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Carnival 2006 – Getting Around 101

Getting Around Trinidad

Travelling in Trinidad can be a very very confusing process, since there are ‘unofficial’ hours of travel and official and unofficial ways to travel. A important couple things to look out for and understand about Trinidad.

IMPORTANT: Cultural and Timely Issues to consider even before starting your journey getting around Trinidad:
As a tourist, you are NOT expected to know the following:

  • Where the taxi stands are (this is discussed lower in the page)
  • What a maxi-taxi or taxi stand is.
  • What the prices are to go from place to place. (discussed lower down)
  • What the etiquette in a taxi is.
  • That taxi and maxi-taxis will continue to pick up passengers between embarking and disembarking points.
  • That you are NOT expected to use a maxi-taxi, bus or taxi

The last point I have made is extremely important in today’s Trinidad. With the extreme rise in reported crime in Trinidad, tourists who do not know their way around or the customs or behaviour in travelling in Trinidad face potential problems, one must take caution as one must do when travelling in any foreign country. Tourists are easily identifiable since the manner of dress and the amount of electronics (expensive camera, digicams) and jewellery are easy prey to the Trini ‘smartmen’ or conartist or petty thief, they are all the same thing in Trinidad. When using public transport, never open a full wallet of money, locals never do this at all, since people are always watching, especially when you are a tourist (anyone white or very fair skinned is automatically assumed to be a tourist, this is a very common Trini generalisation). Another important generalization is that all tourists are rich and have money to be travelling around in Trinidad. Local white people generally have a lot of money and if you review the newspapers, you will see that the rich indian and white businessmen have been targets of kidnapping – hence why one should be cautious.

It is very uncommon for tourists to use taxis for another reason, getting any type of transport from a party on the coast (whether Chaguaramas or Maracas or any club on the coast) is almost an impossible task. In any metropolitan city, you can be assured of safe reliable transport via cab or train, in Trinidad, this is not the case, the first time you go to a party in Pier 1 on a Friday, you will notice the traffic of people driving to the coast!! The reason for this is that no local who can afford to party up north, will take a maxi taxi from the coast at night. It is too risky and so very dangerous, since maxi taxis or taxis stop at any random point and will pick up almost any character, although with the number of taxidrivers who are being robbed, they have become much more selective who they pick up when it is dark.

MAIN POINT #1 : When travelling to Trinidad as tourist, rent a car, it might be a little bit more money, but if you dont know anyone in Trinidad, dont even bother with public transport, it is just too much potential problems for you.

However when using maxi-taxis, there is almost always a conductor and a driver. Once you get in, ask the fare to where you are going. Conversation can resemble this
“Hey drive, how much to get to (insert location)” OR “Aye, how much to go to (insert location)

You can also look for the fare chart, usually it is displayed inside the maxi-taxi. Pay only what is said on the fare chart, Trinis DO NOT tip (If you read the feteing 101 page, you can use this cultural fact to your advantage as a fiscally advantaged tourist *lol*) . This also applies to taxis or any other mode of transportation that you use. Do not tip anyone while travelling, I cannot stress this enough, some people will even take you tipping as you showing off your money.

If you take a taxi, they come in two varieties: a 4 seat car and a 5 seater car
- 4 seater = any coupe with a single front seat. Getting the front seat is a matter of luck, and you DO NOT pay more to get the front seat OR you share the back seat with 2 other people. God forbid someone sweaty sits next to you, or smokes. You will just have to suck it up.
- 5 seater = usual car is a Toyota 280C or some model of Toyota Super Saloon. If you sit in the front seat and would not like anyone to sit in the front with you, you will have to pay for both seats, otherwise sitting in the front is like sitting in the back, you will have to snuggle close with someone else

If you dont like the looks of a taxi or the driver, simply choose another one, or if you are on the side of the road flagging a car and you are suspicious, just waved the car along. Caution is always better when travelling.

Another thing, while Trinis are very friendly, when in a taxi, don’t strike up conversations while inside the taxi. It is just not a normal thing to do, it is not rude, but just not a customary thing to do.

Method of Transport:
There are four types of public transportation in Trinidad and Tobago – buses, maxi taxis, route taxis and private taxis

A mix of all four can get you almost anywhere on the islands, apart from some remote rural areas (or even late night trips), for which renting a car is the only alternative. The first three are relatively cheap but not always the fastest option. For travelling between the islands you can opt for the ferry, which is slow (the trip takes around 5 and a half hours) but very economical, or the plane, quicker (less than 30 minutes) and more comfortable though a bit more expensive.

Buses

Regular bus service is provided from Port-of-Spain in Trinidad. Buses can get overcrowded, but provide a cheap way of getting around. Public buses also serve all of Tobago running from one end of the island to the other daily.

There are plenty of bus choices operate in Port of Spain linking Trinidad’s largest towns. The main departure point is the City Gate terminal on South Quay. An information booth manned 07:00-19:00 weekdays and till noon Saturday operates from the west side of the bus platform. In Tobago a regular bus service from Scarborough runs to Crown Point, Plymouth and most villages on the island.

Services are less reliable on the weekend. In general, I never travelled on a bus in Trinidad, since it was always so crowded, but since the new airconditioned buses, they are not so bad, but if timeliness of arrival and departure is absolutely important, go with a route taxi/private car.

Maxi Taxi – the pertinent questions:

typical maxi

These are minibuses transporting up to 20 people. They have set routes and meeting points and standardized fares; however, they have no fixed timetable. Maxi taxis have a colour code according to the area they serve. Tickets’ prices range from 2TTD to 7TTD.

Today there are about 5000 maxi taxis in Trinidad and Tobago. When compared with the bus system, the maxi taxis offer more flexibility by their sheer numbers and a higher probability of getting from place to place within a minimum waiting time. the owners and operators have a stronger motivation to capture and keep customer. They maintain a high level of service and boast a high degree of public acceptance.All adults as well as children three (3) years and older are expected to pay these fares when they ‘hail’ a maxi taxi on the stands or by the side of the road. Only when you pay you are covered by insurance – HENCE PAY ONCE YOU GET IN THE MAXI OR TAXI . These fares work vice versa.

‘Maxi taxis’ operate along colour-coded zones as well; these are a little more flexible in their routes. So the Green band maxi-taxis operate from Chaguanas to San Fernando. When one speak of a Green band maxi taxi, it means the colour of a horizontal band going around the entire maxi taxi. Below I have listed some typical routes and the colours of the maxi taxi bands.

How to get ride in a maxi taxi:

Two ways I know of
1) You can go a maxi-taxi stand (or taxi stand), as they called back in Trinidad. These are main junctions in the country where taxis change routes. There are 4 main ‘hubs’ and they are located in

a) North Hub – This is located in Port of Spain at Independence Square – The yellow-band maxi stand in Port of Spain is at the corner of South Quay and Wrightson Road. It is called City Gate!

This “square” is actually the extra wide median strip of the street which runs between King’s Wharf on the cruise port and the Roman Catholic Cathedral. Now set with interlocking brick, benches, trees and artwork, the square has become a lively center. Many flanking older buildings are brightly painted sporting eating spots. Some attractive modern buildings are recent additions to this strip. The promenade is named after Brian Lara, who is Trinidad’s most famous cricketer. Pics are clickable

Excellent Stores on the Corner
Rum Shop on the Corner
CCN Building
Central Bank
Church’s Chicken on the corner
Church of Conception
City Gate

a) South Hub – This is located in San Fernando at Library Corner – The green-band maxi stand in San Fernando is lower down on High Street, while the black band maxis are behind the library. The entire throroughfare is part of Harris Promenade, which is the southern equivalent of the Brian Lara Promenade up north.

From Port of Spain you should be able to get to anywhere in Trinidad either directly or through a combination of maxi-taxi
Taxis serving fixed routes connect Port of Spain with its environs, and with eastern, central, and southern Trinidad as well. Fares are very inexpensive. Cars can be flagged down at any point along their routes, or found at the appropriate taxi stand in Port of Spain:

  • Arima/Sangre Grande: lower Henry Street (west side)
  • Carenage: corner Park Street & St Vincent Street
  • Chaguanas: lower Charlotte Street (east side)
  • Curepe/Tunapuna/St Augustine: lower Henry Street (west side)
  • Diego Martin/Petit Valley: Lower Abercromby Street (south of Independence Square)
  • Maracas/Blanchisseuse: George Street, near Prince Street
  • Maraval (circling the Savannah): corner of Duke Street and Charlotte Street
  • Morvant: lower George Street (west side)
  • Port of Spain General Hospital: between Charlotte Street and South Quay (north side)
  • San Fernando: South Quay between Chacon Street and Broadway
  • San Juan/Barataria: lower Charlotte Street (west side)
  • St Ann’s (circling the Savannah): Hart Street and Frederick Street (south side)
  • St James: Hart Street and Frederick Street (north side)
  • Wrightson Road/Long Circular Road: lower Chacon Street (east side).

Route Area, Bands and Routes

Route Area 1 : Yellow Band : The yellow-band maxi stand in Port of Spain is at the corner of South Quay and Wrightson Road.

- Port-of-Spain/Chaguaramas

- Port-of-Spain/Diego Martin
- Port-of-Spain to Maraval to Maracas

Route Area 2 : Red Band :

- Port-of-Spain to Arima to Sangre Grande to Matelot
- Feeder Routes North of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway

Route Area 3 : Green Band :

- Port-of-Spain/Chaguanas/San Fernando
- San Fernando/Gasparillo /Tabaquite

Route Area 4 : Black Band :

- San Fernando/Princes Town/Rio Claro/Mayaro/Moruga/Tabaquite
- Sangre Grande/Manzanilla /Mayaro
-
Sangre Grande/Biche/Rio Claro

Route Area 5 : Brown Band :

- San Fernando/La Brea/Point Fortin/Cedros
- San Fernando/Siparia/Erin /Moruga

Tobago:
Route Area 1 : Blue Band : All around the island

There are a few micro-routes within Route 2. Each of these routes has their own structure of fares which is displayed in each maxi taxi for passengers to note. Here are a few of the structures of fares. These structures are approved by the Route 2 Maxi Taxi Association. To see the fares click on the links below.

Eastern Main Road to Port-of-Spain – This route starts at Arima and passes through D’Abadie, Arouca, Five Rivers, Tacarigua, Tunapuna, Curepe, San Juan and finally ends in Port-of-Spain.

Bus Route to Port-of-Spain – This route travels the same as the above micro-route except that it is along the Bus Route. Fares are slightly different.

Highway/Bus Route/Maloney to Port of Spain – This route begins in Maloney and travels on the Highway until Macoya where the maxi taxi goes along the Bus Route into Port-of-Spain.

La Horquetta to Port-of-Spain – From La Horquetta the maxi taxi takes you along the Highway to Macoya where it joins the Bus Route and finally takes you along the Bus Route into Port-of-Spain.

Maxi Taxis Coloured Scheme
Port of Spain (POS)
* operates from/around Port of Spain westward to the Valley
* colour: yellow stripes
Eastern Trinidad
* operates from POS to Sandre Grande
* colour: red stripes
South Trinidad
* operates from POS to San Fernando (including Chaguanas, Couva,
Gasparillo)
* colour: green stripes
Princes Town – La Romaine
* operates from San Fernando to Princes Town
* colour: black stripes
Southwestern Trinidad
* operates from San Fernando into Southwest (Erin, Penal, Point Fortin,
Siparia)
* colour: brown stripes
Tobago
* operates around the island of Tobago
* colour: blue stripes

Route Taxis/Private Cars/ PH Cars

These are all the same thing. These are similar to maxi taxis, except they transport up to 5 passengers and don’t have set meeting points, though you’ll find that they usually gather in some of the busier areas and won’t leave until they’re completely full. Since they have fewer passengers, they are quicker than maxi taxis and a bit more expensive. Note that they have H number plates, which is the only feature that distinguishes them from private cars (these have P number plates). Big difference here is that a route taxi is always a car. PH stands for private hire car.

Regular route taxis (‘tourist taxis’) are available at the airports on both islands, and you’ll find them lurking around hotels and cruise-ship docks as well. There are no taxi meters, so try to negotiate a fare before setting off (ask your hotel reception for a list of government-regulated rates). Shared ‘route taxis’ and minibuses are the main form of public transport on the islands. These taxis travel along a set route dropping off passengers anywhere along the way.

Another big thing is that you wil find yourself sharing a taxi, since the taxi wont pull out of a taxi stand unless full, and if you stop a taxi on the road, they wil pick more passenger. If you are a metropolitan kinda person, this invasion of your personal space might be kinda weird, but you can always offer to pay for the next seat so you have space to sprawl out, just let the driver know and you will have no problem. The drivers of private cars/route taxis prefer this, since it is one less passenger they have to worry about. In addition, if you pay for more than one seat, I have always found that the driver treats you better. ( my assumption is because the driver thinks you have more money and wont settle for bad service).

One thing to get accustomed to, is the fact that roads are narrow and drivers can speed around in Trinidad. Driving is sport in Trinidad.. sometimes a contact sport, but like everywhere else, taxis/cabbies drive in a certain fashion and will take liberties that you as regular driver will not.

There is a lot of good information on this page - but see below for more information on sample prices, of course if you negotiate, you can find a much lower price, but you need to haggle appropriately.

Taxi Routes from Port Of Spain:

Taxis serving fixed routes connect Port of Spain with its environs, and with eastern, central, and southern Trinidad as well. Fares are very inexpensive. Cars can be flagged down at any point along their routes, or found at the appropriate taxi stand in Port of Spain:

  • Arima/Sangre Grande: lower Henry Street (west side)
  • Carenage: corner Park Street & St Vincent Street
  • Chaguanas: lower Charlotte Street (east side)
  • Curepe/Tunapuna/St Augustine: lower Henry Street (west side)
  • Diego Martin/Petit Valley: Lower Abercromby Street (south of Independence Square)
  • Maracas/Blanchisseuse: George Street, near Prince Street
  • Maraval (circling the Savannah): corner of Duke Street and Charlotte Street
  • Morvant: lower George Street (west side)
  • Port of Spain General Hospital: between Charlotte Street and South Quay (north side)
  • San Fernando: South Quay between Chacon Street and Broadway
  • San Juan/Barataria: lower Charlotte Street (west side)
  • St Ann’s (circling the Savannah): Hart Street and Frederick Street (south side)
  • St James: Hart Street and Frederick Street (north side)
  • Wrightson Road/Long Circular Road: lower Chacon Street (east side).
Independent Taxis – individual car owners/operators
* prices varies from TT$2 to TT$10.00 on the average around town and to other cities/towns.
* run on fixed routes and generally operate from designated stands.
* off route transfers usually cost more.
** sample airport prices
* from San Fernando to Piarco: TT$150.00
* from Port of Spain to Piarco: TT$85.00
* from Maraval to Piarco: TT$100.00
* from Diego Martin to Piarco: TT$115.00

Port of Spain Taxi Stands (car owners/operators)

Cascade
* Charlotte and Prince Streets
Chaguanas
* South Quay, opposite Chacon Street
Curepe/Tunapuna, Arima/Sangre Grande
* Lower Henry Street (south of Independence Square)
Diego Martin/Petit Valley
* Abercromby Street (south of Independence Square)
Maraval
* corner of Duke and Charlotte Streets
Morvant/Trou Macaque
* George Street (south of Independence Square)
Port of Spain General Hospital
* corner of Charlotte Street and South Quay
San Fernando
* corner of Broadway and South Quay
San Juan
* Charlotte Street (south of Independence Square)
St Ann’s/St James
* Hart Street (off Frederick Street, south of Woodford Square)
Wrightson Road/Long Circular Road
* Charlotte Street (south of Independence Square)
Maxi Taxis (colour coded mini-buses) – owners/operators of small mini-buses.
* prices varies from TT$2 to TT$10.00 on the average around town and to other
cities/towns.
* run on fixed routes and generally operate from designated stands.
POS (Port of Spain) Maxi Routes
Carenage
* operates from junction of Park Street and St. Vincent Street.
* serves: Woodbrook, West Mall.
Cascade/St. Anns
* operates from corner of Frederick Street and Hart Street.
* serves: Savannah, Botical Gardens, Emperor Valley Zoo, Queen’s Hall,
Hotel Normandie, Art Creators Gallery.
Maraval
* operates from corner of Duke Street and Henry Street.
* serves: Savannah, Kapok Hotel, Ellerslie Plaza, Shoppes of Maraval,
Country Club, Chaconia Inn, Moniques.
St. James/Petit Valley
* operates from corner of Frederick Independence Square (Brian Lara
Promenade) and Chacon Street.
* serves: Tragarete Road, St. James.
Port of Spain Maxi Taxis Stands (mini-buses)
heading west via Wrightson Road (Diego Martin, Petit Valley)
* South Quay and Beetham Highway
St James/Carenage maxis (via Tragarete Road)
* Green Corner (corner of Park and St Vincent Streets)
East Trinidad (Curepe, Tunapuna, Arima, Sangre Grande)
* City Gate terminus (South Quay)
South Trinidad to San Fernando (including Chaguanas, Couva, Gasparillo)
* City Gate terminus (South Quay)
Maraval
* Oxford Street, east of Charlotte Street

Ferry between Trinidad and Tobago

There is a regular car/passenger service linking Trinidad (Port of Spain) and Tobago (Scarborough). Sometimes this trip may be quite rough due to strong currents. The Tobago Ferry offers service between Port of Spain and Scarborough in Tobago daily except Saturdays. The journey is about five hours. To figure out the history of this ferry service, some history , here is another article about the status of the ‘vomit comet’ as the ferry is known in Trinidad …Dennis Solomon’s commentary and another article about the new high speed ferry .. but of course this has since broken down too….article is here

There is a regular car ferry service between Port of Spain and Scarborough, though the crossing on either MF Panorama or MV Beauport takes around 5 ½ hours and it can get a little rough. Of the two ferries, only MV Panorama has a restaurant – it takes 700 passengers and 140 vehicles. Both ferries have bars and cabins. Sailing times out of Tobago are 11pm, returning 2pm Mon-Fri, and 11pm returning 11am on Sundays (no Saturday service). The Economy Class fare is TT$50, Tourist Class with reclining seats $60 and a Cabin (double occupancy) TT$160. Children under 12 years half price and under 3 years free. Light vehicles from $115. Compared to the cost of TT$200 for a quick flight, most consider the ferry hardly worth the effort, t 639 2416/17.

Passengers, cars, trucks and cargo etc. Only one boat, MV Panorama, usually runs with passengers.
Panorama just about keeps Tobago alive. If it breaks (which it does off and on) then there is total chaos! But here is it going to be sold.. article is here

A 5 (normal) to 7+ hour ~86 mile sea journey for each leg of the crossing (Depends on the health of the boat).
Day sailing from Trinidad. Depart: 14:00 Hrs PoS – Arrive: 19:00 to 19:30 Hrs Scarborough.
Night sailing from Tobago. Depart: 23:00 Hrs Scarborough – Arrive: 04:30 to 05:00 Hrs PoS.

NO Saturday sailing!!!!!!
For special holiday periods or events (as Independence W/E e.g.); Saturday sailing’s are added and announced in the press. Contact port office for further details.
Tel: Port of Spain, Trinidad: + (868) 625 4906 or 3055
Tel: Scarborough, Tobago: + (868) 639 2417 [Passengers] or 639 2181 [Cargo]

Last out of Tobago Friday night; Resume out of Trinidad Sunday morning;
Depart: 11:00 Hrs PoS – Arrive: 04:00 to 04:30 Hrs Scarborough.

Return Fare – SEA – either way
All Prices 15% VAT Inclusive

Car

If your time is limited and if you wish to explore the islands in depth, then the best option is renting a car.

There are several international car rental companies as well as local ones. Prices start at around 35 USD per day for a small car but will be higher during the peak season (and, obviously, for larger or more luxurious vehicles). Daily rates are reduced for periods of one week or longer (prices for one week start at around 225 USD). These prices may or may not include CDW (collision damage waiver). Renting a car in Tobago is usually a bit

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