Guide to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
Even for the well-travelled, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a truly unique experience. From tropical beaches to urban landscapes, soulful live music to dancing in the streets, Rio offers something to whet everyone’s appetite. It has been a Bucket List Travel Destination for decades and will undoubtedly stay in your holiday memories for a lifetime. Carnival encourages you to indulge in all of your senses. From astounding colors to soft sand, local instruments to fragrant sounds, the richness of the traditions to the warmth of the people. Welcome to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro!
Frequently Asked Questions Explained
- What is Carnival?
- Where do I Start?
- Where Should I Stay?
- What do I Need to Know?
- Can I do Carnival on a Budget?
- What Time of Day is Carnival?
- What do I Wear?
- Carnival Ticket Options?
- How do I get to the Sambodrome Carnival Parade?
- What is a “BLOCO” Street Party?
What is Carnival?
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a 24hr a day, 5 day celebration of joy. Basically, all of Brazil shuts down to sing, drink. dance and kiss! The fun of Rio de Janeiro Carnival is to get dressed up in a simple costume [because the weather is hot and you will walk a lot], go to the organized street parties “Blocos” and spend 1 night at the Sambodrome Stadium to see the World-Famous Parade. The majority of museums, attractions and shops are closed for the duration of Carnival, but some restaurants and markets will be open.
Where do I Start?
- Make sure you have your Brazilian Tourist Visa ex. USA, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Africa & more
- Book Accommodation Most accommodation has a 3-5day minimum stay during Carnival & sells out early
- Purchase Samba Parade Tickets for 1 Night
- Plan which Street Parties “Blocos” you will attend.
- Gather Costume Accessories to bring to wear during the Street Parties
Where Should I Stay?
We wrote this Guide to Carnival in Rio because this was the number 1 query we received! There are “Blocos” all over the city but the Sambodrome is in Downtown. However, we recommend staying in Copacabana or Ipanema. Why? First off, the majority of restaurants will be open here, so if you want to regroup, grab a bite and take a moment off from the festivities, you can do so. Secondly, while you can easily enjoy a stress-free Carnival, these neighborhoods have more security and better tourist infrastructure including easy access to the metro [which will be vital during Carnival as taxis are hard to come by]. And last but not least, this is where the beach is. After long hot days, it is such a pleasure to cool off in the ocean.
What do I Need to Know about Carnival in Rio?
The majority of the city will be closed during the 5 days of Carnival ie. banks [not ATMs], shops, some museums and other points of interest. If you really want to get to know Rio, Carnival is not the ideal time to do so because the city is focused only on 1 thing: Carnival. You can still visit the major attractions such as Christ the Redeemer & Sugarloaf, just be prepared to wait in long lines unless you book a tour with an official guide. Some restaurants and markets will be open to fuel up and get your supplies. Drinks can also be bought in the streets as well as street food.
Can I do Carnival on a Budget?
Unless you like to plan 6 months in advance and sleep in multi-bed hostel rooms, Carnival is nearly impossible to attend on a budget. It is the 2nd most attended even in Brazil alongside New Year’s Eve. But bear in mind, this is a BUCKET LIST experience and is well worth paying a bit extra for the memory, ease and safety of your trip. Remember, most people do not speak English and there are many false companies selling fake tickets and accommodation that does not exist. If you end up cutting corners on costs in the planning stages, it could end up costing you more during your trip. Do your research and consult the aide of a trust worthy company.
What Time of Day is Carnival?
Carnival technically occurs 24 hours a day. Most of the “Blocos” are scheduled from 6am to 8pm. Of course there are some that spontaneously start later, but the Street Parties are normally a daytime event. The Carnival Parade at the Sambodrome starts around 10 or 11pm and ends around 6 or 7am. The Parade is a nighttime only event.
What do I Wear to Carnival?
As little as possible. Carnival always takes place during Brazilian Summer, so expect temperatures around 100°F [40°C]. Overall you must be comfortable, as you will be walking a lot. Closed-toe shoes are recommended, if possible, as there is a lot of broken glass in the street left over from the Street Parties. Many women ask us where to buy the traditional Carnival Parade costumes with the feathers, glitter and head pieces. Those are usually reserved only for the parade participants themselves, such as the Samba Queens. For street parties, costumes are often humor or irony based [such as cross dressing], whimsical [full of glitter and tutus] or classic ones made for tropical weather [such as a nurse with a red bikini top and a stethoscope].
How do I get to the Sambodrome Carnival Parade?
Your guide to Carnival in Rio would not be complete without a trip to watch the parade! Uber and Taxis are nearly impossible during carnival. And while it is possible, it is very complicated to take the metro because it is far from the parade and not in an area you want to get lost in. Round-Trip Transport is available from major hotels in Barra, Ipanema, Copacabana & Botafogo to the Sambodrome. This MUST be purchased in advance. Those who sell Tickets will also sell Transport.
How Carnival Transport Works
I. Receive the list of hotel pick-up locations
II. Choose from the 3 pick-up times available
III. Transfer to Carnival Parade
IV. To Return: Transport will leave after every group that performs beginning after the 2nd group finishes. You can decide the day of, whenever you would like to leave.
What is a “BLOCO” Street Party?
Blocos are the street parties that take place throughout Rio de Janeiro [Santa Teresa, Centro, Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca, Ipanema, Leblon, Copacabana & Gavea]. Some Blocos are organized and have a specific meeting time and place, while other underground ones are privy only to those “in the know”. Come in a costume or fancy dress, that does not have to be professional but shows that you are embracing the spirit of fantasy and ready to participate. You have both traditional and themed Blocos. A traditional Bloco involves a large band that often starts in a specific location and travels across several streets as the party of followers dance behind them. Theme Blocos play a popular genre of music played in the rhythm of Carnival. For example there is “New Kids on the Bloco”, a 90s music themed party where songs from that decade are played in Carnival style. Some parties also have a costume theme. For example “Amiga da Onça” which literally translates to Friend of the Leopard, so as you have probably guessed everyone comes dressed in Leopard. The official list of Blocos will be released close to Carnival with the specific dates, times and locations. Be aware that some of the most famous Blocos attract over 1 million people and tend to loose the essence of the Spirit Carnival. We recommend asking a local about the smaller parties that may or may not be advertised to truly experience the joy of Carnival.
If you would like to make a reservation or get more info, please feel free to contact Lauren directly: firstname.lastname@example.org