Public bus

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Pascal
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Public bus

Post by Pascal » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:39 pm

Hi folks!
My wife and I are going for a 4 week holiday in Castara, next January. It's our first trip to Tobago. As we do not intend to rent a car (maybe a day or 2), we were wandering about public transport from Castara to other points on the island, and if we can rely on it for travelling around.

Thanks

Pascal

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Re: Public bus

Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:45 pm

Hi Pascal

Welcome aboard! :lol:

I must confess that I have absolutely no experience of public transport in Tobago - not least because holiday time is far too precious to be wasting time standing round in the tropical heat waiting for a bus that might, or might not, appear within an hour or two of expectation. For more info, please see the Tobago > Car Hire / Getting Around section.

While in Castara, I would recommend Bruce Taylor (www.TaylorsTobagoAutoRental.com) whenever you fancy hiring a car for a day or two.

Enjoy your holiday - I'm sure you will.
Steve Wooler
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Re: Public bus

Post by Ronald » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:04 pm

Hi Pascal

All public transport in Tobago start and end in Scarborough, there no buses across from one route to an other. The buses is not good every where, that´s my expierence as I don´t have a drivers license.

All buses start at the Bus Station in Scarborough, from there I would say that are these major lines.
SOUTH; Scarborough - Crown Point Airport, working OK but don´t expect all buses on time
SOUTH-WEST; Scarborough - Plymoth, working OK but don´t expect all buses on time
NORTH (Atlantic Side); Scarborough - Charlotteville, working quite OK but don´t expect all buses on time, and sometimes a bus is cut off the time table
NORTH-WEST(Caribbean Side); Scarborough - Parlatovier (via Castara), few buses per day, and sometimes a bus is cut off the time table

Buses via Castara doesn´t exactly go every hour, it it´s the same as last year, there´s an early morning bus and than some buses after noon. It happend me more than once that they didn´t have buses enough in Scarborough in the morning, so sometimes the early bus to Castara where cut off and instead the bus did go to Charlotteville or somewhere else.
In all, buses going south to Crown Point and Plymoth are more trusted, buses via Castara does sometimes work and sometimes not.

So, staying in Castara and want to see places south or north of Castara (on the Caribbean side), you need a rented car or a car with private driver.
To go from Castara to places in the south, Crown Point aream, or places on the Attlantic side, you need a rented car or a car with private driver.
Otherwise you can not be sure to be able to return hom to Castara in the evening!
//Ronald

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Re: Public bus

Post by Gisela Grell » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:19 am

Hi Pascal,

I wish you a pleasent stay in Castara. Ronald is probably right. Busses are going not really on a time table but it is a fun experience. I took the bus to Scarborough serveral times. To go back you have to go to the main station. It was moved temporarely and I'm not sure it it moved back in the middle of the town. You will see when you get there.
You can buy bus tickets at the post office (blue shop) in Castara but not on the bus.

In Castara you have several offers of tours to the rainforest or around the island. Ask Gaston Jackson (at the fishermens place), AliBaba or Porredge. I don't know where you are staying but some of the guesthouses also offer tours. Don't worry, you don't need a car. There is always someone to carry you around. The island is smal, there are not too many places to see and Castara ist so beautiful that you don't want to leave.

Enjoy
Gisela
Cheers
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see some pics on http://www.gisela-grell.de

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Re: Public bus

Post by Andy K » Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:42 pm

Pascal,

in recent years, the local authorities have invested in some new busses, so the public transport has gradually improved.
Busses of private contractors are white with dark blue stripes, government busses are silver color with the "Tobago House of assembly" Logo on the side. Both types of busses serve basically the same routes.
The bus terminus in Scarborough has been temporarily relocated due to major construction work at the old terminus and the public library. You will find the temporary bus terminus next to the Bord of Inland Revenue Building resp. the Sangsters Hill Teck Mall.
In addition to Busses you will also find mini bus route taxis (white with dark blue stripes) and normal taxis, which operate as route taxis. To identify a taxi, look at the number plate. Taxi number plates begin with a "H".
The advantage of route taxis (in T&T called "Maxi") is that you don't need to buy a ticket in advance. You pay the driver or conductor according to the distance you stay in the taxi.
A large number of private cars are also running "taxi" or "route taxi" business. You will experience cars blowing the horn when they pass you on the road while you are standing or walking there. It is the signal that the driver runs taxi or private taxi service. I do not recommend to take a "private taxi", as those vehicles are not insured for commercial passenger transportation and many of the drivers stand out by speeding and reckless behaviour on the road.
Private cars number plates begin with a "P".

It may be a good idea to talk to the manager of your guest house and get a recommendation for a driver who can take you around upon your request, instead of wasting time waiting for public transportation.

Enjoy your holidays !

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Re: Public bus

Post by Daniel R » Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:40 am

Hey folks,

I'm just finishing up my first trip to Tobago (staying in Buccoo) and wanted to put in a note that the public busses are a very cheap and pleasant way to get around the island. While they are not very frequent, the bus stops are a fine place to hitch a ride (much cheaper than a taxi) and the busses themselves are quite comfortable (air conditioned, etc) and VERY cheap (8tt for a trip across the island [s/boro to charlottville], plus 8tt return).

One thing to note is that asking locals for bus advice doesn't often work very well, as they are either misinformed, or simply don't know the answers, and will often provide incorrect information (ie, asking if a certain bus is running on a sunday got us the answer "no", with the bus arriving an hour later).

I took nearly 500 photos from onboard the bus as we went around the island, and find that it was a great time [though often long waits]. I would recommend them for anyone travelling on a low budget, and note that they felt quite secure.

-Dan

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Re: Public bus

Post by Frank and Mina » Thu Dec 24, 2009 8:46 pm

Been looking in on this forum for quite a while but after reading this thread felt motivated to join in order to come to the defence of the THA/TSTT buses!

We've been going to TandT since Jan 1998. First time round we hired a car from Colin Sheppy in Tobago when he was small in the market and he looked after us well. In Trinidad we took a car and driver who knew his way about. he didn't charge much but kept bringing his wife along for the ride.

Subsequently we have always used the buses, including in Trinidad where I would say it is a safe way to travel.

As Andy K has mentioned the Tobago buses are now modern. Until about two years ago they were very mixed in quality.
The big ones on the Crown Point and Plymouth routes used to creak and groan a lot and the small ones were as bad and were often full.

We stay in Scarborough because we use the buses and the market every day. Taking the bus from the station is much easier than waiting at a town or highway stop.

Great thing about the bus is the people you make friends with including the drivers. We have been treated as special by our dear friend Joseph Johnson, who many islanders know as a driving instructor as well as a bus driver, ever since our 1999 trip.

Going to the beaches on the Plymouth route Grange, Mt Irvine, Turtle Beach etc is a doddle by bus and involves hardly any walking. The bonus is, when you want to go back to town you just watch for the outward bus knowing that it will be back in 15 minutes or so.

It is unbelievably cheap $2TT in most cases.

We bring so little luggage (a rucksack and grip bag each) that sometimes we get the bus from the airport to our accommodation! Imagine the look on the faces of the taxi touts outside arrivals when we flash bus tickets and jump straight on one. Doesn't always work out that well as they are hourly to the airport. But if you sit in the cafe across the road behind the airport cafe you can see the bus come in and turn around ready to stop for you outside the cafe.

We just love them and enjoy the taste of island life that they bring. That's not to say that most of the car loving locals don't regard them as the last resort and the pensioners' choice.

At certain times the buses are full of schoolchildren. A few years ago their behaviour was exemplary but times are rapidly changing.

The new buses all have pingers to tell the driver that you want the next stop. Previously you had to shout " Bussch top, Dwie(ver)". If you didn't say it exactly like that, the driver wouldn't understand especially if you added "please". They don't respond to the words, just that particular sound.

just looking at flights now, so hope to see you all soon from the bus!

Frank

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Re: Public bus

Post by Hugh S » Thu Dec 24, 2009 9:52 pm

Frank,

Welcome aboard and thanks for your great post. I loved the part about how the drivers don't understand if you say please. :lol:

I ride the bus in Tobago whenever I have the time. It is always a rich experience.

Hugh 8)

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Re: Public bus

Post by Frank and Mina » Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:13 pm

Thanks, Hugh, now spot the mistake!

Of course, I didn't mean TSTT buses. I should have typed PTSC.
I was getting my bus tickets and SIM card mixed up.

One aspect which I find quite amusing is that every day the same people get on and off at the same places yet have to alert the driver to stop to let them board or alight. Nothing gets assumed.

Also very old pensioners well known to the drivers go through the charade of getting out their pass and showing it upon boarding.

That reminds me: You don't give the driver your ticket but instead hold onto it while the pair of you pull it like a Christmas cracker. I find that putting a little nick in each side of the ticket helps with this process otherwise you end up not sure which edge the driver is tearing from!

Surprisingly there is no standing on T and T buses. Also one must not get up and walk forward to the door until the bus has fully stopped. This means that when getting aboard en route it is unwise to climb the steps too early.

The notices in the bus bring a smile: "No Eating. No Drinking. No Free Ride". The ones in the station are more ad hoc: " Don't place bags on this table.." "How you keep your surroundings it will impact on yourself..."

Never having been on the bus is on a par with never having listened to Radio Tambrin or never having been to Trinidad on the boat, especially the Panorama (thankfully now replaced by fast stabilised vessels).

Frank
Last edited by Frank and Mina on Sun Dec 27, 2009 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Public bus

Post by Hugh S » Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:33 pm

Frank, you have a knack. Do you write for the travel section? :lol:

I agree that riding the bus is an important and down to earth way to taste and experience Tobago.

Hugh 8)

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Re: Public bus

Post by Andy K » Sun Dec 27, 2009 9:39 pm

Frank and Mina wrote:Surprisingly there is no standing on T and T buses. Also one must not get up and walk forward to the door until the bus has fully stopped. This means that when getting aboard en route it is unwise to climb the steps too early.

Well Frank, that seems to be for a reason.
Admittedly i never took a ride on a bus in Tobago, but i see them speeding up to Speyside sometimes when i go up
there and i have problems to keep the pace with my 4x4 pickup van.
Imagine passengers would stand in the bus #-o [-X

Patrick M

Re: Public bus

Post by Patrick M » Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:34 am

This is an outstanding and entertaining thread. Maybe we should rethink car rental and go with the bus.

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Re: Public bus

Post by Frank and Mina » Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:43 am

Hi Patrick.

Depends very much on how you spend your time.

If sightseeing is the main agenda then renting a car is better. For me it is not good value to leave a car parked at a beach every day. After 12 years we have found which beaches suit us. Every so often we ring the changes for a bit of variety and don't mind the walk, once in a while, from the bus stop on Milford Road to Swallows/Pigeon Point outskirts.

Waiting there for the return bus can be an ordeal in the afternoon heat and only the most determined bus user would resist the temptation to hop into a car or taxi.

If you are going to do a lot of socialising in diverse places in the evening then a car is essential. Also applies if you are catering for a group of people who get through crates of drink or take massive coolboxes, loungers etc. wherever they go.

The other thing is that we quite deliberately stay in Scarborough, within mainly flat walking distance of the bus station and the market. This is not a popular choice for people who like/need luxury. Luxury comes to Scarborough (and only to the jetty) on cruise ship days. It suits us because our primary motive is to get away from winter and once away spend less than we would keeping warm at home. We've done the sightseeing before, with a car. This economy helps to offset the flight cost - which until this year has been reasonable via Golden Caribbean.

Andy, you are absolutely right. Our most hair raising bus rides have been on the rural routes. The new buses have seat belts and aircraft style armrests. However if you want a white knuckle ride, take a Maxi from Vieux Fort to Castries in St Lucia. They all seem to have an urge to end up inverted in the ditch which is conveniently welcoming along the entire tortuous route.

Frank

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Re: Public bus

Post by Andy K » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:09 pm

Frank and Mina wrote:However if you want a white knuckle ride, take a Maxi from Vieux Fort to Castries in St Lucia. They all seem to have an urge to end up inverted in the ditch which is conveniently welcoming along the entire tortuous route.
Frank,

"been there, done that". Rodney Bay to Castries in a Maxi. Driver quarreling with his wife on the passenger seat.
I couldn't wait to get out of that vehicle.
But number one in my top ten list was a Maxi driver in Barbados. Asked why he had to speed like that he told me he wanted to rake up all the commuters before his competitor, who was 200 yards behind him. NEVER AGAIN public transport for me in Barbados #-o #-o #-o

Patrick M

Re: Public bus

Post by Patrick M » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:47 pm

Great stuff. I've done the buses in Mexico many times over the years. It was a great way to learn Spanish and meet people. This trip, we'll have a car for the first week on the north part of the island but not week two in Crown Point so I'm sure a bus ride or two is in our future.

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Re: Public bus

Post by Hugh S » Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:52 pm

Patrick,

Excellent plan. =D>

My situation is different in that I spend longer times on the island and I sometimes need to get some work done so I rent only when I really need to. I rent from KCNN who always treat me like an old friend. When I just need to go into town I jump on the bus or hail a cab. Always an adventure and it teaches me patience. And isn't that really why we keep going back to Tobago? :wink:

Hugh 8)

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Re: Public bus

Post by Daniel R » Thu Dec 31, 2009 4:40 pm

Frank and Mina wrote: That reminds me: You don't give the driver your ticket but instead hold onto it while the pair of you pull it like a Christmas cracker.
I'd almost forgotten about that, it became so natural after a few days riding!
Frank and Mina wrote: The notices in the bus bring a smile: "No Eating. No Drinking. No Free Ride". The ones in the station are more ad hoc: " Don't place bags on this table.." "How you keep your surroundings it will impact on yourself..."
The busses also have stickers on the windows "No Eating, Drinking, Smoking", but the last two rows of the bus have a different sticker "Eat 'n' Drink"

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Re: Public bus

Post by Frank and Mina » Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:19 pm

The busses also have stickers on the windows "No Eating, Drinking, Smoking", but the last two rows of the bus have a different sticker "Eat 'n' Drink"
That's interesting, Patrick. We will look out for that one. Just booked flight with Monarch, will be there late Jan to mid Feb.

Forgot all about "No Smoking" as well.

Can't think of anything more about the buses except has anyone come across the two old boys who have a heated political discussion across the aisle every time they ride. One of them gets off at Auchenskeoch Junction?

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Re: Public bus

Post by Frank and Mina » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:13 pm

Update on Buses.

Just back from another 3 weeks of bus riding. They even ran during Carnival, but not from the station.

The new buses are already showing signs of wear and tear. They are no longer the metallic silver that they came in, they are now the standard white with red and black livery and some carry slogans such as "Carry yourself with dignity" and " Be nice to one another".

Most of the pingers are now broken, the sounders dangling loose above the driver, so it is back to shouting "Bussch top".

Tickets are still the same price, 2 TT for most rides.

The two old boys still have their heated discussion, but when one of them alights the other one now buttonholes the driver and treats him to an earfull of monologue, usually along the lines of " God created me and every thing I need in life but what has Jesus ever done for me...?

Needless to say, the bus station is still at the "temporary" location at Sangsters Hill.

There are some new routes now including Lowlands and Mount Pleasant, Buccoo, Plymouth Via Arnos Vale and Crown Point to Plymouth (not quite the same as the one a few years back that carried on to Scarborough Via Whim Road).

The old Plymouth via Carnbee route now only goes as far as Black Rock.

Interesting to note a big increase in cruise visitors giving the bus a try to get to Pigeon Point. Let's hope they enjoyed the searing heat of the walk from the bus stop to the beach and that they made it back to the ship for 4 pm!

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