Experience Carnival - A-trini!
Attended Carnival March 2011
This was my first time at Carnival and in the Caribbean and my expectations were exceeded. After a relaxing week stay in Tobago, my four friends and I went to Trinidad for some shark burgers (Richard's Bake'n'Shark is the most famous) and wild partying. Our stay would not have been as good without the help of our hostel, D'Lime Inn, owned by an American woman who is married to a Trini who is a renowned steel pan player. The owners were friendly, took care of our transportation, meals and carnival logistics. The husband also invited over some famous local soca/calpyso musicians (local Trini music genres) and put on a free concert in the backyard! It was amazing. They can also help you learn some of the hottest Trini songs, as the competitions for best song of the Carnival is very intense and you will hear these songs played NON-stop on the streets.
Carnival itself was a blast but if we had more details we could've had an even better time. The music and masquerade band competitions at night are interesting to look at but the real fun is being a part of the show. J'ouvert, a parade down the streets of Trinidad where thousands upon thousands of young people throw paint on each other from 2 am until day break is my fondest memory (errrr...what I can remember of it). Sign up with a "band" to walk with, they're your entourage and they provide you with drinks, music, souveniours (ie. t-shirt), breakfast and security throughout the night. Our band was about 100-200 people, surrounded by other various bands just as big or larger, we danced down the streets, through paint on each other and drank as much beer as we could stomach until the sun rise. Our hostel hooked us up with our band.
The only regretable point of the trip was that we were not more involved in the actual Carnival show itself. During the day, we had the opportunity to be a part of a masquerade band--wear costumes and march across town and onto the main Carnival competition stage but we decided to save a few dollars and skip this event. We all regretted that decision. Some of the masquerade bands are very pricey (hundreds of USD) with elaborate costumes, but you should be able to get in a more normal masquerade band for much cheaper. For instance, there was a band called "the tribe" when I went. The costumes were very simple Native American get-ups and from what I heard the price to join the band was much more reasonable than what I had seen on-line before going to Trinidad. Ask a hostel/hotel/local contact for advice. My best tip, get in contact with D'Lime Inn, the owners were amazing and offered an amazing price and hospitality for Carnival.