Barbados Carnival 2024

Bridgetown
Practical Tips

Everything you need to know to plan your crop-over trip

Date: JULY/August 2024

Budget: about $1000 for the road march and J’óuvert

Stay:  Zenbreak Bliss Tranquility

Confession time: after attending Jamaica’s and St. Lucia carnival, I am currently planning my trip to Barbados for “crop-over”, the Bajan carnival. 

Carnival in Barbados is a big deal and dates back to the 1780s, making it one of the oldest celebrations in the Western Hemisphere. With countless bands (I counted 14) and even more events, the island comes alive with color and music. 

The main event, Grand Kadooment Day on August 5th, 2024, features around 12 000 masqueraders in stunning costumes parading through the streets. The festivities kick off as early as May, so you can soak up the carnival spirit even if you’re not there in August. 

To make your planning seamless, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide just for you.

 

1. Budget and start saving

Attending a carnival and jumping on the streets is super expensive, but the experience of a lifetime. However, by securing Early Bird Tickets parties you can save a lot.

Here is a rough overview of the costs you should expect:

– Costume: Approximately $550

– Optional Backpack “The Feathers”: $200-$300

– J’ouvert: $175

– Soca Parties: Starting at $40 – $160

2. Know the dates and plan accordingly

Crop Over spans three exciting months, celebrating Barbadian music, arts, cuisine, culture, and beyond. So make sure to check the calendar of events and plan your trip accordingly!

Culminating in the grand finale known as Kadooment Day, Barbados brings the festivities to a close with a spectacular carnival parade. Kadooment with its around 12 000 revelers is renowned as one of  the Caribbean’s largest and most vibrant carnivals.

As you consider joining one of Barbados’s carnival bands, it’s crucial to keep track of the key events and dates such as costume launches. Tickets to the most popular events and costumes sell out very fast!

Even if your schedule doesn’t align for the road march itself, you can still experience the carnival spirit at one of the many pre-events!

March 2024

Costume launches

Costume launches ignite the countdown to carnival season and are hands down one of my favorite parts of the season!

Following these awe-inspiring launches, you can visit the bands' showrooms to explore the costumes. It's a chance to admire every detail and start planning your trip!

soca party

May - August 1st

Pre Carnival Parties

With its over 300 years long tradition, crop-over today combines the best of both worlds: a very fun and wild carnival party experience, but you will also find plenty of cultural events going on.

Here is an overview of the cultural events:

Junior Calypso Monarch Finals | July 20, 2024

Watch young, talented calypsonians compete for the top title. It's a great chance to see the future of Bajan music and enjoy their energetic, creative performances

Emancipation Day | August 1, 2024

Emancipation Day is all about honoring the end of slavery in Barbados. It's a meaningful day filled with cultural and historical activities, perfect for reflecting and celebrating. Join in to gain a deeper appreciation of the island’s rich history and the resilient spirit of its people.

Bridgetown Market | August 2-4, 2024

Bridgetown Market is the biggest festival during carnival season and transforms Spring Garden Highway into a haven for foodies! You'll find stalls brimming with delicious food, refreshing drinks, and unique local arts and crafts. It’s a very cool place to hang out , get some great food and listen to some music!

Pic-O-De-Crop Finals | Date: August 2, 2024

You can’t miss the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals! It's one of the most exciting events where top calypsonians battle it out for the Calypso Monarch title. The night is packed with powerful performances, featuring sharp social and political commentary that showcases the depth and artistry of Barbadian calypso music.

Cohobblopot | August 4, 2024

This huge entertainment show brings together some of the biggest stars in soca music.

soca party

May - August 1st

Pre-Parties

Carnival season is also feteing season! I am super overwhelmed by the number of fetes and could not make up my mind yet. Here is the full event schedule.

costume pick up for Jamaica carnival

First week of August

Get ready to collect and try your costume

Unless you've arranged for a carnival concierge service, you'll need to schedule a day to collect your costume. Your band will provide you with the specific details regarding the pick-up time and location. While I find costume pickups super exciting, they can quickly become nerve-wracking especially if they are prolonged. Bring snacks and drinks.

me at Jouvert in Jamaica

August 4th

J’ouvert/ Foreday

My ultimate favorite and most exciting party of the year! The paint and color extravaganza typically unfolds from Saturday night into Sunday morning, kicking off at 2 am and lasting until 5 am.

Us at mas camp devon house Carnival in Jamaica, Kingston

August 5th

Grand Kadooment Day

Traditionally Grand Kadooment is Held on the first Monday in August. The day begins early at Bridgetown Helipad, where the revelers dressed in stunning costumes gather. Led by several trucks 12 000 dancing masqueraders take over the roads of Bridgetown.

Kadooment 2024 will have a new parade route. The festivities will kick off at the Bridgetown Helipad, then proceed onto Hincks Street and along the Princess Alice Highway. From there, the parade will move onto Harbour Road, follow President Kennedy Drive to Eagle Hall, and continue onto Black Rock Main Road up to the roundabout at the bottom of University Hill. The route will then head onto the Mighty Grynner Highway, ending back at Kensington Oval.

 

beach in Barbados

After August 6th

Enjoy Barbados

Take it easy and soak up the beauty of Barbados, or venture over to Grenada, where preparations for its carnival are underway.

3. Book flights and accommodation

Barbados’s carnival falls during the low season, which can pose challenges for international travelers. It’s essential to book flights early to avoid soaring prices. With Barbados’s carnival being a highly sought-after event, accommodations tend to sell out fast, so it’s advisable to secure your lodging along with your flight booking to ensure a hassle-free experience.

me recovering from jamaica carnival 2023

4. Know Barbados’s carnival bands

Let’s dive into the world of Barbados’s Carnival bands—it’s time to pick your band and your fabulous costume! Each band boasts its unique community, atmosphere, and music, making it an exciting decision to make.

Choose a carnival band

Selecting the right carnival band is your ticket to dancing through Bridgetown’s streets come August. The crop-over bands in Barbados are super different in their experience. You’ll find everything from small bands to massive bands!

Align yourself with a band and slip into one of their stunning costumes to fully immerse yourself in the festivities. I recommend joing one of the bigger bands as international visitor, especially if it is your first crop-over. 

But here’s a tip: the most sought-after costumes and sizes tend to fly off the shelves, so make sure to secure your spot early in the game!

Here is an excerpt of Barbados’ carnival bands 2024

Aura (bigger premium band)

Colorz Entertainment Kadooment Party Band Of The Year 2023)

Envy Mas (mid sized Bajan band with afforable prices)

Kontact Barbardos  (bigger band)

Krave the band (Barbados’ biggest crop-over band)

Xhosa Barbados (bigger band)

Zulu International (bigger band)

Vida by Esquire (mid-sized band) 

Betty West (small traditional band)

Blue Box Cart (smaller Bajan band)

– Khepri Kulture (swimwear costumes)

Passion Vybz (small Foreday band)
PowerX4 (small traditional band)

5. How to choose your carnival costume

Types of carnival costumes

Frontline: Frontline costumes steal the show with extravagant designs, intricate details, and vibrant colors. Inspired by the band’s theme, they command attention during the parade with dramatic flair and craftsmanship, often featuring elaborate headdresses and striking elements.

Backline: Offering a blend of style and practicality, Backline costumes are vibrant yet comfortable. They maintain the essence of Carnival with colorful designs while allowing ease of movement. With simpler decorative elements compared to Frontline options, Backline costumes are a popular choice for those who want to join the festivities without the extravagance.

Full Coverage: Catering to individuals preferring additional coverage, Full Coverage costumes embrace the Carnival spirit with modesty. Featuring more fabric and covering more of the body, they retain the festive elements while offering comfort and a touch of modesty. Ideal for those seeking a bit more coverage, Full Coverage costumes provide a comfortable option for celebrating Carnival while embracing the vibrant atmosphere.

me choosing my costume for jamaica carnival 2024
Caribbean Carnival

6. Things to know about the road march

Costume Collection: Prepare for either a delightful or time-consuming experience when picking up your costume. Here’s how to make it smoother:

– Set aside a dedicated day for costume collection.

– Fuel up with food and drinks beforehand to stave off hunger.

All-Inclusive Road March: Forget about worries regarding drinks and snacks during the Road March – accompanying trucks have got you covered!

Sideline Spectator: Feel free to enjoy the Road March from the sidelines if you prefer, as you’re not obligated to join a specific band.

Carnival Season: Remember, Carnival spans more than just a single day! In Barbados, numerous traditional events occur before the road march. Explore a variety of events, from parties to cultural gatherings, which contribute to the unique charm of Barbados’s carnival!

7. Social Media channels to follow

Follow the most important Social Media channels to be in the know

Here is a quick list of Social Media channels to follow for carnival season in Kingston 2024

Bands

Aura

Baje

Colorz Entertainment

Envy Mas

Kontact Barbardos

Krave the band

Xhosa Barbados

Zulu International

Events:

Ceasar’s Army

Carnival in Kingston, Jamaica 2023
Man playing steel pan

8. Learn Caribbean carnival culture

Historical Origins of Crop-Over in Barbados

The Crop Over Festival in Barbados has a rich history dating back to the 18th century when the island was one of the world’s leading sugar producers. Originally known as “Harvest Home,” the festival was a time for plantation owners and enslaved people alike to celebrate the culmination of the sugar cane harvest. It was a period of feasting, music, dancing, and cultural expression.

After the decline of the sugar industry in the mid-20th century, the Crop Over Festival fell into obscurity but was revived in the 1970s as a way to celebrate and preserve Barbadian culture. Since then, the festival has grown into a major event on the island’s calendar, spanning several months from June to August.

Today, the Crop Over Festival is a colorful and vibrant celebration of Barbadian heritage, featuring a wide range of events including calypso competitions, soca parties, art exhibitions, craft markets, and of course, the grand finale known as Grand Kadooment Day. 

The Crop Over Festival not only honors Barbados’ agricultural roots but also serves as a symbol of resilience, creativity, and unity, bringing together locals and visitors alike to revel in the island’s rich cultural heritage.

9. Learn the carnival slang

Mas: Derived from “masquerade,” it denotes the practice of donning elaborate costumes and joining the Carnival parade.

Fete: An energetic gathering or social affair featuring music, dancing, and culinary delights, often a highlight of pre-Carnival festivities.

J’ouvert: The spirited commencement of Carnival festivities before dawn, characterized by revelers coated in paint, mud, or oil, reveling in the streets.

Soca: A lively genre of Caribbean music renowned for its infectious rhythms and upbeat tempo, closely associated with Carnival celebrations.

Calypso: A traditional Caribbean music style distinguished by its witty and humorous lyrics, frequently showcased during Carnival.

Mas Band: A collective of participants adorned in coordinated costumes, performing together during the Carnival parade.

Costume Designer: An individual or team responsible for crafting the intricate and vibrant costumes worn by Carnival participants.

Road March: The principal procession during Carnival, featuring mas bands and celebrants parading through the streets, dancing to soca music.

Me at carnival in Jamaica
me at Jamaica's carnival in Kingston wearing an Xodus costume

10. What to pack for a carnival in Barbados

With your costumes, a delightful goodie bag awaits, filled with various small essentials to enhance your comfort during your exhilarating day on the road. You’ll find everything you need from deodorant to chewing gum, snacks, and even a handy vanity bag. However, for a truly seamless Carnival experience, make sure to pack these must-haves:

1. Sturdy and comfortable footwear: Be prepared for plenty of dancing, walking, and unrestrained revelry!

2. Sweat-resistant sunscreen: The sun in Kingston can be relentless, so don’t forget to bring a compact, travel-sized bottle to keep your skin protected on the road.

3. Hair and makeup: If you don’t have a friend with expert carnival makeup skills, treat yourself to a professional appointment for hair and makeup. You’re already investing in the Carnival experience, so go all out and pamper yourself!

4. Nipple pasties: Opt for comfortable, reliable nipple pasties to ensure a worry-free day.

5. Body powder or glitter: Add some extra sparkle and flair to your Carnival look with body powder or glitter, and you’ll shine even brighter in the festivities.

11. Get ready for the road

I hope you’ve had a chance to recover from the Pre-Parties on Saturday night and are now geared up for the journey ahead! The road marches typically kick off early in the morning, so anticipate some traffic as you make your way there.

On the morning of the road march, gather with your friends, indulge in a delightful breakfast together, and commence the thrilling ritual of getting carnival-ready.

Carnival makeup and styling can be intricate, so if you’re not adept at doing it yourself, consider scheduling an appointment at a Glam Hub well in advance. This way, you can ensure you look and feel your best for the festivities ahead!

me getting ready for jamaica carnival

Practical travel tips for Barbados

Which language is spoken in Barbados?

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The official language spoken in Barbados is English.

What is the currency in Barbados?

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The currency used in Barbados is the Barbadian dollar, abbreviated as BBD or B$.

What is the best time to travel to Barbados?

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The best time to travel to Barbados depends on your preferences and priorities. However, the most popular time to visit is during the dry season, which typically runs from December to April. During these months, the weather is generally sunny and dry, with lower humidity and less chance of rain. This period coincides with the peak tourist season, so you can expect higher prices for accommodations and attractions.

If you prefer to avoid the crowds and don't mind the possibility of some rain, you might consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of May to June or November. During these months, the weather is still pleasant, and you may find better deals on accommodations and activities.

It's essential to keep in mind that Barbados is a tropical destination, so even during the rainy season (typically from June to October), you can still experience plenty of sunshine and enjoy your trip. However, there is a higher chance of rain and the possibility of hurricanes, especially from August to October.

Is Barbados safe for travelers?

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Barbados is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The island has a relatively low crime rate compared to other Caribbean countries.

Public Transport in Barbados

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Getting around Barbados by public transport is relatively easy and affordable. Here are the main options:

  1. ZRs (Zed-Rs): These are privately owned minivans that operate along fixed routes across the island. They are the most common form of public transportation and can be flagged down from the roadside. ZRs typically have a fixed fare, and you pay when you get off. They can be crowded but are a convenient way to travel short distances.
  2. Buses: The Barbados Transport Board operates a public bus service covering most areas of the island. Buses are larger than ZRs and are a more comfortable option for longer journeys. They also have fixed routes and fares, which are generally cheaper than ZRs. You can find bus schedules and routes online or at bus terminals.
  3. Taxis: Taxis are available throughout Barbados and can be hailed from the roadside or found at taxi stands. They are more expensive than ZRs and buses but offer a convenient and comfortable option, especially for shorter trips or when traveling at night.

Can I drink tap water in Jamaica?

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Even though Jamaica is considered a third-world country, it provides the best water quality in the region. You are, therefore, safe to drink tap water. This is especially true in the cities. However, if it makes you feel uneasy, bring a water purifier.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

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Tourism leakage: Jamaica is a tropical paradise that's adored by tourists worldwide, but it has a problem that's hidden from sight - tourism leakage. This phenomenon refers to the loss of revenue that occurs when international hotel chains capture a large chunk of tourist dollars, leaving very little money behind to benefit the local economy. If you're among the millions of visitors who flock to Jamaica every year, there's a simple way to help mitigate the effects of tourism leakage: support Jamaican-owned hotels, shops, and restaurants. By doing so, you can put your money where your heart is - and give the people of Jamaica a chance to thrive. So don't be shy about seeking out local businesses on your next vacation. Your decision to keep tourism dollars within Jamaica could make a world of difference.

Beach access

While Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, there have been some issues with access to these public spaces. In recent years, many resorts and private properties have restricted access to certain parts of the beach, making it incredibly difficult for locals to maintain their life and right to the sea. Support public beaches and say no to all-inclusive tourism!

Trash

Make sure to bring a foldable food container and cutlery with you! The amount of waste caused by food sold on the street is incredible.

Sunscreen

Make sure to protect Jamaica's marine life and bring reef-friendly sunscreen!

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Caribbean

As you see, there are plenty of things to experience in Jamaica. To come fully prepared, check out my packing list for Jamaica, which includes everything from eco-friendly toiletries to sustainable fashion and even the coolest travel gadgets!

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Carnival glossary

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