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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Trinidad & Tobago Trinidad & Tobago

Country Information & Lifestyle

 A Multicultural Melting Pot

A Multicultural Melting Pot

Tobago is situated just north of the Equator and is the sister island of Trinidad, these two are the most southernmost Caribbean islands lying just off the coast of Venezuela.

Tobago is a beautiful, fertile island with a rich history and is only 26 miles by 7 miles and is a tiny, postcard pretty island with a central hilly range with a flat area in the south and west of the island where much of the tourism is developed. This area with its fringing offshore reefs has distinct beaches with soft powdery white or cinnamon brown sand. The island was noted in the past for the production of sugar, cocoa, coffee and citrus products.

The island, regarded as a prize possession, was first sighted by Columbus in 1498 was fought over by British, French and other colonial powers changing hands 31 times before it was finally ceded to the British in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris. at least 25 times. It was then that another phase of successful sugar production began. But a severe hurricane in 1847 combined with the collapse of plantation underwriter's marked the end of the sugar trade.

Without the highly profitable sugar production Britain had no further use for Tobago and in 1889 the island was made a ward of Trinidad. The islanders grew crops planting acres of limes, coconuts and cocoa exporting their produce to Trinidad but in 1963 Hurricane Flora ravaged Tobago destroying villages and crops. A restructuring programmed followed and attempts were made to diversify the economy, the development of a tourist industry began.

The climate is warm and sunny with fresh trade winds and an average temperature of 30c. January - May it rains a little and June - December is the wet season where it is more humid, the sea warmer and the warm, tropical rain usually comes in short, sharp bursts and freshens the greenery. The island is at its most beautiful during this season and full of color. The official language is English, the old French-based Patois has almost died out and some Hindi is used in the Indian community.

Tobago's cuisine is a unique blend of African, Indian, Chinese, European and Latin American influences, overlaid with those of countries as diverse as Syria, Lebanon and Italy. This has created a fascinating culinary fusion more interesting than the typical fare found elsewhere in the Caribbean and to most people is one of the highlights of a visit to Tobago.

Curry and roti are national favorites. Roti originated in East India and is generally known as a roti skin, or roti wrap, it is traditionally wrapped around a meat and potato curry and other popular fillings are curried chicken, goat, shrimp or conch and although rather messy to eat totally delicious and must be tried. Crab and Dumpling is a local specialty and seafood is highly popular on Tobago and you won't get fresher fish anywhere else.

Away from the most populated tourist areas of the island, you will find that local restaurants all serve variations of the same basic spicy Creole cooking. Menus are virtually unheard of; guests are simply given one or two choices of meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) or fish and vegetarians are well catered for. There are two major groups of vegetarians on Trinidad and Tobago - devout Hindus and Rastafarians - so every restaurant will have options.

Rum is the most popular drink but beware of rum punches - they will contain at least a triple measure of rum and you'll be under the table before you know it.

Trinidad and Tobago culture is known for its carnival , steel bands and calypso music are famous throughout the world. Carnival had its birth on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago and the island is transformed and becomes a throbbing, noisy party for a few days with very busy beaches and is just before Lent. The Trinbagonians are creative people and kite flying is another part of the islands.

The official language is English and there is a mixture of various languages with some words borrowed from Spanish, French, Amerindian and East Indian languages. Hindi words are also very much part of the language.

Tobago's pace of life is unhurried and tranquil days turn into balmy nights with spectacular displays from the sun as it sets. The island and the tiny satellite islands dotted around it are a nature-lover's dream.

The small hilly town of Scarborough is Tobago's capital and is draped on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is the center of business and administration on the island. Founded by the Dutch who settled the island this town boasts an excellent harbor, the seeming focus for a bustling town. Upper Scarborough features the former site of the Tobago House of Assembly, a Georgian styled mansion which overlooks James Park.

The Botanic Gardens separates Upper Scarborough from Lower Scarborough a breath of green in the town's flow down to the sea. The garden has many exotic plants and shrubs and makes a pleasant spot to stop when moving between the two halves of the town. Lower Scarborough runs along the Atlantic Ocean and features here a market, colorful arrangement of people, stalls and produce ranging from plants to fruits and vegetables.

Scarborough is the capital of Tobago and a visit to Fort King George at the top of the hill overlooking the harbor has fabulous views. Near the Fort are Botanical Gardens set on 17 acres The Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary was once a coca estate and there are nature hiking trails in the grounds and the house has been converted to a nature center.

Built in the 1770's Fort King George remains one of Tobago's best preserved historical monuments. The fort's prisoner's bell tank, barracks and officer's mess are all located among the lush grounds. The cannon's still remain as they were overlooking the coast. On a clear day, Trinidad's Northern Range can be seen.

In the north of the island is Speyside where the view from the lookout is lovely and known for its digging opportunities which are fantastic. From here you can see Goat Island and Little Tobago.

Richmond Great House is a restored sugar plantation house dating from the 1766. It houses early 20th century furnishings, African textiles and carvings and it is possible to tour the house.

The mountain range of Tobago is the oldest forest reserve in the western hemisphere and in 1764 was declared a reserve shortly after the island fell under British rule.

At the village of Golden Lane lies the grave of Gang Gang Sara. Local folklore has it that she was a witch who flew in from Africa hundreds of years ago, unable to fly back out because she had eaten salt.

The small town of Plymouth was the site on one of Tobago's earliest communities settled by the Dutch in 1633. The ruins of Fort James offer a wide-angle, windswept view of the west coast and the cannons and barracks still stand overlooking Great Courtland Bay.

The grave of Mrs Betty Stiven and her child has intrigued people for centuries and tourists come to read the inscription. She was the beloved wife of Alex B Stiven. To the end of his days will deplore her death, which happened upon the 25th November 1783 in the 23rd year of her age. What was remarkable of her, she was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgence to himĚ. You figure it out!

Flagstaff Hill, at the northern tip of the island, served as an American military lookout and radio during World War II and the view from the top of the hill is breathtaking. The St. Giles Island where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea can be seen as well as the tiny fishing village of Charlotteville where there are good beaches for swimming including the historical Pirate's Bay which can be reached by boat. The sunsets from here will blow your mind!!

There are numerous beaches and you will have no trouble finding one to yourself. Among the best is Englishman's Bay, one of Tobago's jewels. On the edge of the rain forest, the bay is long and sweeps into a picture book curve with clean white sand, deep and clear water with palm trees fringing the whole bay. You can swim to the fabulous sounds of wild parrots shouting from the rain forest. This is one of the most gorgeous beaches in Tobago, and certainly one of the most secluded. It's a lovely beach for a swim or a picnic. If you're lucky you'll see one of Tobago's giant Leather back turtles on the beach. These endangered sea turtles come ashore during the months of March, April and June to lay eggs that hatch within three months

If you could paint a picture of a perfect Caribbean beach it would be Pigeon Point where the still turquoise water lapping onto a white sand beach scattered with grass roof huts, a wooden jetty with a grass roof hut on the end of a and swaying palms leaning over almost touching the water, this is it. Pigeon Point was for many years privately owned and the subject of legal disputes but has recently been re-purchased by the government for the people.

Tobago has amazing wildlife and has been called The Galapagos of the West Indies and the central part of the island is covered with the oldest rain forest in the western hemisphere. Hummingbirds are everywhere, little jewels covering the hibiscus and other exotic species include the collard trogon and the blue-backed man-akin.

Little Tobago Island is just offshore from the fishing village of Speyside and is an important sanctuary and the nesting ground for a number of seabird species and is the prime seabird sanctuary in the Caribbean. St Giles Island off the northernmost tip of Tobago is another but access to these rugged little rocks is difficult and depending on sea conditions dangerous. It is best to view them through binoculars from the excellent viewpoint of Flagstaff Hill. Apart from its bird life Tobago is blessed with an abundance of plant, insect and reptile life.

Sir William Ingram, an Englishman and newspaper proprietor who owned cocoa estates in Trinidad conceived the idea of colonizing the Greater Bird of Paradise on the island of Tobago and imported the species from New Guinea. When he died in 1924 the island was inherited by his wife for life and she died the following year. The heirs drew up a deed in 1928 conveying the island and the Birds-of-Paradise to the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.

The island is around 100 hectares and is covered with vegetation. And a considerable diversity of flora. The island is hilly and the valleys between the hills afford excellent cover for the birds. Located approximately 2.8 km from the mainland and separated by a 4 km long passage a strong current runs almost constantly through this passage. Birds of Paradise have not been sighted since 1981. The island is the only place where the Bird of Paradise ever existed outside of its natural habitat, New Guinea.

We hope this has given you a taste of life on the beautiful island of Tobago where every day is like a holiday and yet the hustle and bustle of Trinidad is just as short flight away for a day out.

Purchasing a Property

Before non-nationals and non-residents can acquire a property in Tobago (house and land or land alone) they will have to obtain a licence under the Foreign Investment Act.

An order to this effect was signed by the Acting Minister of Finance Conrad Enil on February 14, 2007 and came into operation on February 16, 2007. It is called the Foreign Investment Tobago Lands Acquisition Order 2007.

However, unfortunately at this time there is no system or Government institution in place to handle the applications, which means that presently foreigners can not buy any property in Tobago.

Fees & Taxes

The present law provides that where the property is or includes a dwelling house and the property is for use wholly or mainly for residential purposes the stamp duty varies from 0% on property up to TT$850,000.00 to 7.5% on property over TTS1,750,000.00

When the property is a commercial property or land only the stamp duty payable up to TT$300,000.00 2% property in excess of TT$400,000.00 7%

It is also obligatory that stamp duty be paid on mortgages greater than TT$315,000 as follows - 0.4% per $1,000 on the full amount of the loan.

Non-Residential Properties (Land & Commercial Properties) Stamp Duty is calculated on all mortgages for land and commercial properties as follows:- 0.4% per $1,000 on the full amount of the loan.

Legal fees on an average 1.5% of the purchase price.

Search fees $500.00

Registration fee $100.00

Oath /copies $100.00

Preparing contract $600.00

Preparing land tax return $200.00

Preparing foreign investment return $450.00

Obtaining valuation report if needed usually 0.5% of the value of the property.

Stamp duty calculated as above no VAT.

VAT 15% on all except stamp duty and registration fee.

The land and building taxes in Trinidad & Tobago are among the lowest in the Caribbean.

Airport Departure Tax For any traveler leaving these Islands, there is a mandatory TT$100 (about £9) per person, airport departure tax to be paid; so keep that amount put aside. Children aged 5 years or less are exempt. Some airlines include the departure tax into the airfare.

Visas

All visitors to Tobago must have a passport valid for at least three months after the end of the proposed visit. Visitors may be asked to prove that they have a return or onward travel ticket, or the means to purchase such travel and will also be asked for a fixed address for the period of your stay.

Visas are not required for holiday visitors from the following countries:

EEC Countries: Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom.

Commonwealth Countries: All - except Australia, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda.

USA: On vacation for 3 months or less.

Other: Austria, Brazil, Colombia, French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Finland (3 months or less), Israel, Liechtenstein, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Suriname, Sweden (3 months or less), Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela (14 days or less).

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