Packing for Haiti can be challenging. How can you stay respectful of the culture, while preparing for the heat? These concerns and questions are important, and relevant. Haiti’s cultural norms vary from that which we’re used to in the United States, and it’s important to remember that as foreigners, we are visitors and should do our best to respect the local standards.
Haiti is a tropical and humid country. That being said, Haitian people hold traditional values for dress. Generally speaking, they don’t wear sleeveless shirts to formal occasions or in the workplace. In fact, in provincial areas, it has been said that exposing one’s armpit can be seen as provocative. In the capital city of Port Au Prince, and in larger cities, people walk around the streets in tank tops, frequently, however.
Think lightweight and loose! Cotton and linens are perfect for the climate. Pack t-shirts, light-weight pants, knee-length shorts, tank tops or sleeveless dresses to ensure that you’re reasonably comfortable in the tropical weather, but bring lightweight cardigans, or button up shirts with quarter length sleeves to have as a backup for more formal occasions, or while in the workplace.
Sometimes in an attempt to respect local culture, foreigners go overboard and dress in suffocating clothing that covers every inch of their skin (ex: long baggy cargo pants, oversized safari hats, turtlenecks, steel toed boots, etc.) This, in turn, makes them stick out in the crowd, identifying them as a target. It can also indicate to local people that they are uncomfortable, as foreigners, in Haiti. Alternatively, some travelers are unaware of local decency standards, and wear low-cut, tight-fitting clothing to respond to the heat and tropical ambiance. This can indicate a lack of respect, and can draw un-wanted attention.
When you come to Haiti, imagine that you are traveling to visit your grandparents in the dead of summer in Florida. Whatever you would bring to stay respectful and modest, while staying true to your sense of style and comfort is probably a winner. Haitian people dress up for all occasions, and are very prideful in the way they look. Try to look nice, and stay cool while not showing too much skin.
You want to carry your money in a way that doesn’t draw attention, and keeps you organized. You are worried about being robbed and don’t know how to protect yourself through your wardrobe.
Stay alert and attentive without being paranoid. Haiti does have instances of petty theft, but it’s not any more common than any other metropolitan city in the U.S. or Europe. Don’t carry any more money on you at any given time that you aren’t willing to lose. Keep a bit of change separate in your pockets for smaller purchases or tips. How this relates to wardrobe? Carry your essentials in your wallet or purse and keep them close to your body. While fanny packs are back in style, they can attract pickpockets in a crowded area!