Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 08/31/14
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, we've lived overseas before.
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. Flights via Miami or NYC. You can find flights for about US$500.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy affiliated.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
It's all over the place. Some are in apartments, others in houses. None have storage. Some houses have pools. Not to U.S. standards but housing is not your major concern here. It's fighting boredom.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is about 30% more expensive. Forget about eating strawberries and cherries. Apples run about US$1 each apple. You'll spend most of your money on food. Gas is cheap but there are not many places to drive on such a small island.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
As much as you can as everything here is expensive. You can find most everything, just be prepared to pay.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC, Church's chicken, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and a Wendy's. Be patient as the wait for fast food is much longer than you'd expect.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Dengue fever, ants everywhere.
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?
About US$30 per day.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Some but they are small and expensive.
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?
No problems. Just security concerns when you withdraw from the ATM.
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?
Trinidad can be difficult to understand. Asking them politely to repeat themselves may result in some attitude.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Sidewalks as we know them do not exist.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are off limits due to security concerns. Some private car services which will drive you around at premium rates.
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?
Any car will do. A small jeep is probably best for the bad roads.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about US$130.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Any unblocked phone. Buy a prepaid card.
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?
Not many, if any.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
More formal than you might expect for such a hot and humid place.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, it's rated critical, the highest rating possible. Assaults and murders are common. Just google the local papers. That said, with the exception of car break ins and a couple of assaults, it really has not affected the diplomatic community.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Everyone goes to the U.S. for serious health concerns.
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?
It's ok, sometimes, the smoke from the fires at the city dumps keeps everyone indoors. Hot and humid. If that's a problem for you, don't come here.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid. Rainy some eight months a year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most use ISPS. Most families seem content with the school although they have few international teachers.
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?
Yes, several small daycare options.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
At ISPS, some basic programs for kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small expat community. Morale varies from very poor to moderate, depending on one's ability to keep occupied.
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?
Drinking and hanging out on street corners, something the locals call liming.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's not a good city for any group if you compare it to any other city in Central or South America, Europe, or Asia. It might be a step up from Guyana.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
They seem to be able to find establishments which are gay friendly but it's kept quiet.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Discrimination is a big deal here. Afro-trini against Indo-trini and vice versa. Resentment against whites exists and is manifested in a very passive aggressive manner.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I'm at a loss here. Sorry.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Going to Maracas, Tobago, seeing the turtles. You run out of things to do quickly.
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?
Not much. Other than the occassional trip to the beach, a one time trip to see the turtles, there is simply not much to do. Dining out is prohibitively expensive. The cinema is at the U.S. standard. Most people spend their time searching for something to do. In the end, most look forward to their departure. I haven't met anyone who has ever looked back. No repeat tours here. In 2012 about a third of the officers departed prematurely.
10. Can you save money?
No, everything is expensive.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How little to do there is here. It's not an island paradise.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Desire to get anything done quickly.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience, sense of humor, bug spray!
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?
You can survive two years in Port of Spain, but it will take everything you have. In the end, everyone is happy to move on.