How to ensure you have a great time at Notting Hill carnival – tips and tricks

This coming weekend is the annual Notting Hill Carnival, a staple in the London social scene. Revel in exciting parades, live music, dancing and delicious Caribbean food in the streets of Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. If you’ve never been before, it’s a truly wonderful experience and I’ve got a list of things to do that will ensure you have a great time at Carnival!

Pure Paw Paw for Notting Hill Carnival

Arrive early

While you may be keen to enjoy a Bank Holiday lie in, it is a good idea to try and get to Notting Hill Carnival as early as possible. The parades begin at 9.30am on both the Sunday and Monday, and with around two million people flocking to the streets for carnival every year, it is better to try and arrive before all the crowds, especially if you want to stand in a specific area to enjoy the parades.

Protect your belongings

With so many people attending Carnival every year, it is essential that you try to protect your belongings as much as possible. If you are going to take a camera or phone then consider wearing a bum bag so that you can keep a close eye on these. It is also a good idea to insure these items. An app that allows you to quickly insure common electronic items is Trov, which offers protection for items such as mobile phones, and cameras, allowing users to turn insurance on and off with a simple swipe within the app.

Embrace the culture

The key to enjoying carnival is to embrace the experience and culture around you. Notting Hill Carnival is not only Europe’s largest street festival, it is an incredible celebration of Caribbean history and culture. Embrace this and spend the day listening to Caribbean-influenced music from reggae, calypso, soul, drum ‘n’ bass, and more.
One of the best ways to experience carnival is to follow a float, as this will ensure that you follow the organised route and see everything on offer. Consider positioning yourself (at least for a short time), nearby one of the dedicated sound systems. Each one plays a different type of music and you can look in advance at where each sound system will be located. Finally, be sure to try the classic meals of the day, including jerk chicken, goat curry and corn on the cob, which you will find being sold on almost every street corner.

Wear comfortable shoes

If you want to make the most of your carnival experience, then be sure to wear appropriate footwear. The parade stretches throughout Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill and is around 3.5 miles long. Given this, if you want to make the most of your carnival experience, it is advisable to pick comfort above anything else when it comes to choosing your footwear for the day.

Only pack essentials

The last thing you want when you go to Carnival is a large bag. So many people attend the festivities, that you often find yourself dancing and walking in very close proximity to other people, having a large bag will not only likely hinder your own enjoyment of the event, but may also annoy the people around you – Nobody wants a huge rucksack in their face or dancing space!
Despite this, there are some essentials that you should try to pack. One thing you should consider taking is a whistle. This may help you to find the rest of your party should you end up seperated in the crowd. It is also a good idea to take tissues and wet wipes, which are bound to come in use, especially if you take part in Chocolate Nation Mas, a part of Carnival in which people cover themselves in chocolate. Finally, be sure to take a bottle of water so that you can stay refreshed.

Meet your friends beforehand

If you are planning to attend Notting Hill Carnival with a group of people, then it is advisable to meet your group beforehand, well away from the area. Even if you make plans to meet on a specific road during Carnival, the amount of people lining the streets, makes it virtually impossible to locate people. Instead, arrange to meet outside of Notting Hill and then all travel in together.

Bring cash

It is a good idea to ensure that you take cash to Notting Hill Carnival. At some point in the day you will likely want to try some of the tasty Caribbean food from the stalls, and while some places may take card, it is better to be prepared with cash. Like any festival, you may have difficulty locating a nearby cashpoint, and when you do there is likely to be a long queue. Taking cash out beforehand ensures that you don’t have to waste any time queueing or trying to locate a cash point. Additionally, while more portable toilets have been installed this year, you may find yourself queuing to use a local resident’s toilet, which normally incurs a small charge.

Plan ahead

In order to cater for the parade and number of people flocking to the area, local tube stations and roads are normally closed, meaning that it is advisable to plan how you are travelling to Carnival in advance. Be sure to download an app such as Citymapper which will enable you to map out your route according to the latest travel news. It is also a good idea to download the official Notting Hill Carnival App  which will provide you with information from organisers, as well as a live interactive map so that you don’t get lost.


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