My Niggah

“Hello my niggah!” I was greeted by a 10 year old Haitian boy as I rounded a corner in Labadie Village.

“Oh! you speak English?” I exclaimed in surprise.

The boy stared at me blankly. Apparently, hello my niggah was the first English phrase this boy had learned. I can only hope it serves him well someday.


Macho Man

Labadie Village Haiti

I walked through the town center of Labadie. There was probably around 100 people just sitting and standing around in groups, those who could afford it were drinking beer, others just talked and watched the sea. We were right by the boat dock, and everyone would watch the passengers come into town and leave. I chatted with a group of men.

I answered the standard questions:

Where are you from?

What are you doing here?

Where are you staying?

How long have you been in Haiti?

What do you think of here?

At the end of this conversation I made a graceful exit. I walked over to a small park area with concrete benches. I passed a large, muscular Haitian man who was standing alone. We had the standard chat. I think he told me that he had been to New York. Our conversation was friendly, the man smiled at me, I smiled back. I walked on.

On the way back through, I was met by this same man. He was with a group of friends now, he began showing off. He walked up to me aggressively and yelled something in Creole at me. I turned and asked him what he wanted.

“I wasn’t talking to you!” he yelled, “Do you speak Creole!?!”

He then yelled something in Creole at me again. Another large man was with him, and the two made to box me in. The other man spoke in English — “He wants to know if you speak Creole?” — as he made to walk around to the other side of me, essentially blocking me in.

I saw what was coming, a machismo event. The men were showing off my trying to bully me.

I walked away without reply.

The two men followed for a few paces, and gave up the spectacle.

This was the first and only time I was challenged in Haiti, and the event was slight. But it did provide me with with another look at the culture. Men act macho in many places of the world. They often devise these power plays where they try to tell you what to do to see if you will obey. Sometimes it means sitting with them, sometimes it means crossing the street to talk, sometimes they will try to intimidate you, sometimes it is just a pointless order to see if you will follow it. These situations are not usually dangerous, it is just a group of dogs trying to determine who is the alpha-male. A traveler is a stray dog on a pack’s turf, and he sometimes will be tested.

If you don’t play along the event will often be called a no-contest. They men will laugh with their friends and act like they chased you away, or they will taunt you as you go.

Fine by me.


The women

Haitian women

I was walking passed the soccer pitch in the center of Labadie. It was afternoon, the sun was shinning, the weather warm. Everybody was standing around in the village in little social circles talking. They all would watch as I walked by. Some would call out to me, sometimes I would stop to talk, sometimes I would just keep walking. The soccer pitch was full of young Haitians. The men stood in circles with the men. The women sat in gossip groups with the women. There was a cow chewing cud in the middle of everything.

As I walked by a woman called out to me, and waved her hand for me to walk over to her. It was apparent that she was not requesting that I stop walking and talk with her, she was ordering me to do so. I obeyed.

I walked across the soccer field to her group. She was probably around 25 years old, and the other women in her group were around the same age. They were sitting down on a tree stump or a ruined concrete wall or something, and I was standing over them. They looked like they were about ready to laugh.

“Where do you sleep?” the girl that called me over asked in French.

“At Norm’s,” I answered simply.

“Ok, let’s go!” the girl roared in English, stood up, and made to take me by force.

I stepped back with eyes open wide, teetering on the verge of a fantastic abduction.

The group of girls doubled over with laughter. I muttered a quick “I am married” and made a very fast get away.

I flattered myself with a fear for her seriousness.



Labadie Village Haiti

One of my biggest disappointments in Labadie was that I could not afford to stay there longer. I had enough cash to support myself for three or four days at $25 a night for a bed, not enough for $40. I was interested in how this village sustained itself, how these men who boasted that they did not work obtained the resources to eat, about the forces that kept this little village by the sea afloat, smiling, joking, and laughing.

Cruise ship in Haiti

The Royal Caribbean cruise lines has leased a beach near the village of Labadie, and I was curious to observe how these monstrous ships that appear in the harbor every other day affected this little town. My guess was that the ships docked in a bubble, but I was curious to gauge the residual effects.

I shrug, there are more places in the world for travel, there are more villages where I can live for a price that I am willing to afford. I left Norm’s place the next morning as promised, still amazed that they would not give me any sort of discount to continue being the only guest they had in a week.

I pocketed my notebook where I had collected the above conversations, I gathered my camera where I had collected the above photos, I walked to the dock, boarded a boat, and watched Labadie fade into memory.

Girls in Labadie

Boat dock Labadie Haiti

Labadie Village taxi boat

Haiti Travelogue Entries — Haiti Travel Guide — Haiti Travel Photos — World Culture


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Filed under: Caribbean, Culture and Society, Haiti

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

27 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Michael March 15, 2010, 4:58 am

    Wow, it just doesn’t make sense that the hotel owner wouldn’t negotiate the price. Is she holding out for the day when lots of tourists show up the way you did, which we think will never happen or is she waiting for the day when the hotel closes?
    What kind of business can stay in business with this kind of economic logic?
    Perhaps it being the only hotel in the village but it is still very odd.

    What made you decide to travel to Labadie?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 15, 2010, 8:57 am

      Hello Michael,

      I never seen anything like this before. It was almost as if the hotels didn’t really want guests. I was positive that they would take $80 for three nights — which is an incredible amount of money in a country where a meal is under $2, and transportation is around $1 per hour. There were no other travelers in the entire village, and I was the only guest at the hotel. I was really surprised.



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      • Bill Newton September 13, 2010, 9:29 pm

        You don’t understand Norm’s place. Its not a two bit operation owned by a mom and pop with no other source of income. Think of it more as a bed and breakfast, run as a hobby by people who don’t really run it for the money. $40 is *not* I repeat *not* a lot in Haiti for decent accommodations. There really are two economies: one for people who don’t live on $1 a day, and one for those who do.

      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:22 am

        Correct, I truly don’t understand why an empty hotel in a country temporarily devoid of tourists where a person can live on $1 a day would try to charge me $40 a night, and would not take my offer of $80 for three. Especially when this hotel was charging $25 a night only a few months before.

        Very correct, I do not understand why a hotel would not want guests.

  • Bob L March 15, 2010, 10:37 am

    OK, I gotta say this. I don’t know if you noticed this, but you keep using the term passed rather than past. ex. “walking passed the soccer”. Sounds like a habit rather than a mistake. I have been noticing this for a long time. It is the kind of like the thing that happens when you have autocomplete turned on with Word or other spell checks.

    Oh, and I like the travel gear listing at the bottom of the post. Nice touch.

    Bob L

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 15, 2010, 11:32 am

      Thanks Bob,

      These entries are ultimately unedited, and are first written in Wordpad which has no spell or grammar check systems. So the errors are all me. Thanks also for the feedback on the store.


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  • Neil November 10, 2010, 3:37 am

    I spent a few days at norms place back in 2009 . 40 dollars a night is way over priced . While norm himself is cool his Haitian wife is very rude. Greeted each morning at breakfast with a sour face! For the price you get a little breakfast and your room cleaned every third day !!! A much better place to stay in labadie is belli beach bar. Half the price , friendly. Basic rooms , but lovely views looking over towards labadie village. There is a track just above belli beach bar that leads to the road where you can jump on the back of a tap tap to cap haitien but it also has it’s own little beach and a boat jetty where boat taxi,s will come and take you around to the Labadee beach tap tap pick up/drop off point .

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 10, 2010, 1:04 pm

      Seriously, Neil, I found myself in a trap. All of the other hotels in the village were closed when I was there — right after the earthquake — and paying our $40 per night was my only option for accommodation. The Belli Beach bar is a little outside of the village, right? Should have went there.

      It is my impression that I received the same reception as you. Norm’s wife acted like I was bothering her by coming to her hotel to give her a TON of money. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that in a country where people live on $1 a day, an empty hotel would try to charge 40 times that. My jaw hung loose in its socket when Norm’s wife bluntly turned me down when I offered $80 for three nights!!!!!!!! We argued for a long time, and my only recourse was to leave Labadie Village or cough up the money.

      Though I cannot say that the hotels in Cap Haitien were then charging much less.

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  • Sharon December 2, 2010, 7:08 pm

    Staying in the hotels in Cap Haitian you will pay $100.00 per night. Norm’s Place is a good deal. The rooms are clean and yards well maintained.
    I was wondering if you would go to a hotel in the USA and try to bargain for a room. I find it offensive that you would ask the Lady for a cheaper rate. Did you happen to ask how many children she had adopted or how many children come to her door each day for food. Don’t you think it would have serve you better to have gone to Labadie with money in your pocket and slipped a few bucks to the cook, yardman and maid. The joy of Labadie is that you can give a little and receive so much in return. Labadie has taught me the joy of giving. If you return to Labadie why don’t you open your hand and heart to these people rather than seeing how cheaply you can get by.
    Labadie is a beautiful village and I am so glad the LADY refuse to accept your
    offer….Go to Labadie with an open heart….If that is not something you are comfortable doing..Stay Home.. BLANS are welcome… you are the only BLAN I know who has come away from Labadie, boasting of their greed.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 2, 2010, 9:13 pm

      Yes, I bargain for rooms everywhere in the world.

      No, I did not pay $100 for a room in Cap-Haitian, this is nowhere near the going rate, though I did pay significantly more than what I should have.

      Greed? What about the greed of a hotel raising their prices and charging vastly too much money because they know that there is nowhere else in Labadie to stay? Charging $40 per night for a hotel room in a country where most people make around a dollar a day seems to be the definition of greed.

      If you truly respected the people of Labadie and Haiti you would not belittle them to beggar status by flaunting your money and giving them handouts.

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    • Bob L December 15, 2010, 4:39 pm

      I ALWAYS bargain for room prices in the USA. I have gotten rooms that were advertised for $80 down to $30. I have gotten half price by paying cash. I have left hotels only to have the manager catch me in the parking lot to give me a better price.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 15, 2010, 5:12 pm

        Good call, Bob,

        Truly, you must bargain for hotel rooms all around the world. A well managed hotel will know that filling a room for a lesser price is better than leaving it empty and receiving no money.

        Thanks for this comment.

  • Ted December 6, 2010, 9:57 am

    Hey Wade,

    Thanks for the informative site. We are planning on returning to Labadie after a 5 year absence. We stayed on my boat in ’05, and can stay with a friend for a few days this time until we figure out something long term, ie Belli beach or something else.

    Are you still in Haiti? We’re trying to plan for the possibility of hostility towards blans as related MINUSTAH and the epidemic…

    any thoughts?



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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 7, 2010, 1:10 pm

      Hello Ted,

      No, I am no longer in Haiti. It is my impression, based on my experience, that the Haitians will generally see you as an individual, not as a national entity — unless, of course, you are directly connected with the organizations that they are currently involved in political opposition with.

      It seems as if you should be alright.

      By and chance do you know of where I could pick up a 28 to 35 foot, solid fiberglass (70’s make) hull sailboat for under $10,000?

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  • Richard Dillon December 23, 2010, 3:20 am

    The quote on the taxi boat is both depressing and uplifting at the same time. Shame about the hotel, although there will be proprietors like that all over the world.

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  • Simon Coleman December 23, 2010, 8:56 pm

    What a perfect location. The sign describing their feeling is just brilliant. I hope you dont mind but I have pasted this on my screen saver.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 24, 2010, 11:56 am

      No worries, that photo of the boat in Labadie village would make a good screen saver.

      Link Reply
  • Christina June 3, 2011, 3:34 am

    HI! Wade,
    I heard that Norm ,the owner of the hotel die few months ago,so his wife will be charging $80 verry soon,
    I am agree with you, an hotel owner or manager in Haiti or where ever in the world should be able to negociate price, every hotel does that depending of the circonstance.Even you were able to pay the price ,but i am agree you did not pay it, because she could find a nice reason to tell you why she could not lower the price and i am sure you will understand and pay it .Those people don’t how to please a client ,they think they are doing you a favor receive you in their buiness. When ever they see the blan they always want to higher the prices and this is not FAIR for the reputation of the country.

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    • Wade Shepard June 3, 2011, 8:20 am

      Hello Christina,

      That is some sad news. Although Norm did not look too good when I was there, it seems as if he was a landmark personality in the region. Yes, the Haitian hotel business model is interesting. It seems to shoot for short term gain rather than long term profit. There seems to be no differentiation between people working for aid agencies with large expense accounts at their disposal and travelers paying out of pocket. One of the main draws of Haiti is that it could be an affordable country for long term travel, but the price of rooms really just drives us back over the border to the Dominican Republic. I have traveled for a long time, through many countries and regions, and I have not ever face hotel rooms as expensive as they were in Haiti (especially for the quality) nor managers and owners so unwilling to negotiate a fair price. No, $80 is not a fair price in a country where transportation costs 50 cents and local food under a dollar. It just seems like profiteering to me. They seem to think that all white people have an infinite amount of money, and perhaps some do, but these are not the ones wanting to travel in Haiti.

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      • Mal Te September 5, 2012, 9:18 am

        Great article!
        I totally agree with you Wade! Although I haven’t been to Labadie I had very similar experiences with hotel owners. I think you are right: Because there are only very little tourists they try to make with one tourists a lot rather than making the country more attractive for travellers by making fair prices and therefore make more long term profit…

      • Wade Shepard September 5, 2012, 11:17 am

        Yes, Haiti had a business model that I haven’t really come upon before. It almost felt like many hotel owners were trying to charge me a high amount of money in hopes that I would go away and they wouldn’t have to work. The amount of money that I offered the hotel in Labadie for a few day stay was astronomical. The owner didn’t seem to care much about money though, it was as if she just didn’t want to deal with having a guest in her hotel. It was real strange, especially since I experienced a similar type of sentiment elsewhere in the country.

  • Kareen June 17, 2012, 5:58 pm

    I’m Haitian and I travel to Labadee every time I go back (i’m actually going this July). I enjoyed your pictures and your texts. I like that you were objective in your writing. Good job on handling the guy showing off to his friends! I’d like to explain to you that the girl’s offer to take you to your room for ….is not uncommon. A lot of these girls are exploited by tourists who don’t come on the cruise ship, so now it’s a way of life. I’m sure you were probably the only men who turned her down. As far as the hotel owner, I look at it as someone who is trying to keep her business afloat and is tired of the blows that life bring her. I don’t think that she should have negotiated the price also because you would have put it on this page and other people would refer back to it meaning that she would have to lower the price for everyone. I’m not defending her, but I think she was just trying to prevent the habit of everyone asking for a discount when she really can’t afford to do that (although I’m not sure why). But again thank you for your piece.

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  • Antoine December 3, 2012, 7:18 pm

    Hello, I’m going to Labadee in January and I wanted to know if tourists are allowed to go visit the Royal Caribbean resort or is it a restricted area ? If yes, how (by boat or by land) ? I have a Canadian passport.

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  • Annie Davies May 6, 2013, 9:33 pm

    It is very possible for RCC travelers to leave Labadee. You must sign yourself out and assume responsibility for yourself. Go the the exit gate and out you go. An easy process.

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  • Sted October 22, 2013, 9:00 pm

    i love your post and i can understand understand you did not want to pay over priced hotel. and i can be certain the villagers in labadie would not look at you difference because you did not give them money, the hello and good bye and small convo and acknowledgement is enough for most haitians. and i am certain if you had told the carpenter you don’t want to pay $40/night to norm’s, he would have taken you inside his house with open arms, that is just how haitian people are contrary to popular belief. but i am here to tell you next time you are going to labadie or cap-haitien or anyone else please go to Dhaloo beach(next to belly beach) in labadie very nice and cheap mention “Sted Cadet”. and if any of you guys would like to visit the restricted labadie resort while in cap-haitien please contact me. my email frenchyline via aol thank you.

    we haitians love visitors, its not about how much you are spending its about enjoying and learning our culture while you out there. oh btw i am haitian 🙂

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  • Hiram December 26, 2013, 8:35 am

    Wow, this was really interesting. How did you get there? Sounds like something I would like to do in a future. I thought the only way to get there was on board a Royal Caribbean cruise.

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    • Wade Shepard January 4, 2014, 2:48 am

      Just jump in the back of a truck going there. Easy.

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