Skip Navigation

Trinidad and Tobago

Photo © scouse

Travel Guide Caribbean Trinidad and Tobago

edit

Introduction

Port-of-Spain

Port-of-Spain

© All Rights Reserved soupatrvlr

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.

Top

edit

Brief History

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.

Top

edit

Geography

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.

Islands

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.

  • Trinidad is the largest and most populous island and is home to the capital Port of Spain
  • Tobago is much smaller and home to roughly 4% of the population.

Top

edit

Towns and Cities

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

  • The La Brea Tar Pits, outside the town of La Brea, is the largest commercial deposit of natural asphalt in the world. Previously used world-round to pave streets, the use of natural tar in road paving has waned in recent years. Some background information can be found here.
  • Tobago's rain forest reserve is the oldest preserved rain forest in North America. Tours can be arranged by many operators on the island.
  • Tobago's Argyle Falls are an easy 15-minute hike takes you to the island’s highest falls (don’t stop at the first pool). You’ll need a guide (check for the official badge). There’s an admission fee of about TT$20.

Simply Tobago written by British tourists, and My Tobago are both decent sources of information on Tobago Tourism.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Carnival!

Carnival!

© All Rights Reserved wian

  • Carnival, the festival leading up to the Catholic lent period has become the party of the year (much as Rio's Carnival and New Orlean's Mardi Gras). A two week long party increasing in fevour until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, Carnival is centered around the city of Port of Spain, with parades, custom contests, music (mainly Soca, Raggae and Calypso) and party after party.
  • Plymouth, Tobago's Jazz Festival is increasingly becoming an event to see. 2007 featured artists like Elton John and Gladys Knight. The Jazz Festival is held in April. More information can be found at the Jazz Festival's website.

Top

edit

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 and Tobago's southern location means they are generally not within the hurricane zone, and rarely suffer from hurricane damage.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

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).

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 and Tobago. From October 2009 onwards, BEDY Ocean Lines, will provide new ferry services for residents only between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Plane

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.

By Rental Car

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:

  • P - Private/Non-commercial vehicle
  • H- Taxi
  • R- Rental Vehicle
  • T- Commercial Vehicle/Truck.

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.

By Taxi

The first letter of the registration number of the vehicle indicates the vehicle’s licensing class:

  • P /b]- Private/Non-commercial vehicle
  • [b]H- Taxi
  • R- Rental Vehicle
  • T- Commercial Vehicle/Truck

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.

By Bus

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!

By Boat

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.

Top

edit

Red Tape

Visas are not required for visitors (tourist purpose only) from the following countries:

  • EEC Countries: Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom
  • Commonwealth Countries: All - except Australia, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda
  • USA: On vacation for 3 months or less
  • Other: Austria, Brazil, Colombia, French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Finland (3 months or less), Israel, Liechtenstein, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Suriname, Sweden (3 months or less), Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela (14 days or less).

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.

Top

edit

Money

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.

Top

edit

Sleep

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.

Top

edit

Health

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.

Top

edit

Safety

See also Travel Safety

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Dual Band GSM mobile phones work in Trinidad and Tobago. It is possible to hire a mobile while you are out there - contact TSTT Cellnet (tel: 800 CELL; fax: 001 868 625 5807). There are payphones around the island which use pre-paid cards available from most shops and supermarkets. Faxes are available in most hotels.

Top

Quick Facts

Trinidad and Tobago flag

Map of Trinidad and Tobago

[edit]

Capital
Port of Spain
Population
1,104,000
Government
Parliamentary Democracy
Religions
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant), Hinduism, Islam
Languages
English, Hindi, French, Spanish, Chinese
Calling Code
+1868
Nationality
Trinidadian, Tobagonian

Contributors

as well as Peter (10%), Marina985 (2%), travelnetwork (1%), dr.pepper (1%), Hien (1%)

Help contribute to this article to share the ad revenue.

Trinidad and Tobago Travel Helpers

Accommodation in Trinidad and Tobago

This is version 35. Last edited at 12:32 on Jun 8, 13 by Peter. 27 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License