How to CouchSurf in Haiti.
Several years ago I ran away to Haiti from one of my many annoying bosses because I felt overworked! True story! I thought of the trip randomly, but had been passively juggling the idea in my head for several years. However my parents would always warn me that “it was not safe” to travel there.
From when I was in high school I recall asking my mom if we could visit and she’d respond with that smooth “no.” Nearly a decade later, here I was a pensive graduate student who’s master’s thesis was focused on Haiti, I am an actual Haitian and yet I had limited empirical experience in Haiti. How can I change this?
I took the plunge!
One hot summer day, I sent my supervisors an email stating that I had a family emergency and had to tend to my family in Haiti. Before you shake your head or roll your eyes at me, let’s just say that I didn’t technically break any rules from my employment contract, it did not have any clauses in relations to being given advance notice for “family emergencies” or such, so I was in the clear. Plus there were other employees there who were pretending to work. lols!
Step 1: Visit travel advisory and buy your plane ticket
Tickets were reasonably priced so I bought a round trip ticket that same day after checking the travel advisory. Make sure to read 5 things to do each time prior to your next trip.
I didn’t see any red flags and quickly visited Dr. Google to search for the latest news from Haiti.
I was good to go, but wait, I had no itinerary. I knew the name of the arriving airport but I had no one to pick me up, lol! I quickly went on CouchSurfing and blasted dozens of requests to foreign and local hosts who lived in the capital. Click here to read 4 positives to CouchSurfing.
I vetted each potential host to prevent any future headaches or drama. I will write a blog post on How-to CouchSurf soon.
I sent requests to everyone lol!
A couple of hours after, I received several denials for various reasons “sorry, we are not in town now but you can stay at our home…”, “no.”, or “I am not accepting surfers at this time, good luck with your visit to Haiti.“. I’ve learned over time to just accept the “nos”, because the “yeses” will appear shortly after. And just like magic, I received one of 3 “yeses”.
Step 2: vet hosts some mo
I now had to vet the 3 potential hosts to select the one I had more in common with in terms of culture, age, personalities, etc based on the amount of information their profiled contained (i.e. profile pictures, quantity of photos, feedback, how they describe themself.) I finally selected a young local Haitian guy.
I immediately messaged him and thanked him for accepting my request to initiate the next step of screening my hosts.
This is also a hack I learned over the years of using CouchSurfing, I would text the hosts / surfers days or weeks before my trip to see how they communicate/ don’t communicate. The latter would make me suspicious especially if I were to host them but if it was the opposite not so much. Not all hosts are communicative before they meet you.
He sent me his Whatspp phone number. In the meantime, I started packing my medium sized rucksack. I planned to be in Haiti for 2 weeks and it was summer. Click here to learn THIS luggage hack. I didn’t want to dress too flashy, too revealing since Haiti is a conservative country and I didn’t want to attract unwanted attention.
It’s just a personal philosophy, when I travel abroad I aim to assimilate as much as possible with the locals for my own sanity and for my personal security.
Many tourists overlook this small gesture and I have unfortunately read horrible stories about flashy tourists being robbed/kidnapped because they “looked rich” in a country they were visiting where most people live in poverty.
I am not victim blaming, be more mindful about the way you dress especially when you’re traveling to a culture that is vastly different from yours in terms of religions, history, country ranking (i.e. developing, fragile, developed country).
Step 3: Initiate conversations with your host / surfer
I had packed my rucksack, I kept texting the Haitian local host, we got the basics out the way, what does he do in Haiti, where in Haiti he lives, if he would be able to pick me from the airport… He was unemployed at the time, but was also living at home with his mother and his young son, he stated that he was actively looking for employment; he lives in the capital, close to the airport; yes. I finalized everything by double checking my rucksack, passport, money, credit cards, etc.
Finally, I confirmed my arrival time with him and reconfirmed that I would be staying with him only for 3 days and that I was open to exploring Haiti with him. I would spend the remainder of the time with someone else.
And just like that, 3 simple steps you should try when you use CouchSurfing to travel to Haiti or in general.
Travel for free!
I’d like to hear from you, have you CouchSurfed?
Have you visited Latin America?