Trinidad & Tobago – a backpackers perspective.

Trinidad airport.

Passing through customs, buying the prerequisite bus ticket, and (eventually) finding the bus stop, was the straightforward part. The wait for the bus proved more challenging. It took just under 3-hours to arrive, despite the schedule claiming it to be every hour. Most of the airport taxi drivers had approached me and warned that the bus sometimes never arrives. Thankfully, I took this with a pinch of salt.

Port of Spain (POS) Trinidad.

It doesn’t bode well when all the houses have razor sharp barbed wire coiled around their boundary fences, and the owner of your Airbnb warns you not to walk on your own at night.

Preparations for carnival were in full swing during my stay in Trinidad and as such I made a point of visiting the Invaders (one of Trinidad’s top steel pan bands) during one of their practice sessions. They are a group of around 120 people. The wall of sound was incredible.

Another highlight of my trip to POS was a visit to the Magnificent Seven, which is made up of a group of seven mansions located west of the Queen’s Park Savannah. They were built between 1902 and 1910 and are listed as heritage sites at the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. Stollmeyer’s Castle was the first building in the neighbourhood.

The buildings showcase a wide range of architectural styles including French Colonial, Scottish baronial, Indian Empire, and Moorish Mediterranean, often blended with Caribbean architecture.

Queen’s Royal College.
Stollmeyer’s Castle.

Trinidad to Tobago.

At 04:30 on the morning of Friday 19/01, it was still dark outside, I left the safety of my AirBnB and set out on the 4km walk to the Trinidad and Tobago ferry terminal. It took less time than I thought – just under 45 minutes. I had pre purchased a premium class ticket and, as the journey unfolded, this proved to be a wise decision.

The crossing is renowned for being choppy, and boy was it choppy. A premium seat allowed me access to the front of the boat, which meant that I could focus on the horizon and avoid any motion sickness. A lot of my fellow passengers spent the crossing slumped over the side of the boat!

Tobago proved to be a far more chilled out place than Trinidad.

The small village of Buccoo was my first port of call. I was temporarily given a false impression of the bus system in Tobago. I only had to wait 5-minutes for a bus to Buccoo. It was a relatively short journey followed by a 10-minute walk to the centre of the village.

My accommodation in Buccoo was nothing special, the room was small and very basic. The host was a grumpy old so and so! That evening I had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant nearby. Great service, lovely food, and very reasonably priced.

The small dock, next to my accommodation, in Buccoo.

Goat Racing in Buccoo.

Tobago bills itself as the “Goat Racing Capital of the World,” and really, who’s to argue? The tradition dates as far back as 1925 when Tobagonians decided they needed a working class alternative to horse racing. Quite obviously, the sport caught on and has grown in prominence over the years. Today, as evidenced in part by the new facility, goat racing in Tobago rivals horse racing in its sophistication, pageantry, style and fierce competitiveness.

“Goats have their own stables, owners, trainers, and jockeys – but these jockeys run barefoot behind the goats while clutching their leashes, and use twigs to spur the animals to the finish line rather than whips. Goats also bear colourful names like Rum Punch, and serious betting takes place before the race. Winners can also raise a championship trophy, topped with a golden goat, and return home with a cash prize and a bottle of rum.”

Getting to my next destination proved challenging. I had to return to Scarborough. I waited a good hour for a bus and then gave up. Most people looked to be putting their finger out and stopping cars for a lift. I decided to do the same. Within 5-minutes I was picked up and swiftly delivered to the bus station in Scarborough.

Getting the bus to Castara proved even more challenging. Apparently the next bus after 08:30 is 12:30. I had arrived in Scarborough at 08:35. I didn’t want to drag my suitcase around for 4-hours so I sat in the bus shelter chatting to the many locals that passed by.

Castara is a lovely little fishing village located on the north western side of Tobago. My accommodation was stunning with a lovely balcony overlooking the jungle with a wee glimpse of the sea.

Problems arose when my host informed me that they only accepted cash. I had not been presented with this little nugget of information during the booking process. I therefore did not have enough cash to pay the bill. No problem said my host, nip to the ATM. I duly followed instructions but none of my cards worked in the one and only ATM in the village. This left ‘us’ with a problem, which I left my host to resolve. Thankfully, I had enough cash to buy food and provisions during my stay.

The payment issue was eventually resolved thanks to the owners son who had his own functioning card reader.

In spite of the payment hassle, I very much enjoyed Castara. The locals were extremely friendly and I enjoyed the many conversations that I had with a wide range of people. The nearby beaches are beautiful, there are some lovely hikes, and I found a great little restaurant – with some of the best food that I have so far tasted in the Caribbean.

Castara sunset.

The next challenge was returning to Scarborough. In theory there was a school bus at 08:30. Unfortunately this did not arrive. I ended up waiting 4-hours for a bus.

Most frustrating of all I let the other passengers get on in front of me – they were all ladies. As I finally boarded the bus the driver stuck his hand out and said the bus is full. I was incensed. I was not going to give in. As I stood at the front of the bus I gave a heart felt speech about needing a seat in order to get to the airport in time. One person offered to help by giving me their seat and sitting on the step at the back of the bus. The driver appeared satisfied with this solution and off we went.

Next stage: Antigua and Barbuda.

About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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