US Travel Advisory warns of visiting areas in and around Port-of-Spain

Sunday, May 1, 2016 - 20:00

The United States has updated its travel advisory for Trinidad and Tobago, telling its citizens to avoid several places in and around the capital city and warning about risks of robberies and burglaries throughout the country.

The advisory warns of possible attacks on beaches and public parks and tells citizens they should only use private taxis in the city.

The following is what the US Travel Advisory for this country looks like in relation to crime:

"Violent crime remains high on both islands and affects local and expatriate communities as well as tourists. You should exercise caution and good judgment. Be particularly cautious when traveling after dark from Trinidad’s Piarco Airport as incidents have been reported in the past involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas of the airport parking lot, on the highway leading from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and outside the gates of residences.

Several areas in Port-of-Spain to be avoided

Areas in the Port of Spain metro area to avoid include Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, Beetham, the interior of the Queen’s Park Savannah, South Belmont, and Cocorite. Visitors should avoid the following areas after dark: scenic rest stops and public parks including Fort George, downtown Port of Spain, the interior and perimeter of Queen’s Park Savanah, and all beaches. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to pick-pocketing and armed assaults in these locations. Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see an increase in criminal activity.

Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping for ransom, sexual assault, and murder have involved expatriate residents and tourists, including U.S. citizens. The perpetrators of many of these crimes have not been arrested. It is highly recommended that female visitors and residents avoid traveling alone, particularly at night or in secluded areas. 

Burglaries of private residences are common. Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas and especially near ATMs and shopping malls. You should avoid wearing expensive jewelry, riding in flashy cars, or displaying large amounts of money in public. In some cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent and resulted in injuries after the victim resisted handing over valuables. Visitors and residents are encouraged to seek out accommodation with hardened security doors, strong locks, grilles, and alarms.

When riding in a vehicle, always be sure to have your windows up and doors locked. On more than one occasion, U.S. citizens have been approached in their vehicles by people attempting to attain rides to nearby areas despite the short, walkable distance and availability of public transportation. It is highly advisable to avoid offering rides to people you do not know.

Attacks against expats in Tobago

In Tobago, violent crime is an issue, including attacks on expatriate residents and tourists in their residences, many of which involve the use of machetes. There have been reports of home invasions in the Mt. Irvine/Buccoo Bay, and Bacolet areas, and robberies occurring at the waterfalls and on isolated beaches in Tobago where visitors are not in a group. If you rent a villa or private home, the Embassy urges you to ensure adequate, 24-hour security measures are in place. Visitors residing at these facilities have encountered intruders in the middle of the night who entered their rented, private residences with copied sets of the actual keys.

Be cautious when visiting isolated beaches or scenic overlooks where robberies can occur. In Trinidad, for example, there are isolated strips of beach just beyond Maracas Bay where visitors have been robbed of valuables in broad daylight. Visitors to some recreation areas, such as Bamboo Cathedral have had their parked vehicles vandalized. Avoid leaving valuables in plain view in your vehicle.

Valuables left unattended on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft. You should not walk alone or in unfamiliar areas. You should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates. When in doubt, consult the establishment where you are staying to identify areas to be avoided.

Avoid 'route' taxis

Traditional, non-shared, marked taxis do not exist in Trinidad and Tobago. Private taxis are available at the airports and major hotels, but they are unmetered and unmarked. You can hire them to take you door-to-door, but fares should be agreed upon in advance. Private taxis and route taxis both have plate numbers beginning with “H”. You should ensure your taxi is not a route taxi before getting in, because route taxis will stop to pick up additional passengers. Crimes including rapes, assaults, robberies and thefts have taken place inside taxis.

Taxis have also caused serious traffic accidents when they swerved suddenly across several lanes of roadway in order to pick up or discharge passengers. You should also avoid small buses and vans known as “Maxi Taxis” for the same reasons. You should therefore use only private taxis for transportation around Port of Spain, and only private taxis or full-sized inter-city buses for travel between cities. If unsure, consult with the establishment where you are residing or through your travel agency, if applicable.

Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these articles illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law."