Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 10/13/12

Personal Experiences from Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago

Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago 10/13/12

Background:

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

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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?

Chicago - about 7 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is associated with the U.S. Embassy and lived in Port of Spain for two years, leaving in 2012, a first expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Great housing. Though traffic can be tight, the longest commute was about 30 minutes.

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

Groceries were more expensive than in the U.S., as everything is imported.

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

Boogie boards, beach towels, fishing pole.

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

Just about every American fast food franchise is there, but KFC dominated the scene. The best food is purchased on the street from doubles vendors. However, Ariapita Avenue "The Avenue" is seeing a boom in new restaurants, including excellent Indian and Haaka-style food.

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

Ants are always out and about. Mosquitos can be a problem since they carry dengue fever.

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Daily Life:

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

Via Embassy. TT Post Office was very well run, though. We routinely used TT's post office to send items to the US.

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

Cheap. About $40 per visit.

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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?

ATMs are readily available. Credit cards are accepted everywhere.

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

yes. All denominations, I believe.

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

Yes, all TV is beamed from the U.S., mostly Miami.

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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?

None, TT is an English-speaking country.

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

Infrastructure is NOT accommodating to individuals with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

We didn't take them much, as we were not supposed to take them. I had visitors who took them with no problem (private taxis).

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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?

Just about any type. The roads for the most part are pretty good. I had some issues when visiting Tamana caves to see hundreds of thousands of bats that come out in the evening, the roads were very potholed.

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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 $40 a month, excellent quality.

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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?

Cell phones are 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?

The quarantine is bad for incoming pets. There was pending legislation to do away with the quarantine.

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

Good quality vet care is available.

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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, teaching (university) and possibly medical (doctor).

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

Business attire at work, casual in public, dressed up again when going out in the evening.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is an issue, but it's mostly gang violence (small gangs). There are a couple of areas to stay out of, where most of the violence is located. Those areas have nothing to visit anyway.

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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?

You can drink the water out of the tap; street vendors are very clean. Dengue fever will be your biggest threat (I suffered from it).

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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?

Excellent.

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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?

A dry season and a wet season.

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Schools & Children:

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

International school was great; all of our kids excelled there and loved it. There is a Canadian school and a British school, too. The local schools are quite good as well and are based on the British school system (standard 1-5; form 1-6).

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

Not sure.

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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?

I do not recall there being a preschool.

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

Yes, I can think of a volleyball club (Moribunta).

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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 large, due to the booming oil industry.

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2. Morale among expats:

I believe it was relatively good, however, we made so many Trini friends we never hung out with many expats. Some people went from work to home and never got out. I think they were unhappy.

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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?

Tons.

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

Very good city for all groups. I took my kids (all girls) to every corner of the country.

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

Though "being gay" is technically illegal, there were gay bars in the city. Overall, Trini's are very tolerant of just about everything.

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

None.

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

Hiking through the jungle to see Amer-Indian carvings and encampments; hiking to remote beaches; diving; food; spelunking; Divali and the Ramleela plays; Hosay. Carnival is an absolute MUST!

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

Beaches, hiking, Carnival, street food on the Savannah (every night of the week), picking fruit in the jungles, visiting cocoa estates, scuba diving, fishing, camping, visiting offshore islands.

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

Carnival costumes. There isn't really an art scene in TT with the exception of Carnival, so spend your $$ on a great carnival costume/band.

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

Trini culture is amazing. It's an amalgamation of so many different cultures. Visit 5,000-year-old Amer-Indian sites, underwater archaeological sites, world class bird watching (over 400 species visit TT).

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel to nearby islands, as the flight costs are insanely high.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

Winter clothes!!!!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

The Caribbean by James Michener; The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago (a must); trinioutdoors.com.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Go hiking with Caribbean Hiking Adventures. They are a fantastic group of people. It's cheap, you'll meet tons of Trini's and see some great areas of the country you wouldn't otherwise see. Above all, enjoy your time in TT!

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