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Country Reports

Trinidad and Tobago Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

This young English-speaking nation (population 1.2 million), independent since 1962, is composed of two islands located some 30 km (20 mi) from each other: Trinidad (where the capital Port of Spain is located), the larger of the two, and Tobago.

Foreign visitors should take precautions during their stay due to high rates of violent crime which have increased over the past few years.

CRIME

Muggings and burglaries are regularly reported, affecting both locals and foreigners. For-ransom kidnappings and sexual assaults are also reported. The homicide rate is high ‒ 13.6 per 100,000 per year ‒ but the vast majority of murders are related to inter-gang and/or personal disputes and do not involve tourists.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Trinidad and Tobago has become a new trafficking center for illegal drugs, resulting in an increase in gang activity, and thus crime rates, in the country. Gun violence is also increasingly common.

Travelers are advised to be particularly vigilant in the Port of Spain areas of Laventille, Morvant, Beetham, Barataria, Woodbrook, Sea Lots, Carenage, Queen's Park Savannah, South Belmont, and Cocorite. As tourists are sometimes specifically targeted due to their presumed affluence, be aware of your surroundings at tourist sites such as the Fort George park, La Brea's Pitch Lake, and on beaches. After dark it is safer to move about by car/taxi (as opposed to on foot) and to avoid the following areas altogether: public parks, downtown Port of Spain, Queen's Park Savannah, beaches, and any isolated areas.

Additionally, travelers arriving at Trinidad's Piarco International Airport (POS) have been targeted by thieves; criminals have been known to follow their victims from the airport, assaulting them in remote areas of the parking lot, on the highway leading into Port of Spain, or upon their arrival at their place of residence. 

Crime rates tend to increase during the Christmas/New year holiday period as well as during Carnival, held every February or March in Trinidad and Tobago. Tens of thousands of tourists join the 150,000 locals taking part in Carnival festivities, which are spread out over several days.

Finally, some incidents of piracy have been reported in waters off the islands, located near crime-stricken Venezuela, during which boat passengers were robbed and in some cases killed.

Generally speaking, visitors should adhere to the following recommendations:

  • Remain vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs, as they are often staked out by criminals; avoid withdrawing cash after nightfall.
  • Avoid ostentatious dress or behavior (wearing expensive looking jewelry, displaying cash in public, etc.).
  • Carry only small amounts of cash, ideally divvied up between multiple pockets.
  • Keep in mind that criminals are often armed. If confronted by a thief, adhere to all demands, do not offer resistance, and do not directly look at the attacker or otherwise do anything to alarm him/her.
  • When driving, keep doors locked and windows rolled up, with valuables hidden from plain sight; do not give rides to strangers.
  • Ensure that adequate security measures are in place at hotels, residences, etc.
  • Avoid all isolated and remote areas, including during the day.

ECONOMIC SITUATION

Trinidad and Tobago entered into recession in late 2015/early 2016, triggered by a fall in global oil prices; oil exports usually make up some 40 percent of the country's GDP. This was followed by government austerity measures, including cuts to public spending. According to the World Bank, the economy contracted by 2.8 percent in 2016, with growth expected to resume in 2017. A slow economic recovery or continued recession could result in further increases in crime rates.

SOCIOPOLITICAL CONTEXT

Demonstrations, such as those organized by labor unions, take place occasionally and can be large; common protest locations include areas around the parliament building or the prime minister's office in the Saint Clair area of the capital. Avoid all protests as a precaution.

The frequency and size of protests could increase in the run up to legislative elections, to be held in 2020.

TERRORISM

A handful of threats were made against the country in 2016, including calls from an Islamic State (IS) fighter from Trinidad and Tobago to "wage war" on the country's Christians (roughly 5 percent of the population is Muslim). Nevertheless, the terrorist threat remains low.

TRANSPORTATION

Roads throughout the islands are generally paved and highways are in good condition. However, many secondary roads are in poor state and some are narrow and winding, particularly in mountainous regions in the north of Trinidad, making for potentially hazardous conditions. Additionally, traffic accidents are common on the Port of Spain-San Fernando highway as well as on roads leading to Piarco International Airport.

Due to the high crime rates noted above, travelers are advised to drive with windows closed and doors locked.

Public modes of transportation available in the country include private taxis, route taxis (where multiple passengers are picked up along the same route), maxi-taxis (vans), and coach buses. It is advisable to only travel by private taxis; it is preferable to use taxis waiting in front of larger hotels instead of hailing them on the street. In all circumstances, be sure to negotiate the price with the driver before departing as taxis do not have meters. Furthermore, private taxis are unmarked but are identifiable by their license plate, which starts with the letter H; do not use unofficial taxis, whose plates will begin with the letter P.

Cars drive on the left-hand side of roads in this former British colony.

Gas stations are often closed at night.

Domestic air travel is safe.

NATURAL RISKS

Hurricane season lasts from June until the end of November. While Trinidad is usually spared from direct hits from hurricanes, it does not escape the heavy rains that accompany them. Therefore, floods and landslides may occur during these months. A rare tropical storm hit Trinidad and Tobago in mid-June 2017, causing moderate damage and lingering flooding, particularly in southern Trinidad.

Landslides and widespread flooding provoked by torrential rain in late November/early December 2016 destroyed roads and bridges in the north of Trinidad in what was called the worst natural disaster to hit the islands in the past half-century.

Trinidad and Tobago is located in an active seismic zone, situated along the same fault line as Haiti.

LEGAL

Wearing articles of clothing with camouflage patterns is illegal.

Certain homosexual acts are illegal.

Drug use and trafficking can be severely punished.

HEALTH

Regarding health conditions, travelers should note that medical services are free and available in the country's five general hospitals. In the event of an emergency, however, a medical evacuation to Martinique, Guadeloupe, or Miami (United States) should be considered. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Diarrheal diseases are common among tourists. To reduce the risk of contracting a food- or water-borne disease, do not drink tap water (unless boiled) or beverages with ice; avoid any undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.); and wash hands thoroughly before meals.

Mosquito-borne diseases are relatively common, particularly during and following the rainy season (June to November).

  • There is a risk of contracting yellow fever, although no cases have been reported since 1979. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vaccination for travelers visiting densely forested areas on the island of Trinidad. No vaccine recommendations are in effect for visitors to Tobago or cruise ship passengers.  
  • There is a "high" risk of contracting the Zika virus in Trinidad and Tobago. While the virus is usually relatively benign, links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects have been established. The disease is also sexually transmittable.
  • Dengue fever is present; more than 1800 cases were reported in 2016.
  • There is a risk of contracting chikungunya.

Rates of HIV-AIDS are high on the islands. According to UNAIDS, 1.2 percent of the adult population (aged 15-49) is HIV-positive.

Finally, epizootic rabies is present. Avoid contact with unfamiliar pets and all wild mammals. If scratched, licked, or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Climate

Weather in Trinidad and Tobago is hot (30°C on average) and humid. The dry season lasts from January until May. During the rainy season (June to December), high temperatures coupled with high levels of humidity make for stifling conditions. The eastern and northern coasts receive more rain than the rest of the country. The island nation is generally spared from autumnal hurricanes.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +1 868 Police: 999 Ambulance: 990

Electricity

Voltage: 115V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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