Sir Vidia, who was born in rural Trinidad in 1932, was known for works including A Bend in the River and his masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas.
The author, who wrote more than 30 books, won the Booker Prize in 1971 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001.
His wife Lady Naipaul called him a “giant in all that he achieved”.
She said he died “surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour”.
On social media, fans paid tribute to Sir Vidia and expressed their sadness.
Author Anand Giridharadas said he “learned so much” from him, while writer Jeet Heer called him a “powerful novelist” who “at his best approached Conrad and even the shadow of Dickens”.
Beauty writer Patrice Yursik called Sir Vidia a “titan of Caribbean literature”.
One fan said “no-one inspired me to read more than Naipaul” while another tweeted that his novel A House for Mr Biswas “stayed with me as a lasting memory for 30+ years”.
Sir Vidia, who as a child was read Shakespeare and Dickens by his father, was raised a Hindu and attended Queen’s Royal College in Trinidad.
He moved to Britain and enrolled at Oxford University in 1950 after winning a government scholarship giving him entry into any Commonwealth university of his choosing.
As a student, he struggled with depression and attempted suicide.
His first book, The Mystic Masseur, was published in 1951 and a decade later he published his most celebrated novel, A House for Mr Biswas, which took over three years to write.
The Nobel Prize in literature committee awarded it to him for “having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.
It added: “Naipaul is a modern philosopher. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony.”
His first wife, Patricia Hale, died in 1996 and he went on to marry Pakistani journalist, Nadira.
Sir Vidia was outspoken and is known for criticisms of Tony Blair – who he described as a “pirate” – as well as Charles Dickens and EM Forster.
He also fell out with the American travel writer Paul Theroux, who he had mentored, in a bitter 15-year feud after Theroux discovered a book he had given Naipaul in a second-hand bookshop. They later reunited.
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