Last Minute Trinidad Carnival Guide is part of the Rum Rum Caribbean Castaway Trip Report.
Carnival Trinidad may have been the most fun two days of my life. It was certainly two of the most exhausting. I booked the trip on Thursday, left on Saturday (see Where to Pool Party in Miami), and arrived Sunday on time to realize that I had no time to prepare for what was what was going to happen on Monday and Tuesday (see How to Book Trinidad’s Carnival Last Second for Free*).
To spare you the anxiety and confusion, I have written this Last Minute Trinidad Carnival Guide.
If you can find availability, the Hyatt Regency is in a good location. If you want spectacular service, stay at the Hilton Trinidad. If you want a great value for points, stay at the Courtyard. I never found availability at the Radisson, even last minute.
There is no Uber in Trinidad anymore (see Uber in Trinidad: Save Hundreds). Instead, there is TT RideShare app. If you can locate a driver, you’ll be riding for cheap. Otherwise, prepare to spend an obscene amount on taxis. One way to and from hotels is at least $12 in the day and $20 at night versus only a few dollars for TT.
Juve (J’ouver) Tickets
Juve is the pre-party to the real party. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It starts at 3:30AM and goes until sunrise. The first step when you come in last minute is to try to find Juve tickets. I worked with the beautiful people who found someone selling tickets. I didn’t know about TT Rideshare so I spent $24 going there and back. After intense bargaining, I paid $75 to join Pink Poison. This included a tee-shirt, pink paint, and, most importantly, a bracelet and cup allowing me to drink as much as I could.
Play Mas Costume
“Who are you playing with?” Get used to that question. It means which band are you going to be partying with. After securing my Juve bracelet, the next step was trying to find someone to sell me a costume for the main event. I thought this was going to be like Carnaval in Rio where I would receive an ornate costume. While those are available, they cost a fortune. Once again, the Hilton helped find me someone who was selling last-minute bracelets. For the bargain price of $570, I received a pair of board shorts, the all-important bracelet, and a cup for the never-ending open bar. It also includes lunch and dinner. That price may sound expensive, but I did not meet anyone either local or at the hotel who spent less than I did. In fact, many who had booked months in advance paid considerably more (see TPOL’s Guide to Bargaining Abroad).
TPOL’s TIP: Don’t forget your cup. You need it for the open bar.
Don’t Go Out on Carnival Eve
I was told to rest on Sunday because it was going to be marathon to get through this event. Of course, I didn’t listen and headed out to see what was going on. That was a mistake. There was not much going on. After an hour on the streets, I made the smart decision to return to my hotel.
TPOL’s TIP: In addition to hosting the best carnival in the world, Trinidad has some of the best food in the world (see Where to Eat And Drink in Trinidad).
I showed up around 3:20AM and tried to find Pink Poison. I could not find them. I walked down the street and passed truck after truck. There was no one else with my same tee shirt. I checked the paper to confirm the time and place. I asked the police if I was in the right place. I was. Still, there were no people. 4AM came and I finally saw Pink Poison people. While we waited for our turn to go, I watched the madness that was to be the next two days of my life.
TPOL’s TIP: Pay attention to the songs. A combination of repetition of alcohol will result in you memorizing all the worlds. Famalay, in the video above, was a popular one in 2019. But my personal favorite was Hookin’ Meh:
Some songs were better than others:
As the sun began to rise, the Pink Poison crew began to get restless. Why were we standing on a corner instead of dancing? While other groups were celebrating, we were getting worried.
Lucky for me, I made friends who had and were happy to share their Hennessy. That and Patron XO were my official sponsors of carnival. As we waited our turn, we saw what became of others that had taken theirs.
Finally, it was time for Pink Poison.
So Long was another hit:
The dancing continued for miles.
Inhibitions and carnival are polar opposites. Paint and partying is what Juve is all about.
I started off a bit reserved but by the end I fit right in, pink paint and all.
At 9AM Juve came to an end. The main event began at 10AM. I had enough time to go back to the Hilton, shower, and prepare to play mas with Fantasy.
TPOL’s TIP: Bring shoes that you will throw away. The paint will ruin them. Cover your phone with a case. The paint will ruin it.
I had never participated in Juve before. Next time I hope to be part of a more organized group, and next time I will have more energy. I was more of a bystander in the event than a participant. That was about to change.
Play Mas Monday
With only one hour to go before I had to find my band, I thought a 30-minute power nap was a good idea. Three hours later I woke up with the same anxiety that comes from oversleeping before a flight. All sorts of thoughts rushed through my mind. The first one was why did I go out early the night before? The second was why did I spend so much on this bracelet if I’m not going to use it? The third was, thank you Hilton for allowing me to sleep in past checkout, but no thank you.
I packed my bags in a hurry, threw on my Fantasy board shorts, and grabbed my drinking cup. I rushed down to the lobby and got in an overpriced taxi. And that’s when it hit me: I had no idea how to find my band. Luckily for me, the hotel had previously told me to download the D’Junction app which provides real time data as to where each band is. I showed it to the taxi driver and he made his way to the general vicinity. He pointed that my band was straight ahead. I paid him and jumped out of the car. Here’s what followed:
I learned the basic dance:
TPOL’s TIP: Everyone said I was nuts for wearing sandals but I was quite comfortable in my Rainbows.
I recognized the song in the video below from Juve.
But wait, it’s halftime.
We went to the cricket field and had lunch. The smart people took naps before the party started again. I tried but I was too tired to sleep.
Then the party began again. Hennessy was provided. Hennessy was needed.
TPOL’s TIP: Water is a good idea between Hennessy and Patron XO shots.
It’s impossible to describe the positive energy. Here I was on virtually no sleep having an epic time. (This is one of few times that the word epic is used appropriately.) Everyone was friendly. Everyone was dancing. It was, as the song says, one big Famalay.
These guys were nuts:
And then the night came. By that time, I knew, or at least I thought knew not only everyone in the band but also every word to every song.
Watch everyone go nuts when Famalay is played in the after party.
Play Mas Tuesday
Wake up! You hear me?! You don’t want to miss the big day. You especially do not want to miss crossing the stage. For carnival goers in costume, this is the highlight of the event.
Time to cross the stage!
And now for the moving party.
TPOL’s TIP: If for some reason you don’t want to play mas, you can follow the band by standing outside of the rope. But then you would miss out on dancing to Mr. Killa’s Run Wid It, a carnival classic:
You should play to play, literally.
More friends along the way.
TPOL singing like he knows the words.
This video summarizes everything about carnival. Have you seen TPOL this happy before?
The march to the after-party. You should recognize the song by now.
The party did not stop. The night of day two was out of hand.
Famalay one more time!
- While the actual carnival takes place on Monday and Tuesday, people come days before to eat, party, and drink.
- Getting your bracelets ahead of time is advisable. It would have been miserable to come all this way and sit on the sidelines. I was fortunate that Hilton helped me so much. Next time I go, I will contact the locals I met who will handle the logistics for me.
- After the festivities are over, everyone heads to Tobago for much-needed R&R. I went to Grenada.
- Nothing, not even this guide, can prepare you for the best carnival in the world.
Did I mention I went alone?
One More Tip
The best way to leave Trinidad is the way you should begin it, with a stop at The Best Airport Food at Trinidad’s POS airport.
Carnival Trinidad is the Point Of Life. Like others who attended, I suffered from post-carnival depression. The only cure is to book for carnival the following year, something I failed to do. Thus, my carnival withdrawals continue.
Carnival 2021 anyone?
Enjoy the Last Minute Trinidad Carnival Guide? Read the rest of the Rum Rum Caribbean Castaway Trip Report.