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Trinidad and Tobago Help w/ Itin

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Hi,

I am planning a week long trip with my wife, our 2 yr old daughter and my parents (4 adults + 1 kid) to a Caribbean island this April. Last year we went to Dominican Republic and really enjoyed it (did not stay at the AI resorts). The little research I have done so far seems to suggest that Trinidad and Tobago might be similarly enjoyable.

Can you please help with creating an itinerary:
1. Is April a good month to go - weather-wise?
2. I read some places that crime might be an issue but didn't see the islands mentioned on the US govt's travel advisory site? Should we be worried and / or reconsider?
3. Should we split our stay between the two islands - Trinidad and Tobago? If so, how many days each?
4. Recommendations for areas to stay and areas to stay-away-from on each island?
5. Recommendations for hotels/B&B/apartment rentals? I would like to spend no more than $300 per night for all of us and prefer A/C and a kitchen, if possible. (Is A/C even needed on the islands?)
6. Do we need a rental car (SUV?) on either or both islands? If so, any recommendations for sites/agencies?
7. Must see / Must do activities on both islands.
8. I am excited about the Indian influence on the island's cuisine and we love spicy foods. Any must-try dishes and restaurant recommendations would be welcome.

Thanks.

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    We vacationed in Tobago during several winters, but haven't been back for several years. We stopped because the island just didn't feel as safe as before. Some attacks on tourists have been violent.

    See this from the U.S. State Department:
    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1043.html

    CRIME: The incidence of violent crime remains high on both islands and affects local and expatriate communities, and tourists. You should exercise caution and good judgment as in any large urban area. Be particularly cautious when traveling after dark from Trinidad’s Piarco Airport as incidents have been reported involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas of the airport parking lot, on the highway leading from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and outside the gates of residences. Areas of metro Port of Spain to avoid include Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, South Belmont, scenic rest stops (after dark), the inside of the Queen’s Park Savannah, and downtown Port of Spain (after dark), as tourists are particularly vulnerable to pick-pocketing and armed assaults in these locations. Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see an increase in criminal activity.

    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.

    Burglaries of private residences are common. Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas and especially near ATMs and shopping malls. You should avoid wearing expensive jewelry, riding in flashy cars or displaying large amounts of money in public. In some cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent and resulted in injuries after the victim resisted handing over valuables.

    In Tobago, violent crime ishigh, including attacks on expatriate residents and tourists in their residences, many of which involve the use of machetes.. There have been reports of home invasions in the Mt. Irvine/Buccoo Bay, and Bacolet areas, and robberies occurring at the waterfalls and on isolated beaches in Tobago where visitors are not in a group. If you rent a villa or private home, the Embassy urges you to ensure adequate, 24-hour security measures are in place.

    Be cautious when visiting isolated beaches or scenic overlooks where robberies can occur. In Trinidad, for example, there are isolated strips of beach at Las Cuevas, just beyond Maracas Bay, where visitors have been robbed of valuables. You should not walk alone or in unfamiliar areas. Valuables left unattended on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft. You should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates. When in doubt, consult the establishment where you are staying to identify areas to be avoided.

    Traditional, non-shared, marked yellow-cab-style taxis do not exist in Trinidad and Tobago. Unmetered, unmarked private taxis are available at the airports and major hotels. You can hire them to take you door to door (fares should be agreed upon in advance). Private taxis and route taxis both have plate numbers beginning with “H”. You should ensure your taxi is not a route taxi before getting in, because route taxis will stop to pick up additional passengers. Crimes including rapes, assaults, robberies and thefts have taken place inside shared taxis. These taxis have also caused serious traffic accidents when they swerved suddenly across several lanes of roadway in order to pick up or discharge passengers. You should also avoid small buses and vans known as “Maxi Taxis” for the same reasons. You should therefore use only private taxis for transportation around Port of Spain, and only private taxis or full-sized inter-city buses for travel between cities.

    Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these articles illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.

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    We went to Tobago in June 2011 and had a great time. We stayed on Turtle Beach and spent much time snorkelling in Arnos Vale which is a secluded beach nearby. We also rented a jeep for about 3 days and toured the island, which is surprisingly mountainous. There are some beautiful sights eg Englishmans Bay and Parletuvier.

    I don't think Tobago is an island for self-catering. Renting villas in remote locations or villas without adequate security is not recommended. I would not go to Trinidad at all unless for an organised day trip. A rental car is a good idea, but if you are from the US not sure if you will be comfortable driving on the other side of the road.
    The Indian influence I believe is mainly in Trinidad, did not see anything in Tobago. Eating out at restaurants is not that easy, hence the popularity of AI hotels.

    Here are some accommodations that might suit:-

    http://www.stonehavenvillas.com/

    http://www.kariwak.com/ because of the restaurant

    We never felt threatened uncomfortable or unsafe but we are aware there is crime all over the Caribbean. We did go out in the evenings though to Buccoo Bay for Sunday School, also we visited the Nylon Pool and swam in the sea at Pigeon Point which is probably the best beach on the island.

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    Petty robbery or burglary is not the main problem; tourists have suffered serious injuries. Here's an incident involving a 70-year-old tourist bicycling on Tobago who got his thumb slashed off in a very touristed area. There are other such incidents. On Trip Advisor, a man has reported being assaulted at the Arnos Vale beach recently.


    http://www.thetobagonews.com/news/German_couple_still_traumatised_after_Pigeon_Point_accident-190307391.html

    Also, if you read the local newspapers on Trinidad and Tobago (available on line), you will find that some animosity exists between the Indian and black populations.


    We used to love dining at the Kariwak -- what a pleasant place!

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    Thanks guys. Given the frequency of recently reported incidents we've decided not to take the risk and take the family to Trinidad and Tobago (though I would have loved to). Perhaps in a few years time....

    I was hoping to get a few recommendations for Caribbean islands with a similar vibe (ex-crime) - laid back and doable on a budget, good local cuisine, local culture that predates tourism (i.e. not just about cruise ships and tourists), calm beaches and lush greenery/mountains.

    I have been to DR so looking for other recommendations w/ any specifics you can share to make a 7 day trip worthwhile.

    Thanks for all your help.

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