A visit to Trinidad would not be complete without some shopping excursions. There is an abundance of creativity and energy in evidence and you will find it hard to resist buying a bit of Trinidad to remind you of your stay.
Trinidad has definitely joined the modern world in its love of mall shopping and there are many malls within a short taxi ride from Chaguaramas. Most of the stores open Monday to Friday at around 10am and stay open until about 7pm in the evening. There you can wander in air-conditioned comfort, pop into any shop that catches your imagination, eat in a nice restaurant and do your grocery shopping as well. Some malls have arcades for the kids, seasonal free entertainment, frequent art and promotional events.
But don’t pass up a trip to downtown Port of Spain. Frederick, Henry and Charlotte Streets comprise the main shopping streets, they run in parallel, and it is not recommended to wander farther east than Charlotte Street. Frederick Street has bookstores, clothing and shoe stores. Henry Street and the cross streets have the majority of fabric stores, whereas Charlotte St. is known as the bargain hub with many variety stores and also somewhat of a market atmosphere on Fridays with lots of fresh produce and fruit for sale all along the street. The streets may be hot and crowded, but the bargains are great and you can buy anything from pins and soap to fresh fruit. The fabric stores are marvellous; there are batik, tie-dye, spandex, laces, sheeting and a good selection of upholstery fabrics. Whether you do your own sewing or visit one of the many tailor shops in town, Trinidad is a great place to stock up on fabrics and hardware for canvas and craft projects.
In shops and along the sidewalk in Port of Spain, you can find a wide selection of crafts done in local materials such as coconut shell; leather and copper, which make great gifts for your family back home. Don’t forget the music industry – it is the heart and soul of Trinidad. Nothing brings back memories of Carnival like a CD of your favourite artiste, but please don’t buy from the vendors on the street. Despite having no guarantee of quality, it is illegal and cheating the artiste of his copyright fee by purchasing pirate CD’s. There are many bookstores too, where you can find history and photo books of Trinidad as well as bird and plant guides. People back home are always intrigued by the exotic foods they have been hearing about, so you could include with a good local cookbook, some spice and herb packets to cook up an authentic dish for them.
For your everyday needs, it’s also fun to visit the Central Market on the highway in Port of Spain. This is where you can find the freshest local fruits and vegetables plus a wide variety of fresh herbs and spices, fresh flowers, honey, and eggs. There are also clothes, new and used, live chickens, calabash bowls, and lots of fish and shrimp. While you fill up your shopping basket you can try Trini favourite fast food "doubles" or a "saheena" (East Indian vegetarian foods) and wash it down with fresh coconut water. The market is not on the main bus or taxi route, so it is common for yachties to get together on a chartered maxi.
We hope this short guide will be a help for you to find what you are looking for in Trinidad, and encourage you to get off the beaten track a bit and enjoy shopping. When going toward Port of Spain from Chaguaramas, the first place to consider is:
The Falls at Westmall
The newest and closest mall to the Chaguaramas Marinas has a grocery (Hi-Lo), two banks including RBTT and Republic, and a variety of interesting shops such as Vision Optical, D Rite Stuff, Craft Creators, Ali’s Pharmacy, RIK books, Laptop City, Ray Kool, Stationary Plus who can supply all your computer paper, forms and printer inks and many other up-scale shops. Easy access is available from Chaguaramas via the regular route maxi taxi’s.
A series of separate shops including a grocery (Hi-Lo), the Plaza has fast-food, a restaurant and several other shops within walking distance of the T&T Yacht Club at Bayshore.
Long Circular Mall
A very popular big mall having a variety of stores including a grocery (Tru-Valu), a nice Chinese restaurant, coffee bar and lots of fun kiosks interspersed with shops such as Just CD’s, Ferreira Optical, and RIK bookstore. Long Circular Mall is in St. James and has a regular convenient “shopping tour” and transport provided by Arnold Tours and Members Only (Jesse James).
Outdoors, no grocery, good variety of shops including a Radio Shack, restaurants and the only Haagen-Daz ice-cream store in Trinidad! Ellersie Plaza is located on Maraval Road in Maraval.
Small and outdoors, Starlight Plaza located west of The Falls at Westmall, offers a grocery (Hi-Lo), a pharmacy (Starlite Drugs), a Fitness Centre, JCA Optical, Joe’s Pizza, Just CD’s, a medical and dental office and a nice selection of other shops.
Very big and very popular mall is complete with a new large Tru-Valu grocery store, a Radio Shack, Laptop City, a first-run movie complex at bargain prices and loads of shops. Trincity is located east of Tunapuna. Although it normally is off the beaten track from the comfort of Port of Spain, it’s a fun shopping adventure. Cruisers often get a group together, hire a maxi to enjoy a different place to “shop ‘til you drop”.
PriceSmart and MovieTowne
Ideal for boat provisioning, PriceSmart provides membership warehouse shopping for groceries, fresh produce, meat, baked goods, electronics, clothes, house wares and tools. At the same location the MovieTowne Complex offers a variety of stores including several restaurants, a bar and first-run movies. MovieTowne offers senior citizens discounts and special prices on Tuesdays and is conveniently located on the main highway going toward Port of Spain. The Chaguaramas route maxi-taxi can give you a drop!
Going South toward San Fernandro
Not many cruisers venture far from Port of Spain, but a true shopper would miss a wonderful experience if they didn’t explore South. Check out the Grand Bazaar in Valsayn; some say the Chaguanas has the best cloth shopping in Trinidad and while in Chaguanas visit the Mid Centre Mall. Many cruisers don’t often get as far south as San Fernando; the scenery is quite different since it is the centre of oil industry. Wander around downtown San Fernando or how about shoppin’ at Gulf City Mall. So many places - So little time!