Trinidad & Tobago on the Cheap

Within hours of arriving in Tobago, I soon discovered that wining (dancing provocatively, something akin to twerking) and liming (drinking or just enjoying time with friends) are the islander’s two biggest pastimes and the most fun to be had is to join them.

To say I was exhausted when I arrived in Tobago is an understatement. After missing my direct flight during the week I had spent a nightmarish 34 hours travelling and hanging around various American airports. The last thing I felt like doing was partying. But as my boyfriend met me at the airport he handed me a rum and coke and I literally felt the chilled out Caribbean mode wash over me.

I arrived on a Sunday, party day on Tobago, when the islanders love to get together for a wine and lime (dance and drink). My boyfriend told me that there was a harvest festival happening in Roxborough, a sleepy coastal fishing village not too far away, so we headed over there to check it out.

My boyfriend had been living in Trinidad and Tobago for almost a year so he knew a lot of locals who had told him about the festival. Everyone opens their doors to their friends, neighbours and strangers, throwing a party and offering free food and drink.

Party time in Trinidad and Tobago

Beach in Trinidad and Tobago

When we first arrived in Roxborough we were afraid we had got it wrong, it seemed so quiet. As we walked along the narrow promenade cars of out-of towners started to pour in, with their windows down and stereos up. Then we spotted a few locals walking around with Styrofoam-packed food carry outs. “Over there” one advised. “Just go inside any house where you hear music."

It felt a bit cheeky but we followed the sound of music to a large house set back from the main road. The party was in full swing and a friendly girl welcomed us in with curried goat and rum punch. Spicy aromas filled the house from the huge pots bubbling away at the back. Everyone was dancing and having a great time and we started to get into the swing of things. We went for a walk and soon got beckoned into another party. This time the owner took us into the jungle at the back of his house to show us the bounty that nature provides for free on the island. Fruits of all kinds, sugarcane and cocoa all grow wild. We tried some cocoa from the pod, the seeds were bitter but the white goo that surrounds them was delicious and chocolatey.

We had to leave early to get the last bus back, but our party wasn’t over yet. We went to Buccoo for the Sunday School. The only thing religious about this party is how seriously some of the locals are about wining and liming. Steel bands start playing at around 8pm and then the sound systems kick in at around 11. The party really gets going around midnight with a mixture of dancehall, soca and R&B.

Chilling out in Trinidad and Tobago 

So, I had done the liming and wining, now I needed to do some winding down. Tobago is perfect for this.  

We stayed in Bacolet Bay, just outside the tiny capital Scarborough, at The Sea View Guesthouse. The name is appropriate enough, as perched high on the cliff we could watch the sun go down at night over the sea. Although very basic it was reasonably priced at only £20 a night when we were there. It was perfect for us as we could easily get down to the shops and markets in Scarborough or walk down the steep garden and cliff side steps to the bay where they filmed Swiss Family Robinson many years ago.

Every time we went down there was nobody around but us. It felt like we had our own private beach, which I am sure those staying at the larger resorts at the other side of the island were paying through the nose for. The only draw-back is that Bacolet is on the Atlantic side of the island so the sea can be chillier and not as clear as on the Caribbean side.

Beaches in Trinidad

Amazing beach in Trinidad and Tobago

The best beaches can be found near the airport at Store Bay and Pigeon Point. We didn’t have transport so every morning we would walk down to Scarborough, stopping to buy breakfast from the vendors near the market, and take a shared taxi. There's a flat rate for using the cabs and it comes to about 50p. I enjoyed the banter between the drivers and fares and got to see different parts of the island as we dropped people off.

Store Bay has a relaxed atmosphere and is where the Trinidadian tourists come. As the name suggests there are small stores and kiosks around selling souvenirs and more delicious food. Rasta beach bums sit in the shade offering sun loungers, umbrellas, or tickets for their glass bottom boats. Further down the road is Crown Point, both beaches are Caribbean through and through with the expected white powdery beaches, coconut trees and tropical fish. Crown Point is where the high-end tourists gather and there is a small charge of £3 to enter the beach. Sun loungers are lined up with international tourists and bars pump out music onto the beach.

You can always find a lime and a wine in Tobago. And though Harvest festival might only happen once a year in Roxborough, it happens every month in different villages around the island. The beauty of the place is that it is just so easy to chill and relax, though there is also plenty to see. After ten days it was time for another 34-hour flight but I had got into a truly Tobagonian mindset by then and it was all easy.