Is Trinidad safe to visit in 2024?
Trinidad is not considered a very safe destination for tourists. The country has a high crime rate, including violent crimes like robbery and kidnapping. Foreign governments often issue travel advisories, cautioning against visiting due to these safety concerns.
Beautiful Trinidad in the Caribbean is a popular vacation destination thanks to its vibrant history and even more vibrant nature. Visitors love exploring the jungle with sights such as Argyle Falls or checking out the island’s unique history at historical sites such as Fort King George.
The most popular time for visitors is during the Trinidad Carnival. During this world-famous festival, visitors can dance and make merry in the streets along with soca performers, bands, and locals. Almost 40,000 people visit each year.
But while this Caribbean island is rich in history, culture, and amazing natural beauty, is Trinidad safe to visit? Here’s our take.
Is Trinidad Safe to Visit?
No. The country of Trinidad and Tobago is not the safest for tourists. Many countries advise their citizens against visiting due to high levels of crime.
The country has a very high violent crime rate which even affects popular tourist areas, and many gangs that make the crime rate even worse.
While thousands of tourists visit each year and have a great time, you will have to be on your guard if you decide to visit. To get a feeling for the danger levels in Trinidad and Tobago, let’s look at the alert levels from different countries.
The United States is the most restrictive, putting Trinidad under a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisory for its citizens. It cites high levels of violent crime, including incidents targeting foreigners, as a reason for this warning.
Other countries are more measured in their advice for citizens. For example, Australia tells its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in Trinidad, but that it is still possible to visit.
Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom offer similar warnings. The primary reason most people are concerned about visiting Trinidad is violent crime.
It is true that crime levels are high in Trinidad, especially compared to other Caribbean destinations such as Grenada. Potential concerns include:
- Highway robbery
There have been many incidents in the past where foreigners were targeted for those crimes because criminals assume (often rightly) that foreign citizens will be a more lucrative target than locals.
However, there have also been many foreigners that visit Trinidad and have an amazing time with no trouble. We’ll get more into the crime rate, and explain why it’s so high, later.
There are also other reasons why you should take precautions when visiting Trinidad. The island occasionally experiences natural disasters such as landslides and earthquakes.
Although Trinidad is south of the Caribbean’s Hurricane Belt, it sometimes gets severe storms in September and October, so check the weather before going on vacation as severe storms can cause deaths and damage vital infrastructure.
Crime in Trinidad
The biggest problem most foreign governments warn their citizens about when traveling to Trinidad is crime. This is not just a case of state departments being overly cautious with their official warnings to provide cover — crime in Trinidad is really a problem.
The violent crime rate alone in Trinidad is very high. According to the World Bank, Trinidad experiences 38.57 incidents of violent crimes per 100,000 people, when the global average is about 7 incidents per 100,000 people.
That is an alarming number of homicides. Even though most violent crime incidents affect locals, there have been some cases of foreigners being targeted. Robbery rates are also high in Trinidad.
In 2019, the entire country reported 2,700 robberies, over 2,000 break-ins, and 613 incidents of motor vehicle theft.
Property crime rates decreased in the past few years, but it’s hard to tell whether this decrease is due to an overall decrease in crime or just due to COVID-19 lockdowns limiting opportunities for criminals.
The situation in the island in terms of violent crime has gotten worse over the past few years. In 2022, officials admitted they were struggling with a rising murder rate. In the first nine months of the year alone, Trinidad experienced 414 murders, which is nearly two murders a day.
There are a few reasons why Trinidad’s crime rate is so high. Analysts say that most of the violent crime on the island comes from gang activity as gangs increase their fighting over turf.
Over half of violent crime incidents each year are linked to gangs. According to the Organized Crime Index, Trinidad ranks fourth in the Caribbean in terms of organized crime activity. Trinidad’s geography is mostly to blame.
It lies close to the South American coast, just a few miles away from Venezuela, making it an important hub between North and South America.
Plus, increasing instability in neighboring Venezuela, which is a source of a lot of drugs and arms that pass through Trinidad, make the situation on the island worse.
The connection between organized crime and Trinidad’s overall violent crime rate perversely makes the country seem safer for tourists. Since most homicides happen between gangs, if you don’t get involved with gangs, you’re unlikely to be the victim of one.
The most violent incidents tend to be concentrated in particular areas. There are many parts of the country, including neighboring island Tobago, with fairly low crime rates.
Finally, journalists and officials point out that one reason Trinidad’s official crime rate is so high is because the police are becoming better at detecting and recording crime.
The country might actually be safer than neighbors with lower crime rates officially because it has a more comprehensive police force.
Pickpocketing and Robberies
The most common crime directed at tourists in Trinidad, as it is elsewhere, is petty theft. Criminals take advantage of the fact that tourists are distracted and wealthier to snatch their valuables.
Petty crimes of opportunity, from pickpocketing to bag snatching, happen to tourists in Trinidad. The most common time for pickpocketing is around Carnival, when thousands of people pour into the streets of Trinidad.
The crowds create the perfect opportunity for thieves, who take advantage of the many people (and of the crowd’s collective inebriation) to lift people of their valuables.
Locals have tips for staying safe during Carnival that can help minimize your risks of getting robbed, such as only carrying around the cash you need for the day, traveling in groups, and not accepting pre-opened drinks.
Break-ins are also common in Trinidad, often targeting tourists. These include vehicle and accommodation break-ins. Again, you can take some precautions to minimize your risk of being a victim of this crime. Always put valuables in a drawer or glove compartment, never out in the open.
Close and lock all windows and doors in your car and in your hotel room. When picking accommodation, choose a place to stay with good security such as bars on the windows and security personnel.
Don’t choose a remote rural villa with no security precautions as your rural idyll will easily get shattered. More violent forms of robberies also occur in Trinidad.
For example, robbers will sometimes board maxi taxis, which are shared taxis, and then assault passengers. Be very careful as you move around. Avoid using shared taxis, especially when you’re by yourself. Avoid traveling at night.
A far more serious crime you have to worry about is kidnapping. While most forms of violent crime that are common in Trinidad, such as shootings, homicides, and rape, primarily affect locals and those involved in gang activity, kidnappers will target foreigners because of the potential for high ransom payments.
The State Department has a list of 35 countries with the highest risk of kidnapping for its citizens, and Trinidad is unfortunately on that list. Most victims of kidnappings are wealthy locals who criminals target as a way to make easy money.
Foreigners are also singled out because they are a way to make easy money through ransom payments. Cruise passengers should be very careful when getting off their ships in Trinidad.
Kidnappers make assumptions about the wealth of people taking cruises and often wait by the docks for people to get off the ship. Try to stay with a group as you head into town and only use safe, prearranged transportation.
Roads are also common destinations for kidnappers.
If you’re driving and notice a car stopped in the road or debris, never stop. It seems callous but drive around the blockade and get out of there as fast as possible. Criminals use these tactics to get targets for robberies, but sometimes escalate to kidnappings.
Avoiding Bad Areas
You can avoid the worst of Trinidad’s crime by avoiding bad areas. In Port of Spain, the State Department tells citizens and employees to avoid neighborhoods such as Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, and Cocorite.
At night, avoid certain areas such as the Fort George overlook and downtown Port of Spain. Avoid any parts that feel deserted, no matter the time of day.
For example, Queens’ Park Savannah is a popular weekend destination for Trinidadian families, but is deserted during weekdays, making it a prime destination for robbers. Never visit beaches at night as those are also prime locations for criminals.
Some more isolated beaches, such as Barcolet and Englishman’s Bay, are targets for violent robberies even during the day. Some roads in Trinidad are more dangerous than others in terms of kidnapping.
One of the most dangerous roads is Beetham Highway, the road connecting Piarco Airport and the capital. It is more dangerous to travel from the airport to the city than vice versa, but exercise caution in both directions and avoid traveling there at night.
Tobago, the other island that makes up the country of Trinidad & Tobago, has a lower crime rate than Trinidad, although you should still take precautions.
Things to Consider
Here are some other things to keep in mind before traveling to Trinidad:
- Wearing camouflage in the country is illegal if you are not a police or military member.
- Despite the stereotypes of the Caribbean as a ganja-loving region, drugs are illegal and strictly penalized in Trinidad. Avoid indulging or buying anything. Plus, the drug trade in the country is controlled by gangs and you don’t want to wind up on their radar.
- Be careful when using ATMs, as people sometimes use card skimmers or cameras to defraud visitors.
- Hurricanes don’t directly affect Trinidad often, but you should still avoid traveling during the peak of hurricane season.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about safety in Trinidad? Here are some other answers you might want to know:
Is Trinidad safe for tourism?
Thousands of people visit Trinidad without any problems, but others get mugged or robbed. Although most of Trinidad’s violent crime rate affects locals, it can spill over into touristy areas.
Are people in Trinidad friendly?
People in Trinidad are friendly, but don’t expect the same over-the-top friendliness you might find on other islands. Trinidadians are reserved by Caribbean standards, and they tend to be polite but not overly friendly with foreigners.
Is Trinidad cheap to visit?
Trinidad is not the most popular Caribbean Island for tourists, but it is one of the most affordable ones. The country has a strong manufacturing industry so doesn’t need to rely on tourism, making the prices more reasonable.
What is the crime rate in Trinidad?
The violent crime rate in Trinidad is 38.57 incidents per 100,000 people, which is much higher than the global average. There is a reason why many Trinidadian locals are concerned for their safety, not just foreigners.
What is the problem in Trinidad and Tobago?
Crime is one of the biggest problems in Trinidad and Tobago, and it has many sources. Endemic corruption, economic stagnation, and unrest in neighboring countries making it an attractive destination for organized crime all contribute.
So, Is Trinidad Safe to Visit?
Many visitors to Trinidad have a good time. However, to have a great vacation, you need to take a lot of safety precautions. Due to its high crime rate, Trinidad is not the safest Caribbean destination and if you want to relax you might want to stay elsewhere.