Rules for Trinidad Carnival: Yes, These Do Exist!

Group of carnival dancers in costume in Trinidad

Peter Adams/Getty Images

Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago may look like an uninhibited free-for-all, but there's actually a rather long list of Carnival "don't's" that revelers need to adhere to. Here's your guide to enjoying Carnival without running afoul of the law, courtesy of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service:

Along the Carnival band route (where the parade goes through Port of Spain and other Trini towns), the following is prohibited:

  • dressing in military or police uniforms (or the fire or prison service) or any costume that could resemble such a uniform. Also, you cannot drive a vehicle "disguised as a tank, armored police vehicle, a rocket launcher, an artillery, or a ship."
  • wearing a costume that represents any religious deity (though dressing as the Flying Spaghetti Monster is probably OK)
  • throwing any object likely to cause injury or discomfort
  • smearing or daubing and substance on another (presumably this means without permission, or j'ouvert would be pretty boring). It's also unlawful to "offer or attempt or threaten to smear or daub anything on any person in order to intimidate or obtain money or anything of value from such person."
  • carrying an exposed flame or any article of an "offensive" nature 
  • carrying any article capable of causing injury
  • playing in an unregistered orchestra
  • driving or riding in a motor vehicle while masked (other than vehicles licensed to do so, like Carnival sound trucks)
  • singing or reciting any lewd or offensive song
  • indulging in immoral offensive behavior (hard to say what this means, given that "wining" is entirely acceptable)
  • carry or using any flag or coat of arms of any country in a derogatory manner
  • possession of anything resembling a firearm or ammunition

Violations are punishable by fines of up to TT$1,000 or six months in jail.

Also note that you can be charged with assault not only for physical attacks but also for verbal abuse, obscene or violent language, stalking, or insulting or defamatory writing.

Performing while wearing an indecent costume, or dancing in a lewd or suggestive manner, apparently also is against the law. As is being drunk and disorderly in a public place.

Enjoy Carnival, everyone -- but play nice.

Was this page helpful?