Tobago on Stand By

We had planned a “Three Guyanas” trip for the new year and somehow, when Bella booked the flight from Toronto to Georgetown Guyana and back Caribbean Airlines allowed her to book an overnight layover in Port of Spain Trinidad. When Insel Air screwed up our tightly scheduled plans by changing our flight from Dec 31 to Dec 30, our recovery gave us a chance to add a day in Trinidad to our itinerary. Caribbean Airlines graciously (for a $50 fee for each of us) moved our Georgetown to Port of Spain leg from Jan 2 to Jan 1 and that gave us a chance to see a bit of the wonderful islands.

We found the Inter-Island Ferry Service, which operates a ferry twice a day between Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago for $50TT or $7.79USD a person. Here’s the link to the schedule:

The 6:30 departure meant another early wake up, but that’s life when you’re trying to squeeze every drop from a trip.

After a cab ride to the terminal, we tried to purchase round trip tickets and were told “only one way”. Ok, that meant we simply buy the return when we get to the other terminal, right?

The next line was for check in, which also required passports. We then had to go upstairs for security theater, which consisted of a metal detector and an X-ray belt for our bags (ScotteVests, of course). The fact that nobody actually looked at that monitors for the belt rendered the whole process pointless.

The ferry was filled with cars and had a cafe that sold coffee and breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, salt fish, rice) and a bar. The trip took 2.5 hours, during which one could rest, watch the Karate Kid, or watch the scenery go by. One of the tips we found was to check for a dry seat because the roof drips occasionally from air conditioning condensation.

We landed in Scarborough and were immediately assailed by a number of cab drivers wishing to make a buck or two off us, as usual. Our chosen driver told us we wouldn’t be able to purchase our return trip until 2:00 PM, two hours before departure so we made plans to enjoy the afternoon and return just before then.

Pigeon Point
Pigeon Point

Upon arrive at the ferry terminal to return to Trinidad, we got in the ticket line behind a couple of people and waited as a group with about 25 passports conducted their business at the booth. Bella handed me her passport and headed across the street to visit the KFC. Our first inkling of a problem was when she returned 30 minutes later and the group hadn’t moved. They had a smaller stack of about 8 passports left under the window and they began checking Facebook. By that time the line had gotten to nearly two hundred people and it was approaching 2:30. The lady in line in front of me explained that the ferry was full, and we were now officially stand by passengers, waiting for more tickets to be released. There were 15 people in front of us and this was the last sailing for the day. The next one was at 9:30 the following morning, the very day we were to catch a 1:30 PM flight to Toronto. We would never make it, especially since our carry-ons were in our hotel in Port Of Spain with our car keys.

What if we don’t get on? “No problem, don’t worry” she told us. Caribbean Airlines offers a “sky bridge” service on a frequent schedule, for $155TT ($24USD) but we would have to go to that airport and wait on stand-by there, too. I checked their website for availability and the next opportunity to purchase a ticket in advance was for Jan 7, nearly a week away. “Don’t worry. If that happens, I’ll help you sort that out” she told us. What a sweet heart!

Time passed slowly while our anxiety level rose, and around 3:30 they began selling tickets again. Now people were panicky. I noticed people from the serpentine line behind us handing their ID cards and $100TT bills to the guy in front of us to purchase tickets for them! At that point I had enough. I confronted him, telling him to knock it off because it wasn’t fair. He said “I love my neighbors, I’m just doing them a favor”. I said “then love these people in line here because they’ve been waiting just as long as you have”.  We must have gotten loud because suddenly a police officer was there threatening to shut off all ticket sales if we kept it up. Bella told him to just enforce the line and suddenly we were at the booth presenting our money and passports. We had seats!

Our new friend was waiting for us and took us to check in. “That’s my cousin” she said, pointing to the woman checking us in. “Don’t worry. You’re on now”. Another trip through security and we were heading to the ferry, still trying to relax. We were exhilarated by the whole experience since it worked out in our favor, but exhausted. We found seats for the three of us and fell asleep as the boat departed.

The stress of uncertainty is tough to deal with, but things always work out. They always have, but it’s so difficult to remember that when you’re in the moment. It helps to understand that the worse thing to happen would be buying another plane ticket and hotel room and missing a day of work. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it is definitely something we want to avoid.

After all, who wants to miss a chance to see this:

Pigeon Point
Pigeon Point



I'm an engineer, a veteran, and an avid traveler. I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson - "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

One thought on “Tobago on Stand By

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *