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Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago are the most southerly isles of the Caribbean Archipelago.
Trinidad still possesses vast tracts of rich rain forests, with the highest peak El Cerro del Aripo, located in the Northern Range, ascending to a height of 940 meters above sea level. In contrast, you will find flat lands, mostly agricultural, in the Central Plains, while Southern Trinidad is full of gently undulating hillsides.
Tobago's Eastern Interior rises steeply into tall peaks with lower lying lands that include a protected reserve area. Tobago's topography consists mainly of volcanic rock, which is in stark contrast to its Caribbean blue waters. Together, the twin islands measure 2000 square miles.
Flora & Fauna
Trinidad: The natural vegetation of Trinidad is remarkable for its diversity: 2300 flowering plants, including 700 orchids; native species and exotic species; 300 species of ferns and their allies; 370 species of trees, including the native purpleheart, mora and crappo. Savannahs, frequently flooded in the rainy season and parched in the dry season, produce remarkable islands of vegetation with adaptable endemic forms. Evergreen seasonal forests, common in such areas as Matura and the Central Range and characterized by high rainfall, give rise to trees such as blackheart, guatacare and bois mulatre, trees which failure to shed leaves seasonally gives shade to rare exotic plants.
Tobago: In Tobago, a mixture of sunshine, rain, humidity and early morning dew produces a lush, island-wide garden of thriving flora. Various ecosystems support a persistent variety of plant species. They include tropical rain forest, lower mountain rain forest, swamp communities, mangroves, seasonal evergreen forest, deciduous seasonal forest, rocky coastlines, and even overhanging phone cables. Tobago’s (geologically recent) separation from the South American continent means that Tobago has fewer endemic species than islands further north, and the flora is similar to that found on the continental mainland.
Trinidad: Home of almost 400 bird species (more than any other Caribbean island), including purple honeycreepers, tufted coquettes and blue-and-yellow macaws. There are 620 butterfly species, 108 recorded mammal species (57 of them bats), 70 different reptiles (including mapipire, iguanas and skinks), and 30 amphibian species including the endemic golden tree frog. Insect groups, including beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars, are too numerous for accurate records, and it is safe to say that all insect orders are represented, including some undocumented species. A few animal species have been introduced by humans, like the mongoose and much of our livestock.
Tobago: A high percentage of Tobago’s original fauna was lost during colonial times, but there is still much to see, including 12 species of mammals, five species of marine turtles (including the endangered giant leatherback), 16 species of lizard, 14 species of frog, 17 species of bats, 133 species of butterflies including the impressive Blue Emperor, and 25 species of snake (none of them poisonous). And with 210 recorded bird species, sanctuaries like the island of Little Tobago off the northeast coast, a large migratory seabird population and a variety of colorful human-friendly species like the bananaquit, blue tanager and mot-mot, Tobago is a favorite of ornithologists.
Facts at a Glance
Trinidad and Tobago's population totals to almost 1,056,608 inhabitants, the island is densely populated with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The island mostly has French speaking population and the major cities of Trinidad and Tobago are populated with people from Spanish and Latin-American descent. The population is gradually increasing as more and more people are migrating from other parts of the world to these Caribbean islands.
Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy, with a president elected for a 5-year term by members of Parliament. A prime minister, usually the leader of the majority party, is appointed from among the members of Parliament after elections, which happen every 5 years.
Trinidad and Tobago is a multi-religious nation. The largest religious groups are the Roman Catholics and Hindus; the Anglicans, Muslims, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Two Afro-Caribbean syncretic faiths, the Shouter or Spiritual Baptists and the Orisha Faith (formerly called Shangos) are among the fastest growing religious groups.
Other fast-growing groups are a host of American-style evangelical and fundamentalist churches usually lumped as "Pentecostal" by most Trinidadians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also expanded its presence in the country since the mid-1980's.
The official language of Trinidad & Tobago is English, although there are segments of the population which speak other languages including "patois", a slang version of French that provides a window to the island's former French colonial days. Since Trinidad is located just about 7 miles away from Venezuela, there is also a growing Spanish-speaking contingent. Nevertheless, every Trinbagonian speaks English.
In the twin island Republic, the currency is called the Trinidad & Tobago, or "TT Dollar". It floats against the US Dollar at an average of TT$6.00 to US$1.00 - you may want to check any bank or the daily newspapers for a current rate, which could fluctuate slightly. Both traveler's cheques and international credit cards are readily accepted now, in addition to US cash. Most Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's) will accept your cards as well.
The time in Trinidad and Tobago is four hours behind Greenwich Meridian Time, placing it in the Atlantic Standard Time zone. This means that visitors from the United Kingdom and most of Europe will experience time changes of four to six hours. Time on the islands is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time observed on the East Coast of the United States. Trinidad and Tobago do not, however, observe daylight-saving time, which means that in April through October, the time in Trinidad and Tobago will be the same as destinations observing Eastern Standard Time.
Trinidad and Tobago has both 115 or 230-volt AC (as in the US) on 60 cycles. You should find out what voltage your hotel or resort uses before you go because these voltages may be different from your home country.
If your hotel's voltage does not match your appliances, you may need to purchase an adapter or transformer before you go or ask if one will be available to you once you check in. Some hotels often will offer their guests these items as part of their service. Some hotels may even have 220-volt outlets, which is what you find in most places in North America. Also, airports will probably carry the necessary equipment for converting your electrical appliances for use on the island.
Trinbagonians are diverse and varying in a lot of different degrees. They are very giving and family- oriented and helpful. They welcome strangers with open arms; love to party and to have cook outs. Every day is a good day for a river or beach lime.
Mainly, water in Tobago is safe to drink, though bottled water is available in supermarkets. Drinking water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated and sterilization is advisable.
While international cuisine and fast food restaurants are widely available on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, to truly get the most of your vacation, sampling the local fare is a must. India, Spain, and other parts of Europe have contributed to the population as well as the local culinary style. Indian cuisine is very prevalent on the islands, especially in the form of spicy curry dishes like lunchtime favorite rotis, a flat bread stuffed with chickpea curry and ground meat. Fresh seafood prepared in Spanish creole style is another local favorite. Africans brought to the islands as slaves have added their own culinary customs to the mix. Adventurous eaters may want to try a local delicacy like armadillo and possum stew.
Before visiting Trinidad and Tobago, you may need to get some vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/trinidad-and-tobago.aspx
Hepatitis A and Rabies are present. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. Bats are a problem as far as the transmission of rabies is concerned. To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect.
You can find goods from all over the world in Port of Spain, but local goods are always available. Special purchases include calypso records, steel drums, leather bags and sandals, ceramics and woodcarvings. Gold and silver jewelry can be good value, as can Indian silks and fabrics. Rum should also be considered. Bright, printed fabrics and other summer garments are available in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly in Port of Spain.
Shopping hours: Mon-Thurs 0800-1600, Fri 0800-1800 and Sat 0800-1300. Some shops stay open later in Port of Spain, and malls are often open till 2100. Shops close on public holidays, especially during Carnival.
There are four major banks that operate on both islands: First Citizen Bank, Scotiabank, The Republic Bank, and The Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT). These banks all keep the same schedule: 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm until 5:00 pm on Fridays. Banks on the island are generally not open for business on Saturdays and Sundays, but banking facilities in shopping malls and busier areas may stay open until 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.
ATM's accepting cards on the Plus/Electron and Cirrus/Maestro networks are available. Visitors to the island will find ATM's in both the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad and the Crown Point International Airport in Tobago. ATM's are also available throughout Port of Spain and Scarborough, but become harder to find outside the two major cities.
Valid driver's license
A U.S. driver's license and/or an International Driving Permit are valid for up to 90 days after arrival. Seatbelts are required for drivers and front seat passengers, and cars may be pulled over and drivers fined for not wearing seatbelts.
The emergency line in Trinidad and Tobago is: Police 999 or 555, Fire 990, Ambulance-Trinidad 811, Ambulance-Tobago 639-4444, and Coast Guard (yachting emergencies) 634-4440.
Safety & Security
Trinidad and Tobago are generally safe places to visit, but crime has become a rising issue in recent years. Most crimes committed on the islands are theft related. Vacationers can protect themselves from becoming victims while on vacation by remembering a few safety tips:
-Do not travel alone at night, especially along poorly-lit areas, deserted beaches or scenic lookouts.
-Protect your belongings by storing valuables in safes -if available at your hotel.
-Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or displaying large amounts of money in public.
-When making reservations at private accommodations such as villas or private homes, visitors should ensure that 24-hour security is provided.
-Never leave your valuables unattended, especially in cars or in beaches and in other public places that are vulnerable to theft.
-Avoid neighborhoods you don't know.
-Valuables including travel documents should not be left unattended in parked cars, especially in parking lots.
Other recommendations are:
-If your passport, birth certificate, or driver's license is stolen while you are on either island, immediately contact the local consulate or embassy office. The American Embassy can be found at the Port of Spain in Trinidad and can be reached by telephone at 868-622-6372.
-Drugs are not tolerated on the island, and vacationers should be aware that even a small amount of marijuana can lead to serious jail time.
-Taxis available at the major hotels or through pre-arranged pick-ups with reputable companies are generally safe and reliable. Unmarked shared taxis authorized to pick up passengers will have the letter 'H' as the first letter on their license plates.
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are beautiful and exciting places to vacation. Travelers can make the most of their time here by taking a few safety precautions to ensure a safe and unforgettable vacation.
Climate and Season
The islands have two main seasons - the Dry Season, from January to May and the Wet or Rainy Season, from June to December.
In the Rainy Season, mornings are usually sunny, followed by rainy afternoons and fair nights. During this time, the general rainfall pattern is interrupted by days of brilliant sunshine; a climatic phenomenon we fondly call Petit Carême, similar to what temperate climes know as Indian Summer occurs and offers a warm, invigorating change from dull weather. This minibreak normally happens between mid September to mid October. The Dry Season is mostly sunny, with occasional light showers. This is the weather that makes Trinidad and Tobago the perfect vacation spot. The islands share an average daytime temperature of 28 ºC that is warm but not unpleasantly humid and nights that are pleasantly cool.
To consult the wather in Trinidad & Tobago click here
Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) provides the country with a modern, cutting-edge telecommunications infrastructure that features state-of-the-art digital technology and fire optic systems capable of efficiently support a wide range of services.
International calls are quick, accurate and clear. You can access the International Direct Distance Dialing option throughout both islands, either by using your hotel phone or one of a network of hundreds of pay telephones nationwide.
There are two very competitive cellular phone service providers in Trinidad and Tobago, TSTT’s mobile network and the more recent DIGICEL network. Both provide great mobile service and free and easy roaming facilities. International cellular roaming service is available to both North America and the Caribbean. If you have installed a roaming application in your home country, just turn on your set and make your calls.
If you prefer to control your telephone costs, prepaid phone cards in a number of denominations for landline (Companion Cards) and mobile phones (Bmobile and DIGICEL Cards) are available for sale at all Customer Service Centers and from many other vendors throughout the islands.
Internet services are available at a range of Internet cafes throughout our islands. To find out more about any TSTT''s service that you may be interested in receiving, check out the Trinidad and Tobago Telephone Directory and give them a call! You can find a copy in your hotel room or access them on-line at: www.tstt.co.tt