Rio Carnival : all you need to know

Rio Carnival : the biggest Carnival on Earth

With just one month to go, it is time to talk about the biggest Carnival on Earth:.Rio Carnival. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro it is not just a carnival is THE CARNIVAL.
Million of people of all around the world gather in the most iconic Brazilian city, to celebrate the extravaganza for the whole Carnival week.
As most of you know, 2018 was an intense year for me as the transition from South America back to Europe. Of course, I couldn't leave South America before stopping at the most desired Carnival ever.
In fact, last year I finally got the chance to join million of people for the Carnival celebration: the best time of my life!
So, here I am, one year after, giving you insider tips on how to best experience the events, stress-free.

 

 

2019  Rio Carnival Dates:

The Rio Carnival dates 2019 are: Fri, 1 Mar 2019 – Sat, 9 Mar 2019.
This is the most relevant week, when you can also visit the Sambodromo Parade, and join the most important street parties. Although you have to know that Brazilian people love to party, and they will start the celebration much earlier than the 1st of March. It is ok, if you are in Rio some days before the official start, as you will already be in the Carnival atmosphere. Also, each year dates change, so always keep an eye on the Internet.

 

 

When to book

The dumpiest question, right? I know. But hey, who is perfect? I sort you out. I was already in Brazil from January last year, so it was easier for me. In case you come from outside Brazil, you must have a clear idea whether to do or not Rio Carnival, as you have to book at least 6 months in advance, both flight, and accommodation.
I am not exaggerating, airfares go seriously high for the Carnival and even hostel will charge you 6th times the normal price.
If you are nomadic or you have flexibility with your job, try to be in Brazil a couple of weeks prior the Carnival, this helps. Mind that also domestic flights are expensive, but definitely not as expensive as to flight to Rio all the way from Tokyo! Also, Brazil is famous for having a good connection by bus, so this can be another option if you are somewhere at not more than 600-700 km away from Rio.
For the best airfare deal look at these websites:
Skyscanner   Priceline   CheapOAir
For Bus connection check on this one :  BuscaOnibus

 

 

Where to Sleep

When you are traveling to a new city, it is difficult to chose in which area find the accommodation. I have listened here a few options that will help you understand which one is the right area to find the accommodation at, based on your needs and expectation.
Here some info:
Lapa and Santa Teresa: for the ones looking to party all day and every day, these are the areas to look at. Both Lapa and Santa Teresa, are very lively and generally the places where Brazilian and travelers mingle together at night to party hard! Also, almost every day of the Carnival week, you will find Blocos party in these streets. Quite central, and easy to reach by underground, and plenty of Bar and Night Clubs (from commercial music to Samba live music).
Copacabana and Ipanema: If you like the idea of joining the street parties but you cannot stay too far from the beach, then choose the "Praia" (beach line). Attention: this area is very glamours but yet one of the most targeted by mini-gang. Be very mindful with your belonging, also daytime, when you hit the beach.
Tijuca: a bit further away from the Carnival buzz. You can decide to sleep here if you prefer to be surrounded by a more chilled atmosphere. Less crowded, less noisy than other areas,  but very close to one of the biggest Park in town. For the nature lover, and for the ones who are into long walks, this is the deal.
Botafogo and Flamengo are a good compromise as you will have street parties twice or 3 times in the week, but not that crazy as it can get Lapa. Also, they are both on the beach line, and here you can venture in less commercial beaches.
Note: if you have the chance to have a friend who lives in Rio, then you win! It helps a lot your bank account and you can experience a local Carnival mood. For the whole week the Metro in Rio works 24/7. Check here on how to move in Rio : MetroRio

 

 

Don't miss the Blocos party

You cannot go to Rio carnival and not join at least a Bloco party once! The Blocos are moving or stationary street parties, you will find all over the week in the most lively departments of the city. As mentioned above Lapa is the area with most parties going on. Literally DJ set, and plenty of kiosk selling alcohol (from local beer to Caipirinha), street food and craziness! Everybody is here to have fun, in every sense. If you are a puritan, it is not probably your place as Brazilians get wild in these parties. It might easily happen that random people ask you to kiss them, or they will hug and dance with you. Of course, if it is against your will they will stop, and if not, make sure to be clear and avoid contact. Generally, people won't pass the line, as everybody is there for fun. But, it is good to know that this can happen. Do not be too upset or shocked as is pretty much in the "Carioca" culture. This does not mean you have to, if you do not want to, just avoid contacts, putting a smile on your face.
As there are many bloco's parties daily in different locations, you can check on these websites,for more info :
Guiadaboa Blocosderua

 

 

The Sambodromo Parade

Every time you see Rio Carnival on the TV, you are most luckily to see scenes played at Sambodromo. The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapuca was specifically built for the Rio parade, where 13 samba schools exhibit with their colorful floats, dancing and singing anthems. Each school decides a theme that can vary from community, peace, love, religions, etc. The floats will reflect the theme and so the people who are part of the floats will be dressed in the same manners. It is a very exciting moment, to see the floats parade between the 2 wings of Sambodromo, something that can leave you without breath, trust me, a memory that you will never forget.
Each year there is a winner, who is voted among the other based on floats, costumes, samba dancer, the theme chosen and overall parade. Each school takes around 60-80 minutes to go from Sector 1 until the end of the aisle of Sambodromo, you can easily see them from the beginning at the very end, most of all if you are seated in the middle.

Nevertheless you can assist the parade, dancing and singing along with the surrendering people, but you can also get the chance to join the parade, with one of the school. Be prepared to wear some very funny outfit (I was a  Coquera - Palm tree). Check on the below website for Carnival packages.

You Wanna see more?? Sure you do : click here MOCIDADE INDIPENDENTE PARADE 2018

 

 

How to Purchase the tickets for Sambodromo Parade

You have a few options on where and when to purchase your ticket. I will try to list here the most relevant, based on everybody pocket :
Rio Carnival.net: is the official website where to purchase the tickets. It is a very trusted website. You can purchase the ticket online, then collecting the ticket at their offices in Rio or get the ticket delivered to your house. Price according to the website. Of course the sooner you buy, the best price you get. I would suggest that you can have a good price until the beginning of January then tickets start to become more expensive.
Liesa Globo: is the association of Samba schools, it is a trusted website and the tickets here are far cheaper. The catch? Well, it is not a straight forward website where to purchase the ticket, and you can encounter problems. For example, over the registration, the website will ask you to enter  the CPF, a code that online Brazilian residents get. In this case, you can still carry on your purchase, but you have to email : atendimento@totalacesso.com.br and get a code for no Brazilians. They won't speak English and times can be very long. If you have patience and you can speak some Portuguese then you can consider to purchase your ticket here. Before the parade, you can collect the ticket at their offices, close to Uruguaiana station. Ok to wait until couple of week before the event to purchase your ticket.
Outside the Sambodromo: yes, this is an option but of course not the most trusted. You will find plenty of guys trying to sell tickets outside the Sambodromo. Some of them might try to sell the ticket at a higher prices than supposed. This because they will understand that you are not local. Mind these people and negotiate: the idea is that the ticket should not cost you more than 30 USD or less. Generally, these are the seats for the first or the last sectors. If you are not brave enough and not confident about your negotiation skills, then avoid this last option.

 

Seating at Sambodromo

If it is your first time visiting the Sambodromo, you will soon wonder what seat to chose. Sambodromo is basically formed by 2 parallel wings, each wing with its own sectors. The sectors go from 1 to 13 and divided in Grandstands, allocated chairs and VIP box.
The cheapest options are the first and final sectors on Grandstands, as you might have less view, but trust me you will still manage to enjoy properly each school. Also, these are the sectors where you are most luckily to encounter local people, the real fun.
The most expensive options are clearly the VIP boxes and allocated seats in Sector 6-7 which are the sectors for the Judges as well. Means that schools will show off a lot in front of these 2 specific sectors.
My suggestion is both Grandstands or allocated seats, at sector 6-7.
For more info on how to chose your seat, click here: "Seating at Sambodromo"

 

Dress to Impress

If there was something I loved about the Carnival was the dressing up! Everybody from kids to adults would wear fancy dresses, wigs, extravagant makeup and lots of glitters! Don't be a geek, this is your time to shine, and nobody is there pointing fingers at you. My favorite outfit was the Unicorn! Big time!

For some Carnival outfits and accessory, go the the shopping street Av. Pres. Vargas outside Uruguaiana Station.

 

 

Safety tips

I know that it is Rio Carnival, and perhaps the only occasion of being there in your entire life, but be very mindful and careful.
As much as I love Rio de Janeiro, we have to consider that there is a high level of criminality. On top of this, the city will be crowded with tourists, which are the main targets when it comes to crime. You can easily be a target, so try to follow these few tips.

  • Do not show off your precious belongings. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, bags or fancy clothes. Also, it is very hot in Rio, you only need a short and flip flop.
  • Do not carry with you lots of cash, just the necessary for the day/night. Do not withdraw money in alleyways or at night.
    Use internal pockets or secrets belly bags, the one that you can wear under your clothes. Everybody sell them in the streets of Rio.
  • Better to leave the mobile in your hotel, but if you really have to carry it with you then try to hide it as better as possible. Do not show it in the middle of a street. Mobiles are the first things that get stolen in Rio.
  • Take a taxi back home in the evening and at night.

 

Last but not least, have fun! You are part of one of the biggest event ever, and you will meet lots of people from everywhere in the world. You will also get into the local Brazilian culture, which is not just Samba, but also many kind of different music, local food, stories and the South American passion.

Happy Carnival !

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