There isn't much scope for bargaining in T&T, though you may be able to negotiate a reduction on accommodation rates during quiet times, or get a discount at market stalls or craft shops if buying several items. Everywhere else you're expected to pay the quoted price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Tobagonians warn of rampant lawlessness in Trinidad, and Trinidadians say crime is increasing in Tobago. While such claims reflect a real crime increase, they tend to exaggerate the dangers of travel on the islands.
- Avoid walking alone at night, especially around dark, desolate areas and particularly in Port of Spain.
- Theft can be a problem, especially in touristy parts of Tobago, so keep an eye on your valuables and don’t bring them to the beach.
- Some travelers find the aggressive tactics of souvenir hawkers or boat-ride sellers annoying. Just be firm but polite and you’ll usually be left alone.
- Women may also feel frustrated by the overt attention of men, but – again – be firm but polite. While flirting will invite more hassle, a friendly, formal 'good morning/afternoon/evening' can be disarming.
- If you’ve traveled around other Caribbean islands you may have encountered a lax attitude toward drugs. Beware – smoking weed in Trinidad and Tobago is a serious offense and getting caught can quickly ruin your holiday.
- Take good, strong bug spray to ward off no-see-ums (sandflies) and mosquitoes; dengue fever is present on both islands, and there have been recent outbreaks of Zika and chikungunya.
- Take care to avoid the manchineel tree, which grows along the coastline of both islands. Its shiny rounded leaves and apple-like fruits are extremely poisonous if ingested, and the runoff from the trees after rain can cause skin blisters. Most manchineel trees are labeled on popular beaches in Tobago.
- Trinidad (though not Tobago) has four species of venomous snake, including corals and pit vipers. Chance encounters are unlikely, but you should watch where you tread when walking in the forests.
Electrical current 115/230V, 60Hz; US-style two-pin plug.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Trinidad & Tobago area code||868|
|International access code||011|
Entry & Exit Formalities
The following may be taken into Trinidad and Tobago:
- Up to 1.5L of wine or spirits
- Up to 200 cigarettes
- Up to 250g of tobacco
- Up to 50 cigars
To enter Trinidad and Tobago you must present a passport valid for six months after your departure date. When you arrive, you’ll fill out an Immigration Arrival Card. Customs officials require that you fill out the line asking where you are staying; if you don’t know, list any local hotel. You may also need to show a printout of your flight itinerary to show that you have a valid ongoing ticket.
For stays of less than three months, visas are not required by citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, India and most European countries.
Visas are required by citizens of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and some other Commonwealth countries (including Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda). Visas can be obtained through the Trinidad and Tobago embassy or consulate in your home country or, if one doesn't exist, online via the website of the T&T government's Immigration Division.
- Greetings It's usual to greet people when walking into an office or small shop: a simple 'good morning/afternoon/evening' will help promote good feeling.
- Queues Though queues are rigidly adhered to in banks and the like, customers in shops or bars often just bark out an order as they arrive, even if others are already waiting. Be assertive but polite.
- Clothing Keep beachwear for the beach, and cover up when ordering drinks or food from beach bars. Always dress respectfully in temples and churches, covering shoulders and avoiding shorts. It's illegal to drive without a top on. Camouflage clothing is also illegal, and will be confiscated on arrival to the islands if found.
Though more progressive than some other Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago remain pretty closed to the idea of same-sex relationships, backed up by the fact that the local laws criminalize buggery. There is a sizable LGBT community, but it's not at all visible; being out and expressing affection is not the norm, and on beaches and in rural areas you may get negative repercussions.
Free wi-fi is almost always available at hotels and guesthouses throughout T&T, though it can be patchy in rural areas. Many cafes and restaurants also offer free wi-fi for customers, particularly in towns or tourist areas.
If you are arrested in Trinidad and Tobago, you have the right to be told what you have been detained for, and do not have to give an oral or written statement unless you choose to. You have the right to speak to and to retain a lawyer to defend you. The police should inform the relevant embassy or consulate (where one exists) when a foreign national is arrested, who can in turn help with finding representation. If contact is not made on your behalf, you have the right to do this yourself.
Note that possession of drugs, including cannabis, is dealt with harshly here.
Newspapers & Magazines
There are three daily newspapers: Trinidad Express, Newsday and Trinidad Guardian. Helpful free tourist magazines found at tourist offices and hotels include Discover Trinidad & Tobago, Cré Olé restaurant guide, and the Ins & Outs of Trinidad & Tobago.
Radio & TV
There are three local TV stations: TV6 (channel 5), CVM (channel 6) and Gayelle (channel 7), the latter broadcasting only local programming. Cable channels include CNN and BBC World News. About 15 independent radio stations blast the airwaves.
The official currency is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TT$), but many goods or services are priced in US$. We quote rates as they are given, be it TT$ or US$.
ATMs are widespread in all towns and tourist areas, and within most malls and supermarkets. Many banks have drive-through ATMs.
Cambios are nonexistent, so you'll need to visit banks, which will exchange a number of foreign currencies. You’ll generally get better rates for US dollars or euros.
Most restaurants, hotels, dive shops, car-rental companies and more established guesthouses accept credit cards.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping has not traditionally been part of Trinidad and Tobago culture, though it is increasingly common.
- Restaurants Many restaurants add a 10% service charge to bills; if not, a tip of 10% to 15% is customary.
- Bars High-end or tourist-oriented bars may have a tip box on the bar; it's up to you if you want to contribute.
- Chambermaids It's usual to leave TT$100 or so at the end of a stay.
- Grocery stores If packers bag up your shopping, wheel your trolley to your car and pack it into the vehicle for you, give a tip of TT$5 to TT$10.
- Taxis Don't tip maxi-taxi or route-taxi drivers. Tipping private taxis is not expected but will be appreciated.
Opening hours in Trinidad and Tobago are pretty consistent year-round, though shops often open late around Christmas time, and everything shuts up shop for Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
Bars noon–midnight, or when last customer leaves
Banks 8am–2pm Monday to Thursday, 8am–noon and 3pm–5pm Friday
Offices 8am–4pm Monday to Friday
Post offices 7.30am–5pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 11am–10pm, sometimes closing between lunch and dinner service
Shops 8am–4pm Monday to Wednesday, to 6pm Thursday and Friday, to noon Saturday.
Grocery stores 8am–8pm Monday to Thursday, to 9pm Friday and Saturday, to 4pm Sunday
Malls 10am–9pm Monday to Saturday, to 4pm Sunday
Postal services in Trinidad and Tobago are run by TT Post, which is fairly reliable but often very slow. All branches in both islands are listed on their website.
Carnival Monday and Tuesday are unofficial holidays, with banks and most businesses closed.
Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day March 30
Good Friday March/April
Easter Monday March/April
Indian Arrival Day May 30
Corpus Christi Ninth Thursday after Easter
Labour Day June 19
Emancipation Day August 1
Independence Day August 31
Republic Day September 24
Divali October, dates vary
Eid ul Fitr (Muslim New Year) Dates vary
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
New Year's Day January 1
- Smoking It's illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces.
Taxes & Refunds
VAT of 12.5% is included in the prices of goods sold in shops. Hotels often don't include a 10% room tax and a 10% service charge in quoted rates; always check in advance.
The country’s area code is 868. When calling from North America, dial 1-868 plus the local number. From elsewhere dial your country’s international access code plus 868 plus the local number. Within the country, just dial the seven-digit local number.
To make an international call, dial the 011 international access code, followed by the country code for the place you're calling, and then the number, omitting the initial zero if there is one.
Public phones are numerous but often don't work. Your best bet is to get a local SIM card and use a cell phone.
Trinidad and Tobago is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST): four hours behind GMT/UTC in winter, five hours behind GMT/UTC in summer.
Public toilets are very rare. Most fast-food restaurants have toilets for customers, as do all restaurants, bars and cafes. You'll often need to ask for a key.
Travel with Children
Kids of all ages flock with their parents to Tobago’s beaches, and most facilities are family-oriented. In Trinidad, the tourism is less family-oriented, but higher-end hotels usually accommodate children. During Carnival, Kiddie Mas is a sight not to miss, whatever your age.
- Diapers (nappies), wipes, formula and baby food are available in all large supermarkets.
- Pharmacies stock accessories such as bottles.
- High chairs are available in some tourist-oriented restaurants.
- Nappy-changing facilities are nonexistent.
- Most hotels and many guesthouses can provide infant cots.
- Car-hire companies can provide child seats for a fee.
- Breastfeeding in public isn't common among local women, but if you use a cover-up, you shouldn't encounter any problems.
With tourist infrastructure already wobbly here, Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t have extensive facilities for travelers with disabilities. However, the higher-end hotels and resorts are equipped to accommodate.
Towns and cities can be challenging if you use a wheelchair; dropped kerbs are rare and pavements are often nonexistent.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel Guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Trinidad and Tobago uses the metric system. Highway signs and car odometers are in kilometers, but some road markers still measure miles.
A woman traveling alone, especially on Trinidad, is about as common as snow. Men will stare, make kissy noises, hiss or offer to be anything from your protector to your sex slave. While the constant attention can wear on your nerves, it's rarely threatening. Your best bet is to smile politely or ignore it altogether and move on.
Work permits are issued for a limited time and always in connection with a specific job from a local company, and applications can be complicated and longwinded. For the lowdown, visit TT Connect (www.ttconnect.gov.tt).