Caribbean Tourism

Before Travelling

Climate

The climate on the islands is tropical, but, thanks to the trade winds, rarely excessively hot. Temperatures vary between 21° and 37°C, the coolest time being from December to April. There is a dry season from January to mid-May and a wet season from June to November, with a short break in September. It can rain for days at a stretch but usually falls in heavy showers. Humidity is fairly high.


Documents

Passports are required by all visitors. Visas are not required for visits of under three months by nationals of most Commonwealth countries, West European countries, Brazil, Colombia, Israel, Iceland and Turkey; holders of OAS passports; for US citizens for visits up to three months; and for Venezuelans for stays of up to 14 days. Some Commonwealth citizens do need visas, however; these include Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea. A visa normally requires 48 hours’ notice. A waiver for those with no visa can be obtained at the airport, but it costs TT$50. Entry permits for one to three months are given on arrival; a one month permit can be extended at the immigration office in Port of Spain (at 67 Frederick St). This is a time-consuming process, so try and get a three-month entry permit if planning a long stay. Business visitors are allowed to work without a work permit for one month in each calendar year.

Even though you may not get asked for it all travellers need a return ticket to their country of origin, dated, not open-ended, proof that they can support themselves during their stay, an address at which they will be staying in Trinidad (the tourist office at the airport can help in this respect). A ferry ticket to Venezuela has often satisfied immigration officials instead of a full return ticket to your own country. Only those coming from an infected area need a yellow fever inoculation certificate. People going to Venezuela can obtain a tourist card (free of charge) at the BWIA office; this means buying a return ticket but this can be refunded or changed if an alternative ticket out of Venezuela is later purchased.

Customs

Duty-free imports: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco, one litre wine or spirits, and TT$1,200 worth of gifts. Perfume may not be imported free of duty, but may be deposited with Customs until departure. Passengers in transit, or on short visits, can deposit goods such as liquor with Customs at the airport and retrieve it later free of charge.

Safety

The people of both islands are, as a rule, very friendly but several areas are no longer safe at night, especially for women. To the east of Charlotte St, Port of Spain becomes increasingly unsafe. Laventille and East Dry River are to be avoided. Central Port of Spain is fairly safe, even at night, as there are plenty of police patrols. Care must be taken everywhere at night and walking on the beach is not safe. Stick to main roads and look as if you know where you are going. The incidence of theft has risen sharply. Avoid the area around the port or bus terminal except when making a journey. A favourite local saying is ‘Tobago is Paradise, Trinidad is New York’. Take care accordingly but do not underestimate crime in Tobago. We have received reports of theft and muggings on the Pigeon Point road and parts of Scarborough are known to have crack houses. Do not walk in the Turtle Beach area after dark. Soft top jeeps are at risk of theft. Leave nothing in them. If there is no safe where you are staying take your valuables (passport, tickets etc) to a bank in Scarborough; the Royal Bank charges US$12 for two weeks. Women alone report feeling ‘uncomfortable’, particularly if they look like a tourist. Male prostitution has become a problem in Store Bay and some of the men most likely to ‘chat up’ women have been infected with HIV by a woman tourist on a ‘revenge visit’.

Hospitals

There are hospitals in Port of Spain, San Fernando, and Mount Hope, as well as several district hospitals and community health centres. The Port of Spain General Hospital is at 169 Charlotte St, T6232951. Recommended doctors are Dr Harry N Singh, Main Rd, Kelly Village, Caroni, T6691854 and Dr Pham Van Cong, 195c Western Main Rd, Cocorite, T6228972.

  • On Tobago: Scarborough (T6392551).

Official Time

Atlantic Standard Time, 4 hours behind GMT, 1 hour ahead of EST.

Voltage

110 or 220 volts, 60 cycles AC.

Weights & Measures

Trinidad and Tobago has gone metric, so road signs are given in kilometres, but people still refer to miles.

Money

Currency: The Trinidad and Tobago dollar, TT$. Notes are for TT$1, 5, 10, 20 and 100. Coins are for 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents.
Exchange: The Trinidad and Tobago dollar, fixed at TT$2.40 = US$1 since 1976, was devalued to TT$3.60 = US$1 in December 1985, then to TT$4.25 = US$1 in August, 1988 and finally floated in April 1993. See exchange rate table for latest exchange rate.
Travellers’ cheques and major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere on Trinidad. On Tobago there are no banks outside Scarborough; Travellers’ cheques are changed by large hotels but if you are travelling to the northern end of the island make sure you have enough TT$ as not everyone accepts US$.
All banks charge a fee for cashing travellers’ cheques, some more than others, so check first. Banks generally will not change Venezuelan or other South American currencies. On departure you can change TT$ back into US$ at First Citizens Bank at Piarco, open until 2200, but they charge US$10 minimum fee. Better to use small amounts of TT$ in the duty free shops.
Departure Tax: There is a TT$75 exit tax payable in local currency, or US$15, plus a TT$25 security fee. Passengers in transit do not have to pay, but are required to obtain an ‘exempt’ ticket from the departure tax window before being allowed through to the immigration officers on the way to the departure lounge. Visitors leaving by sea pay the departure tax to the shipping agent. Your immigration card must be presented on departure. See also Yachting essentials for departure by sea.

Banks

In Port of Spain: Republic Bank Ltd (formerly Barclays, gives cash on Visa card), 11-17 Park St, T6254411, F6230371, also at airport, very slow, open 0800-1100, 1200-1400, on Friday 0800-1200, 1500-1700. Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, 3B Chancery Lane, T6234291. Bank of Nova Scotia, Park and Richmond Sts, T6253566. Citibank, Queens Park East, T6251040. Citicorp Merchant Bank, same address, T6233344. Western Union Money Transfer, Uptown Mall, Edward St, Port of Spain, T6236000, and 10 other locations in Trinidad and Tobago. Banks in the West and Long Circular Malls are open until 1800. Peake’s Yacht Yard has a branch with a 24-hour cash machine and a teller from 0900-1400.

  • On Tobago, there are no banks or ATMs in the north of the island. ATMs can be found at the airport, Penny Savers Supermarket on Milford Rd and in Scarborough. Known locally as ‘blue machines’, they accept Visa, Plus, Mastercard and Cirrus.

Business Hours

Government offices 0800-1600, Monday-Friday. Banks: 0800-1400, Monday-Thursday, 0800-1200, 1500-1700, Friday. Some banks have extended hours until 1800. Businesses and Shops: 0800-1600/1630, Monday-Friday (shops 0800-1200 on Saturday). Shopping malls usually stay open until about 2000, Monday-Saturday.

Clothing

Beachwear is for the beach. In the evening people dress more smartly but are less formal than, for example, the Bahamians.

Tipping

If no service charge on bill, 10% for hotel staff and restaurant waiters; taxi drivers, 10 % of fare, minimum of 25 cents (but no tip in route taxis); dock-side and airport porters, say 25 cents for each piece carried; hairdressers (in all leading hotels), 50 cents.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday (not officially holidays but everyone regards them as such), Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day (30 March), Good Friday, Easter Monday, 30 May, Indian Arrival Day celebrating the arrival of Indian labourers in 1845, Corpus Christi, Eid ul-Fitr (changes according to religious calendar), Labour or Butler’s Day (19 June), Emancipation Day (1 August), Independence Day (31 August), Divali (depends on religious calendar), Christmas Day, Boxing Day.


More . . .

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The North Coast

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Scarborough

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Getting There

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Getting Around

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Communication

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