Black Gold Brings Good Fortune To The Port Of Spain
“Trinidad has oil, a lot of oil,” writes Correspondent Paul Lewis, continuing his sunny island adventures. “And here in the capital of Port of Spain, it shows.
“Downtown colonial buildings have been replaced by green glass skyscrapers, and the freeways are packed with black-windowed Mercedes and BMWs. The city is crowded and bustling. Many of its fine old buildings are being restored and repaired to celebrate the new found good fortune.
“At Woodford Square, the ornate Parliament building, known as Red House after it was inadvertently painted red on the eve of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, is now encased in matching red scaffolding.
“‘The Magnificent Seven’—the seven ornate Victorian mansions on Maraval Road, including the Prime Minister’s office, the Archbishop’s residence, and the President’s home—are all in various stages of restoration. Port of Spain is smartening itself up, thanks to the new black gold. Up on the hill the new shiny steel cultural center (vaguely reminiscent of the Sydney Opera) has just opened.
“But little has changed at Holy Trinity Cathedral, close to the Red House, built to serve the British garrison stationed on the island in colonial days. Magnificent carved mahogany beams support the high roof while the wall plaques record the tragically young age at which many Europeans were carried off by fever.
“Still surviving, too, are a few of the wooden villas with elaborate window shutters against the sun and fretwork decoration that once made up much of the town, often brightly painted in pink and salmon, blue and white. Boisterous, crowded Charlotte Street is still where the poor shop. But in a sunny, typically slow-moving part of the world, Port of Spain is moving at a new speed in a new direction.”
“Here’s a piece of advice for fellow readers: Check out any country before moving there permanently to find out if your bank cards (savings or credit) will work locally. Your bank probably will tell you that their cards are accepted just about anywhere in the world. However, I can tell you from personal experience that this is untrue.
“You may be able to use your card to withdraw cash from an ATM in your new country only to find that you cannot use it to make a purchase in a shop, or vice versa. Your bank (even major international banks) will tell you that there is no problem from their end.
“You are in your new country, and no one will accept your Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards. The problem often lies with Visa or MasterCard, and they can be most unhelpful.
“I have lived in many countries, and my advice is to check these things out thoroughly before making any relocation decision.”
— Irene P., Peru
I wouldn’t recommend that you choose where you want to live based on whether or not your current bank cards may or may not work locally.
We’ve lived and spent extended time in many countries, too, and we’ve had only limited issues using our credit or ATM cards anywhere we’ve roamed. Our pet peeve on this subject has to do with the fees we’re sometimes charged, but that’s another matter.
Bottom line, it isn’t the country that is an issue, and it’s not Visa or MasterCard either. Yes, Visa and MasterCard have put fraud prevention systems in place, but these are managed through your bank. Which means that, if there’s a problem, you should address it with your bank, not with Visa or MasterCard. As you suggest, you aren’t likely to get far trying to take up these kinds of things with Visa, for example, directly.
Our Schwab debit card was cut off in Baltimore while we were in town for Christmas. Yes, it was Visa’s systems (this is the logo on the card) that raised the red flag (they recognized that we were operating outside our normal use patterns), but, to get the card turned back on, we contacted Schwab. They were able to reactivate it immediately.
Here’s my best advice on this subject: Don’t travel with just one credit or ATM card. As identify-theft and other security protocols become ever-more-restrictive, it’s likely that, yes, you’re going to run into problems now and then. You don’t want to find yourself unable to access cash in some remote or distance spot on this planet, so don’t rely on the systems of a single bank.
“Kathleen, if I relocate to another country, can I renew my U.S. passport while there or would I need to return to the States to do that?”
— Bill S., United States
If there is a U.S. consulate or embassy in the country where you relocate, yes, you should be able to renew your passport locally. For Americans, this means you should be able to renew your passport most places you’d likely be interested in living. However, if you are a citizen of a smaller country, you may have to send your passport to the nearest consulate in your region or even back home when it’s time to renew.