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The Ultimate Rio Carnival Survival Guide

Written by Tasmiah Rashid

This blog post was updated on May 1, 2020.

Rio Carnival: an annual five-day, non-stop, sequin-headdress wearing, and street-party-dancing extravaganza. Every February, over 2 million people flock to this massive, pre-Lenten event in Brazil’s bustling capital, Rio de Janeiro. So, for all you serious party-lovers out there, we know this is a must-see celebration.

To make sure you’re spending your precious party time on your samba moves and not wasting it stressing over mishaps, we’ve put together the ultimate survival guide that’ll make your Rio Carnival experience, unforgettable. Check it out!

Be the early bird that gets the worm…

… and the best spot to nest. Things get real crazy, real fast at Carnival. If you can, try to get there a few days early, before the festivities get underway. Not only does this allow you some wiggle room in your itinerary to settle in and scope out your surroundings, but you’ll also have some time to devise a game plan for optimal partying while steering clear of the last-minute crowds that can overwhelm Rio during this time.

Haven’t booked your tickets to Carnival yet? Don’t fret, there’s still time to book cheap flights to Rio to get your party on!

Be a know-it-all.

This may have been something poo-pooed in elementary school, but trust us when we say Rio Carnival is no field day on a playground. Sure, the party is non-stop and pretty much everywhere, but there are some incomparable sights and experiences you won’t want to miss out on. Our advice? Do your due diligence. Tickets can cost you a hefty chunk of change, so just a little bit of research beforehand on where and what you’re willing to splurge on will enable you to take your money a long way and maximize on the fun!

Once you’ve decided on where to go and what events you want to attend, it’s time to sketch out a solid route. It’s much too easy to get lost in the rush of the crowds of Carnival and the last thing you want to do is take a few wrong turns and end up stranded in unfamiliar parts of a foreign country! When you’re mapping out your course, save yourself from an unsafe situation and stick to places with the most security. Make sure you memorize the path back to your hotel and make a mental note of landmarks along the way; these can also serve as check-in points for anyone that gets separated from the group. Jot down some backup routes while you’re at it and don’t forget to keep some local cash handy in case you need to hop in a cab!

Be fashion-forward.

Two words come to mind when it comes to dressing to impress at Carnival:  vivacious costumes. One of the most important
(and most fun) parts of Carnival, is the extravagant ensembles that line the streets. You’ll see anything from bedazzled headpieces as tall as 3 feet, to people grooving through the streets in just bathing suits! When it comes to choosing a costume, while we want you to let your creativity run free, just remember that Carnival celebrations go for hours. Not only will you be in the heat and among huge crowds, but you’ll also be on your feet for quite some time. Whatever you choose to wear, just make sure you’re comfortable (especially your foot-gear) so that you can make it through the long haul!

Be hydrated!

The national drink of Brazil is a caipirinha, made with sugar, lime, and cachaça — a spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. YUM! While this sounds like a delicious and refreshing drink that you’re ready to guzzle down by the dozens during Carnival, don’t forget to guzzle down enough water too! There is a LOT of drinking that goes down at Carnival and Rio temperatures can reach dangerously high. The last thing you want is to be stuck in your room nursing a hangover or too sick from dehydration when you should be partying it up with the masses outside!

Be curious.

Yes- Carnival is the largest party in the world. But it’s also just the tip of the iceberg, of a rich culture brimming with stunning artwork, delectable cuisine, and electrifying music. When it comes to Carnival itself, our biggest piece of advice is to be curious. Instead of pigeon-holing yourself into one event or area, be sure to check out the vast variety of amazing sights the celebrations have to offer, feast on the delicious local food, shop around at the many open-air markets, and spend time party-hopping! For a fun fête experience of a lifetime, the best thing you can do is to just immerse yourself in the local culture and let the intoxicating joy of Carnival take over!


About the author

Tasmiah Rashid

In a past life, Tasmiah was either a Bollywood actress, renowned ethnographer or master chef; no questions asked. In this one, she is a shower-singing, croissant enthusiast, who also writes content for Fareportal, in that order.