Port Of Spain, Trinidad And Tobago Report of what it's like to live there - 08/20/16
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?
Yes, first post.
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?
South Carolina. From there, to Miami and onto POS. It's an easy day trip. Flight from MIA to POS is just under 4 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Spouse of US Embassy employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live in a single family house in Westmoorings, a popular area near the international school and West Falls Mall about 15-20 minutes (more if rush hour) to Embassy. Most expats live in this area, in various neighborhoods. We have a "roving patrol" for neighborhood security, and enclosed/gated homes. Some singles/couples, small families live in the apartments nearby. Apartments are nice (2-3 bedrooms) all overlooking the ocean. Great views and breeze with community swimming pool. Not all houses have a pool.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries in Trinidad are mostly imported which mean they cost a great deal more than what you would pay in the U.S. A small container of blueberries for example (imported from the U.S.) is about $7, strawberries are around $9. We spend nearly double in Trinidad than we do in the U.S.
Sometimes things can be very hard to find and the selection will vary from week to week. It is always good to stock up on a favorite item when you find it because it won't be available when you "need" it.
We shop at 2 speciality import meat stores and everything is frozen (and expensive). There is a price mart (similar to Sams/Costco) that has fresh milk and coffee creamer and other items for less than the grocery store chains. We also buy all of our water (drinking and cooking) in the 5 gallon size. Oh, and don't expect to find any low- or fat-free items. They don't exist. The only milk we can get that isn't shelf-stable is imported from the US and whole/vitamin D milk. It costs about $17 a gallon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Port of Spain isn't a consumable post for us and we can order in somethings through our mail services. I can get what I need that way, rather than buy locally.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The service is Trinidad is beyond slow so fast food doesn't actually exist. They do have KFC, McDonalds and some other chain restaurants but 45 minutes for a 10-piece nugget meal isn't exactly fast. The takeout options are also limited as there is really no delivery beyond pizza. We eat out occasionally and it is always expensive. The local food/street food is quite good and less expensive. In the evenings there is "The Avenue.' They have street vendors from about 7 p.m. onward and they have gyros, taco stands, local Trini cuisine for very reasonable prices.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are ants and mosquitoes. The ants never go away. The mosquitoes are better in the dry season.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We get mail through the diplomatic pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is available and easy to obtain. The work ethic isn't quite the same as in the Latin American countries and often times it takes a whole day for 1/2 days worth of work. On average a housekeeper is about U.S. $35 per visit.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy doesn't have a gym on site. There are other local gyms that are similar in price to the US. There are also classes to be found (and the instructor will come to your house) such as Pilates, TRX, etc. A lot of expats hike trails, walk in groups and work out together.
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?
Credit cards are used with all major business. Cash only for local vendors, extracurricular activities (kids clubs/sports instructors, etc).
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?
They speak English but it can be very hard to understand.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It is not handicapped accessible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There is not much in the way of public transportation, and none that is recommended by the Embassy. The Maxi-Taxi are a locally used bus service and random cars stop to pick up people. No idea on the cost of that as we are prohibited from using it. Everyone I know has at least one vehicle.
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?
Small cars/SUVs are preferred. The roads are a mess with potholes and broken pavement. The parking spots are small, if they exist at all. We have a large American truck--driving and parking it can be very frustrating.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Several different companies. They all have their issues. Install depends on the company, but will probably take all day and they will be several hours late arriving.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are two companies. BMobile and Digicel. Both have comparable plans/rates. You can do pre-paid or pay for a data plan. Averages about same as in the U.S.
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?
There are several vets around but we have no first-hand knowledge.
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 work at the schools, some at the embassy. Not familiar with the pay scales on either.
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?
Dress at the embassy is business casual. It's an island so a little more casual than other places. Formal attire would only be for certain meetings or evening events.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I feel comfortable walking in our neighborhood with my children, even at night. There are areas and hiking paths where a group is required. Overall we feel safe here.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mosquito born illnesses are a problem here, most recently Zika. There are a couple of hospitals and they are below U.S. standards. We've been for childhood illnesses (ear infections) and it was an issue to be seen as there was no pediatrician working. There are a lot of doctors available with various educational backgrounds (some from the US, UK, Trini, etc).
Dental care seems to be fairly good here.
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?
The air quality is good. We have both wet and dry seasons. In the dry season there is some smoke from the fires. Overall the biggest issue with air would be the air conditioners that are common here. They create a lot of dust and need to be cleaned often.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There is a vast supply of over-the-counter medicines here.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's hot and humid all year. Lots of sun all year (even in the wet season). The dry season is from January-June/July. The wet season is from July-December. Periods of rain everyday. Usually not long and not too bad. Just enough to spike up the humidity.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is the International School Port of Spain (IB/MYP program), The Montessori school, St. Andrews (British/Trini school). They all have issues. We enrolled in 1st grade upon arrival at the International School and I wish we'd chosen differently.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
None that I am aware of.
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?
There are a lot of in-home daycare and nursery schools. These are a lot less expensive than daycares in the US. Most people have found one they are happy with.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the schools there are some. Locally there are a couple different swim clubs, karate centers and such. There is not a lot for kids to do here. There are soccer clubs but they just practice, they don't play against other teams. Between the ages of 0-4 there is no organized anything for children.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is very large due to the oil companies that also reside here. The embassy community is small and everyone kind of does their own thing.
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?
DDI (down the islands), house BBQs, the beach. There is the American League and a couple of other clubs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I'd say its good for both singles and families. Its a very Caribbean feel in that there is no sense of urgency regarding anything. There is very little to do here so if you don't like the beach/sand, boating, outdoor hikes, etc then there wouldn't be much for you. This country has the most public holidays so there are lots of opportunities for long weekends, trips to Tobago, etc.
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 leave soon and for us the best parts have been days on the water. We did go to Tobago but with 3 small kids it is hard to experience all of the great outdoor experiences they have to offer.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
DDI trips for sure. Maracas beach, and any local community festival you can find. Diwali lights festival in the fall is a great trip too.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really. Everything is expensive/imported.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather, if you like summertime, is nice.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much it would cost to leave the island. Travel to South America is expensive. Island hopping is still a couple hundred dollars per plane ticket.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes, need for speed.
4. But don't forget your:
Bug spray, sun block, beach towels and patience.