Trinidad and Tobago together comprise a twin island country located off the coast of South America. The islands border the Caribbean Sea to the north and share maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west. The capital city is Port of Spain.
Although it is a twin country, Trinidad and Tobago display vast differences. For example, Trinidad offers pristine mangrove swamps and rainforests blended with oil refineries and spoiled by industrialization. Tobago, on the other hand, retains every characteristic of a traditional Caribbean island.
Moreover, Tobago boasts of white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees and all you can expect from an unspoiled tourist destination. While industrialization has tainted Trinidad, Tobago remains largely untouched. As a single unit, the country offers bird-watching, diving, hiking, waterfall swimming, cycling, and nightlife to visitors.
Places to See in Trinidad and Tobago
Both Trinidad and Tobago offer excellent water sports opportunities. Speyside and Buccoo Reef, located off the southwest coast of Tobago, have some of the finest reefs in the Caribbean and offer a fascinating chance for scuba-diving. Trips in boats with glass bottom are also very popular with tourists, as well as deep-sea and freshwater fishing.
Chaguaramas is a peninsula situated to the west of Port of Spain is one of the most popular places for kayaking, especially Williams Bay. You can also book a tour, which includes a visit to a lighthouse, cave system and a former leper colony.
Queen’s Park Savannah
The largest open space in Port of Spain, Queen’s Park Savannah is a fascinating mixture of natural and manmade beauty. It hosts marvelous trees, rare shrubs, including the African Tulip, and The Emperor Valley Zoo. Also, the Royal Botanical Gardens boast 700 different species of orchids, and the collection of its mansions includes the historic President’s House. And a week before the Carnival, the Grand Steel Drum is held, when the big steel bands bang their drums.
Port of Spain
The capital of the country is one of the top travel destinations in Trinidad and Tobago. Its colorful cosmopolitan life makes the place highly attractive. The annual Carnival is Trinidad’s most vivid and exciting event. It is held at the beginning of Lent. However, the preparations start immediately after Christmas.
However, even during the non-festival time, you won’t get bored in the city. Multiple bazaars, modern skyscrapers, beautiful mosques and marvelous cathedrals will keep you busy all day long. The architecture of Port of Spain is a mixture of different styles, from Victorian houses to Stollmeyer’s Castle.
The shopping area of the capital is located on Frederick Street. Three malls are situated there. Also, the National Museum and Art Gallery and the 19th-century Gothic Holy Trinity Cathedral, situated not far from the Red House (the government building), are worth a visit.
Tobago is less cosmopolitan than Trinidad, and a visit to one of its villages will be a great cultural experience for you. On the Atlantic coast of the island, there are numerous interesting tiny villages, including Mesopotamia and Goldsborough, as well as the town of Roxborough and a number of beautiful bays. Also, on the northern coast, there are highly picturesque villages of Castara and Parlatuvier.
Tobago Forest Reserve
Tobago’s Main Ridge Forest Reserve has a number of trails perfect for hiking and trekking. One of the island’s most iconic landmarks, the Argyle Falls is also situated here. So is Flagstaff Hill, a dramatic viewpoint of the northern part of the Lunch.
Tobago has numerous great beaches. Each has its own specialties and flavors. For example, Turtle Beach is known for brown pelicans, and Man O’War Bay offers fantastic snorkeling. You also should not miss Mount Irvine, Store Bay, Pigeon Point and Bacolet Bay.
Trinidad has several cave systems, and the greatest ones are situated beneath its highest mountain El Cerreo del Aripo. The stalactites and stalagmites of the cave are fascinating. Another one, Tamana Cave, is a home for 11 species of bats. And Gasparee Caves are also interesting.
One of the country’s weirdest natural phenomenon, Pitch Lake is the largest natural deposit of asphalt and is self-replenishing. You can even swim here, in sulphur pools, but you should be accompanied by a guide.
One of the country’s most important historical buildings is Fort George, situated in the western part of Port of Spain and built in 1804. The most interesting feature of the place is a signal box, which was designated by an African prince. Situated high above the city, the place also offers a great opportunity for bird watching.
From the coastal settlement of Speyside, you can take a trip to Little Tobago. The place is also known as Bird of Paradise Island. It is a bird sanctuary and a must-see place for twitchers. However, if you want to see the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago, Scarlet Ibis, go to the Caroni Arena Reserve on Trinidad.
Arnos Vale, the country’s oldest sugar plantation, is a hotel nowadays. However, you can still see a sugar mill with formidable crushing wheels constructed in 1857. Sugar production is a major chapter of Trinidad and Tobago’s history, and you have a chance to deep into it.
Buccoo Reef is a breathtaking coral reef, which stretches along the coast of the island, from Pigeon Point to Buccoo Bay. If you go on a trip in a boat with the glass bottom, you will see 40 different types of corals. Also, Buccoo is a place for the best cultural events of the country, including the Sunday School Street Party and a goat race.
If you never watched turtles, you should not miss it, because it will be an experience of the lifetime. There are three types of turtles in Trinidad and Tobago: the giant leatherback, hawksbill, and green. They are protected by law, but you can take a guided tour on Black Rock.
When to Go
Trinidad and Tobago has a tropical climate, which means dry season from November to May and hot weather between June and October. The climate is fine all year round, although it may be wet from May to July. However, you can barely spot the differences between wet and dry seasons on Trinidad and Tobago.
What to Wear
Lightweight clothes are perfect for tropical climate. However, rainwear will be useful during the wet season.
The official language of the country is English. Other popular languages are French, Spanish, Hindi, and Chinese.
The official currency is Trinidad and Tobago Dollar. The approximate exchange rate is TT$6, 25 for US$1. Foreign currency exchange is available at banks and some hotels. Most banks, shops, and other tourist facilities accept credit cards. ATMs are available in both Trinidad and Tobago.
Unlike many other countries, where traveler’s cheques are already in the past, in Trinidad and Tobago, they are widely accepted. In fact, they often prove to be one of the most convenient means of transaction. However, to avoid additional charges, take them in US Dollars.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
The main local mobile company is Bmobile. It offers pre-paid SIM cards, which can be loaded with airtime credit in TT$25 to TT$500 denominations. There is also Digicel, which offers similar options. Both providers have outlets throughout the country. Most US cell phones work fine with local SIM cards.
Free Wi-Fi connection is offered by most hotels and guest houses on both islands. However, in rural areas, this option may be rarer. In tourist areas, there is also free Wi-Fi available in most restaurants and cafes.
The predominant religion is Christianity. There is also a big group of Hindu. Muslims are in the minority. Hospitality is a very important concept for the locals. Casual clothing is common. Short sleeves are acceptable for business meetings and social gatherings. However, beach wear is not commonly worn in towns.
Both islands host plentiful bars and restaurants, which offer a wide choice of Western, Chinese and Indian dishes. Of course, seafood is extremely popular throughout the country, as well as fried fish of all kinds. Trying the curried crab and dumplings is a must-do on Tobago. On Trinidad, the most popular dish is a salt fish served with coconut bake and vegetables.
Other local specialties include Creole soups, tattoo, manicou, pork souse, and tum-tum. In restaurants, a 10% – 15% tip is common. However, street food is also great, particularly latter. Just see, what locals eat, and get the same.
The most popular drinks are sorrel, a blood-red drink made from the sorrel fruit, rum punch, and local beers, such as Carib and Stag. The minimal drinking age is 18.
There are two ways to get from Trinidad to Tobago and around. By ferry, you will get from one island to another in 6 hours, while the fast catamaran crossing takes around 2,5 hours. Both are run by the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
There is also a water taxi service run by NIDCO, which links Port of Spain with San Fernando, the other major city of Trinidad. If you wish to arrive by private boat, you will need a clearance certificate from the last port of call and the vessel’s registration certificate.
The country’s bus system has developed much in the recent decades. From City Gate terminal on South Quay in Port of Spain, buses leave to San Fernando and other destinations in Trinidad. There are also some bus routes in Tobago, which operate from the bus station on Sangster’s Hill in Scarborough.
Cycling, and particularly mountain biking is also developing quickly in Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago is in the lead, however. Several places in the Lowlands, to the west of Scarborough, even have bicycles for rent.
The roads between main towns of Trinidad are good. Two major highways run from north to south and from east to west. However, roads off major ways can be quite unpredictable. Some are even inaccessible during the rainy weather.
In Tobago, the road network is improving quickly. Most parts of the island are easy to reach, although roads can be narrow sometimes. There is one major highway, which runs from west to east. In rural areas, you should beware of chickens and sheep, wandering across the road. And drivers often use hand signals, which can be unfamiliar.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
Taxis are readily available in Trinidad and Tobago. There are both official and private cabs. Official ones have registration “H”. Private taxis are more expensive, but give you more freedom. There are official rates for certain journeys, such as the ride from Piarco International Airport, where rates for main journeys are displayed on the taxi stands. In all other cases, it is best to negotiate the price before the ride.
The easiest and quickest way to get around Trinidad is by Route taxis and Maxi taxis, which serve several routes throughout the island, particularly around Port of Spain. They leave from the Independence Square or nearby and have fixed rates.
In Tobago, Route taxis are also plentiful. They ride along most major cities and stop at any necessary place. Drivers usually indicate that they have free places by sounding their horn. Shared cabs are also a very popular way of transportation on both islands.
Car and motorcycle rent is available in Port of Spain and Scarborough, via hotels, as well as at Tobago airport. However, if your plan to explore Trinidad’s wild interiors, consider renting a jeep. You need to be over 25 years old and have a minimum of two years of driving experience to hire a car. You can hire a moped or a trail bike as well.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the left side of the road.
Trinidad and Tobago Trip Cost
Staying in Trinidad and Tobago can be quite costly. A price for a double room in a guesthouse starts from TT$400, while the room in a hotel will cost a minimum of TT$785 and go up to TT$2000. Lunch to go will cost you around TT$120, and a dinner in a restaurant will be a minimum of TT$300.
On the other hand, a glass of beer costs TT$10, which is not that expensive. A ticket for a public transport costs TT$3. However, a taxi ride won’t cost less than TT$60. As for entertainment, a museum ticket costs TT$10. And a guided tour price will be between TT$350 and TT$750.
Electricity & Plug Type
The country uses type AB sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 115V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Reach
The national airline is Caribbean Airlines. Their routes include flights from New York to Port of Spain, which takes 5 hours. American Airlines operate direct flights from Miami to Port of Spain. Also, British Airways fly from London to Tobago, making a stop in Antigua. It takes 11 hours, including stopovers.
Most international flights arrive at Piarco International Airport on Trinidad and Crown Point International Airport on Tobago.
The main ports of the country are Port of Spain and Scarborough. There was a ferry route from Venezuela, but it’s no longer in operation.
Where to Stay
Many international hotel chains are represented in Port of Spain, including Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott. There are also numerous smaller hotels throughout the country. In Tobago, there is also a growing number of high-standard resorts, as well as private hotels and guesthouses.
In the last decades, the new type of hotels has appeared in Trinidad and Tobago. Those are ecohotels. Facilities of these places are something in between top-end guest houses and luxury hotels.
Bed and Breakfasts
Guest houses and bed and breakfasts are great places to meet locals and get to know their way of life better. Guest houses in Trinidad and Tobago are multiple, regularly checked and generally cheaper than hotels.
There are a couple of official campsites available on beaches, such as Vessigny on Trinidad and Canoe Bay on Tobago. However, the facilities are rather simple and basic. Also, camping adventure tours in the national park with a guide are available.
Several hostels are available in Port of Spain, a couple of them also operate on Tobago. Prices for dormitory beds are lower than for hotel rooms. Facilities are usually simple, but amenable. Private rooms are also available sometimes, and the staff is usually very helpful and highly knowledgeable about local attractions and activities.
How Safe is Trinidad and Tobago
It is recommended to have travel insurance when visiting Trinidad and Tobago. Although the public medical system is free, it is rather basic, supplies and medications are limited. Before coming into the country, you need to have vaccinations against the following disease: tetanus, hepatitis A, and sometimes rabies, diphtheria, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and yellow fever.
Drinking water outside of major cities should be filtered, boiled or sterilized some other way. However, bottled water is widely available, so it would be wiser to drink it. Dairy products are safe for consumption, although you should avoid milk that is not pasteurized. Meat, fish, seafood, fruit, and vegetables are generally safe for eating.
There is a rather high crime level in Trinidad. Gangs operate in the neighborhoods to the east of the center of Port of Spain, including Laventille, Morvant, and Barataria. Mainly, their crimes are targeted at locals, but sometimes they can affect travelers as well. The risk of crimes increases during the carnival time and other holidays.
However, if you take sensible precautions, you will be fine. Try to avoid traveling outside of major tourist areas during nighttime. When driving, keep windows closed and doors locked. Use only official taxis, preferably booked by your hotel. Many crimes, such as rape, robbery, assault, and theft have occurred in private taxis.
It is not advisable to walk alone in deserted areas even during the daytime. Don’t carry a big amount of cash on you and don’t flash your valuables in public. Also, be attentive, when withdrawing money from an ATM, because you can be watched. If you need to call the police, dial 999.
Most travelers to Tobago manage to stay out of trouble during their visit. However, the robbing accidents against tourists have occurred in the past. You don’t need to take any extra precautions, when visiting Tobago, just usual ones. Be sensible and aware of your safety, and you’ll be fine.
August 15, 2016 12:00 am 1 Comment