12 Reasons The Brazil Carnival Should Be On Your Bucket List

Forty days before Easter, Brazil draws in people from around the world to celebrate its biggest party: Carnaval. The Brazil Carnival is, without a doubt, one of the biggest events in the world, full of people wanting to live, eat and breathe the party atmosphere that takes over the country for a whole week. From the over the top costumes to its insanely fun block parties, it’s an event that should be on everyone’s bucket list and here’s why:

1. Brazilians are some of the friendliest people on earth.

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No matter where you go in the country, Brazilians are welcoming and warm. Most of the locals you’ll meet during the Brazil Carnival are generally accepting of tourists, but make sure you understand their playful, sometimes sarcastic, humor or you’ll be left out of the conversation.

2. It’s an authentic cultural experience.

Credit: Pré Carnaval /  Flickr

Although the Brazil Carnival has garnered worldwide fame, it still stays true to its original spirit. The celebrations begin on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and finish on that day, marking the beginning of Lent.

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Because of this, many Catholics abstain from consuming meat. The word carnival stems from carnelevare, or “to raise meat,” and refers to these days of epic celebration.

3. It’s considered the biggest party in the world.

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According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Brazil Carnival is considered the world’s largest carnival. With parties happening day and night, the country comes together to celebrate in epic proportions.

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It’s believed that almost 2 million people a day take part in the festivities and, in 2011, the Rio de Janeiro celebrations brought in an estimated 4.9 million people alone. From ticketed events to street parties, the country really goes wild with excitement.

4. There are celebrations scattered all throughout Brazil.

Credit: Encontro de Maracatus e Carnaval Mesclado /  Digital Image

Although the Rio de Janeiro carnival might be the most popular with foreigners, celebrations take place all around the country.

Credit: Partido Brasil Noreste /  Digital Image

From Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo to Salvador to Bahia, every region has a special way of celebrating during the Brazil Carnival, and each city brings a special something to the party. Whether it’s different music, costumes or events, you’re sure to be surprised no matter where you go.

5. Samba is KING!

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One of the most popular music genres in the country, samba remains king of the carnaval. Once considered as slave music, the genre has developed over the years and is nowadays closely associated with the Brazil Carnival.

Credit:  @ticketriocarnaval / Instagram

Deeply rooted in African culture, street parades and special performances are all choreographed to the beat of the drums that enthuse dancers and spectators alike. It’s impossible to sit still once the music starts playing, and you’ll be shimmying along with the dancers before you’ve made it out of the hotel.

6. A visit to the Sambódromo might cost a small fortune…

Credit: Vila Isabel. Digital Image. Flickr. February 20, 2012.

Rio de Janeiro’s Sambódromo is arguably the most representative thing about the Brazil Carnival. The arena hosts the most iconic events, and the seats are filled to the brim with Cariocas (locals) and foreigners alike who want to catch a display of pure samba talent.

Credit: Vila Isabel /  Digital Image

That being said, scoring a ticket to the Sambódromo during the festivities is definitely not easy or cheap: It can set you back almost $1,600 for one of the “Luxury Suites”. With Carnival Sunday and Monday being the busier days, your best bet at snagging a ticket is on Saturday.

7. …but the shows are unbelievably worth it!

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Nonetheless, buying a ticket is definitely worth it for the sheer talent of the dancers alone. The dance shows are an incredible example of the work, money, and energy that go into preparing a performance of this caliber, and the performers leave it all on stage.

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It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience, made all the better thanks to the energy of the locals who dance along too. Being at the Sambódromo is truly an immersion of culture, and it’s a must-do for anyone visiting Brazil at the time.

8. You can watch samba schools compete for a shot at the crown. 


Credit: Passista da Portela. Digital Image. Flickr. February 25, 2012.

More than a stage to show off their talent, the shows at the Sambódromo are also a competition – a very fierce one. Samba schools are similar to sports teams, and they compete against each other during carnaval to be crowned champion.

Credit: @carnavalsperj / Instagram

Samba schools are judged on their dances, music, costumes, and their parade float. Each performance lasts up to an hour and, depending on the size and fame of the school, can cost millions of dollars to organize and produce. Talk about high stakes!

9. The costumes are unlike anything else you’ll ever see.

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The Brazil Carnival has always been closely associated with scantily-clad women wearing huge headdresses and rhinestones that move to the rhythm of the music. While this might be true, there’s a lot more that goes into these outfits.

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While part of the costume is sewn with a machine, most beads, feathers, and accessories are all usually made by hand. A typical carnival outfit can range anywhere from $200 – $1,500 depending on the detail and complexity of the attire. While it’s nice to feel like a local, we recommend going for the cheaper option: beads, wigs and maybe a few feathers. There’s no actual dress code, so don’t worry about not splashing out.

10. There’s plenty of Instagrammable moments.

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In today’s digital era, capturing the moment has become an essential part of our daily lives. If you went to the Brazil Carnival but didn’t post about it on social media, did you actually go? While the answer is obviously yes, there are still plenty of camera-worthy moments waiting to be captured.

Credit: @carnavalsp_ / Instagram

From the eccentric costumes to the street parties, passing through the giant parade floats and the iconic carnival-women, the Brazil Carnival is a photographer’s dream.

11. Missing out on blocos will give you serious fomo.

Credit: Munguzá do Zuza e Bacalhau do Batata /  Flickr

Even though the sambódromo might seem like the star of the show, there are plenty of other celebrations happening around the country that don’t require a ticket. Tourists and locals alike can show up to blocos, or block parties, wherever they are.

Credit: Bloco da Cidadania /  Flickr

These events usually involve a truck, huge speakers, and extremely loud samba music blasting through them. Being outside and on the street, these parties are generally more relaxed than the other carnival events, and usually, everything goes. Rio, for example, hosts no less than 587 blocos a year that cater to everyone:  it’s a party based around the principle of acceptance, love, and the desire to have a great freakin’ time.

12. It’s an experience you’ll always remember.

Credit: Bloco Eu acho é pouco /  Flickr

With all its colors, sounds and smells, the Brazil Carnival is truly a once in a lifetime event. If you’re one of the lucky ones that do get to be a part of it, take it all in — even the low moments. Keep an eye on your valuables, stay close to your travel buddies and stay aware of your surroundings. Carry only what you need for the day and make the most of it without having to worry about a case of curious fingers.

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