Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 12/01/13
Personal Experiences from Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
First expat experience.
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?
Virginia Beach, VA. From VA to MIA to POS, approximately 6 hours total travel time including a 45-min layover in MIA.
3. How long have you lived here?
2011 to 2013.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government employee in Foreign Ministry.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is great either apartment or single family.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive and there's nowhere else to go. I travel outside of Port of Spain for food because it's slightly cheaper, but only slightly and I like the fresh air drive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really, everything is available here but can be expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC is big here (I think the KFC in South Quay grossed more revenue in 2010 than any other in the world), a few McDonald's (great chicken), Wendy's, Church's Chicken (local), etc. At night there's plenty of Syrian gyro spots along the avenue. Restaurants include Jaffa ($300 TT), Buzo's ($600 TT), Prime ($800 TT), Texas Brazil ($350 TT pp) and all are good.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No major insect problems other than the usual suspects. Mosquitoes can be a pain but not often.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use the Government facility.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is available but make sure they are vetted (for security concerns). Cost is very cheap, our maid came twice a week for the entire day at US$30 per day (no cooking just cleaning).
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms are pretty much all over and cost range from a few hundred a month to more. They also have quite a few Yoga spots around.
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?
I think it's safe for the most part but make sure your card is insured. Withdraw cash when you can and be safe at ATMs and banks.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
You can find all religious services available here, especially Hindu.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is spoken here but in the south it's hard to understand the dialect.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not really but the sidewalks and streets can be riddled with potholes and can be very narrow just to walk/drive.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable yes, safe not really; here anyone can stop and pick you up. People will just stand on the street and anyone wanting to charge a fair can stop and pick you up. Women have gotten raped and worse just getting into a strange car posing as a taxi. Public buses are safe.
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?
Bring a small SUV or something you don't mind getting dinged. It floods here so think height; roads are small so think compact, parking marks and street lanes are smaller than in Canada or the U.S. so think compact, lots of mountains so think good tranny and brakes. Motorcycles are a no go; bad streets and drivers. Scooters are doable but be very careful. Cycling is popular but...I wouldn't do it.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Flow and TSTT at around US$130 for 100 Mbps.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Any unlocked phone will do.
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?
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?
Not really, good jobs are hard to find.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Some but most are poorly organized.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual dress mostly aka dress shirt and tie unless you're in the public eye then a suit for men. Women typically wear a professional suit or dress. Trini women tend to wear tight clothing and revealing wear, it's a very sexually-oriented culture (IMHO).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are security concerns everywhere so be on guard. We lived in one of the best developments (Westmoorings) and they were break-ins, robberies, and rape, and that's with 2-3 private security teams patrolling the streets. Seriously, every weekend there are at least 2-5 driving-related deaths, every month at least 1-2 child murders or rape, every week at least 3-5 homicides, and the list goes on. Check the local newspaper(s) online editions for the stats or articles (The Guardian, NewsDay, The Express, The Mirror, The Bomb). Trinidad averages 1.5 deaths per day. Think about this, EVERY home, apartment, business, school, anything has a wall or fence around it with something sharp at the top for wall climbers.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Dengue fever is a concern and the medical care is suspect. Everyone I know either travels to the States or Canada for specialized treatment.
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?
Overall pretty good except for the occasional trash burning party in Sea Lots.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
If you get housing in the west, the ocean breeze is nice. Oh let's not forget about EARTHQUAKES! They are frequent if you pay attention and ranges from 4.0 to 6 on the Richter scale. If you're not used to them then be prepared, buildings do sway and you will never forget how you felt afterwards.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There's one International School for Dip Kids and the wealthy.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small community with very low morale, most U.S. expats want to leave and most Canadians are not far behind.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
"Liming" or sitting around drinking is popular. Every now and again there's a Soca concert. Carnival time (Feb) is when the city lights up. Going to the movies is pretty much the standard.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for families and couples, singles may have a challenge if they don't get out and about and make friends. Families tend to hang together which is good for outings and support, couples do the same with other couples and get by pretty well. Singles have to be self-starters and not afraid to mingles with the locals, the only problem is that you don't know who to trust. I heard a story recently (9/2013) where a guy met a girl at a local club and took her home, needless to say he woke up with most of his home empty (robbed with a date rape drug). Also Trini's tend to be self motivated so they will try to use you for some particular reason or another unless you are very perceptive with people.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, lots of gays and lesbians around. It is not uncommon to see gays and lesbians at a club or the movies.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a lot of racism amongst Trini's. The East Indian or Indo-Trini vs. people of African descent or just darker colored folk. You see it in the streets all the time that's not to say it develops into violence but it's apparent to me. If you pay attention to who works certain jobs then that's a first step, most Indo-Trini's believe crime is caused by the Afro-Trini.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Carnival of course but that gets old quickly. Asa Wright Nature Center, Pitch Lake, Tobago (US$50 round trip), mountain hikes, Manzanilla, turtle watching, Maracas Beach/Bay, Bake and Shark, etc And lots of party time here - Trini's love a good party but wait till midnight to go that's when things start here!
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Most hikes are great including a waterfall or two. They now have Zip Lines which fun. The beaches are fairly nice in the north and south. Diwali is great and highly recommended.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is the biggest advantage in Port of Spain. Dry season runs Jan-May and rainy season from Jun-Dec. Temperatures run 85-95F all year, the only difference is whether it rains or not. There's no touring here, you can do every tourist destination in a full weekend. The culture is problematic coming from a first world country, be prepared for lousy customer service with a touch of attitude. In fairness, it's not everyone but in honesty you'll have poor customer service in about 80% of anywhere you spend your money. You will not save money here, the prices are equal if not more than in Canada or the U.S. If you but street food like "Doubles," you can save or when you buy street market fruits then maybe. Keep in mind once a Trini hears your non-Trini accent, the price goes up.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I knew how little people regarded things like consideration, courteousness, niceness, empathy, etc.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Maybe but only if crime was reduced and the country had an attitude adjust; so basically no.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Idea of a friendly time-oriented culture.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience and religion.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
7. Do you have any other comments?
If you decide to travel to Trinidad and Tobago you will enjoy it for the first few months but after the newness wears off, find your happiness. It's an island where you can drive from one end to the other in 3 hours. Everyone wants to island hop but it's not that easy, flights can be expensive and few. The simplest things here are the hardest and the things that you think are difficult end up being easy. There's lots of oil money here so people have abandoned their farming roots. It's a developing country but 'into what' is the question.