Trinidad & Tobago - Introduction
Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island nation in the southern Caribbean, located a mere 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying northeast of the South American nation of Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. It also shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast and Guyana to the southeast. They are the most southerly islands in the Caribbean. The country covers an area of 5,128 square kilometres (1,979 sq mi) and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands.
Trinidadian nationals are known as Trinbagonians or Trinidadians. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands; Tobago, Robinson Crusoe's island, is much smaller, comprising about 6% of the total area and 4% of the population. The capital of Trinidad and Tobago is Port of Spain.
TT is a high-income developed country with a GDP per capita of over US$20,000 and an annual GDP of US$28 billion. It has the largest economy in the English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is the third most populous country with 1.3 million inhabitants.
Life in Trinidad is much more fast-paced than in Tobago, which is more laidback and serene. Trinidad is where the action is – festivals, shopping, nightlife and business. Tobago is all about sitting back.
The undisputed “Culture Capital” of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is home to a world of festivals representing the diverse people who settled in these islands. Trinidad and Tobago is also home to indigenous musical forms like soca and calypso, and the steel pan - musical instruments made from discarded steel drums, historic architecture, cultural and culinary artistry.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of their origins, have one thing in common: hospitality from the heart and openness towards visitors. Hanging out or "liming" is a favourite pastime and visitors are always welcome to join a lime any time of the day or week. There are celebrations and festivals all year round. All religions celebrate public holidays together - whether it is Divali-the Hindu festival of lights or Christmas. The cultural highlight is without a doubt Carnival, one of the largest Carnival celebrations in the world. During Carnival, mesmerising costumes and vibrant street partying take centre stage. The Tobago Heritage Festival is the best opportunity to delve deep into the history of the original African inhabitants.
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has had its share of fortunes and misfortunes. It benefitted from the worldwide rise in oil prices in the early 1970s, but it faced an insurgency during the same period.
In July 1990, a group of Muslim fundamentalists called the Jamaat Al Muslimeen, attempted a violent overthrow of the duly elected government. It was unsuccessful largely due to the intervention and positive reaction of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force. The Defence Force was awarded the nation's highest honor, (the Trinity Cross), for its distinguished performance during the crisis. The status of and esteem for the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force rose dramatically and continues to be high. The Defence Force is deemed incorruptible, hardworking, honest, patriotic, professional, and one of the few institutions which still functions in the manner it was meant to.
Medical care is below U.S. standards: While care at some private facilities is better than at most public health facilities, patients may be expected to prove their ability to pay before assistance is given, even if emergency care is needed. Patients requiring blood transfusions are expected to arrange for at least the same amount to be donated on their behalf.
It is against the law in Trinidad and Tobago to use mobile phones while driving, except in "hands-free" mode. The penalty for talking or texting while driving is USD$240 or three months imprisonment. Trinidad and Tobago police administer breathalyzer tests at unannounced checkpoints and conduct traffic stops when driving under the influence is suspected.
Intoxicated drivers on the road are a particular concern on the weekends, especially after dark when many people are going to or returning from social events. Drivers should take extra precaution on narrow and winding roads leading in and out of beach areas and small towns in Trinidad and Tobago. Unmarked taxis and “maxi taxis” make frequent, rapid stops in the middle of the roadway or veer across several lanes of traffic to pick up or drop off passengers.
Most sidewalks are impassible for wheelchairs, due to the deep gullies that run alongside most roads. Additionally, cars parked on sidewalks, uncovered manholes, and other obstacles force persons in wheelchairs onto the main roadways in what can be very dangerous traffic conditions.
The country’s murder rate has spiraled out of control, mostly due to a thriving drug trade and gang violence. A significant and growing portion of this violence is attributed to the influence of gangs, illegal narcotics, and firearms. Most reported crimes occur within the metropolitan areas of Port of Spain and San Fernando. Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping for ransom, sexual assault, and murder have involved expatriate residents and tourists, including U.S. citizens. The perpetrators of many of these crimes have not been arrested. It is highly recommended that female visitors and residents avoid traveling alone, particularly at night or in secluded areas. Scenic rest stops and public parks including Fort George, downtown Port of Spain, the interior and perimeter of Queen’s Park Savanah, and all beaches should be avoided after dark. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to pick-pocketing and armed assaults in these locations. Holiday periods often see an increase in criminal activity.
In Tobago, violent crime is an issue, including attacks on expatriate residents and tourists in their residences, many of which involve the use of machetes. The detection rate for murder was 13.6 percent for 2015, a decrease from 16.1 percent in 2014. The murder rate continues to be driven primarily by gang- and drug-related activities that are concentrated in a few urban areas (primarily, though not limited to, East Port of Spain), with limited spillover into the wider community.
It is prohibited to import any camouflage-pattern material without approval from the Ministry of National Security. Wearing camouflage clothing in public is prohibited. However, camouflage uniforms may be worn if you are in Trinidad and Tobago on official military business. It may be illegal to take pictures of government and military facilities. In these instances, it is advisable to obtain permission before taking pictures.
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