Trinidad and Tobago Carnival – The Greatest Street Parade in the World!

Trinidad and Tobago is the best Caribbean Carnival in the world. Many carnivals across the world have based their celebrations on Trinidad’s Carnival.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Days to start

▷ The Greatest Street Parade in the World

What is Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago? Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is said by some to be the greatest street parade in the world! Although the people of Rio may argue with that statement it is certainly the biggest and best of all the Caribbean carnivals.

Thousands of people around the world head to Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city, the Port of Spain to celebrate carnival every year. 

There is a Trinidadian saying that goes “Trinidadian never stop thinking about carnival!” Carnival is the most anticipated event of the year for locals. Preparation for carnival as soon as New Year is over. For the designers and dancers, they spend the whole year planning and creating.

▷ When is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2020?

When is carnival and when is carnival in Trinidad and Tobago? Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a two-day celebration that occurs on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday.

The 2020 Trinidad and Tobago Carnival dates are it begins on Monday, 24 February and ends on Tuesday, 25 February.

▷ Where is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

All the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival activities occur in the Port of Spain. There are also street parties that will occur in Chaguanas, Mayaro, Tobago, San Fernando and Arima. You can join in all these celebrations, but the biggest and best are all in the Port of Spain and nearby towns.

▷ What is the history of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

trinidad and tobago carnival

The origins of Trinidad and Tobago started in the 18th century by the French who had colonised the country. The French brought their cultural traditions and language to the island and one of the traditions were private parties and masquerade balls called fetes.

The African slaves were forbidden from attending these celebrations so instead they held their own parties which were called canboulay. During their canboulay celebrations the slaves used to mock the behaviour and outfits of their masters which led to the creation of the ‘Mas’.

Canboulay played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago. Calypso music was created by the African slaves who used calypso to not only communicate with one another but to also mock their slave masters.

Steelpan came about when African percussion music was banned in 1881 following the Canboulay Riots. Instead they used frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums as their percussion instruments. These steelpans bands are still to this day a huge part of the Trinidadian music scene.

▷ How do they celebrate carnival in Trinidad and Tobago?

What is carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival kicks off early Monday morning before sunrise, or late Sunday night if you didn’t go to bed, with J’Ouvert which is a sunrise parade. 

Monday and Tuesday of carnival are just two days of craziness. Trinidadians are party animals and will spend carnival drinking, dancing and socialising all day and all night long. The carnival is famous for being a sunny rum soaked celebration. 

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is full of vibrant colourful parades and costumes which is the highlight of carnival. It is also known for showcasing its different styles of Caribbean music like soca and steelpan bands. There are also plenty of pre and post carnival events and parties.

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▷ What is playing mas?

When it comes to celebrating carnival in Trinidad and Tobago you can either just be a spectator and watch the parades, or you can join in! When you choose to join in it is called playing mas.

For those not familiar with Carnival in the Caribbean if you want to play mas you have to join a masquerade band. It isn’t possible to just show up in a beautiful home-made costume and join the parade. You must select a mas band you want to be part of, wear their costumes and dance through the streets with your chosen band.

To have the best time at carnival in Trinidad and Tobago don’t just be a spectator! Absolutely find a mas band that you want to be part of, then sign up and join the party!.

▷ Choosing a Mas Band Trinidad and Tobago 2020

trinidad and tobago carnival

How to choose a Mad Band for Trinidad and Tobago Carnival? Well that’s a difficult decision because you have so many good options.  Maybe you will select your band based on their costumes with some groups wearing very sexy costumes, and other being more conservative.

Some Mas Bands are all inclusive and you will not just get your costumes but also food and drinks, bathrooms, security, medical services, and whatever else you may need to make your carnival experience easier. A lot of the more popular bands sell out early, so reserve as soon as you can.

Obviously, money can be a big factor when choosing to play mas and honestly if you are on a tight budget then you probably won’t play mas. But then again it is the ultimate Trinidad and Tobago Carnival experience.

▷ What are the most popular Mas Bands?

Many tourists will choose to play mas with some of the larger, all inclusive bands. Here are some of the best and most popular mas bands at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

  • Tribe: This is the largest mas band at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. They sell out every year and they are all-inclusive.
  • Harts: Another all-inclusive mas band who were the first to put beads on a bikini. They are also very popular and will actually allow you to customise your costume.
  • Paparazzi Carnival: This group is for the 30-50 age group and has a more chill vibe
  • Ronnie and Caro: This mas band will usually take out the wining title for best costume presentation.
  • Fantasy: Fantasy is known for their mind-blowing costumes.
  • Passion: This is a small band that keeps their numbers to under 1000.
  • The Lost Tribe: This mas band prides itself on going all out. In fact they actually won second place for Best Band of the year, the very first time they paraded.
  • Carnival Rogue: This is a new mas band and they are aiming to give an alternative and fresh perspective on the carnival.

▷ Mas Band Costumes Trinidad & Tobago Carnival

trinidad and tobago carnival

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is all about costumes! The carnival costumes are elaborate creations that take months of preparation to create. After you’ve chosen your band you need to select your costume.

Your options range from full frontline costumes to basic backline costumes. A basic backline costume will often just be a bikini, jewelled head piece and a few other accessories. You can often upgrade by purchasing a feathered headpiece or backpack.

The full frontline costumes usually include a wire bra, giant headpiece, backpack, arm and leg pieces and all the accessories. The frontline costume wears lead the mas band and are more expensive and over the top.

Costumes can be very with Frontline costumes ranging from $1200-$2000 and back line costumes ranging from $200-$900, with the average backline costume costing around $500. Men’s costumes usually cost around $500-600.

▷ Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Band Themes

Some of the band themes for the previous year 2019 Trinidad Carnival were:

  • Paparazzi: La Belle Epoque
  • Ronnie and Caro: Lets go Tobago
  • Yuma: Jukebox
  • Fantasy Carnival: League of Angels
  • Tribe, Lost Tribe and Bliss, Harts, Rogue: The Empire

▷ J’Ouvert

What is J’Ouvert? J’ouvert which in English translates to ‘break of day’ and symbolises the start of carnival each year. J’ouvert takes place in the early hours of Carnival Monday before the sun even rises! I know what your thinking… before sunrise! Yes, before sunrise! And yes, it is worth getting out of bed for!.

If you do get up and attend J’ouvert a little warning is that you must be prepared to get hit with flour, paint, mud, water and maybe even clay. There is nothing you can do to avoid it, just get ready to get down and dirty and join in the fun.

J’Ouvert actually originated in Trinidad and Tobago and has since spread across the world to numerous other carnivals.

▷ J’ouvert Band

trinidad and tobago carnival

Why not join a J’ouvert Bands, which are separate to Mas Bands. When you join a J’ouvert Band you will get a costume and can parade with the band. The packages will also include a pre-party, drinks, food and a few other perks. 

What are the most popular Jóuvert Bands at Trinidad Carnival? The most popular bands are the Dirty Dozen, Red Ants, Yellow Devilz and Caesar’s Army. Do some research before you go to find out which band you want to join.

▷ Carnival Monday

Because J’ouvert begins at 2am and runs long after sunrise, carnival Monday is actually a pretty chill day. Many people skip Carnival Monday if they participated in J’ouvert because they want to go home and sleep.

Carnival Monday is often called casual masquerading day. This is because it features a laid-back parade where people march through Port of Spain in their shorts, t-shirts or wearing a small part of their costumes.

▷ Carnival Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday at the Trinidad and Tobago carnival is the big party day. It’s the day when everyone dresses up in their amazing costumes and the absolute highlight of Trinidad Carnival. The carnival parade features an astonishing 3,000 masquerades and 50,000 people participating in the bands.

Their costumes, music and electrifying energy, creates the liveliest atmosphere. The bands are followed by music trucks who pump out the energetic Caribbean music. Hundreds of thousands come out to watch and hang out along the parade route.

▷ Carnival characters

trinidad and tobago carnival

Some of the famous Trinidad and Tobago Carnival characters that you will for sure see during the Trinidad Carnival Parade include Dame Lorraine a 18th century French aristocrat women with an extremely exaggerated body. This is a very popular Trinidad Carnival Costume.

Jab Jabs and Jab Molassie are carnival characters that represent the devil and his molasses. They perform rhythmic devil dances to beats produced from the tin pans. Their chains are held by imps who attempt to restrain the Jab Jab who tries to terrorise his spectators.

Another favourite carnival character that will be seen is The Moko Jumbie a west African creation that means ghost. This carnival character sees people walking around that are mounted on 12ft high stilts.

▷ What is a Trinidad and Tobago Carnival fete?

Carnival fetes at Trinidad and Tobago are the huge parties that are held during carnival. Fetes are the absolute highlight of carnival. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival fetes are not cheap, and some fete tickets are nearly impossible to get your hands on.

Your average fete cost around $100US minimum. The best and most in demand fetes cost around $400 fetes. Of course, how much you spend depends on the type of fete you will attend and how many you want to go to.

▷ When is the best time to go to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago?

trinidad and tobago carnival

You should aim to be there the week before Carnival Monday because that way you will be able to experience all the great events, parties and activities that occur in the lead up to carnival. Also, there is an excitement in the air that continues to build up.

▷ How to the get to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival?

Port of Spain has a major airport that has connecting flights to the USA and even a few European countries. It also has flights from other Caribbean countries.

▷ How to get around Trinidad and Tobago?

When you’re at the carnival, the only way to get around is on foot, especially if you’re in the parades. Taxis and Ubers are the best way to get around the island. Renting a car is another good option but remember that Trinidadian driving is a little hectic.

▷ Where to stay during Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

Where to stay in Trinidad and Tobago? There are plenty of accommodation options in Trinidad and Tobago. From luxury resorts right down to hostels.  Many Trinidadian families will also open their homes to rent out during carnival. This is a great experience as they are famous for their welcoming hospitality.

Remember it is one of the biggest carnivals in the world, so accommodation is more expensive during carnival. Also, accommodation gets booked up very quickly, so book early to have more options. The more popular hotel options for tourists are the Hyatt Regency, Hilton Hotel, and Marriot which go for about $500US a night.

For cheaper accommodation options book a little further out in San Juan, Piarco, Chaguana or Trincity where you can actually find many great places to stay for around $100.

Check out some accomodation options here.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

▷ What to do and see in Trinidad and Tobago?

While Trinidad and Tobago may be one of the lesser travelled Caribbean destinations, this dual-island nation is full of charming colonial towns, historical fortresses and white sandy beaches.

There are plenty of eco-tour activities like visiting rainforests, plantations or relaxing on the beach. It’s a great place to relax and drink some rum with the friendly locals.

▷ It’s time to hit the Gym!

trinidad and tobago carnival

Yes, it’s a good idea before coming to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago to hit the gym! We are not saying this because you want to look good in your carnival costume because all body types are welcome at carnival. We are suggesting this because for Trinidad Carnival you need to have stamina.

Trust us when we say that being fit will come in handy. The lack of sleep and spending all day on your feet throughout carnival is exhausting. Not to mention that it is hot and sunny in Trinidad.

▷ Trinidad & Tobago Carnival Tentative Budget

How much does it cost to attend carnival in Trinidad and Tobago? Here is our estimated budget for Trinidad Carnival.

  • Flight: $400 – $1500
  • Accommodations: $300 – $3,000
  • Transportation: $150 – $600
  • Fetes: $300 – $1000
  • Costume: $600 – $2000
  • J’ouvert band: $100 – $300
  • Spending Money (Food, Drinks, Shopping, Sightseeing): $500 – $1000

Total: $2,300 – $7,000

Before you go!
 
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