Survival guide to Carnival in Rio

Here are a few valuable tips for those who are coming for Carnival for the first time.

  • Use costumes

At least to me, the best part of Carnival is definitely the costumes. I love everything about it: going to Saara to buy things, creating them, wandering around the streets wearing it and seeing so many beautiful and creative costumes.

Don’t worry if you’re not talented or creative. You can find inspiration and many DIY ideas on Pinterest and other places on internet, or maybe ask a little help from your friends. In the last case, there are a few accessories for sale on Saara ready to use. Don’t forget to use a lot of glitter and be happy!

  • Use swim-wear

Because you never know when you will get a pipe shower or when you will have the opportunity to go to the beach.

  • Seize the day

Carnival schedule is pretty intense. There are blocos in the morning, afternoon and night. But in my opinion is during the day that the magic happens. By night, the energy uses to be a little heavier, since most of the people that are still out on the streets has a high level of alcohol/other drugs added up for the day.

So listen to our friend Ted Mosby and go home like Cinderella.

  • Make at least one pit-stop per day

Carnaval has enough options to keep you busy 24 hours a day, I know, but keep calm: you won’t be able to do everything. So go home at least once a day and organise yourself. Take a shower, sleep (!!!) and make a healthier meal.

Did you miss something important during the day or did you carry something unnecessary? This is the time to solve it!

  • Plan ahead, but not too much

It’s nice to see the schedule and make your own. But the blocos itself doesn’t have the times and/or itinerary really rigid, so sometimes you should just go with the flow. It’s part of the Carnival magic.

  • Wear sunblock

Mode mom on: wear sunblock. This is one of the most important things, and that people forget the most. The heat is absurd, and if you get a serious sunburn on the first day it can spoil your trip.

  • Water, water and more water

Mode mom on again: drink water! You may be drinking beer or using other things, but my advice will be the same. One of the main reasons people need medical care during Carnival is dehydration.

  • Comfortable shoes

Things you do on Carnival: dance, jump, walk. And for all of these you will need your beautiful feets, so take care of them. Use comfortable shoes, so you don’t need to come back home only to change it and miss a good bloco!

Some people use Havaianas.  I don’t recommend it, since your feets will be terribly dirty by the end of the day, not to mention the risk of being trampled or having your strip broken apart.

  • Bathrooms

There are some chemical toilets, but they are never enough. So:

  • Go wait in line before you get too desperate to pee.
  • Bars and restaurants usually charge for bathroom use or only allow it to clients. Buy something that you would buy from street sellers in these establishments and use the bathroom!  Some will give you a bad look because they are aware of the strategie, but who cares?
  • I don’t advise you to pee on the streets. There are many people around all the time, and you risk getting a fine by officers (R$600,00).
  • Don’t worry, be happy

Yes, it will be super hot. And crowded. But it’s Carnival.

There is no point on getting stressed: just relax and go with the flow. If you’re really not in the mood, go home and have a good night of sleep.

  • Respect

Brazil may be a mess, especially on Carnival, but respect our home. Don’t throw garbage on the streets and, most important: respect people. Don’t catcall women, and learn to take a ‘no’.  If she is not able even to say no, then it’s also a no.

  • Transportation

During Carnaval, Metrô is finally 24/7, thanks God! It’s usually the best way of getting round. Forget about cars. Bus works, but there so many blocos around the city. It’s hard to know from where a bloco can arise and you can end up staying over 1 hour on the same spot.

But, please, don’t be that person: the only one of the group that doesn’t have a pre-paid card. Lines get huge during Carnival and you will save a precious time by going straight to the gate. Your friends will be thankful!

By night, amount of blocos slow down and it’s easier less difficult to go back home. If you’re in a group, maybe it’s worth to take a cab*/Uber/Cabify. I suggest you download the app Vah: it compares the fare price by all these apps and tell you which one is cheaper. Beer money!

* Unless you’re really desperate, don’t accept closed prices. It’s illegal, but pretty common in Carnival.

  • Safety

Robbery, with some kind of violence, are relatively rare in this day. But pickpocking is extremelly common, due to the gathering of people.

– Don’t bring valuable things. My basic kit: keys, ID, some money, debit card and cellphone.  Yes, nowadays is difficult to leave without cellphone, especially because you should be able to communicate. But if you have an old cellphone who can call and send SMS, leave your expensive one home.

– Never, ever, ever, carry your things in your pocket, specially cellphones. If its the only way, carry it at the least in the front pocket and pay a lot of attention!


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