Passista Copyright © Douglas Engle

Carnival passista. Photo copyright© Douglas Engle

Sambódromo is serious business; This is where the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro try to out perform each other every year. The competition is held in an arena called Sambódromo and tens of thousands spectators watch up to 4500 participants of each school trying to win the favour of the judges. Categories like theme song, drum section and coordination is what is taken in to consideration.

The Competition in Sambódromo

The schools that try to win promotion from Grupo de Acesso (second division) will walk on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday is for the 12 best in Grupo Especial (first division). The results are announced on Carnival Wednesday, the winner of Grupo de Acesso wins promotion and the school that ends up last in Grupo Especial gets relegated. On the Saturday after Carnival the 5 best schools parade together with the promoted school from Grupo de Acesso.

All over Brazil

This whole event is followed all over Brazil with much passion, I have read that it is common with verbal fights between supporters from the different schools in other parts of the country. Although there are competitions like this all over Brazil the one in Rio de Janeiro is the most prestigious. The winner 2016 was Mangueira.

The Best Seats

To go and see the event in place is for sure worthwhile, the prices for the best seats are high though. Sambódromo is divided into various sections as you can see below, the sections 12 and 13 are offered for really low prices since that’s after the finish line. A reformation finished for the Carnival 2012 have expanded the number of seats, note that the old section numbers does not apply (the new ones you have on the map further down on this page). The prices vary, sector 9 is the most pricey. In my view; sector 10 are more affordable but still pretty good. Other options are in so called camarotes and table seatings, they are ranging from pricey to insane. Tickets for the Grupo de Acesso and the Winner’s Parade are cheaper.

Sambódromo Map

The official Sambodrómo map as of 2012


The tickets are sold beforehand, it’s not recommendable to buy through agencies abroad since a lot is added on top; Just before Carnival you can get tickets in hotels, hostels and travel agents all over Rio. Online sales through some sites also offer quite cheap tickets like on If you are willing to take your chances you can wait until midnight on Sunday or Monday and try to make bargains on the black market, command of Portuguese and a good eye for scoundrels are two good companions in this case. If you already have your ticket getting there early (around 6 PM) to get good seats is a good idea (they are not numbered). Bring a pillow for your tush. The parade starts around 9 PM and goes on into the morning next day. Getting to Sambódromo is best by subway or in a taxi. Mind that there are lots of robberies around Carnival and the area surrounding the stadium is a bit dodgy.




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