Just about every single travel destination throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as many destinations in Europe, hold a carnival celebration of some sort. New Orleans has Mardi Gras, of course. It’s the party of the year — the time to let your hair down before the Catholic Lent season begins and we have to behave until Easter. Few destinations, though, do carnival as well as Trinidad & Tobago.
Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 2020 takes place Feb. 24–25, a Monday and Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know.
Direct flights are available to Trinidad from the States, from a few select hubs, including JFK and EWR in New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Houston and Orlando. Service is provided by JetBlue, American Airlines, United and Caribbean Airlines. You’re likely to find the best deals when flying with JetBlue on this particular route. When you arrive, you will have to show proof of a return ticket home or a ticket to another destination.
Keep in mind that Trinidad and Tobago is, of course, two islands. Most of the carnival action takes place on Trinidad, though, and that’s where you’ll be flying into Piarco International Airport. If you do want to visit Tobago during your stay, there are two ferries that will transport you between the two islands, a roughly three-hour boat ride.
If you think you’ll want to drive around Trinidad on your own, it’s advised that you reserve a rental car ahead of your visit, rather than wait until your arrival at the airport, just to be safe. Driving in Trinidad is pretty easy, but they do drive on the left side of the road. Otherwise, you can arrange for taxi service to and from wherever you need to go, with the help of your hotel concierge.
When to Start Planning
Carnival season in the entire Caribbean is incredibly busy, so you’ll want to start planning now. And, since Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 2020 takes place over a Monday and Tuesday, it’s the perfect excuse to plan a long weekend in the tropical locale, arriving the Thursday or Friday prior. (Additionally, even though the official carnival dates are that Monday and Tuesday, you can find plenty of carnival-style events taking place leading up to the days, so you certainly won’t be lacking for things to do.)
Since the actual carnival celebration is a public event, you won’t need a ticket for that, but you will need tickets for all of the “fete” parties that lead up to carnival. It’s advised that you do some research on which of these parties you’d want to attend and then set up a rough itinerary for yourself, purchasing the tickets as soon as possible (some are available online, though some you will have to wait and purchase once you’re on the island, as only physical tickets are available).
Fete tickets range heavily in price, just as the parties themselves range heavily in terms of style and atmosphere. Some are luxurious, all-inclusive experiences, while some are drunken fests with a DJ. If you don’t want to sort through all the fete options yourself, you can easily also find many tour and travel providers who put together fete packages with everything you’d need included — tickets, transportation, etc.
To make your carnival experience even more immersive, you can also pay to actually be in a carnival parade. Purchasing a ticket to be in a “mas band,” as they’re called, costs anywhere from $250 to $2,500, and your ticket generally includes your carnival costume, food and drinks. The easiest way to purchase a ticket is via a third-party tour or travel provider. Otherwise, you’d need to be “in the know” with one of the mas band organizers.
Where to Stay
Stay in The Port of Spain in Trinidad to be right in the heart of all the carnival action. For upscale, modern services and amenities, try to snag a room at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. The Hilton Trinidad, which was renovated just a few years ago, is also a good option. If you’re looking to save a few dollars and don’t mind being a little outside of downtown, then you might choose the Courtyard by Marriott Port of Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago is hot, hot, hot, so be prepared and dress accordingly. Additionally, it’s carnival, so feel free to break out your most extravagant attire. Feathers, sequins, it’s all approved. While swimsuits are common attire during the actual carnival event, wearing just a swimsuit or bikini top is frowned upon during other times. Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes!
Do note that many restaurants throughout Trinidad have some sort of dress code, though, and that it’s illegal in the country to wear camouflage patterns of any kind.
What to Expect
It’s a giant party. Expect a loud, crazy, fun atmosphere, with lots of music, shouting and revelry. There’s something going on during carnival days and leading up to carnival days just about everywhere you look.