Is Trinidad and Tobago a safe place to visit?
Violent crime remains high on both islands and affects local and expatriate communities, and tourists. You should exercise caution and good judgment as in any large urban area. 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. Areas in the Port of Spain metro area to avoid include Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, the interior of the Queen’s Park Savannah, South Belmont, and Cocorite. Visitors should avoid the following areas after dark: scenic rest stops including Fort George, downtown Port of Spain, 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.
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 the 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 broken into. It is advisable to avoid leaving valuables in plain view in your vehicle. You should not walk alone or in unfamiliar areas. Valuables left unattended on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft. 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.
Traditional, non-shared, marked yellow-cab-style taxis do not exist in Trinidad and Tobago. Unmetered, unmarked private taxis are available at the airports and major hotels. You can hire them to take you door to door (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.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these articles illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Scams: While Nigeria-operated scams are infamous for their cleverness and ingenuity, these types of financial scams are also common in Trinidad and Tobago. These scams target foreigners worldwide posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings and unsolicited emails. No one should provide personal or financial information to unknown parties via email, telephone, mail or fax. Bilateral law enforcement efforts are targeting Internet fraud, with the goal of reducing the overall level of overt fraud activity, but criminals are continually introducing new types of sophisticated scams.
A recurring scam involves phone calls to elderly persons in the U.S. by scammers who told them their grandchild had been arrested in Trinidad and Tobago for involvement in a traffic accident, and needed money immediately. Often an actual relative’s name was used, lending credibility to the hoax. In all cases, the young relatives were ultimately located, and in fact had never traveled to Trinidad or Tobago. If you are informed that a loved one has been arrested, please note the arresting officer’s name, the police station name, and contact number. Then contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. If you are notified via email that a loved one has been arrested or detained in Trinidad and Tobago, we strongly urge you not to provide any personal or financial information in response. Please immediately forward any such communications to the Embassy’s American Citizen Services unit so that the claims can be investigated. If a U.S. Citizen is arrested, an Embassy consular officer will arrange to visit the arrestee as soon as possible.
U.S. citizens are frequently the victims of Trinidad and Tobago con men/women offering companionship through Internet dating web sites. These con men/women almost always pose as U.S. citizens visiting or living in Trinidad and Tobago who unexpectedly experience a medical, legal, financial or other type of “emergency” that requires the immediate financial assistance of the U.S. citizen in the United States. In these cases, we strongly urge the U.S. citizen in the United States to be very cautious about sending money to this person or any unknown person purportedly acting on his/her behalf, or traveling to Trinidad and Tobago to meet someone they have only known via the Internet and have never actually met in person.