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Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

Harlingen, TX
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Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

Hi, Friends -

I've recently returned from a little over a week in Trinidad and Tobago. The following is some information that you may find helpful while planning your trip to those islands:

1) In Port of Spain, I was lodged for four non-consecutive nights at Hyatt Regency Trinidad, and in Tobago, I was lodged for four consecutive nights at Castara Retreats. My very positive reviews of those lodgings have already been published by TripAdvisor.

2) For a guidebook, I used "The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago." Sadly, this was the only guidebook that I could find that covered Trinidad and Tobago. Anyone planning on visiting the islands, especially for Carnival, might find this book helpful. No, you don't have to read the entire book, just the relevant chapter(s).

3) When you fill out the Customs and Immigration form on the airplane prior to arriving in Port of Spain, be sure to keep the bottom portion (Departure Card) of this form when it is given back to you by the Immigration agent. You will need to present this Departure Card to your airline agent when you leave the country.

4) Be prepared for rigorous questions from the Customs agent. I was asked how long I was going to be in Trinidad, where I was staying, why I decided to visit Trinidad, and a couple of other questions. It was the most thorough questioning that I've ever received while traveling to 28 different countries since 2008.

5) The bright yellow taxi desk is immediately after you go through the Customs area at Piarco International Airport.

6) $30 US for a taxi from the airport to Hyatt Regency Trinidad and vice-versa. Between the hours of 10pm and 6am, the cost is $45.

7) A SIM card and service plan can be purchased for your unlocked smartphone at the Digicel office on Independence Square. You will need your passport to make the transaction. Here is a list of Digicel's service plans:

https:/…prepaid.html

I chose the 10-Day Quick Pick Plan for 100 TTD and purchased a SIM card for an additional 49 TTD.

8) I exchanged $200 US for 1340 TTD ($1 US = 6.70 TTD) at Western Union, located on the second floor of Excellent Stores shopping center on Independence Square. I needed to show my passport to make the transaction. I did notice a couple of stores offering 7 TTD per $1 US in the vicinity of Woodford Square.

9) The Greyfriars Church (mentioned in "The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago" as being dilapidated and in need of renovation) has now been completely torn down and is simply a parking lot.

10) The restaurant Chaud (mentioned in "The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago as being located at 2 Queen's Park West) has moved to 6 Nook Avenue. A Haagen-Dazs ice cream store is now located at 2 Queen's Park West.

11) While in Trinidad, a variety of tours are available through Banwari Experience:

https://www.banwaricaribbean.com/

I selected their North Coast Hop and Beach Stop tour. Pick-up was at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad around 1130am, with the tour ending in the same location at 5pm. The tour (by car) started at the lighthouse in Port of Spain, with a drive past notable landmarks in the city. The tour continued through the mountains towards Maracas Beach, with stops at the Maracas Lookout and a small chocolate shop (unfortunately closed the day before due to flash flooding). After Maracas Beach, the tour continued through Paramin and Maraval and ended back in Port of Spain. Small candies at the Maracas Lookout, a bake 'n shark at Richard's Bake 'n Shark, and a rum beverage at Cool Breeze Bar in Paramin were all included in the cost. The tour was very picturesque, with several stops along the way for photo opportunities. Because it was just me alone for the tour, the cost was $125 US, but I believe for 2 or more people, the cost drops to $65 US per person.

12) Taxis between Piarco International Airport and Hyatt Regency Trinidad, depending on traffic, took between 20 and 25 minutes for the journey.

13) At Piarco International Airport, while waiting for your Caribbean Airlines flight to Tobago, do not attempt to take pictures of the airplanes. Posted signs expressly forbid the taking of photographs, and if you are seen by an airport staff member taking pictures, you will be approached and told to delete the photograph(s) from your phone or camera.

14) Argyle Falls: 60 TTD entry fee.

15) The best supermarket in Castara (stocking everything from toiletries to alcohol to fresh fruit to batteries to cold drinks) is located across the wooden bridge and in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant Cascreole.

16) For a bird watching tour in Tobago, consider Newton George:

http://www.newtongeorge.com/

The tour began at 6am and ended at 10am. For bird watching, the tour included several stops on the road in the Tobago Forest Reserve as well as a hike along a slightly muddy/rocky trail deeper into the Reserve. Cost $65 US.

17) Sunday School is a popular social event held every Sunday in Buccoo Village beginning at 730pm. Steel pan drumming, partying, local guys meeting foreign girls, and foreign guys meeting local guys, are popular activities at Sunday School.

18) Service is very slow in restaurants in Tobago. It was not unusual for me to receive my food 1 to 2 hours after placing an order.

19) The tip (service charge) was included on my bills in restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago.

20) The exchange rate that was used on Tobago was $1 US = 6 TTD.

21) African drumming is performed at The Boat House in Castara each Wednesday beginning around 830pm, with a bonfire on the beach in from of Cascreole in Castara each Thursday. A charge of 20 TTD was included in my dinner bill at The Boat House as an admission fee for the African drumming.

22) In Trinidad, great meals were had at Apsara and Richard's Bake n' Shark. In Tobago, great meals were had at D' Almond Tree, Cheno's, Caribbean Kitchen, Marguarite's, Jemma's, The Boat House and Cascreole.

23) You will not pass through Immigration again at Piarco International Airport when you leave Trinidad.

24) When checking-in with your airline, use the kiosks instead of standing in the long check-in line (I was able to do this when checking-in for my American Airlines departure flight).

Comments and questions are welcome from other TripAdvisor members.

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23 replies to this topic
Trinidad
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1. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

Hope you enjoyed your stay.

Thanks for posting this.

Harlingen, TX
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2. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

@Poisonarrowz -

I really did. I was impressed that the people of Trinidad and Tobago are so polite and friendly. And of the several Caribbean islands I have visited since 2008, I have to say that the women of Trinidad and Tobago are the most beautiful that I've seen in the Caribbean. I will return, that's for sure, likely for Carnival in 2019 or 2020.

One thing I forgot to mention in my trip report is that, reading some other threads here in the Trinidad and Tobago forum, you'd think that robbers are hiding behind every tree and trash can in Port of Spain, just waiting to jump out to rob/kill you. I walked from the lighthouse to the Queen's Park Savannah and back a few times, and kept asking myself, "Where is all of this crime that I was told about?" Yes, apparently there is a drug war between two gangs in Port of Spain, but nobody bothered me and I didn't feel unsafe or threatened at any time.

Trinidad
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3. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

You did quite a bit of walking in POS. More than I have ever done. That’s awesome.

There are some areas and certain streets in POS that are not considered safe to walk day or night.

We really do have beautiful people here :-)

Harlingen, TX
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4. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

@Poisonarrowz -

Good to know that for future reference. My route was from the lighthouse up Frederick Street to Queen's Park Savannah, then up Maraval Road. "The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago" makes it easy to explore Port of Spain by just walking.

How far in advance do hotels begin filling up for Carnival? If I wanted to attend Carnival in 2019, how far in advance would I have to make a reservation?

Trinidad
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5. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

Carnival 2019 is March 4th & 5th.

Many people say they start booking flight and accomadation right after they return home from Carnival. If you are sure that you are coming, the earlier the better.

Contact the hotel directly by email or phone to get information on their Carnival packages available. Sometimes using online booking may not allow bookings to far ahead.

Bands start their launch about 7 mths before Carnival

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6. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

I can second a lot of those recommendations and observations, but would add/amend three:

(1) there are other guide books available that cover both islands. Eg there's the Trinidad & Tobago Handbook (Footprint - Handbooks, updated 2016, available on Amazon at http://a.co/blWn4nl), and then Discover Trinidad & Tobago (http://www.discovertnt.com), one of the free local guides that's updated annually — so generally no going to a site and realising it's been razed or that the restaurant has moved

(2) prepare for a significantly longer to the airport if going PM during rush hours, or in to Port of Spain during the AM rush hours

(3) service charge is included on most bills, but cash tipping directly to your waiter (at your discretion) is still encouraged for good service because of how poor the compensation is and how questionable it is that they share in the service charges at some establishments

The customs agents have indeed become more intense with their questioning recently.

Trinidad
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7. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

Is it the Immigration Officers or the Customs Officers asking all the questions?

The Immigration Officer will be the one to grant you entry and normally ask the how long you staying etc questions.

The Customs Officer is the one you see after collecting your luggage, before you exit. And they would be concerned about what you are bringing into the Country mainly.

Harlingen, TX
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8. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

@Poisonarrowz -

Both! My Immigration officer asked me my purpose for visiting Trinidad and how many days I would be in the country. When I got to the Customs officer, he didn't ask any questions about what I was bringing into the country. He asked how many days I would be in Trinidad, what I was going to be doing in the country, why I decided to visit Trinidad now, etc. When I told him that part of the reason I decided to visit Trinidad now was because I had seen the country featured on an American television show (CNN's "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown"), he even asked the name of it.

Honestly, the questioning by the Customs officer was MUCH more rigorous than the Immigration officer's.

Trinidad
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9. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

He must have been bored lol

The most they ever asked me was how many bottles of alcohol I bought and how many days I was abroad for. The female Custom Officers seem to send everyone to have their bags scanned.

So it was because of the show you visited? That’s interesting :-)

Harlingen, TX
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10. Re: Just Back From Trinidad and Tobago: October 2017

@Poisonarrowz -

Either he was bored or he hadn't yet filled his "Harassment Quota" for the day. It was 930pm at night.

Actually, I had been eyeing Trinidad and Tobago as a tourism destination for a couple of years. I knew the people and cuisine were diverse and wanted to learn more. The "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" episode only accelerated my trip to the islands. What's funny is that my tour guide for Maracas Bay said the Bourdain episode was the worst he had ever seen for Trinidad and instead, praised Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods" episode from a few years back.

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