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Trinidad's lively culture and energetic pace of life underscores the success of its annual Carnival (widely considered the most exciting in the Caribbean), where the island's proud invention, the steel drum, is brought to the fore of the festivities.
In sharp contrast, Tobago's relaxed vibe creates a tranquil appreciation of the Caribbean beauty and peace. Its main port at Scarborough draws many cruise ships, attracted to the scenic bay and hilly backdrop.
The distinct differences between Trinidad and Tobago are a significant bonus to visitors. While most Caribbean destinations offer a handful of attractions, Trinidad & Tobago boast a bagful. The variety is ideal, granting the best of Caribbean culture and the best of Caribbean beauty.
Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin. Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7,000 years ago, making it the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean. Ceramic-using agriculturalists settled Trinidad around 250 BC and then moved further up the Lesser Antillean chain. At the time of European contact Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan-speaking groups including the Nepoya and Suppoya, and Cariban-speaking groups such as the Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi.
In the 1700s, Trinidad belonged as an island province to the Viceroyalty of New Spain along with Central America, present-day Mexico and Southwestern United States. However Trinidad in this period was still mostly forest, populated by a few Spaniards with their handful of slaves and a few thousand Amerindians. The Dutch and the Courlanders had established themselves in Tobago in the 16th and 17th centuries and produced tobacco and cotton. Tobago changed hands between British, French, Dutch and Courlanders from modern-day Latvia. Britain consolidated its hold on both islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and they were combined into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889.
As a result of these colonial struggles, Amerindian, Spanish, French and English place names are all common in the country. African slaves and Chinese, Indian, and free African indentured labourers, as well as Portuguese from Madeira, arrived to supply labour in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Emigration from Barbados and the other Lesser Antilles, Venezuela, Syria, and Lebanon also impacted on the ethnic make-up of the country.
Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation (from the United Kingdom) in 1962. The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II profoundly changed the character of society. In the post-war period, the wave of decolonisation that swept the British Empire led to the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence. Chaguaramas was the proposed site for the federal capital. The Federation dissolved after the withdrawal of Jamaica and the government chose to seek independence on its own.
In 1976, the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth, though it retained the British Privy Council as its final Court of Appeal. Between the years 1972 and 1983, the Republic profited greatly from the rising price of oil, as the oil-rich country increased its living standards greatly. Since 2003, the country has entered a second oil boom, a driving force which the government hopes to use to turn the country's main export back to sugar and agriculture. Great concern was raised in August 2007 when it was predicted that this boom would last only until 2018. Petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas continue to be the backbone of the economy. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy of Tobago, and the island remains a favourite destination for many European tourists.
Trinidad and Tobago is the southern most country in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago are southeasterly islands of the Antilles, situated between 10° 2' and 11° 12' N latitude and 60° 30' and 61° 56' W longitude. At the closest point, Trinidad is just 11 kilometres off the Venezuelan coast. Covering an area of 5,128 km2, the country consists of the two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous smaller landforms – including Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago, and St. Giles Island. Trinidad is 4,768 km2 in area (comprising 93.0% of the country's total area) with an average length of 80 kilometres and an average width of 59 kilometres.
Originally part of the South American continent, these island share much in common with their close neighbours on the South American continent. The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point in the country is found on the Northern Range at El Cerro del Aripo, which is 940 metres above sea level. The climate is tropical.
Trinidad and Tobago consists of the two main islands the country is named after and a further 21 smaller islands, including Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago, and St. Giles Island.
Popular beaches in Trinidad are Maracas, Tyrico, Las Cuevas, Toco, Mayaro, Chagville, Los Iros and Quinam. Most of the beaches on the North coast are beautiful, with powdery sand and clear blue water. Los Iros and Quinam are okay, however Quinam's water may be brown, largely due to sediment from the orinoco river in South America. Although Maracas and Tyrico are not too far apart, you cannot walk from one to the other along the beach.
Popular beaches in Tobago include Pigeon Point, Store Bay, MT Irvine, Bucco, Grange, Englishman's Bay, Canoe Bay. Tobago's beaches are extremely beautiful.
Located in the Caroni Swamp, this is a must for bird watchers. Several indigenous species of bird nest in the bird sanctuary, including one of the national birds - the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber). Tours generally take place during dusk as the Scarlet Ibis returns to the swamp to roost. It is also a good idea to wear thick clothing(jeans and a jacket/sweater) as the mosquitoes in the bird sanctuary are especially vicious and are capable of biting through the thickest of clothing.
The Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) can be seen on Trinidad's Mathura beach. Every year around Easter, the turtles return to Trinidad to lay their eggs. Tours are available from conservation groups. Volunteer opportunities are also available. Since the turtles are an endangered species, it is illegal to kill the turtles or the eggs, therefore care and caution should be exercised so as not to disturb the turtles.
The north coast of Trinidad is beautiful and largely unspoilt. There are a lot of scenic beaches and undeveloped areas. At the North East tip of the island is the village of Toco. The northeast trade wind blows literally 24 hours per day and lounging on the beach can be quite relaxing.
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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 and Tobago's southern location means they are generally not within the hurricane zone, and rarely suffer from hurricane damage.
Most 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.
There are flights from Europe and the Caribbean that arrive directly at the Tobago International Airport (airport code TAB) in Crown Point. Those include Antigua, Barbados, London, Frankfurt, Atlanta and Grenada.
For any traveller leaving these Islands, there is a mandatory TT$100 per person, airport departure tax to be paid; so keep that amount put aside. Children aged 5 years or less are exempt. This can be paid in cash, or using automated machines that withdraw the amount from your bank account (like an ATM machine).
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 and Tobago. From October 2009 onwards, BEDY Ocean Lines, will provide new ferry services for residents only between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.
There are two main airports in Trinidad and Tobago. There are numerous flights a day between Port of Spain's Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain and Tobago International Airport (airport code TAB) in Crown Point.
Car rental in Trinidad and Tobago is easy to arrange and there’s plenty of choice of vehicles. Prices vary, but expect to pay between $TT 300 - 600 per day. Four wheel drive jeeps are popular with tourists and do cost more than cars. Local companies are generally reliable. You may pay less and the hub caps probably won’t match but most companies have a 24 hour assistance service and offer good local driving advice. Remember to drive on the left and a driver's licence is needed. Roads are in a decent shape.
The first letter of the registration number of the vehicle indicates the vehicle’s licensing class:
The practise of renting P-registered private vehicles to visitors has long been endemic in Trinidad and Tobago. Some visitors request "P" cars to not look like tourists, but be warned that the normal hire-and-reward insurance does not cover vehicles registered for private usage. Having a 'P' plate does not automatically mean that the vehicle is not insured for rental. Rental Agencies can get hire-and/or-reward insurance but doing so is the exception, rather than the rule.
The first letter of the registration number of the vehicle indicates the vehicle’s licensing class:
Official taxis in Trinidad and Tobago aren’t marked in any obvious way, but their license plates start with an “H”, whereas private cars license plates start with a “P.” Some cab drivers are driving a “P” car anyway, so aren't officially licensed to carry passengers. These “PH” cabs, as the locals call them, aren’t generally any cheaper than official cabs, and provide a danger in that their insurance coverage doesn’t cover carrying passengers (assuming they have insurance at all), and so in the event of an accident you as a passenger could find yourself not covered by health insurance.
Regular buses run on Tobago between Scarborough bus station and Crown Point, Buccoo, Plymouth and Roxborough. The service is cheap, but the buses are crowded. On Trinidad there are regular buses and minivans around the island, most of them originating or terminating in Port of Spain. Buses theoretically run to a regular hourly timetable, however don't expect punctuality. It's island time man!
Ferries run between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, between Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago. Cost of the ferry is TT$ 50 one-way for the fast ferry and TT$37.50 for the conventional ferry. Fast ferry sailing time is under 2 hours. The conventional ferry takes 5.5 hours. Schedules change frequently, and can be found at the Port of Port of Spain website.
Visas are not required for visitors (tourist purpose only) from the following countries:
For more information check the website of Immigration of Trinidad and Tobago with a complete list and requirements.
Your passport must be valid for at least three months after the end of your proposed visit. You may be asked to prove that you have a return or onward travel ticket, or the means to purchase such travel and you will also be asked for a fixed address for the period of your stay.
See also Money Matters
The currency is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TT$). It is often called the "TT" (tee-tee) to differentiate it from the other occasionally accepted currency, the US Dollar. At present, most businesses will give you a rate of TT$ 6 to the US$1.
Major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are common in the larger cities throughout Trinidad and Tobago. There are ATMs available upon arrival in both the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Crown Point, Tobago airports.
Tourist visas do not permit employment. In order to work, one must obtain a work permit for the job and there must be no suitably qualified nationals to fill the job. In addition, to pay taxes, one needs to apply for a BIR file number (used like a social security number) and a PAYE number. One must file tax returns every year if taxes are owed, and pay those taxes.
English is the official language. Words are spelt with British spellings (e.g. colour, labour, tyre, etc.). English Creole (though it is not referred to by locals by that name) is very frequently used for informal communication among locals. It's mostly an oral language, and is seldom written (and then just by ad-lib). A Trinidadian Dictionary, "Cote Ci Cote La" can be found at one of the many bookstores in the country and is an excellent souvenir to remember your vacation to Trinidad and Tobago.
Due to its varied background, Trinidad and Tobago has excellent and varied food options. In particular, the Indian roots have added to some of the best foods of any country in the world. If you can't tolerate extremely hot and spicy food, be sure to let the cook or waiter know in advance.
Popular throughout T&T are tasty rotis, Indian flatbreads stuffed with Channa(chickpea curry), usually some meat, and other items (including green beans, pumpkin, and mangoes). There are several types of roti available in Trinidad-- sada, which is similar to pita or naan; dhalpouri, which is filled with ground yellow split peas; and buss up shut, a heartier bread, with a silken texture.
Phoulourie is another popular roadside snack. Phoulourie are small balls, made of fried ground chick peas and flour. It and other popular snack foods like roast corn, cow heel soup, aloo pies (fried potato pies) and saheena (spinach dipped in batter and fried), are often available from street vendors, especially around the Savannah.
Trinidad and Tobago is also famous for its mouth watering callaloo-- a soup made from green leafy vegetables, similar to spinach or kale, sometimes with crab or pigtail added (vegetarians beware!) Callalloo is not the most appetizing of foods to look at, but it is certainly worth a try.
Another must try in T&T is the famous Bake and Shark or Shark 'n Bake. Most easily obtained along the north coast near Maracas Bay, pieces of Shark are deep fried, served in cut fried bread called "fried bake", and accompanied by various sauces, most popular of which is a puree of shadow beni (a herb similar to cilantro.)
Another popular food traditionally associated with beach limes is pelau, usually accompanied with coleslaw. Pelau, is not, however, available for purchase at the beach, although you may be able to find it in a creole restaurant.
Whether for a weekend conference, a Carnival adventure or a search for the blue-crowned motmot, Trinidad’s visitors have their needs and budgets, and the island’s accommodation stock has developed accordingly. Accommodation in Trinidad is centred in and around Port of Spain: major hotel chains, business hotels and guest houses, some with conference centres. There are also hotels in San Fernando and a few properties in rural areas, especially on the north and northeast coasts. But attractive guest houses, villas and apartments have emerged wherever they are needed. Tobago is more popular than Trinidad and there are dozens of beachside accommodation options and smaller guesthouses.
The most refreshing drink on a hot sunny day is a large glass of a very cold delicious Mauby, a beverage made with the bark of the mauby tree and spices, such as anise and cinnamon. It is very refreshing and cooling, but may be an acquired taste, since it has a bitter aftertaste.
Cold soft jelly coconut water -- available along the roadsides -- costs about TT$3-4. And do try all the many varied local fruit juices, readily available chilled in most groceries.
Sorrel is a popular drink available during Christmas time. It is made from the boiled flowers of the Roselle (hibiscus sabdariffa) plant. It is red in colour and best enjoyed cold. It also has nutritious benefits.
Soft drinks are sweetened with cane sugar, rather than high fructose corn syrup as is the common practice in North America. This gives soft drinks a different taste, which some argue is better.
Malta is a popular drink, made from malt and hops and available from local bars, restaurants and supermarkets. It is high calorie and full of b vitamins, and best enjoyed ice cold.
Being a former sugar cane colony, Trinidad and Tobago is famous for its rum. Popular brands of Rum are Black Label and Vat 19 by Fernandes and White Oak, Old Oak by Angostura. Some Bars will allow you to buy individual rum drinks either straight with or without a chaser, or mixed. Some bars will allow you to purchase a whole bottle of Rum, or a "half" which is equivalent to half a bottle. Some bars will sell a "nip" which is less than half. One can also purchase bottles of Rum in stores and at duty free stores at the airport to carry home. Puncheon Rum is a stronger type of Rum (no less than 75% alcohol). It is not quite like moonshine but definitely stronger than regular Rum. In fact it may not be legal to take it back with you. However it is legal in Trinidad and Tobago and is available from many local bars.
Beer is available and quite popular. The two most popular brands of beer are Carib and Stag, which are brewed locally. Additionally, some imported beer such as Miller is available. Other malt liquor drinks are available, brewed locally, such as Smirnoff Ice, and various stouts (Mackeson, Guinness Export etc.). There are no microbreweries in Trinidad, and beer-lovers may find the local beers not to their taste. However, a few bars do import a wider variety of beers. Of particular note is the All Out bar at the Queen's Park Oval cricket ground in Port of Spain (94 Tragarete Road), where you will find a reasonable selection of English ales on draft, sold by the pint.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Trinidad and Tobago. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Trinidad and Tobago) where that disease is widely prevalent. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended anyway if travelling to the island of Trinidad (does not apply for Tobago).
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Trinidad and Tobago. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Trinidad and Tobago has been known for its increasingly high murder rate although this is associated with isolated areas of the country. The capital Port of Spain, is relatively safe but as with all major cities around the world there are depressed areas which are not safe for tourist. East Port of Spain, areas east of Charlotte Street, become increasingly unsafe and should be avoided as well as Belmont, Morvant and Laventille. The city is known for is vibrant night life with many restaurants, bars, lounges and clubs. It is recommended that you travel with companions at night time and avoid wandering into any side streets. Hotels can provide guidance to assist you. Tobago on the other hand is relatively safe and more tourist friendly.
In previous years crime tended to peak in the Carnival (January-March) and around Christmas (October-December) seasons, but recently crime activity was year round, but this has now drastically decreased due to the new change in government. But it is still best to exercise some caution at night time, while in Trinidad and Tobago.
For extended stays, register yourself at your country's nearest diplomatic mission. They can provide assistance to their citizens. A listing of diplomatic missions in Trinidad and Tobago is available on the Trinidad and Tobago Government's website. 
In an emergency dial 999 from any telephone for the police. Dial 990 for the fire department and 811 for an ambulance. These calls are free of charge from any telephone, including payphones (no coins or cards required). For foreigners with countries that have reliable police emergency assistance, it should be noted that when dialing "999" in an emergency the police do not always answer the call or show up when assistance is needed.
Internet and e-mail is available in lots of inexpensive cybercafes around the island, and most hotels have access and will charge you a small fee for use, usually a few TT for an hour.
Wi-Fi access is available in a few places such as Piarco airport, Movie Towne and select hotels and restaurants. It is free of charge right now but this is subject to change. EVDO and EDGE broadband access are also available, but may require contracts and a service commitment. Some hotels and guest houses provide free high speed internet. Always inquire if you don't see it listed on their web site, as it may have been added recently.
See also International Telephone Calls
Trinidad's international area code is 868 under the North American Numbering Plan. From the U.S. and Canada, it's no different than calling other states and provinces (1+868), but costs more.
Trinidad and Tobago currently has two active operating mobile telephone carriers - bmobile and Digicel. They both operate under the GSM standard, with bmobile using the 1800MHz frequency band, and Digicel using the 850MHz and 1900MHz frequency bands. There are roaming agreements with GSM carriers such as AT&T (ex Cingular) in the US, however the cost to roam may be prohibitive and calling within Trinidad may incur international toll charges. One can purchase a prepaid SIM card and GSM phone from Digicel or bmobile stores for as little as TT$100 and use that card in an unlocked GSM phone for the duration of their stay. You can also purchase a phone with SIM for that price. CDMA (Verizon) phones will work in Trinidad and Tobago. They will appear to be active due to TSTT's EVDO data only network, but you can make or receive calls on the CDMA network.
There are payphones around the island which use pre-paid cards available from most shops and supermarkets. If you are lucky enough to find a working payphone, you can use either 25 cent coins or calling cards with an 800 number to access them.
The postal service is run by the Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation, TTPost. Postal rates are available on the TTPost website. Post offices are located close to the center of town in many places with red drop-off boxes in some places. Thanks to restructuring of the postal service, TTPost has become comparable to the postal service in many developed countries and is generally reliable.
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Staying some 4-5 moth per year in T&T. So can assist sorting almost all problems.
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Have lived there. My sister runs a Rehab. Centre for injured/sick birds and animals near Port of Spain, Trinidad
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