How to Stay Healthy While Traveling Trinidad and Tobago

Diedre McLeod shares her tips on how to avoid illness, what vaccinations you need, and how to stay healthy and avoid getting sick in Trinidad and Tobago.

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The rays from the setting sun filter through palm trees as locals enjoy the surf at Maracas Beach, Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago Photo © Getty Images/by Marc Guitard

Traveling to Trinidad and Tobago soon? I asked a few travelers and Trinidadian friends who work in the medicine to share their tips on staying healthy in Trinidad and Tobago.

Medical facilities in Trinidad and Tobago

There are large hospitals in the major towns of Port of Spain, Scarborough and San Fernando, but the public health system has varying levels of standards and facilities across the islands, and wait times can be long.

Private clinics are available, and offer a better standard of care. For both public and private health care, you may need to pay upfront, even if you have travel insurance.

If you need medical help while in the country, contact your travel insurance’s emergency assistance team, as they will be able to direct you to the best medical facility depending on where you are.

What vaccinations do I need for Trinidad and Tobago?

Make sure you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations. Other recommended vaccinations for Trinidad and Tobago are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies (if you plan to spend extended time outside urban centers and around animals).

While yellow fever is not present in Trinidad and Tobago, if you have traveled from a country where the disease is present, you will be asked to show proof of vaccination upon arrival.

Mosquito-borne diseases in Trinidad and Tobago

The main mosquito-borne illnesses in Trinidad and Tobago are dengue fever, chikungunya virus and to a lesser extent, the Zika virus.

Dengue fever symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and a skin rash. Severe dengue can be fatal and includes additional symptoms such as bleeding, shock, and fluid accumulation in the lungs.

Chikungunya fever causes high fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash.

Because these diseases have similar symptoms, it's important to get tested to identify which illness you have.

The Zika virus can also sexually transmitted and through blood transfusions, and from mother to child during pregnancy. It may cause birth defects in babies and usually has no symptoms.

To avoid mosquito bites, wear insect repellent and clothing that covers your arms and legs. At night, use protective mosquito netting over your bed and citronella candles.

Snakes and wildlife dangers in Trinidad and Tobago

No See Ums

Beware of these sneaky little biting sandflies, appropriately named ‘no-see-ums’ that are small and hard to see. They are not dangerous and are usually found near water. Wear insect repellent and light, long-sleeved tops and long pants.

Snakes

Though the risk is quite low, Trinidad and Tobago is home to four venomous snakes: Large Coral snake, Small Coral snake, Fer-de-lance mapepire and the Bushmaster mapepire. If you plan to hike in forested areas, take a first aid kit equipped with pressure bandages. Seek help immediately if you are bitten, but stay still, apply pressure bandages above and below the bite, and send someone for help.

HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago

HIV infection rates throughout the Caribbean are high, however, infection rates are declining in Trinidad and Tobago for people living with HIV/AIDS. While the risk is considered low for travelers, it's important that you take all the usual precautions. Always practice safe sex.

Food safety in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is known for its street food vendors. The food is spicy and while hygiene is generally good, take extra precaution so you don’t get traveler’s diarrhea. The golden rule is to make sure your food is boiled, well-cooked, or peeled.

Here are a few cases of food poisoning associated with consuming fish and other seafood in Trinidad and Tobago.

Food poisoning caused by toxic fish

Ciguatera originates in reef-dwelling fish such as mackerel and snapper. Cooking and freezing do not reduce the risk of the toxin. Symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headache and numbness can appear instantly or several hours after ingestion. According to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, avoid eating reef fish over 6lbs (2.7kg) or filets of large fish and don’t eat the liver, intestines, heads, and roe of smaller reef fish.

Eating lionfish

Lionfish are a venomous, invasive species in the Caribbean. The venom is found in the needle-sharp dorsal, pelvic and anal fins of a lionfish, and is not deadly to humans. After the careful removal of the spines, the meat is safe to eat.

Can I drink tap water in Trinidad and Tobago?

The tap water is safe to drink in Trinidad and Tobago. Bottled water is also readily available at supermarkets, pubs, hotels, neighborhood shops and food stalls – but instead of buying bottles of water, carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go.

Marine hazards in Trinidad and Tobago

There is a variety of coral, jellyfish, sharks and sea urchins that you need to be careful around.

If you get cut by coral, seek medical attention as soon as possible. In the meantime, remove any noticeable pieces of coral with tweezers. Flush and clean the wound using diluted iodine or hydrogen peroxide. Apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and keep the wound covered.

For urchin spine injuries, place the affected area in hot water (as hot as you can stand) for at least 30 minutes. Remove any spine pieces with tweezers or your fingers gently. If the spines are deeply embedded, seek professional medical help. Wash the wound gently and thoroughly. Apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and seek medical treatment. Do not cover the wounds.

Pharmacies and buying first-aid items

There are well-stocked pharmacies across both Trinidad and Tobago, where you can purchase over-the-counter medication. If you need specific medication for an illness, it may be better to get a prescription or take enough with you for the duration of the trip.

Useful items to pack

Bring your own sunscreen, mosquito repellent, insect bite creams, and any required allergy medicine. You may not find your preferred brand, and this will help reduce your spending, as medication prices can be high depending on what you buy.

Have you been to Trinidad and Tobago? Share your tips below!

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