How much do you actually know about Rio Carnival? Colours? Costumes? Samba? Yes, Rio has it all, but I must say…. There’s so much more to see and do, you’ll be impressed! My name is Carolina, I’m from Brazil and I work as social media and content for the Brazilian market here, at Hostelworld. Today I’m taking you on a carnival journey, with 7 of my best tips on how to enjoy carnival like a local.
Carnival is the biggest annual party in Brazil (Rio is just one of the cities where it’s celebrated), starting on Friday afternoon and lasting until the following Wednesday. It takes over the streets, the bars, the houses, everywhere. This year, it will run from the 5th to the 10thFebruary.
We can divide Rio Carnival into two parts: part one in Sambódromo (the official place where the parades happen) and part two around the streets. You can have parties everywhere, but the streets are where the action takes place. And what do I mean by action? We call it “Blocos de Carnaval” (Carnival Blocks), which is a street band that plays samba (or other type of popular music) while moving and people follow the beats.
The blocos take place all over the city, there are hundreds! Starting from 8AM, every day and running for the full 5 days of carnival! It’s so much fun and energetic, and if you know a little bit how everything works you can make the most out of it. That’s why I’m here! Follow these tips and enjoy carnival like a carioca! (Carioca is someone who was born in Rio, by the way)
1 Say it like a local
First things first: how about pronouncing carnival like a proper carioca? In Brazil we write Carnaval, and say CAHR-NAH-VAHU. Yes, you can really use your latin vowels vibes here. Own it, repeat after me: CAHR-NAH-VAHU. CAHR-NAH-VAHU. CARNAVAL. Got it? You are almost a Portuguese speaker now. Well done!
2 Dress accordingly
It’s totally up to you if you want to have a full costume or just some glitter and adornments, such as head decorations, masks, and big tropical flowers necklaces. The most important thing is: be comfortable and fresh. The weather is beyond hot, so you don’t want to be sweating and dealing with complicated costumes. Try to wear sneakers, they are not easy to lose like flip-flops, and they are going to protect you from people stepping on your toes.
It’s really easy to find accessories everywhere, there are informal sellers on every corner of every street. Negotiate prices if you feel that it’s too much. Buying 3 or more items is good to give you a reason to ask for discount “3 for 2? 5 for 4?” Shops like “Lojas Americanas” and “Kalunga” are great to find stuff that you can improvise and create costumes.
Wear your swim clothes underneath the costume. It’s useful for many situations like getting too hot, getting wet by other people’s water (or beer) pistols or when you find yourself an opportunity to jump in the sea to refresh between blocos.
3 Stay alive until the last day
So, five days of non-stop partying, starting at 8, 9 AM, can be hard to deal with. If you want to enjoy carnival until the last day, you have to find ways of being healthy. My pro tips are:
Drink water. Tons! This is a common mistake everyone makes. Especially when you are too busy drinking your beer or caipirinha. And this tip is not only for you to avoid a massive hangover. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, don’t forget your water. The weather can make you really dehydrated or even sick.
Eat fresh. I know streets hamburgers and hot dogs are the best, but don’t make them your only food. You are in a tropical country, with loads of fruits, vegetables and juices. Make the most of them and save yourself from not having enough vitamins and being sick later.
Look after your feet. Street parties can be quite intense, don’t forget that people leave glasses or bottles on the floor. You don’t want to step one of those and ruin your carnival. CAHR-NAH-VAHL.
Wear sunscreen. The sun is intense, for real! Don’t get burned, just wear sunscreen.
4 Staying close to a beer seller is always a good strategy
When the “blocos” are crowded, beer sellers can run out of beer easily. But if you are close to the seller during the whole party you can: 1. See when the beer is about to end and make sure you buy yours before this happens. 2. After being a loyal costumer the whole party, your beer seller can warn you before it ends.
5 Don’t worry if you don’t know how to samba
It’s pretty easy to find a local willing to help and teach you! And even if you think you can’t manage to get the moves right, just focus on having fun. No one will judge you, and honestly: there’s nothing better than practice!
6 Enjoy the smaller blocos
Each year the most famous blocos are getting bigger and more crowded. Some people like it, but I think it can get pretty chaotic. The good part is, smaller blocos are rising, keeping the fun and authenticity of a real street party alive.
A real “foliã” (a person who is a carnival pro) Camila Beol sent us her list of the best smaller blocos she recommends this year:
– Multibloco (more pop, carioca funk)
– Toco-Xona (LGBT)
– Carnaval Selvagem (hipster / afro music)
– Boi Tolo (classic samba)
– Cachorro Cansado (traditional samba)
– Bloquete (top charts music)
– Cinebloco (movie themed)
– Bagunça Meu Coreto (traditional samba)
– Agitoê (axé / afro music)
– Cachorro Cansado (traditional samba)
It’s quite good to plan which ones you are attending in advance. The whole city stops because of the blocos, so you’ll have to check how to get to your chosen one, how to leave, where you’ll meet friends, etc. There’s an app (in Portuguese) called “Carnaval 2016 O Globo” with all the information you need about the blocos: what time each one starts, where they will start and the route they are taking.
7 Look after your stuff
The rule is simple: take as few things as possible with you. Money, documents, phone, an emergency contact number, hostel key and address is all you need. Keep these things close to your body, don’t leave in an easy to access pocket or open purse, and you are fine. Go ahead and have fun!
If you have any more tips, share in the comments below!