Your Ultimate Guide to Jamaica Carnival

Jamaica Carnival is the place to go if you want to have the time of your life! It is a high energy, vibrant and colourful celebration. Filled with reggae, calypso and soca music. Here is everything you need to know about attending carnival in Jamaica.

Thursday 16th April 2020

Monday 20th April 2020

Days to start

Carnival in Jamaica is about one thing….having the time of your life! Jamaica Carnival is the ultimate party. Jamaica Carnival attracts over 100,000 guests and locals to the celebration. Jamaica Carnival is true expression of the island’s spirit where people both young and old spend months preparing for the party of the year!

▷ What is Carnival in Jamaica?

jamaica carnival

So how do they celebrate carnival in Jamaica? Well the best way to find out is to come and experience Jamaica Carnival for yourself! Jamaica Carnival is a fusion of incredible food, music, costumes, colour, rum and dance!

Jamaica is famous for being the home of reggae music and along with soca and calypso music forms a proud part of their national identity. Reggae, soca, dancehall, calypso dominate all the parades and parties making carnival one of their biggest cultural celebrations.

The biggest event of Jamaica carnival is the National Carnival Road March which is an electric masquerade parade with competing mas bands. It is a day where you will see thousands dance in the most stunning and colourful costumes, when loads of rum is consumed and when the whole island joins together in celebration.

In the lead up to the Jamaica National Carnival Road March there are weekly fun-filled events that occur all over the island. There are beach parties, fetes, J’Ourvert, smaller street parades, mas camps, competitions and lots of live music events. For two months before the big parade there are loads of weekly soca parties where the locals party the night away.

▷ When is Jamaica Carnival?

jamaica carnival kingston

The official 2020 dates for Jamaica Carnival begin on the Thursday 16th April 2020 and finishes on Monday 20th April 2020. The unofficial carnival season begins in January when lots of parties and events take place around the island in the lead up to the big road march.

▷ Where is Jamaica Carnival?

road march

Jamaica Carnival occurs mainly in the centres of Kingston, Ocho Rios resort areas and Montego Bay. The four major masquerade bands are based in Kingston and one in Ocho Rios. The main road marches take place here as well as special shows featuring international and local musical talent.

▷ The National Carnival Road March – Jamaica

jamaica carnival

Carnival in Jamaica leads up to and culminates in the Jamaica Carnival Road march which is hosted in the capital city of Kingston. The National Carnival road march sees 5000 revellers partake in the event. All along the parade route are huge crowds of spectators with tents and BBQs out ready to celebrate from the sidelines.

The masquerades are dressed up in the most beautiful, colourful and magnificent costumes lighting up the streets. The costumes are adorned with jewels, feathers, headdresses, wings and come in all colours of the rainbow.

The music pumps out and grows louder as the parade approaches. It is a dance of non-stop music, dancing and rum drinking. The revellers are having the time of their life and the parade is the epitome of people uniting and living in the moment.

▷ Fete’s Jamaica Carnival

jamaica carnival kingston

Every year as carnival in Jamaica continues to grow and become more popular the number of Jamaica parties also continues to grow. For months prior to carnival there are lots of weekly fetes that countdown to the big carnival day. Fetes usually give way to weeklong partying that occurs during the Easter weekend.

The most popular events include a sunrise breakfast party, I love Soca & Afloat, Frenchmen events. Several Trinidadian fete promoters also host big events in Jamaica including Caesar’s Army, DJ Private Rian and Tribe to name a few. There are several different J’Ouvert parties that occur for the different bands.

Tickets to fetes can range from around $US50 to $125 depending on which ones you attend. The popular parties sell out very quick so if you want to attend the best ones you need purchase your tickets quick smart!

▷ Mas Bands Jamaica Carnival

The best way to enjoy carnival in Jamaica is to join in and play mas! There are four carnival bands that each offer their own unique Jamaica carnival experience. The Jamaica carnival mas bands are:

  • Bacchanal Jamaica
  • Ocho Rios Carnival Band
  • Xaymaca Internation
  • Xodus Carnival

Each band offers an all-inclusive carnival experience however some are better then others. Xaymaca and Xodus are both young carnival bands that are new on the scene. Honestly though it doesn’t matter which band you pick because you are bound to have the time of your life!

▷ How to get to Jamaica Carnival?

road march

Jamaica is a major tourist destination and has two major airports. As the majority of carnival celebrations take place in Kingston, the best airport to arrive at is the Normal Manley International Airport. An average flight costs around $350 departing from Miami or Fort Lauderdale USA. To get a quote for a flight click here.

▷ Where to stay for Jamaica Carnival?

jamaica carnival

Again as the main events occur in Kingston that is the most convenient place to stay for carnival. There are plenty of hotels to choose from. The best neighbourhoods are New Kingston, Mona, Manor Park, Constant Spring, Cherry Gardens and Norbrook. Jamaica is home to some large international resorts if that is more up your alley.

Check out some accomodation deals here. 

▷ How to get around for Jamaica Carnival?

jamaica carnival kingston

There are plenty of Taxi and chauffer services that are available in Jamaica. You are also able to rent a car for about $300 a week.

▷ How much is Jamaica Carnival?

road march

Unlike Trinidad Carnival you do not have to spend a fortune to experience carnival here is an estimated weekly budget in $US for carnival:

  • Accommodation can cost anywhere from $120 to $800 depending on your level of comfort and luxury.
  • Flights can cost around $300 from west coast USA to up to $1000 from Europe
  • Fete tickets can depend on how many you attend and how popular the fete is and can cost you around $300- $600
  • Costumes can set you back from around $400 to $1000 for women and for men the average price is about $500. You always have the cheaper option of joining the T-shirt section of a mas band which will generally cost around $250.
  • Take about $500 for spending money which includes eating and drinking and see some locals sights. Cost of living in Jamaica is low so you don’t need a big budget for the week.

▷ What To Do and see in Jamaica?

jamaica carnival

Jamaica has it all!! Stunning beaches, adventure, unforgettable experiences, a lively nightlife, delicious Jamaican cuisine and loads of friendly people. It’s really up to you if you just want to relax on a beach or if you want to be more adventures and go snorkelling or diving.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here. For a longer vacation check out Tour Radar for some cool trips.

▷ Is Jamaica Safe?

Recently Jamaica has had a bad reputation when it comes to crime. There are drug trafficking gangs across the country, and in certain parts violence and gun crime are rife. Unfortunatly Tourists aren’t exempt: but the most common crime is petty theft and robberies. During Carnival however, there is a huge police presence. So be aware of your valuables at all times or even leave them back at your hotel and only bring some cash with you. Or check out Amazon and invest in one of these travel safety accessories, like a fanny pack hidden under your clothing to store your essentials in. 

Before you go!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance! Never travel without coverage! Being protected on your travels gives you an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads!


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