Headed to Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago? You won’t want to miss these tips for Carnival and things to know before you go!
Trinidad Carnival tips
Have you ever wanted to go to Trinidad for Carnival season? Do you have a trip coming up and you want to know what to expect at Carnival? One of the largest Caribbean festivals is coming up and we have what you need to prepare!
We love to travel around here and we are thrilled to share our 2023 experience in Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival season! From the preparation to the fetes, costumes, and the Carnival parade itself, this Trinidad Carnival guide will show you all about our experience and give helpful Carnival in Trinidad tips to help you plan your trip.
We took a trip to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival last year and it was such an amazing experience! They say that Carnival in Trinidad is one of the biggest and best in the world, and now I believe it.
What is Carnival in Trinidad?
Carnival is an annual cultural event that is held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in February. This grand celebration is a festival full of elaborate, colorful costumes, high-energy dancing, Soca music, steel drums, fetes (parties), and food draw thousands of participants and spectators to the Caribbean island.
What are the Trinidad carnival dates?
There are Carnival celebrations all around the world, but Trinidad Carnival is such a large, spectacular event! Plenty of parties and celebrations happen over the weekend prior and lead up to the main Carnival parade on Tuesday. Masqueraders dance and cheer through the city streets for the entire day!
So, when is the Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago? As mentioned above, Carnival is celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday in February each year. In 2024, Carnival will be celebrated on February 12 and 13.
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago Planning Guide
Plans for attending Carnival in Trinidad can start almost a year in advance. We used a Carnival planning concierge service in Trinidad that helped us with much of the planning, including signing up with a Carnival band (Yuma), choosing the best fetes, our hotel accommodations, transportation, costume pick-up, and more.
If you want to know how to participate in Trinidad carnival, here are the steps we took to plan our trip to Trinidad for Carnival celebrations.
1. Check the dates to plan your travel for the next Carnival year
As mentioned above, the Trinidad Carnival dates are always on the Monday and Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday in February. Take a look at the calendar and make sure you are arriving before these days and departing after. You don’t want to miss the fun!
Flights come into the main island of Trinidad, Port of Spain International Airport (POS), and you should be shopping for your flights about 5-6 months in advance. They will fill up fast!
As far as accommodations, there are several options, but it is suggested that you stay close to the action near the Queen’s Savannah Park. Many of the parties are in this area and the Carnival parade route comes by here as well.
We stayed at the Kapok Hotel, which is very close to this area and they were all set up for Carnival guests. It was a wonderful, clean hotel with amazing service and everything we needed for the week.
2. Choose a Carnival band to join and “play mas” with
Next, you will need to pick a Carnival band to join. There are several different bands to choose from, which are broken up by size, age group, theme, costume designs, budget, natives/visitors, and offer different amenities and experiences.
We played mas with the Yuma band in 2023 and had an amazing time! This is one of the largest Trinidad Carnival bands and we loved our experience. Yuma’s age range is about early 20’s to late 30’s, has several costumes to choose from, and is a fun and active group.
Yuma participants were very high-energy throughout the day as we got on the road with large trucks blasting Caribbean and Soca music, plus trucks with water, a full-service moving bar, food, restrooms, security, medical staff, and even trucks for resting – a total of over 20 trucks!
If you do not join a band, you cannot be in the Carnival parade. You will just be a spectator.
3. Start planning more fun stuff to do in Trinidad!
There’s so much to do in Trinidad during Carnival that you will have to spend some time planning it all out! With dozens of parties and things to do on the island, these tips can help you get everything together before you travel.
There are so many fun things to do during the Carnival week both before and after the Carnival parade. There are plenty of fetes (parties) that you can attend and smaller celebrations all over the island.
While I cannot possibly list all of the fetes and events happening, I can share the parties we went to. If you want help with planning, you can use the Carnival Connection to put together your whole itinerary – they know about all of the Carnival bands, events, concerts, and accommodations, and they do a wonderful job!
The best Trinidad Carnival fetes
You can’t make the trip to Carnival without attending Trini fetes! Here are some of the Carnival parties in Trinidad that we went to that we loved and highly recommend.
This is one of the biggest and best events that happens each year at Carnival in Trinidad. This Carnival celebration is like its very own Soca festival that combines a fun annual theme with the best music, food, and art installations in Trinidad.
Soca Brainwash is held on a large fairgrounds area with multiple stages, DJs, performances, lots of food, drinks, costumed performers, interactive art pieces, souvenirs, massages, and plenty of photo opportunities. This was one of our favorite events at Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. https://www.instagram.com/iamsocabrainwashed/
Sunny Side Up
This event was set up around breakfast time and was a fun way to wake up and get started with our day! This Trinidad Carnival event includes breakfast, drinks (all-inclusive or for purchase), and all of the music, dancing, and Soca vibes you’re looking for.
We purchased the all-inclusive tickets and think it is well worth it. All of the food and drinks are included, plus there was a special cocktail station for us in the food area, along with a VIP platform with plenty of space to party in! https://www.sunnysideuptt.com/
Dirty Dozen J’ouvert
This party is such a fun and unique Trinidad fete! J’ouvert (daybreak) is celebrated on Carnival Monday and signals the beginning of the Carnival festivities. This party starts at 4:00 am (yes, AM) and is like a small parade through the local streets where you will be showered with paint, oil, mud, and more as a part of the celebration until sunrise!
There are drinks, music, and vibes included throughout the early morning and we literally partied until the sun came up! Make sure you don’t miss this wonderful fete and wear clothing and shoes that you are prepared to trash when it is over. https://www.dirtydozenjouvert.com/
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Packing list for Trinidad Carnival
When you are gearing up for your trip to Trinidad & Tobago, there are lots of things that We have put together this packing list to help you with all of the odds and ends that you will need during your Trinidad Carnival experience.
Items for your Trinidad Carnival costumes
Although you will receive your main costume pieces from your Carnival band, there are several other things that will help you along the way. Here is a short list of things you should pack for playing mas on the road.
- Comfortable shoes for lots of walking (we suggest flat boots or sneakers)
- Gel insoles
- Flesh-colored netted tights & undergarments
- Safety pins and velcro tape
- Makeup and gems
- Chaffing powder
Other personal care items for Carnival
- Personal medications
- Hand sanitizer
- Waterproof pouch/fanny pack
- Insect repellent
- Feminine products
- Collapsible water bottle (with hands-free clip, if possible)
More things to know about Trinidad Carnival
There are so many wonderful things to do and see in Trinidad for Carnival, it is tough to cover everything! Here are a few more things on what to expect at Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
- Carnival Tuesday is a long day, starting before sunrise and ending after the sun sets. Pace yourself!
- The days are long and hot, so stay hydrated and be prepared at all times.
- Many activities are all-inclusive (check with each event) but you should still have some cash to get you by for transportation, food, tips, etc.
- Strangers will come up to you and dance with you all week. It’s all in fun, but if you don’t feel comfortable, you can politely decline.
- We had a driver on-call throughout our time in Trinidad and highly recommend this! Lines are long everywhere, so taxis and rideshare can take quite a bit of time when you’re ready to go.
- Use the restroom whenever you see one. The parade stops for nobody and the toilet lines get very long!
- Leave space in your luggage for your costume. We were able to fly back with our main costume pieces but were bummed to have to leave our backpacks (the feather wings) due to lack of space.
Enjoy your Carnival Trinidad festival!
We hope this Carnival planning guide helps you prepare, pack, and know what to expect during Carnival season! Have a wonderful trip and share your experience in the comments below – we would love to hear all about it!