Get out those feathers and sequins because it’s time for one of the biggest parties on Earth - Rio Carnival! This year Rio Carnival will officially start on 24 February and last for four days, but you’ll find the parties, parades, and dances have been going strong for months. For the lucky ones who have tickets to the Sambadrome, or those planning to party at the many free events, here is a guide to making it through one of the craziest, most colourful weeks of your life.
Image:Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
Dance the night (or week) away at one of the blocos
The blocos are the beating heart of Rio Carnival and there isn’t a day that goes by during the festival that one of these street parties isn’t happening. Samba bands set up all over the city in reserved spots and play whirling sambas for hours to delighted and nicely liquored-up crowds of dancers. Often a bloco will move parade-style around the block, so don’t be alarmed when everyone starts dancing down the street. Some blocos have themes and a lot of them have a shirt you can buy to blend in with the jam-packed crowd.
Image: Ben Tavener
Be dazzled at the Sambadrome
The Sambadrome is Rio Carnival’s hottest ticketed event where the city's samba schools battle it out to be named the number one. Considered the birthplace of Samba, the Sambadrome means “the stadium of samba”. During the parades, it’s not just the dancers that wow the crowd but also the elaborate floats, cheeky jesters, fireworks and musicians. With everybody dancing and cheering for their favourite school, it’s something spectacular. The most anticipated parades are on Carnival Sunday and Monday when six out of twelve of the best samba schools will march (and by march, we mean dance!).The champion parade is another fantastic event with just the top six samba schools participating in a gala-style showcase.
The seating in the Sambadrome is organised into sectors, and there is a lot of different price points for all budgets. Seating in the middle or towards the end is considered the best, but it doesn’t matter too much as the party rages on in all sectors! Keep in mind that these tickets sell out quickly. If you miss out, you can still see the performances during open-door rehearsals around the city.
Hot tip: Take a few beginner samba lessons before you go. You will find that a few lessons will help you feel a little less uncoordinated!
Wear an outrageous costume
We hope you have room in your suitcase for an elaborate feathered headpiece because dressing up for Carnival is a must. Men, be prepared to whip out those hairy legs and put on your best pair of gold budgie smugglers. Wearing a dress and a wig is another common costume choice. Whatever you choose, make it bright, bold, and skimpy! Women, now is the time to wear that next-to-nothing jewel encrusted two-piece. Don’t have one of those lying around? Costumes pieces are plentiful in Rio and shopping for something outrageous is half the fun! There is no such thing as 'too much' when it comes to dressing up, and glitter, feathers and fake flowers are all the rage. If you plan to be dancing all night long, be prepared to get a little sweaty; February is a hot month for Rio.
Rio Carnival is known as being a safe event, and the worst thing you will probably experience is an elbow to the face during a rigorous samba. Nevertheless, like any big festival, petty theft is an issue so keep your phones or cameras very close if you must have them on you. It’s a good idea to leave these valuables behind, including any expensive jewellery you might be tempted to wear to fit in with the sparkling masses. Check out our other safety tips:
Rio Carnival will be one of the wildest, exciting and memorable experiences of your life. Make sure you dance the night away, rock an outrageous costume and stay safe. We bet you can’t wait to samba!
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