Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 05/25/15
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?
This was our 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?
Home base is the northeast. A trip home to NY is direct and takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes. I found tickets under US$400 and one time under US$300.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My husband worked for the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Our house was a large 4 bedroom and had a pool. All of the houses are gated and have bars on the windows and doors. Some live in one of the 3 high rise towers that are on the water. Those apartments are spacious but not very updated. An average commute time without traffic to the Embassy can take 20 minutes but if there in an accident, it will back everything up and it could take an hour. During summer time there is significantly less traffic.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are very expensive. A carton of strawberries is US$8, milk is US$14, a box of cereal is no less than US$5 and a yogurt is US$1.25. I spend a fortune! However, some things are cheap like bread and certain veggies. You can get a lot of familiar brands at the grocery store but you will pay a lot. Most people buy their meat from a store called Blooms where everything is frozen and shipped in from the U.S. It is not too pricey and the quality is ok. I would say shopping in general is terrible. Everything is double or triple the price and the quality stinks. You don't get inspired to cook anything when you food shop-you just get your things and get out!
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
more rugs-everything is tile floor.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Wendys, McDonald's, Subway, PizzaHut, Dominos, Coldstone, and KFC are all here. The menus are slightly different and it's a bit more expensive. There are also plenty of other nice restaurants to choose from. A nice dinner can cost about US$200 if you are drinking. Cocktails are expensive but local beer is really cheep. There are options for all budgets.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes are bad and there are many ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
housekeeper is US$30/day and a nanny is about US$35-40.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes-there are a few traditional gym options. There is also a Crossfit and a Yoga studio. The gyms cost about US$65/mth and are comparable to a small U.S. gyms. Gyms do not offer child care.
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?
We use both. I have USAA so the ATM fees get reimbursed.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not really although the sidewalks are cracked and in bad shape
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are maxi taxis which are vans that drive people around but we are advised not to use them especially at night.
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?
We have a large SUV. It has been challenging for me ( not my husband) to drive because of the roads and parking spaces being very narrow. The parking lots are not designed for large cars. You drive on the opposite side here and it takes some getting used to. It is very hilly and there are tons of annoying speed bumps. Gas is also super cheap-US$1.25/gallon.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
cable/internet is US$90/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and buy minutes-it's cheap.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Some nice restaurants require men to wear pants and shoes, no flip flops.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
yes-Trinidad is a dangerous place but the violence is mostly gang-related. The are where most of the expats live is very safe. There are places that are not recommended to visit after dark.
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 ok at best. It's hard to get a doctor's appointment and most practices consist of just one doctor. The pediatrician I use had terrible hours and you generally have to wait at least an hour to get in. The hospitals are not close to U.S. standards. There are not a lot of ambulances and if you ever were seriously hurt and had to go to the public hospital, you would be in trouble!
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is typically in the 80's F, peaking to low 90's F for a couple hours mid day. The nights are comfortable. There is usually a light breeze. There are 2 season; rainy and dry
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. 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?
My kids were in preschool and there were a few to choose from. Most of the preschools are in a private home and kids ages 2-5 are all in the same room. It is very different from American preschools. Most kids start at age 2 in Trinidad. It was significantly cheaper than preschools in the States.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes-soccer is very popular here. Kids can also take tennis, swim, gymnastics and karate lessons. The International School offers lots of after-school sports.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The size is small but morale is good.
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?
Bars, restaurants, embassy outings.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For couples without kids, it would be great. There are lots of hikes, outdoor activities, bars, Carnival and quick flights to other places. For families with older kids, it would be nice too. We have young kids and it can be very boring. It is typically too hot to go to the parks during the day and the parks are run down. The beach is also 45 minutes away. We were often stuck trying to figure out ways to entertain our kids!
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We enjoyed Carnival, visiting the turtles, visiting Tobago, hiking and of course, the beach.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Ziplining for adults and kids, the Bamboo Cathedral is scenic and nice to hike, the Green Market on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
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 special advantages are the weather and the nice locals. It is a simple life but it can get boring at times
10. Can you save money?
yes because you don't pay living expenses. The low gas price offsets the high grocery bill. There is also very limited shopping and entertainment so you can save lots.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
that it is boring and although it is a "Caribbean island," you wouldn't know it. The closest beach is 45 min away.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
no-It's not terrible but island fever sets in a few months after arriving.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
high expectations and thinking you are in the Caribbean. The water is not aqua-colored and there are no white sandy beaches here.
4. But don't forget your:
patience-It is a very slow pace here.