Loading...
Bee on duranta shrub
 

Health & Safety

Trinidad and Tobago are VERY different islands. It is sad that Tobago's international reputation has been tainted by the crime situation on its larger sister-island.

Despite that, it must be said that there has been a worrying increase in crime on Tobago in recent years. The authorities have done little to alleviate the situation, probably arguing that crime on Tobago is a minor issue compared to Trinidad, so why redirect resources? Fortunately, things do see to be improving of late.

Security is not substantially more of a problem in Tobago than anywhere else – in fact, compared to most North American/European cities, Tobago is a children's playground. One of the wonderful things about Tobago is that you are still able to wander off the 'main' routes and down any lane or street, into the smallest village, anywhere on the island, without risk – as long as you observe common sense precautions for your own safety. It is quite astonishing how many tourists leave their brains at home when they go on holiday and behave in manners that they would never consider at home.

Beggars and hawkers are considerably less of a problem than on most Caribbean destinations. It is seldom that you will not find them polite, friendly and willing to take 'no' without rancour. Of course, there are always exceptions, but that's just what they are - the exception.

Tobago's biggest problem is that it FEELS so safe. The biggest danger is that visitors become so chilled that their brain goes into hibernation. We investigate every tourist-related security incident that we hear of and I would suggest that there is a back-story to 80%+ of cases and that the incident could have been avoided with a little more care by the visitor.

Government Travel Advice

Security Check List

  • Never wear flash jewellery when out and about. In fact, Tobago is not that sort of island so leave it at home.
  • Expensive watches draw unwelcome attention. Buy a cheap throw-away before you go and leave the good one at home.
  • Never carry more money than you need when out and about. Leave the remainder safely locked in a hotel safe deposit box.
  • Don't leave valuables on the beach when swimming.
  • Don't leave things on show in a car - lock them away.
  • It is awful to say, but treat everyone who approaches you with some degree of suspicion. This particularly applies to younger people, or people in pairs or small groups.
  • Wear and use a waterproof money belt.
  • Never carry your passport and travel documents with you when out and about, unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Don't wear designer gear - keep your clothing understated and 'dress down'.
  • Never tell a stranger where you are staying and never ever take strangers back to your hotel, guest house, apartment or rental villa.
  • Single women should be wary of strangers that approach them on the beach or in bars.
  • Divide your belongings up into two suitcases. If one is lost or stolen, only one of you will be nude for your holiday!

If you are staying in a hotel or other accommodation where staff are always present, your first action in the event of an emergency should be to contact management. They know local procedures far better than you and it would always be advisable to seek their advice before attempting to resolve a situation on your own.

Visitors staying in holiday villas or other self-catering rental accommodation, where there is no on-site management, may wish to make a note of the emergency numbers quoted on this page.

Full details of Tobago medical facilities are listed in the next tab.

Emergency Numbers

Ambulance +1(868) 990
Fire +1(868) 990
Police +1(868) 999
Coast Guard +1(868) 634-4440
Hospital +1(868) 639-2551

There are no compulsory vaccination requirements for entry to Trinidad & Tobago. As usual for travel to tropical countries, vaccination against hepatitis A and B are often recommended. If you are coming from a country with yellow fever, a certificate of vaccination will be required. You are strongly recommended to check that your vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria and polio are up to date (i.e. every 10 years).

Trinidad and Tobago have been declared rabies-free, so vaccination against this horrible disease is no longer necessary.

Medical facilities on Tobago are far more limited than we are used to in Europe and North America. The facilities may be lacking, but I've never heard anything but praise for the levels of personal care offered to visitors who seek medical attention during their holiday on Tobago. Most large villages have small health centres. These are often staffed by nurses. Doctors may only attend a few times a week. The new Scarborough General Hospital has boosted local medical facilities vastly. The hospital is conveniently located just north of the Claude Noel Highway, on Signal Hill, just outside Scarborough. Complex medical cases are transferred to Trinidad, where excellent state and private medical facilities exist.

Mains water on Tobago is safe to drink directly from the tap. The water lines are sanitised regularly and the metallic taste following this can be off-putting. Bottled water costs more than petrol/gas, but does at least taste better.

There have been cases of dengue, chikungunya and zika virus on Tobago. It is therefore important that travellers take, and regularly apply, a good DEET-based mosquito repellent. We also strongly recommend taking a tube or two of anti-histamine cream. Some visitors can be a magnet to sand-flies and no-see-ums. Checking your arms and legs two or three times a day and applying anti-histamine cream to any bites is often the secret to bites being nothing but a minor inconvenience.

The management of your hotel or other visitor accommodation are in the best position to advise you about local doctors and other health facilities. Visitors staying up-country should note that there are NO pharmacies or doctors based outside the south-west of the island.

Pharmacies/Drug Stores

Bon Accord Sinanaan's Pharmacy  
Milford Court (+1(868) 660-8255)
Crown Point Bhagan's Drugs  
Pelican Point Plaza (+1(868) 631-5143)
Carnbee Penny Savers Pharmacy  
Auchenskeoch Buccoo Bay Road (+1(868) 639-2976)
Mount Pleasant Shirvan Drugs  
Shirvan Plaza, Shirvan Road (+1(868) 270-3069)
Scarborough Ross Budget Drugs  
Main Street, Uptown Scarborough (+1(868) 639-1426)
  Scarborough Drugs  
Carrington Street/Wilson Road (+1(868) 639-4161)
  Tobago Pharmacy  
31 Carrington Street (+1(868) 639-3784)
  Tsoi's Pharmacy  
Scarborough Mall (+1(868) 639-3383)
  Waterfront Pharmacy  
31 Wilson Road (+1(868) 631-1030)

LOCATION MAP

CLICK HERE to view the location of pharmacies and other medical facilities on our interactive satellite map.

The bites of smaller insects, such as sand flies, midges and other no-see-ums, can be a big problem to some visitors, yet nothing more than a minor inconvenience to others. As with most things, prevention is better than cure, so we hope that the follow guidelines will help to minimise the risk of your holiday being spoiled by troublesome insect bites.

Bites from sand flies, midges and gnats can produce hives as well as the more normal irritation and discomfort. Some people are considerably more affected than others, but the protection applied and the way that bites are treated can make all the difference. Based on many years of personal experience, we make the following recommendations:

  • Regular application of a good mosquito and insect repellent containing 50% DEET (Diethyletolumide) is essential. Apply a double-dose to the ankles and lower legs. Jungle Formula and Autan are two very effective products. Off! and Go! are two good deterrents commonly available in Tobago. Avoid the bottles labelled 'Family Spray' as these contain only 7% DEET, so need to be re-applied every hour or two (the DEET concentration indicates how long the repellent will last, not the strength of the repellent). A considerably cheaper alternative, which is often just as effective, is to mix a few drops of citronella oil, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, with after-sun, moisturiser or baby-oil. Everyone reacts differently so it's a matter of experimentation.
  • Avoid sandy areas at dusk and lawns and grassy verges at all times.
  • Do not wear black or dark colours in the evening. These attract mosquitoes.
  • Do not wear perfume or aftershave. These can attract mosquitoes and insects. Mosquitoes are attracted to people by skin odours and carbon dioxide from the breath. The trick is to find ways of making you a less attractive target to them.
  • If you usually suffer serious reactions to bites, seek medical advice and start taking antihistamine tablets before you leave home. If you only suffer mild reaction, take a stock of antihistamine tablets with you, but make sure you are prescribed or buy the type that don't make you drowsy. Take a tube or two of Anthisan, or similar, antihistamine cream and apply to every bite, three times a day. Methodical regular application of the antihistamine cream is generally the secret to avoiding the itching caused by bites.
  • Never scratch bites, no matter how much they itch. If they've got to the itchy stage, it's because you haven't applied the antihistamine cream early or regularly enough. Lanacane is a good, if expensive, treatment and contains a local anaesthetic to soothe the pain.
  • Mosquitoes cannot fly well in strong breezes or wind, so use a fan in your room to create 'windy' conditions.
  • Use mosquito nets, when provided. However, when using a net, it is critical to ensure that it is fully tucked in all the way around the net. If not, any insects that get in may have difficulty getting out so spend the night feasting on you.
  • Spray your bedroom before retiring at night and use an electric mosquito killer. Mosquito coils should never be burned inside small rooms, but we highly recommend a Jungle Formula plug-in.
Good insect repellents Jungle Forumal plug-in

As with most tropical destinations, Tobago's lush vegetation provides a wonderful habitat to a wide variety of wildlife and insects of every type and description. Fortunately, the island has very few poisonous or venomous creatures, so visitors need have no fear.

MOSQUITOES

Visitors regularly blame all bites on mosquitoes. However, the most common cause of bites to visitors are sand flies, gnats, midges and other tiny flying insects. Mosquitoes are very visible, slow flying insects. Nine times out of ten you will see the mossie and can kill it before it has left your body. They are particularly active at night and during the rainy season of June to December.

Dengue, chikungunya and zeka virus are endemic in most countries in the Caribbean and Tobago is no exception. Please click on the 'Medical' tab for further information.

SAND FLIES

Midges, gnats and a host of other invisible nasties which the Americans rather aptly call 'no-see-ums', can make life in the tropics a total misery for some poor souls. Unless it is your first trip to the Caribbean, you will know whether you are sensitive to them or not. Many people are lucky enough to never attract bites. For the majority, they are only a minor inconvenience. Sand flies are at their most active in the hour before and after sunset, so avoid the beach - particularly along the tide line - at that time. Gnats and midges are present in all grassy areas, so avoid walking on grass verges or lawns.

COCKROACHES

Cockroaches are a normal part of life in the tropics. Your hotel will undoubtedly have done everything possible to eradicate or minimise the problem. Although some species of cockroach are accepted pests and associated with a dirty environment, there are also 'clean' varieties of cockroach that occasionally fly in from the garden. Your hotel will undoubtedly be highly embarrassed if you find one. If the establishment is otherwise clean and well maintained, please understand that it does not always indicate poor housekeeping. The chances are you will never see a single 'roach.

LIZARDS

These shouldn't be included here, because lizards are not pests. Some visitors can be a little unsettled by the small, almost transparent, geckos that are found in most houses. Have no fear. They do not bite and are totally harmless. Welcome them, because they feed on the insects that might otherwise bite you. You may also be lucky enough to see green iguanas in the garden. These ancient prehistoric-looking creatures can pack a nasty punch with a lash of their tail, but are not aggressive. So, leave them alone and they certainly won't trouble you.

SNAKES, SPIDERS AND VENOMOUS CREATURES

Tobago is almost devoid of noxious wildlife. The island has no poisonous snakes. Tarantula spiders can be found in some areas, particularly the forests between Mason Hall and Castara, but their bite is more of an irritant than a danger. Scorpions are present in some areas but it is extremely rare for anyone to be bitten by one. If you have the misfortune to be that exception, make a very quick trip to the hospital as it is important that the antidote is administered as quickly as possible.

Like many Caribbean and tropical destinations, Tobago does have a bit of problem with stray animals and you are almost certain to come across local 'pot hounds' on the beaches. In fairness, the number of stray dogs has reduced dramatically in recent years due to the concerted effort of the authorities and a local animal welfare charity. A large part of the problem is that it is often impossible to tell whether an animal is a stray or belongs to a villager. The compulsory use of dog collars would obviously be a first step, but somehow this doesn't seem appropriate on an island such as Tobago.

Visitors afraid of dogs need have no fear. Tobago is rabies-free and these poor curs are surprisingly friendly and good natured. Dog-lovers, like me, find the situation a dilemma. My natural inclination is to feed and pet them. However, I must strongly urge visitors not to do so. These poor hounds are infested with fleas and ticks and mange is a common problem. It would be easy to pick up an infection, so it is absolutely essential to immediately and thoroughly wash your hands any contact with them.

The biggest reason not to feed or fuss stray dogs and cats is that to do so encourages them to return. You will be constantly pestered, day after day. You may welcome the company, but other visitors may feel very differently. This is particularly true if you are staying in a villa. The next visitors to the property may even be afraid of stray dogs, so being pestered by stray dogs or cats could potentially spoil their holiday and the reputation of the property.

The TTSPCA is a wonderful local animal welfare charity. They are associate members of the RSPCA. The operate from the Tobago Shelter located in Friendsfield Road, near the Dwight Yorke Sports Stadium just outside Scarborough. They do sterling work looking after strays and injured animals. They are totally reliant upon donations to keep their work going and we strongly urge visitors to support this organisation by leaving donations in their clearly-labelled charity boxes which are located in various locations around the island, such as the check-out of Morshead's and other supermarkets.

Reader Vote:

Website:

Email Now:

Telephone:+1(868) 639-2567

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Trinidad and Tobago are strict. Suspected offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines, and may be jailed until the trial date, which can be months or even years after the arrest. Many of the foreign citizens incarcerated in Trinidad and Tobago were caught attempting to take suitcases or packages containing drugs out of the country. Even if the package or suitcase is being carried for someone else, the traveller is liable for its contents.

All narcotic drugs are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago. In any quantity! If caught, there are no exceptions and no excuses. T&T law does not allow for "personal possession" nor for ignorance of the law. The smallest quantity of marijuana found on your person will earn you at least a night in jail, and a hefty fine. Larger amounts of marijuana or any amount of cocaine will get you charged with "trafficking" - penalties for this include a minimum of 5 years in Trinidad's State Prisons, and possibly confiscation of your assets back home.

Do not even think of taking home any "souvenirs". The airport drug squads are very efficient.

IT REALLY ISN'T WORTH THE RISK!