Don't Let Bandits Take The Fun Out of Your Carnival Vacation
This is an advisory if you intend to visit Trinidad and Tobago for the local Carnival celebrations. Be assured that although Trinidad and Tobago is ranked next to Jamaica as one of the murder capitals of Caribbean most dangerous islands it is still a very safe place to visit.
There are a few things that you should know if you intend to visit Trinidad for the Carnival celebrations. This goes especially for visitors who have no friends and family in Trinidad. More so if you have never visited during the Carnival. Here are a few tips that the CIA Report or travel brochures would not mention.
Let’s get this straight; “bandits” (the name given to robbery perpetrators in Trinidad and Tobago) can and will rob anyone at anytime. These tips are intended to make you aware of some behaviors that can make you less susceptible to becoming a victim on your vacation. This is no joke.
Locally “bandits” have been known to rob everyone traveling in a maxi taxi (that’s the local mode of public transportation that seats 12 or 25 passengers). The police service is not as efficient as the law abiding natives would wish. They are notorious for a low crime detection rate; currently less than 10 percent. Of course as a visitor you will get more attention but that does not amount to a hill-a-beans if you are hurt or lose your valuables. Here’s what you need to know…
1. Blend In: Visitors are more vulnerable because they have a tendency to stand out in a crowd. Natives can easily identify a tourist by the way they are dressed, their accents and what they are carrying in their hand. Unfortunately, if you are Caucasian, you stand out even more. Although there are a small percentage of Caucasians who made Trinidad and Tobago their home a long time ago even some of the natives are targeted. Regardless of your race do not do the following:
2. Dress: It is hot in Trinidad and most visitors tend to dress a lot lighter than they did in the cold climates. The warning is for women, do not wear skimpy alluring clothing be sensible you do not want to be marked out for an unforgivable sin. Everyone, men and women should not be adorned with jewels. Leave it in your hotel room or at home. And while we are on that one, also leave your passport and travel documents in a safe place.
3. Private Transportation: Do not rent a car and drive aimlessly around Port of Spain or some other areas in Trinidad which were labeled hot spots during the recent State of Emergency. In fact, if you can avoid renting a vehicle, do so because if you came to enjoy the carnival you cannot use a vehicle in the places with most of the action. If you must rent a vehicle make sure and have a native who can direct you as to where not to go.
4. Public Transportation: You are safest in the government run buses that you can board in Port of Spain. These buses run throughout the country but they are not always very reliable. It may require some wait but if you get the schedule and be patient that is the safest way to make a trip say from Port of Spain to Arima. Believe it or not the next best and safest mode of transport are the maxi taxis that were mention earlier. Yes there have been a number of robberies on these vehicles but generally they are a safe and quick way to travel. They are on a fast route from Port of Spain to Arima on what is called the “Priority Bus Route”.
5. PH Transportation: You can also use the regular passenger sedan taxi which all start with the letter “H”. Privately owned vehicles start with the letter “P” but they are also used as taxis. Locally they are known as “PH” taxis and there is no recognizable difference between a “PH” for hire and a privately owned vehicle except for the actions of the driver. They may see you standing on the side of the road and blow their horns or use hand signals to let you know that they are for hire. This mode of transportation as you would imagine is the most dangerous way to travel. There are a lot more stories of either the driver being attacked or a passenger (s) and driver robbing, sometimes raping another passenger.
6. Carnival Events: To experience the real spirit of Carnival you will want to attend a few selected events. For the music lovers, pan is the order of the day although on Carnival day you will see many large trucks with DJs playing a variety of local and foreign music. However, at the cultural show expect to hear calypso, soca and chutney. Attending these events can be tricky if you are a tourist and know very little about the island. You may be able to get transportation to the event but it is the return trip that can be scary. Avoid it if you can. This is where your only option may be the “PH” vehicles. That late at night it is unwise to rely on that mode of transport even for the natives. Always arrange how you will get back to your place before you venture out to a late night event. You should not attend a fete because it sounds like fun on the radio or television.
7. Drugs: If you do drugs and you are caught even with as little as one marijuana cigarette you will be arrested. Do not attempt to purchase drugs from strangers. There are marijuana and cocaine dealers in every city in Trinidad but unless you know someone, and you would not because you are a visitor, it would be plain stupid to attempt to purchase drugs. And by the way, if you are thinking about bringing in your own that too would land you in jail. Possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia is a serious offense in Trinidad and Tobago.
8. Drinking: Be aware that if you drive in Trinidad and Tobago that recently passed breathalyzer legislation was recently passed and you could be arrested if you are field tested as be inebriated. If you are not driving, public drinking is allowed as you will note that the locals are not shy about drinking in public.
We hope that what you read here puts things in perspective for you. This was not written to scare you off or to ruin your Carnival vacation. This is an advisory and you can enjoy our tropical paradise with its beautiful sights and sounds. You will leave with a lifetime of Kodak moments to share with your family and friends. Have a great time in Trinidad and Tobago.
This article was written by T&T Carnival Visitors Concierge Services, find out how you can enjoy Trinidad and Tobago Carnival with the help of a native and get a free schedule of Carnival fetes. Click here.