Bedazzled samba dancers parade through the streets, drunken revellers party until the early hours, vendors throw sweet caipirinhas into heaving crowds and a mass of beautiful people dance and sing their way late into the hot summer nights. If you haven’t heard of Rio Carnival, let me introduce you…
Carnival is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil, but the festivities in Salvador and Rio de Janiero are the biggest and best. Rio is vibrant and exotic and its Carnival is a weeklong parade with sounds and colors turned all the way up. Most foreigners think of Rio when they think of Carnival and it’s no wonder why.
So what actually happens during Carnival?
Quite a lot, actually….
Bloccos are the block parties that cover the city streets, happening simultaneously in every neighborhood, all day, every day, for a week. Bloccos are, in a word, crazy.
Live bands play whilst hundred of thousands of people gather to drink and dance. It ends with the masses parading around with the band. So whether you plan to actually attend one of these or just wander about, you’ll be hitting these every few blocks.
This is the people’s Carnival – the free street celebration where you can wear whatever, drink whatever, do whatever and there are no rules. Anyone can be a part of it – this is what Carnival is all about!
The nightly parades at the Sambodrome are the ultimate Rio Carnival tradition and its claim to fame. Samba schools perform here, which are large dance teams that come from different neighbourhoods throughout the city. They have hundreds of people in each school, and the best schools are chosen at the end of the week.
We were lucky enough to actually be a part of this parade, and danced our elaborately dressed selves along the 13-block long stadium, while floats with men and women in incredible costumes followed alongside. The parade takes place on each of the 5 nights of Carnival, is completely packed, and doesn’t end until 5am or so.
What You Need to Know to Prepare for Carnival
Rio can be dangerous but if you are sensible and keep your wits about you, you’ll be fine. Stash your cellphone somewhere where you can feel it and take only cash – separate it into a few different pockets. If you are going to watch a parade at the sambadrome, know that it’s not the nicest area and that it can be dangerous at night and on weekends.
During Carnival there will be crowds and lots of police, but always try to stay in a group and be wary.
Don’t let safety put you off for even a second – we didn’t have any problems at all – just be a sensible traveller.
During Carnival, the entire city is completely deadlocked and the streets are closed for parties. Choose your accomodation wisely – book accomodation close to the metro as there is no way you will be able to get to the city centre any other way.
Rio is stinking hot. During Carnival it’s one huge sticky, sweaty party.
Most days are over 35 degrees and sometimes it can be hard to find water. A fun thing about Carnival though is that everywhere you go you’ll see handy unlicensed people making and selling caipirinhas on the streets.
If you want to fit in with the cool kids, you can attach a chilly bin to something with wheels, load it up with ice and drinks and pull it around with you all day!
4. The smell
Public urination is a massive problem during Carnival and it stinks. I probably don’t need to go into much detail about this, but….watch where you walk.
Carnival is rowdy, colourful and completely wild. If it isn’t on your bucket list yet, then it definitely should be.
Off to Carnival? Pin this post for future reference…