What was once France's prime colony, overflowing with fruit and towering mahogany trees, today is pondered at with a grimace of aversion. Visitors are advised not to use any means of public transport and encouraged to exercise a high degree of caution against politically-motivated violence. As if that wasn't off-putting enough, misconceptions about bloody voodoo practices aren't making things any better and all things considered, Haiti ends up with a reputation for being the black sheep in the Caribbean family.
In fact, derogative images of voodoo have ignored its nature as a cult of family spirits that perfectly coexists with Christianity, the overall security situation has improved, and a trip by a rickety brightly painted tap-tap does not carry more risk than a midnight walk in myriad no-go areas of Haiti's Atlantic neighbors. It does top world's crime rate rankings and kidnappings do happen, but beyond doubt, a little speck of common sense should keep you safe and sound in Haitii, just as it does anywhere else in the world. Trying to avoid all risks would turn our lives into home-bound agony, and Haiti is definitely worth a bit of jitters if you like it. But as usual, it's up to you whether you stay or whether you go.
Those who give Haiti a chance will get their share of sea and sand on Labadee Beach, a glimpse of well-preserved colonial architecture in Cap-Haïtien, a piece of heaven in the lush wilderness of Bassins Bleu, and a sense of magnificent history in UNESCO-protected National History Park. They will curiously marvel at the eclectic blend of hill-perched villas, tiny fishing villages and traditional Haitian dwellings. They will follow Columbus's footsteps in Baie d'Acul, hunt down bargains at the flamboyant open-air market in Port-au-Prince, and feast their eyes with amazing crafts that give a spark of uniqueness to the universally enchanting Caribbean vistas.
Haitians pride themselves on their quaint cultural heritage and artistic traditions. You will be taken aback with their sense of humor and passion that stand out even in face of poverty, social conflicts and overpopulation. And although the island is still not ready to cater for sophisticated tastes, many of you will surely find it worth a while and appreciate the efforts of Haitians to blot out the hostile image it has long broadcast to the world.