The Carnival in Rio is the biggest Carnival in the world, according to The Genesis Book Of World Records. To some people, Carnival is an amazing festival with a lot of colorful costumes, floats, dancing and music. To others, it is a huge week long party where you can find over 450 Bloco Parties(Moveable street parties)scattered throughout the city during the week of the festival. I experienced a mix of the both.
I will be honest; I don’t remember much from my Carnival week. But I do know that it was one of the best festivals of my life! The Carnival in Rio was so much fun! I made so many new friends at the Bloco Parties, and at the hostel that I stayed. I will sort through the hundreds of photos that I took while being completely inebriated from drinking too many Caipirinhas, and try to piece together some useful information for you in case you want to attend this festival in the future.
Things To Do During The Rio Carnival
The Samba Parade
If you want to see something amazing you must attend the Samba parade at The Sambodromo(a long stadium designed for Samba school’s shows). Although the Bloco parties tend to last for over a week, the Carnival in Rio only has four days officially; these days are usually during the last week of February or the first week in March. Every year is different. (see Rio Carnival for the next Carnival dates)
The Samba Parade will go each night during the four official days of Carnival. It usually starts around 22:00 and will last all night. The Sambodromo will hold a competition for the best Samba schools on the following Saturday after Carnival. It’s recommended to buy your tickets ahead of time! The tickets can be expensive depending on where you want to sit. You can find the prices and the Samba schedule on the Rio Carnival website.
My friends and I went to see the Samba parades on the third night of Carnival. Instead of buying expensive tickets on the internet we decided to take our chances and try buying some off the street. We managed to buy tickets from the dodgy looking characters who were hanging around the Sambodromo entrance for only $13USD each.
If you choose to buy your tickets the way we did, then I strongly recommend that you look at somebody else’s ticket first so that you are familiar with the look of the security features, and the feel of an authentic ticket. Familiarizing yourself with a real ticket will lower your risk of buying a false one.
You can drink in the Sombodromo. However, just like every other stadium in the world, the price of beer is inflated. You can buy beer from anybody on the street along the way to the parade for a lower price, but you must drink it before you enter the Stadium.(You can drink on the streets in Rio during Carnival) From inside the stadium, we found a hole in the metal barrier where a vendor sold us beer to us at the street price.
We had a lot of fun at this event, the show was incredible! We stayed until 4 a.m. I believe the parades did not finish until 7:30 in the morning.
Bloco Parties (Block Parties)
There are well over 450 different Bloco parties throughout Rio during the week of Carnival. Bloco parties are moveable street parties, and in Rio, they will go 24/hours a day during Carnival. There are usually thousands of people that attend these parties. Each Bloco party has a theme; some people dress up in costumes according to this theme.
You can buy alcohol everywhere along the streets of the Bloco parties. Vendors sell both beer and canned spirits. Skol Beats is a very popular brand of a Vodka-based Spirit that most street vendors sell. Skol Beats comes in 3 different flavors, it contains 6.8% alcohol content and cost around $2USD at the parties. Vendors also sell frozen home-distilled liquor in small plastic tubes that have tropical flavors.
I did buy a few of these alcohol tubes myself, but I must warn you that if you buy these, you are putting yourself at risk. Nobody knows what the alcohol content is in each tube. All I know is that they taste excellent(Passion or Lemon flavor) and they can make you drunk fast! If you want to play it safe, then stick with bottled beer and canned spirits.
I went to several different Bloco parties in various areas of the city; Ipanema, Copacabana, Santa Teresa, and Lapa. All of the parties were set up in a similar way. Each party had a band or a DJ. Most Bloco parties are free. However, some parties have an entrance fee. I have some safety issues regarding Bloco parties that I will list in the next section.
Safety In Rio & The Carnival
Like most big cities in South America, you must always be aware of pickpockets! The Bloco parties are full of drunk people making it the perfect place for thieves to work. See 10 Safety Tips For Travellers for tips on avoiding pickpockets.
Thieves love to steal cell phones! Just be mindful of where you keep your phone and be very careful when you are using it for taking photos. Kids have been known to snatch phones out of people’s hands and run away. During a past visit to Rio, I saw a kid(10 or 12 years old) running through traffic in Copacabana with somebodies money belt in his hand. So please take care!
The temperature in Rio can get up to 35C during the Carnival, so try to squeeze in a few bottles of water during your boozefest! Vendors sell cold water everywhere. And don’t forget to re-apply sunscreen before you get too drunk and forget, or just don’t care.
Buying Open Alcohol
If you want to play it safe, then stick to buying alcohol products that are sealed in a can or bottle. If you buy any of the home-distilled alcohol or other mixed drinks on the street, you are putting yourself at risk.
Taxi drivers love Gringos! Most but not all, drivers see foreigners as walking ATM’s and often charge them 5 to 10 times the local rate for a drive. Taxi drivers overcharging foreigners is a problem in all South American cities. Luckily the Metro in Rio is open 24 hours for the four days of Carnival. The Metro in Rio is fast, relatively safe, and inexpensive. ($1.50USD one way) Uber is another great option.
If you put a couple of thousand people together and give them unlimited alcohol your bound to have a couple of fist fights. It’s strongly recommended to walk away from any aggression. You’re not in your country!
That is about all that I can remember! If you have any questions regarding Rio, Brasil, or Carnival in Rio 2017, then feel free to contact me, or leave a comment below.