Notting Hill Carnival Survival Guide

August Bank Holiday in London and it was PARTY TIME!!! For the year and a half I have been living in London I have learnt that this city knows how to party!

It was around this time last year that I had come back from my 3 weeks of travel  (“no sleep, more food, more beer”  My darling flat mates, Picasso and his partner had told me about the Notting Hill Carnival. (Followers of the blog will know that my dearest picasso doesn’t always make sense) The conversation went like this:

Picasso: Hey Bec, you should come to Notting Hill Carnival with us, want to come?
Me: Yeh sure, I’m up for it… What is it?
Picasso: Oh, Well you shouldn’t go there… you will get stabbed and shot!

(WTF, why would you tell me I should come somewhere, then tell me I will get killed… why would this place even be an option)

Going to advice from Picasso’s partner
Me: Picasso asked me to come to the Notting Hill Carnival but then told me I will get stabbed and shot (both at the same time?) What is this Notting Hill Carnival?

Needed to say all he could do was roll his eyes

So what is this Notting Hill Carnival you speak of? It is the UK’s, nein, Europe’s biggest street festival/carnival. The streets of West London (The Notting Hill area – go figure) are transformed into a giant party for 3 whole days over the bank holiday, the roads are closed for huge trucks to slowly drive by with enormous speakers and music of all kinds, followed by colourful costumes that the most creative eye could not imagine, and as the smells of Caribbean food fill your nose and the music fill your ears, your feet will be transformed into dancing machines, and I wont lie, you’re hands will turn into drinking/smoking machines!

Loud enough?

Notting hill Carnival was started by the Caribbean community of the Notting hill area and as it grew instead of stopping the craziness, the police went with it. It has turned into a huge tradition and lets just hope it never stops!

So what is this stabbing and shooting you speak of? Well yes I could say people were “over warning me”, but truth be told, if you put thousands of people in the streets with booze, trouble is bound to break loose somewhere. But would that stop you from heading to Rio for carnival? well if it does, (head to London for carnival – jokes) if it does, then perhaps a big carnival is not your thing, it definitely was mine though!

Notting Hill Carnival

Lets be honest, we are all adults here. It’s normal for things to get a little messy in parties such as this, and since I’m a professional I wont go on about my doings that weekend (mostly because  I cant remember the details) but I will go on with a few Carnival survival tips and must do’s to help you make the most of this years Notting Hill Carnival. (Don’t say I never do anything for you).

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #1 – Footwear

DO NOT! I REPEAT DO NOT wear heels or open toed shoes (common sense??…. not so much)

Some silly people (yes I am talking about myself) will wake up for Monday’s Carnival still drunk from the Sunday’s Carnival and just pop on their favourite thongs (flip flops) to do it all over again, they WILL end up with glass in their feet. Cant say I ever wore heels to such an event though I have seen it and wouldn’t recommend it, you will be walking and dancing all day. For god sakes man, wear the right shoes!

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #2 – Supplies

Be prepared, stock up on “supplies” before hitting the area £14 for a tiny flask for bells whiskey is the off licence “carnival price” and an hour wait in sainsburys is “carnival queue” you are wasting precious party time and money. Stock Up!!!

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #3 – Location, Location, Location

DO NOT get off the tube at Notting Hill! Get off before hand and do the short walk, its fun, it gets you into the spirit! buy a whistle or horn and make some noise! Just trying to get on the tubes was hard enough. They generally close the tube at Notting Hill anyway. To be honest, I don’t like getting on a crowded tube ride on a normal day, such a weekend as this will quadripal the pain, just be prepared and know what to expect.

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #4 – Crowds

On that note, be prepared for crowds, its a busy party and the crowds will be drunk, if traveling with friends (DO go with friends) hold hands in the crowds and look after each other. (Sorry to sound like your 5th grade teacher)

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #5 - Theft

And on that note, where there is crowds there will be pick pockerters, this is not an over warning,  dont take anything you dont want to loose (hence my lack of photos)

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #6 – The Fuzz

Respect the police, let them have a good time too (no i dont mean bump and grind on them) give them a smile and perhaps a chat (not so much a drunk chat) I have seen some of them having a great time there, but they are obviously there to do their job. I will never forget my first time I saw PIcasso light a joint on the street as the line of police literally just marched by! SWEET!

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #7 – The Food

Do eat as much jerk chicken as possible.. that shit is good!! Get in on the BBQ’s and smell the smell!

Not so cheap though £6 for this baby on Sunday  (but it was worth it)

£8 for the jerk chicken on Monday (I bet that was “drunk, hungry tourist price”)

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #8 – The Kids

Sunday is family day, if you don’t like children, go on Monday.
Monday is Crazy!!! if you don’t like Crazy, go on Sunday.
Or do as I did and go both!

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #9 – Map

Do get a map and walk around, you want to see as much as your stubbling excited feet can show you

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #10 – Toilet Paper

Do take a toilet role and coinage change, many people live around the area and make some extra cash by hiring out their toilets. Go the second you think you may need to go as the line is always long.

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #11 – Costumes

Do enjoy the costumes, they are the best part and dance with them and the trucks.

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #12 – Massive Street Party

Do expect to see people partying on ALL areas of the streets!

Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #13 – The Chocolate People

The chocolate people (that was not a racist statement) there is a section of carnival (I cant remember where but you will see them coming) where everyone is covered in Chocolate and they will, splatter you. DONT SHOW FEAR! They will hug you, bump and grind you, throw chocolate on you… be prepared to avoid or be covered.


Notting Hill Carnival Survival Tip #14 – After Party

Keep the party going and after party!!! Carnival starts early, about 9am and stops at about 6pm, if you have done the job right, your going to want to keep going. “a party is not a party, without an after party”

Have you been to Notting Hill Carnival? Would you go? Would love to hear your stories and thoughts on this crazy event.

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