A Beginner’s Guide to Attending a Caribbean Carnival

So you saw Trinidad Carnival photos and wished you were there, If you are a carnival virgin (never experienced carnival before) and have no idea where to start, this post is for you. Your first plan of action is to conduct some research. 

Educate yourself. While West Indians love to share our culture with the masses, please come well educated.  Learn the terms. What is playing mas, who is a masquerader, what music will be played? This Carnival 101 is for you. There you can learn more about why carnival is near and dear to many and what some of the terminology means. 

Once you’ve read and learned enough, decide which carnival you would like to attend. My recommendation would be to choose carnivals that are both on the lower end as far as price point and physical exertion. Your goal is to experience carnival without being so tired that you miss an event trying to cat nap. What would be the point and frankly, it would be a waste of money.

Determine your budget. Carnival is an expensive experience. Some amazing parties can cost upwards of $250USD depending on the location with carnival costumes costing upwards of $3000USD depending on the band and costume.  A Frontline costume, which is elaborately designed will be more expensive than a backline costume. More on the differences can be read in Carnival 101. 

Secure your hotel, flight and transportation services. Be sure to choose a hotel that is ideally located to and from events but also food. You will be partying as a sport and food is fuel. If you choose a carnival in the Caribbean, flights tend to be more expensive, especially the summer carnivals. In addition to several thousands of people flying in, tourists are also traveling during the summer for weddings, honeymoons and vacation, keep that in mind when determining your flight purchase time frame.  

Choose a Carnival band. A Carnival band is an organization that designs and advertises carnival costumes. In your research look out for reviews on their quality control and customer service. While there are several carnival bands that are popular in name, their customer service and follow through is lackluster. Always remember that reputation matters more than the look of your costume. Who cares if the costume is the most gorgeous item you’ve ever seen if it’s not going to make it to the road because of production issues? 

Decide which fetes and how many fetes you plan to attend. The average carnival veteran (meaning experienced with this kind of partying) usually attends two parties in one day. They will likely choose some type of breakfast or day party experience and fete into the night at another event. Two parties per day can cost $200 per day, keep that in mind when purchasing event tickets. We post fete lists for all the major carnivals so make sure you’re subscribed or check back with us periodically depending on the carnival you would like to attend. Eventbrite, IslandeTickets and Ticketgateway are also the best ticket locations to check for any Caribbean carnival throughout the year. 

Mix up your experience. You may be overwhelmed doing party after party so mix up your trip with some touristy stuff or some cultural time. If you don’t mind partying, then yes overdo it! 2 parties per day is the norm 

In regards to your temperament, remember you are there to experience something new. Go with an open mind and be patient. Someone may bump into you, or step on your toe, it is all part of the experience. Do not let your liquored up self get beat up because you were overly sensitive about a push. It is crowded, hot and everyone is drinking. Practice patience, mind your alcohol intake and have fun. 

Leave the body image issues at home. Do not worry about your body. (Yes of course work out to get your stamina up but don’t stay home because of a little belly fat). If the reason you have not participated in a carnival is because of body image, let me tell you there is every shape, size, complexion, gender, sexuality and priest playing mas. Keep in mind, there will also be costumes made for every body type. Monokoni costumes are perfect for hiding any FUPAS and carnivalista stockings (10% off discount code GLOBEY2023) can be used for any leg imperfections.  Furthermore many are so busy having fun and enjoying themselves they are not paying attention to you. Go with the same open mind to embrace others you may see. Carnival is a judge-free zone. 

Fall in love with soca. Soca is a genre of music and the preferred genre for Carnival. I get it, you may not know the songs yet but you will. Listen to soca mixes leading up to the carnival. Search ‘Carnival name x Year” (ex. Grenada Carnival soca mix 2023) in Soundcloud and find a mix to get you ready. While some Hip-Hop, Dancehall and Afrobeats will be played, soca is the dominant genre. 

With these in mind, you are ready to book your first carnival experience. Gather your sunscreen, friends and book that trip! 

Based on budget, food availability, flights and overall vacation vibes these three carnivals are the best for an individual looking to do both vacation and carnival in one 

  1. Jamaica Carnival 
  2. Bahamas Carnival 
  3. Bermuda Carnival 

Any more questions? Ask away in the comments. 

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Carnival from a masquerader perspective - Where to fete? Band reviews? What to wear? I got you!

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