Attending carnival in Rio de Janeiro is on many people’s bucket lists and rightly so. The extravagance and craziness of Carnival is not something which should be missed if you can attend, do so. Everyone has tips for Carnival in Rio and here I’ve come up with some of my own.
Carnival in Rio was one of the main factors for my return to South America. I was supposed to attend in 2017, but my robbery in Mexico messed those plans up a little, so 2018 was the year for me. It more than likely won’t be the last time I attend. It was simply amazing the best festival/street party/fancy dress event I have ever attended. The people you are with add to the experience and I did have a good group (You all better share this).
Obviously going to Carnival in Rio takes some planning and there are a few things I learnt both before I attended and while I was there. Most of it was trial and error, mainly error but there are a few things tips for Carnival in Rio which may help you out.
My tips for Carnival in Rio De Janeiro:
Arrive early but not too early:
Being early for a party is not ideal but it is essential for Carnival. You can see some of the sights, get an idea of the layout of the city and of how to get around and you can make friends, essential if you are travelling solo.
There are plenty of pre-parties to attend, sights to see and tours to take, many of which will be impossible during carnival as the city turns to the party at hand. I got to see most of the main sights and make a good group of friends to the party with, in the week leading up to Carnival which was ideal as I had never been to the city before.
Being too early though can also have its drawbacks if you have zero willpower such as myself. By the time Carnival came about I was slightly burnt out and when it was over, after two weeks in Rio I was a shell of my former self. I have no regrets of course, but if you would like to stay a little healthier, then a couple of days would be far better than a full week of partying before Carnival. You will still have time to see the sights and make some friends.
Sort out your accommodation and confirm it:
Getting accommodation for Carnival is one of the major areas which require some planning and research. Due to the popularity of the event, prices are hiked across the city and some places become available which otherwise wouldn’t be fit for habitation. This is when a little research is required to make sure you are in a safe location and somewhere in which you can access the city and the events you plan on attending.
I did hear stories of some dodgy accommodation, landlords and locations. If you know a local, ask them about the best locations. When you’ve finally found somewhere to stay, make sure you get in contact with the host to ensure everything is above board, you don’t want to arrive at an overbooked hostel or Air BNB which happens as well.
*I was lucky enough to have my Air BNB cancel 20 minutes before check-in. If we had contacted the host we would have found this out earlier, trust me looking for accommodation the day before carnival and with a hangover is not fun at all.
Get some Apps that can help you out:
Getting around Rio during carnival can be a bit of hassle. There are hundreds of parties on during the day and night which block the roads, stall traffic and make getting about an adventure, luckily there is Uber and maps.me. These two apps really helped me, and my friends get around easily.
The taxis in Rio are slow, try to rip you off and can leave you in some precarious situations. The only one I got charged 3x times the amount it should have been and then complained when we asked him to drive slightly further than we had intended. Uber is your friend, safe, cheap and easily available in the city. Most of the time they will have to drop you off a few blocks from the party as they don’t want to get stuck in the crowds.
Maps.me is an offline map which is a lifesaver when you’re wandering around the streets and a little lost. Download the city map before you arrive, and you can easily mark down where you want to go and the best/safest route to take.
Safety tips during Rio Carnival:
Probably the most famous part of Rio besides the beaches and Jesus is the safety issues in Rio which tend to make the news quite often and especially since this year’s Carnival as it was supposedly marred by violence. I am happy to say I was neither a victim or witness to anything serious as this obviously would have had a negative impact on my time there. This was due both to luck and a little common sense.
The usual rules apply here as they do to travelling anywhere, don’t bring valuables with you, stay in groups, don’t walk alone at night and don’t talk to strangers. During the carnival, I broke all these rules as do many others.
Sometimes it’s necessary to bring cash as you don’t know where you will be, talking to strangers is part of the fun and you are attending parties with lots of alcohol and thousands of people, getting lost in the crowd can happen.
It’s still important to have common sense, have a meeting point, tell people your general plans on where you’re going and if you see something, walk away quickly. Most importantly if you are getting robbed just give them your stuff, it’s not that important.
To stave off some chances of anything happening I only carried cash and an old phone that I could afford to lose. This I used for pictures and getting around the city. I kept both in a safety wallet, hung about my neck, this makes it a little harder for a thief to rob.
Regarding violence, I never saw anything that I haven’t seen at home. But if it looks or feels dodgy it probably is so it’s best to get away from whatever is unfolding.
A couple of other tips for Carnival in Rio:
- Take out as much cash as possible before the weekend as banks tend to run out. This will save you a few hours looking for a working ATM and waiting in line. Which happened to me, not the best way to spend your day,
- Check online for the biggest and best Blocos they will be advertised in advance and each has a special theme, location and style, so you don’t want to turn up to the party underprepared.
- Expect a lot of making out to happen at whatever party you attend. This is all part of Carnival and can take a little getting used to. You can say no, just expect boo’s from the crowd who will definitely be witnessing this.
- If something does happen to you make sure you get a report from the police in case of insurance needs. This is not for all police there but from experience and stories, they are generally not the most helpful bunch.
- Most importantly, have fun. The city is going nuts so why don’t you.
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