Friday, February 15, 2008

Traveling in Trinidad

Lower class families in Trinidad don't own cars. They mostly travel around in taxis which are cars of all shapes and sizes that are designated as taxis by the "H" (for "hire") in their license plates or in small to medium size vans or buses or large to double-sized buses. There used to be a train that ran through the major cities in Trinidad years ago and there's talk that may be resurrected again as well. In general, public transportation is readily available and not very expensive ($1US for a 15 minute drive). Maxi taxis can be rented for 10-20 person groups for reasonable prices for day trips.
Middle class families generally own one car per family which the father drives. Upper class families generally own two or more vehicles. Cars are designated as "passenger" vehicles by a "P" at the beginning of their license plate number. Trucks and anything used to "transport" materials are designated with a "T" at the beginning of their license plate number. The license plate number issued with the car stays with the car for life unless the driver changes the vehicle from a "P" to an "H" or vice versa. So in general, you can tell the age of the car by looking at the license plate number! They started the system sometime in the '70's or so with PA 1, PA 2, and so on. Now they're up to PCX 9999 or so. Many vehicles have vinyl lettering on the windshields with (sometimes cryptic) sayings such as "Blessed", "Wicked", or one of my favorites - "Papa Smurf".
Used vehicles and used parts are big business in Trinidad; big enough business that the government actually banned the purchase of foreign used vehicles last week to try to boost the national used vehicle industry and to slow the number of vehicles being brought onto the island. Volume of traffic and number of accidents is a frequent topic of conversation.
Police cars drive with their lights flashing all the time. You only need to pull over if their sirens are going. People pass police cars all the time here; speed limits are somewhat relative. However, police do at times set speed traps and nice motorists will warn on-coming cars of a trap by flashing their lights. Police also occassionally randomly block off streets or highways to check vehicles for proper tinting (not too dark), broken lights, insurance info, etc.
Roads are windy, narrow, and full of potholes and live or dead dogs; video-game drivers would love it!


Blogger amy&ryan international said...

Lisa! It's so great to hear from you! I love reading all about your new culture there... Thanks for sharing it all!

2/18/2008 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to see that you're blogging. It's been tough for me to post as often as I used to. It's still so incredible to think about your journey over the past year and a half.
Bless you both!

3/05/2008 5:52 PM  

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