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My experience in Tobago

Gainesville, Florida
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15 posts
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My experience in Tobago

I just came back from a week in Tobago. We stayed at the Rex Turtle Beach resort. I posted a review under the hotel, so won't repeat that here. But, in hopes that some people might find my experiences informative, I am posting some general comments.

First, the good. The island is beautiful. Driving along the coast is just one scenic overlook after another. The beaches are lovely. We snorkeled in 4 different spots and while the coral wasn't stellar, the variety of fish is fantastic. The vast majority of the people we met were friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We had some great meals at local restaurants. We did some tours and we also rented a jeep for 2 days and did some exploring on our own.

After all that, you will probably be surprised to learn that, while we had fun, we do not plan to return nor will we recommend the island to friends. The biggest issue we had is that we were all too often the targets of unwanted attention. People wanted to sell us all kinds of stuff. They wanted to talk us into one kind of tour or another. Young men wanted us to come party/drink/dance with them - and we are sedate older ladies who most definitely do not give off an "I want to party" vibe. It was stressful. And a polite "No thank you" was generally not enough to get them to leave us alone. We found ourselves becoming reluctant to engage in casual conversation with people who may well have just wanted to chat, out of fear that another pitch was coming.

Yes, I know that Tobago is not unique in this. I have experienced it other places. But, there are also perfectly lovely places to vacation where this is not a problem.

Other negatives are mostly minor. Tobago is kind of expensive. Many of the tours are a bit rough around the edges - little things like them forgetting basics like ice, water, and beverages on a "Refreshments Included" boat trip. Driving yourself around is not for the faint of heart. Stuff like that. Nothing of the "make-or-break" variety.

We did not experience any crime nor did we feel unsafe anywhere we went. However, our hotel was literally crawling with security guards day and night, which was a bit disconcerting. One can't help but think they wouldn't be there if crime wasn't a problem.

UK
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179 posts
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1. Re: My experience in Tobago

Hi Make Mine Water

Thanks for your feedback. I am pleased that (unlike many visitors who stay holed up in their hotels) you got out and explored the island and took some tours etc.

But your feedback re some of the "rough and ready" tours is true, one must carefully choose who takes you on a tour (eg through reviews online) and never book through hotel or beach touts - in this way you will find cheaper and efficient tour guides with proper vehicles, licenses, insurance etc. Examples are Island Girl, Tobago Princess, Harris Macdonald, Newton George, Yes Tourism etc - seldom any negatives said about them (and some others).

It sounds like you may have ended up with one of the shoddier rogues, who the government really should close down - the problem is lack of efficiency in government controllers, corruption etc - endemic in those parts. So reviews are crucial before booking.

Your problem re harassment and endless come-ons from young men is due to the romance-tourism industry which has thrived for many years on some of the small islands. Whole poor families have been supported by the man/youth in the household going out to "work" on the beaches and to pick up older - an in many cases OLD - ladies who are either there looking for some liberated adoration (at a price) or are on holiday but get sucked in by the flattery.

Many ladies find what they want (locals call it "the big bamboo" and pay for it with gifts and cash in a controlled, disciplined manner. Many other ladies fall in love (fatal) and end up losing all their savings and health, etc. A tiny tiny minority end up with genuine guys, marry and retire in warm (flawed) paradise, happy.

I am afraid that two older sedate ladies as you say you are, would have been highly prized amongst the gigolos and hustler boys - especially as Tobago's visitor numbers are lower than in the last 15 years and jobs and earnings are hard to find. Other than being friendly and firm, there is little you can do to shoosh them away - maybe other travellers can offer tips on dealing with hustlers of any sort to assist other travellers? (Obviously those ladies looking for some action enjoy the flirt-chase-game and being the centre of attraction of good looking muscled young men!)

Gainesville, Florida
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15 posts
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2. Re: My experience in Tobago

The Big Bamboo. Perfect. Thank you for a good laugh this morning, CaribbeanBeauty.

Regarding the tours, I am normally a thorough planner and researcher, but this was sort of a spur of the moment trip in the middle of a busy work schedule, so I did not do my usual pre-trip planning and I think we suffered from the lack.

Regarding the romance angle, yes, you are correct, we did see other women at our hotel who embraced (no pun intended) the opportunity to party and drink with the local men.

I really hesitated before posting my comments because I truly did not want to come across as excessively critical and negative. Tobago has many things to recommend it and I can easily see how many visitors love it. It's just that it isn't quite MY tropical paradise.

Bonaire
Destination Expert
for Bonaire
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3. Re: My experience in Tobago

MakeMine - Thank you for your insightful review and post. This is excellent feedback. Tobago has always been on my travel list. It's great to have this type of information so that I can make an informed decision.

Regards.

4. Re: My experience in Tobago

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5. Re: My experience in Tobago

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Toronto, Canada
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777 posts
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6. Re: My experience in Tobago

wow

UK
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7. Re: My experience in Tobago

It looks like the nasty posts which insulted the beach gigolos excessively have been removed. Good.

It must be remembered that at the end of the day Tobago is a developing world island and there is still poverty and plenty of people living in tin shacks without power etc.

These guys who escort rich foreign ladies (as even a first world lady on a basic pension is rich compared with them) are just doing what humans do well - adapting to survive. Yes some are robbers or shysters, but the opportunity is presented to them by their sponsors who should know better - so which is the guilty party?

It is exactly the same situation as that in south east asia where poor bargirls hook up western male tourists. Neither the caribbean men nor the se asian girls are scum, they are simply working to survive.

w.sussex
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8. Re: My experience in Tobago

Well said CB !! Couldn't agree more.

Trinidad basically supports Tobago and unemployment on the island is high especially among the young.

Although I understand how annoying it can be I have always found a firm "No" enough to deter them.

Let's face it it's as much the tourist to blame as the locals.

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9. Re: My experience in Tobago

Get your facts straight ! There are a lot of jobs in T&T but nobody wants to work.Hotels are bringing in people from other islands and countries.The drop in tourism is to be blamed on the government for not doing enough to protect it's citizens and tourists.The police force is corrupt,you can't compare little Tobago to Asia,most men and women who work as sex slaves will not be doing so if a decent job was available.T&T people think that drinking and feteing 24/7 is a great ting and proud of it.

Gainesville, Florida
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10. Re: My experience in Tobago

In response to sandra1986's comments about the tourists being as much to blame as the locals and that a firm "No" is enough to deter unwanted attention:

I want to make it clear that I am not "blaming" anyone for anything. I am merely providing an account of my personal experience and my individual emotional response to that experience. I have no argument with anyone who says their experience or their emotional response was different from mine and I think it is entirely unfair to dismiss my experience or my feelings simply because they may differ from yours.

I posted my experiences because I thought other people considering a trip to Tobago might be interested, not because I was trying to "blame" the locals for anything. It's their country and it's not for me to judge, but it *is* for me to decide whether or not the place suits me as a vacation destination and for me to share with other people the basis for my decision.

Edited: 28 October 2010, 19:00
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