Preface Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:07 AM
The twin-island republic of Trinidad & Tobago does not conform to
the stereotype of Caribbean resort islands. While blessed with
natural beauty and some good beaches, T&T is not a premier tourist
destination. What the country lacks in tourist infrastructure,
however, it makes up for in its unique ethnic and cultural flavor.
Its abundant natural resources (oil and gas) have provided it the
means to chart its own course, politically and economically, and
make it a leader in the region. First-time visitors are often
surprised at the level of industrialization in the country. It is a
relatively prosperous nation as measured by per capita GDP. Its
population and landmass are larger than all of the Windward Islands
combined. Even its geologic origins set it apart; Trinidad was
originally a part of the South American mainland before it broke off
thousands of years ago. This means that its flora and fauna are as
varied as those of South America, but concentrated in a much smaller
area. It is one of the world's premier destinations for bird
watchers, boasting several hundred species, especially hummingbirds.
Trinidad includes mountain ranges with peaks as high as 3,000 feet,
as well as flat lands used for agriculture, and wetlands.
A portion of the Venezuelan coastline, less than 10 miles away,
is visible from Port of Spain on some days, yet cultural and
language differences mean there is relatively little contact with
Venezuela. Trinidadian society is a vibrant and unique mixture of
races and national origins, with the two largest groups being of
African and of Indian descent. In addition, there are smaller, but
significant numbers of people of Syrian, Lebanese, English,
Portuguese, Chinese, Spanish, and French origin.
Life for the Embassy community is good in Port of Spain,
particularly for those who like outdoor activities. Port of Spain is
as safe (or dangerous) as many large U.S. cities, the weather is
hot, and medical care and other facilities are adequate. The people
are open and friendly toward Americans, although society tends to be
somewhat clannish. The business infrastructure is reasonably modern
and efficient, and housing and schools are good. While some of the
conveniences Americans take for granted are not always available,
cell phones are in wide use, one can easily access the Internet and
watch many stateside channels on cable TV, or find the latest DVD
releases as well as a decent latte. At the same time, opportunities
abound to be enriched by an interesting and unique culture. This is
the official Post Report, which the post updated in September 2005.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:09 AM
The twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago comprises the two
southernmost islands of the West Indies island chain, separating the
Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. The country has an area of
5,128 square kilometers (1,980 square miles), about 1.5 times the
size of Rhode Island. Trinidad, the larger island, lies northeast of
Venezuela between 10° and 11° north of the Equator and is separated
from Venezuela by the 20-mile-wide Gulf of Paria. Geographically,
Trinidad is an extension of the South American continent. Trinidad
measures 50 miles long and 35-45 miles wide, with an area of 4,828
km2 (1,864 mi2).
Three relatively low mountain ranges cross Trinidad from east to
west; their highest elevation reaches 3,085 feet in the heavily
forested Northern Range. A lower range extends laterally across the
center of the island, and a third range extends along the southern
coast. Trinidad has a wide assortment of tropical vegetation and
Tobago, 21 miles northeast of Trinidad, has an area of 300 km2
(116 mi2). It has generally rugged terrain with elevations up to
1,800 feet; the only extensive lowland region is a coral platform at
the southwestern end.
Both Trinidad and Tobago have tropical climates. Some coastal
areas are moderated by the marine environment and prevailing
northeast trade winds. Because of its constant exposure to trade
winds, Tobago is slightly cooler than Trinidad. Rainfall is moderate
to heavy with an annual average of 82.7 inches, but is subject to
considerable regional and year-to-year variations. Days are warm
with high temperatures typically around 91°F, while night-time
temperatures drop to 75°F. The seasonal temperature does not vary by
more than five degrees. The mean year-round temperature for the
country at 8 AM is about 77°F; at 2 PM it is about 86°F. Humidity
averages about 86% at 8 AM and about 65% at 2 PM.
A dry season, more clearly defined than in most West Indies
islands, lasts from January through mid-May; a short interruption of
the rainy season also usually occurs in September. In most of the
country no month is entirely dry, but during the rainy season the
monthly precipitation is three to four times greater than in the dry
Although the country lies slightly south of the hurricane track,
violent local storms sometimes occur. In 1963, Hurricane Flora
devastated Tobago. More recently, Hurricane Ivan brushed past Tobago
in 2004, and Hurricane Emily caused flooding on both islands in
2005. Historically, these events are considered highly unusual.
Given the hot, humid climate, mildew, termites, cockroaches, ants,
moths, mosquitoes, and flies can become problems. Most beaches have
sand flies in damp weather, and forest areas have chiggers. However,
mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and dengue fever are rare.
Population Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:11 AM
Christopher Columbus named and claimed Trinidad for Spain on his
third voyage in 1498. Sir Walter Raleigh made brief bids for
possession of the island in 1595. The indigenous inhabitants of the
islands — the warlike Caribs, who flourished on Tobago, and the more
peaceful Arawaks, who outnumbered the Caribs on Trinidad — were
ultimately subdued and enslaved by the Spanish. By the end of the
18th century, they were almost extinct.
Spaniards brought the first Africans to Trinidad as slaves in
1702 to boost cocoa production. When the Spanish crown opened the
island to immigration in the last quarter of the century, French
planters and their slaves came by the thousands from other Caribbean
islands and France, bringing their knowledge of sugarcane
The Spanish ceded Trinidad to the English in 1797. Tobago, after
changing hands among the Dutch, French, and British several times
during the 16th and 17th centuries, was finally captured by the
British in 1793.
When slavery was effectively abolished throughout the British
West Indies on August 1, 1838, plantation owners turned to
indentured laborers from India, and some 150,000 arrived in Trinidad
between 1845 and 1917. By 1921 East Indians accounted for almost
one-third of Trinidad's population; today they comprise a slim
plurality of 40%.
Trinidad was the site of a large U.S. military presence during
World War II, serving as a huge naval base and training site for
many of the troops headed for North Africa. It also protected supply
routes for oil for the allied forces. German U-boats stalked allied
supply and troop ships headed for the war in Europe, sinking many in
the waters surrounding Trinidad and Tobago. A small, privately run
military history museum outside of Port of Spain details this and
other military chapters in the history of the islands. The U.S.
returned military bases and other facilities on the island to
Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s.
The majority of the population is Christian (Roman Catholic 26%,
Anglican 7.8%, Presbyterian 3.3% and Baptist, among others), with
22.5% Hindu and 5.8% Islam. There are also smaller groups following
Trinidad and Tobago's population is just under 1.3 million, of
which over 50,000 live in Tobago. Greater Port of Spain, with
310,000 inhabitants, is by far the largest city, followed by San
Fernando, Arima and Chaguanas. The largest town in Tobago is
Scarborough. Over 4,000 Americans live in Trinidad and Tobago, many
of local origin. Family and cultural ties with North America are
strong, with sizable Trinidadian communities resident in New York,
Maryland-D.C., Florida and Ontario.
Most of the rural population in T&T live in small roadside
agricultural villages. Larger villages usually contain a church or
temple, a police station, a primary school, recreational club/bar
and small grocery stores.
The two major folk traditions are Creole and East Indian. Creole
is a mixture of African elements as influenced by Spanish, French,
and English colonial culture. Many Indo-Trinidadians have retained
an East Indian way of life and Hindu traditions and religious rites,
such as cremation and Divali (Festival of Lights). A smaller
proportion of the Indo-Trinidadian population is Muslim. The entire
population speaks English, often flavored with expressions derived
from Trinidad's cultural heritage.
The people of T&T enjoy social events called 'fetes' all year.
The country's biggest fete — Carnival — takes place each year on the
Monday and Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before Ash Wednesday. This festival
features parades with huge groups of masqueraders dancing in
spectacular costumes through the streets of Port of Spain,
accompanied by large sound trucks. The Carnival "season" begins
right after Christmas and features an on-going round of fetes and
competitions, such as by calypso singers, performing at both indoor
and outdoor venues called "tents." These activities culminate the
weekend preceding Carnival with Carnival Sunday or Dimanche Gras,
when the Calypso Monarch and King & Queen of Carnival are crowned.
J'ouvert (pronounced "Joo-vay," a contraction of the French jour
ouvert, or "new day") is the official opening of Carnival and takes
place before dawn on Carnival Monday. It is an opening ritual
enacted to the accompaniment of mud and oil in which the first
revelers hit the streets jumping, dancing, and shouting — aided by
local rum. Most revelers usually join sections in which hundreds of
people party together. Revelers continue to celebrate through the
final day of Carnival on Mardi Gras.
The French introduced Carnival as an urban festival and it was
celebrated initially among the upper class Creoles. In time it also
became a means for the Afro-Trinidadian masses to break out of their
normal routine, sometimes to express ridicule or to indirectly
attack their social superiors and the government. It has now become
a truly national event, with many segments of the population
Public Institutions Last Updated: 11/28/2005 11:54 AM
Trinidad & Tobago is a democratic country with a parliamentary
form of government. On August 31, 1962, the United Kingdom granted
independence to T&T as a member of the British Commonwealth with a
Governor General as the Queen's personal representative. On
September 24, 1976, Trinidad and Tobago adopted a new constitution,
which established the country as a republic within the British
Commonwealth. T&T replaced the Queen as head of state with a
President, elected by Parliament, and did away with the position of
The major governmental institutions, based on the British model,
remain the same as those established by the 1962 constitution. They
* A Cabinet (currently 17 ministers appointed and led by a prime
minister). * A bicameral Parliament consisting of a 36-member House
of Representatives and a 31-member Senate. Members of the House of
Representatives are elected in parliamentary elections held at least
every five years. Members of the Senate are appointed by the
president: 16 on the advice of the governing party, six on the
advice of the opposition party, and nine at the President's
discretion. * The judicial system has a Court of Appeals as its
highest level in the country. Final appeals may be taken to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
The People's National Movement (PNM) is the governing party in
Trinidad & Tobago and is led by Prime Minister Patrick Manning. The
PNM was founded in 1958 under the leadership of Dr. Eric Williams,
the "father of the nation." Williams became the first prime minister
of the newly independent country in 1962, continuing in office until
his death in 1981.
In 1986 the PNM was swept out of office by the National Alliance
for Reconstruction (NAR), led by A.N.R. Robinson who became prime
minister. In 1991, the PNM returned to power only to be defeated in
1995 by the United National Congress (UNC) in coalition with the NAR.
The coalition formed a government with Basdeo Panday of the UNC as
Prime Minister. That government fell in 2000 and, following
elections that created a deadlocked parliament, the president
invited Manning to form a government in 2002. The PNM administration
remains in power in 2005; it must call for elections by 2007.
Trinidad and Tobago belongs to a number of international
organizations through which it seeks to exert some influence on
world affairs. On gaining independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago
joined the United Nations and became a member of the Commonwealth of
Nations. In 1967, it was the first Commonwealth Caribbean country to
seek membership in the Organization of American States (OAS) and the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Trinidad and Tobago was a
founding member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA),
and its successor organization, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and identifies with
developing countries on many North-South economic issues.
Familiar organizations like the Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA, Boy
Scouts, PTA, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, etc., play
significant roles in the community and welcome participation by
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:16 AM
The educational program inherited from the colonial
administration was patterned on the British model, with structure
and content resembling those of other Commonwealth Caribbean
members. Students completing secondary school now take the Caribbean
Examinations Council (CXC) examinations instead of the General
Certificate of Education (GCE) exams prepared and graded in the U.K.
While Trinidad has one of the hemisphere's highest literacy rates
and has produced scholars of international renown, some educational
problems persist. Functional literacy appears to be significantly
below the official level. School facilities tend to be outdated, in
poor condition and overcrowded. Teacher salaries and training are
also well below the private sector. Not all teachers have university
degrees; some have received pedagogical training, others have
specialist diplomas, and some have general secondary education.
Higher education is available at the St. Augustine campus of the
University of the West Indies, located on the outskirts of Port of
Spain. The government also recently launched the University of T&T,
which does not yet have a permanent home.
In the literary field, notable writers include Alfred Mendes,
C.L.R. James, Samuel Selvon, Earl Lovelace and Sir Vidiandhar
Surajprasad Naipaul. Selvon's work most often deals with the poor
people of Trinidad at home and abroad, and his style is both
humorous and sympathetic. Naipaul's novels show a deep sensitivity
toward the racial and cultural complexity of Trinidadian society and
an understanding of its tensions and prejudices. Naipaul received
the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. Trinidad's leading poet and
playwrite is Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian by birth who has lived in
T&T for 20 years. Walcott is also a Nobel Prize winner for
The music and dance of T&T and the festivals that inspire and
preserve them reflect the country's kaleidoscopic colonial heritage
and its multicultural population. Each element of the social mosaic
— the Spanish and English colonizers, the French immigrants, the
African slaves, and the East Indian indentured laborers, as well as
smaller communities of Chinese, Syrians and Lebanese — has
contributed to a national folkloric tradition that is among the
Calypso, the musical genre that has drawn international attention
to Trinidad, evolved from folk culture but is considered a popular
political music form. Today's calypso has been described as "witty,
smutty, topical, and full of double entendre." Stimulated by the
commercialization of the music and the hotly contested annual
competition for Carnival calypso monarch, composers turn out some 40
or 50 "hit" songs each year. Soca, a high-energy dance music,
Indo-Trinidadian "chutney" music, Indian style "tassa" drum bands,
and the limbo dance are all part of Trinidad's cultural rainbow.
Trinidad's most notable contribution to world culture, however,
is the pan (steel drum). In the 1930s some urban Afro-Trinidadians
found that empty steel drums and similar objects were ideal for
music making. The thousands of 55-gallon oil drums, discarded by the
U.S. Navy at Chaguaramas during World War II, furnished an ample
supply. From primitive beginnings they slowly developed the pan to
be able to reproduce the entire chromatic scale. Steel bands, which
can number over 100 musicians and rightly are described as "pan
orchestras," typically have bass, guitar, and cello pans in the
rhythm section, while tenor and "double second" pans play the
melody. Pan music has become very refined and, aside from calypso
tunes, now includes popular, jazz and classical pieces.
In the field of the visual arts, Boscoe Holder, who excels in
figurative paintings, Noel Vaucrosson, a watercolorist, and Pat Chu
Foon, a painter and sculptor, are well known. Peter Minshall, who
designed the opening ceremonies at both the Barcelona and Atlanta
Olympic Games, has become one of the standouts among the many
talented "mas" (Carnival masquerade band) producers. Clothing
designers such as Meiling, producing a typical Caribbean style, have
become more prominent in recent years.
Port of Spain has several small theaters and two larger
auditoriums, which feature original and foreign plays and musical
performances. While Trinidad and Tobago's cultural "market" is not
large enough to draw many foreign acts (aside from Caribbean music
shows), occasional visits by lesser known foreign musical and dance
groups liven up the local cultural scene.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:20 AM
Endowed like neighboring Venezuela with rich deposits of oil and
natural gas, Trinidad and Tobago became one of the most prosperous
countries in the Western Hemisphere during the oil boom of the
1970s, ranking third in per-capita income behind the United States
and Canada by 1981. Oil wealth also fueled a dramatic increase in
domestic consumption. The country fell on hard times in the early
1990s, however, when oil prices fell. Restructuring helped T&T
recover by the mid 1990s, and the government divested itself of many
large industrial enterprises, such as flour milling, steel and the
national airline, BWIA. The economy was poised for another period of
prosperity, which coincided with the advent of the natural gas era
T&T has welcomed oil and gas exploration by major international
oil companies. BP, the biggest player in Trinidad's energy sector
and successor to Amoco, produces half of the country's crude oil and
the largest share of natural gas. Production of oil is declining
now, but has been offset by the rise of natural gas, the engine
behind current economic growth in T&T.
In 1999 BPAmoco, Tractebel (now Suez), Repsol, British Gas and
the National Gas Company of T&T formed Atlantic LNG and commenced
production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a multi-billion
dollar plant in southern Trinidad. By the end of 2005 Atlantic LNG
should have four production modules ("trains") in operation,
producing 15 million tons of LNG a year. Nearly all of that output
will be shipped to the USA.
By 2005 Trinidad & Tobago will have posted more than a decade of
continuous economic growth. The international debt rating and per
capita income for T&T are among the highest in the hemisphere, and
the country is viewed as an economic and political leader in the
Caribbean. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has raised the T&T
sovereign foreign currency debt rating three years running, most
recently to a level of A- in 2005. At the same time, it reduced the
outlook for the country from positive to stable, which some
attribute to concerns over worsening crime and corruption. The good
times have also seen a return of state-owned enterprises. The
government has again taken control of BWIA and is deciding whether
and how to restructure it. Meanwhile the government is establishing
13 state companies to implement its plans for infrastructure
improvements and other investments.
As part of its economic restructuring in the 1990s, the
government adopted a more welcoming attitude toward foreign
investment. Since 1992 almost all investment barriers have been
eliminated. There are no currency or capital controls, and the T&T
government manages the T&T dollar in a lightly managed, stable float
against the U.S. dollar. The government has concluded a double
taxation agreement, a bilateral investment treaty and an
intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. In
mid-2005 the exchange rate was TT6.25 to one U.S. dollar.
Inflation, low in the early years of the new millennium, has
worsened recently with the increasing price of oil. Inflation in
mid-2005 was 7.3%, more than double the rate a year earlier. More
worrisome are food prices, which were increasing at a rate of 25% in
mid-2005. The central bank, after holding the line on interest rates
for more than two years, has hiked inter-bank lending rates (the "repo"
rate) twice in 2005 alone.
Despite efforts to diversify its economy, T&T remains heavily
dependent on the energy sector, which accounts for one-third of
total GDP and 40% of government revenue and a major share of foreign
exchange earnings. While production of crude oil has been declining,
the discovery of large reserves of natural gas, primarily in
offshore fields, has fueled the development of petrochemical and
metals industries. There are now over 20 large industrial plants in
Trinidad that either utilize natural gas as a feedstock or operate
on natural gas-generated electricity. T&T presently is the world's
largest producer of methanol, and has significant production of
ammonia, urea, direct reduced iron, and natural gas liquids. It is
also contemplating two aluminum smelter proposals and complexes for
production of either ethylene or propylene, which could open up more
Trinidad & Tobago is highly trade dependent, using the foreign
exchange earned by its commodity and energy exports to buy consumer
goods. The U.S. is by far Trinidad's most important trading partner,
supplying about half of all imports and buying half of all exports.
Trinidad's exports are concentrated in a few sectors: oil, gas and
downstream petrochemical products (chiefly fertilizers), and iron
and steel. Thanks to its energy and commodity exports Trinidad has
run a trade surplus in all but two of the last 20 years. Leading
exports from T&T include manufactured products like diapers, beer,
soft drinks, processed foods, air conditioning equipment and plastic
products, particularly to the country's CARICOM neighbors, with
which T&T runs a 10:1 trade surplus.
The agricultural sector once was dominated by sugar, but has been
in steep decline in recent years. Agriculture contributed only 0.8%
to GDP in 2004. Despite preferential market access arrangements with
the European Union, sugar production in no longer significant due to
high costs and competition from Brazil and elsewhere. Other
agricultural exports include cocoa, coffee and cut flowers, but none
is a significant foreign-exchange earner. The fishing sector is
receiving increased attention both for the local market and for
exports, but over-fishing by commercial shrimp trawlers and coastal
pollution are threatening once abundant fishing grounds. The U.S.
banned shrimp imports from T&T in late 2004 for the country's
failure to demonstrate that it adequately protects endangered
Tourism is similarly insignificant as an export earner. The
government has cited tourism as a priority sector for development.
Largely significant only on Tobago, tourism accounted for 0.3% of
GDP in 2004. More than 400,000 tourists visited T&T in 2003, an
increase of 6.5% over 2002. Most tourists visit during Carnival,
though Tobago is experiencing increases in package travel with
numerous weekly flights from Europe to Crown Point airport. Lack of
sufficient hotel rooms are challenges in marketing T&T as a tourist
destination, as well as competing with more established Caribbean
resort islands. More than half of all tourist arrivals stay in
private homes. Marine pleasure yachting has been a bright spot in
the country's tourism picture in recent years. The port of
Chaguaramas is attractive to yachters because it offers shelter from
violent storms. Eco-tourism opportunities exist on both islands.
There are diving sites off the coast of Tobago and bird-watching
opportunities on Trinidad. Organized hikes are possible on both
The country's work force was 613,000 in 2004. Unemployment was
8.4% in 2004, after being above 10% since the start of the
millennium. The largest employment sector is trade and services,
accounting for 53% of the labor force. Other significant sectors are
construction (16%), and manufacturing (10%). The capital-intensive
petroleum sector employs only about three percent of the labor
There is an active labor movement in T&T. Although only about a
quarter of the national labor force is unionized, the unions enjoy a
relatively high public profile. Unionization in the industrial and
public sectors is higher than in most other sectors. The Labor
Ministry serves as conciliator in labor disputes. The Industrial
Court, to which disputes are referred when collective bargaining
fails, has a record of fair, but slow, adjudication.
Automobiles Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:23 AM
Poor public transportation makes a personal car necessary in Port
of Spain. Traffic moves on the left, so right-hand-drive vehicles
predominate. Only right-hand-drive (RHD) cars are sold locally.
There are dealers for nearly all Japanese and Korean brands and an
increasing number of European models. U.S.-made right-hand drive
Fords and Jeeps recently entered the market. Shipping a car to
Trinidad, preferably of a make that is sold locally, is less
expensive than purchasing one on the island. Arrangements can be
made to purchase duty-free cars from local dealers, however.
Although most cars in the country are right-hand-drive, staff
members of the Embassy have not experienced any problems in
importing, licensing or driving left-hand-drive models. Shipment is
via the Miami Despatch Agent.
If you intend to bring a car, ship it to coincide with your
arrival at Post. Shipping may take weeks or months, and clearance
through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Customs, and the Licensing
Office may take several additional weeks. To expedite auto clearance
procedures, provide data about the car well ahead of the car's
planned arrival. Submit this information by letter or cable to the
Embassy, marked for the Management Officer's attention.
The Embassy assists newcomers and their families with daily
transportation on a limited basis, usually confined to off-hours.
The limited number of Embassy cars is tightly scheduled for official
use. Home-to-office transportion is available at a fee for those
awaiting shipment of a POV. Many newcomers, however, commute with
neighboring Embassy employees. Cars can be rented locally at rates
higher than in the U.S.
Importing a foreign car to Trinidad is authorized at U.S.
Government expense since few right-hand-drive vehicles are
manufactured in the U.S. Diplomatic personnel may import two
vehicles duty- and tax-free, while nondiplomatic personnel are
permitted one duty-free car. Transportation cost of one car per
employee is U.S. Government paid, but a second car may be imported
at owner's expense. A second car can be purchased duty-free locally
by those with diplomatic status.
Resale values and demands for imported cars has been good, but is
declining. Departing personnel have thus far not encountered
problems selling their cars, though they are no longer commanding
top prices. Continuing trade liberalization of import rules is
narrowing the price gap between locally-purchased and imported cars,
even those imported duty-free. Cars sold duty- and tax-free must
have been registered in country for two or more years, and the owner
must have been in the country for two years. (See “Customs and
Duties” for the Embassy's policy on personally owned vehicles.)
Air-conditioning is strongly recommended because of high tropical
temperatures and humidity. Unleaded gasoline is available in Port of
Spain. The cost and quality of local auto repair work vary widely.
Spare parts are often scarce and may have to be ordered from the
U.S. Cars with good maintenance and repair records save their owners
much time and expense. Ship parts such as windshield wiper blades, a
good supply of fuel injector cleaner, motor oil and oil filters, fan
belts and tune-up parts in your household effects (HHE). Car alarms
or steering wheel locks are also recommended to prevent theft.
A local driver's license (good for three years) is required and a
valid U.S. license will facilitate its issuance. Diplomatic
personnel and their dependents are not charged a fee, but
non-diplomatic staff and their spouses are charged US$33 per person.
Third-party liability insurance, required by law, is available
locally at reasonable rates. A five-year claim-free statement from a
previous insurer entitles you to a discount. Local auto insurance
rates other than third-party liability are high and vary according
to the driver's age and safety record. Collision and comprehensive
insurance is also available locally, but the rates are higher than
U.S. firms. Many employees have decided to purchase liability
insurance from local companies and collision and comprehensive from
U.S. insurance companies.
Although some improvements are under way, many roads and streets
(with the exception of a few major highways) are narrow, full of
potholes, and poorly maintained. Wear and tear on cars is rapid and
narrow roads are often congested: Four-wheel-drive sport utility
vehicles are also very popular with employees, especially for those
who enjoy exploring the dirt roads and secluded beaches of the
The typical Trinidadian driving style may surprise newcomers.
Some drivers are aggressive and have little reluctance about
straddling the center of the road. Driving with high beams on at
night is fairly common. Taxis stop suddenly to pick up or discharge
passengers. U.S. personnel quickly learn to drive defensively at all
times but find that driving on the left is not as hard as it
Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/28/2005 11:56 AM
Private cars and taxis are the primary means of local transport,
but mini-buses ("maxi-taxis") concentrate on connecting
Port-of-Spain with nearby towns and villages. Taxi stands in Port of
Spain are located in a couple hotels and the airport only. Several
companies provide a taxi dispatch service. Taxis on the street are
not identified by signs, or by uniform painting, but by the first
letter "H" on the license plate. These "H" taxis or maxi-taxis
(minibuses) are restricted to special routes. Maxi-taxis display a
sign in the windshield, but color-coding designates their area.
Passengers are picked up and let off along the route. Fares are
reasonable and most local residents rely on maxi-taxis for
transportation. NOTE: RSO does not advise using any route taxis or
Car rentals are higher than in the U.S. and usually require a
large cash deposit or credit card. A typical compact car averages
US$60 a day when available, but long-term rates are lower.
Trinidad has no school bus system. The lack of organized school
transportation further congests the morning rush hour.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:26 AM
Most Embassy staff and families take the opportunity to visit
Trinidad's sister island of Tobago because of the difficulty of
traveling to any other place. International flights are expensive,
and service delays are common. Among possible regional destinations
are Georgetown, Caracas and Margarita, Venezuela, and other
Caribbean islands. BWIA is the T&T national carrier and provides
service to many regional destinations as well as to London and North
America. Continental Airlines and American Airlines offer regular
service to the USA (see "Getting to the Post"). Among other
airlines, Air Canada flies to Port of Spain from Toronto. Virgin
provides weekly flights between Tobago and London, while Condor
flies from Frankfurt. Another airline conducts tourist flights to
Amsterdam, and plans include future service to Vienna.
There are numerous 20-minute flights daily between Trinidad (Piarco
Airport) and Tobago (Crown Point Airport). The subsidized fare is
currently US$40 round trip. The service suffers frequent delays.
Many hotels offer T&T resident rates to Embassy staff. Airport taxi
fares on both islands are not standard. Establish the fare before
hiring a taxi. The normal fare from the airport to Port of Spain is
about US$30 to the Embassy, with a 50 % surcharge between 11 PM and
5 AM. Parking at the airport is relatively inexpensive.
An inexpensive government ferry service also operates between
Trinidad and Tobago. Two ferries were added to the route in 2004,
reducing the trip to about 3-4 hours. Car rentals in Tobago cost
about US$60 a day; reserve in advance in Port of Spain.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:48 PM
Adequate telephone service is available throughout Trinidad &
Tobago. The country follows the North American Dialing Plan and uses
Area Code (868).
You can dial international calls direct to the United States by
dialing 1, the area code, and the number. It is not possible to dial
toll-free 1-800 numbers from T&T. Worldwide connections are good,
but costs are well above U.S. discount rates. As of September 2005,
direct-dialed calls to the USA cost TT2 (US 32¢) a minute. Specific
geographic phone rates can be found at www.tstt.net.tt under
personal, telephone rates, international.
Personal calls from the Embassy through the IVG line are possible
to Washington area numbers or to toll-free numbers. A U.S. calling
card or dial-around service is essential in such cases.
The Embassy issues hand-held radios to all personnel in case of
local telephone failure, but such occasions are rare.
Wireless Service Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:49 PM Mobile services
are available in most parts of Trinidad & Tobago other than remote
areas. The dominant technology in T&T is the GSM standard. In
addition, an older TDMA system continues to be available. American
customers of Cingular and T-Mobile can use their cell phones in T&T
if they are enabled for international access. Cell phones should be
capable of operating in one of the following bands: 800MHz, 1800MHz
or 1900 MHz. Roaming charges can be high, however, and prepaid
accounts (using SIM cards) are available locally.
International wireless dialing is the same as with landlines.
Rates to North America are the same, too, making cell phone calls to
the USA a relative bargain at US32¢ a minute. A 12-minute call to
Maryland in July cost TT 24 ($1.50).
The only mobile provider in T&T continues to be TSTT. It has
several different plans. For specific pricing see: http://tstt.net.tt/
In mid-2005 the T&T Telecommunications Authority awarded licenses to
Digicel (Ireland) and local startup Laqtel (allied with Canadian
companies) to compete with TSTT. Digicel will offer GSM services by
2006. Laqtel has said it will unveil a CDMA service. While unclear
as of September 2005, the Laqtel technology could be compatible with
Verizon and Sprint when it comes online in 2006.
Internet Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:50 PM
There are several Internet vendors in T&T. There are no local
numbers in T&T for such popular U.S. providers as AOL or Earthlink.
Dial-up service, whether through Interserv or another provider, is
slow (typically about 30k/sec).
Dial-up services that Embassy employees commonly use are TSTT and
Interserv. As of September 2005, Interserv (www.trinidad.net)
charged a registration fee of TT115 (US$19) and a monthly fee of
about US$22 for 100 hours. Additional hours cost about $2 each.
TSTT dialup service involves an activation fee of TT115. Below
are rates for three of the different monthly packages:
Monthly rental Hours in plan Additional hours TT230 ($38) 100
TT17 ($1.21) TT345 ($ 57) Unlimited (1 login) N/A TT799 ($133)
Unlimited (3 logins) N/A
Broadband Internet service through both cable TV and ADSL has
become available in Port of Spain. Subscribers to CCTT cable TV
service can obtain cable modems. Most Embassy residents use TSTT
ADSL service, which offers higher downloading speeds. It should be
noted that DSL speeds are slower than in the U.S. and costs are also
higher. An ADSL line with speeds of 256k down and 64k up costs TT460
($76) per month. There are also setup and installation fees.
Additionally, a multi-year contract brings a discount of 5%, 10%, or
15%, respectively. FAQ and service questions on TSTT broadband are
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:29 AM
Airmail from the U.S. takes 14-17 days to reach Trinidad,
depending on the point of origin. Airmail from T&T to the USA costs
TT3.75 (US60¢) for a standard letter. There are reports of lost or
stolen incoming mail, especially items like magazines, catalogs and
packages. Use the State Department pouch for packages being shipped
to post from the U.S., keeping in mind weight and size restrictions.
Most Embassy mail arrives by pouch, with deliveries twice a week
from Washington, D.C. Letters from the U.S. sent by pouch take 2-3
weeks. U.S. domestic rates apply to pouch mail. Packages must be
sent first-class. Parcels sent via pouch should not be insured,
because the Department will not accept them on delivery.
U.S. postage stamps are sold at cost by the Employee Association.
Since shortages occur, it is recommended to bring a supply, or it is
possible to order online from USPS.com.
Address for official State Department correspondence only: NAME
3410 PORT OF SPAIN PL DEPARTMENT OF STATE WASHINGTON DC 20521-3410
Pouch address for personal mail (including periodicals, parcels):
NAME 3410 PORT OF SPAIN PL DULLES VA 20189-3410
Address for international mail (letters only): NAME U.S. EMBASSY
PO BOX 752 PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Radio and TV Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:35 AM
Trinidad has more than 20 FM radio stations. They offer almost
exclusively international pop and local music. There is almost no
classical, rock or world music programming. Newscasts usually
include one piece of world news, usually from the BBC. AM radio
reception is limited. There is one local frequency at present, and
night time reception is mostly Spanish broadcasting from Venezuela.
On rare occasions a CBS station from Puerto Rico can be received on
Cable TV service is available from one company, CCTT, which
offers over 50 channels, including ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, Showtime,
etc. Many are Latin American versions of U.S. channels, though some
are unlicensed thefts of U.S. satellite signals. There are seven
local channels on cable TV.
U.S. company DirectTV offers satellite TV service at comparable
cost to cable. While network channels are not available, there are
many film and sports channels, all properly licensed. Additional
DirectTV attractions are game packages for major league baseball and
DVD sales are increasing locally, sometimes involving pirated
versions of recent Hollywood releases. DVD clubs rent movies at
Trinidad & Tobago is on the North American scanning and frequency
system (NTSC). TV sets manufactured for use in the U.S. will work in
Trinidad without adaptation. Ship TVs, stereos, VCRs, DVD players,
radios, etc., from the U.S. as they are more expensive in Trinidad.
Service and parts for the better-known models can be obtained
locally and repair work is relatively inexpensive.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
10/6/2005 3:51 PM
Major international newspapers are available daily in Trinidad
via a new Internet downloading service. The current Latin American
editions of Time and Newsweek are available at bookstores, at close
to U.S. prices. Popular American magazines, such as Good
Housekeeping, Vogue, Glamour and House Beautiful are also available,
but are often at least a month old and more expensive. It is better
to subscribe to magazines in the U.S. and have them mailed via
Port of Spain has various bookstores, stocked with books and
paperbacks published both locally and in the U.K. and the U.S.
However, they are not comparable in selection to U.S. bookstores and
prices are considerably higher. The Port of Spain City Library has a
large selection of British and American classics and popular novels.
A new, modern facility is partially completed, but no public opening
has been scheduled yet. The Embassy Information Resource Center
(IRC) concentrates on political and economic works and technical
journals. The IRC, co-located with the Public Affairs section, is
open to the public Tuesday-Thursday, 1-3 PM, but Embassy employees
are always welcome.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:41 AM
Staffed by a locally hired registered nurse, the Embassy Health
Unit provides first aid, vaccinations, referrals and counseling. The
nurse works closely with the post medical advisor and regional
medical personnel in Ft. Lauderdale. Trinidad and Tobago has a
relatively adequate number of competent general practitioners and
specialists who have trained in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. Some
doctors practice in private clinics, but most maintain private
offices located throughout the country.
Government-operated clinics are open to those who cannot afford
private care. The Mount Hope Medical Sciences Complex is fitted with
modern equipment. Unfortunately, maintenance of equipment in
government medical centers is poor, which has an impact on every
aspect of health care in T&T. Some private clinics offer
good-quality care; a new clinic near Westmoorings, West Shore
Medical, recently opened and is approved for Embassy use. In an
emergency when medical evacuation is not feasible, the private St.
Clair Medical Centre has been designated the facility for use.
Doctors are in attendance around the clock, and life-support
equipment is available.
Medical care in T&T is adequate for routine procedures, but the
U.S. is generally preferable for specialized treatment. No medical
laboratory accreditation program exists in Trinidad and Tobago and
the quality of hospital laboratory service is unknown. Port of Spain
General Hospital laboratory, which handles the largest number of
patient samples in Trinidad, experiences high staff turnover and
training for new laboratory staff is well below U.S. standards. A
State Department Regional Medical Officer, resident in Ft.
Lauderdale, visits the post periodically for consultations, as does
a regional psychiatrist.
Most Americans and other foreigners use local dentists who are
trained in the U.K., U.S. or Canada. Orthodontic care is available,
as are eye specialists. Eyeglass frames are imported and expensive,
but locally ground lenses are relatively cheaper. Overall, the cost
of medical, hospital, and dental care is much lower than in the U.S.
Prescription drugs, medicines and remedies available locally are
mostly British and U.S. products. A full range of items is available
from well-stocked pharmacies, but some brands may be unfamiliar.
Prices are also generally higher than in the U.S. Bring supplies of
any medical items you use regularly, including contact lens
supplies, prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, first aid
supplies, and cosmetics. Many of these items can be ordered again
after arrival and received via diplomatic pouch.
Community Health Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:07 PM
Community sanitation in residential areas is good. Garbage is
collected three times a week in most neighborhoods and garden
clippings are collected weekly. Port of Spain and its suburbs are
connected to a central sewage disposal system; outlying areas rely
on septic tanks.
Water is potable, for the most part. However, ceramic water
filters are provided by the Embassy. Houses in certain residential
areas (particularly elevated ones) are subject to water shortages;
however, most of these residences have water storage tanks. Drainage
systems in urban areas are inadequate and regular flooding in many
areas should be expected. These floodwaters are often contaminated
with sewage. Maracas Bay, the most popular beach near Port of Spain,
extends across the mouth of the Maracas River. The beach area around
the mouth of the river is contaminated with sewage and should be
Food purchased from street vendors and small restaurants can be
of mixed quality. Qualified food handlers display a "food handler's
badge." Fruits and vegetables are generally safe after being washed.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:09 PM
Epidemics are rare in Trinidad & Tobago. However, gastroenteritis
in children continues to be a problem, particularly in the rural
areas. South American cholera generally does not reach Trinidad and
Tobago, but precautions such as vigilant hand washing and avoidance
of food and drink from street vendors are advisable. Mosquito-borne
dengue fever has increased in frequency in recent years. Standing
water around residences should be eliminated. Yellow fever outbreaks
occur roughly every ten years. HIV infection rates exceed 2% of the
population; the Caribbean region is the second most affected region
in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.
Newcomers may suffer from heat rash due to the high temperature
and humidity. For those new to the tropical sun, generous use of
sunscreen is a must. Fair-skinned residents are especially
susceptible to both burning and over-exposure to UV light. Hats are
advisable in direct sunlight. The weather may also affect those who
suffer from hay fever, bronchial asthma, and fungal infections, and
prolong other infections. The incidence of asthma among school-aged
children is comparable to that in the U.S. Mosquitoes, sand flies
and chiggers can cause discomfort outdoors.
Typhoid, gamma globulin, and yellow fever inoculations are not
required for travelers coming from the U.S. to enter Trinidad and
Tobago, but they are recommended for those who plan to travel to
South America. Immunization can be obtained locally. The post nurse
has immunization requirements for travelers from countries other
than the U.S. Specific preventive health information for travelers
can be found on the HHS/CDC web site at
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/15/2005
In support of U.S. Government policy on employment abroad, the
Embassy hires spouses or dependents whenever feasible. Current
eligible family member (EFM) positions at the Embassy include the
Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO), Consular Associate,
Consular Assistant, the Regional Security Office Management
Specialist (RSO-OMS) and an 'on-call' OMS. There is also a part-time
AEEA Commissary Manager. Other short-term or part-time jobs have
included warehouse clerk, on-call secretary, and retail price
surveyor. There are no professional level positions available at the
mission. Pay is on a U.S. scale.
Employment on the local economy normally requires a work permit
from the Government of T&T; however there is a bilateral work
agreement that enables Embassy spouses to obtain a work-permit
exemption upon application. Application for a work permit waiver may
not be made until a job offer is received and takes several weeks.
The pay scale is generally 50–75% lower than in the U.S.
American Embassy - Port-of-Spain
Post City Last Updated: 11/28/2005 11:57 AM
Port of Spain is located between the sheltered Gulf of Paria and
the mountains of the Northern Range that rise sharply from the sea
to an elevation of 3,000 feet. With a metropolitan population of
310,000 this bustling port city is the hub of the eastern Caribbean.
The city itself is situated on flat land, with hills rising on
three sides and the sea on the fourth. Downtown streets are narrow
and congested. The downtown businesses are immediately inland from
the dock and waterfront. On nearby Woodford Square stands the Red
House, which is the center of government and houses both houses of
the parliament. Some local political events occur at Woodford
Just north of downtown is the Queens Park Savannah, the cultural
and recreational hub of the city, with the road around it sometimes
called the "world's largest roundabout." The Embassy is located on
the west side of the Savannah. This huge, grassy, park is the site
of numerous cricket and soccer games, and is ringed by food and
coconut vendors. The 2½-mile long sidewalk around the Savannah is
used by joggers, baby strollers and pedestrians. Most Carnival
events take place in the Grandstand in the Savannah.
Many of Port of Spain's cultural attractions are located around
the Savannah, including Queen's Hall (used for concerts and other
performances), the Botanical Gardens, a zoo, the Hilton Hotel, and
historical houses, many in Victorian-style architecture.
With U.S.-style shopping malls, modern supermarkets and a
PriceSmart (warehouse shoppers' club), Port of Spain is a growing
city with many of the conveniences of the United States.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:47 AM
The two-story, air-conditioned Chancery was opened on July 4,
1955, and was partly renovated in 2002. The Management Section is
located in an adjacent annex in the Embassy compound, but is
expected to relocate nearby by 2006. The Embassy's address is 15
Queen's Park West, Port of Spain; Tel: (868) 622-6371, Fax: (868)
628-5462. Public Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) are located one block from the Chancery at 7-9 Marli Street;
Tel: (868) 622-5979 and 622-6627, Fax: (868) 628-7944. See "Mail and
Pouch" for mailing addresses.
The Embassy's direct hire American staff totals 45 as of
mid-2005, including the Marine Security Guard Detachment, DEA,
Military Liaison Office, Internal Revenue Service, Centers for
Disease Control, FBI and U.S. Customs. There are currently 103
Foreign Service National employees.
Embassy and Public Affairs hours are 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Monday-Friday. However, many of the staff work on a flex-time
schedule. Local time is GMT-4, equivalent to Atlantic Standard Time
or Eastern Daylight Time. There is no summer time change. Post and
Washington thus are on the same time during summer months.
American and local employees are paid biweekly. American earnings
and leave statements are distributed electronically. Some American
employees, in addition to their U.S. bank accounts, find it
convenient to open a checking account at a local bank (See Notes for
Travelers). Most personnel assigned to Port of Spain use their
American ATM cards (see "Currency, Banking, and Weights and
Newly assigned personnel should notify the Management Officer of
arrival plans as soon as possible so that housing arrangements can
be made. A sponsor will be assigned to welcome and assist each
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:13 PM
New employees usually move into permanent homes upon arrival, but
if not available, the Embassy will place them in temporary quarters.
A welcome kit is provided.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:53 PM
The Ambassador's residence and DCM home are the only U.S.
Government-owned properties. The Embassy leases housing for all
American employees. The Inter-Agency Housing Board (IAHB) assigns
housing in accordance with Department regulations as set out in 6
American employees live in apartments and houses, depending on
family composition, grade and position. Many employees without young
dependents prefer apartment living, with its security, pool, and
social contacts. The Embassy has installed security alarms; iron
grillwork and solid core doors in short-term leased houses. Many
have a small servant's room that some use for storage. All homes
have one telephone set. If you wish to bring additional phones, the
local system is compatible with most American equipment, and an
answering device is helpful as well. The General Services Officer
maintains an inventory of government-owned furniture, furnishings,
Furnishings Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:15 PM
Most agencies provide housing with basic furniture and
appliances. See 6 FAM 162.2 for current weight limitations on
shipment of household effects. Newly assigned personnel may write
the Management Officer for advice on what furnishings to ship to
Department of State personnel are provided with a refrigerator,
electric or gas stove, microwave, washer, dryer, and bedroom
air-conditioners. Living and dining room furniture depends on family
size and representational responsibilities. Styles are Drexel, Ethan
Allen and Pennsylvania House. Living room furniture includes a sofa,
occasional chairs and/or love seats, end tables, a coffee table,
bookcases, and some lamps. Dining room furniture includes a table
and chairs (usually six, but eight or more for employees with
representational responsibilities), buffet, hutch, and china
cabinet. The master bedroom furniture includes a dresser, mirror,
nightstands, desk and chair, chest, and twin beds or a queen-sized
bed. Other bedrooms are furnished similarly. Draperies are replaced
depending on their age and condition and the availability of funds.
Drapery fabric is available locally.
Personnel from other agencies should apply to their own staff for
a description of the furnishings they will be provided. However,
with the exception of appliances, General Services will only use the
State Department catalog to furnish houses of non-State personnel
who are in the Post housing pool.
Many houses have a small to medium-sized lawn or garden area,
convenient for entertaining during the temperate evenings. Lawn
furniture is available but personnel may wish to supplement this
allotment with their own pieces. Folding aluminum furniture is
useful at the beach. Most gardeners have some equipment, but small
tools should be included in household effects. An outdoor barbecue
grill is handy. Charcoal and LPG gas can be purchased locally.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:53 PM
Since electric current is the same as in the U.S. (110v, 60-cycle
AC), transformers are unnecessary. Most modern housing is wired for
220v for stoves and air-conditioners. Other Government-supplied
appliances require 110v. Plugs and outlets are American or a locally
available three-prong type.
The electrical system experiences occasional surges and outages.
Surge protectors and battery back-up are recommended for sensitive
electronic items such as computers, stereos and TVs.
Many houses are equipped for gas ranges. Both electric and gas
water heaters are commonly used.
During the dry season (January-June) water supplies are low, and
restrictions may be placed on watering lawns and washing cars. Low
pressure may affect operation of washers, dishwashers, and hot water
heaters. Water pressure and supply problems can be a serious problem
in hilly suburbs. Suburban homes have storage tanks and electric
pressure pumps for periods when pressure is low or when water mains
are turned off.
Food Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:48 AM
Food prices, except for government-controlled items, are
comparable or higher than in the U.S., since prices for imported
food reflect freight costs and some import duties. Most products
come from the U.S., Canada, UK and Venezuela. Some governmental
price controls limit price increases on rice, sugar, flour, and some
butter and cheese products.
Some items, which are solely imports, include baby foods, cake
mixes, pickles, olives, and canned and dehydrated soups. American
ground coffee is available. Fruit juices produced locally can be had
both sweetened and unsweetened. Both local and imported candy and
snacks are widely available at reasonable prices. Local and imported
nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)
are available, but expensive.
Staples like eggs, bread, butter, yogurt, cream, sour cream and
milk (fresh, UHT and powdered) of good quality are widely available
at reasonable prices. The only variety of fresh low-fat milk in T&T
is 2%. A variety of bread products is available, including
baguettes. American breakfast cereals, rice and pasta products are
Fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are found in local
supermarkets, neighborhood shops and roadside stands. There are
fruits and vegetables not commonly found in the U.S. The
availability of fresh herbs and the variety of vegetables overall is
less than that found in Washington, D.C. supermarkets.
Fresh fish and shrimp can be purchased at the Central Market,
roadside stands, or from fishermen returning with their catch.
Frozen fish is available at supermarkets. Local pork and goat are
good. New Zealand lamb is good but expensive. Local beef cuts differ
from those in the U.S. both in texture and taste and are often
tougher and drier. Frozen, imported U.S. beef is also available, but
costlier. Sausages, ham, bacon and luncheon meats are available.
There will be no consumables allowance as of October 2005. The
post cost-of-living allowance (COLA) was reduced to zero in early
2005, but was changed to 10 in September after the Department
reviewed our Retail Price Survey. Local food price inflation for the
12 months ending July 2005 was at a rate of 25.4%.
All American employees can join the American Embassy Employees'
Association. The Association requires a refundable deposit of US$100
for family membership and US$75 for single membership. The deposit
is refunded at the end of the employee's tour. The Embassy
commissary, operated by the Association, sells duty-free beverages.
Prices are reasonable. Variety is limited, but supplies are ample
for representational entertaining. Locally brewed beer includes
Carib, Stag, and Samba as well as Guinness and Carlsberg. Also
widely available are Heineken, Becks and Corona. Miller and Miller
Genuine Draft are the only U.S. beers routinely available in stores,
though Samuel Adams is occasionally found.
For soft drinks, Coke, Sprite, Pepsi and 7-Up are generally
available in regular and diet, but not caffeine-free. A variety of
locally produced sodas and mixers, as well as some other imports are
commonly found as well.
Trinidadian cuisine reflects the nation's cultural diversity.
Creole cooking includes dishes based on rice mixed with chicken,
pork and various local vegetables. On their way to work, many
Trinidadians enjoy a quick breakfast of fresh coconut water and
jelly or "doubles" (two pieces of fried flat bread sandwiching spicy
stewed chickpeas) sold by street vendors. Callaloo, a popular soup
akin to spinach, is made from dasheen leaves, okra, pumpkin,
coconut, and crabmeat. Locals also eat cowheel soup, crab backs,
souse (pickled pigs feet), and pastels (ground beef wrapped in
crepe-like cornflour pancakes and banana leaves). At the beach
everyone indulges in 'Shark & Bake' (fried fish sandwich). East
Indian dishes include roti (usually chicken, beef or goat with
potatoes and curry spices wrapped in a large, thin bread), spicy hot
curries, and chutney. Most Chinese food is Cantonese, but is
prepared to suit Trinidadian taste and is somewhat different from
what one finds in U.S. Chinese restaurants. Local wild meats, such
as manicou (possum), agouti and iguana, are delicacies here.
Trinidadians especially enjoy fish including shark, king fish, red
snapper, Spanish mackerel, flying fish, shrimp, carite, and
cascadura (a fresh water fish).
Clothing Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:19 PM
Lightweight summer clothing is worn year-round by both men and
women in Port of Spain. Due to the tropical T&T climate, clothing
made from natural fibers (cotton, linen, etc.) or a blend of natural
and synthetic fibers is more comfortable than all-synthetic
materials. Personnel should either bring a supply of clothing
sufficient for the duration of their tour or be prepared to order
items from the U.S., as clothing wears out quickly under the
frequent laundering made essential by the high heat and humidity.
Adequate seamstresses and tailors are available, but look for
someone who wears clothes you like and ask for recommendations. CLO
has some names.
Men Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:20 PM
Embassy employees wear short or long-sleeved shirts and ties, and
generally keep a jacket in the office for special calls. Away from
the Embassy, dress is casual and informal. Most functions are
"elegantly casual," meaning no neckties, although some evening
functions call for "lounge suits", the local term for business
suits. At more casual functions, sport shirts and slacks are
commonly worn. Tuxedos are rarely worn outside of a couple balls
(suits are regularly substituted at these) and are unlikely to be
required for anyone other than the Ambassador and DCM. During the
rainy season, showers can be expected nearly every day. Umbrellas
are therefore essential. Raincoats and galoshes are not worn here
due to the hot climate. Other clothing worn is similar to that worn
during the summer in Washington, DC. Loose-fitting clothing made of
natural fibers is the most comfortable.
Women Last Updated: 9/29/2005 1:21 PM
Women wear dresses, suits, skirts, or slacks to the office.
Stockings are rarely worn due to the high humidity. Plan to bring a
good supply of dresses for social occasions, as parties and other
social events are numerous throughout the year. Caftans, cocktail
dresses and more casual attire in elegant fabrics are popular. This
is particularly true for ranking female officers and wives of
ranking officers, less so for others. Trinidadian women are
generally smartly dressed no matter what dress is specified by the
invitation. Casual and dressy short dresses or skirts are favored at
most social functions.
More formal evening functions require long dresses or fancy short
dresses. Spouses of senior officers should plan to bring a variety
of cocktail dresses and a few long dresses for evening wear. Most
women will want a long dress for the annual Marine Ball.
Informal social functions require only skirts/slacks and
blouses/tops or shift type dresses. Long shifts are popular as well.
Shorts are popular as everyday wear and for sporting events.
Local boutiques sell the latest fashions, including interesting
local designs, at relatively high prices. Fabric shops offer a wide
variety of materials at reasonable prices. Seamstresses are numerous
and many can sew without patterns; their prices vary, as do their
Children Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:50 AM
Clothing worn during summer in the U.S. is suitable here.
Washable, lightweight materials with natural fibers are best. One
sweater or feather-light jacket should be all the outerwear needed.
Most children wear sandals or comfortable canvas shoes. They are
available here at reasonable prices. Most schools require school
uniforms, which can be purchased locally. The International School
requires navy or black leather shoes or navy, black or white
sneakers, of which more styles are available in the U.S. than
locally. Payless Shoes has a number of stores around Port-of-Spain,
but prices are still about 25% higher than in the USA.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:11 PM
Locally made laundry soaps and cleansers are available at
reasonable prices. Imported soaps, cleaners, disinfectants, fabric
softeners, grease cutters, and waxes are more expensive.
Numerous name brand cosmetics and personal hygiene items are sold
locally, including hair care products, lotions, nail polish,
deodorants, foot powders, and shampoos. Except for a few locally
made products, they are more expensive than in the U.S. Several
brands of locally made diapers and American brands are sold at
Photographic equipment is expensive and limited in variety. Film
and black-and-white and color processing services are available at
higher than U.S. cost.
Local shops sell most of the kitchen items found in the U.S., but
at higher prices. Ship electrical fans, vacuum cleaners, bookcases,
and lawn furniture; these are not always supplied by the Embassy. Be
sure to include entertainment items (candles, fancy napkins,
tablecloths, place mats, trays, flatware, dishes, and glassware),
since local stocks are limited in variety and expensive. Newly
assigned personnel may wish to consider bringing an artificial
Christmas tree and holiday decorations and assorted gifts. Christmas
trees are hard to find and expensive. Hallmark has several stores in
Port-of-Spain; there are a few local card stores with good selection
of cards and wrapping material.
Basic Services Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:10 PM
Embassy personnel use several reasonably priced dry cleaners.
Check with CLO for recommendations. Beauty parlors and barbershops
resemble those in the U.S. The Embassy GSO section or the landlords
handle most household repairs. The American Women's Club publishes a
guide, "Trini Tips," which may be purchased at a nominal fee (free
to members) and contains many recommendations.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:53 AM
Domestic help can be found and hired at rates considerably below
those in the United States. Domestic workers are generally found
through word of mouth, or taken over from departing employees. Few
families hire more than a full-time maid and a part-time gardener.
Live-in maids are hard to find, because most domestics prefer day
work. Some families employ maids and waiters for representational
functions, at hourly or evening wages. Baby-sitters are inexpensive
but sometimes hard to find. Some expat teenagers are able to sit; a
few have Red Cross babysitter training.
Third-country domestic employees require approval from the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their visas are renewable annually.
In addition to wages, employers of live-in staff may have to provide
meals, and are obligated to make contributions to the compulsory
National Insurance plan. If the employer requires the employee to
have a pre-employment medical check-up, this should be done at the
Religious Activities Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:54 PM
Freedom of worship exists in T&T. Most religions have places of
worship including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians,
Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Latter Day Saints, as well
as Hindus and Muslims. There are no synagogues, but a small Jewish
community (mainly foreign residents) organizes activities and
observances. The International School (ISPS) hosts a
non-denominational Protestant service on Sundays, popular with some
At Post Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:56 AM Most U.S. Embassy
children attend the International School of Port of Spain (ISPS),
which begins classes the 3rd week of August and finishes mid-June.
There are 2-week breaks for Christmas and Easter. The local school
year begins in early September and ends in mid-July, with Christmas
and Easter vacations dividing it into three terms. For all schools
the school week is Monday-Friday except for holidays. All schools in
T&T above nursery level require pupils to wear uniforms.
Good preschools for 2-5 year-olds are available and are held in
the teacher's home. Teacher-pupil ratio, physical setup of the
classroom, and the teacher's training and method vary widely.
Drilling on numbers and alphabet is a primary activity, and children
have less freedom of movement than in U.S. nursery schools. However,
some Montessori-type schools exist, and other schools have teachers
who include some Montessori methods in games and activities.
Primary and secondary schooling (PreK through 12) for children of
U.S. staff is available at The International School of Port of Spain
(ISPS), an Embassy-sponsored school that is 15 minutes from the
Embassy. In 1999, The International School of Port-of-Spain (ISPS)
moved into a US$4.5 million facility on the banks of the Diego
Martin River in Westmoorings, a residential suburb home to some
Embassy staff. The address is 1 International Drive, Westmoorings.
ISPS is modeled on the American educational system and reflects a
college preparatory curriculum. As an accredited, private
independent school, it continues to expand course offerings and
The following information is current as of September 2005.
Teaching staff: Full-time (30); Part-time (10); Support staff
(10); Total (50).
Faculty nationalities: American, British, Canadian, French,
Irish, Jamaican, Venezuelan, Trinidadian.
Enrollment: 330 Capacity: 350
Student nationalities: 38% North American, 23% Third Country
Nationals, 39% Trinidadians
Average Student/Teacher Ratio: 1/12
International tuition (Annual): Pre-Kindergarten-Kindergarten
(US$7,925); Grade 1-5 (US$12,000); Grade 6-8 (US$12,250); Grade 9-12
Other fees: Contribution to Capital Building Fund - US$4,000 (one
School year: August-June
Organization: Founded in 1994 and Recognized by the National
Ministry of Education.
Type of school: Coed, Non-profit Corporation.
Governed by: 7-Member Corporate and Parent Board.
Sponsored by: EOG, British Gas, B.P. and the U.S. Embassy
Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Web Site: http://www.isps.edu.tt
U.S. Mail: INTL# IN-1369, 8326 NW 56th Street, Miami, FL 33166,
Staff specialists: Special Needs Coordinator, College Guidance,
Special curricular: Model United Nations (MUN), Art, Music,
Drama, Swimming, Physical Education, Computer Instruction, Student
Government, Optimal Learning Center
Extra Curricular: Excursions/field trips, Inter-Island
Sports: Soccer, Volleyball, Softball, Basketball, Cricket.
Tests: PSAT, SAT, AP, Iowa
Library: 8,000 volumes and extensive on-line resources
The International School of Port of Spain has a uniform and a
dress code. Both daily and sports uniforms are available locally.
Away From Post Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:19 PM Families may send
their children to boarding schools using the away-from-post
education allowance. Travel plans for the Christmas holidays should
be made well in advance.
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 11/15/2005 9:57 AM
The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science &
Technology (NIHERST) conduct free courses in conversational Spanish
for adults. Alliance Francaise offers courses in French for a
nominal fee. Private teachers offer special courses in cooking,
music and modern dance.
The University of the West Indies is located at St. Augustine,
about 12 miles east of Port of Spain. Degree courses are offered by
the faculties of agriculture, engineering, social sciences, the
natural sciences, and the arts. The University also offers some
non-degree courses in Port of Spain and at St. Augustine. The cost
for non-degree study at UWI is high, and many of the more popular
departments (engineering, sciences, and pre-medical) are difficult
to enroll in due to enrollment limits.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 11/15/2005 10:01 AM
Trinidad & Tobago's primary national sports are cricket and
soccer. Swimming, tennis, golf, boating, and fishing are also
popular and are available in and around Port of Spain. Port of Spain
has a small botanical garden and a zoo.
Swimming can be dangerous at many beaches on Trinidad because of
frequent heavy surf, riptides, and undertows. There are no beach
resorts on Trinidad, but several beaches are convenient to Port of
Spain and are used all year. The main beach is Maracas Bay on the
north coast, about 45 minutes from Port of Spain. The beach is
watched over by lifeguards. Maracas is home to the famous Shark &
Bake — a sandwich consisting of a fried nurse shark and a variety of
condiments. There are beach houses for rent on the East Coast at
Mayaro (about 2 hours' drive from Port of Spain). On the small
islands off the northwest coast are private vacation homes. Some
Embassy personnel have been invited out to those houses for parties.
Several sports facilities provide swimming pools in Port of Spain
at lower rates than in the U.S. Tobago offers resort-type
facilities, including hotels near the beach and two golf courses.
Many people find weekends on "Robinson Crusoe's Island" a welcome
change from Port of Spain's routine.
Tennis facilities in the city are frequently crowded, but
adequate; equipment and clothing are expensive. Tranquillity Square
Lawn Tennis Club near the Embassy has five clay courts and one
all-weather court. This private club accepts member referrals and
tennis is competitive. The Trinidad Hilton has two all-weather
courts, but expect a short wait for a half-hour of playing time. The
Trinidad Country Club in Port of Spain has good tennis courts.
Membership fees can be avoided by taking lessons. Several Embassy
apartment complexes also have tennis courts, and it is also possible
to reserve an hour's play at a good all-weather public court.
Opportunities for scuba diving and spearfishing are poor in
Trinidad and excellent in Tobago. The waters around Trinidad are
generally murky and devoid of coral reefs, with dangerous currents.
These conditions, coupled with the scarcity of diving instruction
and rental equipment, mean divers should be experienced and
outfitted before attempting dives in Trinidad. By contrast, Tobago
diving is well organized with equipment and instruction available.
As with Trinidad, currents are strong, but the reefs, clear water,
and tropical fish provide for excellent diving opportunities.
Snorkeling is also popular on Tobago. Deep-sea fishing is quite
good, and there are some charter boats available.
Port of Spain has several boating clubs and marinas: the Trinidad
& Tobago Yacht Club, T&T Yachting Association (a.k.a. T&T Sailing
Assoc.), Island Properties, Power Boats, Crews Inn and Peake's,
among others. The T&T Yacht Club has boating facilities for members
and guests. Power Boats and Island Properties, as well as Peake's,
have haul-out and full service facilities for boats. Crews Inn is a
developed marina for power and sailboats and includes a grocery,
hotel, bank, bookstore, and other features, such as boat slips with
full electrical, cable TV and telephone hookups. TTSA, which is only
for sailboats and dinghies, offers competitive sailing in a number
of large and small boat categories. It also sponsors children's
boating classes (summer sessions book-up quickly in early April).
Sailboats and powerboats can be purchased locally, but prices are
high and selection limited.
Golfers should bring their clubs to T&T. St. Andrews Golf Club
(members & guests only), situated in a valley 5 miles north of Port
of Spain, offers an 18-hole golf course, restaurant, swimming pool,
driving range, and putting green. Some Embassy staff are housed
nearby. A poorly maintained but less expensive 18-hole course is
located at Point-a-Pierre, 45 minutes south. A nine-hole public golf
course, in an attractive valley in Chaguaramas about 20 minutes west
of Westmoorings, is also available.
Small game hunting in the forests and duck hunting in the swamps
is possible, but only with shotguns. Rifles are not legal hunting
weapons here. Game is scarce and all but the most dedicated hunters
find that the results are not worth the effort. The Trinidad Rifle
Association and Trap and Skeet Association offer firing range
facilities for shooting pistols, as well as skeet, small-bore, and
Good hiking opportunities are enhanced by an active Field
Naturalists Club, which sponsors monthly hikes to out-of-the-way
spots. Informal group hiking is a common event. However, with the
recent increase in crime, individual hiking is not recommended.
Opportunities are outstanding for bird watchers and butterfly
collectors. The internationally known Asa Wright Nature Center in
the mountains above Arima provides overnight facilities for amateur
and professional naturalists. Trinidad also boasts two large swamps,
Caroni and Nariva, where nature enthusiasts have the opportunity to
book tours and take in the abundance of wildlife that Trinidad has
Other recreational opportunities include several karate schools,
dancing schools, fitness centers, amateur theater, model building
club, a stamp club and various women's clubs. Cycling is popular in
the early morning in Chaguaramas.
Sports equipment and attire compare to those used in the U.S. and
can be purchased locally, but prices are higher. Embassy employees
do not receive reduced annual dues in golf, tennis and yacht clubs,
but most dues are lower than those in the U.S.
Port of Spain has an active Hash House Harriers Club that
organizes trail runs every other Saturday in different parts of the
country. Unlike Hash groups in many other countries, the group is
not dominated by ex-pats. There is a good mix of locals and
foreigners. The hash is a good way for newcomers to meet people and
see the country.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:59 PM
Many staff members enjoy visits to nearby islands. During the
off-season (April 15-December 15), official personnel may take
advantage of lower resident rates at Tobago resort hotels. A quiet,
peaceful island, Tobago boasts lagoons, beaches, and undersea coral
gardens with tropical fish, and two golf courses. It is also
possible to fly to Margarita island in Venezuela, about 45-minutes
Barbados, 200 miles away, offers more tourist infrastructure than
Tobago, excellent beaches and a wide selection of good restaurants
and hotels, though it is significantly more expensive. Caracas is
another possible destination for long weekends, offering restaurants
and shopping as well as a change from the typical Caribbean
atmosphere. Georgetown, Guyana, is an exotic break for the
adventurous, where Amerindian villages and huge rivers and
waterfalls can be visited. Grenada, 90 miles north of Trinidad, is
known as the "Isle of Spice". The most southerly of the Windward
Islands, it offers beautiful beaches and several good hotels. Sadly,
Grenada recently suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Ivan
(2004) and Hurricane Emily (2005). Another nearby destination is St.
Vincent and the Grenadines, an increasingly popular cruising and
Employees assigned to Trinidad and Tobago for periods of two
years or more, uninterrupted by home leave, are eligible for R&R.
(2-year posting = 1 R&R, 3-year posting = 2 R&R) Miami is the
designated R&R area; however, personnel are now able to substitute a
fully paid round-trip ticket to other points in the continental USA
and Hawaii and Alaska. Contact Post Travel Office for details.
Entertainment Last Updated: 11/15/2005 10:07 AM
Port of Spain has a number of reasonably priced restaurants
featuring continental, French, Indian, Italian, Thai, American,
Chinese, and local Creole cuisine. Among American branded
restaurants are Burger King, Haagen Daaz, Papa John's, Pizza Hut,
Quiznos, Ruby Tuesday, Subway, TGI Friday's, Tony Roma's, Church's
Chicken, Popeye's Chicken and arguably the most popular restaurant
in T&T — KFC. Service in sit-down restaurants, however, tends to be
uneven to poor.
Port of Spain boasts a lively nightlife scene, and locals are
known for their love of partying. Several new upscale clubs play the
latest popular and local music and are usually packed with a who's
who of the island. There are some bars where locals and expats
congregate on the weekend to "lime" (hang out) with friends and
Several hotels offer entertainment featuring steel bands,
calypso, and other local music and dance bands. One hotel has a
weekly jazz night.
The area around Port of Spain has traditional movie theaters and
a drive-in. The MovieTowne complex (movietowne.com) offers 12
screens showing recent releases and has a PriceSmart (Costco)
membership store and restaurants like Ruby Tuesday, Burger King,
Popeye's Chicken and Subway. Queen's Hall is a popular venue for
concerts and shows. Other venues sometimes offer cultural events,
plays or shows. An active semi-professional theater workshop group
welcomes foreigners. In addition, interested personnel might
participate in other smaller theater and dance groups. Many
Americans use video rental stores.
The entertainment highlight is the annual Carnival. Port of
Spain's pre-Lenten Festival is one of the world's largest Carnivals.
Many Americans each year join one of the colorful "Mas" bands
(masquerade groups). There are also numerous other special cultural
events, festivals and competitions. The period between Christmas and
Carnival is filled with "fetes" (parties) and is characterized by
local calypso and steel band competitions leading to the national
finals that take place the weekend preceding Carnival. During this
time, one can visit numerous local "pan yards" in the evenings to
hear premier steel bands rehearsing intricate arrangements of
specially commissioned competition tunes.
On a year round basis, however, entertainment possibilities are
less varied in Port of Spain than in a comparable U.S. city. Most
U.S. employees rely heavily on their personal interests, hobbies,
and other resources. Personnel are encouraged to bring books, CDs,
games, and hobby materials.
Young families may find T&T enjoyable because of the outdoor
living, the friendliness and hospitality of the Trinidadians, and
the relative lack of serious health and political hazards. Some
spouses without young children, however, find the isolation of the
islands, along with limited cultural, work, or educational
opportunities, more difficult than at other posts.
Because of a growing crime threat, Americans in T&T should stay
alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. Petty crime
continues to be a problem, and violent crime is on the rise. T&T set
a record for murders in each of the last two years, and will break
it again in 2005, though much of this is gang-related and lilmited
to certain neighborhoods. Visitors should be careful not to carry
large sums of cash. Cash and jewelry should not be displayed in
public. Credit cards are readily accepted at hotels and restaurants.
Americans should exercise caution while walking in T&T, especially
at night. The RSO highly encourages visitors to travel in groups
Social Activities Last Updated: 10/6/2005 3:59 PM
Like many cities, Port of Spain has opportunities for social
activity. Trinidadians are generally friendly, and Americans are
welcomed at the many fetes that occur throughout the year. During
the Christmas and Carnival season, nonstop fetes are held. Most
parties are informal. Other types of home entertainment include
cocktail parties, dinners, and buffet suppers. Club activities
include films, barbecues, and dances for members.
Female spouses can join the American Women's Club. This club
sponsors many social and charitable activities. In recent years,
employees and spouses have joined the Horticultural Society,
Trinidad and Tobago German Club, the Orchid Society, the Field
Naturalists Society, Living Waters Christian Community, an informal
Jewish community, and other groups.
Families with small children find opportunities for social
contact in such groups as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Girl
Guides, and Brownies. Older children and teenagers find few
organized groups to join.
Most American service clubs, such as Rotary International and
Lions, have branches in Trinidad and Tobago.
Official Functions Last Updated: 11/15/2005 10:11 AM
Port of Spain's representational activity is intense and
time-consuming for senior Mission members. Numerous opportunities
exist to develop useful contacts. Activities include cocktail
parties, buffet suppers, and dinners, with occasional large Embassy
receptions, to which many American employees are invited. Except for
senior officers, more formal occasions are rare.
Dress for official functions depends on the occasion and ranges
from casual wear to suits for men and short fancy dresses for women.
Most other national day receptions also require suits. Women wear
dressy short dresses to these functions.
Heads of diplomatic missions present their letters of credence to
the president. Calls should also be made on most Cabinet ministers,
the dean of the Diplomatic Corps, and heads of diplomatic missions.
Other suggested calls include the Chief Justice of Trinidad and
Tobago, the mayors of Port of Spain, San Fernando, and Arima, and
the Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops.
Senior officers call on ministers and permanent secretaries of
the various government departments, corresponding to their
portfolios. Some senior officers call on their counterparts in other
diplomatic missions on arrival. There are also informal lunches of
deputy chiefs of mission, consular officers and economic officers.
The spouse of the head of a diplomatic mission may widh to call
on the spouses of the heads of the other diplomatic missions.
Membership in the local chapter of Spouses of Heads of Mission
(SOHOM) is open to the spouses/partners of the Ambassador and DCM.
Spouses of other senior officers choose their own pattern of calls.
Junior officers generally make few formal calls. However, they
are expected to cultivate a wide web of contacts in their
specialties and are encouraged to entertain as much as possible. At
the Ambassador's residence and other high-level Embassy social
functions, all officers assist in developing Embassy contacts and in
making social events a success.
Exchange of business cards is common in T&T, and is useful for
establishing contacts. Consular and Management officers generally
will need only about 100–200 cards; other officers will need more.
Satisfactory business cards and invitation cards can be printed or
engraved in Port of Spain at prices above those in the U.S.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:30 PM
All personnel arrive by air. American Airlines flies twice daily
to Port of Spain from Miami, and several times a week from Puerto
Rico. Continental Airlines offers several flights weekly from Newark
and Houston. T&T airline BWIA operates direct flights to T&T from
Washington, New York City, Miami and London. Reservations may be
difficult to obtain during certain seasons, especially Christmas and
Carnival. Incoming personnel should make reservations early. See
also "Regional Transportation."
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 11/15/2005 10:19 AM
Free-entry privileges are granted on original entry and on
subsequent entries to all American personnel assigned to the
Embassy. Non-diplomatic staff members may not import liquor and
tobacco products duty free.
To avoid undue delay in obtaining special permission required to
clear a car through customs, notify the post at least two months in
advance of the car's arrival. Provide the following information:
year, make, chassis and engine numbers, color, whether it is a right
or left-hand drive car, date of purchase and current market value.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must approve the importation of a
left-hand-drive car, though this has not proved to be a problem.
Newly assigned American employees will be required to notify the
Embassy in advance of the type and number of personal automobiles,
which will be imported at the beginning of their tour. Approval may
not be granted for types of cars, which may, in the judgment of the
Ambassador, be inappropriate.
Passage Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:31 PM
Official permanent duty employees must have a visa from a
Trinidad and Tobago Embassy, or a British Embassy or Consulate if
coming from a non-Commonwealth country, or the local government if
coming from a Commonwealth country that does not have a Trinidad and
Tobago Consul. U.S. Citizen temporary visitors need a valid passport
but not a visa.
Pets Last Updated: 10/6/2005 4:00 PM
Dogs and cats from the following countries are allowed direct
entry into Trinidad and Tobago without having to go into quarantine
or to have rabies vaccination or serum antibody testing: Anguilla,
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Dominica, Great
Britain, Jamaica, Luxemburg, Malta, New Zealand, Northern Ireland,
Republic of Ireland, Seychelles, Singapore, St. Kitts/Nevis, St.
Lucia, St. Vincent, and Sweden. Contact post for application form.
Dogs and cats originating from the following countries now have
an option for reduced quarantine of thirty (30) days: Austria,
Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Canada, Cayman
Islands, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Falkland Islands,
France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hong Kong, Hungary,
Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Macau, Peninsular Malaysia, Netherlands,
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Portugal, Reunion, Sabah, Sarawak,
South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States
of America, U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay. If you wish to take
advantage of the reduced quarantine regulations (30 days) please
Cats and dogs from all other countries (not listed above) must be
quarantined for 6 months in the Government's Dog and Cat Quarantine
Station at Havelock St. Curepe, Trinidad. An application form
(obtainable from the Chief Veterinary Officer's Office) must be
filled out and submitted to the Chief Veterinary Office at least
three months in advance (contact post to view form and regulation).
A permit will only be issued when quarantine spaces become
available. The cost of the import permit is $10.00TT.
For further information contact the office of the Chief
Veterinary Officer at:
Telephone: 868 625-5997; 625-1473 Fax: 868 625-5993 Email:
Please be sure to:
* Apply for quarantine space at least three (3) months before
* Ensure that you have an import permit before entering Trinidad;
* Have your animal micro-chipped with a universal microchip;
* Have the animal vaccinated against rabies at least six (6)
months but not more than 1 year before planned travel;
* Have a rabies blood test (FAVN or RFFT) done at least one (1)
month after vaccination i.e. five (5) months before travel;
* Ensure that you have all the necessary documents, as indicated
on the import permit, before traveling; and
* Notify the Veterinary Officer, Quarantine, Veterinary Services,
telephone 868 662 5986 at least 24 hours before the scheduled time
To take advantage of the reduced quarantine (30 days) take the
* Have your animal microchipped with a universal microchip.
* Have the animal vaccinated against Rabies at least six (6)
months but not more than 1 year before planned travel.
* Have a Rabies blood test done at least one (1) month after
vaccination i.e. five (5) months before travel.
* Apply for the import permit at least three (3) months before
* Ensure that you have a permit before traveling.
* Ensure that you have all the necessary documents, as indicated
on the import permit, before traveling.
* Notify the Veterinary services of your scheduled time of
arrival. 868 662-5986.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 9/29/2005 2:38 PM
Firearms must be reported to the Management Section by letter or
cable before arrival. Mission personnel may not carry a firearm
without the Ambassador's written authorization. To carry or own/keep
a firearm in a residence, the employee must comply with pertinent
Trinidadian laws and be properly licensed.
To carry a firearm in Trinidad and Tobago, written justification
must be submitted with supervisory endorsement to the Ambassador,
through the Regional Security Officer, Management Officer and the
Deputy Chief of Mission. Application for local registration and
license must be made with the Ministry of External Affairs. The
police service of Trinidad and Tobago issues the license after the
personal approval of the Commissioner of Police.
Firearms can be shipped, but not mailed to post without an export
license, provided they are consigned to U.S. personnel for their
personal use and not for resale.
Authorization to carry a firearm is reviewed once a quarter and
will be rescinded once the need to carry a firearm is no longer
justified. The level of street crime is not considered sufficient
justification to carry firearms.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
11/15/2005 10:22 AM
The local currency is the Trinidad & Tobago dollar, referred to
as TT dollar or just "TT." The currency is managed in a float,
pegged to the U.S. dollar. As of August 2005 the U.S. dollar was
worth TT$6.25. Coins and bills have similar denomination as U.S.
money, but the bills are issued in different colors. All banks
exchange currency. There are no restrictions on currency exchanges.
Most American employees use their U.S. debit or check cards to
obtain cash from automated teller machines (ATM). American ATM cards
tied to the Plus and Honor systems can be used in local ATM
machines. While most local ATMs will disburse U.S. account
withdrawal in TT$, there are a few U.S. dollar ATMs available,
including at the airport and at West Mall. These can be handy when
traveling back to the U.S. Such ATMs are clearly identified and only
disburse U.S. currency.
Some employees open a local currency checking account since
personal checks in TT currency are accepted by businesses and can be
convenient for paying bills. However, employees should also maintain
an U.S. bank checking account.
All weights and measures have utilized the metric system since
1982. However, you will find that both systems are used.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 11/15/2005
Trinidad and Tobago charges a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 15% on
most purchases. Embassy personnel must pay this tax at the time of
purchase, but diplomats (non-American and Trinidian staff) are
eligible to receive refunds on the basis of receipts. Receipts must
be issued in the proper form, saved by the employee, and collated
once a month, and provided to the Management Section for submission.
VAT refunds are provided a few months after submission. Excise taxes
on gasoline can also be refunded to Embassy personnel; gasoline
receipts should be saved for this purpose as well.
Spouses who choose to work on the local economy are liable for
local income tax on their earnings. There is a double taxation
treaty that provides relief from U.S. tax on local earnings.
U.S. Government personnel are exempted from customs duty and
purchase tax on the resale of automobiles and other items originally
imported duty free provided such items have been in the possession
of the seller and in the country for at least two years. Personnel
who depart before the expiration of these periods and wish to sell
their vehicles are assessed a prorated portion of the duties, but
the full 15% tax. Thus far, departing personnel have encountered no
difficulty in obtaining permission to sell a left-hand-drive car in
Trinidad. Although this post currently has no limitations on the
amount of foreign currency that may be converted, the Management
Officer will refer all currency conversion applications involving
large sums of money to the DCM or the Ambassador for consideration
before approval is granted.
Personal household property, especially equipment such as TVs and
VCRs, may also be sold for close to the original purchase price if
in good condition.
Department of State regulations do not permit staff to realize
profits on the sale of personal property. Any excess over the
original purchase price must be declared and donated to a charity.
Forms are provided on which to declare all property sales, which
must be formally approved by the Management Officer before the
transaction is made.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 11/28/2005 12:04 AM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
History and General
Ahye, Molly. Golden Heritage: The Dance in Trinidad and Tobago.
Port- of-Spain, Trinidad: Moonan Printers Ltd.
Anthony, Michael. The Making of Port of Spain. Port of Spain,
Trinidad: Key Caribbean Pub., 1978.
Black, Jan K. and others. “The Area Handbook for Trinidad and
Tobago. American University Press: Washington, DC, 1976.
Brathwaite, Lloyd. Social Stratification in Trinidad: A
Preliminary Analysis. Mona, Kingston: ISER, U.W.I., 1975.
Carmichael, Gertrude. History of the West Indian Islands of
Trinidad and Tobago. Fernhill: New York, 1961.
Christopher, C.A. Nationhood 18: A Progress Review of Trinidad
and Tobago in 18 years of Nationhood. Trinidad and Tobago: Enform
De Verteuil, Fr. Anthony. The Years Before. Trinidad: Inprint
Caribbean Ltd., 1975.
Deosaran, Ramesh. “Eric Williams, the Man, His Ideas, and His
Politics (A Study of Political Power). Signum Publishing Co. Ltd.,
Edwards, S. Hylton. “Lengthening Shadows: Birth and Revolt of the
Trinidad Army. Trinidad and Tobago: Inprint Caribbean Ltd., 1975.
Fraser, Lionel Mordaunt. “History of Trinidad. London: Cass 1971.
Naipaul, V.S. Loss of El Dorado. Knopf: 1970.
Naipaul, V.S. The Middle Passage”. Penguin Books, Ltd.: 1962.
O'Connor, P.E.T. “Some Trinidad Yesterdays”. Port of Spain,
Trinidad: Inprint Caribbean Ltd., 1975.
Ryan, Selwyn D. Race and Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago.
University of Toronto: 1972.
Sudama, Trevor. Of Society and Politics: Miscellaneous
Commentaries on Trinidad and Tobago. Siparia, Trinidad: Sookhai's
Williams, Eric. From Columbus to Castro. Deutsch: London, 1970.
Williams, Eric. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Transatlantic: New York, 1970.
Geography and Description
First Geography of Trinidad and Tobago. Cambridge University
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and sons, Ltd.: London, 1965.
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Lovelace, Earl. The Dragon Can't Dance. Logman Group Ltd.: 1979.
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Michener, James. The Caribbean.
Naipaul, V.S. A House for Mr. Biswas. McGraw-Hill: 1962.
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Stewart, John: Last Schooldays. Deutsch: London 1971.
Walcott, Derek: Fortunate Traveller. Farrar, Straus, Giroux Inc.:
Walcott, Derek: Another Life. Cape: London, 1972.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/29/2005 3:11 PM
Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the two days preceding Ash
Wednesday, are not official local holidays, but businesses and the
Embassy are closed.
The following dates are official holidays in T&T:
New Year's Day January 1 Good Friday Varies Easter Monday Varies
Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation March 30 Corpus Christi
(Thursday after Trinity Sunday) Varies Indian Arrival May 30 Labor
Day June 19 Emancipation Day August 1 Independence Day August 31
Republic Day September 24 Divali (see note below) Varies Eid-ul-Fitr
(see note below) Varies Christmas December 25 Boxing Day December 26
NOTE: Dates for the Hindu and Muslim festivals of Divali and
Eid-ul-Fitr, respectively, are not determined until a few days in
advance. In 2005 both will fall in early November.