Trinidad Cruisers Exploring the Island

Clearing Customs and Immigration.

The paperwork can seem daunting at first, but taken one step at a time and with good humor, it can be easily taken in stride.

Customs and Immigration, General Matters

Clear of the Boca and turning to port you will see the confusing view of Chaguaramas Bay opening up. While it often seems totally blocked by ships, easy passage is made to the head of the bay. The Customs dock is just in front of the red and white lighthouse like structure. You may tie up there while clearing Immigration and Customs. It is sometimes busy as the pilot and crew boats use it as well.

Customs and Immigration in Trinidad are more complex than most Caribbean countries. This is due in part to the fact cruising boats are considered to be commercial vessels just like the 1000 foot oil tanker. Expect more paperwork than in most other Caribbean islands, however the officers are pleasant and helpful.

Note: You will need Trinidad Dollars to check in. If you need to use the ATM prior to clearing, the ATM at Coral Cove Marina is no longer open. However, a new ATM is now open in the marine store at Peak's. It is open M to F 8am to 5pm, Sat 9am to 1pm, and closed Sunday. An ATM can also be found a short Maxi-Taxi (van with a yellow stripe) ride east along the main road. The fare is about 5 TT$ (at this point you may have to borrow the fare from a helpful cruiser or your marina). Note: some marinas have loaned cruisers sufficent cash to check in. Ask the driver to let you off at the ATM. I suspect the driver would take US$ (1 US$ = 6.7 TT$). You may want to continue your Maxi-Taxi a bit further to West Mall where there are two banks and many more ATMs (fare 6 TT$ each way). Returning can be a challenge during evening rush hours as the Maxi-Taxis are often full. Private cars will pick up riders and are safe. The fare is usually a bit more than the Maxi. Ask before boarding.

Note: You need to be in proper attire. While the Immigration and Customs offices in Chaguaramas are more liberal in general than downtown, some people are turned away with dirty shorts, tee-shirts with out collars, or women with tank tops. Downtown you will be turned away without long pants and a shirt without a collar.

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Chaguaramas Bay from the south end of the Boca.
Chaguaramas Bay from the south end of the Boca.
The east end of Chaguaramas Bay.  The Customs Dock is in the center with the red and white striped light.
The east end of Chaguaramas Bay. The Customs Dock is in the center with the red and white striped light.
The Customs Dock is in the center with the red and white striped light.
The Customs Dock is in the center with the red and white striped light.

Immigration

The Immigration office is your first stop. It is located just adjacent to Crew's Inn, behind the the red and white lighthouse like structure. Go up the outside stairs to the top floor.

Note: The procedures, hours, and fees mentioned are those that were in effect as of August 2018. If anyone encounters any different conditions, please let us know.

Everyone should plan to go to Immigration and all in the crew must have a passport with 6 months validity beyond their intended stay. (3 months for citizens of USA, EU and the British Commonwealth.)

Upon first entry, Immigration will grant a stay of up to 3-months or up to 6-months if you request the longer stay. If you ask for the longer stay there is a 400 TT$ fee plus a 100TT$ processing fee. These fees are for a visa.

If there is any chance you might need to stay beyond 3 months, ask for the extension on entry. It is a whole lot easer than having to go downtown and endure the hassle.

Note: - The need for a visa and the fees are set by law. So accept the fees with a smile. Arguing does not accomplish anything except make it harder for the next person.

Immigration Extensions

If you arrived by boat (or air) and only received the 3-month stay, you may request an extension for another 3 months as you approach the end of your initial 3 month. There is a charge of 400 TT$/per person (Dec. 2017) for the additional 3 months (plus a 100 TT$ processing fee). If you find that you will need to extend for the second 3 months, you will need to go downtown to the Immigration office (the Ministry of National Security, Immigration Division on Richmond Street) one week prior to the expiration of your visa to get an appointment for an interview to ask for your extension. You need to arrive there before 7am and join the queue. At seven the persons in the line are admitted to the building and are given numbers. Your interview will usually be scheduled a week later.

The following week you will arrive early again for your interview. Bring a letter from your marina saying why you need the extension.

Recent Personal Experience - 20/11/2017, They are in the process of streamlining the process. Plan to carry a letter from your marina on your first visit, photo copies of all your documents, and photo copies of the first page of your passport and the page with your entry stamp. They will do everything in one visit.

Recent Experience - April 2019, They have gone back to the previous way (two visits). This may be due to workload. It is still advisable to have all your documents in order on the first visit.

Arrival by Air

If you arrive by air either to join a boat or to return to your vessel, you should have a copy of the ship's papers as well as a copy of the immigration and customs documents for the vessel. For crew joining, a letter from the captain may be handy. You will be given a 3 month stay on your passport (some people have been given a 6 month stay by asking).

Recent Experience - April 2019, Some officers are aware of the six month extension option and some are not. A polite request is always helpful.

Departure by Air

If you are departing by air and leaving your boat here, you will need generate three documents. Most marinas will have the formats and will assist in filling them out. They are: A letter from your marina to Immigration, A letter from your marina to Customs, and a letter from you to immigration. You will need three copies of each letter. You then need to take these letters to customs and immigration in Chaguaramas two days (48 hours) prior departure. The 2 days is allow time for the superivsor to sign and return them to you (he is not aways at Chaguaramas). Once you receive the letters back you need to return one copy of the signed letter to your marina. You retain the second for use when you return.

Cruisers at anchor need to use the marina they are affiliated with or used on the forms when they entered.

Immigration Operating Hours & Fees
Day of Week Normal Hours Overtime Hours Closed
Weekdays (M-F) 0800-1200, 1300-1600 0600-0800, 1600-1800 0000-0600, lunch 1200-1300, 1800-2400
Saturday 0600-1200, 1300-1800 0000-0600, lunch 1200-1300, 1800-2400
Sunday and Holidays
Overtime Fee 100 TT$ per vessel or Transaction.

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Immigration is up one floor.
Immigration is up one floor.

Customs

The Customs office is located just to your right as you descend the stairs from Immigration.

You will be asked if you have any firearms. Flare guns are considered firearms and you will be asked to turn it in to them at Customs. On leaving, you need to give them 48 hours notice to retrieve the firearm/flare gun as it may not be stored at the office in Chaguaramas.

Note: The procedures, hours, and fees mentioned are those that were in effect as of August 2018. If anyone encounters any different conditions, please let us know.

Customs Operating Hours & fees
Day of Week Normal Hours Overtime Hours Closed
Weekdays (M-F) 0800-1200, 1300-1600 0000-0800, 1200-1300, 1600-2400 open 24/7
Saturday 0000-2400 open 24/7
Sunday and Holidays 0000-2400 open 24/7
Arrival Overtime Fee 264.20 TT$ per vessel (11/8/18)
Departure Overtime Fee 174.50 TT$ per vessel
Navigation (Harbor master) Fees 50.00 TT$ per vessel at check in, 50.00 TT$/month or portion of month on check out to a maximum of 500 TT$/year. Fees don't apply if the vessel is on the hard (get letter from the marina). May be assessed a 10 to 15 TT$ fee if checking in at night.

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The Customs office as seen from the Customs Dock.
The Customs office as seen from the Customs Dock.
The dingy dock.  A good place to park your dingy to go to Customs, Massy story, or Crews Inn.
The dingy dock. A good place to park your dingy to go to Customs, Massy story, or Crews Inn.

Customs and Immigration - Other Matters

Bringing in Boat Parts

Currently (12/2017) the importing of boat parts is in a state of flux. Parts shipped in via a carrier (FedEx, DHL, etc.) may wind up at the airport instead of the local Customs Office. You will need to take your boat papers, passport, and documents to their office and arrange to have the items cleared and released. Discussions with the government are underway to allow the parts to be delivered to the Customs office in Chaguaramas. One issue is the problem of people having parts delivered well ahead of their arrival. The office in Chaguaramas has limited storage.

Bringing in Boat Parts - Arriving by Air

If you are bringing boat parts, then go to the "something to declare line". You should have an itemized list of the items being brought in. If you are bringing in "non-boat parts" as well, they should be on a separate list.

You will be given a form to take to the Customs office in Chaguaramas. You need to take the form and your parts directly to the office (not stop by the boat first). The Customs officer will inspect the parts and stamp your document. If you are on the middle of the night flight, the officer may be asleep when you arrive and be in a less than cheery mood. Be patient, it will be to your advantage in the end.

Note: It is best to put all the parts into one bag if possible. Less hassle.

Dogs or Cats

Arrival by boat with a cat or dog aboard requires special procedures. Flying in or out with a pet with you is also complicated.

New rules – September 13, 2018 - Cruisers planning to arrive by yacht or by air, the procedures have changed and new rules apply. These changes were due to some unfortunate circumstances. The Transit Permit System has been discontinued.

Anyone wanting to enter Trinidad or Tobago via yacht now has to apply for an Import Permit by sending an email to aphmalmr@gmail.com. Once the Permit is ready someone has to go to the Government Plaza in Downtown Port of Spain and pay for the Import Permit and then take it to the Ministry Of Agriculture office on Abercombrie Street also in Downtown, collect the permit and then email it to the cruiser intending to come here. On the Permit are listed all the conditions that will have to be met before they are granted permission to come.

Once all the conditions are met, all those documents must be emailed to the email address on the Permit and the Government Vet will then look it over to ensure all is in order and then the vet will email the cruiser granting them permission to come. The vet must be given 48hrs notice of arrival. Once the cruiser arrives here they have to contact the vet and the vet must come and meet them immediately. The cruiser can go ahead and check in with immigration and customs as usual if the vet has not arrive to meet them. The pet must remain on board at all times before the vet has seen it.

They must declare to customs that they have a pet on board, and they are awaiting the arrival of the vet and they will note it on the check-in form. Once the vet has arrived on board, examined the pet and double checked all documents, The vet will issue a Landing Permit. This permit will now allow the cruiser to travel at will where ever inland while in Trinidad. So they can now go to the airport if they need to fly out. Once they fly out they must now go through the same procedure for reentry back into Trinidad. If they sail out and want to reenter again they have to go through the same procedure all over again.

Jesse James, Members Only, is willing to help in this task. He can assist and provide the service to go to town and pay and collect and then email the Permit to the cruisers. He can also assist by having the cruisers cc him on all emails to the Ministry and he will follow up with phone calls to ensure all is being done at the Government office. He can be the Point of Contact between the Government Vet and the cruisers to ensure they meet up with each other because some cruiser may not have a phone and he can make contact with them via VHF radio. He can also assist with ensuring the Vet is at the airport when a cruiser has to fly in because if the vet is not there NO one will land the pet not even customs. Please contact Jesse James if you have any questions or queries.

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The Customs Building.
The Customs Building.
The Customs Building.
The Customs Building.