Most Caribbean islands except for Puerto Rico and St. Maarten (St. Maarten is duty free) are very expensive places to go shopping. Almost everything is heavily taxed and the variety is usually limited, making for a somewhat frustrating experience for visitors. Simple items such as sunscreen may only be found in pharmacies for a price that isn't cringe worthy, as 'regular' stores almost double the cost.
Trinidad however, is quite an exception and for a rather original reason in comparison to the other islands. Due to the fact that the nation is very industrial as opposed to tourism oriented, many products are exported instead of imported, so shopping in general is very affordable. I took advantage of the opportunity and went on several shopping sprees. However, better bargains can be had if you know where to go. Some places are more expensive than others, and an item may cost $12 in one location, and $7 in another.
The reason for this fluctuation in price is simple. Visitors who don't know how to find better deals will resort to paying the higher price, thinking that they're still getting a good deal based on prices elsewhere in the region. Here are a few tips in order to help future visitors get the best bang for their buck and to avoid spending unneccessary funds.
1. The Falls At West Mall the most visually appealing shopping plazas on the island. Cascading waterfalls dominate the environs, both outside and indoors, and the sounds of which is seemingly echoed throughout the building. The atmosphere is quiet, there's glitz and glam and the prices match the experience. If you're a premium shopper who's looking for boutique styles and high fashion, this is your paradise, but bargain shoppers beware. It's a great place for a day out on the town, but it will definitely obliterate your budget if you're visiting to shop.
2. If you prefer to shop at malls rather than downtown, I recommend either Trincity Mall or Gulf City Mall. Trincity Mall is within a ten minute drive from the main airport, it's the largest shopping area on the island, and the prices aren't too high for good quality products. It's actually the largest shopping mall in the entire Caribbean and the local currency makes for good bargains. Gulf City Mall is in the South of the country, which is over an hours' drive from the airport, but prices are even lower there, and the shopping experience is really decent.
3. Regardless of any good deals which can be found at malls, in the Caribbean the best prices on anything can only be found on the streets of the main capital city. Port of Spain is not the most visually appealing city in the Caribbean, and some visitors may be hesitant to venture there given the reputation of crime in the area. I, however, have shopped countless times in Port of Spain and I've not had a single incident. Everything can be found here for ridiculously low prices, from clothing, to electronics and toiletries.
4. The Market sells a large variety of fruits and vegetables, and there are numerous small shacks along the main roads selling fresh local juices and coconut water. If you are more interested in shopping for local delicacies, I only recommend Port of Spain. Roti, Pholourie and some of the best Doubles in the island are only found along the streets of the capital. Simply follow the locals and eat where they eat. Local foods bought at the malls and plazas aren't anywhere as delicious, and are twice as expensive for the mediocre dish.
5. Finally, many things are genuinely cheap in Trinidad, such as car parts and mechanical items. Given the large number of factories on the island, it's not suprising that the island produces some of it's very own brands of several American and European commodities, but for a far lower cost. Shopping in Trinidad can be done for a really good deal, and I hope that these five tips will help!