Rio Carnival, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the world’s biggest Carnival. It is a bucket list experience of rehearsals, balls, parades and street parties.
Carnival is a cultural expression of belonging to a group and one’s individuality within that group. It is so important in Brazil that very little business gets done between the Christmas holidays and the end of Carnival.
Rio Carnival 2021
Rio Carnival 2021 was scheduled for February 12-16, 2021.
Carnival looks unlikely this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of August 2020, the remnants of last year have not been cleaned up and preparations have yet to begin. Let’s celebrate from home.
It’s official now. Rio Carnival 2021 is cancelled.
Rio Carnival 2020
Official Rio Carnival 2020 starts Friday, February 21, 2020 and builds to a climax on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. The Samba Schools Carnival champion parades again on Saturday, February 29, 2020.
Visiting Rio Carnival
Rio Carnival is a bucket list experience (one of the things you should do in life before you die (kick the bucket).
When to Make Reservations
To visit Rio Carnival, book flights and lodging 4-6 months in advance. Book Sambadrome tickets as early as possible. Rio Carnival is very popular. The best of everything sells out quickly and prices go up as the dates get closer.
Where to Stay
Visitors should stay in Zona Sul do Rio (South Zone of Rio), the city’s tourist area. Ipanema and Leblon are the best choices. Copacabana is good too. Ipanema and Copacabana are Rio’s most famous beaches. Ipanema faces the ocean. Copacabana is at the mouth of Guanabara Bay.
More affordable neighborhoods include Botafogo, Lapa and Flamengo.
Rio’s old city center is a little to the north in Guanabara Bay.
What to Do
The Samba School Parade in Rio’s Carnival stadium, the Sambadrome, is the big event, but Carnival is a series of events. These include rehearsals, balls, street parties and parades.
Try to do a little of everything. If you can, go early to Rio to get used to the city and visit one of the rehearsals.
The most popular samba schools include Banda de Ipanema, Simpatia is almost love (Simpatia é quase amor), and Cordão do Bola Preta.
The most popular balls include the Scala Rio Gala (Baile de Gala do Scala Rio), Scala Gay and the Cordão do Bola Preta ball at Scala Rio. The most prestigious ball is the Magic Ball (Baile Mágico) at the Copacabana Palace Hotel.
The Latin world in general is safe, but not safe, and Rio is no different. You can’t walk around like you would in New York City. Everyone in the neighborhood immediately knows you are a tourist. That makes you a target.
Don’t wear jewelry and never show valuables on the street, including watches and cameras. Keep your wallet secure so you don’t get pickpocketed.
Days are usually okay, but nights can get edgy, especially after about 10pm and early mornings before sunrise. Book rides to and from your events.
The main thing is don’t be stupid. Stumbling around drunk in the middle of the night at a place you don’t know will attract trouble no matter where in the world you are. Be smart, keep one eye on your surroundings, and enjoy a safe journey.
Rio Carnival is an unforgettable life experience.