Port of Spain City Guide
City of Port of Spain—an Introduction
The birder will find the city of Port of Spain provides most of his support-service needs, as well as, diversionary attractions and activities. A road and transportation network from the city of Port of Spain links to the Port of Spain airport (Piarco International Airport) and, also, to all the birding spots of interest, e.g., Chaguaramas, Asa Wright Nature Centre and Caroni Swamp. Travellers can choose from a mixed mode of transportation including public transport (Public Transport Service Corporations bus service with its hub at City Gate Port of Spain, water taxis and inter-island ferry at the Port of Port of Spain), tour operators, auto rentals and hired vehicles (taxis and maxi-taxis).
Where is Port of Spain?
Port of Spain is situated in the northwest of the island of Trinidad, at the foothills of the Northern Range, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Its coordinate location is 10.651287,-61.517172. Trinidad is the southernmost island of the Caribbean archipelago that reaches from Cuba and the Florida Keys, in the Northwest, to just north of northeastern Venezuela.
A Brief History of Port of Spain, Trinidad
The city of Port of Spain, Trinidad, is the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Formerly "Puerto de d'Espana" the name was changed to Port of Spain in 1796 under British rule. Many streets were given English names for example Nelson and Duke and St. Ann's River was the erstwhile Rio Santa Ana. The city has been the capital of Trinidad since 1757, then under Spanish rule, after the former capital of Saint Joseph had deteriorated and an empty treasury prevented the restoration of the sitting governor's St. Joseph residence.
In 1813 the town of Port of Spain was rebuilt after being consumed by a major fire, from the east at George Street to St. Vincent Street in the west and from Duke street in the north southward, in 1808. Between 1937 and 1938 land was reclaimed from the sea and so a substantial part of the downtown area, from Sea Lots westwards to Wrightson Road, and near the site of Cumucurapo—a Spanish dilution of the Amerindian Camocorabo meaning place of the silk Cotton Trees and a former Amerindian fishing village—is on reclaimed land.
The Queen's Park Savannah, a large green space used for social, cultural and sporting activities, previously the Paradise Estate and originally a sugar cane plantation, forms a prominent part, estimated at 232 acres, of the City of Port of Spain. The estate was purchased by the Colonial Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, from the Peschier family in 1817 and the city purchased it from him a few years later.
In 1818 the Royal Botanic Gardens was established adjacent and north of the Queen's Park Savannah, one of the oldest in continuous existent in the West Indies. It is situated on 62 acres and features 700 trees, a significant number of which is indigenous. The city opened the Emperor Valley Zoo, with its focus on local fauna and adjacent to the Queens Park Savannah, in 1952. Exhibits are arranged over 7.2 acres with substantial original flora and topography intact.
The Port of Port of Spain
The Port of Port of Spain is equipped to handle cargo and passenger traffic. Passenger traffic is managed at the Cruise Ship Complex at Shed 1, with its cruise ship berth, and terminals for an inter-island ferry and water-taxi service. At shed 1 there are dedicated transportation services, communications (including Wi-Fi), local arts and craft, souvenir shops, duty free shopping, clothing boutiques and information services—the Tourism Development Company Limited operates a Tourism Information Office providing recommendations on sites and attractions with a focus on Port of Spain, tour bookings, restaurant reservations, destination information and information package distribution—and access to tour operators. The Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Transport Service Association is located at the Cruise Ship Complex and comprises 225 license tour guide/drivers trained in tour guiding skills, defensive driving and basic first aid.
Water Taxi services, with four vessels at its disposal, operates to and fro the Water Taxi Service Terminal to the southern city of San Fernando and to the western peninsula of Chaguaramas. At the Tobago Ferry Terminal fast ferries, T&T Express and the T&T Spirit, depart and arrive daily between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, completing a 103km (64 miles) journey in 2 1/2 hours.
The Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC Buses)
A scheduled bus service is available from City Gate, within walking distance from the port, to various destinations including the western peninsula, east-west corridor, north coast and central and southern Trinidad. There is also an inner city service, i.e., to the Port of Spain environs. The PTSC also offers day tours and charter services.
Port of Spain Airport
The Port of Spain airport, Piarco International Airport, is located a little over twenty kilometres (24 minutes off-peak drive) to the east southeast of the capital city.
Maxi taxis are available along the main routes, are affordable and are generally accessible throughout the day and early evening hours. The maxi taxis are typically white but differentiated by horizontal color bands on their sides: red for the east-west traffic along the Eastern Main Road, east of Port of Spain, green for the south routes, yellow for western destinations, i.e., west and north of Port of Spain.
Money and Banking in Port of Spain
Banking institutions—including Citibank, Scotia Bank and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)—have international links, provide foreign exchange services and commercial and personal banking services. There are two prominent money transfer companies, Western Union and MoneyGram. A great proportion of local establishments accept major credit cards, e.g., American Express, MasterCard and Visa.
The Port of Spain General Hospital is the major health care institution, in Port of Spain. Amongst other public and private health care providers are St. Clair Medical Centre, West Shore Medical Private Hospital, Community Hospital of Seventh Day Adventists, and St. James Medical Complex.
Hotels in Port of Spain
A variety of hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfast and other accommodations within the city and environs are available. Choices include international chain operations with hundred-room facilities like the Hyatt Port of Spain (Hyatt Regency Trinidad), The Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre and Radisson Trinidad to smaller and boutique style operations such as the Kapok hotel, a local establishment, Cascadia Hotel and Conference Center, Alicia's Guest House and the Normandie Hotel and Conference Centre amongst others.
Nearly all of these hotels are within a few minutes' drive or walking range to the main parks, attractions and activity centres of the city. Most are equipped with the latest communications: cable TV and Internet access (Wi-Fi or wired). Most facilities also boast swimming pools, Jacuzzi, Lounge, or Conference Rooms amongst other conveniences. The visitor should expect higher rates during the Carnival season, a 10% service charge and a Hotel Tax of 10%.
Movietown and Other Attractions
Visits to night clubs, restaurants, cinemas (e.g., Movietown or MovieTowne Port of Spain), theatres (e.g., Trinidad Theatre Workshop and the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA)), Long Circular Mall, West Mall, various stores and city attractions (e.g., the Emperor Valley Zoo, National Museum and Art Gallery, the architectural curiosity of the Magnificent Seven—Queen's Royal College, Hayes Court, Archbishop's Palace, Mille Fleurs, Roomor (aka Prada House), Whitehall (aka Rosenweg) and Stollmeyer's Castle (or Killarney)—and Memorial Park) as well as, the Barcant Butterfly Collection, on the city outskirt, can be impressionable additions to the birding itinerary; and is especially so during Trinidad's Carnival season. An introductory birding experience and momentary view of the island's flora can be had at parks and gardens within the city of Port of Spain (e.g., the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Queen's Park Savannah.)
This Port of Spain City guide provides an introduction to the city's services and attractions for information purposes and is not an endorsement of any service or establishment.