16 tips from a local: how to stay safe and healthy when traveling in T&T

Usually, when you read about travel in the Caribbean, you only hear the good stuff: the beaches, the food, the rum, the parties, the “friendly locals.”

Although considered a high-income non-OECD country by the World Bank, the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago is not perfect. On a daily basis, Trinbagonians face real issues: crime, environmental degradation, traffic, political corruption, power cuts, and water shortages.

As tourists/travelers, we must never turn a blind eye to the problems of the countries we visit. Also, as travel writers and bloggers, we shouldn’t sell the Caribbean as idyllic, “sand, sea and sun” destinations immune to serious problems. Instead, we should tell the truth.

With that in mind, here are 16 tips from a local to stay safe and healthy when traveling in Trinidad and Tobago.

1. Always research your accommodation.

Don’t stay somewhere just because it’s cheap. Check TripAdvisor or myTobago for the most recent reviews. Ensure that the room or apartment doors and windows are well secured, the locks work, and the gates (if any) close at night.

2. Bring an unlocked GSM mobile phone or buy a cheap one when you get here.

Then get a prepaid SIM card from any of two mobile phone providers on the two islands: bmobile or Digicel. You can even buy data packages to stay online anywhere on the island.

3. Like anywhere else in the world, Trinidad and Tobago has its fair share of street criminals.

Be street smart. When in public, don’t carry a lot of cash and valuables on you. Don’t wear your expensive camera like a ridiculous necklace while walking in downtown Port of Spain and other urban areas. You’re just making yourself a target.

4. Go sightseeing with a local you trust.

There’s a lot to see and do in T&T: party ’till dawn, visit temples, trek through rainforests, kayak rivers, chill on beaches, or go bird watching. However, always try to travel in a group or with locals you trust, especially when going to isolated destinations like Fort George or when liming at night. 

5. It’s illegal to wear camouflage in Trinidad and Tobago.

Leave the camo bikinis and board shorts at home. You can only legally wear any camo wear if you’re in the local regiment or in Trinidad and Tobago on official military business.

6. It’s also illegal to possess or consume marijuana (and other illicit drugs).

Don’t believe the lies the media tells you about the Caribbean. It’s not as laid back as you think it is. Taking certain drugs is against the law. Trust us, you don’t want to pay a heavy fine or make a jail. Local prisons are filthy, scary places you want to avoid.

7. Don’t go topless or nude or any beaches in Trinidad and Tobago.

You will offend the locals’ delicate sensibilities and attract unwanted attention. However, anything goes during Carnival time.

8. Although Trinidad is a tiny island, brace for the traffic.

Traffic on the highways usually starts as early as 5:00 and continues all day, even after 20:00. It only gets worse if there’s an accident or it rains heavily. To avoid wasting precious time in crowded lanes, go against the grain. Head to more off the beaten track destinations and start early on weekends. 

9. Travel smart.

If you choose to use public transport, never travel in a PH taxi. Although you will never actually see a PH license plate, it refers to a private vehicle trying to hire passengers. You never know what can happen to you in a PH taxi and you’re not covered by insurance if the car gets in an accident. Only use taxis with an H license plate. P.S. If you’re traveling really short distances, don’t ever pay with a TT$100. Local fares never cost that much and the driver will b**** about getting it changed. Alternatively, you can take the bus but they can be unreliable and infrequent. Maxi taxis also frequent both islands but many drive carelessly. 

10. Rent a car.

If you don’t want to use public transport, why not rent a car? Always fill up before driving to remote destinations. Reckless driving and road rage are also very common in Trinidad and Tobago so drive defensively. Don’t leave any valuables in the car and lock up when you leave. Park in highly visible, well-lit areas. Finally, don’t drink and drive (even if locals do). 

11. Dress appropriately.

If you wear skin-tight, very short, or otherwise revealing clothing, expect lots of male attention. Also, remember to dress appropriately if you plan on visiting any temple, church, or mosque on any of the two islands.

12. Stay hydrated.

During the day, temperatures can reach as high as 34 degrees Celsius. Always keep a bottle of water. Water from the tap is generally safe to drink but those with sensitive stomachs should stick to bottled water.

13. Bring insect/mosquito repellant.

With a year-round tropical climate, Trinidad and Tobago has a lot of mosquitoes.  Also, watch out for sand flies on the beaches. Those bites can itch like crazy and can get infected.

14. Public toilets can be gross.

In many cases, public toilets are poorly maintained. Instead, use the bathrooms in malls or restaurants. If you do have to use a public toilet, check whether the doors lock properly and carry your own toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer.

15. Nature is lovely but be careful.

On the beaches, look out for Portuguese Man of War jellyfish, sea urchins, and fire coral and pay attention to red flags and signs that warn of strong rip tides and undercurrents. Avoid manchineel trees. They have shiny green leaves and the fruits look like little green apples. Although these native trees appear harmless, the bark, leaves, fruit, and sap are very poisonous.  Don’t even stand under the tree if it’s raining as any contact with the dripping sap can blister your skin. If you plan on hiking in the rainforest, you may encounter dangerous snakes such as the Fer de lance, Bushmaster, and coral snakes. Always wear long pants and sneakers/hiking shoes.

16. Remember to get travel insurance and to bring any prescriptions you may need.

If you do get ill  or injured, beware that public health facilities can have long wait times. Private hospitals are also really expensive and are often unavailable in remote areas. Bring any essential medications you may need as pharmacies tend to close early and may not sell certain drugs.

Photos: © Hot Foot Trini

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19 thoughts on “16 tips from a local: how to stay safe and healthy when traveling in T&T

  1. [ Smiles ] Great tips.

    Since The Republic of Trinidad is within the tropic region, they might as well remain hydrated by consuming lots of liquid.

    However, you didn’t mention the part about the mosquitoes. I think that using an insect repellent would assist in the prevention of acquiring mosquito-borne diseases.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent information! It really highlights how important it is to research your holiday destination with great posts like this one. I had never heard that camouflage clothing was illegal! Thankfully, I don’t normally wear it anyway, but I think it would be easy to have a kiddo wearing something camo and get into trouble accidentally!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know that you couldn’t wear camouflage in Trinidad and Tobago! I guess this might be applicable to most countries but I honestly never thought too much about it. Glad to read this here cause I love my fake army pants. Looks like i won’t be wearing that out anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great tips on staying safe. As tourists in a tropical wonderland we don’tvalways think anything can happen, especially when alcohol is involved. Having these tips in the back of your mind is certainly a good idea 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Go sightseeing with a local you trust – can you be the local I trust if I ever visit? Haha.
    Some great tips here! Most of them could be applied to any country, but some you’ve mentioned are often overlooked so it’s good to be reminded. Such as staying hydrated! I don’t drink much water back home, so doubling or even tripling my intake when in tropical climates is hard and I often don’t keep up. I love how you added “anything goes during carnival time” to #11 – I giggled!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent advice – and most of this is relevant to other countries, not just Trinidad and Tobago. Super important to do your research first. But OMG about the camo gear being illegal! I wonder how many tourists have been caught out while wearing a camo-style pair of shorts or top?! How fascinating. Good advice here. And I always say, make sure you purchase travel insurance!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would love to visit Trinidad and Tobago and your advice here is very welcomed. I think that most of it applies to everywhere we travel, like not carrying valuables around or make sure we have the right type of insurance. I would love to explore the tiny island in the company of a local, that’s always the best way to visit a new country.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such useful tips…I especially agree to the one on the dressing. One must be careful not to hurt sentiments when one is in a different land. That is what the true essence of travelling it…to grow, more tolerant and into a better person.
    And thanks for the heads up on public toilets…will carry my own roll of TP! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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