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How to Celebrate Carnival in Rio Like a Carioca

I just finished celebrating my first Carnival in Brazil.

While I didn’t watch the actual Carnaval competition/parade, I did participate in the festivities.

In Rio, those festivities basically consist of a bunch of blocos (street parties) during the day.  Each bloco starts at a certain time (most start in the morning or early afternoon). And some blocos actually start a few weeks before Carnaval officially starts.

Flamengo bloco madness
Ipanema bloco
Leblon bloco

At each bloco, there is a street band/group that performs on a big moving truck, playing music, singing and dancing. The streets are packed with people and vendors selling beer and Smirnoff Ice (for the most part, these were the only two choices!). It resembled something like this…

And everyone dresses up in ridiculous outfits. Well, the guys do, anyway (most of the guys dress up as women). The girls don’t seem to be quite as creative in their costume choices…

This guy dressed up in a
wedding gown

Watch out: The energy and happiness are 100% contagious. I’d honestly never experienced anything like it before.

This video does a better job at depicting it…

Even riding the bus was complete madness, with people singing, drinking, and raising ruckus. Like this…

Carnival is known around Brazil for being the time of year when everyone kisses everyone. It’s not uncommon for people to break up with their significant others right before Carnival starts, just to aproveitar Carnival and make out with as many people as possible. This means that females should be prepared for some grabby men.

Planning on celebrating Carnival in Rio sometime soon? Here are a few tips to make it a successful one:

  1. If you wanna attend the most famous Carnival in Brasil, head to Salvador, Bahia.  I had a ton of fun at Rio Carnival, but there are a lot of other places to celebrate, like Ouro Preto (especially if you’re in your early 20s), Florianópolis, Recife/Olinda...
  2. If you are celebrating Carnival in Rio, don’t just go to Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon. Also check out the scene at the less touristy areas, like Lapa, Santa Teresa, Flamengo.
  3. If you wanna avoid crowds of people and just relax, get tickets to watch samba schools compete in the Sambadrome. You can buy tickets in advance or show up and buy them from a scalper.
  4. If you attend the blocos…wear sunscreen!!! Hours outside in the strong Brazilian sun (even if it’s cloudy out) will be disastrous if you aren’t wearing sunscreen (at least for fair-skinned folks like me!).
  5. Plan to wear some crazy costumes. Get creative!
  6. If you’re in Rio and looking for a typical, relatively inexpensive Carnival costume, head to Centro.
  7. Download the Blocos app from O Globo and you can see where and when all of the different blocos are taking place.
  8. Don’t let your belongings out of your sight.
  9. Get rowdy.
  10. If possible, be single! And get your kissing game on.

Have you celebrated Carnival in Rio? What was your experience like? Share in the comments below!

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