Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 03/08/19
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?
No. I have served around the world and have been with the State Department for almost 20 years.
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?
It's about a 3+ hour flight from Trinidad and Tobago to Miami; multiple airlines make that route. It's five plus hours to just to Houston, and there are also flights to Fort Lauderdale and NYC.
It can be expensive to fly out, but honestly it's even more expensive on the short flights within Caribbean (a real bummer).
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost three years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Work at the Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Good-size single family homes. Most Embassy staff live in an area along with other expats, though we didn't. There are other areas like St. Clair, Maraval, and Federation Park that have good single family housing. Commute times can run from 10 minutes to 30+ depending on traffic
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Food for the most part is expensive. Most items are imported. T and T could do a LOT more in terms of growing own products, but they don't. We supplement via Amazon and other online groceries,
but food is NOT cheap here.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Depends on how particular you are about items.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Almost all USA chains are here, but service seems slow. There are some decent places to eat both high and medium end. There are also local establishments with good food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not really. It's tropical so there are bugs ,etc. Some beaches have nasty sand flies.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We are pouch only. Mail can take up to a month to get to post and it seems slower during the holidays. Our stuff seems to get banged around all the time.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It is very hard to find a nanny and/or housekeeper here. Quality of the work (housekeeping) seems to be hit or miss. One must follow both local and State Department regulations when hiring (both may seem strict).
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms are decent. Not super fancy but American like quality. Not inexpensive, but not super cheap either. Weather is good here, so an outside workout is easy. You can find private trainers here.
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 always use my credit card except on rare occasions, but I have never used an ATM here. I try to cash checks for local currency at the Embassy. ATMs seem generally safe but you just need to use the same precautions that one would use in the USA. There are some ATM scams but again, general awareness is key.
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?
English-speaking country although the accent and slang can be tough for some who are not use to it. It does sound almost like sing-song version of English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes and no. There are parking spots for those with handicaps and other basic attempts to accommodate, but a lot of the infrastructure is not ADA complaint.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Nope. There is one taxi company that is approved for our use. The Embassy contracts with one private contractor for most driving needs.
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?
Do not try and buy a car locally; bring left or right and drive. An SUV will be best but all types work here. Don't forget tires and parts.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Not super high speed but not bad and it can take a while to get installed. There are different companies to chose from.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are options, but I don't have specific recommendation. Some folks keep home country plan but that's kind of expensive. T and T does have area code (868) so it's not hard to dial in and out to USA.
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?
I do not have a pet, but have heard they can be difficult to import and may limit housing options.
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?
The Embassy seems to try to employ as many EFMs as possible. The biggest hurdle is the security clearance process. FT and PT jobs are available. Local employment is possible but not many choose that route. You can telecommute/the connection is good enough.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Some but limited.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Normal business but be aware it's hot so evening events folks will remove ties/etc. Formal dress is rarely required.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is rated a critical crime post. Diplomats not targeted per se but I've heard have been victims of home invasion, robberies, etc. I've heard a high murder rate, but general awareness like in USA is usually enough to ensure safety. Residences don't require (at this time) armed guards although there is the embassy patrol.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Emergency care can be hit and miss. Specialist care can be quite good. Pediatricians are good but you have to make effort to know doctors. Don't show up and think they will just fit you in or take an emergency because you are a diplomat or other expat.
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. Some bush fires and Sahara dust.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
We have no winter in T and T and folks seem to get a little crazy at Carnival time. Some folks get island fever.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot but not Dubai hot or Malaysia humid.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
This is a really important issue: for many years there was one option that embassy children and most expats attended, which is the International School of Port of Spain (ISPS). In 2016-2017 things changed a lot. Many embassy parents were not going to send their children there anymore, but a number were also very happy with ISPS. The embassy worked hard with Main State to create another option and brought in a QSI school. It is small but the vast majority of parents and kids like it. The embassy parents and kids at ISPS also seem happy.
It's VERY important that a parent and child be aware that there are other options than ISPS but still be very aware that ISPS is a good option for many parents and children.
Parents should investigate all options and support multiple options. It might be "easy" to just assume ISPS is only option (or even QSI) but that can not be the case in Port of Spain
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I think QSI can probably take on special needs easier but it's important to ask both main schools. There are very good therapists here for all major areas. This should be a post that can accommodate special needs.
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?
Yes, a broad range, but price depends on the school (some seem expensive). The kids attend a wide range of schools and newcomers should check with the Community Liaison Office (CLO).
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, tennis, horseback riding, swimming, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
No idea on size, it's shrinking as economy downsizes and oil and gas sector changes. Morale is overall ok but the crime issue is starting to weigh on people, but this is can be very/very decent place to live
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?
T and T is a party nation.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
All of the above, you just have to be willing to accept T and T for what it is or is not.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, although it's not going to 100% progressive but it's better than a lot of places in the region.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes. This is a VERY multi cultural nation. One of the most in the world There are some underlying tensions but honestly they are much further along than most countries in that regard.
Folks do seem to like America here (maybe not all policies), but like America and do have deep ties to America.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
My children are happy here.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Chuck E. Cheese is really nice here, and the weather is awesome.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather, kids happy, you can get a nice tan, people are generally nice, it's a bit of America lite, really like how multi ethnic and multi cultural it is.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
More about the school situations.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
If you have kids, please really explore all the options for schools. Do NOT allow yourself or our child(ren) to be shoehorned into a school b/c it is "expected". I only listed two options that are the main ones for the USA Embassy but there are others
T and T is very different than the rest of the Caribbean. Not a tourism center, has a lot of things going on here (good and not so good) and has very interesting people and very close ties culturally, economically and more with USA but is also very independent from USA. Something to consider for all of those factors.