A First-Timer’s Guide to Planning Trinidad Carnival 2024

A First-Timer's Guide to Planning Trinidad Carnival 2024

It is finally band launch season and if you haven’t started planning for Trinidad Carnival 2024, the time is RIGHT NOW. Trinidad Carnival, known as the Greatest Show on Earth is home to the largest carnival in the Caribbean region. It attracts all levels of Carnivalists from around the world, from first timers to veterans wanting to participate in the mas, fetes, and all the country has to offer during the Carnival season.

Trinidad Carnival 2013 was the first Carnival I ever participated in. Between Saucy from Trinidad Carnival Diary and my cousins who have been playing mas since they were kids, they were my main sources for information and I was grateful to have such a memorable experience. If someone tells you Trini Carnival shouldn’t be your first, I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot, but it certainly can be done.

If you’re planning on attending Trinidad Carnival 2024 and don’t know where to start, here’s a complete guide sharing everything you need to know about planning your first Trinidad Carnival.

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When is Trinidad Carnival 2024?

Carnival time in Trinidad and Tobago begins shortly after Christmas, with the start of historic events, celebrations, fetes and cultural competitions, and ends on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

The carnival parade dates for Trinidad Carnival 2024 are Carnival Monday on February 12, 2024 and Carnival Tuesday on February 13, 2024. If your budget allows, I suggest booking a full 2 weeks from February 1-15, but the 5-15 should suffice.

*Travel Tip*

  • To get the best flight and lodging deals for Trinidad Carnival, it is best to book a year in advance or as soon as possible
  • Leave your camouflage printed items at home. It is illegal to wear camouflage is Trinidad and Tobago unless you’re part of the military.
  • Purchase your flights with travel insurance to cover emergencies like cancellation of flights, trip delays, medical evacuation, or other unexpected occurrences beyond reasonable control listed on the policy.

Where is Trinidad Carnival 2024?

While there are several carnivals, cultural events, and celebrations throughout Trinidad and Tobago, the biggest celebration is held in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad & Tobago.

Traveling to Trinidad

The airport code for Trinidad is POS. Airlines that fly directly to Trinidad from the North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe are Caribbean Airlines, British Airways, KLM, American Airlines, United Airlines, Liat, WestJet, JetBlue, Air Canada, and more that can be found on the visitTrinidad website here.

Alternatively, you can fly into Tobago (TAB) and take a flight or ferry to Trinidad. This option gives you the ability to experience both islands in one trip.

Tobago is also a popular “cool down” destination post Trinidad Carnival so travelers can enjoy the beaches, diving sites, and other warm weather activities before heading back home.

*Tips for traveling from Tobago*

  • The inter-island ferry ride is about 3-4 hours. Flights are 25 minutes.
  • Check the schedules for ferries as they are known to sell out quickly.
  • Flights are scheduled every hour via Caribbean Airlines and are about a 1/2 hr.
  • You can bring a car on the ferry for an additional fee.

Best Ways to Get Around in Trinidad

Outside of having a budget If you’re planning a trip to Trinidad for Carnival, here are the best ways to get around the island depending on your preference or budget.

Rent a Car

If you’re comfortable with driving on the left, going through potentially narrow roads, and traffic, renting a car is a great way to get around Trinidad as it gives the most flexibility. If you’re planning to participate in the fete experience, make sure your travel group has a designated driver on rotation.

*Travel Tip*

Due to some areas being spotty with cell phone service, download an offline version of Google maps for navigation.

Hire a Driver

The best option for getting around Trinidad for Carnival is to hire a private driver. Similar to Tobago Carnival, rates can be based on the day, hour, one-way, or round-trip route. The cost for a driver will vary based on their provided rates which should be confirmed via text, WhatsApp, or email.

Ride-share Apps

There is no Uber or Lyft service in Trinidad, but there are several ride-share apps available in Port of Spain with affordable prices. Below is a list of well-known ride-share apps:

Where to Stay in Trinidad

Finding an affordable place to stay in Trinidad for Carnival can be frustrating. Due to the large amount of travelers visiting the country, the demand for room occupancy at hotels are high. Some masqueraders opt to staying in guest houses, Airbnb, or with friends and family.

The best area to stay in Trinidad for Carnival is close to the Queens Park Savannah where the main stage and other main events take place. Other areas are Woodbrook, Belmont, St. James, St. Ann’s, and Cascade. Here’s a list of recommended hotels and guest houses in Trinidad. Based on availability and your budget you can also search sites like Airbnb, TripAdvisor, or Booking.com.

Hotels in Trinidad

  • Cascadia Hotel & Conference Centre
  • Chaquacabana Resort and Beach Club
  • Courtyard by Marriott Port of Spain
  • Hyatt Regency Trinidad
  • Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre
  • Kapok Hotel
  • Radisson Hotel Trinidad
  • The Brix
  • The Hotel Normandie
  • The Chancellor Hotel

Guesthouses ad B&Bs in Trinidad

  • Culture Crossroads Inn
  • Kiskadee Korner
  • L’Orchidee Boutique Hotel
  • Thanna’s Place
  • Samise Villa Bed & Breakfast
  • St. Ann’s Guest House
  • Alicia’s Palace
  • Travel Suites Ltd
  • Heritage Inn
  • Monique’s Guest House
  • Norma’s Bed & Breakfast

Playing Mas in Trinidad

One of the most important things to include in your budget for Trinidad Carnival are your carnival costumes. Trinidad Carnival has two days of mas and in order to play mas, you need to be part of a costume section in a Mas Band. Carnival Monday is for Monday Wear, while Carnival Tuesday is for your full costume.

Mas Bands, sometimes called Carnival Troupes in other Caribbean islands often host virtual band launches for potential masqueraders where they display male and female Individual, Frontline, Midline, and sometimes Curvy for sections related to the band’s theme for the season.

Costume prices depend on the type of costumes purchased. Frontline costumes cost more as they are more extravagant, sometimes including a large feathered backpack, while Backline is a basic functional version using the same color and pattern as Frontline. Not all bands included a backpack for their frontline costumes, but offer feathered backpacks, collars, extra shorts, or panties as optional add ons at an extra cost.

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The word J’ouvert is contraction of the French jour ouvert, meaning dawn or day break and is a large street party which marks the start of the Carnival. J’ouvert bands typically offer a pre-party, security, food, drinks, snacks and a goodie bag with items from their respective sponsors.

Revelers meet the band between 2am – 4am and chip through the streets of the city throwing paint, powder, mud, water, oil, and sometime chocolate on one another. If you decide to participate in J’ouvert, wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. As the saying goes, “Yuh can’t play mas if yuh ‘fraid powder!”

Here a list of popular Mas and J’ouvert Bands to play for Trinidad Carnival:

Mas Bands

  • Bliss Carnival
  • Exousia Mas
  • Harts Carnival
  • K2K Aliance & Partners
  • Kinetic Mas
  • Legacy Carnival
  • Paparazzi Carnival
  • PetleMas Carnival
  • Pure Carnival
  • Resonate Carnival
  • Rogue Carnival
  • Ronnie & Caro
  • Showtime Carnival
  • Spirit Mas
  • The Lost Tribe Carnival
  • Tribe Carnival
  • Utopia Mas
  • Wee Mas International
  • YUMA Vibe Carnival

J’ourvet Bands

  • Clay Evolution
  • Cocoa Devils
  • Dirty Dozen
  • Dirty Medics
  • J’ouvert Jumbeez
  • Josie’s Jamishness
  • MAD J’ouvert
  • Mudders International
  • Red Ants
  • We Love J’ouvert
  • Yellow Devilz

Whether you decide to play with a Mas band, J’ouvert band, or both, you still need to register. Some bands require a registration link from a committee member, while others allow you to register directly online. If you are visiting the country for Tobago Carnival or at your own leisure, you can also register in person at the mas camp.

Popular costume sections and bands sell out quickly. To secure your spot, pay the initial deposit amount and make sure it is paid in full when it is your time for costume pickup. Some bands accept cash payments for registration and pickup while other prefer cashless payments using major credit cards online.

Where to Fete for Trinidad Carnival

Fetes or parties are also part of the carnival experience. There are several types of fetes held in Trinidad during Carnival time such as breakfast fetes, all inclusive fetes, cooler fetes, j’ouvert fetes, boat rides, and beach fetes. Popular fetes hosted by Tribe, Scorch, and Caesar’s Army like AMBush, and Soaka Street Festival are committee based fetes so you would need approval before purchasing tickets. Soca Brainwash is another all inclusive fete that is highly anticipated.

These usually sell out quickly so make sure to follow them on social media to find out when tickets are released. Be prepared to spend between $50 to around $200+ for each fete depending on the type.

Things to Do in Trinidad and Tobago

Carnival is usually not a vacation, but as a first-timer, I highly suggest finding things to do in Trinidad and Tobago outside of the carnival celebration and in Port of Spain. Make sure to also include cultural events like Panorama, Canboulay, Soca Monarch, and Dimanche Gras.

Here is a list of things to do in Trinidad and Tobago that you can check out before or after the Carnival.

  • Tobago Museum
  • Scarborough Botanical Garden
  • Pirate’s Bay
  • Buccoo Reef
  • Nylon Pool
  • Tobago Cocoa Estate
  • Little Tobago Island
  • Flagstaff Hill
  • Fort King George
  • Argyle Waterfall
  • Pigeon Point Beach
  • Englishman’s Bay
  • Store Bay
  • Maracas Bay
  • L’eau Michel Mud Volcano
  • Las Cuevas Beach
  • La Brea Pitch Lake
  • Temple in the Sea
  • Caroni Bird Sanctuary
  • National Museum and Art Gallery
  • Angostura Rum Distillery Tour
  • The Trinidad & Tobago Carnival Museum
  • Gasparee Caves
  • Down ‘D Islands

Trinidad Carnival Cost

The cost of Trinidad Carnival depends on your budget. While there are many things you can do at an affordable cost, it is not necessarily cheap. If you stay with friends and family as I have in the past, the cost can be significantly lower than those that would need to pay for food and accommodations.

Below is an estimated cost breakdown of what to expect to pay for Trinidad Carnival:

  • Flight: $600 – $2,000
  • Accommodations: $500 – $3,000
  • Transportation: $200 – $600
  • Fetes: $300 – $1,200
  • Costume: $700 – $2,500
  • J’ouvert: $100 – $300
  • Monday Wear: $50 – $350
  • Food, Drinks, and other Miscellaneous Items: $500 – $1000

ESTIMATED TOTAL RANGE: $3500 – $10,000

If you don’t want to plan your trip to Trinidad Carnival at all, consider using a Carnival concierge company that offers a Trinidad Carnival package. There are many concierge services available online so make sure to do your research and check reviews to see which one suits your needs and budget.

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l hope this first-timer’s guide to Trinidad Carnival was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and save this post for future reference. To get a recap of my recent Trinidad Carnival experience, read my full Trinidad Carnival 2023 review.

Read More Resources for Planning Trinidad Carnival:

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