Even though the next Carnaval in Brazil is 9-months away, I decided to resume everything I learned during the Carnaval this year (Find out my experience in Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro 2019) and give a few tips & tricks for your first Carnaval.
You booked your flight tickets (I guess you need no help for that) and are looking for accommodation. If you are a group of friends or just two or three friends, I think the best would be renting a whole flat or just a room at Airbnb. This is also a great possibility to meet Cariocas (people from Rio de Janeiro), who can tell you where the secret blocos are and just give general advice. Regarding the location, I stayed in the Center which is not really nice at night, so better stay around Ipanema which is nicer.
One of the most important things about Carnaval, A Fantasia or the costume! Getting a costume or not, is not even a question and there are no rules here. If you want a whole mermaid outfit from head to toe or prefer to just have a bikini top with some accessories, it is up to you! So as mentioned you can choose to have a full costume and be a cat, a mermaid, a sunflower or a fairy just to name some of the most popular ones. You can even decide for matching costumes with your friends or partner, like one is an angle and the other one a devil, the gardener and his flower or even go in the same costumes. If you need some inspiration check out carnario2020, inspiracao_fantasia or universodasfantasias on Instagram. Now the whole costume from head to toe is not really your thing? Do not worry, you do not have to be all dresses up or go as something, a hairband with flowers or a tutu and glitter will do as well. There is another rule though. The shorter the better! You might have already guessed it, in Brazil the clothes are just shorter so during Carnaval they are even shorter. Consider also that it is usually quite hot, so fabrics that don’t stick to your skin are always a great idea and they should also dry quickly as you will sweat, get wet by water cannons they sometimes have at blocos to refresh you or if you get wet by spilt drinks. Always a good and handy idea is a bikini or bathing shorts which are also great to jump quickly into the ocean for refreshment. What you can often see are tutus on women as well as men, Oh YES! Welcome to Brazil! They are great because they won’t stick to your skin and if they get wet you don’t even feel it. Don’t waste your time searching tutus in your home town, you can get them for around R$10-15 in shops around the metro station Uruguaiana but you should go there before Carnaval starts as the shops are closed during Carnaval. Once there you can also find a lot of accessories like flower hairbands, shell crowns, feathers, necklaces and earrings. Don’t hesitate to wear Jewellery you have at home, except for expensive Jewellery as it is more likely to get stole or you just lose it. I prefer to change outfits every day but obviously do not want to buy loads of things, so I try to combine clothes I already have in my wardrobe and just buy a few things. You can also exchange costumes and accessories with your friends or buy things you can use again, for example, I got a rainbow body which I will use for Gay Pride or a sparkling top which I used for a mermaid costume but will also wear on a night out! Another possibility would be to make your costume and accessories yourself, no limits set! Some people from my hostel room left after two days and gave me their tutus, this is how I ended up with three more tutus to wear. This past Carnaval you could see a lot of people with colourful fanny packs which are handy especially as you might not have any pockets. Regarding the shoes, usually people will tell you to wear closed shoes to prevent people from stepping on your feed, yet we always went in flip flops. An addition to your costume could be a Plaquinha, which is a carton with some cheeky pickup line or wordplay. I have never seen any in English but only in Portuguese, so I am not sure if it would make sense to get one in English especially because most Brazilians do not speak too good English. It would not be Carnaval without … Yes, GLITTER. If you like it or not, you will end up all covered in it! You can find all kind of different colours, shapes and sizes, and even bigger stones. When buying glitter check if they are biodegradable as it is really likely that they will end up in the ocean. You can buy some online on Eco Glitter Fun or The Gypsy Shrine. I apply some Labello/Vaseline on my face and stick then the glitter on it. What you should not do, waist too much time on makeup as you are likely to sweat it off anyway.
And in my fanny pack, I would bring?! The first rule, don’t take anything valuable! We took max R$100 per person which is about 25€ but here it depends where you will eat, how much you drink and if you go by metro or taxi. I also took with me some Labello and more glitter in case we have to apply even more. Some fresh-mints because, well it is Carnaval and nobody has a nice breath after a few beers. Tissues in case there is no toilet paper and some hand sanitizer. If you take your phone with you or not, you have to decide!
Before leaving into this big crazy Carnaval city, lets’ check out the blocos for today shall we? Nobody wants to get lost or chasing blocos! Blocos? Check out Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro 2019 to find out what that is! So best would be to ask locals as they usually know the best blocos or you could check the app Carnablocos, here you can find all the blocos by date, when and where they start or search them by name. Usually, they will meet up one hour before departure. Don’t miss out on some blocos that start at 7 AM like Amigos da Onça, I know it is weird to start partying at 7 AM but hey, it is Carnaval!
You can find out about the blocos I went to in Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro 2019 and about the Feminism bloco Mulheres Rodadas (will follow soon). Here some blocos I missed and want to check out next time, Ceú na Terra in Santa Teresa, Suvaco de Cristo at the Jardim Botanico (pre bloco a week before). There is a pre-Carnaval bloco at Ilha do Governador which is supposed to be amazing, I think it was Bloco Quem vai Vai, quem não vai, não cagueta!. Famous are also Carmelitas in Santa Teresa or Saymos do Egyto where people dress up. The 15-hours Cordão do Boi Tolo goes all around the city, Monobloco which is a huge bloco, Bloco das Poderosas by Anitta with other Brazilian artists like Jojo or International star Alesso, which is also super crowded.
Public transport; Let me tell you that Rio de Janeiro is crazy during Carnaval, nearly nothing works and the public metro is no exception. You should consider that not all metro stations are open and if they are you can not buy tickets, so you should buy some before and buy in bulk. We used to grab a beer and walk if it was not more than 30 minutes away (depends on the neighbourhood as well), that way we would also do a little sightseeing tour and stop at our favourite Caipirinha stand in Lapa. If you want to go by Uber or taxi, consider traffic especially which could result in the drive being longer than by metro during the day. At night I would prefer a taxi though, depending on the area you are or the area you are going as it might be safer!
Once arrived at the checkpoint but there is no bloco, you missed it! You could try finding the bloco, asking vendors around if they know where it is going or saw in which direction they left. ‘Cade é o bloco?’ or ‘Para onde foi o bloco?’. From there you can follow the bass, you could end up in front of a guy selling beers though..this happened to us quite often. As you are there get yourself a beer! Don’t panic and don’t forget that we are here to have fun. So even if you can not find the bloco you wanted to go to, but find a street with music and a great atmosphere or fun people, don’t waste time chasing blocos, stay there!
Finally, you are at a bloco or just dancing to the drums on a street corner, someone passes by and just kisses you. Yes, this could happen. Especially as a lot of the present Brazilians are tourists themselves, meaning not from Rio de Janeiro. They usually think they can do whatever they want as it is Carnava, due to this the campaign não é não! came to life. Yes, even during Carnaval there are rules! Like when you look around and meet eyes with someone and look at each other for 4 second one of you has to come over. From there it continues as you like. Often you will also hear people chanting ‘Beijo, beijo, beijo‘ (beijo = kiss). To be honest, a lot of guys will just force themselves on to you and don’t really understand the word no.’ But it is Carnaval’ is their excuse. You have all rights to say No though! Especially for girls, check on your friends, make sure everybody is safe. My friend would just ask me in French if I want to leave or stay. Enjoy it but do not let anyone force you to do things you don’t wanna do!
Another point, as you are drinking alcohol and it is hot, you should not forget to have water once in a while. What I am also really likely to forget is to eat! You can have a quick snack like Salgados and Pastel in a bar, and use the toilet at the same time. You can also find street vendors a bit everywhere and sometimes even around the blocos, like the amazing vegan Hareburger.
Curtiu o Carnaval! **
That’s all I could think off at the moment, if you have any questions do not hesitate, if I remember something later I will update this post. **Enjoy Carnaval!