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12 Expats Talk About Moving to Trinidad & Tobago

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats offer helpful insight into the day-to-day challenges of living in Trinidad & Tobago.

Trinidad
Trinidad

With its beautiful beaches, lush greenery and amazing climate, most people might think that moving to Trinidad & Tobago would be an easy transition. But, expats in Trinidad & Tobago caution newcomers about the difficulties finding employment, taking into account traffic when choosing where to live and the high cost of food.

Advice for People Moving to Trinidad & Tobago

"Think about your daily life and plan accordingly. Are you willing to fight traffic to live up in the hills or nearer to the beach? We weren't after doing that in California, so we chose a location close to our school and my husband's office. He has about a 15 min commute. We did bring our pets, a dog and two cats. You have to fill out forms, get permits and inspections, etc., and they were in quarantine (2 for 1 month, 1 for 3 months). It was expensive, but worth it for us. In dealing with the animal authorities, customs, and various bureaucracies, just remember to keep your cool and pay the man what he says you owe. It does no good to get mad or fight it. There's no computerization and things seem inefficient, but it's really just that Trinis value living in the moment and fun rather than time-management. The government seems designed to employ the most amount of people rather than building efficient processes. Dealing with the ministries was the hardest part of the move, but now that we're through it (we've been here 5 months now), I truly like living in beautiful Trinidad and especially the friendly, family-oriented culture. My kids have settled in, I'm happy with the school, and I've learned my way around town. Life is good, you just have to cultivate the right attitude," said one expat who moved to West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"We were limited to what the realitor wanted to show us, mainly West Morings. My husband talked to people at work (other expats and locals) and they told us about different areas. We insisted in viewing the other areas we knew of. (Like the US, realitors are looking at their best interest; not yours. They want to show you where they have rental properties, need I say more...) Secondly, Drive to work and back during your work hours once you find the area you like. Adjust the hours or the location depending on your choice. Everyone complains about traffic, but Houston's traffic is the same if not worse with 6 lanes on every road," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

"Laventille, Enterprise, Sea Lots, Blue Basin and some rural places are where you DON'T want to live. If you are brown, you will fit in anywhere. Try for higher ground because flooding is common on days of rain, but not where vegetation is missing because mudslides do happen," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

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Deciding Where to Live in Trinidad & Tobago

Port of Spain, Trinidad
Port of Spain, Trinidad

When we asked expats living in Trinidad & Tobago to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"We were informed by an estate agent the areas where expats tend to live, the areas being West Moorings, Goodwood Park and Fairways Maraval. The Estate agents are very good although you will find that all agents know each other and tend to have the same properties on their listings," said one expat who moved to West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"My wife is a lecturer at UWI, so they set up all the arrangements before we arrived," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

"Researching prior to launch armed us with details on the neighbourhoods. Upon arrival we sought a realtor who confirmed that we belonged in the expat neighbourhood. It is crowded, and security is a common feature from the building, to the neighbourhood, to the grocery store, to the mall," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

"We chose Westmoorings since our kids attend the nearby International School - they can walk back and forth and I don't have to fight the traffic. Traffic can be ver congested, but it's usually at predictable times, so you can avoid it if you plan your travel accordingly. I do pick my kids up if they stay at school until dark, which is around 5:30 here every evening. Day length varies only about 20 min in the course of a year since we're so near the equator," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"We do not have children going to the international school, so that opened our options where to live. We chose Moka, Maraval by the golf course. It's green and mountainouse. It's a 10 minute drive to the city or a 15 minute drive to the Carribean, Maracus Beach. The houses are newer and larger. You get more for your money. **Fresh Fruit / Vegetable stands on corners. You won't find that in West Morings," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"I looked everywhere and found a gorgeous home in a gated community with NO EXPATS and all upper crust Trinis," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

What to Bring When Moving to Trinidad & Tobago (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in Trinidad & Tobago what they wish they had brought when moving to Trinidad & Tobago and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"We are a family of 4 with 2 small children. I was pregnant when I first came to Trinidad, but went home to have my child. I would recommend bringing your own baby equipment as the standard out here is not very good and is very expensive. (Also, I did not find many places that sold actual baby clothes, fine from 2 years on and reasonably cheap). Food out here is very expensive and has increased quite a lot in the 18 months that we have been here, a tin of heinz beans is about one pound fifty!!! Also you would not be able to find gluten free products if you were a celiac. We brought furniture with us to furnish our house due to being quite expensive here, although there is a "courts" furniture store but generally the furniture is not good quality or is extremely good quality which carries an extremely high price tag," said one expat who moved to West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"More electronic items, more workout shoes, a car from the states.. Leather jacket, thats really it," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

"I wish I had brought more toys for my relatively housebound child - especially more to go around for when we are blessed with the company of other children. I wish I had brought linens: what our furnished condo is supplied with, is quite tattered and IF you can find decent linens, you'll pay an arm and a leg for it. I wish I had brought a few small, cheap, essential household tools - as I now have small fortune invested in a coffee maker, a blender, a decent vacuum. Because I came to investigate prior to the relocation; there's precious little I wish I had left at home. I've since realized that this is a relatively self-medicated society... where when one identifies a problem, one would proceed directly to the pharmacy and get whatever is needed. The pharmacist has dispensed the items I asked about, if they weren't already out on the shelves. I'm sure they weren't controlled substances. There's an exceptional selection of everything I've ever sought in a drugstore. I had put a tremendous amount of thought into potential health drama's and brought the appropriate OTC ( over the counter ) medicines with me...unneccessarily. I've struggled with finding a few items: a dandruff shampoo that contains 2.5% selenium sulfide (need this for the skin common skin condition that presents in warm, humid climates ), and sewing related stuff. I wish I had brought a souvenier or two from home, that's re-usable and sharable... such as a cookie cutter in the shape of my flag, or a video of my homeland, and I especially wish I had a map on my wall for the ever increasing occasion when I meet another expat from another part of the world. The essential items I brought and appreciate everyday are Starbucks coffee ( what's here is definitely ...different ), my everyday spices ( although spices are not difficult to find, I did not want to invest a fortune in a new collection ), and the child's stuff: kids shower curtain, bedding, and electronics ( there are NO box stores here... No wal-mart, No toys r us, No thrift/second-hand stores )," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

"I wish we had brought more sheets, hangers, and rugs - things like that and dishes and towels are super expensive here. I didn't need to bring pharmacy items such as acid-reducers, shampoo, bath items - pharmacies here are very well stocked and you can get things more easily than in the US! I also wish I had brought more items for my pets - food and other items are hard to find and expensive," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"Originally we were supposed to have a furnished home... With that in mind we packed enough for 2 weeks to live in a hotel. There's not much we brought that we shouldn't have. Things that I wish I would have brought... 1) Bedding: If you like 1000 count sheets like I do, they are hard to find. If you find them they are expensive and not the quality as the ones in the states. Plus, bedding sets are hard to find and there is no variety. 2) Summer clothes: Clothes are expensive and everything looks the same. You pay about $50 US for a sun dress that you would buy for $15 - $20 US. 3) Spices: You are limited to local spices and seasonings. Some grocery stores sell imported items, but you are limited to what they provide," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"WIFI Extender (homes are concrete), Hoodies, Sweaters, Jackets for indoors, Tech Gadgets," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

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Finding a Job in Trinidad & Tobago is Very Challenging

Finding a job in Trinidad can be a huge challenge for a foreigner. "Trinidad Law does not permit non residents to work for more than 30 days without a pre approved work permit. Typically if you have a skill which is in high demand, or a unique skill which no other national can provide your sponsor (employer) will receive the work permit on the condition that during the duration of the work period, a national is trained to carry on the duties when the permit expires," explained one expat in Trinidad.

"I would suggest you do a trial period of 3 months. Your US passport will allow you to stay 3 Mo at a time. As far as working, it will not come as easy as you think. I have a friend in TT with a phD struggling to find work. The economy isn't strong, and it's all about who you know. Also, you would have to apply for a work permit, which is a waste of time. In order to receive a work permit, an employer has to prove there isn't a native capable of doing the job," cautioned an expat living in Trinidad.

"Most people are transfered in with their respective company. Generally local salary is not sufficient for an American lifestyle. Finding a local job and going on local payroll would be a challenge to say the least," said one expat who moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

"Trinidad being right next to Venezuela, basically runs on Oil. So there are many expat's working here for many foreign companies," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Mar 27, 2018

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