The most popular party in Brazil is, without a doubt, Carnival. Brazilians prepare a whole year for this, since this is more or less the national party. And Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is like the Champions League of carnival parties in the country. Together with Salvador, that is generally more popular by Brazilians. Millions of people flood the streets for the so-called blocos, street parties, and of course the famous parade in the Sambódromo. Five days of craziness, a complete mayhem, where all rules seem to disappear. Just one big orgasm of happiness, emotions, passion and partying. To get you through these days in the best way and enjoy it like a real local, here’s the Ultimate Guide for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
What to wear during Carnival in Rio?
The big question in preparation of Carnival, of course, is: what to wear? A costume is an essential part of the party. Some cariocas prepare the whole year to get an exclusive costume or buy clothes in other countries to get a different look. But there are lot of options in Rio de Janeiro as well. The best place to buy a costume (or fantasia, in Portuguese) is in the old city center, a place called Saara.
This is near the metro station Uruguaiana and it is full of shops that sell all kinds of clothes. Keep in mind that around Carnival it will be pretty busy there. So bring some patience with you. If you don’t feel like making the trip to get some clothes, you can also try to buy stuff from the many street vendors. Make sure to negotiate the price. In Copacabana you will find them on every corner. Best is to wear as less as possible, while still having a recognizable costume. Remember it probably will be pretty hot during the day, so you don’t want to be covered in a lot of clothes.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a party that attracts millions of people. There are street parties, like Bola Preta, that have over a million participants. You can imagine that there will be a lot of pickpocketers looking for your belongings. That is why you need to prepare yourself to stay safe in Rio and avoid any bad situations. First, it is good to have a little bag to put around your waste to put like 200 reais, maybe a debit card (not credit, since you can pay anywhere with debit as well — also international debit cards), your phone and keys to your house or apartment. Don’t take anything you don’t need. Get a copy of your ID, but never bring the original one. Don’t use normal bags, neck purses or backpacks.
Second is to remove all your jewelry, watches or other unnecessary accessories — unless they are cheap and part of your costume. If you want to take a picture with your phone, always make sure you are aware of the things going on around you. If you see a couple of guys sneaking in on you, put your phone away and forget about the picture. In case you get threatened to give your belongings, always give your stuff. It can be a good idea to change your expensive iPhone for a cheap phone that you don’t care about that much.
To avoid an empty phone battery, it can be a good idea to bring a power bank with you to always have an extra battery with you. This way you will always be able to communicate with friends or family if necessary.
The best way to transport yourself during Carnival is with the metro and your legs. Everything else, from a bike to taxi or Uber to a bus, is exposed to the unexpected street party that makes you wait for at least half an hour before you can continue your trip. Besides the unexpected parties, big parts of the city are closed for traffic, so you won’t be able to get close to the parties anyways. An exception are the parties in Santa Teresa. Since there is no metro to get you up on the hill (from metro station Gloria it is a 20 minutes walk to get to the center of the neighborhood), best is to go by taxi or Uber. Get there early and you won’t have any issues with people getting in front of your car.
How to survive the heat?
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro takes place in the middle of the summer, so be prepared for some high temperatures and a lot of sun. One of the reasons why early morning blocos and late night street parties are so popular is because the sun is not bothering you. But during the day it is important to hydrate yourself (on the right moments, see the last tip) and make sure you have a lot of sunscreen on you. It would be good to take some with you because if you are not used to the sun you can get sunburned fast. A hat is not a bad idea either, make sure it is part of your costume! Another tip is to look for places in the shade, to take a breather of the hot sun.
Where to go if you are tired of all the parties?
After a few of days of partying it can happen you get tired of all these drunk people, smell of pee everywhere and this enormously full beaches. If you want to escape the chaos of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, just go to one of the beaches that are located out of the touristic southern zone. Here you’ll find the best beaches in the city, for a taste of calmness.
Last tip: peeing
There are some things that make surviving Carnival a real challenge. One of them is going to the toilet. This is a real challenge. There are thousands of chemical toilets at the parties, but there is always more people that have to pee then there are toilets available. So this means long lines, precious party minutes lost and, even worse, you’ll be going crazy holding your pee. For men, it is a bit easier than for women. Even though it is forbidden to pee in public, you’ll find hundreds of people (mostly men) doing it anyways. You can get fined though — around R$500.
If you are joining a street party near the beach, you can take a dive and do it in the ocean, but in all the other cases here is some advice to avoid the huge lines and the trouble of peeing. First, make sure you leave the house empty: go to the toilet before hitting the streets! Try not to drink fast during the bloco. A bloco normally lasts a couple of hours, then you’ll go for a break and join another street party. During this break, you can go to a restaurant or find a quiet place to release the pressure. When drinking at the bloco, forget about water and beer. Only drink vodka or caipirinha, you’ll drink slower and you’ll pee less.
There are two types of parties during the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The first one is visiting the Sambódromo to see the samba schools parade. Four days of beautiful colors, thousands of people joining the parade and around 80 thousand people watching in the stadium. It is the perfect way to experience the love that Brazilians have for their beloved Carnival. You can buy tickets through your hotel or through agencies. Or you can send us an email to arrange it for you. This year we also have a unique offfer for you: you can participate in the parade yourself!
The second type of party are the blocos, the street parties. There are almost 500 of them and they take place all over the city. Make sure you don’t miss out on those.
Some more Tips for Carnival
Most of the ATM machines run out of money on the Saturday or the Sunday. Make sure you have enough to last you until Wednesday when they open again. Then, arranging everything through a hotel is safe, but also expensive. Comparing prices with a travel agent is advisable. And last but not least, most all Brazilians you meet will say that prices are way too expensive. Don’t worry, it’s a cultural characteristic.
One other thing, the pre-carnival parties in Rio are considered by the cariocas as better and more fun. Obviously there are less people and because most of them are locals, the tend to be safer as well. Keep an eye on our Instagram-account for updates about the pre-carnival and carnival parties in our stories. Follow us here.
And if this is your first time in Rio, then read this article to see what else you should do in the city outside the partying.