Trinidad and Tobago - Holidays, Flights and Hotels
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Flight Time to Trinidad and Tobago from the UK
Approx 9 hours
The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands, the most important being Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago and St. Giles Is. The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point in the country is found on the Northern Range at El Cerro del Aripo which is situated at 940 metres (3,085 ft) above sea level. The climate is tropical. There are two seasons annually: the dry season for the first six months of the year, and the wet season in the second half of the year. Winds are predominantlly from the northeast and are dominated by the Northeast Trade winds. Unlike most of the other Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago have frequently escaped the wrath of major devastating hurricanes including Hurricane Ivan, the most powerful storm to pass close to the islands in recent history in September 2004.
As the majority of the population live in Trinidad, this is the location of most major towns and cities. There are three major municipalities in Trinidad: Port of Spain, the capital, San Fernando, and Chaguanas. Of these three, Chaguanas is the fastest growing. The largest town in Tobago is Scarborough.
Brief History of Trinidad and Tobago
Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin. Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7000 years ago, making it the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean. Ceramic-using agriculturalists settled Trinidad around 250 BCE and then moved up the Lesser Antillean chain. At the time of European contact Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan- and Cariban-speaking tribes including the Nepoya, Suppoya and Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi. The Amerindian name for Trinidad was Kairi or Iere which is usually translated as The Land of the Hummingbird, although others have reported that it simply meant island. Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it after the Holy Trinity. Columbus reported seeing Tobago, which he named Bella Forma, but did not land on the island. The name Tobago is probably derived from tobacco.
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Trinidad and her tiny sister island of Tobago lie off the Venezuelan coast. Along the north of Trinidad runs the Northern Range of mountains, looming over the country's capital, Port of Spain. South of Port of Spain on the west coast the terrain is low, and the Caroni Swamps contain a magnificent bird sanctuary largely inhabited by the scarlet ibis. On the north and east coasts lie beautiful beaches. Central Trinidad is flat and largely given over to agriculture.
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Quieter and less commercialised than other Caribbean islands, Tobago’s glorious sandy beaches are well worth a visit, with the most popular found at Pigeon Point and Store Bay.
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Trinidad is the bigger and more boisterous of the two islands, where life lilts along to a Calypso beat. Not surprisingly it's also the birthplace of the steel drum and home to the Caribbean's largest carnival (which kicks of the Monday before Ash Wednesday).
Just a twenty-minute flight away and stepping on to Tobago's runway you'd be forgiven for thinking that someone had forgotten to set the alarm clock. Christened Bellaforma (owing to it's 'beautiful shape') by Columbus in 1498 life on Trinidad's 'little sister' ticks by at a soporific pace. At 42km in length and barely 5km wide anything that happens on Tobago is bound to happen on either the beach or in the surrounding waters that shelter the largest brain coral in the world.
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Public Holidays in Trinidad and Tobago
January 1 - New Year's Day
February 19 - Carnival
March 30 - Spiritual Baptist Day
April 6 - Good Friday
April 8 - Easter
April 9 - Easter Monday
May 30 - Arrival Day
June 7 - Corpus Christi Day
June 19 - Labour Day
August 1 - Emancipation Day
August 31 - Independence Day
October 13 - Eid Al Fitr (End of Ramadan)
November 10 - Diwali
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day
Trinidad and Tobago Visa Requirements
Entry requirements for UK nationals: British nationals must have a valid passport. No visa is required.
Getting Around In Trinidad and Tobago
Within the Islands
Taxicabs are simply normal passenger cars with no special markings. However, their license plates start with the letter "H". They are found at Taxi stands which may be at a street corner or at the side of the road. Taxi stands in the cities and boroughs are usually marked, but outside of the city they are not. However, one can hail a taxi from the side of the road and ask where they are going and the fare before hiring the taxi. One pays for an individual seat and the taxicabs are shared, but a whole car can be hired if so desired, and if there are not a lot of passengers waiting. Airport taxis are an exception to this in that one almost always has to hire the whole car.
There are larger taxis, called "Maxi Taxis" or simply "Maxis" that go along a specified route. These are similar to mini buses and are painted white or beige and have a colored band around them. Each maxi usually holds approximately 11 or 25 passengers. The colour of the band indicates the area in which they travel. They have their own taxi stands and terminals. In Port of Spain, the maxis depart and arrive at the City Gate terminal, and in San Fernando they depart and arrive at the bus terminal at King's Wharf. If so desired, a maxi taxi can be hired for a whole day on a chartered trip. These can be negotiated directly with the maxi taxi drivers in advance. Prices vary.
Gypsy cabs are available as well. Locally they are called "PH" because they are private cars illegally used for hire. Use caution as "PH" drivers have been linked to crime including murder, kidnapping and robbery and carry no insurance for hired passengers. If you are visiting the islands and need to make arrangements for a shuttle service, a reliable service is provided by Mr.Richard Carreira - Phone #1-868-683-8433 (just use 683-8433 once inside of Trinidad & Tobago). His Mini Bus provides seating for 1-8 passengers.
All taxi fares are to be paid in cash in TT dollars. Some drivers accept US dollars, Canadian dollars or Euros, but they may not give you a favorable exchange rate. It's okay to ask your fare in advance. In Maxi taxis, pay the conductor, or the driver if there is no conductor. Tipping is not expected except for airport taxis. However, if you feel generous, you can give a tip if you desire. Taxi drivers usually do not provide receipts. If going off the usual designated route (usually the main road), tell the taxi driver before you board the taxi. Some may not want to go off the main road due to crime or bad roads. If you fail to notify them in advance, they may just drop you off at a close point to your destination and you'll have to walk. Maxi taxis will usually not go off the designated route, however, some of them will ask passengers if an alternate route can be taken if there is excessive traffic. If in doubt as to whether the maxi will miss your destination, ask the conductor. Avoid looking for a taxi or maxi during rush hour (AM and PM, but PM is worse). The taxi stands tend to be crowded, and others may resort to stopping the taxi before the taxi stand. The net result is that the taxi is full before it reaches the stand and the wait may be exceedingly long. Some maxi and taxi drivers will want to put more than the legal number of passengers in the vehicle. This is a dangerous and illegal practice, as there is no insurance coverage for any of the passengers if the maxi taxi is overloaded and gets into an accident. Politely decline or at least know what you're risking. If your taxi or maxi is involved in a crash, make a report to the police as soon as possible in order to secure your legal rights. Taxi drivers are required to carry insurance for all passengers. Police reports can be made in person to the police station that has jurisdiction. Ask a local. They will know. If you or someone requires immediate medical attention, dial 999 or 990. Some taxi stands will fill up the taxis from the back going forward. This is more common in the cities and boroughs. To stop a maxi taxi while on it (i.e. at your destination) push the stop button. They will sometimes not be labeled, but by law maxi taxis are required to have them. Smoking is allowed by law, but is up to the discretion of the driver to allow it in his/her taxi. It's best to smoke outside.
Buses are run by the Public Service Transport Corporation which is owned by the Trinidad and Tobago Government. Buses are only used for longer distance travel and not within a city or metro area. Buses and bus tickets are available at City gate in Port of Spain, King's wharf in San Fernando and various other terminals and bus stops. A ticket is required to board the bus. Bus drivers do not accept cash or credit cards.
Car rental is widely available, and driving is on the left side (British style). There are several companies that rent cars including international chains such as Budget and Hertz. There are also local firms Auto Rentals and Kalloo's and others. It is best to reserve a car in advance, however one can pick up a rental car at the airport upon arrival. Rental cars will carry an "R" as the first letter of the license plate. Some private individuals will rent cars with "P" (private) plates, but this is an illegal practice and it is better to rent a car with an "R" plate.