10 things to know for Rio Carnival newbies

The experts at Brazogo explain how to party like a local at Rio de Janeiro’s famous blocos.

February 16, 2017

In a week’s time, Rio de Janeiro will host its world famous Carnival – five days of endless street parties, tropical weather, lively music and scandalous costumes.

Blocos – a street party where revellers celebrate by wearing their most outrageous costumes – happen 24 hours a day and usually have some kind of theme.

For the uninitiated, the first time at Rio Carnival may be a little overwhelming. Which is why we turned to the experts at Brazogo – a local company that provides fully customised guidebooks for the city – to get their insider tips on how to be fully prepared for the world’s biggest party.

Here’s how to party like a true Carioca (Rio local) at Carnival. 

Get your costume at the markets

Don’t fall for expensive tourists traps like Copacabana and Ipanema. Instead, head downtown to the city centre and plunge deep into the sprawling bazaar next to Uruguaiana Station.

Pick out the best range of Carnival costumes at local prices. Expect to find pretty much everything you need including vibrant wigs, sequined pantsuits, body glitter and colourful sunglasses. 

Accessorise with umbrellas

February in Rio is the hottest month of the year, with unforgiving temperatures and tropical downpours. An umbrella is the ultimate Carnival accessory, providing both shade and protection. Pick one up for about 10 Reais ($3) at Uruguaiana markets.

When waved over your head, it also serves as ventilation which will be very welcome if you find yourself in the middle of a thick crowd at one of the many blocos.

Belt up

Pockets aren’t really the best place to store your belongings in Carnival. Things can fall out of them, or wandering hands may find their way inside. Cariocas solve this problem with travel belts. Simply fit one around your waist and pop your belongings inside. Only take your essentials with you: phone, credit card, a few small notes and a photocopy of your ID or passport.

Less cash, more card

Credit cards are widely accepted in Rio and can be used to purchase almost anything, anywhere. Exploring the city with large wads of cash is never a good idea, so minimise your risk and use your card instead. If you’re going to a bloco, take about R$100 in your travel belt. Make sure this is split into smaller notes because it’s often difficult for street vendors to provide change for large amounts. 

Carnival phone

Most Cariocas will use a cheap phone if they’re planning on a big day out at a bloco. When you’re in full-bloco mode things can get lost, dropped or even pickpocketed in a large crowd. Losing your expensive smartphone is a drag. If you’ve got an old handset lying around, bring it with you to Carnival and use it at crowded blocos.

Less is more

During Carnival there will be over 450 official blocos over a five-day period (February 25 - March 1). Some of the more famous ones like Bloco da Bola Preta (Black Ball Bloco) attracts crowds of over one million partygoers. If this seems overwhelming, choose smaller blocos. They can be equally as fun and much easier to navigate.

Party at any time

With blocos scheduled 24 hours a day you can have fun when it suits you. Can’t sleep because of jetlag, or overslept because you had too much fun the day before? It doesn’t matter because there will always be something happening, no matter what time of day it is.

The excitement of getting up early and starting your bloco experience at 4 am to watch the sunrise over Sugarloaf Mountain is a true Rio experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. 

Hydrate

February in Rio de Janeiro is hot. Temperatures sometimes reach above 100 degrees. This should go without saying, but drink water. Combining sweltering temperatures with partying can take its toll. Thankfully, street vendors will be selling cold water from styrofoam coolers at almost every corner. A 17 ounce (500 ml) should cost you about R$3.

Shoes

Havaianas are pretty much considered as formalwear in Rio, however wearing flip-flops to a bloco is never a good idea. You risk people stepping on you or getting injured by broken glass or trash. No matter how fabulous your outfit is, always wear closed-toe footwear to a bloco.

Have fun

Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Carnival is one of the most enjoyable events of the calendar. Cariocas are generally very excited to welcome tourists to their city and celebrate with them. Memorise basic phrases such as ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, and you will be warmly received. Expect to make new friends and take home incredible stories. 


Brazogo provides fully customised guidebooks for Rio de Janeiro, handmade and delivered in under 24 hours. Go to brazogo.com.