Attacks on tourists are increasing on both islands, with crime being a major issue all year round, not just in peak tourist season around Carnival and Christmas.
If you are traveling to Trinidad and Tobago, travel there with someone you trust, never do things alone, do all sightseeing during daylight hours, and always carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency.
Many incidents involving firearms occur in tourist populated sites such as Fort George, the Pitch Lake, Las Cuevas beach, shopping malls, nightclubs and restaurants, which are primarily targets for robberies.
There are a few regions known to be more dangerous in the capital, Port of Spain on Trinidad, including; Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, South Belmont, and the inside of the Queen’s Park Savannah. At night steer clear of scenic rest stops and downtown Port of Spain.
Try to resist the temptation to seek out remote beaches far away from other tourists and crowds. Crowds are actually what you need to stay safe here.
Isolated beaches known for high crime rates are Englishman's Bay, Las Cuevas, just beyond Maracas Bay, and King Peter's Bay.
Accommodation is also something you need to be cautious about. In October 2008, a Swedish couple were chopped to death in their hotel room in Tobago. Just 10 days later in Tobago, two British females were robbed and sexually assaulted by a bandit who forced his way into their holiday apartment.
These stories and statistics are frightening, but when it comes to accommodation such as renting a villa, make sure you have tight security measures in place. This includes bars on windows, outdoor security lighting, and 24-hour security guards.
Airports are always a hotspot for criminals who are waiting to take advantage of tired, and potentially ignorant tourists.
If you are traveling after dark from Trinidad’s Piarco Airport, be cautious of who may be following you. Incidents have been reported of armed robbers trailing passengers from the airport, and confronting them in remote areas. People have been followed and attacked in the airport car park, the highway leading from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and as far as the outside of residences.
When it comes to traveling on roads in Trinidad and Tobago, some are more dangerous than others.
The Beetham Highway, a main road used to get in and out of the city, has regular incidents, with people running out onto the road, and people throwing masonry bricks or other debris at cars in order to cause an accident. When the car is forced to stop, a group of people will appear, and rob the victims of their valuables – and in some cases, violently assault them.
If you happen to have car trouble while traveling on this stretch of road, if the car is still able to drive, get out of the area before seeking help.
Thieves will try almost anything to get you to stop your vehicle. Many ‘bump and rob’ incidents have been reported, especially in Laventille. This is where the culprit rear-ends the victim, usually only causing minor damage. Naturally the driver will stop and get out of the car, only to be robbed.
Some of these incidents have turned fatal, even if the victim hasn’t tried to fight off their robber.
These kinds of attacks are common, and smash and grab style theft from cars occurs frequently too. Always keep valuables hidden, especially near tourist attractions. This goes for both Trinidad and Tobago.
This ATM scam is common for thieves – Trinidad in particular.
The thief uses X-ray film to construct a pocket, which is placed in the card slot of the ATM. When you insert your card, you won’t be able to withdraw money, nor will you be able to eject your card.
While you're standing there in a state of stress, a bystander will approach with advice to enter in your PIN number backwards. This sinister ‘good Samaritan’ will be watching to see what your PIN number is.
As you leave without your card, the thief will then be able to remove the x-ray film, which has captured your card, and will also know your PIN number. Some more savvy thieves will have installed a nearby camera to hopefully catch you entering your PIN.
If this does happen to you, don’t enter your PIN when you're approached by a stranger. Or if you can, inspect the ATM and see if you can detect if it’s been tampered with. If you are lucky, you will be able to pull out the film yourself. If not, cancel your card as soon as possible.
Other little things to know about Trinidad and Tobago is that there are a lot of hawkers. This gets annoying, but you’ll soon learn to be stern but polite, and they will leave you alone.
Women may also feel hassled by male attention. Again be firm but polite – a ‘good morning’ is the first step to befriending a local, and can usually be better than ignoring someone completely.
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If you have packed your camouflage cargo board shorts to wear on the beach in Trinidad and Tobago, think again. There are laws prohibiting the import of camouflage pattern materials, without permission from the Minister of National Security.