I cannot believe I have been in Trinidad and Tobago for nearly two weeks now! It feels like I have been a part of this community for months, not a short fourteen days. Yesterday was a jam-packed day followed by a long night of Soca and Sleeplessness. Early in the day, myself and two friends shuffled over to the bus route and climbed aboard to make our way to the mall. During this process, I decided I really wanted to explain the transportation system!
Public transportation here is the absolute epitome of putting your life in a stranger's hands. Maxi-taxis are the most comfortable and reliable, in my opinion. They charge a fixed rate (around $3-4TTD depending on the direction of travel), and can carry a large number of passengers like a shuttle bus. You stand aside the bus route and hold up the number of fingers for your party (i.e. three fingers if you need three seats) as maxis unsettle the dust around you, charging forward with their passengers. A maxi that is full will rush by without hesitation, but if it has a single empty seat the driver will slam the brakes and pull you inside, rushing away again as the door is still closing.
Maxi-taxis looking harmless at a standstill.
Like the New York subway system, it is interesting to see the kinds of people who cram themselves beside you in the maxi-taxi. Just yesterday, I sat beside a snoring Jamaican man with a bulbous hat (touching the ceiling) and an arm so thick with bracelets his flesh was hardly visible.
Despite the comfort of knowing you are in a sturdy shuttle-bus, I am always wide-eyed and gripping my seat as we swerve into the opposite lane, pushing incoming traffic onto the shoulder to pass through quickly. Watching drivers is an absolute thrill, like the most lifelike game of Crazy Taxi, or Toad's Turnpike on Mario Kart.
In order to arrive at the mall, however, you must exit the maxi-taxi at the Trincity Taxi stop and take a small taxi car to your destination. These can range from an explicitly labeled taxi, to a youthful man in a shiny blue sports car (Note: Do not attempt this alone or without a well trained local!). These tiny cars wind in and out of oncoming traffic, dive headlong into intersections, and spin their way toward your location (this is just a moderately exaggerated description).
All-in-all, the public transportation I have encountered in my first two weeks in Trinidad has been fascinating. I find this much more entertaining than an enclosed systems of privately owned cars!