The standard electric socket found on the island is a two (sometimes three) pin socket similar to those found in the United States. This consists of two flat pins, and an optional round third pin at the top. Make sure you purchase one or two adapters before coming to Tobago, as they are very difficult to find here. Electricity can be a little frustrating at times in Tobago, as whenever T&TEC decide to fiddle with something, you can fairly well say that the electric’s going to be down for a while. When it’s running, which gets better every year, then the normal current is 120v, but 240v can be found in some hotels, although this usually is reserved for air conditioning units and cookers, etc.
It is said that the tap water here is drinkable, although I prefer to err on the side of caution and buy bottled water. It wouldn't be the first time that I've seen brown water coming from the tap, shortly after a heavy rainfall. Bottled water is easily available in all the shops, bars and restaurants on Tobago.
January to May is considered to be the dry season. This is where you are least likely to get large amounts of rainfall, and usually the prices of accommodation on the island are more expensive. What you have to consider, is that the major part of the island is a rainforest, and Tobago is located about 750 miles north of the equator. This means that you can guarantee that it’s going to be hot virtually every day, and that during the average week at some point, you can expect a short sharp shower. Usually though the larger amount of rainfall comes during the June to December period, but even then you wouldn’t expect to lose any more than a day or two in a week to poor weather. The average temperature on the island is 30ºC (86ºF) during the day and 25ºC (77ºF) during the night, with very little breeze unless rain is on the way. Click here to see our temparature and rainfall guide for more information.
Tobago is blessed to have very few dangerous animals on the island, and those that might cause some concern restrict themselves to the rain forest. We have (approximately) 210 species of bird (from Parrot to Eagle), 16 lizards (from Gecko to Iguana), 5 Marine Turtles, 14 Frogs, 23 non-poisonous snakes, 17 bats, 12 mammals and small alligators called Caiman.
Should you choose to drive in Tobago, you can expect to run a gauntlet against various goats, dogs, cows or chickens that seem to be everywhere. Mosquito and Sand flies are the most annoying of the critters. They are most prevalent during the early morning hours and around dusk going into the evening. There are a number of local repellents that do a reasonable job of protecting you, but unfortunately it’s a Caribbean wide problem, that you just can't get away from. Most hotel rooms are air conditioned, and therefore closed, which means you should get a peaceful night without finding yourself as the evening meal! Lizards and Geckos are everywhere, and personally, I love them. Mostly because their favorite foods are beetles and mosquitoes, which is good by me. Spiders and Snakes are very few and far between, and are usually only seen on the roads (dead) or in the rain forest itself.
Water temperature here ranges between 25ºC (77ºF) and 28ºC (82ºF), and more often than not sit at around 27ºC (81ºF) for most dives, unless a cold current is coming in, or you are going on a particularly deep dive. Most divers here wear 2.5mm or 3mm shorties, unless you get particularly cold and the same thickness full length is sufficient. Click here to see
our temperature and rainfall guide for more information.
During certain parts of the year, and its difficult to predict exactly when, there is the rare, but real danger of encountering a Portuguese Man-O-War. These jellyfish drift on surface currents and winds, and usually sit in dead current spots or drift onto the beaches. Be aware and make children especially aware that if they see a pink bubble either floating, or washed up on the beach then stay well clear. Even if these creatures are dead, they are still very dangerous, and everyone should stay well clear. Fortunately this is a very rare problem, which our captains make sure we avoid on all dives by checking the exit point before beginning dives. On the other hand, these are foods for turtles, and so help keep our large populations of Hawksbill and Leatherback populations fed.
The differences between North and South diving in Tobago are quite distinct, with the South being much more effected by the weather, and having a number of days per year where it is either too dangerous or just simply not worth diving because the visibility is too poor. The dives in the South are less effected by current, except those dives located in what we call the shallows (out from the point of Tobago beyond the airport) which can have severe drift, and must be dived with a great deal of caution, and local knowledge. The North of Tobago (Speyside) is the diving Mecca of Tobago (possibly the Caribbean), and has some of the most wonderful coral and fish populations that you could wish to see. Drift is quite often the case here, although this varies on a day by day basis, and can be reduced by doing more sheltered dives if the seas get rough. It is rarely the case that it’s not worth diving in Speyside, the last time in can remember was when Hurricane Ivan (September 2004) came through, and the seas where just not worth it. For all our dives, we attempt to ensure that if there is drift involved, that the dive goes with the flow, and, if so, it can turn into the easiest and most wonderful dive you've ever done.
Tobago lays latitude 11ºN and longitude 60ºW, slightly north of Trinidad, and south of the hurricane belt. It was nevertheless struck by Hurricane Flora on September 30 1963. The effects of the hurricane were so severe, that it changed the economy of Tobago. Up until Hurricane Flora, Tobago was mainly agricultural with Coconut, Banana and Cocoa plantations. The hurricane caused so much damage that these plantations were abandoned, and the economy changed towards tourism. Since then, Hurricanes have not been an issue, despite a few warnings, and although Ivan came through afew
years ago it passed some distance north of us, and did mainly superficial damage. This is a very rare occurrence, and whilst most Caribbean islands and the southern United States, get them every year, we, fortunately, do not.
Buses and Taxis are regularly available on the island, but don't expect them to run to a timetable! The buses work on a process of staying at base until full, and when the required numbers of people are on board, head to their destination. This can mean the typical ‘no bus for ages, and then three come along at once’. Taxis, on the other hand, work on the basis of being hailed in the street or called by your hotel. Taxis can be identified on the street by the first letter of the number plate being H (Hire), and don't be surprised if other people are already in the car when he stops to pick you up. They will fill to capacity as far as they are able, to earn more money. The exception to this is if you have specifically hired the taxi to take you to a location, and then you will pay a higher fee. Some private (P first letter) vehicles get involved in the action too, and you'll see many people standing on the side of the road, trying to flag vehicles down to get a cheap ride further up the road. The cost of these journeys is usually between TT$2 and TT$5 (approximately 20p-50p sterling or less than US$1) depending on the distance traveled, and you almost certainly will be joined by as many people as the car can carry.
If you wish to visit Trinidad then the twin islands operate a ferry service, which you can travel as foot passengers or take your car. If you want to take your car, then check with your rental firm first that this is covered. The ferry journey costs about TT$25 per person as a foot passenger, and about TT$75 for a vehicle, depending on its size and weight. Trinidad and Tobago have also acquired a Sea Cat which allows you to travel in much more style, and much quicker. The average journey takes just over 2 hours (weather permitting) on the Cat as opposed to nearer four hours on the ferry. The Cat runs twice a day, so its easily possible now to go for a day journey to Trinidad, and see how the sister isle compares.
The local currency is the Trinidad and Tobago Dollar, which is the most commonly accepted form of currency. Most Hotels, Restaurants and Shops will accept foreign currency as a form of payment, but usually this is at a poor rate of conversion. The banks will also allow you to change currency, and these rates can sometimes be better than those you find in your own country. If you can not get TT dollars, then the next best thing is the US dollar, if you want to carry cash. The two major banks on the island (Royal Bank and Republic Bank), do have a number of cash tills around on the South of the island. Be aware when traveling to the North that there are no banks there, and it takes a 45 minute drive to get to the nearest till in Scarborough. MasterCard and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere, and this is probably your best way of paying for most things, without carrying large amounts of cash or travelers cheque (Sterling or US$) with you.
Current approximate exchange rates are (Republic Bank - 30 Aug 2006):
US $1 = TT$6.05
GB £1 = TT$11.06
EURO €1 = TT$7.46
Tobago has a land area of 300km² (116miles²), and is approximately 42km (26 miles) long and 11km (7 miles) wide. The population is about 50,000, approximately 17,000 of which live in the capital, Scarborough. The climate is tropical, and the islands lie just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt. The Tobago forest reserve claims to be the oldest protected forest in the western world. It was designated as a protected crown reserve on April 17 1776 following representations by Soame Jenyns, a UK MP, who was responsible for development in Tobago. It has remained a protected reserve ever since.
This forested area has a great biodiversity including many species of birds, mammals, frog and (non-poisonous) snakes. It is also one of the most approachable areas of rain-forest since it is relatively small and there are government appointed guides at various locations, who charge very reasonable rates.
The southern area of the island, from Scarborough southwards, is an area called the lowlands. This is a more commercial area of Tobago, and is more dedicated to housing and tourist related activities. This land is particularly flat, although the areas around Buccoo and Bon Accord are in close proximity to the lagoon and swamp land, and are so more affected by high water levels and mosquitoes.
Telephone and Internet Access
The international dialing code for Tobago is 1-868 followed by the seven digit telephone number. Mobile phones that run on the GSM network will work here, but expect a patchy service, as much of the island has severe terrain, and this can interfere with the signal. If, on the other hand, you prefer to buy a cell phone when you get here, then TSTT allow you to buy a pre-pay phone, but this can work out as an expensive option. An alternative to this is to buy just a pre-pay chip, and put it in your existing GSM mobile, and for as long as your phone is not locked, this can be a very useful option.
Internet access is widely available on Tobago, usually at either internet shops or in hotels. Unfortunately, high speed internet access is only currently available in Scarborough to the Crown Point area, the rest of the island has to put up with 56k dialup.
There are plenty of car rental companies on the island, just be sure to choose wisely, both in terms of quality of vehicle and cover on insurance. If you need advice when you get here, we can make sure that we steer you in the right direction, so that you don’t pay too much. Driving is on the left in Tobago, the same as in England, but the opposite to most of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the driving skills of the locals leave a lot to be desired, as you will find some drivers crawl along talking to all their friends as they drive, whilst being overtaken by someone traveling at the speed of light. This coupled with the odd chicken, cow and goat crossing the road, people stopping every ten feet to pick up/drop off, and dodging the pot-holes, paints an interesting picture! The journey from Scarborough to Speyside can be quite grueling as the road is pot-holed and bends and turns at quite alarming angles at times. Having said that, it IS a journey worth doing, for the spectacular views alone. Just take your time, be careful, and enjoy it!
Tobago is virtually the opposite of Trinidad, and at times it’s hard to believe the two islands share a common flag. Trinidad newspapers constantly tell shocking stories of theft, murder, abduction and all kinds of other crimes, whereas Tobago is proud of its safe and secure status. Don’t get me wrong, it may not be the safest places on the planet, but you can feel secure walking around at night, for as long as you travel around sensibly. Try not to walk around with large amounts of cash, showing off huge amounts of jewelry, and electronic gadgets. If you are sensibly careful, then you should have no problems.
Tobago’s airport is Crown Point, on the southernmost tip of the island. It’s currently undergoing refurbishment and expansion. It’s a fairly small airport in terms of those seen in Europe and the US, but generally quite efficient. When entering the country, once all necessary immigration and baggage collection has been done, you will be greeted by a wall of taxi drivers, hotel porters and families looking for incoming relations. Most of the hotels arrange a ‘meet and greet’ at this point and will use either cars or buses to take you to your hotel. If, on the other hand, you have made no prior arrangements, then there are plenty of taxi drivers available, all ready and willing to help.
When departing from Tobago (unless you’re going to Trinidad), you will need to pay a departure fee of TT$100 per person, in cash, to pay for your exit tax. You are also only allowed to take TT$200 in cash out of the country. If traveling to Trinidad then this is a short 30 minute flight, which costs TT$200 per person, and runs every half hour during peek and hourly for the remainder of the day. Don't be surprised by the odd cancellation, as this is a fairly regular occurrence, but if you want to see a bit of Trinidad then this is the quickest form of transport.