Very few regions in the world have an origin so varied and complex as the Caribbean, whose contribution to universal culture and history is enormous compared to its size. One of the territories involved in the disputes between the great powers over the control of the colonies was Trinidad & Tobago, the most southern island in the Antilles.
Trinidad & Tobago is a paradise of unspoiled beach and mountain landscapes, natural reserves, festive culture and exotic gastronomy, while being one of the most unknown countries in the Caribbean, where mass tourism has not yet settled. This will allow you to discover an unsweetened country. In this post we bring you a handful of tips so that you make the most of your trip to Trinidad & Tobago.
Places to visit in Trinidad & Tobago
Only 11 kilometres away from the Venezuelan coastlines, this country comprises two islands. Trinidad, with a surface of 4,748 km2, is the main and biggest island in the archipelago, and also where the capital, Port of Spain, is located. Then we have Tobago, a small island located northeast of Trinidad with a surface of 300 km2. These are some of its biggest tourist attractions:
Port of Spain. Picture by David Stanley.
- Maracas Bay, the most popular beach and one of the most beautiful in Port of Spain, although it is 25 minutes away from the city by car. The lush vegetation surrounding it and its crystalline oceanic waters are its strongest suits, without a doubt. In Tobago, don’t miss Store Bay and Pigeon Point.
Maracas Bay. Picture by Katina Rogers.
- The Temple in the Sea is peculiar piece of architecture built by a Hindu that defied the colonial ban of building non-Christian temples on dry land. Taking into account that 40% of the population comes from India, it is not hard to find Hindu temples. In Port of Spain you can also visit the Dattatreya Temple and the Paschimkashi Hindu Mandir.
Temple in the Sea. Picture by Edmund Gall.
- The Royal Botanical Gardens should be a must-see on your list, a very well-kept urban garden with vegetation and tropical animals. It is not far from the Queen’s Park Savannah and the Emperor Valley Zoo, another two essentials in your trip.
- If you are interested in going over the natural beauty of the islands, we recommend that you visit the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, the Nariva Swamp and the Parlatuvier Bay.
- One of the most interesting sites in Trinidad is, hands down, Pitch Lake, a natural deposit of asphalt located in the southwest, close to the village of La Brea. Entrance is free if you want to experience the viscosity of this natural phenomenon.
Another tourist hotspot: Port of Spain Carnival
Trinidad & Tobago islands share the cheerful and peaceful lifestyle that has mythologised the Caribbean over the years, whose festive side is put on display specially during carnival season, one of the most long-awaited events in the country.
Besides being under Spanish rule and later settled by the United Kingdom, France also put its foot down for the control of its territory. We have to go back to this period to find the origins of this celebration, whose particular style comes from fusing aristocratic French traditions with those of slaves brought from Africa to work in plantations.
For three days, the streets of Port of Spain are bursting with colour, music, shiny costumes, cheerfulness and a lot of noise, in a big party that brings together all religious and ethnic groups in an explosion of calypso where there is also room for satire and social criticism.
Trinidad & Tobago cuisine is a blend of Indian, Asian and Creole gastronomy, where spicy food, strong spices and exotic fruits and vegetables are the norm.
Among the food on-the-go repertoire, we recommend trying the Doubles, a kind of fried sandwich stuffed with curry garbanzo beans. The Crab & Dumplings, pieces of dough boiled in crab sauce, are very popular in Tobago, just as the Bake and Shark served in Maracas Bay: shark meat-based sandwich.
Other specialties include the callaloo, a very spicy leaf vegetable soup, the pepperpot, a stewed meat dish, with vegetables and hot chillies, and pelau, a rice and meat dish boiled in coconut milk. As a side, trying the cou-cou, a cornmeal, okra and butter dish, is a no brainer.
The local drinks are beer, coconut water, punch and, obviously, rum.
Callaloo, Trinidad & Tobago’s traditional dish. Picture by Shiv.
- Travellers coming from Spain or member states of the European Union do not need a visa for stays under three months. A return plane ticket and a valid passport are also required.
- The legal tender in Trinidad & Tobago is the Trinidad/Tobago dollar, identified as TT$ o TTD. The exchange rate as of the date of this post is 7.92 TT$ for every euro. Credit cards are accepted in lots of establishments, although many of them apply a 5% surcharge; in Tobago, however, they are only accepted in the city of Scarborough, so we recommend to exchange some cash money. To do so, visit the website of Global Exchange.
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- The official language in Trinidad & Tobago is English, although Hindi is quite widespread as well. Spanish, although the first language taught at schools and official language by 2020, is still not that popular among locals.
- Voltage in Trinidad & Tobago is 155 volts and sockets are type A or B, as in the vast majority of American countries, so it is convenient to pack a plug adapter.
- Vaccination is not compulsory with the exception of the yellow fever (only for travellers coming from countries with risk of transmission), although it is also advisable to be vaccinated against the rabies. A mosquito repellent should not be missing from your luggage either.
- Our recommendation is that you take out insurance before you travel because public health in Trinidad & Tobago is quite basic.
- The quality and condition of the food is generally good, although you better be careful if you eat street food and make sure you only drink bottled water.
- If you decide to rent a car, know that in Trinidad & Tobago they drive on the left, English-style.
- As a rule of thumb, this is a pretty safe country, although it is best to take precaution when moving through isolated areas, especially at night.
Last but not least, remember to pack summer clothes because the average temperature thought the year is 26º, and it never falls below 20º during the night. Hence, you can travel to Trinidad & Tobago and enjoy this tropical paradise regardless of the season.
Cover image: Katina Rogers.