Rio Carnival – Endless hours of Samba music. Almost unbearable.

Okay i do have to be honest here I found this experience almost unbearable. However its still amazing. Cheers to that!

First of all though for information on tickets etc CLICK HERE

The Rio carnival takes place every year, four days before Ash Wednesday and the start of lent. This usually means if you want to set a date to see it, it will usually be in February or March.

The carnival originated in Rio as early as 1641 when the bourgeoisie population of the city started to hold balls and masquerade parties. The custom is said to have been imported from France, but these very European roots soon absorbed elements from their own African, Native American and Creole cultures. By the end of the 19th century the carnival had started taking on the form we know it today with pageant groups performing to song and dance.

These became know as “Blocos” (blocks) and each block or group from a different neightbourhood in Rio would wear special costumes and adopt a theme. Today samba schools compete to take part in the Rio carnival and a selection of the top schools will take part over a two night period, leading to one grand winner. It takes place in the Sambodromo which seen in the broad light of day is an almost ugly concrete structure with a wide avenue in the center for the parades.

Seating is divided into odd and even numbers on either side i.e. 1,3,5,7,9,11 on one side and all the even numbered sections on the other side.  

I took a grandstand seat in section 3 which is close to the beginning of the parade and offers excellent views, with the added bonus of getting to see the parade when it starts it journey, which can take up to an hour.  The ticket was $200 and this is one of the cheaper options available. Some tickets in the VIP section can stretch to over $2000, but will include air-conditioned booths and refreshments.

Most hotels can and will arrange a taxi to take you to and from the carnival and this will usually cost about an extra $50. I opted for the fun and cheaper option of taking the subway which operates 24 hours non-stop during the carnival. It’s perfectly safe. If you have a seat in an odd numbered section you will need to get off at “Central” and for even numbered section at “Praça Onze”. Basically you just follow the crowds and with a bit of luck (I got a bit confused) you will find your section.

At the entrance you will have to pass through a security check. The carnival starts at 9pm but the doors open at 5pm. You should certainly try to get there as early as possible, especially if you are in sections that don’t have numbered seats. Competition is fierce and despite getting there nearly two hours early I had to jostle for a good position. Each section has a guard and you will not be allowed to sit or stand in the central stairway. I was hugely relieved at 5pm after 8 solid hours of samba music, when I finally and thankfully I might add spotted the last float, but not before i had my one moment of glory. Would I go again. No way! Should you go. Absolutely!