The country’s high crime rate is actually focused on Trinidad – visitors to Tobago should not experience problems, and violent crime is virtually unheard of. The usual precautions are advised, particularly at night. Most hotels and guesthouses provide safes for valuables; be aware of pickpockets, particularly at busy events and festivals.
More popular beaches have lifeguards, but do be careful when swimming a long way out from the shore, and be especially vigilant if travelling in Tobago with kids. Remoter beaches are unguarded. Look out for flags – white and yellow for safe swimming, red for danger.
Watch out for fire coral when snorkelling or swimming. Brushing against it causes an intense stinging or burning pain that can last for several days. Your guide or boat driver should warn you if fire coral is present; it generally resembles red, light brown or orange seaweed with white tips. Washing with seawater (not freshwater) or vinegar may ease the pain.
Barracudas, moray eels and stingrays are also present in the waters around Tobago. They are extremely unlikely to attack, but if you do see any of these species remember to keep clear and avoid provoking them.
There are several species of snake on Tobago; none of them are venomous.
If you are spending time in Trinidad en route, pre-booked taxis are advised, avoid the downtown and port areas – particularly at night – and take extra care during carnival.
The speed limit may be slow (50kph/31mph) but the Tobagonian drivers move fast. This is especially hazardous as the steep hillsides mean there are many narrow, winding roads with blind corners. If driving, keep to the speed limit (even if you have a tail of local drivers), use your horn on blind corners and be especially careful during the rainy season when landslides can further narrow roads. Remember – driving is on the left!
Tobago lies south of the hurricane belt; only two major cyclones have occurred since the 1960s but annual storms can still cause flash floods and landslides, which may result in some more rural roads becoming impassable. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and check your route if visiting from June to November.
Going nude or topless on beaches is illegal in Tobago. As well as causing offence to locals, it could get you into trouble with the police.