Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Navigating the airports - Part II - departure

This continues the previous post of how to navigate the airport coming into the country.

Now that you've enjoyed Haiti you'll have a greater appreciation of the landscape as you fly the domestic plane back to the capitol, and of the workers helping you at the airports. After MAF or whatever domestic airline you're on lands in P-au-P, the personnel will put all your stuff on a cart on the tarmac and you follow it or walk ahead and pick it up at the back entrance to the domestic airport. Inside, wait for your ride near the building exit by the MAF window (in photo). Don’t go outside! It will be hot in the sun and people will keep asking you if you need a ride. And you can’t get back in through that door, you'd have to go through the main security entrance. **Make sure you have the phone number for your ride in case he isn't there (or your host forgot to call him!).** Lots of people have cell phones and you can ask someone to call.

You'll meet your ride who will drive you the few blocks to the international airport and drop you off directly near the door of your airline (see photo). Be prepared! Tip your driver now before the confusion, and have a bunch of one dollar bills (American) easily accessible. A bunch of guys In matching shirts will be waiting to help you with your bags. I tried to refuse and a Haitian chastised me and said let them, it’s their job. So one wheeled my bag to the front door – I gave him $1 (it is nice when someone else lugs your bags around). At the front door is a security point – put your bags on the conveyor belt and show your passport. Another guy in a red shirt will thrust a tote bin at you to put your small items in and he will set it on the conveyor belt (even though you could have easily done this yourself). He'll ask for $5 or $10 but I give $1 and then wish I had given the bag lugger more. You don’t have to take shoes off or anything out of your bags here. This is the last place people help you for money.

This is the American Airlines terminal: Next you stand in line in the roped off area to get your tickets at the counter (difficult to tell where the opening is to the line). You’ll get all your tickets and drop off your checked luggage. Then go to the customs booth back where those ropes start. Give them that green card you saved from entry. Then you go through security again – this time like in the US – shoes off, computer out, liquids out. (Though I have forgotten to take out liquids and no one said anything). Then you are in the area with little gift shops. Very expensive compared to the gift shops in guests houses and elsewhere - $40 for a small painting! You can buy these for less than $20 elsewhere, probably less than $10 on the street. You can buy CDs and books though, coffee, rum, vanilla, etc. Then you go up the elevator and through yet another security check point just like the previous (and again they didn’t say anything about the liquids in my bag).

You are now in the waiting area. More in the next post...

Below - pictures of the drive between airports and why you need to be driven!

(And if you need to leave via the north port Cap Haitien - here's my story)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Navigating the airport - Part I - arrival

Here’s a blog tour of the International airport in P-au-P. Fill your water bottle before you get on the plane in Miami - it's your last chance to find water until you arrive at your destination for the night in Haiti. Upon arrival at PAP, have your passport, green customs form, baggage claim ticket, and a bunch of $1 bills at hand. You debark on the second story and walk down a hallway from which you can see the old airport and cracked windows (I assume from the quake). Then you go down an escalator – have $1 ready if the little band is playing and you want a photo or just like the music. Then everyone gets on a bus to go to another building that was a warehouse or something.

When you get off the bus, go inside and get in line to show the customs guy your passport – save the detached part of the green card you filled out on the plane – you'll need it when you leave the country.
The customs guy really wanted to know the address of where I was staying – all I knew was the neighborhood which of course he hadn’t heard of. Then you stand near the conveyor belt to wait for your bags. Workers remove the bags off of the far side of the belt, so look for yours there if you were way behind in the line. If you’re early wait near the front of the belt to grab your bags as they enter the building. Then you go by a guy at a little desk who may or may not look at your luggage claim ticket. If not, someone outside will look at it. Be prepared for the onslaught of people who want to help you! I’ve given in and let someone carry my big bag, since he knows if you need to show someone outside your claim ticket. If your ride is not waiting for you in the mob of people right there (see photo), the bag guy will lead you down an outdoor walk way to another waiting place. When you find your ride give the bag guy $2 – 3. He might ask for $10, and won’t have change. Your ride will take you to the MAF airport or other destination.

MAF – When you are dropped off at the little domestic airport, again a bunch of men will try to help you with your bags – let one help you put your bags through security and take them to the MAF window and give him $1 or $2. The security is right at the building entrance and you don’t have to take shoes off or anything out of your bag. Anyone can go in. Bathrooms are near this door (have toilet paper with you just in case). An old woman sits by the bathroom door and will expect $1 on the way out (not sure what she does).

Check in at the MAF window. You can pay in US cash or by check, and lately they’ve wanted payment for the return trip too. Keep your receipt for the return trip. All your bags and you will be weighed. Then your stuff is piled in the corner by the scale. One time a pipe or something was dripping water in the corner so I moved my stuff to a dry place. Keep your valuables on you because then you go and sit and wait (see photo). Kind of keep an eye on your stuff. The MAF guys are nice and will make sure you don’t miss the flight. There’s no food or drinks, but you can buy bottles of syrup.

When it’s time for the flight all your stuff gets loaded onto a cart, and you’re told to go stand by the departure door (to the left of the Tortuga booth). A man will come around from the outside and unlock the door and you walk out to the MAF plane. Have your camera and whatever else you want in hand because they put everything else under or in the back of the plane to distribute the weight. The flight to Pignon is about 20 minutes and might be a little bumpy, but gives a great view of Haiti. At the MAF airstrip your hosts will pick you up. Next post – departure.