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Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

El Carnaval de Recife y Olinda se caracteriza por el género de frevo en sus bailes y música
Recife and Olinda Carnival, Brazil
El Carnaval de Jamaica es una gran celebración llena de música, comida y baile
Jamaica Carnival


What is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is one of the world’s largest and best-known festivals celebrated in the Caribbean. The Carnival festivities begin just after Christmas and continue until Ash Wednesday loaded with dozens of festivities, top-quality entertainment, music and world-class cultural competitions. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a great celebration full of festivities from beginning to end.

Its great cultural diversity, the music, the competitions and the great island atmosphere are the components that make the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival break all known standards in carnival festivities in the Caribbean region. Carnival in the islands is one of the pioneers in this field, serving as a reference to many other Caribbean islands to celebrate more intensely and with better quality. Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival is one of the great carnival festivals.


The Carnival celebration in Trinidad and Tobago is probably one of the most prominent and important in the region, featuring a large repertoire of Caribbean music, including soca, calypso, chutney and metal drum bands. In addition, the carnival features the traditional Bandas Mas of the Caribbean and a host of historic characters who strut through the streets during the grand parade.

Every year, more than 30 thousand people visit the islands to be part of the most spectacular and wonderful Caribbean festivities, contributing more than 300 million dollars to the economy. We invite you to participate in one of the best carnival parties in the world, the same one that intimidates and stands out among many others in the Caribbean.


The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the largest carnival party in the Caribbean

The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is the largest carnival party in the Caribbean



When is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

Although Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival festivities have only two official days, the ceremonies and celebrations begin much earlier. These festivities are held gradually until they reach their peak one or two weeks before the official carnival of the islands.

Likewise, the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a traditional carnival festa, so it strictly follows the schedule of the carnival festivities to the letter, being celebrated between the months of February and March.



History of Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals

Trinidad Carnival dates back to the 18th century with the arrival of Catholic plantation workers. White European men and freemen would elaborate Christmas dances themed to dismiss the consumption of meat before theLenten season. In addition, the West African slaves, as well as freemen, had their own traditions, which were performed near thesugar plantations. These traditions featured masks and rituals characteristic of each group.

After theemancipation of the slaves in 1838, Canboulay, a festival that preceded the carnivals, known as cannes brulées, became a symbol of freedom and challenge. In response, the British colonial government banned religions, stick fighting, masquerades and various religious and cultural expressions from Africa, but was never able to eradicate what has become a hallmark of Trinidadian identity.

Over time, the mask celebrations merged into the Kelenda, a type of fighting of African origin involving the use of sticks accompanied by chanting and drumming, along with Canboulay rituals. After several struggles with theBritish colonial government, which was still trying to ban drumming, the masks and the metal drum, the Canboulay finally found a home onthe Monday and Tuesday before Lent, being adopted as a symbol of Trinidadian culture during the independence movement.

Several characters began to emerge within the festivities, some of these are still present in modern carnivals. However, they have been slowly fading away, as the festivities have been acquiring more Brazilian carnival elements. Hard as it may be to believe, some sectors of society in the islands still consider carnivals to be a lewd, immoral and unethical act. However, the very essence of the festivities in Trinidad and Tobago imposes a character of expression, art, freedom and identity.

Today, although carnivals are delimited by the official festivities of Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday, in reality in a full season that begins the day after Christmas. During this time, carnival parties, known as fetes begin and several radio stations and local music television channels begin to reproduce soca music..

Music was, is and will be one of the most important elements in the festivities, including the bands soundtracks, chants and drummers that have been present since the 19th century. In addition, it also features calypses, which emerged in French and Patois in the late 19th century and in English in the early 20th century. Themetal drum bands are definitely a must-have element that has served as a reference point for other Carnival celebrations in the Caribbean.


Where is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

Carnival is celebrated throughout the country; however, it is in Port of Spain where the epicenter of the festivities is located during Monday and Shrove Tuesday. Port of Spain is located to the west of the island of Trinidad.

Port of Spain is the capital and second largest city of Trinidad and Tobago. The city has a total area of 12 square kilometers where about 37,000 people live.


Everyone participates with costumes in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

Everyone participates with costumes in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival



How is Carnival celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago?

The islands’ Carnival festivities feature a nutritious amount of celebrations and characteristic elements, these that make them one of themost well-known festivals in the Caribbean and have served as an example of how to celebrate carnivals. Although the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has been modernized, it also has traditional characteristics that people still try to maintain. Some of the most prominent traditions is the presence of typical characters, which have emerged throughout history due to political and social events.



The characters that comprise the Trinidad and Tobago carnivals are present in the parades and are considered an essential component of the festivities.


Minstrels or Minstrels

These are characters based on theAmerican minstrel, they wear the are painted white, while the costume consists of a scissor-tailed coat, striped pants, tall straw hat and gloves. They can usually be seen on the streets with guitars, entertaining people with popular American songs such as Swanee River and Who’s Sorry Now.


Dame Lorraine

Dame Lorraine, Lady Lorraine or Dame Lorine are the representation of the French planters who dominated the island during the 17th and 19th centuries. Initially, slaves attempted to recreate the French ladies’ dresses with materials that were available, such as rags and fake jewelry items, simply to emphasize the exaggeration of the ladies’ physical features.

Each time a Dame Lorraine appeared, a unique and distinctive song was taken for them.


Moko Jumbie

He is one of the most well-known characters in the Caribbean. This character has a mask, colorful clothes and trunks, which can measure about 3 or 4 meters high. The costume consists of a brightly colored skirt or pants, jacket and hat. It is customary to see them dancing or walking back and forth during the parade.


Jab Jab

They represent the diablos. These characters wear satin panties, and satin shirt with cloth stitches at the waist and bells. On his feet he wears stockings and espadrilles and on his head he has a hood with cloth horns. The Jab Jab has a braided hemp whip that snaps during the parade.



It is based on theNative Americans. The person chooses how elaborate they want the costume to be, but it usually features a feathered headdress upwards, mirrors, beads, papier-mâché masks, totem poles, canoes and ribbons.Indian bands can comprise a warrior chief and his family, a group of chiefs, or a group of warriors.


Jab Molassie

The Jab Molassie is one of several varieties of devil or Jab Jab Jab. The costume consists of knee-length pants and a mask with horns. The jab malassie wore chains, locks and keys around his waist. In addition, they cover their bodies with grease, tar, mud or colored dyes, either red, green or blue.

The group has musical accompaniment with metallic drums, some play while others dance and fuss.


Pierrot Grenade

Pierrot Grenade is a descendant of the Pierrot of the commedia dell’arte. The Pierrot Grenade is a satire on the original and respectable Pierrot. This character is selfish and wears rags and has several colored strips on his clothing. He may wear a colored hat or tie on his head, and his face is covered with a grotesque mask. The mask provides anonymity for someone who delights in making satirical comments about members of the community.


Bat or Bat

This is one of the characters that is almost extinct. The Bat wears is usually tight-fitting black or brown clothing. In addition, he usually wears leather shoes with metallic claws for toes. Finally, it features bat wings that are made of wire and bamboo or cane, these are covered with the same fabric as the tight-fitting costume.

The whole costume comes accompanied by some musical pieces and theatrical presentation in which the masked man crawls, moves the wings and dances.


Midnight Robber

TheMidnight Robber is one of the most beloved characters in traditional carnival. Both his costume and his speech are flamboyant and egocentric. The character wears a black shirt, blue jean pants or jeans and a black cape, on which he has a cross-boned skull designed.


The name is derived from the Spanish wordburroquito(little donkey). This character features a large donkey puppet that is integrated into the rag costume. This masquerade is derived from both East Indian and Venezuelan Spanish cultures.



He is a personification of the devil, while the other characters are his beasts and lackeys. The bookman’s costume consists of Tudor-style or baggy pants, a pleated or ribbed bodice, and a cloak adorned with biblical scenes. On his head is an oversized head mask containing small horns and wearing a demonic expression. The face of this mask is supposed to reflect the face of the devil himself. He also carries a pen and a large book in which he writes the names of future souls for the devil.


Bandas Mas

Bandas Mas are a large grouping of people who purchase a pack of a carnival outfit or costume. This outfit is something like a one or two piece bathing suit and comes completelycovered in crystals and feathers. Generally, these outfits come accompanied by amenities such as entertainment and alcoholic beverages, some companies include thermos or even pins.

Costume designers begin working on their band’s costumes several months before Carnival to showcase their costumes at opening events or parties. Many bands hold alaunch party to showcase the outfits that will be available for parties. To purchase these costumes, you shouldbook your package as soon as possible, as they sell out extremely quickly.

Also, each band is led by aking and queen, who wear extremely large costumes. Each year, a competition is held to determine the King and Queen of Carnival.

Some of the Mas Bands that you can find in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival are:

  • Amazon Carnival
  • Belmont Exotic Stylish Sailors (D’BESS)
  • Hart’s Carnival
  • House of Eagle
  • Image Nation Ltd.
  • Spice Carnival
  • Splash D-Mas Band
  • Step by Step Promotions
  • YUMA Vibe
  • Richard Bartholomew
  • Roam Mas
  • Ronnie and Caro
  • Rosalind Gabriel
  • Rugeri Promotions
  • GEMS Mas
  • Generations Carnival



The J’ouvert is one of the most typical celebrations of the Caribbean Carnival. In this case, it features the participation of characters such as jab jabs, devils, bats, midnight robbers and Dame Lorraines. This celebration officially begins around 4 a.m. and involves the participation of dozens of people taking to the streets of the country’s cities.

During the event it is normal to perform paint, grease and mud warfare. The whole event is accompanied by music bands composed only with percussion instruments.

The J’ouvert also has some bands offering services during the event. Some of the bands that are part of the event are:

  • Pepper Jouvert.
  • Powderaders: The J’Ouvert Experience
  • Silver Mudders
  • T&T Patritios
  • Syn City Jouvert Band


Bomb Competitions

These are celebrations that occur during the J’ouvert. The event is attended by steel bands play European, American and other genres that are not traditional Caribbean, but perform them with typical Caribbean melodies and rhythms.



Caribbean carnivals cannot be complete without a good dose of rhythm and melodies.Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has some distinctive bands, concerts and rhythms that are native to the islands and have made their way to otherCaribbean islands. Some of the genres and sub-genres that you can find at carnival parties are:



Calypso is a style ofAfro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and spread to the rest of the Caribbean West Indies and Venezuela in the mid-20th century. The genre is characterized by highly rhythmic and harmonic vocals. Generally, calypso touchessocial and political themes with a catchy and vibrant rhythm.



Soca is aname game, combining Soul and Calypso. This genre originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1970s and developed into a range of styles during the 1980s and then spread to several Caribbean countries, including Venezuela, Canada, Panama, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. Soca features fast rhythms and provocative lyrics.



The Extempo is a lyrically improvised form of calypso and is most notably practiced in Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. The performer improvises the song on a given theme before an audience that takes turns performing. It is inherently competitive and success is judged by the wit of the performance.



The Chutney is agenre of music that developed in the southern Caribbean, and is popular inTrinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, other parts of the Caribbean and Africa. It is amix of Bhojpuri music, and local Caribbean music.

Originally, the lyrics were religious in nature andtypically sung by women, but several subgenres have developed.


Brass Band

A musical ensemble usually consisting entirely ofmetal instruments, almost exclusively percussion. These bands are sometimes referred to as marching or military bands due to their type of rhythm and instruments.


Metal drums

In English they are known as steelpans and are musical instruments originating from Trinidad and Tobago. These drums aresteel containers from which frying pans are made. To play them, a kind of straight sticks or rods with rubber tips are needed; the size and type of rubber tip varies according to the kind of frying pan being played.

At carnivals there are large concerts and performances with this instrument, which is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.


Festas o Fetes

The fetes or fetes are extremely typical of Caribbean carnivals and usually feature particular and extravagant themes. The fetes feature live performances by soca musicians who draw large crowds. These parties are on most occasions paid and can be all-inclusive or not.


Tips for going to Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals

If you wish to attend the Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals, we recommend planning your trip in advance, making a travel itinerary and booking your preferred accommodations in advance. In addition, we recommend you to pack light and comfortable clothes so you can fully enjoy your carnivals.

Due to the intense heat during these dates, alcohol consumption and physical activity, your body can decompensate quickly, so we recommend you to stay hydrated, apply sunscreen and stay in the shade if possible.

Make sure you do not carry large amounts of money when you go out and dress as simply as possible. Remember not to wear high-value clothing, watches or keep your wallet or purse in plain sight.

We advise you to purchase a set of Bandas Mas so that you can experience carnivals in their fullest form. However, remember that these services are far from cheap, as they can cost $700 or more.

Events in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival


Bacchanal Week

In English it is known as Bacchanal Week. It is a large chain of events that takes place one week before Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. During this week there are fetes or fetes of all types and themes, musical competitions, costume contests and many other events. Generally, each day features a particular chain of events, although the whole week is held with a great atmosphere of celebration.

During the day on Friday, some commemorative events are held in realization of historical and social events that resulted in the celebration of the carnivals in the islands. That same day in the evening, theSoca Monarch competition, a large musical celebration that is also held in the rest of the Caribbean countries during Carnival, takes place.

OnCarnival Saturday, the Children’s Carnival is held with unique activities and events for children and their representatives. That same night a big event is held with metal drums known as Pan-O-Rama, in which great personalities and bands that are dedicated to the exclusive use of this instrument participate.

During Carnival Sunday there are several cultural shows and live entertainment. During the night there are calypso concerts and many other activities. It is the last day before the official carnivals begin with the J’ouvert morning. During this event the Carnival Kings and Queens are also presented in their bright and colorful band costumes.


Monday and Tuesday of Carnival

Monday and Shrove Tuesday are when Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago occur in full force. These days are known as pure wild fun from early in the morning and it doesn’t stop until late Tuesday night. Get ready for these days because they will be the most intense two days of your life.


Carnival Monday at dawn



It is theofficial start of Carnival. The J’ouvert takes place before dawn on Shrove Monday, beginning at approximately 4 am. All participants wear old clothes or cover themselves with oil, dirt, talcum powder or mud. Everyone parties during the early morning before sunrise.

Some participants compete against each other during the event by wearing their own old or borrowed clothes, often incongruously composed and elaborated by asatirical banner that has reference to some political or social event. Moreover, this is the time when the carnival characters shine, so you will see the dames lorraines, demons, thieves midnight and indians join the whole celebration.

The whole event is accompanied bypercussion bands that generate a great atmosphere of celebration so that revelers have the best day of their lives.


Monday afternoon Carnival and Shrove Tuesday

After everyone has celebrated during J’ouvert, some people head home or to their hotels to rest; however, the party continues from 11 am. From this moment on, the carnival is known as the “Carnaval Bonito“, since it is at this time that the incredible Bandas Mas with the colorful costumes come out.

At around 11 a.m. and noon, the action resumes on the streets with the participation ofthousands of people who are in Port of Spain. The dozens of Bandas Mas meet and get ready among all to start the celebration. During these days the main carnival parades take place and there is great entertainment for all participants.

Traditional Caribbean music drowns the streets and there is only room for excitement, fun and dancing during these last two days of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.


The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival J'ouvert is a colorful and fun celebration

The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival J’ouvert is a colorful and fun celebration



Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Parades

The parade is definitely the most anticipated event of the entire carnival. It occurs during Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday. During the event all the groupings, Bands Mas and traditional characters of the carnival congregate. The streets explode with hundreds of traditional costumes, people in big sacks, women in colonial and colorful dresses, men in black costumes and horns, people covered in paint and burnt oil, devils and many other costumes that tell a particular story.

In addition, the Bandas Mas make a presence in the streets with their big, colorful and feathered costumes. The men wear brightly colored shorts and some necklaces that reach up to the abdomen. They also feature some feather headdresses and collars with crystals. Women have a much more daring, colorful and large outfit. Large structures covered with feathers and glitter are hanging on their backs, they wear some pieces of clothing covered with glitter and colorful necklaces.

The whole parade is accompanied by DJs who meet the demands of the revelers. Large trucks with speakers playing musical genres originating from the Caribbean and severalmusical bands playing calypso and metal drums. The whole event is a grand celebration like no other and one thatyou can only experience in Trinidad and Tobago, the country that sets the boundaries and quality standards for the rest of the islands.

For people who still have energy left, there is an After Party themed party, which is known as the Last Lap. This is the only opportunity for all participants to celebrate one last time before the carnivals end, only to start again next year with much more excitement.


Parade route


Comparsas, agrupaciones y bandas toman las calles durante el Carnaval de Trinidad y Tobago

Comparsas, agrupaciones y bandas tomarán las calles durante el Carnaval de Trinidad y Tobago


All the bands set up on St Vincent Street and then move across the street to South Quay. The parade continues down Frederick Street to then move through Keate Street and into Queen’s Park.


Trinidad Pelau is the traditional dish of the country

Trinidad Pelau is the traditional dish of the country


What to eat at Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago boasts a wide variety of distinctive dishes that you won’t want to miss during Carnival. One of the island’s classics is the Trinidad Pelau. This is a dish that is made with pieces of meat and chicken that are mixed with rice, vegetables, fresh herbs and coconut milk. It is known to be one of the party and picnic dishes, as everything is concocted in one pot and then divided into portions.

Another of the unique delicacies of Trinidad and Tobago is crab curry and dumplings or Curried crab and Dumplings. This is one of the country’s most traditional dishes and is made with cleaned crabs, then marinated with water and lemon and then drained again. The crab is placed in a large pot with vegetables, curry paste and coconut cream and cooked for a long time. The dumpling makes a perfect combination and is made with flour, cassava, sugar and salt. To finish the whole dish, a generous amount of cilantro and lime is added.

In addition, Port of Spain offers a great number of places to visit and expand your experience on the island. Some of the most famous places are: Chaud, Waterfront Restaurant, BUZO Italian Osteria, Jenny’s on the Boulevard, Town Restaurant & Bar and Jaffa at the Oval..


Crab curry and dumplings is one of the island's classic dishes

Crab curry and dumplings is one of the island’s classic dishes


What to see and do inside Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

If you extend your visit a week before, you can be part of the Bacchanal week. During the event you can attend the theme parties that take place in the different areas and venues of the city, watch the musical competitions, concerts and musical presentations. In addition, during the day on Friday you canattend the various historical and commemorative events of the island’s history.

Once Sunday night arrives, it is the moment when everyone gets ready to start the J’ouvert. We recommend you to participate, as it is one of the most anticipated events and with greater historical value. There you can see traditional characters, people covered in paint and you yourself can play with mud and paint. That same day the main parades begin and continue the following day. On Tuesday, the Last Lap is held for those who still want to party.

What to see and do outside of Trinidad and Tobago Carnivals


Maracas Bay

This is an incredible beach near Port of Spain. The beach is clean, with fine sand and crystal clear, turquoise waters. The entire beach is surrounded by vegetation and also has some small food and drink shops.


National Museum and Art Gallery

This is the national museum of the country. The museum was established in the year 1892 when it was still known as the Royal Victoria Institute. In the premises you can see works of arts, antique uniforms, weapons, photographic exhibits and some fossils.


Dattatreya Temple and Hanuman Statue

This is a Hindu temple that was built due to the great influence of India in the area. At the entrance of the temple you can find two elephant statues. On the outskirts is a large statue of Karyasiddhi Hanuman, which is considered one of the largest statues in the western hemisphere.



Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Weather

During the Carnival celebration, the city of Port of Spain has hot weather, with temperatures ranging from 21 to 31 degrees Celsius. Remember to stay hydrated and use sunscreen.


Trinidad and Tobago Carnival features traditional characters that reflect historical events

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival features traditional characters that reflect historical events



How to get to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival


The closest airport to the city of Port of Spain is the Piarco International Airport, which receives flights mainly from the Caribbean and some flights from America and Europe. Once there, you can make use of the various means of transportation until you reach the center of the city.


How to get there by ferry

From Venezuela some ferries depart every Wednesday to Port of Spain. In addition, Port of Spain also receives some vessels from Tobago Island and other vessels from the Caribbean..


How to get there by bus

From the airport you can take a direct bus to the city of Port of Spain. The trip takes about an hour.


How to get there by car

From the airport you can take the Churchill Roosevelt Highway to the city center. The drive is 25 minutes.


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