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How to Plan a Trip to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival

How to Plan a Trip to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival

The Rio Carnival is known for some of the biggest and best parties in the world. This Vacayholics article will help you plan your trip to the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.
Sucheta Pradhan
The Rio Carnival begins after the city's mayor crowns the Fat King (King Momo), and presents him with a giant silver and gold key. King Momo is a mythical character, considered to be the King of Carnivals in Latin American festivities.
The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the carnival capital of the world, throws the liveliest party in the world each year, lasting for a period of five days. For these five days, Rio's streets are crammed with people―locals and tourists alike―and their spirits are set so high by the mood of the carnival that they do not remain mere spectators, but eventually participate in the singing and dancing festivities. What makes the Rio carnival stand apart is not merely its grand scale, but also the pulsating rhythm of the samba, which the people dance to. In fact, the carnival's main parade is also a samba competition, in which samba schools from different neighborhoods of Rio participate and dance with fervor in order to win.
In the past few decades, with more and more international tourists flocking to Brazil for the carnival, and the increase in number of local participants, the scale of the parade has become so grand that a specialSambadrome is constructed to host it. However, the entire city is in the festive mood during carnival, and the processions and the singing and dancing extend well beyond the Sambadrome. A large number of people who cannot make their way into the Sambadrome, crowd the streets and the two popular beaches―the Copacabana and the Ipanema―to celebrate.
This year (in 2014), the Rio de Janeiro Carnival will be held from Friday, February 28 to Tuesday, March 4.
Planning a Trip to the Carnival
Visiting Rio during the carnival needs a lot of intense planning. A lot of things need to be considered and taken care of, right from booking carnival tickets to accommodations, to the amount of money to be carried along. Most people, generally, begin preparing for their trip a year or so ahead, so as to be able to find some affordable bargains. However, if you are lucky enough, you can still manage to crack some last-minute deals. Here are some handy tips that will help you plan your trip to one of the grandest celebrations in the world.
Book Well in Advance
Perhaps the most important aspect to consider while planning a trip to the Rio carnival is the exact time to book.

It is advisable to book as early as possible so as to crack some really good deals. Though a number of last-minute deals may be available with respect to airline tickets, accommodations, etc., these can be really expensive.

It needs to be noted that Rio is most crowded during carnival time and by the middle of February, flights and hotels tend to become more and more expensive.

It is a good idea to consult a reputed travel agent during your booking process. An experienced travel agent will be able to guide you through the process and help you get a really affordable bargain.
Keep Your Travel Dates Flexible
Try not to land in Rio on the day the carnival begins. Ensure that you arrive in the city at least a week or two in advance.

This way, you will not only be able to soak in the mood of the approaching festivities, but will also have some time to explore the city while it is being decorated for the celebrations.

Plus, a little flexibility with your travel dates will help you get your desired accommodations/flights at good rates.
Plan What Else You Want to See/Do
Even if attending and participating in the carnival is your main aim, it is but obvious that you will also be interested in visiting other tourist attractions in and around the city.

It is a good idea to plan about this in advance as well. Consider the distance of Rio from the places you intend to visit so that you have a rough idea about the time required to travel and so on.

If you are arriving in Rio a week or two before the carnival, prefer going to places that are not very far away from the city to ensure that you return well before the carnival begins.

If you are traveling through a tour operator, he/she will be able to prepare an itinerary for you, apart from the carnival, so that you can make the most of your trip.
Decide Where You Want to Stay
While booking accommodation well in advance is extremely important during the carnival period, you will need to decide on the kind of accommodation you may like to stay in.

As one of the major tourist centers of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro offers a huge array of options in this respect―right from hostels to hotels to B&Bs. However, apart from your overall budget, it is also vital to determine whether you would prefer a place located amidst the sights and sounds of constant samba, or whether you would prefer a little serene, isolated location.

Browse the web, ask people you know, or get in touch with the authorities with regard to the location and facilities provided by the property in question, and only then make a decision.

Do not forget to compare prices before you book. Remember that the accommodation rates are sky-high during carnival, you might end up paying up to four times more than the standard rates if you are not careful enough.
Tips for Booking Carnival Tickets
If you intend to attend the parades that take place in the Sambadrome, you have to book early because the tickets sell out as the festival nears.

The Sambadrome ticket prices are based on how close your seat is to the route of the parade, and so the front seats might be really expensive.

It needs to be noted that the best parading nights are those of Carnival Sunday and Monday, when the biggest samba schools compete. So, if you want to make the most of your carnival time, book for one of these days.

There are online booking websites, such as, offering Sambadrome tickets, where you can book one based on your preferences.

** Note: Children below the age of five are not allowed in the Sambadrome.

If you are unable to get a Sambadrome ticket for yourself, there is no reason to be disappointed. The entire city is partying during these five days, and you can explore one of the neighborhood street parties and samba performances that take place throughout Rio de Janeiro. And guess what? These are absolutely free of cost!

You can also explore the ravishing beach parades, and indulge in some sumptuous crêpes and corn on the cobs at one of the food stands along the beaches.
Other Important Tips
It is an excellent idea to befriend one of the locals who can be your city guide, especially if you are traveling on your own. This way, you might be able to escape the numerous tourist traps.

Pickpocketing and other petty crimes are common during carnival, so you will have to be careful about such instances. As far as possible, keep your valuables, such as camera and wallet, out of sight. Moreover, wear your backpack in the front and put an arm over it. Use plastic grocery bags instead of the funky and stylish ones, so as not to attract undesired attention.

Do not wear expensive jewelry. Instead, wear cheap beads, short skirts, feathers, etc. This will not only save you from getting robbed, but will also get you into the festive spirit.

Make sure that you visit one of the 'por kilo' restaurants while in Rio. Here, you will have to pay by kilo for the food you buy.

One of the most important things to know is that banks are closed in Rio during carnival. Moreover, even the ATMs have been known to have run out of money in the past. So, make sure that you carry some extra Brazilian Reals with you to avoid any sort of trouble and inconvenience.
Why be a mere spectator to one of the greatest shows in the world, when you can actually go out and dance to the rhythm of samba with the locals? Locals will gladly accept you as there is no shortage of dance partners out there. So, party till you drop, and return home with a memory of a lifetime!