Two Weeks in Haiti: What to Pack

I am off to Haiti for a two-week trip to monitor our ongoing construction sites, visit some of our completed schools, and look closely at our Adult Literacy program which was recently launched in three of our villages.

Luckily, I have a lot of experience packing for trips to the developing world.  I have a specific packing list for when I spend time in rural villages.  Because we have more than doubled the number of donors making similar trips (buildOn Ambassador Treks), I wanted to share my list.  If you have been on a buildOn trek or a similar trip, make your recommendations in the comments section.
Here are some of the items I pack:

Medical kit – We are always hours from medical care in our buildOn communities, so I always carry a basic medical kit.  I include:

  • Ciproan antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea
  • Acetaminophento reduce fever
  • Ibuprofento reduce swelling in case I get overzealous on the construction site
  • Pepto bismolI always eat with local families, and that can certainly bring some surprises.
  • Antibiotic ointment and Band-AidsTying rebar on the work-site often results in cuts and scratches, which can easily lead to infection if not cleaned properly.
  • Hydrocortisoneno telling what kind of funky rashes you might get
  • SunblockYou work so much more effectively if your skin isn’t charred, and it is a great long-term practice in order to prevent skin cancer.

Water purification tablets

Packing in gallons of bottled water isn’t practical or environmentally conscious.  I like the very small Potable Aqua tablets. They fit in your pocket and take 30 minutes to rid your water of germs. Don’t forget the neutralizing tablets so your water doesn’t taste of iodine.

Multi- Tool

Multi-Tool comes in handy when you need to open a soda, spread some peanut butter on bread, or fix a car!

Uno and nail polish

You might think these are strange additions to this packing list. I included them because these are two compact items that help me interact with community members. Uno can easily be explained without a common language, and during my travels I’ve found that both men and woman love nail polish! Great icebreakers!


A small pocket-sized notebook is crucial for taking notes when traveling on foot across the countryside.  Inspiration is everywhere!

Receipt Book

We at buildOn take fiscal responsibility seriously. Every penny (or in my case, these next two weeks, every Hatian gourde) is accounted for.


This is essential when spending time in communities without electricity. This is definitely an item I suggest folks spend a little more money on. A $20 investment will quickly pay off in batteries saved!  Some folks love using a headlamp, but I just like a strong, energy efficient pocket-sized torch!

Insect Repellent

This needs no explanation. Consider malaria prophylaxis too.

Haiti After the Earthquake

A good book is a great travel companion. In this case, I chose a book written by Paul Farmer. I try to read a book about the history or culture of a country I am visiting as much as possible.

Aveda shampoo

I have met many travelers over the years and almost everyone has that one “luxury item.” My luxury is high-quality shampoo. It makes my bucket bath a spa-like experience. Well, not quite; but it is welcome relief at the end of a long, hot, sweaty day in Haiti!

This is part of a five-part series written by buildOn’s Rosann Jager. She will be chronicling her two weeks in Haiti, kicking off future blogs about her visits to the other countries where buildOn works.