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Trinidad

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Trinidad is the larger of the two islands that make up the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Regions

  • North Trinidad - Mostly busy and urban, but with some rural and laid back places as well as the north coast beaches and rainforest. Highest peak in the northern mountain range.
  • East Trinidad - somewhat suburban, and the University of the West Indies is located there.
  • Central Trinidad - Lots of agriculture and heavy industry, central range with rainforest.
  • South Trinidad - Center of petroleum production and the labour movement.
  • South East Trinidad - Rural and mostly undeveloped, most business centers around offshore oil drilling

Cities

  • Port of Spain - the capital
  • Arima
  • Pointe-a-Pierre
  • Point Fortin
  • Point Lisas
  • San Fernando
  • Chaguanas

Other destinations

  • Maracas National Park

Understand

Get in

By plane

The closest airport is Piarco International, near the towns of Trincity, Arouca and St Helena. Taxis are available to most destinations. You may also arrive on the sister isle of Tobago at Crown Point International where you can take a 15 minute flight to Piarco or opt to take a ferry from Scarbrough to Port of Spain.

By ferry

The C/Prowler ferry runs on Wednesdays from Pier 1 in Chaguaramas to Guiria in Venezuela. The following information was correct as of February 2009, but more up-to-date information can be obtained from the ferry office on 634 4472.


The C/Prowler's departure times are as follows:

Chaguaramas to Guiria

Check in: 07.00
Closing time: 08.30
Departure: 09.00

Arrival time in Guiria is 12.30


Guiria to Chaguaramas

Check in: 15.00
Closing time: 16.30
Departure: 17.00

Arrival time in Chaguaramas is 21.00


Departure Tax

TT$75 or US$13 from Trinidad
TT$138 or US$23 from Venezuela

Baggage Allowance

Passengers are allowed 2 pieces of luggage per person not exceeding 18kg/40lbs per piece. Carry-on luggage must not exceed 6kg/15lbs.

By cruise ship

Ships visit occasionally, docking very close to downtown Port of Spain. Facilities include a modest, indoor vendor mall in a converted warehouse and outdoor kiosks all offering primarily locally-made goods, and a vehicle area supporting tour buses and taxis. Although commercial districts and stores are within fair walking distances, locals recommend against it because of the rough port area, and need to cross wide streets with heavy, high-speed traffic.

Get around

Most of the population (and hence shopping, food and entertainment) is located along the "East-West Corridor" which is the set of cities and towns along the main routes of transport. It starts in the West with the capital Port of Spain and ends at Arima. Transport is easy attained along these routes.

Taxis

Taxis are hired at 'taxi stands' which are located in every major town, and other popular destinations. Legitimate taxi license plates always start with an 'H' (for 'Hire'). Taxis, for the most part, drive along a fixed route. The exception is for taxis which take passengers into neighborhoods, in which case you must inform the driver of the destination street. Expect the driver to wait until the taxi is full (usually four passengers) before leaving, so you might have a long wait at quiet hours. Always ask the driver to make sure where the route goes, and if you are in the right taxi stand. There are usually multiple taxi stands to different destinations in close proximity. The route fees are fixed (typically $3 to $5 TT, but going up to $20 TT for long routes), but ask the fare before leaving. If you don't wish to wait, or need to go off-route, negotiate with the driver and you can get the taxi all to yourself. The main advantage of taxis is that there are typically fewer stops (getting there faster) and you can ask the driver to place bulky packages in the trunk. A warning: air conditioning is not mandatory or typical.

Private taxi services

These differ from 'normal' taxis (which are typically individually owned and operated), in that they are owned by a taxi company and driven by hired drivers. You can call them from anywhere and they will come pick you up. These are usually nicer than 'normal' taxis: better maintained, newer and always air-conditioned. The drawback is that it is at a much higher cost (expect to pay at least $100 TT).

Maxis

Maxis are the private mini-buses that drive along major routes, and pick up and drop passengers anywhere between. They carry 10-30 passengers. They are always painted white with horizontal stripes on the sides (red, green, yellow,brown and black). The color of the stripe used to identify the route, but this is not strictly enforced. Typically, Maxis that travel the East-West corridor between Arima and Port of Spain have a red stripe, Port of Spain to Chaguanas: green. Maxis typically can be flagged along any 'Main' road (any road with 'Main' in its title: Eastern Main Road, Western Main Road, etc.) as well as the Priority Bus Route (which runs from Arima to Port of Spain). Main road routes are usually congested and slow, but slightly cheaper. The fee depends on distance traveled, but expect to pay $3 TT minimum (also known as a Short Drop). To flag a maxi, extend your arm upwards and indicate using your fingers how many passengers want to board. Ask the driver to make sure he is going where you wish to be. Passengers must press a buzzer located above their seat to indicate that they wish to disembark (if stopping before the end of route). If you don't know the area, ask the driver. Some maxis (particularly the larger ones) employ a conductor. The conductor collects money and indicates where you should sit. He is easily identified by the wad of cash in his hand and his occasional hustling-cry to potential passengers. Air conditioning is not typical.

Public buses

Buses are a cheap method of transport, but the waits between departures can be long. Tickets can be purchased at terminals, and are usually less than $10 TT. They are normally air-conditioned.

Car hire

There are numerous possibilities for hiring cars in Trinidad, and this can provide a cheap way of getting around, as petrol is so cheap. Aside from the rather erratic driving of many of the locals, the main problem with getting about like this is that the road signs tend to be rather sporadic and inconsistent, and there don't appear to be any good maps available. As a result, you need to be prepared to spend rather a lot of time getting lost.

  • Econo Car Rentals Ltd. [1] - they are the cheapest, with cars available from $30USD per day. The service is friendly and reasonably efficient. Bear in mind though that you will need a valid credit card and be over the age of 25 in order to book with them.

See

  • Mount Saint Benedict is a Catholic monastery located high in the Northern Range, near the village of Arima. Visitors are warmly welcomed. There is a lovely guest house, Pax Guest House [2], where a scrumptious tea is served on Sunday afternoons to all visitors. (Meals are also regularly available to overnight guests.) The breads and sweets are baked by the Benetictine monks, so they're fresh and delicious. The cost is minimal for the tea service. The entire complex is peaceful and because it is situated so high on the mountain, it is wonderfully cool. (One might even require a sweater in the evenings.) For the physically fit, there are Stations of the Cross that begin at the bottom of the mountain and end at the church. The Stations are along a rather steep road, requiring exercise for the body and soul.
  • Asa Wright Nature Center. Is a birdwatching center of the world. There are cottages to stay in, but one doesn't need to be an overnight guest to visit. Knowledgable guides will lead you through this former cocoa plantation, pointing out interesting species of birds, lizards, and other animals that you may encounter on the way. Staff put out fresh fruit everyday to attract birds, so that even sitting on the wide and comfortable veranda, a guest will be entertained by the local fauna. The entry cost is 60TTD (10 usd) for foreigners and 30TTD (5 USD) for locals. This is for a day pass.
  • Toco/Matelot/Grand Riviere - superb scenery, some beaches, leatherbacks which come up every night to lay their eggs during esting season.
  • Nature trails - small waterfalls & streams for bathing
  • Pitch Lake
  • Maracas/Tyrico/Las Cuevas - scenery & sea
  • Carnival/Divali celebrations
  • Caroni Bird Sanctuary
  • Tobago beaches/Bucco reef

Do

Eat

Trinidad cuisine is influenced by many cultures, but primarily Indian and African (referred to as Creole cuisine). Other influences include Chinese (fast food Chinese places are only outnumbered by bars), and to some extent English and French. Relatively recently there has been a strong influx of American fast food: Subway, KFC and Pizza Hut are common sights. Most Trinidadians love meats of all kinds, but due to a significant Hindu population, there are many good vegetarian offerings.

Indigenous fast food

Doubles

Doubles are a typical street food. India has some similar street fare, which is its probable origin. Tasty and cheap, many consider doubles a good quick meal or snack. They consist of curried channa (a.k.a chickpeas or garbanzo beans) sandwiched between two fried 'bara' (a puffy soft fried quickbread) wrapped in wax paper. Extra toppings include mango and other chutneys, as well as pepper sauce. In local lingo, doubles are ordered by referring to how much pepper is desired. One may order a "without", which refers to no pepper, a "slight", a small dab of pepper, while a "blaze" calls for a spoonful of pepper. Doubles vendors usually also sell fried potato pies, called "aloo pies" which can take the same toppings. Prices are around $3 _4 TT.

How to eat: Doubles are eaten by first unwrapping, then separating one bara to reveal the channa and sauce sitting on the bottom bara. Then, tear a piece from the top 'free' bara (if you ordered pepper or chutney, now is the time to distribute it evenly) and then use it to scoop up some channa before consumption. The process continues with the 'bottom' bara until all the channa is consumed. Practice will enable you to get some channa with every bite with none left over. This process can be messy, so it is always wise to spot a source of water for washing hands before you start eating. A warning: one grain of channa will almost invariably roll off the wax paper and drop on your shoe.

Drink

Trinidad has a mind boggling number of bars. In some places, there might be 20 bars in a stretch of less than a mile. This makes bar-hopping easy. Bars constantly blast soca, reggae, dancehall and calypso music to attract customers. Don't expect cocktails in most bars, as most bartenders have little or no mixing skills.

Local drinks

  • Beer - Trinidad prides itself on its local beer. Carib is a sweet, nutty lager, probably the most popular. Stag has a slightly deeper flavor. Also try a Shandy Carib: Carib mixed with ginger or sorrel extracts.
  • Coconut Water - Straight from the coconut. Coconut vendors typically stack hundreds of coconuts on their trucks, and let you choose your own. Chug, or drink with a straw. When you are done, the vendor will chop your coconut in half, then cut a thin wedge for you to use as a spoon to eat the jelly. Bottled coconut water is almost always stale, flat and diluted.
  • Mauby - a brisk, ice-tea like drink made from a bark extract. If made prepared directly from the bark expect a bitter taste. The concentrate form is sweeter and easier on virgin taste buds.
  • Peanut Punch - A rich, cold blended milk drink flavored with peanuts, sold in cafes and by road side vendors. A light meal substitute.
  • Peardrax - A local soft drink (soda). Partially fermented pear juice, which is pasteurized and carbonated. A unique local favorite.
  • Rum - In the Caribbean, rum is the obvious drink of choice. Angostura is the biggest provider on the island, with Royal Oak (very decent, simple rum), 1919 (vanilla escences), and 1824 (dark rum, heavy in molasses, an excellent rum). A local favorite is Royal Oak and coconut water, simply delicious and refreshing! Puncheon is a high-proof rum for serious benders. One combination, called "brass and steel", involves shots of puncheon chased by beer. You may also try babash (bush-rum) which is only available under-the-counter. Babash is also a local cure-all (and solvent). Rum and coke is also a local favourite.
  • Seamoss - A thick blended drink made from seamoss (a component of which is agar, which is very gelatinous) and condensed milk. Sold at the same places as peanut punch.

Stay safe

Caution is required in much of Port of Spain. At night avoid walking...take a taxi. Armed guards are often posted at banks and shopping centres. The following areas are known as crime hot-spots and should be avoided both during the day and night:

  • Lavantille has frequent gang related murders, almost on a daily basis
  • Beetham a den for criminals, mainly thieves
  • Maloney & La Horquetta located around Arima

Go next

  • Tobago, the sister isle. More touristy than Trinidad but not as congested as islands such as Barbados.


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