It’s Rio Carnival time again (Friday February 28th to Tuesday March 4th – Fat Tuesday) and nothing should put you off visiting one of the world’s most colourful and exhilarating events. Flowing alcohol and excitable crowds mean you’re in for a rowdy time, so we’re here to answer your most-asked questions about the world’s biggest party to make sure it goes with a bang.
With your Rio Carnival accommodation booked and this list of Rio safety tips and advice under your belt, you can samba the streets with confidence… and that means shakin’ your ass!
1. Do I need tickets for Rio Carnival?
Only for the official Samba competition. This takes place at the Sambódromo and requires a booking (tickets range from $60-$1,000). But other than that, everything else is free! The street parties are known as blocos. These are groups of people in special costumes or matching shirts walking around and following big floats called trio elétrico. If you like the rhythm or the people seem nice, just join them.
2. Is Rio Carnival safe?
Yes! On the other hand, don’t expect prim and proper manners among big crowds. People will step on your toes, you will be doused in unexpected beer showers and there are plenty of weird chat-up lines from over-excited samba addicts flying around. But lighten up! It’s Rio Carnival!
3. Where is the best cheap place to stay for Rio Carnival?
4. What should I take to Rio Carnival?
Do what the locals do and keep your cash in a money belt. Keep mobile phones in plastic bags: in some parts of the city, tank trucks spray the crowds with water to provide welcome respite from the heat. Also take your own food and drink. Carnival events can go on until after sunrise, so don’t be surprised to see people carrying mini mattresses and pillows so they can catch a quick 40 winks before carrying on with the party (this is at the Sambadrome, not at a bloco!). Avoid carrying iPods and cameras, especially the big ones: this is what pickpockets are after and they will be easy to spot.
5. Are there any banned items at Rio Carnival?
No glass, no polystyrene, no video cameras, no firecrackers. Umbrellas spoil everyone’s view so consider a light rain poncho instead. However, street vendors usually have these on sale in case of summer showers.
6. What other Rio Carnival rules should I know about?
Yes – don’t pee in the street! Brazil may be a liberal country (and Rio especially), but there is a line. You can get in big trouble for this. If a police officer spots you, you will be arrested and end up spending a large chunk of your carnival budget on a not-so-cheap police fine.
7. Are different currencies accepted at Rio Carnival?
Shops and street vendors accept dollars, euros and pounds. Convenient as this may seem, you will be charged much more than if you pay with reais so make sure you exchange your currency beforehand or risk running out of money very quickly!
8. What are the toilets like at Rio Carnival?
Be prepared to queue for a chemical toilet or pay 1-2R$ to use a restaurant bathroom, and carry your own toilet roll.
9. How do I get around and much does transport cost at Rio Carnival?
The city is easier to navigate if you are staying near a metro station – metro tickets cost 3-5R$. There are also plenty of bus services laid on for carnival-goers (from 2.40R$ a single journey).
As we said above, Carnival is a liberal event, but that doesn’t mean a guaranteed hook up if you’re looking. Locals will give short shrift to over-eager chat up lines from visitors, so relax, enjoy yourself and show the same respect as you would at home. Bottom line, you’re sure to have an amazing time at a bloco – whether you hit it off with that foxy carioca or not.