Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 02/23/11

Personal Experiences from Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago

Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago 02/23/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second city with Foreign Service

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC - 9 hours. There are direct flights to Houston, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, New York and Newark - all 4-5 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - foreign service

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Single and couples are mostly in Miami-style high rise apartments with pools, tennis courts and water views. Homes are in Westmoorings neighborhood.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries cost more than in the States - maybe +50%Local produce is very good and a good value.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Small appliances and household goods can be expensive with heavy duties. We inexplicably paid a small fortune for an ironing board. You should come with a mostly-ready household.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food: Burger King, Church's, KFC, Wendy's just opened, Haagen Daazs, Cold Stone CreameryRestaurants: plenty of modestly priced Caribbean restaurants + Indian and Chinese. Other cuisines are less common or more expensive - decent pizza, okay Thai, expensive steaks.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Limited organic but local produce means it was grown less than 50 miles away (size of island).There are also local eggs, chicken, fish, goat.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We've had some ants in our place.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay a part-time housekeeper about $5 per hour. Many people have struggled to find someone they like/trust.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Available. West Mall has ATM which also dispenses US dollars.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything is here.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

3 local daily papers are available, each 2TT or $.33USA "Today" is also printed locally.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the language.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Few facilities are accessible. Handicapped-accesible buses are few and far between.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The embassy doesn't condone their use. Private drivers are expensive.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The largest SUVs would stand out. There are lots of Japanese right-hand drive imports here. High clearance is nice when the roads flood during rainy season but most cars here are sedans.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. About $50 monthly.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

ubiquitous and cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes. People with pets have been horrified by the facility.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some - in teaching and medicine (but you need to get certified).

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

People dress up to "lime" (party). Business attire at work

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is a large problems with Trinidadians impacted by high murder rates and drug-related gang crime. Embassy staff are mostly insulated but should keep their guard up and use their city street smarts.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is only okay. Anything serious should be handled in Miami (many daily flights just 4 hours away)

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good. Strong tradewinds keep the air clear.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There is a rainy season and a dry season. The weather is high 88 low 72 most days. Trinidad is thankfully far enough south that it avoids hurricane paths.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

People really like the International School. There is a small French school. I've heard mixed things about Maple Leaf.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I know the International School tries.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

People hire nannies, and there are some preschool programs, including montesouri.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Kids take scuba, dance and are learning cricket, steel pan, etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty big considering it's a small island - more oil company families than diplomats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Some people have been rendered catatonic by crime fears and never leave their apartments before curtailing. Others see a pretty place with great beaches that is an easy flight back to States if family issues necessitate. Like all places, it is what you make it.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Carnival events; private parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think pretty good for all. Great for none.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Trinidad and Tobago has unenforced laws, which ban the entry of homosexuals and ban homosexual sex acts. The culture is widely homophobic. GLBT people are most accepted among the more educated classes.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

T&T prides itself on its racial and religious diversity.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Playing mas in Carnival, having a beach to ourselves on Tobago, Trini street food - doubles, corn soup, coconut water

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Beaches, bird watching, leatherback turtle watching, visiting Hindu temples, hiking, great movie theatre, Carnival - and associated calypso, steel pan and costumes

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Some art, some batik - this is not really a shopping post. Local coffee and cocoa.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

This is an easy place to live - not so very different from southern Florida. The weather is fabulous. Trinis are fun-loving. Carnival, beaches, music. Tobago is just a 15 minute and $50 roundtrip flight away.

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11. Can you save money?

We've spent a lot of money on flights to nearby islands which are short but expensive (often $300 for a 45-minute flights)

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes - it hasn't been below 68 degrees

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3. But don't forget your:

Swim suit.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lime Tree Don't Bear Orange

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Mystic Masseur - based on the book by VS Naipaul

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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