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SafetyTravel Safety: Americas: Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad & Tobago: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Capital: Port-of-Spain
Population: 1,163,724
Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)
Languages: English (official), Hindi, French, Spanish, Chinese
Religions: Roman Catholic 29.4%, Hindu 23.8%, Anglican 10.9%, Muslim 5.8%, Presbyterian 3.4%, other 26.7%
Borders: 0 km

Trinidad and Tobago is a developing nation composed of two islands. Tourist facilities are widely available.

In general, Trinidad and Tobago is considered safe. Non-violent demonstrations occur on occasion, but civil disorder is not considered a threat. As a common-sense precaution, American citizens traveling to or residing in Trinidad and Tobago should avoid large crowds and demonstrations.

Visitors should exercise normal caution and good judgment when visiting Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. Embassy advises visitors to exercise caution when traveling from Trinidad's Piarco Airport, especially after dark, because of incidents involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and then accosting them outside the gates of their residences. Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see an increase in crime.

Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping and murder, have involved foreign residents and tourists, including U.S. citizens. Since the beginning of 2002, there has been an increase in kidnappings for ransom. While U.S. citizens have not been targeted, at least one American citizen has fallen victim to kidnappers. Burglaries of private residences are common. Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas. Visitors should avoid wearing expensive jewelry or displaying large amounts of money in public. In some cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent after the victim resisted handing over valuables.

Visitors should not travel alone at night on deserted beaches or in poorly lit areas, such as scenic overlooks. Valuables left unattended on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft. Visitors should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates. When in doubt, visitors should consult the establishment where they are staying. Particular care is called for at isolated villas that may have fewer security arrangements.

The U.S. Embassy also urges caution in the use of the small buses or vans in Trinidad, known as "Maxi Taxis" (full-size inter-city buses are usually safe). These have been linked to petty crime and serious traffic accidents (see below). Taxis available at the major hotels or through pre-arranged pick-ups are generally safe and reliable. Taxis authorized to pick up passengers will have the letter 'H' as the first letter on their license plates. Motor vehicle occupants should keep all windows closed and car doors locked. Valuables including travel documents should not be left unattended in parked cars, especially in parking lots as several thefts have been reported.

Police are cooperative, but they are often hampered by lack of resources. Americans who are victims of crime are encouraged to contact the police as well as the American Citizens Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy Consular Section (868-622-6371).

While in a foreign country, a US citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ from those in the US, and may not afford the protections available to the individual under US law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Trinidad and Tobago's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Trinidad and Tobago are strict. Suspected offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines, and may be jailed until the trial date, which can be months or even years after the arrest. Many of the US citizens incarcerated in Trinidad and Tobago were caught attempting to take suitcases or packages containing drugs out of the country. Even if the package or suitcase is being carried for someone else, the traveler is liable for its contents.

Medical care is limited compared to that in the United States. Care at public health facilities is significantly below U.S. standards for treatment of serious injuries and illness, with limited access to supplies and medications. While care at some private facilities is better than at most public health facilities, patients may be expected to prove their ability to pay before assistance is given, even in emergency situations. Patients requiring blood transfusions are expected to arrange for at least the same amount to be donated on their behalf. Physicians and nurses may go on strike, causing serious strain on both public and private medical resources. Ambulance service is extremely limited both in the quality of emergency care and in the availability of vehicles in many parts of the country.

Trinidad and Tobago is prone to occasional, moderate earthquakes; the last, in October 2000, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. Trinidad has never been hit by a major hurricane, and Tobago has suffered extensive damage by only two hurricanes since 1963. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the government entity responsible for disaster preparedness locally. Its Director and coordinators have all received training through the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Visitors can consult pages 40-45 of the Trinidad and Tobago 2003-2004 phone book for detailed information on how to prepare for hurricane, earthquake, flood, fire, or hazardous material disasters. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ from those in the United States. The information below concerning Trinidad and Tobago is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: fair 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor

Traffic moves on the left; oncoming traffic is on the right. Most vehicles are right-hand drive, but left-hand drive vehicles are permitted. Rental cars are available, and are generally right-hand drive. A U.S. driver's license and/or an International Driving Permit are valid for up to 90 days after arrival. Seatbelts are required for drivers and front seat passengers, and cars may be pulled over and drivers fined for not wearing seatbelts. Older cars are not required to be equipped with rear seatbelts; many taxis, being older cars, thus lack rear seatbelts. There are no particular requirements for child safety seats.

Trinidad has several good four-lane highways and one controlled-access highway. However, road quality decreases quickly on secondary roads. Rural roads are narrow and often have deep drainage ditches on either side. Some are in poor repair, and are frequently congested. Night travel should be avoided other than on major highways. Roadside assistance exists, but is extremely limited and subject to lengthy delays. The Ministry of Works and Transport is responsible for road conditions and safety in the country.

Trinidadian drivers often use hand signals to indicate turning, stopping, or slowing, which do not necessarily correspond to hand signals used in the United States. Trinidadian drivers are generally courteous, but can be flexible or "creative" with the rules of the road. For example, cars traveling north on a two way street may cross into the southbound lane to stop and let passengers out. Visitors need to be attentive and alert. Defensive driving is strongly encouraged.

The country has an extensive system of taxis, maxi-taxis (vans) and some larger buses. Although the larger inter-city buses are generally safe, the maxi-taxis have been linked to many road accidents and some instances of crime. Fares should be agreed upon in advance. Taxis will often stop at any point along the road to pick up or discharge passengers, often with little or no warning.

For additional information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information about Trinidad and Tobago, contact the Trinidad and Tobago tourist information office at 1-888- 595-4tnt.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Trinidad and Tobago's civil aviation authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Trinidad and Tobago's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, the Trinidad and Tobago air carriers currently flying to the U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Trinidad and Tobago's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The US Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of services. For information on DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

January 12, 2004

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