Updated December 16, 2014
Outrageous is the best word to describe Carnival in Brazil. Locals and foreigners come together each year for the eclectic mix of stunning parades, huge parties, and frenetic energy, all part of the pre-Lent celebrations before surrendering all earthly pleasures on Ash Wednesday. It’s no secret that Rio de Janeiro is home to the country’s most extravagant parties. This year, the main celebration for Carnival 2015 kicks off on Friday, February 13 and wraps up on Tuesday, February 17th.
What to do & see
The first carnival festivals in Rio de Janeiro appeared during the 1880s to celebrate Lent, the 40-day period before Easter. Today the festival invades all parts of the city and its inhabitants with up to 2 million people on the streets. Samba, the typical dance originated from the Afro-Brazilian community, is at the heart of the Rio Carnival. Brazilians proudly show off their samba moves, musical talents, and intricate costumes to share their culture and cheerfulness with the rest of the world.
During Carnival, all the best samba schools of Rio participate in the Samba Parade. Each school represents a specific neighborhood that has its own dances, music, and costumes. These dance teams start practicing months before the Carnival to put on a good show in the Sambadrome where the parade takes place every year.
Other unmissable events are the Carnival Balls where everyone wears glittering party costumes and dances the night away. The most famous (and expensive) ball takes place at the 5-star luxury hotel, Copacabana Palace. If you’re on a budget, there are many other balls to attend with tickets ranging from US$70-150.
It’s free to enjoy the hundreds of bands and parties that take to the streets every day. Some parties are held in specific places, such as the city’s parks, and others are processions of dancers and merrymakers that follow bands as they play. The largest street party takes place in Cinelandia Square. If you don’t have a ticket to the parade, it’s worth taking a look outside the Sambadrome on parade days because the street is generally packed with people that want to join in on the fun.
5 tips for Brazil’s Carnival
1. It’s best to plan ahead
Carnival is an international sensation, so procrastinators beware! It’s best to start planning your trip sooner than later because hotels and tickets book up four to six months in advance.
2. Leave the Gucci at home
There are certainly luxurious ways to celebrate the holiday, but in most cases, you will be in a crowded space. The dress code is very casual and with the exception of those participating in the parades that wear traditional costumes, there is no need to make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd.
3. Keep a watchful eye over your belongings
The excitement of Carnival often causes visitors to let their guard down. Unfortunately, petty crime occurs and travelers are advised to be extra careful with their belongings. Always carry a copy of your passport and don’t walk around with a lot of cash, as pick-pocketing occurs frequently. It’s also advised to keep your camera out of sight as much as possible and wear your backpack on your front with your arm over it.
4. Treat your taste buds
Latin America offers some of the best culinary destinations in the world and the Rio Carnival is the perfect occasion to try some tasty dishes. In Brazil, travelers have a variety of options ranging from feijoada, the national dish of a hearty meat stew made from pork and black beans, to seafood.
5. Party like a rock star
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is more popular than Easter and Christmas, and people anticipate the festivities for months in advance. It’s best to be well- rested and hydrated because there is a lot of dancing to do! The locals are very welcoming and proud of their culture, so be mindful of their customs while you’re busy having a good time.
The sizzle of Brazilian samba
Photo by Circuito Fora do Eixo/Flickr
Important 2015 Rio de Janeiro Carnival dates
Rio Carnival Dates: starts Friday, February 13 and ends Tuesday, February 17th
ACCESS GROUP: Schools complete to the get a place in the Special Group (Feb 13th and 14th)
SPECIAL GROUP: Performance of best samba schools in Rio (Feb 15th and 16th)
Champion’s Parade: Saturday, February 21st (Champion plus 5 runner-ups)
Start planning your trip to Brazil’s Carnival! Contact our team of travel experts for more information.