Though Trinidad and Tobago aren’t the most tourist-oriented islands in the Caribbean, there’s no shortage of places to stay. Tobago has numerous luxury resorts, cosy guesthouses and private villas, with the largest concentration in the Crown Point area. In Trinidad, there is plenty of accommodation in Port of Spain – owing mostly to the annual Carnival invasion and regular business travellers – as well as guesthouses and hotels near most of the better beaches along the north coast. Trinidad’s centre and south is less promising; with the exception of Mayaro Bay in the southeast, most options are expensive and geared towards oil workers and business travellers.
Accommodation in T&T is cheaper than you might expect for a Caribbean destination – ranging from as little as US$30 (£20) per night for a basic room with a fan in Port of Spain to US$60–80 (£35–55) for an air-conditioned unit with cable TV, and US$200/£120-plus for the top-notch places. Rates at most places in Trinidad change only at Carnival time, though business-oriented hotels often charge more in the week than at weekends. In Tobago, most places have two rates; one for the summer low season (mid-April to mid-Dec) and another for the winter high season (mid-Dec to mid-April). Many local hoteliers are open to a bit of haggling, however, particularly in the shoulder seasons (mid-April to July and Sept to mid-Dec), or if you plan to stay for more than two weeks. Trinbagonians always get rooms at a lower rate; this is normal practice, ensuring that resorts get a mix of local people and tourists. There are a couple of hidden extras to watch out for: room tax (ten percent) and service charge (ten percent) are added to quoted room rates at more expensive hotels, though not at guesthouses. Throughout the Guide, we have taken tax and service charges into account when quoting prices, but it’s worth checking whether these charges have been included each time you rent a room. Note that we have also quoted high-season rates for accommodation in Tobago. It’s also worth noting that while online accommodation sites such as wbooking.com purport to offer discounted rates, their high surcharges often mean that small properties bump up their base rate for the site, and you’ll often get a cheaper stay by cutting out the brokers and booking directly.
Though it’s advisable to book ahead during the busy times of Carnival – and Easter on Tobago – at other times you should have no problem finding suitable accommodation once you’ve arrived; staff at Tourist Office desks at Piarco and Crown Point airports can direct you to a place that suits your plans and budget, and many hotels in Tobago offer free airport pick-ups.
Most of T&T’s resort-type hotels cluster around Tobago’s better beaches, such as along the coast between Buccoo and Plymouth, where you’ll find expansive, landscaped enclaves with private beaches, as well as ecohotels and holistic retreats. In between these are no-nonsense concrete blocks dedicated to the needs of the package tourist, and legions of eight- to-twelve-room properties with pastel decor, loud bedspreads and a pool. Thankfully, the all-inclusive trend that’s swept through the rest of the Caribbean hasn’t really caught on here. Though some larger properties offer all-inclusive plans, you can also stay on a room-only basis. You may be offered the option of a meal plan – the most common are CP (Continental; room and breakfast), MAP (Modified American; room, breakfast and dinner) or FAP (Full American; room and all meals including snacks and tea).
On both islands, large-scale hotels meet international standards in terms of facilities: air conditioning, TV (usually cable or satellite), telephone, wireless internet access, private bathroom with hot water and maybe a balcony, as well as restaurants, bars and sometimes a pool on site. However, most of the smarter Trinidad hotels cater largely to business travellers, so you won’t find much in the way of organized entertainment or a holiday atmosphere – something that you’ll find in abundance in Tobago.
Guesthouses, host homes and B&Bs
T&T’s myriad small guesthouses are often great value for money and friendly places to stay. It’s not compulsory for any guesthouse to be registered with the tourist board and many perfectly good ones are not; however, those that are have been inspected and approved according to labyrinthine standards. Being anything from a couple of rooms tacked on to a private home or a smoothly run nine-room establishment, guesthouses generally have less facilities than at hotels; many don’t have a pool, and you could get a fan instead of air conditioning. There may also be no hot water, a shared bathroom, homelier decor and more of a personal touch. Prices at more basic options are lower than at hotels, though more upmarket ones often cost as much.
Many guesthouse (and even hotel) rooms include a kitchen or kitchenette (the latter consisting of a hot plate, fridge and sometimes a microwave) for roughly the same rate as a standard room. Most provide utensils; make sure that an inventory is taken in your presence to ensure that you are not held liable for breakages that occurred before you arrived.
Private host homes and B&Bs are inexpensive and generally excellent; neither charge room tax or VAT, and you may get more insight into local lifestyles and attitudes than you’d experience elsewhere. Both host homes and B&Bs are monitored and inspected by the Tourism Development Company (TDC), which also produces a list of registered establishments (see wgotrinidadandtobago.com). You can also find places listed in the classified sections of local papers, all of which are available online as well as in print. What you get for your money varies enormously; some offer air conditioning and an en-suite bathroom, whereas others are much more basic; and owners are often open to a bit of bargaining.
Villas, beach houses and long-term rentals
Most holiday villas rented to tourists are in Tobago and tend to have full staff and facilities such as a kitchen and pool. These options can actually be quite cost-effective if you’re travelling in a group; plan on paying US$150 per night for the most basic villa to as much as US$1000 per night for something in the lap of luxury – those around the Mount Irvine golf course, for example. Most are privately owned but represented by websites or agencies such as wvrbo.com; in Tobago, contact Island Investments, 30 Shirvan Rd, Scarborough (t 639 0929, wislreal.com). You can also check the TDC website wgotrinidadandtobago.com.
In Trinidad, beach houses are available in areas such as Mayaro and the Toco coast – generally geared to locals on a weekend break (you may have to bring your own bed linen and so on) – though you can get some real bargains by scanning the local papers. If you are planning to stay in Trinidad for a month or more, consider a furnished apartment, again best found via the newspaper classified ads.