We are just over 5 months away from Jamaica Carnival! The band launches are right round the corner, so you better get planning as soon as possible.
Though I am in the midst of my planning for Trinidad Carnival, Jamaica Carnival is quickly approaching and I am a queen of saving money so that means planning early. The first band launch is TONIGHT with two more in succeeding weekends. Typically after the bands launch, demand spikes and so do accommodation rates and flight fares.
Unlike Trinidad Carnival, you don't have to sell an arm and a leg for this experience, however the word has certainly spread about my beloved Jamaica Carnival, so it is not as affordable (relatively) as it used to be.
For those who dislike planning and would rather not have the hassle, may I do a hard plug of my company: FestiHopp. Check us out! 🎉
If you would rather put your planning skills to the test, read on.
CARNIVAL: APRIL 28, 2018
PRIME DATES: APRIL 24, 2018 - APRIL 30, 2018
WHERE TO FLY
Jamaica has two airports, so be sure you fly into the right one to minimize the duration of your journey. Jamaica Carnival occurs in Kingston, so it is more convenient to fly into Norman Manley International Airport (KIN). Fares are as low as $350 departing from Fort Lauderdale, FL, and can increase to as much as $850 the longer you delay. Book your flight NOW.
WHERE TO STAY
The main events take place in Kingston so that's where you want to stay. You can go the hotel route or if you are feeling more adventurous - and frankly, if hotels are sold out - there are plenty of great Airbnb options to choose from.
Popular hotels in New Kingston include:
Their rates range from $135 to $250 per night.
if you want to find an Airbnb, I've had luck in the following neighborhoods: Mona, Manor Park, Norbrook, Liguanea, Constant Spring, Cherry Gardens, New Kingston and Barbican.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Finding a private driver in Jamaica can prove challenging if you have no ground connections. If you have connections, arrange a set rate for the duration of your stay.
On Time Taxi and Island Rentals offer a chauffeur service that charges by the day, with the rate depending on the type of vehicle and number of people in your party. There are overage charges if you use the services beyond the maximum number of daily hours. Suffice to say, it can get expensive.
Regular taxi services also work, and I would recommend using the same driver and arranging pickups and dropoffs in advance.
Another option is to rent a car. Economy cars are going for $300 for the week. If you are going with a group, this might be a worthwhile option but make sure you are comfortable driving in foreign countries, especially in the Caribbean.
HOW TO FETE
The list of Jamaican parties during carnival continues to grow each year. I am curious to see if there are any new offerings for next year's carnival. Popular events include Jamaican staples: Sunrise breakfast party, Frenchmen events, I Love Soca & Afloat. And several Trinidadian fete promoters and brands have made a name for themselves in Jamaica, such as Caesar's Army, Tribe, Candy Coated and DJ Private Ryan.
Prices for tickets range from $50 to $125. Get your fete lists and coins ready because when party tickets drop, it’s a battle. Some of the popular parties do sell out quickly.
Look out for my Jamaica Party List at the end of November.
HOW TO PLAY MAS
Jamaica has 3 all-inclusive carnival bands:
I will post costumes and registration details as soon as the bands launch so stay tuned! However, each band provides good service, with some aspects more stellar than others. I am partial to Xaymaca International because my experience was amazing - you can read my 2018 review. Female costumes typically range from $400 to $1100. Men's costume prices average at $500. There are also T-shirt sections if you want the road experience for less and they typically start at $250.
Have your deposit ready and lock in your favorite costume before it sells out!
GET IN SHAPE
You have 169 days to get your fitness level up. Carnival is for those who can endure staying on their feet for hours and dancing in the streets for miles and miles.
(BASED ON A 2-PERSON TRIP; COSTS ARE FOR EACH PERSON)
Accommodations: $200 - $800
Flight: $400 - $700
Transportation: $150 - $300
Fetes: $300 - $500
Costume: $400 - $1100
Spending Money: $250 - $500
TOTAL: $1,700 - $3,900
Happy planning and see you on the road!