Trinidad and Tobago

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Introduction to Trinidad and Tobago

Tobago and its twin island, Trinidad, are the Caribbean's odd couple. 'Little sister' Tobago is relaxed, slow-paced and largely undeveloped. Trinidad is a densely populated, thriving island with a cosmopolitan population and strong regional influence.

It's famous for hosting the loudest and wildest Carnival in the Caribbean, whereas on Tobago the oceanside hotels are casual, the reefs are calm and protected and the beaches are good. Indulge both the laid-back and the energetic sides of your personality by spending time on both islands.

Full country name: Trinidad & Tobago

Area: 5,128 sq km

Population: 1.27 million

Capital City: Port-of-Spain

People: African (39%), East Indian (40%), with significant European, Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese and Carib minorities

Language: Spanish; Castilian, Hindi, English

Religion: Roman Catholic (30%), Hindu (24%), Anglican (11%), other Protestant denominations (29%) and Muslim (6%)

Government: independent republic within the British Commonwealth

Head of State: President Maxwell Richards

Head of Government: Prime Minister Patrick Manning

GDP: US$9.41 billion

GDP per capita: US$8,500

Major Industries: Petroleum, processed foods, fertilizers, cement, steel, cotton, electronics, sugar, rice, cocoa, citrus, coffee.

Major Trading Partners: US, Caricom countries, Central and South America, EU, Japan

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Citizens of the USA, Canada, and most European Commonwealth countries do not require visas. Visas are required by citizens of some countries, including Australia, New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka. In most countries, visas are obtained through the British Embassy.

Health risks: dengue fever (Trinidad & Tobago suffer occasional Dengue fever outbreaks)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4 (Atlantic Time)

Dialling Code: 868

Electricity: 115V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

The calendar of special events in both Tobago and Trinidad is dominated by Trinidad's Carnival, the reputed king of all Caribbean Carnivals. Trinidad also hosts a big jazz festival and a plethora of multicultural events; in comparison, Tobago's festivals are low-key and bucolic.

From New Year's Day onwards, Trinidadians begin their obsessive preparations for Carnival, organising themselves into costume-making working bees, testing out the steel drums and rehearsing Calypso. By Carnival Monday (two days before Ash Wednesday, in February or March) the whole island is revved. It all kicks off with a pre-dawn procession into the heart of the city as tens of thousands of revellers from around the world are invited to become part of the swell, and by nightfall everyone is dancing, drinking and carousing in the streets. On Carnival Tuesday, there are competitions for Band of the Year. Most of the larger events take place at the Queen's Park Savannah in the center of Port of Spain.

The Pan Jazz Festival, held in November, brings together pan drummers and jazz musicians for three days of concerts in Trinidad. There are also numerous East Indian festivals that are based on the lunar calendar; the biggest is Divali, which usually falls in November.

Tobago's Heritage Festival consists of two weeks of traditional-style festivities that begin in late July. For something quintessentially local, there's the big goat race in Tobago's Buccoo village on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter.

Public holidays celebrated in Trinidad & Tobago are: New Year's Day (1 January); Eid Ul Fitr (varies according to the Islamic calendar); Good Friday and Easter Monday (March/April); Spiritual/Shouter Baptist Liberation Day (30 March); Indian Arrival Day (30 May); Corpus Christi (ninth Thursday after Easter); Labour Day (19 June); Emancipation Day (1 August); Independence Day (31 August); Christmas (25 December) and Boxing Day (26 December).

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Best time to Visit

Carnival, two days before Ash Wednesday in either February or March, is the best reason to go to Trinidad. However, if you can live without the big party, you'll enjoy steeply discounted hotel prices and cheaper airfares by visiting in the low season from mid-April to mid-December. During this period, the beaches are less crowded, tourist areas are more relaxed and last-minute bookings are not a problem.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Trinidad & Tobago Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$1-6

Mid-range: US$6-12

High: US$12-40

Deluxe: US$40+

Lodging

Budget: US$20-50

Mid-range: US$50-100

High: US$100-300

Deluxe: US$300+

Trinidad & Tobago are certainly not the most expensive Caribbean islands. You can travel in style and pay the price but it's also possible to have comfort while sticking to a reasonable budget. Accommodation will make the heftiest dent in your wallet though food is pretty pricey too, partly because much of it is imported. Transport costs vary greatly, depending on whether or not you rent a car or rely on local buses. If you're on a tight budget, you could get by on TTD300 a day but you'll have more fun and leeway if you allow yourself something closer to TTD600. Of course it isn't hard to spend two or three times this amount.

The US dollar can be used in Trinidad & Tobago, and many hotel prices and car rentals are quoted in US dollars. However, for most transactions you'll be better off exchanging your money into the local currency. British sterling and Canadian dollars can also be readily exchanged at banks but are not commonly accepted by businesses.

Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most moderately priced restaurants, hotels and guesthouses. There's a 15% value-added tax tacked onto hotel rates and a 10% service charge. Some restaurants also add a 10% service charge; for those that don't, a 10% tip is standard.

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Attractions

Port of Spain

The islands' capital Port of Spain is a bustling metropolitan hub of approximately 300,000 people. It's not the country's tourist centre by any means, since its attractions are limited to a few 19th-century colonial buildings and its hotels are geared toward business travellers rather than tourists.

The pulse of the city is Independence Square - not really a square at all, but rather two long streets bordering a narrow pedestrian strip. It's at Independence Square that you can pick up a taxi and find travel agents, banks and cheap eats.

Asa Wright Nature Center

The Asa Wright Nature Center is a former cocoa and coffee plantation that has been turned into an 80ha (198ac) nature reserve. Located amid the rainforest in the Northern Range, the centre has attracted naturalists from around the world since it was founded in 1967.

There's a lodge catering to birding tour groups, a research station for biologists and a series of hiking trails on the property. The sanctuary encompasses Dunston Cave, which is home to a breeding colony of the elusive nocturnal guacharo, or oilbird.

Caroni Bird Sanctuary

Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the roosting site for thousands of scarlet ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago. At sunset the birds fly to roost in the swamp's mangroves, giving the trees the appearance of being abloom with brilliant scarlet blossoms. The sight of the ibis flying over the swamp at sunset is a treat not to be missed.

Maracas Bay

Just a 40-minute drive from the capital is Maracas Bay, Trinidad's most popular beach. This fishing hamlet has a broad, sandy beach and occasionally has decent waves for bodysurfing. Tyrico Bay, just to the east of Maracas Bay, is quieter and less commercial. Las Cuevas, to the east, is also pretty.

Tobago

Tobago is a delightfully relaxed island with much to offer travellers. There are good beaches, pristine snorkelling and diving spots, excellent bird watching opportunities and just enough tourism to make visiting Tobago easy, yet not so much that the island feels overrun.

The airport town of Crown Point is in the middle of Tobago's main resort area. It's surrounded by palm-fringed, white-sand beaches with good year-round swimming and snorkelling. The attractive fishing villages of Speyside and Charlotteville are interesting out-of-the-way destinations.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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