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A few years ago I visited the Dominican Republic, and its island-mate, Haiti. Dominican Republic is a relatively poor country, but Haiti is far poorer. In fact, it's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

I met a nice family on the plane to DR and asked them if they'd give me a ride with them downtown. Sure, just help cover the gas. I happily agreed, but the amount they asked for gas was a few times more than it should have been. It was cheaper than a tax, so it was still okay, but it was just a little bit shifty. The security guard at the restaurant I went to every day was nice and friendly, but near the end of my trip he was just a little bit too aggressive about trying to get me to have my female friends in America email him. As I explored the old city, a guy told me that he was an official tour guide with the city and would show me around for absolutely nothing, just because it was his job. I knew it was a scam, but I'm willing to endure awkward situations, so when he very aggressively asked for money at the end, I told him that he should have asked in advance and gave him nothing.

I don't mention all that to imply that I was a victim of any sort-- just that that's the type of place Santo Domingo was. I had some good times there, too, but my experience was colored by this atmosphere of hustling and weaseling. After all that, I bought a bus ticket to Port au Prince. Being poorer, I figured that people would really be trying to get money from me there, but I should go visit anyway since I was so close.

My experience in Haiti couldn't have been more different. No one tried to overcharge me once. I had to argue with my Couchsurfing host to accept money for gas after she drove me around all day. She refused to accept money for the food that she cooked me every meal. I walked through the ghettos and was greeted by smiles, especially from the children.

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