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Ways to Experience Rio de Janeiro Carnival
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Reviewed 5 March 2017

We had travelled around the globe to see the biggest party in the world and decided to buy the best tickets to ensure that we did not miss any of the excitement. We were ready for the Samba performances but were unprepared for the excitement and happiness on the streets. There were street parties popping up unannounced with everyone wearing some kind of party attire. Many were dressed in full costumes (of every imaginable theme) and they welcomed participation by visitors.
We will probably return, and next time we will spend more time on the streets. Of course, impromptu “Blocko” parties with thousands of happy revellers inevitably cause traffic chaos in an already traffic bound city, so be prepared for long delays. Also with a reported one million visitors in a week, everything is crowded. Bars, restaurants, and popular attractions have long waiting times.

What a party! Next time we will stay a week.

Date of experience: February 2017
Thank croftonMelbourne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 March 2017 via mobile

We weren't going to do the sambadrome because people told us that we'd see carnival parades and parties in the street so it wasn't worth spending the money. While we did see a couple of bloco samba / drummer groups (which were fun), it's a completely different level at the sambadrome. You won't see the epic scale of the floats, the colours, the costumes and the high quality samba dancing unless you visit the sambadrome. It's like nothing we've ever experienced before! It's a long night, and we only stayed for 3 of the many schools that parade (each school has over an hour and hundreds of performers). But honestly, the first 5 minutes alone was worth the USD$135 ticket price we paid. If you can, try to walk outside the arena to where the parades finish. We accidentally found ourselves in this "back stage" area and it was an added bonus experience to see (and even wear!) the costumes, and to view the floats up close. Nobody seemed bothered that we were there and were proud to show off their costumes to us. One note though - be extra vigilant about your stuff walking around the arena as there were some shady looking streets.

Date of experience: February 2017
2  Thank Shane L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 February 2017 via mobile

I had low expectations going into this, but my wife insisted we go, so I plucked down $400 for two tickets in section 5 amongst the locals - we were the only tourists in this section. I could not begin to describe the color and excitement, the singing along, the energy, the floats and costumes - it was, without doubt, by far, the best spectacle you will ever see. Try and sit in a lower numbered section at the beginning, where the performers are putting out more energy and displays for the judges. We had friends who paid $65 for section 12 and they said they could not see a thing! We stayed until 3:00 because we had arranged a pickup at that time. Otherwise, I would have stayed another hour or two. Bathrooms were fine and food and beer readily available. Spend more for the better seats - you will not be disappointed. We debated going back the next night, but could not get seats in the lower sections. Not to be missed!

Date of experience: February 2017
1  Thank pfefmeister
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 February 2017

This is just a quick list of things that I wish I had known before planning my trip to Rio to see the Carnival. Some of it is opinion and my experiences are limited to attending the Monday night parade in Sector 8 Grandstand. It is written the next day while its fresh in my mind

Buying tickets:
Shop around the prices because they vary a lot between vendor to vendor. I bought a single ticket from each of agencies. 1. Carnival Bookers.com (Bookers International). (Cost $USD198) and 2. Rio-Carnival.net (which is run by a Brazilian company) (cost $USD157). Both were reliable, quick and no problems with my card. But this is an indication of the price difference ($USD41) for exactly the same tickets.

Picking up tickets
I opted to pick up the tickets personally. This took me about 2 ½ hours overall because I had to go to two locations in different parts of Rio but both were easy experiences. I strongly suggest picking up the tickets the day before. I had booked a pick up time with Bookers International but changed plans and did not use it. I would guess that allowing an hour max would have been suitable for just one location. In hindsight probably the deliver y option was worth it.

Which sector?
I chose Sector 8 Grandstand because it was a good location and cheaper than the reserved seats in Sector 9 (the so called tourist sector). The atmosphere in Sector 8 was great – everyone singing and dancing and sharing good times. My subjective observation is that Sector 9 was much more staid with much less dancing. We arrived at Sector 8 at 7:30 pm and we able to sit in the second row. We could have arrived as late as 8:15 and got similar seats. I was very happy with the view.

Using the Metro during Carnival week
We travelled by Metro to the Sambardrome. Note that all the ticket machines are closed during carnival and many of the entrances to the Metro are also restricted. You will not be allowed into the Metro at some station entrances at peak times without a ticket during carnival week and the queues for tickets can be long where ticket purchases are allowed. I strongly advise that if you are planning to travel by Metro to or from the Sambadrome or to use the Metro pick up tickets or attend Blocos that you buy a pre paid card – 5 Rs and put 15-20 Rs credit on it or buy a few single trip cards (Unitario) when you can at quieter times. The Metro is great to get around but this limitation certainly delayed and inconvenienced me during Carnival week and I wish I had known about it.

Cushions and Food drink in the Sambadome
You will be happy to have a cushion to sit on in the grandstands while waiting and in between Samba Schools. Everybody told me to bring one and so I lugged a pillow with me for my girlfriend but as soon as I got off the Metro at Praca Onze (stop for even numbered Sectors) there were dozens of cushion vendors and the price was low (5 Rs each), - these are quite thin foam so maybe two each? I wish I knew this.

The official advice is that you can bring two 500 ml drinks and 2 bits of food into the Sambdrome. There is a bag check but it’s not too strict. The main thing they are looking for is glass bottles. But bringing a reasonable amount of food and drink is fine though not a big cooler as far as I could tell.

Having said that the prices in the Sambdrome were reasonable (certainly in comparison to Australia where there is license to charge the sky) and there are vendors in all the areas. (Water 5 Rs, Coke 6 Rs, Red Bull 12 Rs). The prices are fixed and shown on the vendor’s shirts. Other food (burgers pizza etc.) are available under the stands and sometimes via vendors and were fairly priced.

How to make your self unpopular!
In the grandstands there is s strong feeling among Brazilians that if you bother to get there early and are in the front row, you have the right to the space along the rail. If you arrive after the parade has started and then decide that you would like to have that space on the rail, you will encounter a lot of angry reactions. I watched several foreigners’ just march to the front row and stand in front of the people who had been there all day.

I watched one young American guy violently shove an elderly Brazilian woman aside when she protested. As you can imagine this did not end up well for him and I observed several other scuffles in which these interlopers were ejected. You can get good seats even if you arrive after the parade starts but do not expect to occupy the rail in between the different schools without expecting some pushback!! The arrogance and ugly behaviour of some of these latecomers (almost always young foreigners) was truly extraordinary. Basically behave properly, interact with your neighbours and you will have a much more enjoyable experience.

The parade finished at about 6 am. Dawn had broken, the sky was pink and the music was still going!! The Tourist Sector 9 was about half full and looked pretty sad but the other sectors were still full and still dancing. Getting out and home is of course a bit of a struggle but no worse than any big sporting stadium in the world. Taxis were operating on the meter!!

Overall
It was fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it. To be honest I was a little worried about the crowds and finding a good seat and the day before was half wishing I had bought in the tourist Sector 9. However, after being there, I am relived that I ended up in Sector 8 surrounded mostly by local people. The warmth and friendliness of the Brazilian people is such a huge enjoyment and a part of the whole experience so go with an open heart and dance and sing and enjoy their Carnival with them.

Date of experience: February 2017
19  Thank William F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 February 2017 via mobile

If you haven't been to Rio Carnival then you haven't lived! What an event! What a place! The sambadrome was a perfect place to watch this amazing, unforgettable show, the experience of a lifetime! It's a must do for sure! Loved every minute of it!

Date of experience: February 2017
Thank Hurley18
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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