Trinidad Travel Guide 1 dayKaren and I arrived in Trinidad from Caracas at 1:00 PM on February 19th. Our path from Canaima had a couple of twists and turns. We were scheduled to fly back to Ciudad Bolivard via a four seater Cessna and then fly Avensa Airlines to Caracas. Marlon from Bernal tours worked with the Canaima Avensa agent to get us on the direct flight from Canaima to Caracas. We paid the difference in air fare checked our bags and headed for the bar. They have a fairly advanced system for determining when your flight is going to leave. It works a little like this; if the plane is not here yet, you can’t leave. Avensa has one 727 that they shuttle back and forth from Caracas – Margarita – Canaima so you only have once chance to leave via Avensa. The plane landed people got off, we got on and the plane left.
We had a six hour layover in Caracas before our flight left for Trinidad, so we thought we had plenty of time. Karen and I sat patiently at the baggage claim area in Caracas awaiting our backpacks covered in our bright green travel bag. We waited, we waited, no bags. We went to the Avensa service desk and tried to explain to some very nice ladies that our bags did not arrive. Remember, nobody speaks English and we speak even less Spanish. They took our baggage claim tickets made some calls and the stalemate continued. They seemed to have problems reaching anybody at Canaima to ask about the bags but they kept trying. Sometime later an Avensa agent who spoke English explained to us that our bags were in Canaima and that we could get them tomorrow. I then explained that we were leaving for Trinidad in six hours. He left for a couple of minutes came back and told us that they could have the bags sent to Trinidad in five days. I knew at this point we would never see our bags again if they forwarded them to Trinidad. Our next option was to have them hold the bags in Caracas and we would pick them up at the end of our Trinidad trip because we were flying back through Caracas. I knew at this point we would never see our bags again. I was not very happy with myself because I made a couple of dumb tourist mistakes. I should of made sure that our bags were checked properly and placed in the correct area with the other bags. As we boarded the plane, the truck with the luggage pulled up to the plane for unloading. I should of stood there until I saw our bags put on the plane. Knowing a little bit about how airlines work I asked the agent if they had any other planes leaving Canaima for any other airports. He responded yes they have this flight that leaves at whatever time. I then asked is it possible to have our bags put on that plane and then placed on another plane for Caracas. He was very excited about this newly discovered way of getting a customer their lost luggage. I assumed that this trick had never been used before because everyone seemed very excited about the possibility. We were told to come back at 5:00 PM and they would know if our bags would make it to Caracas. Our bags arrived at 6:20 PM and we were very happy. Upon further inspection I figured out why our bags missed the flight, someone decided that they wanted what was inside. Our backpacks actually travel in a nylon bag that serves as a secure travel bag, a ground cloth, a rain cover for the backpack and when zipped together with Karen’s bag makes a very nice tarp for when it rains. At this point if you have ever done any backpacking your asking where did you get that bag? The answer is my Mom made it. The WorldWander bag will be the first travel related product to be sold based on our travel adventures. I can’t take a year off from work without trying to make some money somehow. For more details check out Back to the story. We locked all of our zippers on our bag so it made it very difficult to get at the contents. The WorldWander bag’s zipper was also locked but they were able to unzip a small portion of it to get at our backpacks. I am glad we used the small travel locks, if not, they may have been able to steal my dirty underwear. We keep all of our valuable stuff in our daypack which is with us at all times. Our friends in Canaima kept telling us that things are changing and they don’t like it. Even in paradise you have to be careful.
Our flight from Caracas to Trinidad was on ALM via Curacao a Netherland Antillean Island off the coast of Venezuela. As we stood in the customs line in Trinidad with 1000 fellow travelers we looked over our customs form, there was a spot for your local address/place you are staying in Trinidad. Karen and I decided at the beginning of our trip that we would not make any hotel reservations because the task would be too overwhelming and restrictive. Karen felt very confident that we did not need to complete that particular section of the form because we had no idea where we would stay that night or the rest of the week. As we advanced through line, we started talking to another couple who come every year from California for Carnival. They quickly pointed out the trouble we were in without a reservation during carinval season. She gave us an address for a Mrs. Gibbs on Belmount Circular. She had the exact address in her checked luggage and would give it to us after we cleared customs and got our bags. They work with Mrs. Gibb’s son and knew that she has a couple of bedrooms she rents out during Carnival. Karen and I quickly scribbled down Mrs. Gibbs and Belmount Circle on our customs form. A newly discovered travel tip, if customs takes the time to put the question on the form they want an answer. Our customs agent was not happy with Mrs. Gibbs and Belmount Circle, he wanted to know the exact address and name of the guest house. After five minutes of explaining that the people we were traveling with had that info in their suitcase and we would be able to get it he let us go through.
It was now 2:00 AM and we had no place to sleep and we were tempted to stay up all night to save some money. It was worth a quick check with airport information about a hotel for the night. Before I continue with the more stories about Trinidad let me say this. THE PEOPLE OF TRINIDAD ARE THE NICEST PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. How can I make such a bold statement without truly meeting everyone in the world? I cannot imagine how it would be possible for any single group of people to be any nicer. Every person we have met in Trinidad has been incredibly nice, very helpful and genuinely concerned about our happiness during our stay. What makes this even more amazing is that Trinidad is not without it’s problems. They, however, do not seem to let these problems effect their positive outlook on life and concern for others.
I asked the two ladies behind the glass about a place to stay in Trinidad. I told them we were looking for a room for the night and could they make any recommendations. Well, they went to work on trying to find us a place to stay for the week. I told them we wanted to be close to the action, wanted something nice and did not want to pay a lot of money. Trinidad does not have many hotels but they have a lot of guest houses. A guest house is someone’s home that may have one or ten bedrooms for rent. This can get you a nice bed-and-breakfast style home or someone’s house. The ladies started calling people at home at 2:00 AM checking on price and availability. Most everyone listed in the tourism information guide was full or too expensive. It was getting late so I asked them to focus on finding a room for the night. We got many suggestions from other people coming and going and each time the two ladies would not think of sending us there. They found a room for us at a very nice bed-and-breakfast for $60US and a $20US cab ride. All I wanted was a hot shower. I have not yet gotten used to taking cold showers. During our search for a room a sharply dressed young man from the Bahamas presented himself with the same problem, no place to stay tonight. We agreed to share a cab and Claudius told us his customs story. Claudius had decided at the last minute to go to Carnival. He has a group of nine friends from the Bahamas who go to Carnival every year and they were going to pick him up at the airport. He of course did not have the address for the guest house his friends had rented and he explained that they were meeting him at the airport. Customs made him sit for two hours, empty out his suitcase and finally let him through. His friends were nowhere to be found assuming he was not on the flight and he had no way of reaching them. Claudius learned about making a backup plan and got lectured every time he told his story to any of the very nice people in Trinidad. I hope he found his friends and I am sure he made new ones.
Trinidad Travel Guide 2 day
I was in Trinidad in 1986 for a laser light show at the Royal Bank of Trinidad party. I was working that summer at a laser production company in Miami and got an all expense paid trip to Trinidad. I had a great time and that was the main reason we choose Trinidad for Carnival instead of Rio. It turned out that the Bread-and-Breakfast we stayed in the first night was across the street from the house of the owner of the ad agency that hired the laser production company. I of course could not remember the name of the ad agency or the lady who owned it but I did recognize the neighborhood. I explained a couple of the details to the ladies at the front desk and they of course grew up with the Bells and the person I was looking for was Vickie. I had no good reason to call Vickie Bell and I explained this to the ladies at the front desk, but with their characteristic enthusiasm,they got out the phone book and started calling Bells at 8:00 AM because Vickie got married and they did not know her new last name. I was able to thank them for their help and quickly asked how to hook up my laptop for an Internet connection before they woke up every Bell in Trinidad. Everyone sure is nice and helpful.
We called Mrs. Gibbs on the phone and explained our story and she would have no trouble helping Karen and I with a place to stay. We packed up our stuff and went down to the road to catch a Taxi. I waited and did not see any Taxis but every other car that passed by would stop and ask if we needed a ride. I soon learned that everyone who drives a car is a Taxi. I waved off a couple of cars that did not resemble a car that I thought was safe. The next car to pull over was owned by Caesar who among other things is working as a taxi driver, host and overall very nice guy. We gave him the address for Mrs. Gibbs and we were on our way. As we traveled, he started to explain the different music and costume competitions that would be occurring over the next couple of days. Traffic was very heavy so he took lots of back roads. He was not sure of the exact location of Mrs. Gibbs and after a few dead-ends we found our new home. We met Mrs. Gibbs, dropped of our bags and jumped back in the car with Caesar. After Caesar informed us of the various activities that night we decided to attend the Soca competition. Soca is a form of music made popular in Trinidad. The band consists of one singer and a small group of dancers. The concert was at the Queens Oval which is normally used for cricket matches. We had to first get tickets to the concert at a local record store. Caesar took us to the St. James district were we paid $10US for each ticket and then popped in for a beer. Carib is the beer of choice in Trinidad and it is very good. I did notice a few of the locals drinking a beer called Stag, which when I asked about it compared to Carib, I got the response I normally give about drinking Miller Lite. Caesar had a beer with us and we had a little more confidence about walking around so we asked Caesar to pick us up at 7:30 PM and take us to the concert.
Karen, Claudius (The guy from the Bahamas) and I set out for some Pelloeh which is a special dish served during Carnival. It is basically rice with various meats such as chicken or beef. The St. James area was about five miles from where we were staying so we decided to walk back and see the sites. I would like to point out that Trinidad or specifically, Port of Spain does not have any businesses that cater to tourists. Most of the places we went were filled with the normal business of the day and no tourists. We were still concerned about running into some not-so-nice people. As we walked we passed the Queens Oval and came across an Internet Cafe. The Internet Cafe(WOW) was closed for Carnival but we knocked on the door. The Internet Cafe was actually a home and since they had guests in for Carnival they did not plan on have any customers. They were happy to give us a tour. Did I mention it was a very big home with a nice backyard, a big Satellite Dish and computers everywhere. Trinidad has embraced the Internet in a big way. I could not find any statistics on the percentage of home computer users or Internet access but most businesses advertised either a web address or an E-mail. The percentage of businesses on the Internet is probably higher then in the United States. I was told that since it is a small Island it is very easy to get everyone to do the same thing. The Internet access is run by the state so I had to dial into Miami at $1.50US a minute to update
Our next wander after the Internet Cafe took us to a Mas camp. Karen and I had discussed joining a Mas camp but we were not sure about what was involved. Karen had heard a musical group called Nigel and Marvin and liked their music, so when we walked by a Mas camp affiliated with Nigel and Marvin we stopped in. The place was setup as a small business with artist drawings of the different costumes on the wall. The backroom was filled with Mas workers frantically making costumes. We were greeted by a very nice fellow who took the time to explain how everything worked. The Mas camp has an artistic theme for all the costumes that are judged at four locations around the city. In addition, the judges also score based on how well the Mas band plays. This means how everybody dances and overall enthusiasm during the parade route while Nigel and Marvin sing. The Carnival committee picks five songs that all the Mas camps play repeatedly hour after hour and day after day. Each Mas camp uses the same words but changes the presentation and tempo. Karen and I were getting a little concerned because the parade route consisted of walking/jumping/dancing for 8 hours a day, two days in a row. This is a lot of walking and we had to dance or as the locals call it Jump and Wine. This is made even more difficult by the heat and all the liquor and beer stands on the parade route. Hey this sounded like our kind of deal! We choose the Bonfire costume, paid our $75US and raced back to Mrs. Gibbs so we could meet our cab. Mrs. Gibbs house is located about three blocks off the Savannah which is the center of Carnival. We had lucked into a great location but a questionable neighborhood. Everyone kept telling us to be careful so we got a little paranoid about walking back at night.
We met up with Caesar and he gave us another tour on our way to the Soca concert. That night was also the finals of the Queens and Kings masquerade contest. We were tempted to ditch our Soca tickets and go to the Queens and Kings masquerade. Each Mas camp has a Queen and King. The Queen and King each wear a very elaborate, ornate and large costume. I do not see how they are able to walk in the parade. After a quick peek and the purchase of a bottle of rum we headed for the Soca concert. As we arrived, I started to question the wisdom of our choice. Karen and I at this point are still concerned about safety and being the only noticeable tourists at an event with 40,000 locals gave rise to some concern. DID I MENTION THAT THE PEOPLE OF TRINIDAD ARE THE NICEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. Karen and I grabbed a seat on the edge of the field and started to ask questions about Soca. When we found out there were 27 Soca bands and the concert would go until 3:30AM, I knew we would not make it. Karen and I were both tired (I was falling asleep) so we walked back five miles to Mrs. Gibbs. We were starting to get more comfortable with our hosts. Everywhere we walked from the guy sleeping on the park bench to the street vendors they all wanted to make sure we were having a good time. We started to have a new appreciation for how nice people could be and how a society could have such a positive outlook on life. I also probably need to point out that Trinidad is not wealthy nation but they sure are happy and man, can they party.
Trinidad Travel Guide 3 day
Trinidad is actually a nation of two islands called the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago is considered to be the resort island so Karen and I planned on heading to Tobago and return to Trinidad on Sunday for J’Ouvert. The flights to Tobago take about 20 minutes and cost $70US round trip. Air Caribbean flies every hour during Carnival and BWIA flies only twice a week. You can also take a five hour ferry ride that drops you off in Scarbourgh, Tobago. The highlight of Saturday morning was the Kiddies Carnival. Each school or club has a kids Mas camp, complete with costumes and proud parents. The kids were all having a blast and their costumes were of the same quality if not better than the adult costumes. When we arrived at the Ferry Terminal we found out the boat left three hours ago. Our next option was to fly standby on Air Caribbean. In Trinidad, flying standby works very well. If you are not checked in on a confirmed flight 30 minute before departure they give your seat to a standby.
We arrived in Tobago around 2:00 PM and decided that we would walk around and find the best beach and guest house. We kept walking and walking and walking Where is the Resort Island I wondered? We reviewed the Tobago tourism book and to our surprise we had walked through the middle of it. I guess looking at all the goats and bulls tied to rocks can distract you. No way could this be a resort Island. We flagged down the bus and made the bus driver really mad. Not only were we not at an official bus stop but we did not have any bus coupons. I had to buy two from someone on the bus and sit down and look at my map like a big dumb tourist. Our master plan was that Scarborough had to be nicer because they had a Casino and a port for the ferry. We got to Scarborough got off the bus, got on the return bus and decided that we had been in paradise.
We checked into Woods Castle for $35US and took a nap. Dinner came early and we were not expecting much. The tourism book listed two restaurants that looked good and we could walk. The Indian restaurant looked very good but we chose Eleven degrees North. The food was very good complete with trendy artwork and a small two man band playing Salsa. Eleven degrees North could compete with the trendiest restaurants in US. We were asleep by 9:00PM.
Trinidad Travel Guide 4 day
The public beach is in a place called Sandy Beach. The beach has a little bar some shops and a place to swim. The beach resembled a beach on the Florida West coast. We set out early for private beach, Pigeon Point, which has a $1US entry fee. PigeonPoint is a ten minute walk along the water from our hotel. On the way we stopped in at a local dive shop,Manta, and in 15 minutes they had us in the boat for a quick dive. The reef and fish are all very similar to Florida or Keys diving. It was 10:00 AM when we got back but at least we had accomplished something for the day. Pigeon Point was next on our places to explore. We had found paradise and quickly setup on the beach for the day. The sand is pure white with overhanging palm trees that provided the perfect amount of shade for sleeping. The water is shallow and rocky but the colors make for that perfect beach resort setting. While Karen slept I wondered off to look for food and found a bar complete with Tiki huts and a restaurant. After three beers and my take-away food order I decided it was time for me to sleep away the rest of the afternoon under a palm tree. Karen and I took a Taxi to the airport for our 5:00 PM flight back to Trinidad.
As always Karen and I were running around at the last minute trying to get everything done. We had to pick up our costumes and buy shorts, shirts and shoes for J’Ouvert. J’Ouvert. means “day open” the anarchic beginning of the world’s wildest Carnival. J’Ouvert’s origins lie not so much in the flamboyant fetes that the early French settlers held before Lent, but in the way their slaves copied them, making fun of their elaborate dress and exaggerated manners. Until J’Ouvert most of the partying is being done in the Mas camps. When the clock hits 3:00 AM the parties and bands from every neighborhood head for the Savannah. The bands range from huge Semi’s covered in speakers playing music from a D.J. to carts covered with steel bands and a cast of musicians. If you J’Ouvert you cover yourself with mud, paint yourself white or blue, dress as a baby and go completely Nuts until 10:00 AM the next morning. Karen and I went to bed early and told Mrs. Gibbs to wake us for J’Ouvert (3:00AM), they all laughed at us Carnival rookies.
Out of nowhere at 3:00 AM loud music awoke us from a sound sleep. We quickly scrambled out of bed and saw a small band with thirty people trailing behind. This did not look like it was going to be a big deal. We put on our newly purchased clothes and headed down to the Savannah. As we walked we noticed a lot more people hanging out around the edges of the street then we had seen before. Sure did look like it was going to be a boring evening. We walked toward the Hilton and grabbed a road side seat. Our first indication about the madness of the evening was when a big semi covered with huge speakers and sponsored by the Chinese Laundry Association arrived. People were lined up behind the truck in a huge dancing mass for as far as you could see. These people were in turn being joined by more people from other streets. All of them dancing, throwing mud and drinking. In a short amount of time there was at least a 100,000 people following the Chinese Laundry Truck. The music was so loud that as the truck passed the air from the sound waves actually felt like wind. We followed the Mas from a slight distance but eventually we would have to take refuge behind a large tree or parked truck to keep us from being swept into the crowd. We followed the groups around the Savannah each time amazed at how big the crowd was getting. This was the most well behaved drunken crowd I had ever seen. During one of the parade routes a marcher had fallen and gotten hurt. This person was surrounded by a sea of people. The Ambulance could not get to him and his friends could not get him out. The D.J. from the Chinese Laundry Truck stopped the music and pleaded to the crowd to make way for the person who had been injured. He only had to ask twice and the crowd separated and the ambulance was able to reach the man. This was not a crowd of a 1000 or 2000 but 30,000 people who simply listened and moved out of the way and then kept on dancing. The rest of the night was filled with more huge speaker trucks playing their rendition of the five chosen songs for Carnival followed by the biggest group of people I had ever seen.
Trinidad Travel Guide 5 day
The next morning Karen and I were awoken at 10:00 AM by the same neighborhood band returning home from seven hours of marching. We had to be at our Mas camp by 11:00AM so we could march for the next six hours. I know this is hard to believe but a lot of people danced through the night went home and cleaned up only to return for another six hours of marching. This time you had to be in part of your costume. It was hot the rum was good we marched and danced for three hours then took a cab to the Hilton for relaxation by the pool and a good hotel dinner. We were pacing ourselves because this whole thing repeated itself again the next day, High Mas, and this time it is for real.
Trinidad Travel Guide 6 day
High Mas had arrived and we were up and out of the house by 7:00AM. Our friend Caesar (Taxi Cab Driver) stopped by to see if we needed a ride. He sure was taking good care of us, Trinidad style. We met up with our Mas group and tried to find our section. Each Mas camp has multiple sections arranged by costume design and each section presents itself at the judges station. This is probably the only parade in the world where more people are in it than watching. The final judging area and main spectator point is in a large stadium called Savannah Grandstand located in the Savannah. The entire day is spent dancing around Port of Spain on your way to the Savannah. Our Mas camp was only two hours into the parade before the parade came to a halt. Each Mas camp presents itself at the large stadium and they are not in a hurry to get off the stage. The largest and biggest party Mas camp with three thousand people is called Poison and they took close to three hours to go by the Savannah Grandstand. So when the parade stopped Karen and I decided to become spectators and walked to the Savannah. Our Mas camp was not going to win anything with us in there dancing. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the stands drinking our rum and glad we were still not standing in line. The final judging did not end until well after 9:00PM when the final Mas camp crossed the Savannah Grandstand. Everyone we talked to felt that the Carnival committee would have to do something about this next year.
Trinidad Travel Guide 7 day
We awoke to find Mrs. Gibbs cooking us a special Carnival breakfast called “bake and fish”. The breakfast was very tasty , I think it had something to do with all the grease involved in the baking. After Mrs. Gibbs stuffed us with food, she asked us for a favor. She truly wanted to know how we enjoyed our stay at her home, what we thought of Carnival, and how she could improve for her future guests. She even went to the trouble of telling us that it would not hurt her feelings if we had anything bad to say because she really wanted to know. I was quick to respond that both Karen and I had found a long lost grandmother and she lived in Trinidad. The people of Trinidad sure are nice.