The Caribbean's Treasure Island
January 1, 1970
by Sharda Johnson
Tobago on a budget
Forty kilometers long and ten kilometers wide, warm, but not humid, thank God! This is an island you can circle in a matter of hours. Good enough for Robinson Crusoe and Louis Stevenson. Some, ten thousand years ago Tobago was a part of the South American mainland, since then, it has changed hands more than any other Caribbean Island, coming in at a record, yet exhausting, thirty times! This slice of land is one-half of the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. If you are budget savvy then keep in mind; there are only two seasons here; it’s warm year-round; it’s the Caribbean every day; so try to avoid the extra high rates of traveling at peak seasons.
When you land:
You will land at a tiny, open-air, sea side airport, and walk five minutes to Store Bay, nope, I’m not kidding, five minutes or less if you pride yourself in hasty walking or; schedule ahead to have your rental vehicle or transport ready and waiting at the airport for you. If planning isn’t your forte there are taxis for hire at the airport and a vehicle rental business just across the airport driveway. Vehicles are right-hand drive and the highway is comparable to a feeder or regular side street.
Store Bay is a prime local food spot. A meal of Crab and dumplings could be your first adventure. You can enjoy a dip in the sky-blue waters of the Bay while you are at it, ahh; island goals! All this and you haven’t even checked into your hotel. Better yet, there is the world-famous Pigeon Point Heritage Park and Bay ten minutes from here; the jewel toned waters, so much more beautiful than the clear blue sky above. Sitting under a Royal Poinciana tree, the white sand littered with its scarlet red flowers. It’s a feeling, an image cannot convey and won’t cost as much as you think!
Currency Conversion Rates:
I usually utilize XE Currency Converter to get a grasp of what my money is worth in my destination’s currency. If possible, convert your money ahead of time or upon arrival. This will save you a shiny penny, I guarantee. Let’s look at the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean; One EUR is roughly equivalent to Seven Dollars, Fifty Cents TTD. Remember; currency conversion rates are subject to change so be sure to check frequently! For $7.50 TTD or $1 EUR you can purchase; soda, one Doubles (Trinidad and Tobago’s most popular street food), you can pay a local taxi for a “short trip” at $5 or 6 TTD.
Live like a Local:
Caribbean countries thrive off tourism so there is always a difference between local price and, “Tourist price,” thus, making the currency conversion rate work in your favor. Do your research! Check the local cost of living in your destination to avoid paying $11 EUR ($90 TTD) to get from your hotel to the beach instead of the $10 or 20 TTD (roughly 2 EUR) it usually takes locals. Find out how to take local transportation instead of paying exorbitant fees. Weigh your options, depending on the length of your stay decide ahead if you prefer to rent a vehicle or pay your way around utilizing public transport.
Where to stay? Most hotels in the Caribbean charge in USD which still saves you a penny or two by converting your money. Every cent counts. Budget wise beings will scout local destination homes, guest houses or villas for rent. Many locals usually rent apartments in their own homes for comparatively less than hotels and likewise establishments. When calling established hotels about accommodation ask if there is a local’s rate. Find self-sustained units, they cost less. Ensure that your accommodation is easily accessible by whatever mode of transportation you choose to utilize and isn’t a fuss to get to or access for locals.
Go to the local restaurants, not heavily advertised to tourists, they usually boast the best local flavors. Pay in local currency. The food in Tobago is a cultural mix; influenced by but not limited to; Amerindian, African, Indian, Oriental, French, Creole, Spanish and European blends depicting its multicultural, multiracial population. The food is a medley of taste, dancing to a lively Soca Rhythm across your palate. Oh, and about Soca; it’s their local, fun, carnival/year round/happiest music you will ever hear.
Tune into local activities:
Many small islands such as Tobago host several events which are free to attend and very welcoming to all. Such as Harvest Festivals, Literary Festivals, Beach parties etc. Look at a time when the island or destination is a buzz with activity so you get immersed in the cultural experience without having to pay an extra buck. The Tobago Heritage Festival is an annual celebration of Tobago’s dance, song, and cuisine. Many heritage sites are often free to visit as well.
Beaches are free, waterfalls are many, Turtle and Bird watching, Forest Reserves, bioluminescent rivers etc. are all natures gifts. Call established, local authorities ahead of your visit and ask for recommended local guides, again; not the commercialized tours. Consult your destination’s local tourism authority and online review sites and sift out the cheaper deals. Why pay greater amounts for what’s free?
Budget Your Activity:
Plan your activities, if you plan to compete, or participate in any sport, activity or tournament which requires an entrance fee, confirm ahead of your trip. Again, I stress, compare the currency rate! Choose to pay local rate whenever possible. Budget well for meals, snacks, maybe some shopping and extras. Your itinerary should not be fixed down to every hour, rather all-encompassing and in such a way where you have the freedom to choose when you do or participate in things you have planned.
Walk with extra cash:
Only in the case of emergencies, every smart traveler will agree.