Notting Hill Carnival is officially Europe's biggest street festival, and is probably best known for being the best party weekend on the UK's summer event calendar.
Celebrating London's rich multi-cultural and Caribbean heritage, Notting Hill Carnival is for many people the only Bank Holiday destination, with thousands of Carnival-goers descending on West London every year to emerge themselves in the music, atomosphere, food, and, of course, to catch that famous Notting Hill Carnival parade.
But, before you decide to hit up Notting Hill, there are some essential Carnival tips and tricks to familiarise yourself with before donning those feathers, and chowing down on all the Jerk. Being safe at Notting Hill Carnival is a concern for many Carnical newbies, and the whole Carnival madness can be very overwhelming for those not used to massive crowds.
Local police celebrating Notting Hill Carnival in style
I've been to Notting Hill Carnival a few times myself, and don't mind admitting that I was completely unprepared first time round. Think: getting lost, losing money, all the very worst Carnival scenarios that could happen to one (very clueless) person - that was basically me. Zero lols. Thankfully, I had a friend (see below) that taught how me to navigate the route like a local - and those insider tips are priceless for any future Carnival endevours.
So, I had a chat with my pal Amy Gargya (hardened Carnival goer, and bona fide London diamond) about all things Carnival, and that all-important localised information you need to know before entering the chaos.
Here are Amy's tried and tested top Notting Hill Carnival tips to make your weekend a smasher...
1. First things first:
'Familiarise yourself with the area. W10 is the postcode, so check public transport beforehand - IT WILL BE BUSY. My advice would be to take the tube to the outskirts and walk in towards the parade route. Just follow the crowds. This also applies to the music you want to see. Figure out the parade route/sound systems/stages that take your fancy ahead of time so you aren't wandering around aimlessly.'
'Be smart and get plenty of cash before you get anywhere near West London, and make sure you stock up on portable (cans) booze at your local off licence - prices tend to rise the closer you get into the festivities.'
'Meet buddies beforehand - forget trying to find them there. Also, FYI, mobiles tend not to not work in those big Notting Hill Carnival crowds. Just keep a buddy with you at all times in case you get separated from the group.'
'Carry as little as possible, and nothing of value. When up close and personal navigating those immense crowds, you don't want to be worried about your bag/phone/jewellery etc. Stay safe and alert.'
5. What TO take:
'Packets of tissues, wet wipes, an extra layer for the evening, and (v. important) a map - but think less is more. Take a small backpack or crossbody to keep your hands free for dancing!'
'Wear comfy shoes that you don't mind getting ruined - I lost both big toenails one year!'
'Toilets are a serious issue but keep your eyes peeled. It's cheeky but people charge to use the loos in their house, pubs and bars are also a good option. Just be prepared, you might have to queue.'
8. Don't get caught out:
'Remember, Sunday is family day so is usually a lot quieter than Monday. Also the music shuts off at 7pm so try and join an after party!'
9. Getting home:
'If you want to avoid wandering the streets of West London for hours, plan your journey/train station/route home. And don't even think about driving. You'll never get out.'
10. And finally...
'Make sure you eat all the food! It's awesome! Go with it in all it's splendour. Be safe, be smart and you'll have the best Carnival ever!'