The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince would like to remind U.S. citizens in Haiti of upcoming official Carnival celebrations, scheduled to take place in Port-au-Prince from February 7-9. While these are the ‘official’ dates for Carnival, traditionally festivities begin before that and run through to the final day. You can expect all carnival-related inconveniences (traffic, random “Ra-Ra” bands in the streets, road closures, crowds, etc.) to increase as the official dates approach. Recent election-related issues may increase tensions this year. The Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to be vigilant. Please remember that disturbances and crowds in Port-au-Prince can arise and escalate quickly, so exercise caution when observing or participating in Carnival celebrations. Should you find yourself among or near any celebration that is getting out of hand, get out of the area without delay.
Ra-Ra bands will be in the streets with increased frequency leading up to Carnival. Band members may crowd around vehicles, block them in, bang on windows, crack bull whips, twirl knives and machetes, and make a lot of noise. It can be a potentially unsettling situation, but generally speaking, bands remain non-violent. While driving, if you should get caught in a Ra-Ra band: please keep the windows closed and the doors locked and put the car in park until the band passes. Do not attempt to drive through the crowd. After Carnival, Ra-Ra bands can be found in various parts of the city and countryside every Sunday through Easter.
ATTENDANCE AT CARNIVAL
This year’s annual celebration of Carnival is expected to bring tens of thousands of partygoers and observers to the city festivities. Characterized by its large, raucous, (and often intoxicated) crowds, Carnival can be a fun, yet potentially unsafe, place for revelers. Strong-arm robberies, assaults, and pick-pocketing remain the most likely threats against those who are victimized by crime at Carnival.
· Take advantage of private or “controlled access” viewing stands or vantage points on private property as a means of viewing Carnival parades and festivities, if at all possible.
· Avoid walking through, or stopping in, the large crowds of people that amass immediately adjacent to, and along the routes of, the Carnival processions. Try to stay on the periphery of crowded activity, as those areas are considered to be generally safer.
· Avoid getting swept into “Ra-Ra” band groups. These spontaneous celebrations tend to be especially loud and are prime opportunities for criminal elements to take advantage of the unsuspecting participant or observer.
· Travel in groups with friends and stay in your groups for the duration of the event. Never leave anyone in your party alone in a large crowd with plans to “meet up” later.
· Keep a charged cell phone on you at all times; if you are out in the evening, carry a flashlight.
· Avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry.
· Keep money and wallets in a front pocket. Avoid carrying purses or other bags and don’t put bags on the ground or hang them loosely from one shoulder.
· Stay on the main roads at all times, even if it is not the most convenient route. Do not take “shortcuts” when walking to or from the event. Most crimes against persons at events like this occur before or after the event, when people wander onto dark side streets to get back to their vehicles.
· Avoid confrontation of any kind and quickly move away from any incident of violence or overzealous behavior that might trap you or otherwise risk injury to you. Know your best route of escape and be prepared to move in that direction.
· Have an advance plan. In case your group is separated, have a pre-determined rally point, along with a drop-dead time to meet at the end of the night.
· Road travel to and from other cities presents other hazards, such as drunk or reckless drivers, increased traffic, and increased potential for roadblocks.
We strongly recommend that all U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Haiti enroll in the Department of State’s secure on-line Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency.
Travelers are advised to regularly monitor the travel information page of the State Department’s website where you can find current Travel Warnings for Haiti, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for Haiti. For additional information, refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the State Department’s website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook for travel information at your fingertips.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the U.S. Citizen Services unit of the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, located at Tabarre 41, Boulevard du 15 Octobre, Tabarre, Haiti; telephone 509-2229-8000; after hours emergency telephone 509-3464-3998; ACS unit fax 509-2229-8027;e-mail ; website.
American Citizen Services
Consular Section | U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince | Boulevard 15 Octobre, Tabarre 41| Tabarre, Haiti; Tel. (+509) 2229-8000 | Fax (+509) 2229-8028 | E-mail: (firstname.lastname@example.org); Embassy homepage (haiti.usembassy.gov)| State Department Homepage (travel.state.gov)