Important practical info for exploring Trinidad & Tobago
“When in Rome”, they say. Here is some info to help you get what you need quickly and easily while in Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve also got the information you’ll need in case anything goes wrong, so that nothing will spoil your holiday or vacation.
Our tropical twin-island republic lies in the Caribbean sea a few miles off the Venezuelan coast. Trinidad is the southernmost island in the Caribbean island chain. Both islands were once an extension of the South American continent, and our flora and fauna reflects this geographical link.
- Temperature: Trinidad and Tobago both have a warm, tropical climate tempered by the trade winds. The average daytime temperature is 29°C (83°F), with maximums in the low to mid 30sC. The temperature range is typically between 22 and 35°C (71–95°F). The early months of the year are dry and sunny; June—December is the wet season, but rain generally falls in short, sharp bursts, and most days have plenty of sunlight. The warmest time of year is usually April and May. The coolest months are November—February. Tobago is slightly cooler and less humid than Trinidad.
- Sunrise & sunset: The islands generally enjoy approximately 12 hours of daylight throughout the year. Sunrise is usually between 5:30am and 6:30am. Sunset typically occurs between 5:30pm and 6:30pm. Days reach their longest in the northern hemisphere’s summer months.
- Hurricanes are not unknown — Tobago in particular would appear prone to one major storm per century (the last was Flora in 1963) — but Trinidad is the southernmost Caribbean island and one of the safer harbours in the region during hurricane season. Trinidad and Tobago are closer to the Caribbean hurricane belt than most places, but just south of the usual path travelled by major storms in the Caribbean.
- Humidity levels of 75% are average, but the air is generally driest in mid-March (humidity often below 60%) and most humid in late November (often above 95%).
- The ANR Robinson, formerly Crown Point, International Airport serves Tobago (10km/7 miles from Scarborough) with airport code TAB
- The Piarco International Airport, Trinidad (27km/17 miles from Port of Spain), with airport code POS.
Capitals & major towns
- National capital: Port of Spain, Trinidad (population 45,000; 270,000 metropolitan, with nearly 600,000 between Chaguaramas and Arima)
- Tobago capital: Scarborough (pop. 17,000)
- Other major towns: Chaguanas (pop. 84,000); San Fernando (pop. 49,000)
- Trinidad’s El Cerro del Aripo (940m/3,085ft)
- Tobago’s Main Ridge (549m/1,860ft)
11°N, 61°W. Trinidad & Tobago 33km (21 miles) apart, 10km (7 miles) from Venezuelan coast
- Tobago is 300km2 (116 sq miles) or 48 x 16km (30 x 10 miles)
- Trinidad is 4,828km2 (1,864 sq miles) or 105 x 80km (65 x 50 miles)
Trinidad & Tobago’s time zone is GMT/UTC -4 or EST +1. It shares the same time zone as the east coast of the United States from “Spring Forward” until “Fall Back”.
Government & opposition
Trinidad & Tobago is a parliamentary democracy; elections have been held regularly since self-government in 1956. The ruling government is the People’s National Movement (PNM), elected in September 2015 under Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. The President is Anthony Carmona, SC. The United National Congress (UNC), the largest party in the outgoing People’s Partnership coalition government, is the main opposition under former PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC.
English (official). Spanish, French (often patois), Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish, and other languages are also spoken in small populations.
- Total national population of just under 1.4 million (Central Statistical Office’s Population, Social and Vital Statistics Division, 2016): 35% Indian, 34% African, 23% mixed; 8% Syrian, Lebanese, White (European descent), Chinese, Amerindian (First Peoples), or unknown.
- Tobago’s population is roughly 61,000 (primarily African descent)
Most people practise some form of Christianity (22% Roman Catholic, 32% Christians of other denominations — including Anglican), while 18% are Hindu, and 5% Muslim. The Orisha faith, the Spiritual Baptist faith, Rastafarianism, the Baha’i faith, and Judaism are also practised.
Dollars & sense
Currency & foreign exchange rate
- Foreign exchange rate: the Trinidad & Tobago dollar (TT$) floats at approximately US$1=TT$6.8, and trading at roughly TT$9.4=£1, TT$5.6=CAD$1; TT$8.3=€1; and TT$2.5=EC$1
- Banking: ABMs (ATMs), and credit/debit cards in general use, and currency can be exchanged at all major banks (First Citizens, Republic Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotia Bank and others, typically open Monday–Friday 8am–4pm, though some mall branches operate 11am–6pm), and at the airport.
- Cash & cards: credit and debit cards are fine for most purposes (just check for any foreign transaction charges if you have a non-T&T credit card), but don’t rely on them in more remote areas, where it’s best to have some cash handy. Cash machines are plentiful on both islands (see above). For cash transactions, businesses and individuals may accept US$, but at less than the going bank rate. Many banks are closed weekends, though some mall branches open on Saturdays.
Commercial oil production in Trinidad dates back to 1908. Such natural resources and a large population by Caribbean standards, combine to create one of the larger economies in the region — unless oil is trading low, as it periodically does. At its peak, oil and gas accounted for about 35% of GDP (over 40% at its peak) and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment. For the first time in its history, Trinidad & Tobago was removed from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list of aid recipient countries in 2011. The list excludes countries which have met a “high income” threshold for three consecutive years.
- Major resources: oil and natural gas
- Major industries: petroleum and petroleum products, Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), methanol, ammonia, urea, light manufacturing and assembly.
- Major services: tourism, conference and convention facilities, financial services, construction.
- Key indicators (2016–17): GDP per capita approx. US$16,000; unemployment rate approx 4%. The economy contracted 2.3% in 2016, after increasingly since 2014. Growth was not expected to return until 2018.
Business & shopping hours
Businesses usually operate 8am–4pm or 9am–5pm Monday–Friday, while malls typically operate 10am–6pm or 7pm, Monday–Saturday. Businesses typically close on Sundays and public holidays, though there are exceptions. Some malls also open on Sundays close to Christmas.
Driving is on the left. Trinidad speed limits are 80kph (50mph) on highways and 55kph (34mph) in settled areas. The speed limit is 50kph (32mph) in Tobago. Seatbelts are required at all times by law, and using (e.g. texting on) or speaking on a mobile/cellular device without handsfree is illegal. Visitors can drive up to 90 days on valid foreign/international licences. Defensive driving in both islands, especially Trinidad, is imperative.
115v/230v, 60Hz (as in the United States). Surge protectors are recommended
Taxes & tipping
- There is a 10% room tax + 10% service at hotels; a departure tax TT$100 (often included in airline tickets in advance); and VAT 12.5% on goods and services (though exempt on certain foods; the VAT rate was 15% until 1 January, 2016). Companies registered to charge VAT must display their Certificate of Registration. There is import duty on most items.
- Tipping, where appropriate, is typically 10–20%.
Tap water is deemed safe to drink (boil and filter to be safer). Bottled water widely available, though do opt for pure spring water (rather than purified water), and recycle the plastic bottle at a nearby PlastiKeep or other recycling locations such as iCare.
Media & communications
Telephone (country code, landline phone and mobile/cellular phone service)
The country code is +868 (1868 from the US; 001868 from the UK). The Telecommunications Services of Trinidad & Tobago (TSTT/bmobile), Flow (Cable & Wireless) and DigicelPlay provide landline telephone services, which supply local and long distance service. Prepaid international phone cards are also available. bmobile and Digicel operate on GSM networks; prepaid SIM cards are available for unlocked phones. Kiosks and points of sale abound, especially at major shopping centres and ports of entry, such as Piarco Airport.
Mail & packages
TTPost is the privatised, national mail service, operating both local and international postal services. International couriers like FedEx, DHL, UPS and others also operate. Many SkyBox, freight forwarding, and online shopping services import and delivery items locally which have been purchased overseas.
There are 3 daily national newspapers (Express, Guardian, Newsday), 7 weeklies (including Tobago News), 1 tri-weekly.
There are 38 FM stations. For all-local fare, try WACK (We Are Culture Krazy) 90.1FM
There are 16 local TV stations, five free-to-air (NCC-4, CCN TV6, Gayelle, CNC3 and C-TV), 10 available only via cable (ACTS, IBN, ieTV, Jaagriti TV, Parliament Channel, Sankhya TV, Synergy, Trinity TV, WI Sports, Darut Tarbiyah: The Islamic Network); some only available on one island (Tobago Channel 5).
WiFi & internet
- There’s free (though spotty) WiFi at Piarco Airport
- There are other free Wifi areas at specific locations provided by TSTT’s Bzone (free to bmobile and blink broadband customers, who can register for free; Flow; Massy Communications; and the new TT WiFi initiative, which has begun rolling out free WiFi on PTSC buses
- Internet cafés start at about US$1/hr, with extra charges for printers, etc.
Health & emergency information
Emergency health treatment is free to residents and visitors at all public health facilities. Private health facilities often require payment up front.
Public hospitals & health centres
- Arima Health Facility (Trinidad): Queen Mary Avenue, Arima
- Chaguanas Health Facility (Trinidad): Main Road, Chaguanas
- Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (Trinidad): Uriah Butler Highway, Champ Fleurs
- Port of Spain General Hospital (Trinidad): 160 Charlotte Street, Port of Spain
- San Fernando General Hospital (Trinidad): Independence Avenue, San Fernando
- Sangre Grande Regional Hospital (Trinidad): Ojoe Road, Sangre Grande
- Scarborough Regional Hospital (Tobago): Fort Street, Scarborough
- Ambulance (public hospitals): 811
- Coast Guard: 634-4440, 634-8824, 634-4439
- Crime Stoppers: 800-TIPS
- EMS (emergency medical services): 624-4343 (north Trinidad), 653-4343 (south/central Trinidad), 639-4444 (Tobago)
- Fire Services: 990
- Hyperbaric Medical Facility: 660-4369 (Roxborough, Tobago)
- Office of Disaster Preparedness & Management (ODPM): 511
- Police: in Trinidad, 999 or 555; in Tobago, 639-2520 or 639-5590
- Tobago Emergency Relief: 211
- Childline: 800-4321
- Domestic violence hotline: 800-SAVE
- Families in Action hotline: 628-2333
- Kidnapping hotline: 623-6793
- Lifeline (suicide prevention): 645-2800, 645-6616
- National AIDS hotline: 800-4448
- National Family Services: 624-8218 (Trinidad), 639-1512 (Tobago)
- Rape Crisis Society: 622-7273 (Port of Spain), 657-5355 (San Fernando)
- Rebirth House (substance abuse prevention): 623-0952
- Division of Tourism (Tobago House of Assembly, Scarborough): 639-2125
- Immigration Division: 625-3571 (Trinidad), 639-2681 (Tobago)
- Ministry of Tourism (Port of Spain): 624-1403
- Tobago House of Assembly (Scarborough): 639-3421
- Tobago Tour Guide Association represents Tobago-based guides and tour operators. Contact Harris McDonald, president of the association, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tourist Information offices: 639-0509 (Crown Point Airport); 635-0934 (Cruise Ship Complex, Tobago); 669-5196 (Piarco Airport)
- Trinidad and Tobago Incoming Tour Operators Association represents local tour operators and keeps listings of its members and their services
- Trinidad and Tobago Tour Guide Association represents accredited and certified tour guides and can recommend private tours. email@example.com
- ttconnnect (Trinidad & Tobago government online).
A note on safety
The vast majority of people in Trinidad and Tobago like to enjoy their day, complete their business (or pleasure), and sleep well at night. But, as in most parts of the world, crime is a concern.
The usual precautions apply, e.g. do not carry large amounts of cash or valuables; don’t flaunt tempting jewellery; keep an eye on bags and laptops; don’t leave wallets and purses visible in back pockets or handbags; lock car doors; avoid isolated places and situations, especially after dark; and be at least as alert and safety-conscious as you would be at home.
We recommend using certified and accredited tour guides and operators, especially in more remote areas. Remember that authorised, licensed taxis are identified by registration plates starting with “H”. Do not hesitate to seek current local advice and knowledge.