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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trinidad Carnival BIBLE!

Because we're all tired of crawling the entire Web universe for all the bits and pieces of information needed to do Trinidad Carnival and do it right!  One-stop: everything you need to know, in one place, and I will update if needed or if it's brought to my attention that info has changed!

Most efficient way to use this blog post is to print it out and refer back to it as a checklist, one time through the list clicking on each link for the reading material (doing your homework!) and a second time through (and more often as needed!) as you complete each segment of planning! *If you start late in the planning calendar (after August), the order changes to which element has the earliest deadline...*


  • AIRFARE & DEPARTURE TAX (some airlines include it, if not pay it on departure)
  • COSTUME ACCESSORIES (e.g. boots & decor etc.)
  • WIRING FEES & MISCELLANEOUS (incl. international calls: Trinidad area code is 868)


1. HOUSING (deposit or ask friend/family/couchsurfing host the SPRING before the carnival you wish to not sleep on this one many people book again where they stayed this year for the coming year...before they leave!)

***Stay in Woodbrook.  Location is central to carnival activities, is a known tourist area and therefore has ready public transport, and most spots are about 10-15 minutes walking from the Savannah.  Wherever you book, make sure and ask them how far they are WALKING from the Savannah because there will be no driving carnival Monday and Tuesday!***

***Note: dates in the Caribbean are written DD/MM/YY, date then month then year, not month/day/year as it is in the U.S.  To avoid confusion, always write or type out the full month, date, then year in this format only if communication by fax and/or email: March 7, 2011.  In the U.S. that is written 3/7/ Trinidad, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries, it is written 7/3/11!  Don't end up booking for the wrong dates! ***

Nemoy Guesthouse

***Make sure to mention more than once that you are booking for CARNIVAL of the next year...the rates are significantly higher than the regular and you do not want to budget for a $500 week of housing only to find out they misunderstood you and you actually owe $1,000!***

***When dealing with the smaller guesthouses, first find out the manager's name, and then insist on speaking only with that person...I have had errors in booking/rates information from uninformed staff, so go straight to the top when dealing with small businesses!***

***Trinidad doesn't have tourist customer service from the businesses.  Individuals will help you get connected so make friends when you are there for the next time, and online through band and event company fb pages ahead of time...but the businesses are generally still in the Stone Age on technology (inability to book/purchase online through a direct website or even PayPal, for example, so you end up wasting money on Western Union and Moneygram every two seconds) and customer service (as compared to, say, Jamaica, where everybody and every business is going out of their way to show tourists a great time and do not have foreigners running to and fro trying to sort every detail out on their own).  If someone is particularly rude/lazy, move on to the competition! There is NO mas-related or tourism related service you need that any company there has a monopoly on!  And by the same token, if you find a little business or enterprising person that treats you like a welcome potential client, and comes through on their end of the deal...bring them business and support them!  That's what I did!***

2. FLIGHT (the SUMMER before the carnival you wish to attend! flights = 2 free checked bags; confirm with airline before booking)
Destination is Piarco International Airport in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.  Abbreviation is POS.  In the U.S. Caribbean Airlines, American Airlines, and others provide service from major cities.  It is possible to pay a cheaper total fare by booking the international leg out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale separately, and booking a domestic flight from your location to Miami or Fort Lauderdale later when sales are happening.  However booking the entire trip as one international flight allows you to check two pieces of luggage free of charge for the whole journey (check with airline before booking).

If you are flying with a Jamaican or other CariCom country passport, you (as of the posting date of this blog) do not need any advance visa paperwork for the 1 or 2 weeks you will be in the country.  Verify all current travel requirements to enter and depart Trinidad and re-enter your country of residence (if an immigrant to where you live now) through your embassy, the U.S. Department of State, and the Trinidad Immigration Division (see Other links).
3. COSTUME/BOOTS/MAKEUP/BODY ART (the SUMMER before the carnival you wish to attend for bands #1-#4! or the fall before  for everyone else; watch their Facebook pages and websites for launch dates and themes each year.)  Soon as you are registered, deposit on your boots decoration and schedule your makeup/body art appointments for carnival Monday and/or Tuesday...these book up FAST!
Frontline costumes for females are generally, from top of mas band list to bottom, $1,000 USD down to $500 USD.  Subtract $100 USD or more as you go down the list down the list for backline.   
Male costumes from top of the list below to bottom are around $500 USD down to $150 USD.   
Individual costumes, male or female, are more than the highest price I listed for that type of band's frontline female designer/band directly for pricing.
The list of mas bands below is ROUGHLY in size order from largest bands (2,500 or more masqueraders in the band) to smallest.  There are MANY more bands, some come out one year only, some are just hard to find online. Each band has a new theme every year and several sections of costumes related to the theme.  Usually about 12 costume choices per band, per year, plus customization options such as one-piece, monokini, corset, thong, boyshorts, etc.
There is generally a sense of hyperventilation/panic/insanity over TRIBE where even if other bands are wide open for business, people keep trying to beg, borrow, or steal costumes to get into the band (and others like it) once sold out.  While being able to play mas with the friends/group you came with is a legitimate concern, do not be fooled by this weird paranoia into thinking it's the only band that will have pretty costumes and the only band that has fun on the road (YouTube can confirm that one!).  If you have a large group and they are not all precise with their timing and MONEY or even one other person but they are not dependable to be ready with their MONEY (and their trigger finger, if you all are going the online route) when the time comes to register fast, aim for a band that is not such stress to get into so that someone does not get left on the other side of the "sold out" sign.   
Do not forget your travel-size SUNBLOCK...SPF the highest you can find! 
TRIBE 2011...within 24 hours of registration opening

TRIBE 2011...within 24 hours of registration opening

TRIBE 2011...within 24 hours of registration opening

It is always better to get registered in person by someone on the ground in Trinidad who can physically walk into the mas camp before they open the doors for registration the first day, especially if the section you want is hot and likely to sell out fast.  But if you have no one down there, contact the mas band and arrange FedEx, DHL, or UPS international to a person with the authority to receive mail on behalf of the band, and make sure it includes a cashier's cheque (no cash, no cheques, no money orders!) for either the minimum amount (upon conversion to TTD) required to deposit on the costume type you want, or the full payment.  ALSO make sure it includes every single measurement, contact information, and meal/Monday wear/etc. selection as they instructed everyone to do when registering.  Double-check your receipt (they should be able to email you or fax you confirmation...include an email address and a fax number in the mail!) asap and get any errors corrected.  These costumes are custom-made after you order...after production may be too late.
^^^Another reason to make friends while there, and before you go...individual Trinis are super-willing to help any and everyone enjoy their country's biggest celebration. Just don't let the native snobbery (classism, rampant throughout the Caribbean including my own Jamaica) cause you to spend more than you know you can afford.  
4. FETES (the FALL before the carnival you wish to attend for all all-inclusives and the fetes that happen every year such as Girl Power and Insomnia...fetes are made available to reserve by deposit way before the final price is announced by the promoters so do not expect to know the final price until December/January!  The SPRING of --not before, the same season of-- the carnival, for the cheaper fetes.)
The cheaper fetes often do not have online purchase options, so you would either need to walk with the money for the fete or have someone on the ground get your ticket.  Again, just don't let the native snobbery cause you to spend more than you know you can afford.  They may hint (STRONGLY) that everyone who is anyone is going to be at x, y, and z fete...but if you can only afford x...don't be peer pressured into y and z!  At the same time, if you hear the word "gunta" (thug, gangster) associated with, say, a fete...try not to go unless going with some nice strong guys. Just in case! lol.

5. J'OUVERT (The SPRING of --not before, the same season of-- the carnival)
You need to be willing to get dirty. Period. Ensure you go with an established, secure band as this is wee hours of the morning in an unknown country and city. No valuables, and take a waterproof camera, need to be willing to get dirty!
Silver Mudders J'ouvert

6. TRANSPORTATION (The SPRING of --not before, the same season of-- the carnival...or just hail taxis and maxis by hand when you get there, and perhaps work out future transport needs with one you use and like...)
Trinidad drives on the LEFT hand side of the road (as does Jamaica and many other former British colonies)...and the entire West Indies drives with rampant disregard for traffic laws.  If you have never driven in Trinidad and it is your first time there, skip the rental car unless you are hiring a driver with it.  There will be many drunk drivers --which the police are cracking down on, by the way-- on the road, possibly including you...and you will be on roads with hairpin turns and possibly not that well lit especially heading to and from fetes away from Port of Spain...and you will be very, very short on SLEEP.  Recipe for disaster your first time around!  If you are staying in Woodbrook, especially on French Street, taxis are up and down and parked by there constantly...

7. COMMUNICATION (Either the month you leave through your national carrier IF they allow you to roam in Trinidad on the phone YOU have versus their GSM/global phones, or at the airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad/a local cell phone vendor--BMobile and Digicel have pay as you go GSM phones using SIM cards that give you a local number and cut huge roaming fees from U.S. providers that work in the Caribbean, such as Sprint)

From SurviveInTrinidad's blog (Trinidad police's safety tips)
From ChroniclesOfASocialEsquire's blog (MALE guest blogger's point of view! lol!)
From ChroniclesOfASocialEsquire's blog (the female version this time!)
From (non-American foreigner's comprehensive view)
TrinidadCarnivalDiary's blog (3D, 365-day-a-year guideline to TNT carnival by a veteran TRIBE masquerader)
From me! Trinidad Carnival 2011 SUPERPOST! Pics AND Videos! (So you can see what it's like!)
Carnival On A Budget from TrinidadCarnivalDiary
Carnival On A VERY Tight Budget from Eloquence, Inc. (me!)
National Carnival Commission of Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad Carnival dates for the next TWENTY years so you can plan early!

(You may see the men's costumes on the websites and the facebook pages. There are other bands as well!)
1.  TRIBE Carnival and facebook (and part 2 of the band, BLISS and facebook, as of 2011)
2.  Harts Carnival and facebook
3.  IslandPeople Mas and facebook
4.  YUMA and facebook
5.  D'Krewe Carnival and facebook
6.  Legacy Carnival and facebook
7.  Ronnie and Caro and facebook
8.  Trini Revellers and facebook
9.  Pulse 8 Carnival and facebook
10.Roam Mas and facebook (can order DIRECTLY from Facebook page!)
11.Oasis Carnival and facebook
TRIBE 2011
Bliss 2011

Harts 2011
Islandpeople 2011
YUMA 2011
D'Krewe 2012

Roam Mas 2012

Rosalind Gabriel
Rosalind Gabriel 2011 presentation
Rosalind Gabriel 2010

Spoilt Rotten Kids (and Facebook)
Spoilt Rotten Kids 2011 presentation
Spoilt Rotten Kids 2011

(Yes, men do get their sneakers/shoes decorated as well, in more manly styles, see the sites/facebook pages for more)
Niecy's Custom Designs (New York, USA--takes orders from anywhere, pay by PayPal)

Sarah Benjamin Paul Makeup; Body Art by James Paul
Sarah Benjamin Paul artwork
Body Art by James Paul

From (2011 fete schedule)
From Rishi Sankar's blog
From TicketFederation (where you can actually buy tickets and see annual fete schedule)
From CaribbeanBoxOffice (where you can actually buy tickets and see annual fete schedule)
From TriniJungleJuice  and their photos...see if you got caught out there or figure out appropriate dress code for events based on past pics!
Soca Monarch ticket purchases
From GoTrinidad (comprehensive schedule of events--not just fetes--and contact information!)
From Whey All De Fetes Are For Carnival (very popular Facebook event list, updated annually)
Girl Power 2010

Girl Power 2010
Insomnia 2010
Insomnia 2010
Silent Morning Boatride 2010
Silent Morning Boatride 2010

Mas Jumbies and facebook (dress up in themed costumes or play in regular tee and shorts)
Insomniacs and facebook (get covered in paint)
Mudders International and facebook (get covered in mud)
Silver Mudders (get covered in silver body paint and mud)--takes payment via Facebook page!
Chocolate City  and facebook (get covered in chocolate)
Dirty Dozen J'ouvert  and facebook (get covered in paint)
and many more!
Chocolate City J'ouvert
Silver Mudders J'ouvert

Alternatives to expensive hotels (**Warning this is not for those who want a U.S. hotel type experience...these smaller ones are for people who need to save as much money as possible and just have a place to drop the bags and shower basically!  If you care about room service and a big pretty room and Hilton type experience...scroll down to the expensive hotels link and try to save money by having 4 or 5 people in the room with you.**)

Private apartment, studio, room rentals (Trinidad Guardian newspaper,check visitor accommodations)
Private apartment, studio, room rentals (Trinidad Express newspaper, F5 to refresh if it doesn't show on first click, then click the button at the bottom to about page 6 for Visitor Accommodations section, then click on the page once to zoom in, and drag the mouse around to view the ads...yes, horrible setup they have!)
Expensive hotels (ranked 1-50 in Trinidad by TripAdvisor travellers)
In Port of Spain:
Expensive Hotel #1
Hyatt Trinidad

Expensive Hotel #2
Expensive Hotel #3
Expensive Hotel #4

(Please remember to also carry your Caribbean country passport if you are a CariCom national...shorter line at Trinidad's airport...MUCH shorter!)
Car rentals and, if you are driving yourself around
Taxi service (recommended instead of renting, especially carnival time--you REALLY don't want to drive yourself around with the alcohol-infused traffic!)
Everything else including details on how to understand route taxi destinations by colour, how to tell licensed operators, contact information/links to tour guides, water taxi, ferry between Trinidad & Tobago, etc.
Everything else from yet another source...with pics
Maxi-taxi (commercial minivan)

Digicel (Trinidad & Tobago carrier: online purchase of phones: no; online purchase of minutes yes)
    Digicel phones (Coral brand cheapest)
    Digicel rates schedule

B-mobile (Trinidad & Tobago carrier; online purchase of phones yes; online purchase of minutes yes)
    B-mobile phones/SIM cards (search for $0-$199 phones)
    B-mobile FAQs and contact information

SIM cards, GSM phones, and plans for rental/purchase--European visitors
2nd option--SIM cards etc. 3rd party vendor and their existing phone compatibility guide
Sprint International (USA carrier)
     Sprint international rates schedule

Verizon International (USA carrier)
    Verizon international Trinidad & Tobago rates schedule

T-Mobile International (USA carrier)

AT&T International (USA carrier)

From (from a MAN's point of view! lol!)
From me! (and I'm female, lol!)
From DiscoverTNT (which is also on Facebook)

Google Currency Converter flights flights
What To Pack For Your Trip To Carnival
Where to go for massage, the mall, other niceties
Where to find free WiFi/Internet, emergency services, electricity stats, etc.
U.S. Department of State--passports for U.S. citizens
   U.S. passport application (***FORM CHANGES MARCH 1, 2011***)
   Get an expedited (rush) U.S. passport
   U.S. passport fees
   Where to apply for a U.S. passport (usually a full-service U.S. post office or county clerk of court)
   U.S. Department of State--passports for U.S. citizens who are minor children
   First-time American traveller tips
Jamaican Embassy, Washington, D.C.--passport application info
   Jamaican Consulate, New York, NY--passport application form
   Jamaican Consulate, Miami, FL--passport requirements
   Jamaican Honorary Consul, Atlanta, GA--Attorney Vin Martin
   Jamaican passport fees
   Jamaica Registrar General--Jamaican Birth Certificate/Proof of Citizenship Applications (if you need to apply for a Jamaican passport)
   Jamaican Registrar General--free application for birth entry number (MANDATORY before applying for your birth certificate if you don't know the number!)
Trinidad & Tobago Immigration Division
   List of countries requiring or not requiring visa to enter Trinidad & Tobago
Atlanta Consulates (Bahamas, Canada, China, Jamaica, Nigeria, and United Kingdom, among others)

***Trinidad's Tourism Ministry is not listed because I called AND emailed them at the several numbers and couple email addresses they have listed...and they have yet to answer, it's been about a month...not even a voicemail or answering machine they seem to have bought for that department.  So it's verified as a gov't entity that's not exactly doing anything for me as a tourist!***

...and of course:

Need me to manage/plan/book all this for you, contact me...or go ahead and purchase your trip directly through the Eloquence, Inc. Facebook store!  Secure and private payments via PayPal! :)

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