Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

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Sujata14
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Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Sujata14 » Tue Oct 07, 2014 1:35 pm

Dear all,

I am planning to visit Tobago from Canada for two months (or more!), arriving on or before Dec 1. This would be my first time, and I'm a solo female traveler. I'm considering just buying a one-way flight and leaving my departure open-ended. My purpose is to take a break from my life here, relax in the warm sun and explore Tobago's natural beauty at a gentle pace, as I'm a nature-lover. I'm on somewhat of a budget. I have a few questions that I'd really appreciate some local advice on! This website has been incredibly valuable to me in my research and I'm beyond grateful that it exists!

I'm posting this entire message in the General Accommodation forum, even though one of my questions pertains to "Getting Around". I hope that's OK!

1. I don't drive. Would that make it very hard to explore all the wonderful parts of this island? I'm reading that buses are unreliable, taxis are expensive (which would really begin to add up over a two-month period) and biking around the island is only for the seriously fit. It seems that the only practical way to get to all the different corners of the island is to drive, and that is discouraging me a bit. Any thoughts? Would I be able to get around with hitch-hiking, or is that dangerous? I won't be running around the island everyday, of course, but I do want to explore all the various beaches and the incredible rainforest (I've never been to a rainforest and I'm super-excited about hiking through it!)

2. Can one rent a small apartment with a kitchen within walking distance of a beach for under CAD 1,000 per month?

3. Also, is it better to finalize my entire two-month stay online before my arrival, or would it be better to book for a couple of weeks and then look for something upon arrival? Last year, I spent two months in Tulum, Mexico, and booked my entire stay online through Airbnb. But once I got there, I found that there were significantly cheaper options available that were not advertised online, as I quickly met people, made friends, and discovered info that is simply not advertised online. Should I expect the same to be true for Tobago? Or does everything on the island get fully booked up during December-January way in advance?

4. Given that I don't drive, would it be better for me to split my stay between a few different accommodations? For eg, 2 weeks in Bucco, another two weeks in Castara, two weeks in Charlottesville, then move to the rainforest, then the eastern side of the island, and so on? Or would that just be a hassle not worth it? I imagine it would be nice to just make a homebase somewhere on the island. But what would be the best place to pick? Ideally, I want to be within walking distance of a quiet beach.

Thanks a lot in advance!
Sujata

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:20 pm

Hello Sujata

Welcome aboard! :)

I'm on my way out, but let me give you a quick reply before I go and hope that someone else can add more detail. I feel that this post would be more appropriate in the General Questions forum, so have moved it over.

1) Given the erratic nature of public transport, a self-drive vehicle is by far the best option but I can appreciate that the cost would be prohibitive for an extended stay. Your best bet might be 'route taxis' - taxis that ply a regular route (basically between all the major towns/villages) on a 'shared' basis, where the driver stops and picks up passengers whenever they flag the vehicle down and assuming there is still a seat left in the car. They are very cheap. I would NOT recommend hitch-hiking - either in Tobago or even here in the UK.

2) The accommodation rates indicated in our Accommodation listings tend to be for single night (or whatever the property's minimum stay is) and so might be discounted substantially for longer stays. Whether you can get anywhere half-decent for CAD1000 per week is debatable. Prices are high over Christmas/New Year and by January you are into high season, so it is doubtful.

3) There is always an abundance of cheaper accommodation - but finding it can take a huge amount of time and will be particularly inconvenient if you don't have your own transport. That's without considering quality. So, my advice would be to arrange before you go. Remember, if you contact the properties directly from this site, you will be dealing directly with the property, not some middle agent who is naturally taking a fee. So, the prices will be lower. With regard to your final point, yes - all the best accommodation will be pre-booked for Christmas/New Year and most of the high season.

4) I would move around. Tobago is so varied it would be a shame to stay the entire time in one place. Sure, you will establish a better/closer relationship with local people if you stay somewhere more than a few days, but it is also nice to experience the different sides of Tobago. If you are there for 2 months+, I would suggest staying in 4-5 different locations, giving you a couple of weeks in each.
Steve Wooler
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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Carol G » Tue Oct 07, 2014 3:36 pm

Hi Sujata,
I know you will have a wonderful time in Tobago! We have been going to Tobago for years; would like to add to the excellent comments Steve made.

1. As Steve did not mention this, it might not be a problem. It use to be if you did not have return ticket; Immigration would give you a hard time. Given you want to be flexible you are probably going to have to buy a open end ticket (which unfortunately will cost more). If you have a connection to T&T (relatives) probably you can go with a one way.

2. I have taken route "road taxis" for years when my husband & I were doing different things. A number of people have advised on the forum that this is not a wise choice. Yes, you're relying on someone you do not know to drive in a safe matter. But with the buses being so unreliable I would have spent hours trying to get to a beach or even to the Scarborough bus terminal. And "H" plates are not cheap...if you decide to use, ask price before getting in.

3. Have not paid too much attention to rental prices recently. When we first went to Tobago it was all very much word of mouth and in general people were not interested in reducing the price for a long term stay. I have heard this may still be happening. Perhaps pick a place or two and see if you can work out something with the owners (do use the accommodation section!)

Coming in Dec for 2 months or more is probably going to be more expensive and also Carnival is Feb 16-17 in 2015...definitely a problem to get a place if you have not booked ahead.

Have a great trip. I'm sure others would also be happy to answer questions or share some thoughts on Tobago.
Cheers, Carol

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Sujata14 » Tue Oct 07, 2014 10:15 pm

Hi Steve and Carol,

Thanks a lot for your replies! So it looks like I should finalize all my accommodation in advance, given its high season and also as Steve said, without a car, hunting for a cheap place will be quite a hassle.

Carol thanks - I'll need to look into immigration issues with respect to having a one-way ticket. Westjet seems to give us the option to just buy a one-way flight at no extra cost, so I was tempted, since at this point I don't know when I'll want to return. I actually have six months off and could technically stay back in Tobago for longer than two months. It all depends on how it goes. My concerns as a solo female are about being harassed by the beach bums, and of course general safety issues. I love being alone out in nature, just me and trees :-) but I'm reading that it's not safe to go into the rainforest without a guide, or to be in certain isolated beaches etc, which is too bad. :(

Sujata

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Elizabeth.W » Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:01 am

Hi Sujata,
Having just come back from a solo trip, on a low budget, my advice would be...less is more!
I had a wonderful small apartment on the beach, saw some of the rain forest, and went around the island with a 1 to 1 guide. Go, enjoy, it is a FANTASTIC experience, take on board advice given on this website, then perhaps go for less time if your funds are low. Would I have stayed longer? YES,would I have cut corners on safety to save money? NO. I believe that it is far better to leave, having had the trip of a lifetime and wanting to stay, than to go too far out on a limb, and return home thinking never again. All the best....you will have a super time.

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed Oct 08, 2014 9:05 am

Hi Sujata

Sorry, in my rush to leave the office, I forgot Elizabeth's well-made point about one-way tickets. She is quite right - you are likely to have major grief with the Immigration officers if you don't have a pre-booked return ticket. In fact, having recently returned from a solo trip, Elizabeth is the best person to advise you on most issues and her comments above are spot-on in every way.
Steve Wooler
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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Sujata14 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 12:20 pm

Thanks again, both Elizabeth & Steve.

Elizabeth - I read your "post-trip" note from your own trip and I felt inspired as I read about your journey of discovery. That's exactly what I'm looking for - to make new discoveries - about the world and about myself. I too have discovered that travel truly expands us. I found this out last year when I went to Tulum, Mexico. I went with yoga and sunshine on my mind and discovered far, far more than that. I initially booked a 5 week trip and ended up staying for almost three months, but then I was lucky enough to find a very cheap and amazing apt once I got there. It is that trip that has emboldened me to travel more. Tobago feels like the right next step for me. Something about it draws me, even though with my six months off, I could technically go anywhere. But somehow Tobago has been on my mind. As soon as I got back from Tulum last Spring, I took out Eaulin Blondel's Tobago from the library and as I began reading, I knew that's where I wanted to go next.

I take your point about "less is more", and I agree that safety is paramount. May I ask where you ended up staying, if you don't mind sharing? You could message me privately about that if you prefer. Also, it sounds like you also didn't rent a car. Did you find it reasonably OK to get around the island? What mode of transport did you rely on?

Thanks!
Sujata

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Elizabeth.W » Wed Oct 08, 2014 7:38 pm

Hi Sujata,
Of course I will share, that's what we do here. I will send a post in the morning, just finished a 12.5 hour shift in the nursing unit, so my brain isn't in gear tonight.
All the best, Elizabeth

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Elizabeth.W » Thu Oct 09, 2014 5:38 am

Hi Sujata,
I stayed in Black Rock, in a house called Birdie's nest. There are 3 apartments, I had the smallest, low season price US $110 per night. Perhaps the owner would do a deal on a long stay, it is not for me to say. My thoughts on this though are as follows, we may have a low holiday budget, but in Tobago most people LIVE on a considerably lower one. Manual workers employed by the state earn TT§120 - TT§150 per day. I didn't want to over pay, but equally I found negotiating a bargain, not on my agenda. I did not rent a car, and although I have lived and worked in other than the UK, would not have rented, then driven off into the sunset. The roads, lack of sign posts etc are a challenge to newbies, but maybe next time I will. Before my trip I did have some nerves, mostly the excited kind, and you are right to try and be organised, but that only works up to a point. I began to have contact with the locals during the week, and through this interaction I then saw "My Tobago". I wish you all the best in finding yours.

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Sujata14 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:02 am

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for your reply and all the tips/comments! Birdie's Nest looks beautiful!

Sujata

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Re: Solo Female First-time Visitor to Tobago (two months+)

Post by Elizabeth.W » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:36 am

Hi Sujata,
It is even better !!! Please let me know if you plan on going, luck, lucky you. I am going to try and go in May for 2 weeks.
Elizabeth

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