Trinidad & Tobago
The carnival land of Trinidad is the larger part of this twin-island nation, and its inhabitants move at a fast pace, especially in the capital, Port of Spain, whose 500,000 inhabitants live in the tightly-packed corridors of downtown. This is where the action is; the streets are a cacophony of bars and businesses, markets and maxi-taxis booming music. The home of limbo, calypso and the steel band, it has a hectic nightlife, and if you have to eat, the choice will overwhelm you; but there's no time to sit down, especially when it’s Carnival time.
Away from the city one finds oases of peace and calm and the beauty of Mother Nature. The island lies close to the South American mainland, to which it was once joined and with which it shares much of its wildlife. In the national swamp reservations in the west of the island there are cayman alligators and the elegant scarlet ibis. Plant life in the rain forest covering the uncultivated part of the island is lush. Trinidad’s most amazing natural feature, however, is the Pitch Lake – 100 acres (400,000 sq m) of tar soft enough to swallow you, should you spend too long standing on it.
Twenty-two miles, or 35 km, away, Trinidad’s small sister island of Tobago offers a striking contrast in landscapes and people. Tobago provides a much more relaxed introduction to the Caribbean. The pace of life here is slower; away from the established, but not crowded, resorts at the western end of the island are plenty of secluded coves and bays where you can idle away the hours in the water and the sun in classic Caribbean fashion.
Water sports feature strongly in Tobago's attractions: divers, windsurfers and fishing enthusiasts will love its coral reefs, beautiful beaches, clear waters and smart hotels. Eco-tourists will find rivers, waterfalls and natural reserves and a rich bird life, as well as underwater dives to see the mysteriously beautiful manta-rays.
Its main towns, Scarborough and Plymouth, are really large villages where there’s always a friendly smile for visitors.
The unique blend of people of African, Indian, European and Chinese descent have given this twin-island republic a diversity of cuisine, culture, sights, perspectives and traditions that bewilders the visitor. These two islands are as alike as chalk and cheese – so try both! It's quite a mixture!
Capital: Port of Spain, Trinidad
Population: c1.3 million
Currency: Trinidad & Tobago $; US$ widely accepted. Please use our currency converter for today's rate.
Official language: English but French, Spanish and Hindi widely spoken.
Political status: independent nation; republic within the Commonwealth
Entry requirements: please go to the official Trinidad & Tobago tourist site – click the link above
Area: Trinidad 850 square miles (4,800 sq km); Tobago 16 square miles (300 sq km)
Religion: Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Musilms and Jews are all represented.
Business: Banks are open Monday to Thursday, 8am-2pm; Friday, 9am-12noon and 3-5pm. The principal banks are Citibank, First Citizens Bank, Intercommercial Bank, Republic Bank, Royal Bank and Scotia Bank. Shops open 8.30am-5pm. Payment cards widely accepted.
Electricity: 110/220 volts
Telecommunications: the international dialling code for Trinidad and Tobago is +1 868 followed by seven digits. On the islands, use the seven digits alone.