This 'how to' guide is taken from the book Pilot Guides'
Great Festivals of the World.
Where's the Party?
Although Carnival is celebrated in towns and villages throughout
Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janiero
has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World.
Dates for the Diary
Carnival is the last major event of the Brazilian summer.
It officially begins on the Saturday before Lent and continues
until Shrove Tuesday, however the city begins gearing up for
the festival several weeks beforehand.
What's It All About?
The Samba Parade is the most publicised event of the
Rio Carnival, with footage and pictures beamed across Brazil
and all around the world. If you can afford to fork out for
a ticket, it'll be a night you'll never forget. If not, hang
around outside the Sambodrome and check out the fabulous floats
and people in costume who are preparing for their 20 minutes
in the limelight.
Carnival Balls take place every night of the festival.
Some are glamorous affairs which attract a host of celebs
and society darlings of all genders, but are unfortunately
only open to people with a few hundred bucks to burn. Most
of the smaller venues in Rio organise alternative balls, which
are like regular clubs and tickets cost a fraction of the
Brazil operates a reciprocal visa system, which means that
if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to obtain
a visa, then you in turn will need one to go to Brazil. Holders
of British passports do not need a visa for visits of up to
90 days, United States and Australian citizens do. For more
information contact the Brazilian Consulate in your home country
before you go.
Although you'll probably be able to find somewhere to stay
if you arrive in Rio without a reservation, it won¹t
be in one of the more salubrious parts of the city. The best
hotels, especially in the Zona Sul, are booked up well in
advance of Carnival, so it¹s a good idea to make a reservation
at least 2 or 3 months beforehand. Tickets to the Parade at
the Sambodrome go on sale two weeks before Carnival. If you
decide to go, arrange yours in advance as on the day prices
are at a premium.
Most out-of-town Carnival-goers fly into Rio's international
Aerporto Galeãto or the Aeroporto Santos
Dumont, the domestic airport which is located in the Centro
District. From Galeãto you can take an air conditioned
bus into the city or Zona Sul for about $2. If you have a
lot of luggage an air-conditioned taxi to Copacabana will
cost you around $30.
Brazil has a reasonable bus network so if you're travelling
around the country on a budget you might consider a long bus
journey as an alternative to an expensive air-fare.
Where to Stay
With the beach on your doorstep, the Zona Sul is by
far the most pleasant place to stay in Rio. Leblon
and Ipanema are more upmarket than Copacabana,
which is gaining a reputation as being rather seedy in recent
years. Even so, Copacabana Palace Hotel at Avenida
Rio Branco, 1702 (+ 55 21 548 7070), is favoured by the rich
and famous, but room rates reflect this. There are plenty
of other international standard hotels as well as clean and
safe small hotels and a couple of good hostels. Most hotels
have a fixed-rate 5 night package during Carnival, which is
more expensive than at other times of the year. Don¹t
think you can save money by sleeping on the beach. It's just
Entry into the Sambodrome to watch the Parade can cost up
to US$200 depending on the seating area. Not everyone stays
all night and those who leave early often offload their tickets
onto the touts outside, who sell them on cheap. If you decide
to turn up and try your luck be prepared to haggle big time
and beware that this racket is frowned upon by the organisers,
so if you get rumbled there's no guarantee you¹ll get
Taking part in the Samba Parade costs around US$ 200.
What you're actually paying for is the costume, which cannot
be hired as the schools' themes change each year. It¹s
yours to keep afterwards if you can fit it into the
overhead lockers on the plane home, that is.
A ticket to one of Rio's more glamourous Carnival balls,
such as the Copacabana Palace Ball, costs as much as US$ 200.
If this is way out of your budget don¹t despair: many
of the clubs in Rio organise a Carnival ball and as they only
charge around US$ 20 a ticket, these events are more popular
with the backpacking crowd.
Getting around town is cheap. Buses charge a standard one-way
fare of 50 cents, and a single ticket on the metro costs under
a dollar. These days, all taxis are fitted with a meter but
make sure the driver turns it on when you get in.
Once You're There
Rio isn't one of the world's safest cities but most travellers
have an incident free trip and if you're sensible and leave
your valuables locked up in the hotel safe you can minimise
the risk to yourself and your belongings.
l) You can throw tomatoes and tomatoes only.
2) They must be squashed before you throw them, otherwise
they can cause a nasty bruise.
3) Although the locals tend toi rip each others clothing,
it is officially forbidden and as a visitor, you will be expected
During the summer the locals spend every spare minute at the
beach soaking up the sun, hanging out on the sands, swimming
or playing futvolei, a local variation on volleyball
played with the feet instead of hands. While the ordinary
folk flock to the horse-shoe shaped beach of Copacabana, Ipanema
and Leblon attract a more fashionable crowd.
Parque Nacional da Tijuca covers some 120 square kilometres
and just 20 minutes from the centre of Rio, it¹s the
largest city park in the world. The whole are area around
Rio was once covered by dense Atlantic rainforest, and the
park's trails, waterfalls, rocky peaks and dense vegetation
give the hiker an awe-inspiring sense of what it was like
before the city sprung up.
Rio de Janeiro is not the only carnival in Brazil. You¹ll
find local events going on in towns and villages throughout
the country. Salvador in the state of Bahia is
popular with travellers as an alternative to Rio.
Carnival in Trinidad is yet another take on the Carnival
tradition. The French brought masked balls and staid street
parades to Trinidad in the eighteenth century, but it was
emancipated slaves who imbued the festival with Afro-Caribbean
Notting Hill Carnival in London, which takes place
over the last weekend in August, took it's cue from Rio and
Trinidad and with input from the local community has become
Europe's biggest street party.