Saturday, January 5, 2008
WE CARNIVAL: Surviving T&T Carnival 2K8 – A Carni Newbie’s Guide
Thanks to a strong Canadian dollar, that long awaited Trinidad & Tobago Carnival trip may be well within reach. With the exchange rate at 6-to-1, a 7-day trip to the twin island for a full Carnival experience will cost you about $3000 CAD (including airfare, costume, accommodations, car rental, food, phone and fetes). Is it worth it? DEFINITELY! Let’s plan your trip.
Firstly, if you are not registered in a costume band, you may as well not go! Harts and TRIBE are already sold out, but Evolution (www.Evolution-Carnival.com) and Island People (www.IslandPeopleMas.com) should still have room for you. A premium all-inclusive costume package starts at about $400 CAD. If you wish to experience ‘dutty mas’, the popular J’Ouvert bands are ‘Red Ants’, ‘Yellow Devils’, ‘Cocoa Devils’ and ‘PlayTime’. Organize this before you even book a flight!
For deals on airfare, look out for sell-offs with Emerald Vacations or Titan Tours; the most popular chartered flights to T&T are Wednesday-to-Wednesday. The only thing is, on the return be prepared for chaos, as much of Trinidad’s airport staff are notorious for not making it to work on Ash Wednesday.
Finding a place to stay can be tricky, especially this late, but not impossible. Log on to www.GoTrinidadAndTobago.com/accommodations for a searchable guide. Another resource is www.tsttyellowpages.co.tt.
To get around, a car rental is a must but can be pricy ($400-$500TTD per day). Many residents that don’t participate in the festivities sometimes rent their personal vehicles at a steal ($250-$300TTD/day), if you can find one. Otherwise, here are the major rental outlets: Piarco Rentals 868-669-2277, Econo-Car 868-669-2342, Sue's Auto Rental 868-669-1635, and TnT Auto Rentals 868-685-8412. You can find a detailed map of Port-of-Spain at http://www.toronto-lime.com/carnival/tnt_map.htm. A valid North American license can be used in T&T for up to 90 days. If you don’t drive ‘Phone-A-Taxi’ is available at 868-628-8294.
VERY important: Prior to leaving on your trip, check that your passport is valid and be sure to ‘unlock’ your GSM phone. Once you get there it’s a MUST to get a local SIM card for your phone. You don’t want to come home to a $1000 cell phone bill from roaming charges. A Digicel or bMobile SIM card will run you about $100 TTD ($17 CAD); top it up with a $100TTD phone card and you’re good for the week.
Now you’re on the island on the Wednesday before Carnival weekend, what do you do? ‘Bacchanal Wednesday’ fete in Chaguaramas of course! To stay up-to-date with events, there are several key media outlets that will keep you in the loop. Local newspapers include ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Express’. The most popular radio stations are 96.1WEFM and RED 94.7 FM. TV networks are NCC 4, TV6, Gayelle, Synergy TV and WIN TV (NCC 4 broadcasts all the official Carnival events). For updates on the web go to www.VisitTnT.com or www.Toronto-Lime.com.
From Thursday night on is ‘real pace’! The list of events goes on and on. Escape to Salybia, Beach House, TRIBE Thursday, UWI Splash, Soca Monarch, Panorama, Trini Posse, Girl Power, Rise, Insomnia, Dawn, Sunny-Side Up, Moka, Dimanche Gras… whew! Then it’s J’Ouvert, Carnival Monday and Tuesday. But it doesn’t end, there still is the slew of after Carnival cool down fetes; Maracas Bay, Las Cuevas, Blanchisseusse. To get away from the large crowds, I’d suggest heading to the North-East coast (Matelot, Toco, Sans Souci) or even far North to Paria Beach Waterfalls. If you can swing it, try Scotland Bay (down the Islands) or head over to Tobago.
How do you stay awake for it all? Lots of coconut water and power naps in the car between fetes. Stay away from energy drinks that are high in caffeine and taurine; they may keep you awake for a while, but you WILL crash eventually and you don’t wanna miss ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.
For more info on events, nightlife, beaches, places to stay and eat during T&T Carnival visit www.Toronto-Lime.com/carnival.