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Everything You Need To Know About Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
Monday, 15 February 2021
Tuesday, 16 February 2021
- 1 ▷ What is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
- 2 ▷ When is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
- 3 ▷ Where is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
- 4 ▷ What is the history of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
- 5 ▷ How do they celebrate carnival in Trinidad and Tobago?
- 6 ▷ What is playing mas?
- 7 ▷ Choosing a Mas Band Trinidad and Tobago 2020
- 8 ▷ What are the most popular Mas Bands?
- 9 ▷ Mas Band Costumes Trinidad & Tobago Carnival
- 10 ▷ What’s included with your costume?
- 11 ▷ J’Ouvert
- 12 ▷ J’ouvert Bands
- 13 ▷ Carnival Monday
- 14 ▷ Monday Wear
- 15 ▷ Choosing your Monday Wear
- 16 ▷ Carnival Tuesday
- 17 ▷ Carnival characters
- 18 ▷ What is a Trinidad and Tobago Carnival fete?
- 19 ▷ Which fete should I choose?
- 20 ▷ Trinidad Carnival Fete Tickets
- 21 ▷ When is the best time to go to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago?
- 22 ▷ Tobago Wine Down
- 23 ▷ Trinidad Carnival Music
- 24 ▷ Local Foods
- 25 ▷ Other Events
- 26 ▷ It’s time to hit the Gym!
- 27 ▷ Is Trinidad Carnival safe?
- 28 ▷ Trinidad & Tobago Carnival Tentative Budget
- 29 ▷ Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Tips
- 30 ▷ What is the weather like?
- 31 ▷ How to get to Trinidad and Tobago?
- 32 ▷ How to get around Trinidad and Tobago?
- 33 ▷ How do I find a private driver for carnival?
- 34 ▷ Where to stay during Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
- 35 ▷ What to do and see in Trinidad and Tobago?
- 36 ▷ Take a tour!
▷ What is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
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 “Trinidadians never stop thinking about carnival!” Carnival is the most anticipated event of the year for locals. Preparation for carnival begins as soon as New Year is over. For the designers and dancers, they spend the whole year planning and creating.
Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland
▷ When is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is technically only a two day celebration that is held annually the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent. The 2020 Trinidad and Tobago Carnival dates begins on Monday, 24th February and ends on Tuesday, 25th February, 2020.
The week before carnival is called carnival week and that’s when the bulk of the fetes are held. Carnival Wednesday to Carnival Sunday is when the best and most popular fetes are on. Although there are many carnival celebrations happening for months prior with the first fetes occurring as early as the day after Christmas.
▷ Where is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island nation located in the Caribbean near Venezuela. Its capital city. The Port of Spain, is ground zero for all the carnival festivities. The Port of Spain has undergone many changes to promote tourism and launch the country into developed status.
There are smaller carnival celebrations which occur in Chaguanas, Mayaro, Tobago, Arima and San Fernando but all the biggest and best carnival celebrations are in the Port of Spain, and nearby towns.
▷ What is the history of 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 steelpan 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.
▷ 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
How to choose a Mas 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 others 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.
Here are the 2020 Trinidad Carnival Mas Bands:
- Tribe Carnival – ‘Legends of the Far East’ theme
- Utopia Mas – ‘Balance’ theme
- Pure Carnival – ‘Ascension’ theme
- Paparazzi Carnival – ‘Hidden’ theme
- Bliss Carnival – ‘Nectar’ theme
- Carnival Rogue – ‘Badass’ theme
- Lost Tribe – ‘Anasi’ theme
- Ronnie and Caro – ‘Serengeti’ theme
- Harts Carnival – ‘Metanoia’ theme
- Entice Carnival – ‘Dare to Dream’ theme
- Legacy Carnival – ‘Amour’ theme
- Just Wee and Friends – Imagine
- Yuma Vive – ‘Fete’ theme
- K2k Alliance – ‘Greatest Show’ theme
- Harem Carnival – ‘Harem Festival’ theme
- Fete Rat Mas – ‘Treasure Chest’ theme.
▷ What are the most popular Mas Bands?
Many tourists will choose to play mas with some of the larger, all-inclusive bands. Tribe, Harts and Bliss are probably the three most popular mas bands. These three bands have the most uptown and tourist participants.
Here are some of the best and most popular mas bands at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.
- Tribe: This is the largest and most established 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.
- Bliss: One of the top 3 most popular bands. They always sell out.
- 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 winning title for best costume presentation.
- 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.
It should be noted that Tribe tends to be an exclusive band. Most of the registration for the band occurs through committee members. Spots only go to the open market if a section is still available after that process.
Many other popular bands fill up quickly too. But you can use the website Fine ah Band to purchase a costume from someone who is no longer able to make it to carnival and is selling this. The website also sells sold out fete tickets too.
▷ Mas Band Costumes Trinidad & 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 headpiece 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.
▷ What’s included with your costume?
Yes the prices for costumes are expensive! But there are other things that are included with the cost of purchasing your costume including:
- Your costume
- Everything with the band – DJ’s, speakers, trucks, other masquerades,
- A goody bag
- Top shelf alcohol which is unlimited
- Snacks and Meals on both days
- Security and Extraction Team
- Mobile restrooms
- Medical aid and ambulance service
- Amenities like a cool down zone, a re-touch zone, massage station, ice cream or popsicles, gem gluing station
- After party (Tribe’s Bands)
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 you’re thinking… before sunrise! Yes, before sunrise! And yes, it is worth getting out of bed for!
J’ouvert is a large street party that sees revellers take to the streets before the parade to dance and jump alongside music trucks that blast intoxicating soca music. J’ouvert is similar to playing mas as revellers join a J’ouvert band which covers the cost of their t-shirt, breakfast, alcohol, music and paint and powder.
There are no pretty costumes to be seen here. 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.
So there are actually two ways to experience J’ouvert and both are equally amazing. The first is to join a J’ouvert band and take part in the street party and the other option is to head to South Quay to see a J’ouvert competition. This is a more cultural experience where you will see traditional J’ouvert costumes and characters.
J’Ouvert actually originated in Trinidad and Tobago and has since spread across the world to numerous other carnivals.
▷ J’ouvert Bands
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.
Here are the 2020 J’ouvert Bands: *add this new section underneath
- Dirty Dozen J’ouvert: Nothing but great vibes!
- A.D J’ouvert: Generational fun with great music and great vibes!
- Red Ants J’ouvert: This is a TRIBE family band
- Mudders International: Slightly older crowd
- Night Owlz: More Intimate band
- J’ouvert Jumbeez: Loosely associated with YUMA
- 3 Canal J’ouvert: This is a more traditional experience and is very LGBTQIA+ friendly
- Clay: The tag line… “A Classic J’ouvert with a Modern Edge” has become
synonymous with Clay and their sound referencing of Trinidad.
- CAESAR’S ARMY A.M Bush: this is one of the most sought after bands. Not only for carnival in Trinidad but also Jamaica and Crop Over!
- Nasty Devils:
- We Love J’ouvert:
▷ Carnival Monday
Because J’ouvert begins at 2am and runs long after sunrise, carnival Monday is actually a pretty chilled out 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.
▷ Monday Wear
What is Monday wear? Well Monday Wear is an outfit that you wear on Carnival Monday. You purchase it so you look awesome on both days of carnival. Yes it is an added expense to an already expensive carnival experience. Back in the 80s/90s you just wore your bikini costume on both days but sometimes things would fall apart and you had nothing to wear for the parade on Tuesday.
So then it eventually graduated into wearing a completely separate outfit. A full individual costume with feathers and embellishments. Carnival Monday is a come as you like day though so you can either join in the celebrations wearing your own design or you can purchase one from the designers. Check out their Instagram pages below to see if there are any you would like to wear.
- Chez Zen Mas
- Chandra Maharaj
- Decoteau Designs
- Christian Boucaud Designs
- FonRose The Brand
- Himaya by Nadia Batson
- J’FAB Body
- Humzee Designs
- Keisha Als
- Marie Collette
- Laura Narayansingh
- Mika Mas
- Neil Young & Co.
- MonDiva by J.Angelique
- Rhion Rhomony
- Shanyvo Designs
- Vivre by Chelsea
- Sherise Stewart
- Steffan Lorenzo
▷ Choosing your Monday Wear
How to choose your Monday Wear? Well most people want to look stylish and sexy but also be able to move about comfortably and not have their costumes fall apart. Also Monday Wear is not cheap and some costumes actually cost more than your Mas Band Costumes which have all the extras, so budget is obviously a big consideration.
Search through the designers and find the trends and style that suit you. Since Monday Wear is mainly a swimsuit, think about what swimmers suit you and your body shape. And remember that sexy doesn’t always mean skin. If you are a wild party animal then ensure you have a well made outfit so there are no nip slips or other costume malfunctions.
And the most important with all the fetes, alcohol, food, accommodation, transport, carnival wardrobe, mas bands etc Monday Wear doesn’t have to be a huge priority. So have a good look through the designers and compare their prices, there is a big range and you should be able to find a happy medium between price and quality.
Sometimes a great swimsuit and accessories is all you need. If you are someone that likes being creative and knows that you can put together an epic outfit then go for it!
▷ 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
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 woman 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 are the pre-carnival parties and concerts that occur to help you get ready for carnival! In fact fetes are absolutely one of the highlights of carnival! There are all different types of fetes even one that is thrown by the Trinidad and Tobago Army! The larger and more exclusive fetes are not your average party they are over the top affairs!
Fetes are held at various different times 4am, midnight, 1pm, etc. And many fetes rage on from until the sunset or sunrise depending when they start. No sleep is a real thing during carnival and the fetes seem to be going non-stop with sometimes 5 events occurring at the same time. The different types of fetes include:
- J’ouvert fetes: like J’ouvert these are messy affairs! Expect powder, paint, water and lots of good vibes.
- All-inclusive fetes: Everything is included in the ticket cost, free food and free alcohol!
- Cooler Fetes: You literally bring your own alcohol in a cooler
- Boat Ride Fetes: A boat party!
- Fancy Fetes– So exclusive you must know someone to be able to get a ticket
- Breakfast Fete: Early morning fetes where you get breakfast
- Drink Inclusive Fetes: Free alcohol and chasers
- Food Inclusive Fetes: You get a huge variety of delicious local foods for free
There are three different types of music fetes including:
- Full Concert – These fetes are similar to music festivals. They feature full live bands and artists giving concert performances, with DJ’s playing in between sets.
- DJ Only – These Fetes will have DJ sets with no live performances
- Live Performances – Mainly DJ’s but there are also some live performances from singers.
▷ Which fete should I choose?
How to fete for Trinidad Carnival? You have so many choices of fetes to choose from and how many you want to attend and how much you spend is totally your choice! We recommend mixing and matching so you can experience a few different types. Attend both a J’ouvert Fete, an all-inclusive fete, a cooler fete and a live performance one.
In the week before carnival it’s totally possible that you could actually attend 3 fetes everyday. One in the morning, one that starts at midday and a late night fete. But we totally recommend against that because you will burn out! If your new 1 fete per day is a good start, it allows you to experience the fete but still get some sleep.
We definitely recommend any party thrown by Caesar’s Army, you will enjoy any fete they throw. Other reputable fetes organisers are Tribe, Candy Coated Events, or Scorch. They are all highly reputable fete promoters who put a lot of time effort and organization into their events.
Some awesome fetes to check out include: *check closer to carnival for updated 2020 event details
- Tribe Ignite: Live Bands, Carnival Thursday Night, starts @ 10pm, Live Bands, dress code wear comfortable shoes, drinks inclusive.
- Soca Brainwash: Treasures of the Orient! themed party held on a massive lawn with DJ tent, performance stage, all-inclusive, Carnival Saturday Morning starts 11am @ St Mary’s College Grounds, dress code is to dress according to the chosen theme, Treasures of the Orient! Highly recommended! Tickets often sell out within minutes!
- Punchy Wednesday: Cooler Fete, Carnival Wednesday Night starts 10pm @ Hasely Crawford Stadium, all-inclusive fete, dress code is casual
- M. Beach: Breakfast Beach Party Fete, Carnival Thursday Morning, starts 3am @ Tyrico Bay, all-inclusive food, dress code is beach party casual wear, is hosted by Caesar’s Army
- Phuket: Waterfront party, Carnival Friday starts 2pm @ Anchorage Beach Club, all inclusive
- Sunny Side Up: Breakfast Fete, Carnival Sunday Morning starts 3am @ Diego Martin Central Secondary School, DJ’s, Live Music Performances, cooler section and all-inclusive section. Very popular sells out quickly!
- ValeVibe Breakfast Party: Carnival Sunday Morning @ 4am, Food included, BYO Cooler Fete, held at an Opulent Private Ranch in Santa Cruz. DJ’s, dress code is you must dress to impress. Usain Bolt has even been spotted here.
- AM Bush: J’ouvert Fete, Carnival Saturday Morning @ 2am, dress code in clothes that you don’t mind getting destroyed. Partial all-inclusive with unlimited alcohol but limited food. Hosted by Caesar’s Army. Highly recommended!
- _uck Work: Pool and Cabana Party, Carnival Friday afternoon @ 3pm, all-inclusive, dress code is swimwear
- Candy Coated: Boat Fete, Carnival Sunday starts 12:00pm @ Harbour Master, Port of Spain. All-inclusive cruise experience.
- Sunrise Breakfast Party: Biggest Breakfast Fete with live music performances, Carnival Friday Morning, starts @ 4am, dress code is swanky
- Blue Range Cooler Fete: Cooler Fete bring your own alcohol, Carnival Friday Night @10pm , live bands dress code comfortable shoes, hosted by Red Ants
- Suits: Boat Party Cooler Fete, BYO, Carnival Saturday Morning @ 7am dress code is swim wear.
- Soaka Street Festival: J’ouvert Fete, Carnival Sunday Morning @4am, Food inclusive, dress code in something that you don’t mind getting ruined. It is difficult to get tickets but worth trying. Highly Recommended!
▷ Trinidad Carnival Fete Tickets
Similar to carnival costumes, some fetes are almost impossible to attend unless you’re friends with a committee member. Some fetes are so popular they sell out within minutes of being online and many are sold out as early as November! That’s why we recommend that as soon as you buy your plane ticket to Trinidad start planning your Fetes as soon as possible!
Some fetes sell their tickets online but many will only sell physical tickets which you will have to buy either exclusively from the promoter or from locations around Trinidad. It’s also important to note that lots of fetes will sell separate tickets for males and females to ensure the ratio is controlled. male tickets usually sell out first.
Other fetes require you to ‘request’ a ticket. You won’t be able to simply buy online but you will need to ask a committee member. Some committee members are known to request your social media handles so they can evaluate you first.
If you go to Trini Jungle Juice as it gets closer to carnival they will have a fete list of every Trinidad Carnival fete as well as a link to the website that sells the tickets. Alternatively there is no shortage of Carnival concierge providers who will help you plan your tickets.
▷ When is the best time to go to carnival in Trinidad and Tobago?
So Trinidad Carnival 2020 officially falls on Monday February 24th and Tuesday 25th February so you absolutely do not want to miss those dates! But you definitely want to arrive earlier because that’s when all the fetes are on and you may want to stay after to recover and enjoy Trinidad.
The week before carnival starts is called Carnival Week and it’s full of amazing fetes! The best and most popular fetes are on from Carnival Wednesday to Carnival Sunday. We would recommend arriving on the Tuesday or Wednesday prior to carnival because you can find your way around and start celebrating at the fetes.
▷ Tobago Wine Down
After Carnival don’t rush home because you are going to need a break to wind down and recover! The best place to recover is on the beach! On Ash Wednesday, the day after mas, it is very popular to take a trip over to Tobago for a wine down.
Round trip tickets start from $50usd but buy early because even though there is a flight every hour, the flights get booked out quickly as everyone wants to go over there and relax on the beach. If you don’t get a ticket then take a day trip to the ‘Down De Islands’ instead, which are mini islands of the northwest coast of Trinidad filled with remote beaches to chill on.
▷ Trinidad Carnival Music
What kind of music do they play at carnival? Soca is the King of Carnival! It’s played everywhere during carnival and you can’t escape it! What is Soca music? Soca actually derives from the words Soul and Calypso. Soca is music that was made to be danced to. It has an upbeat tempo and is infused with a little bit of soul.
Soca music is a genre of music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago back in the early 1970s, and continued to develop into a range of styles. Every year singers release hundreds of soca songs created just for carnival.
Around November/December we recommend following DJ Private Ryan’s Soundcloud as he publishes a mix of all the best soca songs to have been released. He then does an updated one a few weeks before Carnival. You can check out the YouTube channel Julians Promos who has a playlist of all the latest songs as soon as they come out. You can tell which is the most popular by the number of views.
So listen when you’re at the gym, or driving in your car and by the time you arrive in Trini you will be ready to party! Don’t expect to hear any dancehall, reggae or hip hop. It’s literally non-stop soca! So we highly recommend getting acquainted with all the songs before you arrive and you will have a much better time!
▷ Local Foods
You must enjoy some of the local Trinidadian cuisine which is without a doubt some of the best in the Caribbean! There are loads of street vendors on the island selling the most mouth watering dishes! If you stop by around Queen’s Park Savannah you will easily get your fill of whatever your heart desires anything from roti, to corn soup, jerk chicken to aloo pie.
You must try a doubles which is the ultimate Trinidadian street food because you can eat it on the spot. It is essentially two pieces of fried bread filled with channa, which are curried chickpeas and it is delicious! The sandwich is then topped with a cucumber slaw, a cilantro sauce called shado beni, mango or tamarind chutney and your preference of hot sauce! It is amazing!
Another thing you could try if you’re game enough is bake and shark. While they are located everywhere on the island the locals say the best are found on Maracas bay Beach. It is another sandwich made from an airy bread and perfectly seasoned fried shark meat. You can top it off with an endless choice of toppings from pineapple to slaw, to lettuce, tomato whatever you feel for.
▷ Other Events
There are other competitions that occur during carnival. One popular event is a competition for the King and Queen of Carnival which is where you will see big and elaborate costumes. Another competition is the Panorama. Panorama is a steel-pan competition. Steel pan music is synonymous with the Caribbean and actually has origins in Trinidad.
▷ It’s time to hit the Gym!
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.
▷ Is Trinidad Carnival safe?
While Trinidad has the best carnival in the Caribbean, it must be noted that it also has one of the highest crime rates. Of course there are loads of extra security measures put in place to keep you safe during carnival. It is just important to exercise common sense. Established carnival bands like Tribe have the benefit of having an extensive security.
Don’t accept drinks from strangers, practice safe sex, don’t wander off alone or to drunk from the parade route. Always stick with the crowd and travel in groups or pairs. On the road many bands have restrooms but if yours doesn’t you can use a bar along the parade route, but go with a friend. Essentially just be vigilant don’t get so wasted you don’t know what’s happening and keep your eyes open.
The most common crime that happens during carnival is pickpocketing. There are large crowds so leave all your valuables like jewellery, credit cards, passport, etc back in your hotel room. Just carry enough money on you to buy you food and drinks. Organising return transport to and from events in advance means you don’t have to worry about that either.
▷ 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
▷ Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Tips
- Remember carnival is a marathon, not a sprint! It can challenge you mentally and physically because there is non-stop partying, copious amounts of alcohol and little sleep. So pace yourself
- Download the app D’Junction! This app can be a big life saver, it uses GPS to tell you where your mas band is located.
- Purchase comfortable shoes!! While you may look great in high heels you will be on your feet all day so it’s important that your feet are comfy.
- Tap water is generally safe to drink however it is heavily chlorinated and it is said to avoid it after a big storm. Bottled water is readily available.
- When attending any J’ouvert celebrations you must wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting destroyed, because they will get destroyed.
- Never wear your full mas costume on Monday! You and your band, who are competing want your costume looking glam and fresh, not washed up.
- Sunscreen is your best friend!!! Trust us the Trinidadian sun can be deceiving, so while you may not feel like you are burning you are. Apply lots of sunscreen throughout the day and make sure it has a high SPF! Protect your skin because nothing will destroy your carnival fun more than looking like a lobster!
- Either you or one of your friends should carry a small survival pack with some essentials like pain killers, safety pins, band aids, sunblock etc, anything you may need to help a bad situation.
- STAY HYDRATED! This is so important! Drink lots and lots of water. For every alcoholic drink, drink another glass of water! It is so easy to get dehydrated during carnival with the sun and all the drinking. Also make use of the cool-zones provided by the bands to avoid sunstroke.
- Eat breakfast! Don’t leave without eating breakfast, because drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea.
- Organise transportation to and from events because trying to get back to your accommodation on Tuesday evening is madness!
- Arrange a meeting area for you and your friends in case you get lost, because the crowds are big and cell phone batteries can die.
- You can actually pay the balance of your costume of in periodical payments so it eases the financial burden of doing it all at once.
- To avoid food poisoning, stay away from anything that looks like it was cooked earlier and has been sitting in a glass case all day, or anything with mayonnaise, or if the vendor/premises doesn’t look sanitary. Dine at reputable food outlets or eat food that is being prepared fresh.
- We suggest leaving your camera and your iPhone back in your hotel room as they are easily lost, stolen or broken. Instead take a disposable camera on the road so you don’t miss those memories.
- Book your carnival experiences early! Trinidad is not a last minute affair. Make sure you get your annual leave in and book your flight, accommodations and fete Try to have it organised by December or January at the very latest.
- 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.
▷ What is the weather like?
To describe the weather in one word……HOT! In the tropics, you only have two seasons. The dry season and the rainy season. While carnival takes place in the dry season, the weather tends to be quite hot, and less humid than the rainy season. While it is the dry season you may have some rainfall, but it probably won’t last more than an hour. The average weather in February for the Port of Spain is around 29.4°C or 85°F.
▷ How to get to Trinidad and Tobago?
Unless you’re a local then you only have one option and that is to fly! You can catch a plane to Piarco International Airport (POS). United, Copa, Caribbean Airlines, American Airlines and more all fly there. Tickets can cost anywhere from $500-$1500 depending on where you’re coming from.
From the USA and Canada you can get a direct flight from Miami, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Orlando, and Toronto. Because of the demand, prices can be quite high so if you plan on going to carnival get your tickets early to save. Believe it or not but your flight there is probably going to be one of the cheapest parts of your trip!
▷ 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. However getting to and from events you can take a taxi or rent a car. I would advise against renting because Trinidadian driving is a little hectic.
Uber no longer operates in Trinidad, but they do have some other similar rideshare apps called TT RideShare and Drop TT. Unfortunately they do not have enough drivers on these apps to support the excess demand seen during carnival.
The best way to get to and from your events is to hire a private car! This is good because it means you are easily able to get to and from events without worrying and the driver is already familiar with the area.
▷ How do I find a private driver for carnival?
How to find a private driver for hire for Trinidad Carnival? There are a few ways you can go about it, firstly ask for a recommendation from your Hotel. They usually have specific drivers that they work with regularly.
Also, you can personally ask taxi drivers at the airport if they are willing to take you around for the week. You can also ask drivers of the rideshare apps if they would be willing to take you around all week
▷ Where to stay during Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?
Where to stay in Trinidad and Tobago? Man finding your accommodation for carnival will honestly be one of the hardest parts of planning your trip! It is one of the biggest carnivals in the world, so prices are high and availability is low!
Look for accommodation around The Port of Spain as that is the ground zero for all the festivities. Everything takes place all around Port of Spain. The area has undergone many changes recently to promote tourism and launch the country into developed status. The Port of Spain hotels are the closest and most convenient to get to carnival.
The more popular hotel options for tourists are the Hyatt Regency which is widely regarded as the best hotel on the island. Also the Hilton Hotel, Courtyard by Marriot and Radisson Hotel. These hotels can go for around $500US a night and are usually sold out about 3-4 months prior to carnival!
There are also some very nice smaller boutique hotels that are worth looking at like Coblentz Inn Boutique Hotel or the Kapok Hotel. Another great option is to hire a villa, house or apartment with your friends and split the cost!
If your plan for your time in Trinidad is just to party as much as possible and you don’t care too much about doing any tourist related activities then the most convenient region in the Port of Spain to stay in is called Woodbrook. You will also be able to walk to meet your Mas Bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday and it’s also close to where the J’ouvert bands meet.
Staying in Woodbrook also means you will be in walking distance of the majority of fetes as the most popular fete venues are The Queens Park Oval, Nelson Mandela Park, The Hasley Crawford Stadium and St Mary’s College Grounds, which are all around 5-10 mins walk. It is just convenient because you will be able to walk around and get food, reach anything carnival related and no need for a taxi.
Also, Savannah is another great region to look for accommodation in. Located in the Port of Spain it’s essentially the cultural epi-centre of carnival. It is where all the food stalls and street vendors are lined up during carnival. It is also the main judging point for the carnival bands and has the biggest ‘stage’ for masquerades to cross in their costumes. Although besides the food and stage you may not be there for much else and it will be a longer walk than Woodbrook.
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. Also 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. There are also plenty of carnival concierge services that will have accommodation included in packages.
As soon as you decide to head to Trinidad for carnival book your accommodation straight away! Our advice is to book straight away and if your plans change then you can cancel later. Many avid carnival-goers will pre-book hotels their hotels during carnival the year before and by December, most of the hotels are full! Check out some accommodation deals for Port of Spain here.
▷ What to do and see in Trinidad and Tobago?
Trinidad and Tobago is an interesting little place that is off-the-beaten-track. Unlike its Caribbean neighbours, these twin islands are mineral-rich and oil-heavy and don’t rely on tourism for survival. This means that you can have a somewhat more authentic, less-developed, raw picture of island life.
Trinidad and Tobago, has it all gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, green misty rainforests, exotic tropical jungles, charming colonial cities, breath-taking mountain ranges, roaring waterfalls, luxurious beach resorts and is rich in biodiversity. You can explore everything from British fortresses, to coral reefs to white sandy beaches.
Of course, you must explore the Port of Spain, this bustling capital is filled with beautiful colonial style architecture including the Renaissance-style Red Parliament house, and the Magnificent Seven, a group of mansions near Queens Park Savannah. Visit the National Museum and Art Gallery or relax in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Visit Maracas Bay, one of Trinidad’s most famous beaches. A deep bay protects this palm-fringed, golden sand beach. Plus, it’s a 40-minute scenic drive from the Port of Spain through mountainous rainforest, and breath-taking views.
In Tobago you must visit Pigeon Point which is considered to be its most beautiful beach. This popular stretch of sand has crystal clear water, white sand, and loads of cool snack bars and shops along it. From here visit Nylon Pool in Tobago’s Buccoo Reef, it’s like a natural swimming pool, half a mile out to sea.
Interestingly there are over 250 bird species in Trinidad and Tobago, due to its proximity to South America and its diverse habitats. Visit the Caroni Bird Sanctuary which is nirvana for nature lovers as is Asa Wright Nature Centre & Lodge. Another sanctuary is Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust, which is located in the middle of an oil refinery but is one of the best birds viewing spots in Trinidad.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve is one of the oldest legally protected forests in the Western Hemisphere and harbours over half the island’s bird population. Enjoy hiking through lush foliage and spot butterflies, lizards and frogs along the way. Or head to Fort King George built in 1780’s, it is the most well-preserved fort on the island. It offers a great view of the town and is also home to the Tobago Museum.
▷ Take a tour!
Many travellers planning a trip to Trinidad question whether to take a tour package or travel independently. Either approach will give you an unforgivable trip to Trinidad and there is no right or wrong option. Taking a tour is a popular option because it definitely takes out the stress of organising.
Check out Viator who have a huge range of tours to Trinidad for carnival, from all-inclusive carnival packages, to J’ouvert tours and so much more. There are even plenty of day tours around the island! You could also contact a carnival concierge service who will help you organise your whole holiday.
Or if you are lucky enough to have time off after carnival then you could always book a tour exploring the islands. This is a great option because not only do you not have to worry about the details check out Tour Radar for a host of different itineraries.
Don’t forget to follow us @_carnivaland
Before you go!
You may need to get some recommended vaccines before you travel. It is recommended to get Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Yellow fever, but we recommend checking with your doctor.
USA, Canada, British and EU citizens do not need a Tourist Visa to enter Trinidad and Tobago. However, a valid passport is required! For other countries please check your entry visa requirements.
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. Don’t learn the hard way about the importance of travel insurance. Never travel without coverage.