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Moving to Trinidad & Tobago > Tips for Moving to Trinidad & Tobago

Moving to Trinidad & Tobago

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Summary: If you're moving to Trinidad & Tobago, gain insight from expats living in Trinidad & Tobago about making the move. Topics covered include what they wish they had brought (and left behind), visas, culture shock, cost of living and more. It's a must read for anyone thinking about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

Trinidad
Trinidad

If you're thinking about moving to Trinidad & Tobago, read these tips from expats living Trinidad & Tobago. From what to bring (and leave behind) to culture shock, visas and more, their insight is invaluable.

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:

"WIFI Extender (homes are concrete), Hoodies, Sweaters, Jackets for indoors, Tech Gadgets," said one expat who moved to Carenage, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving 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," commented one expat who made the move 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 )," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"More electronic items, more workout shoes, a car from the states.. Leather jacket, thats really it," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

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Deciding Where to Live in Trinidad & Tobago

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

"I looked everywhere and found a gorgeous home in a gated community with NO EXPATS and all upper crust Trinis," said one expat who moved to Carenage, 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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving 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," commented one expat who made the move 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," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"My wife is a lecturer at UWI, so they set up all the arrangements before we arrived," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

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Typical Housing for Expats

When we asked expats in Trinidad & Tobago about the type of home or apartment they life in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:

"In a mansion basically - every bedroom is ensuite and has a veranda. Pool, jacuzzi and view of the sea. I didn't want to live with expats, I wanted to live with Trinis. There is a gate at the community entrance and I have gates at my house," said one expat who moved to Carenage, Trinidad & Tobago.

"4 Bedroom / 3.5 Bath with a pool and small yard. Yes, there are also nice townhomes with plunge pools available in the area," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

"We rent a house near the ocean - it's bigger than our house in California. We are assisted in the rent by my husband's company - this is typical of the company-sponsored ex-pats stationed here for a few years. The neighborhood is wealthy Trinis or ex-pats. We have an alarm and gates and decorative bars on the windows - everyone here does. I feel safe enough here, but you do still have to be aware and careful. But it's no different from living in a big city in the US - you have to pay attention and be smart about security," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

"A furnished condo in the Towers at WestMoorings. I've met more expats in this compound than I have locals: and the locals who live here are well-to-do," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"We live in a 3 bedroom, 2 and 1/2 bathroom. We have 2 kids so we needed a little bigger place. This is typical," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"We live in a 4 bedroom house with a pool and a small garden which is ideal for the children. There is not much land and the houses are generally overlooked by other houses! Also, because of the high crime rate in Trinidad you will find that there are wrought iron bars on all windows and doors. Some do blend in with the houses and after a while you do tend to forget about them - but they are obviously there for a reason," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

Housing Costs in Trinidad & Tobago

"Lower. If you want the false security of where expats live (and thus to me, a target for when SHTF) you are going to pay crazy high prices because Trinis rent these houses to corporations and get big money from them. If you live in a nice community without expats in Trinidad, it is much more reasonable. My house is $2,800US with 5 bedroom, 5 bath, all stainless kitchen, pool, jacuzzi, view and I'm right by Chaguaramus, beaches, and town. The one road in and out sucks but nothing is perfect. PS - my electric bill per month is the equivalent of $150US - I paid $350 a month in the summer to cool my ranch house in the US!!," said one expat who moved to Carenage, Trinidad & Tobago.

"Yes, the housing is double and maybe even triple in some areas. Average housing is $4000 US to $7000 US. Furnished housings go for more when available. **Utilities are cheaper than Houston. Cable / Internet and Electric are 1/4 the price we paid in the states," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

"Housing costs are relatively the same as the Bay Area where we came from. I understand that compared other parts of the US it seems steep, but it's very comparable to the housing costs we were used to near San Francisco. We kept our house in California and have rented it out, so this move has actually lessened our housing costs," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

"The housing costs is astronomically higher than they are in my home country...considering what you get. In fact, it reminds me of a booming small town that can get away with such exploitations. As with so much else on this gorgeous island, the choices are limited. However, the price of admission demands a certain calibre of tenant - and for that, I'd say, we willingly hand over the money," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"The cost of houses here are a little more expensive. We were renting in the states and the our rent was $1200 US.. The place we stay in is $7500 TT or about $1250 US," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"Housing Costs here are much higher and are increasing all the time. The areas that are sought after by Expats range on average from 4000$us to 7000$us. This is for a typical 3/4 bedroom house with a pool and maybe a small grassed yard," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

Advice for People 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," said one expat who moved to Carenage, 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.

"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," commented one expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

""drivers" and "housekeepers" are common in the expat community. Often, a driver is referred to as a security guard. The quality and selection of meats and produce is dismal. The prices of food will shock you ( I recently bought a table-size bottle of Balsamic Vinegar for the same amount of money as a housekeepers day rate). You may find comfort in " gourmet " shops, within the upper class neighbourhoods ( WestMoorings, Maraval, Fairways ). Word of mouth is everything... I've never heard of any other kind of networking here. Respect and manners are alive and well here; " Good morning", "Good afternoon", and "Good evening" are expected and delivered. I have been heckled for being " white ". If I could advise you on choosing a home, I'd suggest thinking of your first selection as temporary, and making arrangements as such if at all possible. Once the culture shock wears off, and you begin to feel you're getting the hang of things around here (and there's soo much to get the hang of, let me tell you! (when someone asks you "are you gettin' through?" -what they're asking is whether or not you would like their help finding something"). It is then that you're going to find a home that suits you," remarked another expat in West Moorings, Trinidad & Tobago.

"I would say definitely start early. Trinidad is a laid back place and they are not in a rush to get anything done here. Check out place well in advance and send emails to the schools every week for your kids," said another expat in Trinidad & Tobago.

"Generally in the areas I mentioned above there is very little crime. Houses in those areas are more expensive, but you can negotiate! Also, look at more than a couple of houses don't be pressured into renting the first one you see because the agent has told you it's safe and you won't find any better! There is a lot of crime in Trinidad but when you read the papers or listen to the news it is Trinidadian people fighting / killing each other! Saying that... you need to have your wits about you and be more alert. For example, when deciding where to park your car when you go to the supermarket. Definitely do not leave anything visable in your car. Don't walk around with lots of cash on you. Make sure that nobody is watching / following you when you are at a cash point. These are basic things that I suppose you subconsciously do back home, but here it needs to be done more vigilantly. All in all, I really like living in Trinidad, and I am sure that there are a lot worse places you could go! You are probably thinking "I am never moving there," but the climate is great, there are some beautiful places to visit (boat trips round the smaller islands of Trinidad and Tobago), seeing leatherback turtles and liming (chilling out) on the beach. What I like the most is having quality time with my family -- and getting that time is very easy in Trinidad. Also the other Caribbean islands are very accessible and most hotels give a special caricom rates," remarked another expat who made the move to Trinidad & Tobago.

Finding a Job in Trinidad & Tobago

If you're searching for a job in Trinidad & Tobago, expats talk about popular industries and how expats find employment.

"Trinidad being right next to Venezuela, basically runs on Oil. So there are many expat's working here for many foreign companies," said one expat who moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

"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," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Trinidad & Tobago.

Work Permits

"Company provided. Be prepared to have every aspect of your life investigated when applying for a work permit. You will need official police records from every country that you have lived, official fingerprints, and lots of other information," said one expat who moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Expat Health Insurance in Trinidad & Tobago

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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First Published: May 23, 2019

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