Difference between revisions of "Trinidad"
Revision as of 18:44, 28 May 2007
Trinidad is the larger of the two islands that make up the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Most of the population (and hence shopping, food and entertainment) is located along the "East-West Corridor" which is the set of cities and towns along the main routes of transport. It starts in the West with the capital Port of Spain and ends at Arima. Transport is easy attained along these routes.
Taxis are hired at 'taxi stands' which are located in every major town, and other popular destinations. Legitimate taxi license plates always start with an 'H' (for 'Hire'). Taxis, for the most part, drive along a fixed route. The exception is for taxis which take passengers into neighborhoods, in which case you must inform the driver of the destination street. Expect the driver to wait until the taxi is full (usually four passengers) before leaving, so you might have a long wait at quiet hours. Always ask the driver to make sure where the route goes, and if you are in the right taxi stand. There are usually multiple taxi stands to different destinations in close proximity. The route fees are fixed (typically $3 to $5 TT, but going up to $20 TT for long routes), but ask the fare before leaving. If you don't wish to wait, or need to go off-route, negotiate with the driver and you can get the taxi all to yourself. The main advantage of taxis is that there are typically fewer stops (getting there faster) and you can ask the driver to place bulky packages in the trunk. A warning: air conditioning is not mandatory or typical.
Private Taxi Services
These differ from 'normal' taxis (which are typically individually owned and operated), in that they are owned by a taxi company and driven by hired drivers. You can call them from anywhere and they will come pick you up. These are usually nicer than 'normal' taxis: better maintained, newer and always air-conditioned. The drawback is is much higher cost (expect to pay at least $100 TT).
Maxis are the private mini-buses that drive along major routes, and pick up and drop passengers anywhere between. They carry 10-30 passengers. They are always painted white with horizontal stripes on the sides (red, green, yellow and black). The color of the stripe used to identify the route, but this is not strictly enforced. Typically, Maxis that travel the East-West corridor between Arima and Port of Spain have a red stripe, Port of Spain to Chaguanas: green. Maxis typically can be flagged along any 'Main' road (any road with 'Main' in its title: Eastern Main Road, Western Main Road, etc.) as well as the Priority Bus Route (which runs from Arima to Port of Spain). Main road routes are usually congested and slow, but slightly cheaper. The fee depends on distance traveled, but expect to pay $2.50 TT minimum (also known as a Short Drop). To flag a maxi, extend your arm upwards and indicate using your fingers how many passengers want to board. Ask the driver to make sure he is going where you wish to be. Passengers must press a buzzer located above their seat to indicate that they wish to disembark (if stopping before the end of route). If you don't know the area, ask the driver. Some maxis (particularly the larger ones) employ a conductor. The conductor collects money and indicates where you should sit. He is easily identified by the wad of cash in his hand and his occasional hustling-cry to potential passengers. Air conditioning is not typical.
Buses are a cheap method of transport, but the waits between departures can be long. Tickets can be purchased at terminals, and are usually less than $10 TT. They are normally air-conditioned.
Trinidad cuisine is influenced by many cultures, but primarily Indian and African (referred to as Creole cuisine). Other influences include Chinese (fast food Chinese places are only outnumbered by bars), and to some extent English and French. Relatively recently there has been a strong influx of American fast food: Subway, KFC and Pizza Hut are common sights. Most Trinidadians love meats of all kinds, but due to a significant Hindu population, there are many good vegetarian offerings.
Indigenous Fast Food
Doubles are a typical street food. India has some similar street fare, which is its probable origin. Tasty and cheap, many consider doubles a good quick meal or snack. They consist of curried channa (a.k.a chickpeas or garbanzo beans) sandwiched between two fried 'bara' (a puffy soft fried quickbread) wrapped in wax paper. Extra toppings include mango and other chutneys, as well as pepper sauce. In local lingo, doubles are ordered by referring to how much pepper is desired. One may order a "without", which refers to no pepper, a "slight", a small dab of pepper, while a "blaze" calls for a spoonful of pepper. Doubles vendors usually also sell fried potato pies, called "aloo pies" which can take the same toppings. Prices are around $2.50 TT.
How to eat: Doubles are eaten by first unwrapping, then separating one bara to reveal the channa and sauce sitting on the bottom bara. Then, tear a piece from the top 'free' bara (if you ordered pepper or chutney, now is the time to distribute it evenly) and then use it to scoop up some channa before consumption. The process continues with the 'bottom' bara until all the channa is consumed. Practice will enable you to get some channa with every bite with none left over. This process can be messy, so it is always wise to spot a source of water for washing hands before you start eating. A warning: one grain of channa will almost invariably roll off the wax paper and drop on your shoe.
Be sure to try:
Trinidad's roti styles were created by descendants of Indian immigrants. The two most popular styles are 'Dhalpuri' and 'Paratha' (a.k.a. 'Buss-up-Shut' or 'Buss-up-shot'). Dhalpuri roti is a thin flatbread cooked on a hotplate with a layer of ground split-peas inside. It is eaten as an edible wrapper (you may see the term 'wrapped roti' on menus) for various curried meat and vegetable fillings. Paratha/Buss-up-Shut is a soft, buttery flatbread which is torn up while cooking ('Buss-up-Shut' comes from the phrase 'busted-up-shirt') served alongside curried side dishes for dipping. Roti is sold in restaurants and roadside shops nearly everywhere. Traditionalists order their roti with a red soft-drink (soda). Prices vary from $7.00 TT for a small vegetarian dhalpuri up to $30 or $40 TT for a box/plate of Buss-up-Shut with vegetable sides and a more exotic meat dish (such as conch).
Be sure to try:
Shark and Bake
A deep fried thin slice of shark meat inside of a fried bread (a 'fry-bake'). Served with strong sauces such as tamarind and chadon-beni (a local herb similar to coriander). Be warned: many 'Shark and Bake' vendors actually serve flying fish instead of shark. Prices are around $25 TT.
Be sure to try:
Trinidad has a mind boggling number of bars. In some places, there might be 20 bars in a stretch of less than a mile. This makes bar-hopping easy. Bars constantly blast soca, reggae, dancehall and calypso music to attract customers. Don't expect cocktails in most bars, as most bartenders have little or no mixing skills.