In my last post, I talked about how to get to Trinidad and Tobago, and all the things there are to do there (https://cloverseasclaire.com/2018/02/23/trinidad-and-tobago/). I thought that Carnival deserves it’s own separate post as there is so much to cover! I have celebrated Carnival before in Rio de Janeiro back in 2015. We downloaded an app on our phone, looked at where the street parties were that day and simply turned up to find thousands of people dancing and partying through the streets! I expected a similar experience at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. I was wrong, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is totally different to Rio, and I was about to experience the biggest party I’ve ever been to!
Carnival is traditionally celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Basically, a huge party before Lent starts in the lead up to Easter!
A note on Safety
Carnival is an amazing time when everyone is out to drink, dance and have fun. I had been pre-warned about the safety aspects of Carnival, but the most important thing to remember is- stay with your band or group at all times and you’ll have an amazing time!
Pre-parties can start from as early as July when costumes are first released. Your costume acts as your ticket to Carnival and includes food, security, and drinks with some bands. Originally, we didn’t plan on buying costumes, as I thought that, like at Rio, it would be a case of just showing up and joining the band. I was wrong! In Trinidad, everyone is in costume, and you won’t have the same experience if you’re not in costume joining the masqueraders! Like paying money to travel all the way to a gig, and then standing outside listening to the music! Our costume cost £287 (This was actually a bargain compared to the price of some of the other costumes!) which covered entry for the 2 days of Carnival, costumes, security, and food. We played with Harts, but other bands to play with include Bliss, Tribe, or Fantasy.
Tuesday on the Rocks– The week before Carnival, all the big Soca artists will play fetes (parties/concerts). Machel Montano plays at ‘Machel Monday’, whilst Kes plays at ‘Tuesday on the Rocks’ with other Soca artists. These fetes are great for hearing Soca music and getting into the Carnival vibe!
Pan yards- The steel pan originates from Trinidad and Tobago, when oil drums would be tempered and hammered into shape to create a mixture of notes and sounds. In the lead up to Carnival, rival steel pan bands will be practicing every night in preparation for the Panorama finals. I’d definitely recommend going to have a listen to this beautiful instrument being played in the pan-yards!
Carnival celebrations start in the early hours of Monday morning. Get an early night on the Sunday before Carnival to get as much rest as you can, because you’ll be up and ready to start partying at 3am on Monday morning and won’t stop until Tuesday night!
J’ouvert is so much fun! You’ll meet up with your band at 3am and then dance through the streets until the sun rises, were you’ll be covered in mud, paint, and clay! We played with Vibes, but other bands include Red Ants, MAD j’ouvert, Fun mudders, or Friends for the road. From here, you’ll head home at around 8am, shower off and then try to catch a couple of hours sleep before beginning Carnival Monday celebrations at midday!
So were J’ouvert is all about throwing mud and getting as messy as possible, Carnival Monday is all about the glam life! Girls go all out for Carnival, with some even waking up early to have make up done professionally! ‘Monday wear’ is an essential for the Monday of Carnival. This is swimsuits decorated with body chains, gems, and glitter. We played with Harts for the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival. You’ll start the day by meeting up with your band, then spend the day drinking and “chippin down de road” following huge music trucks and drinks carts through the streets of Port of Spain. The bands finish playing at around 7pm on Monday evening. Go home and rest at this point, no time for hangovers, you still have another full day of partying to go the next day!
I woke up at 5am on the morning of Carnival Tuesday and literally thought, “I’m so glad I don’t have to drink today.” Then the realisation quickly set in that it’s Carnival Tuesday! I took some pain relief for my killer headache and powered through! Costumes are worn on Carnival Tuesday, and the party starts at 7am! Harts are traditionally the first band to cross the stage at the Savannah. So with a terrible hangover, and already with temperatures nearing 30 degrees we started drinking again! The Savannah stage is a stadium were each band will dance and show off their costumes to a panel of judges. It’s so much fun and everyone joins in with the party atmosphere.
From the Savannah it’s straight back out on the road to spend the day drinking and dancing through the streets with a quick one hour stop for lunch en route. Carnival Tuesday continues again until around 7pm/8pm, were you can then head to after parties, or head home and pass out!
Post-Carnival cool down
Most people will head to Tobago to cool down and relax after Carnival, but flights can book up months in advance, so make sure to book flights early, or head to Tobago the week before Carnival instead like we did! Other cool down activities include going Down De Islands, chilling at the beach, or going for waterfall hikes (See my post on Trinidad and Tobago for more details on these activities).
One Last Jam
If, like me, you find it hard to stop the partying once Carnival ends on Tuesday, you can head to One Last Jam at the Soca drome were revellers from all bands will meet up for one last fete. You’ll wear your Monday wear, or Carnival costume for one last time to this fete. This was my final night in Trinidad and was such a great way to finish! Everyone was ready to party and celebrate Carnival one last time before it ended for another year!
Carnival was the biggest, most incredible party I’ve ever been to! I would definitely recommend going, but be prepared, you will be completely exhausted after! If you have any questions about Carnival, or this post, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.