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Trinidad and Tobago
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 wildlife.

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 season.

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 cultivation.

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 African-derived religions.

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 actively participating.

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 Governor General.

The major governmental institutions, based on the British model, remain the same as those established by the 1962 constitution. They are:

* 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 foreign residents.

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 literature (1992).

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 world's richest.

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 in 1999.

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 downstream industries.

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 turtles.

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 islands.

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 force.

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 island.

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 appears.

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 maxi-taxis.

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 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: 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 ( 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 at

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

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 1030 kHz.

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 the NFL.

DVD sales are increasing locally, sometimes involving pirated versions of recent Hollywood releases. DVD clubs rent movies at nominal charge.

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 pouch.

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 avoided.

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 9:43 AM

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 Square.

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 Measures").

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 newcomer.


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 FAM 700.

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, and equipment.

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 post.

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 available.

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 skills.

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 reasonable prices.

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 employer's expense.

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 expatriates.


Dependent Education

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 extra-curricular activities.

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 (US$12,500)

Other fees: Contribution to Capital Building Fund - US$4,000 (one time)

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 (USA).

Web Site:

U.S. Mail: INTL# IN-1369, 8326 NW 56th Street, Miami, FL 33166, USA


Type: U.S./International

Language: English

Staff specialists: Special Needs Coordinator, College Guidance, Guidance Counselor.

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/activities.

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 high-power rifles.

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 to offer.

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 away.

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 sailing ground.

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 colleagues.

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 ( 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 whenever possible.

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 contact post.

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 planned travel;

* 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 of arrival;

To take advantage of the reduced quarantine (30 days) take the following steps:

* 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 planned travel.

* 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 10:25 AM

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 unofficial publications.

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 Publications, 1980.

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., 1981.

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 Printery, 1979.

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 Press: 1968.

“The Caribbean Handbook 1984/85. Edited by Clayton Goodwin. St. John's, Antigua, W.I.: Ft. International, Head Office: P.O. Box 1032.

Herklots, G.A/C. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. William Collins and sons, Ltd.: London, 1965.

Zubert, Christian. Trinidad and Tobago. Editions Delroisse: Boulogne, France.


Lovelace, Earl. The Dragon Can't Dance. Logman Group Ltd.: 1979.

Lovelace, Earl. Salt.

Michener, James. The Caribbean.

Naipaul, V.S. A House for Mr. Biswas. McGraw-Hill: 1962.

Naipaul, V.S. Miguel Street. Vanguard: 1980.

Stewart, John: Last Schooldays. Deutsch: London 1971.

Walcott, Derek: Fortunate Traveller. Farrar, Straus, Giroux Inc.: 1982.

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.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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