The gourde is the official currency that is used today in Haiti. You may also see it referred to as the goud, but both these terms refer to the same currency.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The gourde is divided into 100 centimes, a subdivision you may be familiar with if you remember the old French franc. (French is one of two languages spoken in Haiti, along with Haitian Creole.)
You will find four coins in use that are denominated as centimes. These are the 5, 10, 20 and 50 centime coins. There are also a couple of gourde coins available, and these are the one and five gourde pieces.
You can also use a variety of banknotes in the country. You might be surprised to learn there are ten banknotes that are legal tender, although you are unlikely to see four of these. Three of the rarely seen or used ones are of small denominations – the 1, 2 and 5 gourde notes. There is also the rather large 1,000 gourde note at the other end of the scale.
The notes you will see and use during your time in Haiti are the 10, 25, 50, 100, 250 and 500 gourde banknotes.
From past to present – the history of the Haitian gourde
Some currencies go back a lot further than others in history, and the gourde certainly has quite a history to share. It first came into being in 1813, when it replaced the Haitian livre that was in use at the time. Haiti had been settled by the French, hence the use of the livre.
The original gourde lasted for quite some time. It was only in 1870 that it changed slightly when a revaluation became necessary. Two years later another revaluation took place but that became the last one to date. Seeing as the gourde is still in use today and inflation is relatively stable it seems as though this currency has a lot of life in it yet!
How to get hold of the Haitian gourde
Even though Haiti is in the Caribbean it is not one of the most-visited Caribbean nations when it comes to tourism. It certainly doesn’t have a good network of cash machines as many other islands in the region do, so it is best not to rely on these machines as a source of cash. The only area you can really do this in is the capital, Port au Prince. Even then you should be alert to the potential of being robbed as you take money out, so it is wise to be very careful if you are thinking of using them.
You won’t find too many bank branches around either. Perhaps the best way to get cash is to take in traveller’s cheques, since the prospect of getting hold of the gourde at all prior to entering the country is very low. Make sure you get your traveller’s cheques denominated in the US dollar, as these should be easy to exchange when you get there. Typically – and perhaps not surprisingly – you may wish to stick with traveller’s cheques rather than trying to use your credit card to pay for anything. You can make a note of the numbers on your cheques prior to using them and if any are lost or stolen you can get replacements.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Haitian gourde
Since many people are unfamiliar with the gourde as a currency, you may think it would be harder than usual to find out how many gourde you would get for each unit of your own currency. However providing you find a good quality currency converter online you can get the information you need. The easiest way to locate this particular currency is to enter the code HTG. This should bring up the one you need straightaway and you can then find the appropriate conversion you need.
There does not seem to be an official website for the Haitian embassy in the UK. However you can find out more about the relationship between the UK and Haiti by visiting the official pages of the Gov.uk website at https://www.gov.uk/government/world/haiti.
Travelling safely with the Haitian gourde
Despite what you may have read or assumed about Haiti, most of the country is relatively safe to travel to. There are some areas in and around the capital that you should avoid, but it is best to check the latest situation via the official UK government website. This will help you determine which areas you should steer clear of and where you should be safe.
The weather is something to be aware of while you are in the country, particularly if you travel there during the hurricane season. This lasts from June all the way through to November so stay alert to the latest information in case you are there when one strikes.
As far as safety is concerned the usual rules should always apply with regard to carrying money and other valuables with you. It is wise to carry only the cash you really need with you, and not to flash it around too much. This would make you a potential target in many places in the world and Haiti is no different. Be sensible and if you can leave things in the safe in your hotel room, make sure you do so. Using cash machines can make you a target so be very careful and stay alert as to what is going on around you.
Where to spend your gourde in Haiti – and what to spend them on
We have already mentioned that Haiti is in the Caribbean, but let’s find out a bit more about it here. It can be found on the left-hand side of the island mass known as Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic occupies the right-hand side.
You certainly aren’t short of things to see and do while you are in the country, since there are plenty of great sights here. Let’s start with San-Souci Palace, which has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is some 200-years old now and is quite a sight to see. It can be found in the northern part of the country and while it is a ruin it is definitely an elegant one.
Elsewhere in northern Haiti you will find another site that has the UNESCO stamp of approval. This is the Citadelle Laferriere, which sits atop a mountain and is a stunning and very solid-looking fortress. It must have performed its job well, as you might guess when you see its location. It is not too far from the area where the San-Souci Palace is located, so make sure you take time out to see them both if you can.
One of the best ways to learn much about the history of any country is to go to a museum. Haiti has a particularly good museum that reveals a lot about its history and culture. It goes by the name of Musee du Pantheon National Haitien but you may also see it referred to by the letters MUPANAH. The museum opened its doors in the Eighties and it has many wonderful artefacts and presentations for you to see. It also provides plenty of knowledge and insights into the history of the country.
If you’d like to add a cathedral to your list of must-see sights, you can do no better than to seek out the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Port au Prince, the capital itself. This is sometimes more simply called the Port au Prince Cathedral, but we think the other name is better! This particular cathedral has a history that came to a shocking end – or a hiatus at least – with the earthquake of 2010. It was partly destroyed during that event but now there are plans to restore it to its former glory once again.
As you can see, Haiti has more to offer than you may think. Many people have pre-conceived ideas about what the country may be like or what they could expect there. In reality there are many attractions that speak much of the history of this country. We have only mentioned a few of them here but there are many others. These include the Barbancourt Rum Distillery, the Iron Market and many more. However long you may spend here on holiday you will be impressed and perhaps surprised at what you see.
It is easy to start spending a gourde or two almost as soon as you set foot in Haiti. Whether you do so on food, drink, exploring attractions or buying souvenirs to take home with you, there are lots of ways to relieve yourself of some cash! If you should decide to visit this particular part of the Caribbean you may well be rewarded with an experience you will not soon forget. Haiti may not be the top choice in Caribbean holidays, but it is rapidly gathering pace and popularity.