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Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago)

Photo © seattlekd

Travel Guide Caribbean Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad

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Introduction

Carnival!

Carnival!

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Trinidad is the largest and most populous of the 23 islands which make up the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just 11 kilometres off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. The capital city of Trinidad and Tobago is Port of Spain.

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Geography

Major landforms include the hills of the Northern, Central and Southern Ranges (Dinah ranges), the Caroni, Nariva and Oropouche Swamps, and the Caroni and Naparima Plains. Major river systems include the Caroni, North and South Oropouche and Ortoire Rivers. There are many other natural landforms such as beaches and waterfalls. Trinidad has two seasons per calendar year: the rainy season and the dry season. El Cerro del Aripo, at 940 metres, is the highest point in Trinidad. It is part of the Aripo Massif and is located in the Northern Range on the island, northeast of the town of Arima.

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Sights and Activities

  • Mount Saint Benedict is a Catholic monastery located high in the Northern Range, near the village of Arima. Visitors are warmly welcomed. There is a lovely guest house, Pax Guest House [2], where a scrumptious tea is served on Sunday afternoons to all visitors. (Meals are also regularly available to overnight guests.) The breads and sweets are baked by the Benetictine monks, so they're fresh and delicious. The cost is minimal for the tea service. The entire complex is peaceful and because it is situated so high on the mountain, it is wonderfully cool. (One might even require a sweater in the evenings.) For the physically fit, there are Stations of the Cross that begin at the bottom of the mountain and end at the church. The Stations are along a rather steep road, requiring exercise for the body and soul.
  • Asa Wright Nature Center - A birdwatching center of the world. There are cottages to stay in, but one doesn't need to be an overnight guest to visit. Knowledgable guides will lead you through this former cocoa plantation, pointing out interesting species of birds, lizards, and other animals that you may encounter on the way. Staff put out fresh fruit everyday to attract birds, so that even sitting on the wide and comfortable veranda, a guest will be entertained by the local fauna. The entry cost is 60TTD (10 usd) for foreigners and 30TTD (5 USD) for locals. This is for a day pass. edit
  • Toco/Matelot/Grand Riviere - superb scenery, some beaches, leatherbacks which come up every night to lay their eggs during esting season.
  • Nature trails - small waterfalls & streams for bathing
  • Pitch Lake
  • Maracas/Tyrico/Las Cuevas - scenery & sea

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Events and Festivals

Trinidad Carnival

This annual Carnival celebration takes place in the Lenten season, 46 days before Easter. It originated as a costumed event among mostly African and French Creole plantation workers, and is similar to the carnivals held in Brazil. Calypso, soca, and steelpan music dominates, and musical competitions create excitement and intrigue. There are numerous cultural festivities in the days leading up to the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when the culminating parades and dancers take to the streets.

San Fernando Jazz Festival

The San Fernando Jazz Festival is an outdoor music event held at Majestic San Fernando Hill on Trinidad in September or October each year. The festival was established in 2004 and features both local and international performers. Spectators can enjoy food, drinks, and concerts which display an interesting blend of traditional influences.

Diwali

Trinidad and Tobago has a large Hindu population so the annual Festival of Lights, Diwali, is usually a big affair. It takes place over five days in late October or early November and celebrations across the nation center around the lighting of a multitude of deeyas (earthen lamps) to dispel darkness and pay homage to the Goddess of Light, Wealth, and Prosperity. Preparing and eating Hindu sweets and vegetarian food, and giving gifts to charity also form part of the special day.

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Weather

The climate is tropical, with mostly warm/hot and humid conditions and temperatures around 30 °C during the day and around or slightly above 20 °C. There are two seasons annually: the dry season for the first six months of the year, and the wet season in the second half of the year. Winds are predominantly from the northeast and are dominated by the northeast trade winds. Unlike most of the other Caribbean islands, Trinidad's southern location means they are generally not within the hurricane zone, and rarely suffer from hurricane damage.

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Getting There

By Plane

Flights arrive at Port of Spain's Piarco International Airport (POS), 27 kilometres from Port of Spain. Operated by First Citizens Bank, Trinidad Piarco Airport is home to a single bank that comes complete with bureau de change services and ATM machines. Around 10 airlines serve Trinidad, with destinations being Caracas, Miami, San Juan, London, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Fort Lauderdale, Georgetown (Guyana), Sint Maarten, Kingston, New York, Paramaribo, Toronto, Houston, Isla Margarita, Panama City, Atlanta, Curacao, Grenada and Saint Vincent.

By Boat

There is supposed to be a weekly car ferry travelling between La Guiria in Venezuela and Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago but check the port authorities if this option is still available for travellers. The ferry arrives late in Trinidad and onward transport to Port of Spain can be hard to find. As of August 2010 the ferry leaves Chaguaramus, not far from Port of Spain, Trinidad at 09:00am every Wednesday. It gets to La Guiria, Venezuela before 1:00pm local time. The main option to travel out of La Guiria is a taxi to Carupano where more travel options are available. That's the one down side to the ferry, La Guiria not having more travel options.

Cruise ships dock at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago.
Many sailors anchor in the bays in Trinidad. From October 2009 onwards, BEDY Ocean Lines, will provide new ferry services for residents only between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are numerous possibilities for hiring cars in Trinidad, and this can provide a cheap way of getting around, as petrol is so cheap. Aside from the rather erratic driving of many of the locals, the main problem with getting about like this is that the road signs tend to be rather sporadic and inconsistent, and there don't appear to be any good maps available. As a result, you need to be prepared to spend rather a lot of time getting lost.

Taxis are hired at 'taxi stands' which are located in every major town, and other popular destinations. Legitimate taxi license plates always start with an 'H' (for 'Hire'). Taxis, for the most part, drive along a fixed route. The exception is for taxis which take passengers into neighborhoods, in which case you must inform the driver of the destination street. Expect the driver to wait until the taxi is full (usually four passengers) before leaving, so you might have a long wait at quiet hours. Always ask the driver to make sure where the route goes, and if you are in the right taxi stand. There are usually multiple taxi stands to different destinations in close proximity. The route fees are fixed (typically $3 to $5 TT, but going up to $20 TT for long routes), but ask the fare before leaving. If you don't wish to wait, or need to go off-route, negotiate with the driver and you can get the taxi all to yourself. The main advantage of taxis is that there are typically fewer stops (getting there faster) and you can ask the driver to place bulky packages in the trunk. A warning: air conditioning is not mandatory or typical.

By Bus

Buses are a cheap method of transport, but the waits between departures can be long. Tickets can be purchased at terminals, and are usually less than $10 TT. They are normally air-conditioned.

Maxis are the private mini-buses that drive along major routes, and pick up and drop passengers anywhere between. They carry 10-30 passengers. They are always painted white with horizontal stripes on the sides (red, green, yellow,brown and black). The color of the stripe used to identify the route, but this is not strictly enforced. Typically, Maxis that travel the East-West corridor between Arima and Port of Spain have a red stripe, Port of Spain to Chaguanas: green. Maxis typically can be flagged along any 'Main' road (any road with 'Main' in its title: Eastern Main Road, Western Main Road, etc.) as well as the Priority Bus Route (which runs from Arima to Port of Spain). Main road routes are usually congested and slow, but slightly cheaper. The fee depends on distance traveled, but expect to pay $3 TT minimum (also known as a Short Drop). To flag a maxi, extend your arm upwards and indicate using your fingers how many passengers want to board. Ask the driver to make sure he is going where you wish to be. Passengers must press a buzzer located above their seat to indicate that they wish to disembark (if stopping before the end of route). If you don't know the area, ask the driver. Some maxis (particularly the larger ones) employ a conductor. The conductor collects money and indicates where you should sit. He is easily identified by the wad of cash in his hand and his occasional hustling-cry to potential passengers. Air conditioning is not typical.

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Eat

Trinidad cuisine is influenced by many cultures, but primarily Indian and African (referred to as Creole cuisine). Other influences include Chinese (fast food Chinese places are only outnumbered by bars), and to some extent English and French. Relatively recently there has been a strong influx of American fast food: Subway, KFC and Pizza Hut are common sights. Most Trinidadians love meats of all kinds, but due to a significant Hindu population, there are many good vegetarian offerings.

Doubles

Doubles are a typical street food. India has some similar street fare, which is its probable origin. Tasty and cheap, many consider doubles a good quick meal or snack. They consist of curried channa (a.k.a chickpeas or garbanzo beans) sandwiched between two fried 'bara' (a puffy soft fried quickbread) wrapped in wax paper. Extra toppings include mango and other chutneys, as well as pepper sauce. In local lingo, doubles are ordered by referring to how much pepper is desired. One may order a "without", which refers to no pepper, a "slight", a small dab of pepper, while a "blaze" calls for a spoonful of pepper. Doubles vendors usually also sell fried potato pies, called "aloo pies" which can take the same toppings. Prices are around $3 _4 TT.

How to eat: Doubles are eaten by first unwrapping, then separating one bara to reveal the channa and sauce sitting on the bottom bara. Then, tear a piece from the top 'free' bara (if you ordered pepper or chutney, now is the time to distribute it evenly) and then use it to scoop up some channa before consumption. The process continues with the 'bottom' bara until all the channa is consumed. Practice will enable you to get some channa with every bite with none left over. This process can be messy, so it is always wise to spot a source of water for washing hands before you start eating. A warning: one grain of channa will almost invariably roll off the wax paper and drop on your shoe.

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Drink

Trinidad has a mind boggling number of bars. In some places, there might be 20 bars in a stretch of less than a mile. This makes bar-hopping easy. Bars constantly blast soca, reggae, dancehall and calypso music to attract customers. Don't expect cocktails in most bars, as most bartenders have little or no mixing skills.

  • Beer - Trinidad prides itself on its local beer. Carib is a sweet, nutty lager, probably the most popular. Stag has a slightly deeper flavor. Also try a Shandy Carib: Carib mixed with ginger or sorrel extracts.
  • Coconut Water - Straight from the coconut. Coconut vendors typically stack hundreds of coconuts on their trucks, and let you choose your own. Chug, or drink with a straw. When you are done, the vendor will chop your coconut in half, then cut a thin wedge for you to use as a spoon to eat the jelly. Bottled coconut water is almost always stale, flat and diluted.
  • Mauby - a brisk, ice-tea like drink made from a bark extract. If made prepared directly from the bark expect a bitter taste. The concentrate form is sweeter and easier on virgin taste buds.
  • Peanut Punch - A rich, cold blended milk drink flavored with peanuts, sold in cafes and by road side vendors. A light meal substitute.
  • Peardrax - A local soft drink (soda). Partially fermented pear juice, which is pasteurized and carbonated. A unique local favorite.
  • Rum - In the Caribbean, rum is the obvious drink of choice. Angostura is the biggest provider on the island, with Royal Oak (very decent, simple rum), 1919 (vanilla escences), and 1824 (dark rum, heavy in molasses, an excellent rum). A local favorite is Royal Oak and coconut water, simply delicious and refreshing! Puncheon is a high-proof rum for serious benders. One combination, called "brass and steel", involves shots of puncheon chased by beer. You may also try babash (bush-rum) which is only available under-the-counter. Babash is also a local cure-all (and solvent). Rum and coke is also a local favourite.

Seamoss - A thick blended drink made from seamoss (a component of which is agar, which is very gelatinous) and condensed milk. Sold at the same places as peanut punch.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 8:35 on Aug 2, 17 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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