Check out our answers to some frequently asked questions below.

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Exactly where is Trinidad and Tobago?
Trinidad and Tobago are the most southerly islands of the Caribbean, lying just north of Venezuela and Guyana; just south of Grenada and Barbados; and happily, just below the hurricane belt.  At its closest point, Trinidad is only 7 miles (11k) off the South American coast, and while Trinidad and Tobago sits on the South American continental shelf, the islands, their language, and their culture are closely linked with the rest of the English speaking Caribbean, North America, and Britain.

How did Trinidad Carnival start?
Carnival is a 166-year-old festival that has its origins in the clash and mesh of African and French cultures on the 18th-century sugarcane plantations of the West Indies. The French-Creole planters spent the two months between Christmas and the day before Lent indulging in life's pleasures, then covered themselves in ash and repented for their sins when the 40 days of Lent began.

Africans, emancipated from slavery here in 1838, used carnival rituals to commemorate their sufferings on the plantations and at the same time lampoon the lifestyle of their former masters through costumed characters.  Today the original characters of carnival are reserved for pre-carnival shows.  But the history of the event has been preserved in other ways.

On the morning of J'Ouvert (pronounced JOU-vay, for opening day), festivities begin with a re-enactment of the Canboulay (burning cane) Riots of 1881, when British colonial soldiers were beaten back with sticks and stoned by African masqueraders for attempting to stop them from taking part in carnival.

What is the economy of Trinidad and Tobago like?
Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is primarily a business and industry-based economy, with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals.  Trinidad is an oil producing nation, and the fifth largest producer of natural gas in the world supplying two thirds of all LNG imported into the USA. Trinidad's Tran 4, is currently the largest LNG plant in the world. Consequently, Trinidad and Tobago is the wealthiest independent Caribbean country, boasting a comparatively high standard of living and literacy rate.

While Tobago has been referred to as "the jewel of the Caribbean" and has a more tourist-based economy, however Trinidad and Tobago collectively do not depend on tourism as a major source of revenue.


When does Carnival usually occur?
Trinidad Carnival occurs every year on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (Catholic calendar).  The partying and other festivities begin months before and the costume making at the local mas camps begin even earlier.   

How many people usually visit for Trinidad Carnival each year?
Trinidad Carnival is easily the largest tourist attraction.  More than 50,000 visitors pour into Trinidad each year to celebrate this colorful and joyous festival.  In addition to this, the entire country of over 1 million people participates in various activities during the season.

Where can I find some more information about Trinidad Carnival?
There are several excellent websites where you can learn some more about Trinidad Carnival and Trini culture.   The official tourism website of Trinidad and Tobago is http://www.gotrinidadandtobago.com/trinidad/carnival/.  On this site, there's more info about Carnival and about the twin islands in general.  You may also want to visit http://www.carnaval.com/tnt/lingo/ for a comprehensive listing of Trini lingo.  As previously mentioned, the official language in Trinidad is English, however the locals have their own dialect.  This will familiarize you with some of the terms you may hear on your trip.  Also, on this site - http://www.carnaval.com/cityguides/trinidad/in_trincarn.htm, you will find a general run down of the events that occur every year.


Do I need a Visa to travel to Trinidad and Tobago?
A Visa isn’t required for travel to Trinidad and Tobago.  You will need to meet regular international travel requirements as set forth by each airline.  Generally, a valid passport, with a minimum of 6 months validity remaining, is required to enter both islands.

Is airfare included in my package?
Airfare isn’t included in any of our packages which will give you flexibility to select a travel option that will work best for you.  

What do I need to pack for my trip?
Below is a list of items you will need to bring for your trip in addition to your regular clothing suitable for a tropical climate.  Most airlines will permit you to bring 2 pieces of luggage up to 50lbs each, but please be sure to check with your airline before you start to pack!  Here are some suggestions of what to bring with you:
·         Waterproof sunscreen (minimum SPF 30 recommended)
·         A brimmed hat for day trips and the beach
·         2 pairs of sneakers or other sturdy, comfortable shoes to wear on Carnival Monday and Tuesday (1 for J’Ouvert and 1 for the parade)
·         2 pairs of sunglasses (in case you lose yours while jumping in the parade)
·         A pair of shorts to wear during J’Ouvert (these must be ok to get dirty!)
·         Ladies – 2 pairs of lightweight flesh toned panty hose or tights to wear with your costume
·         A couple of party outfits (generally, dresses for ladies, nice collared shirts and pants/jeans for men)

Do I need to bring any other forms of ID with me?
We strongly recommend to our travelers that you walk with some form of personal identification.  There are some fetes on our itinerary where they ask for ID before you can enter the fete.  You may bring your driver's license or we've had travelers walk with a laminated copy of their passport.  Either will work fine to enter each fete.
What is the currency used in Trinidad and Tobago?
The currency used in both countries is Trinidadian dollars.  To see what the exchange rate is in your country’s currency, go to http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/cgi-bin/travel/fxconvert.pl

How can I access money in Trinidad?
You can easily access money via banking machines in Trinidad and Tobago using your debit or credit card.  The money you access through banking machines will be in Trinidadian dollars.

What safety precautions should I take during my trip?
It has been said that Carnival time is the safest time of year to visit Trinidad and Tobago.  However, you should take the usual safety precautions that you would take on any international trip.  In Trinidad and Tobago, these additional precautions are recommended:
·         Don’t carry large amounts of cash on you
·         Don’t wear very flashy valuable jewelry, nor bring it with you on your trip
·         Always stay with the group and your guide(s)
·         Have fun, but drink responsibly and be sure to stay hydrated

What’s the weather like in Trinidad and Tobago?
Trinidad's climate is moderated by constant trade winds, which keep the average temperature around 86-89°F (30°C) during day and approximately 72-74°F (26°C) at night. You need not worry about temperature fluctuations during your visit because it rarely reaches 90°F, or dips below 70°F.

Can I use my cellular phone in Trinidad?
You should check with your provider to find out this information.  You may also purchase a cell phone in Trinidad to use while you are there.  We can arrange all of this for you at your request.  

Should I bring my camera?
Yes!  You should bring your camera with you to capture all of the wonderful moments you will experience on your trip.  Smaller cameras are more practical and portable. 

Should I get medical insurance?
You should absolutely purchase medical insurance for the duration of your trip, just in case.  In most cases, US insurance providers do not extend coverage outside of the United States.  There are a couple of reputable hospitals in the vicinity of the hotel and along the parade route, should you need medical care during your stay.


Where will we be staying on our trip?
Your lodging in Trinidad will be at the Trinidad Hilton in the downtown vicinity of Port-of-Spain.  This will enable you to be in the thick of all the action!  The packages listed on our website are for single, double and triple occupancy.  Just let us know what you would like.


What is a 'mas' costume?
A 'mas' (short for masquerade) costume can be several things.  The most common female costume consists of BBF - bikini, beads and feathers.  There are also several versions of this basic costume, from elaborate feathered and beaded headpieces to full piece bathing suit costumes (for more ahem, coverage) to costumes that are as tall as several stories!    The typical make costume consists of shorts, a torso piece and arm and leg bands.  Some men purchase t-shirts to match their costume or go bare-chested. 
For more information about mas, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinidad_and_Tobago_Carnival.   

Here are some examples!

How do I order my costume?
Leave this to us!  As part of our packages, we will get your measurements and order your costume for you.  We will also pick it up and deliver it directly to you at the Hilton Trinidad.  If there are any adjustments to be made, we will facilitate this on your behalf as well.

What's the sizing of the costumes?  How does it compare to US sizes?
Females - you will need to provide your bra and waist/hip size (in inches).  You can also choose different variations of undergarments: bikini top and bikini bottom, corset, boy shorts or thong.
Males - costumes are ordered according to your waist size (in inches). 

When will we get our costume?
You will receive an email confirmation in August/September from the band once your order has been processed.  Your costume will be delivered to you in Trinidad shortly after you arrive. 


What can I expect on both parade days?
When you are a masquerader in Carnival you are a member of section within a band.  The sections are uniquely colored and named for all the women and men, which may total a few hundred to few thousand people for each section.  The band is composed of several sections; some bands may have as many as 20-30 sections.  Each band has a pre-defined parade route that snakes through Port-of-Spain with unlimited food, drinks (alcoholic/non alcoholic), music (several 18 wheel trucks loaded with speakers) and even restrooms following in the rear of the band.

There are several mas bands in Trinidad and Tobago that compete each year for various titles, from King of the Band to Band of the Year.  On Carnival Monday, the parade starts later in the day, usually around 10 or 11 am.  On Carnival Tuesday, the parade starts much earlier, usually between 7 and 9 am.

Do the bands meet/start at a specific spot?  
Yes, each mas band has its 'marshal' area, where masqueraders can meet.  Mas bands will leave its marshal area promptly at the appointed time to start its parade route.  On each day, we will leave as a group from the hotel and head to the band.  Some bands have a shuttle service for late risers to get to the band.  Otherwise, local phone services have a text service available for the major bands so you can find your band throughout the day.  Some bands also post location updates on their Facebook pages.

What type of music is played?
You may have heard calypsos sung by Harry Belafonte; 'Yellow Bird', 'Shame and Scandal in the Family', or the old standard 'Rum and Coca Cola'.  What you may not know is that calypso is Trinidadian folk music, and several of the calypsos made famous by Harry Belafonte were either styled upon Trinidad calypsos, or written by Trinidadian calypsonians.
Trinidad is the birthplace of calypso, a rhythm of West African roots that has been adopted by many Caribbean islands.

When talking about Trinidadian music we must mention Trinidad Soca.  Soca is a modern up-tempo version of calypso created in Trinidad by Garfield Blackman, who is also known as Ras Shorty I.  Soca is a blend of calypso, African and East Indian rhythms.  Calypso and soca songs can carry a message, be humorous and political in nature, or exist solely to move your waistline or make you jump with energy!  Calypso and soca will be heard throughout the Carnival season during your trip. 

Trinidad is also known as the land of steelpan.  Your may have heard the term steel drums or pan, as it is known in the Caribbean.  Pan was invented in Trinidad during the early 1940s, and heard publicly for the first time when Trinidad Carnival resumed after World War II.  It is the only instrument to be invented in the 21st century.  Local steelbands also take to the streets during the Carnival season, bringing beautiful music to its followers and spectators alike.

What else happens during Carnival outside of the parade?
There are several other activities that take place during the Carnival season.  Listed below is a sample:
·         Dimanche Gras – Held on Carnival Sunday, Dimanche Gras consists of many competitions on the same night, such as King and Queen of the Bands and Calypso Monarch
·         Kiddies’ Carnival – This is where the kids get to have their fun!  Dressed in costumes, children parade the streets on Carnival Saturday
·         Panorama – This steelpan competition for annual bragging rights is very fierce and happens on Carnival Saturday.  There are two categories; the medium band category and the large band category, which can total over 100 pan players in the same band.

Are there food/restaurants along the route?
The particular band we're playing with gives meals and snacks to its masqueraders throughout the course of the day.  Around lunch time on both days, the band stops in a local park to refuel, giving everyone more energy to continue the day!  Also in the band are portable restrooms, so you don't have to leave the band to go to the bathroom.

Is the hotel along/near the parade route?
The hotel is near the parade route at different times of the day.  The parade route is quite long, so the hotel may not be always nearby.  Luckily, the band we're playing with offers air conditioned buses to its masqueraders that need a break.  There are also 'cool down' zones throughout the band, where fine mists of water are sprayed to help with the heat of the day.

Do you have any recommendations for the first time masquerader?
Firstly, you should ensure that you pace yourself!  It’s very easy to get caught up in the festivities and not pay attention to your hydration levels.  Be sure to drink a lot of water throughout the course of both days.  We recommend that for every alcoholic beverage you have, drink a bottle of water.  Also, be sure to pay attention to your energy level on both days.  Take it slowly and feel free to take a ‘chip’ (slow walk in tempo to the music) every now and then!  Don’t feel that you need to jump all day! 


What can I expect at a Trinidadian ‘fête’?
It all depends on what fêtes you decide to attend!  In general, you can expect live bands performing calypso and soca music.  DJ’s will play beats to move your feet in between live performances.  There are different levels of admission: general admission, V.I.P and V.V.I.P. 

Some types of Trini fêtes are:
-    Breakfast party: Usually held on Carnival Sunday in the wee hours of the morning until 10 or 11 am.  Some will include food and drinks or you may need to buy your own.
-    All inclusive fête: tickets to this type of party include all food and drinks

Included in our packages are fete tickets and transportation to your events.  We make it easy for you to be at the hottest fetes and see the best performances!  

Want to learn more about the Ultimate Trinidad Carnival trip?  Click here.