If there’s one single location on the face of this planet that can lay claim to being the party capital of the world it’s Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Sure, there are lots of other festivals and parties you can jet off to take part in, but name one other party where 4 million people get together, to get down, get sweaty, and have fun for an entire week.
That wasn’t a typo, by the way – the Rio Carnival has 4 million participants each year, although many of those are locals, or Cariocas. There’s also a huge influx of tourists to Rio de Janeiro during the carnival, presenting you with literally thousands of opportunities to meet and greet with either the sultry local girls, or hot tourists instead.
This week-long street party can trace its roots back to the European tradition each year of honoring the God of Wine. The same frenetic energy, and naked abandon of those parties, crossed the Atlantic and became what is now the Rio Carnival. It’s a celebration of everything fun, and a reminder we’re all probably here for a good time and not a long time.
The timetable for the carnival is that it starts on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, and officially ends at midday on Ash Wednesday. If you’re not familiar with those events that’s because they’re based around the Christian holiday of Lent.
The build up to the Carnival starts well before that though, with preparation going on all year round. Once the partying starts it doesn’t stop, so you can expect to be up dancing, drinking and having fun well past sunrise each day.
You don’t need us to tell you that the Rio Carnival is one gigantic street party, but there’s more to it than just that. If you’re going to attend you’ll need to plan your entire trip well in advance, including booking your tickets and accommodation as early on as you can.
The first thing you need to know is that The Sambódromo is the true heart of the festival. This event is massively popular with both locals and tourists. It’s also the only “street” event of the Rio Carnival you’ll need to buy tickets for, and you’ll need to book them months in advance.
In addition to the main parades there’s lots of other things happening, including balls, concerts and the famous “Blocos”, or street parties which cover one entire neighborhood. The “Blocos” go on day and night for the entire week. There are so many of these “block parties”, that it’s almost difficult to avoid getting caught up in one.
Another major draw for visitors are the numerous balls taking place during the week of Carnaval. These are all black tie affairs, with the biggest of them being the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel.
The more exclusive Carnival balls are usually loaded down with celebrities, and you can expect to pay at least US$1,200 for a ticket. There are plenty of less expensive black tie balls for you to attend like the ones at Rio Scala, for example, where entry prices are a far more reasonable $60 – $100.
Most of the Cariocas are from the middle and lower classes, and have very little money. So, a black tie event might be the best first step in your seduction plans for the girl you’ve set your sights on. It’s probably the first time in her life she’ll have attended something like that.
Now it’s time to get down to business, and the reason you’re planning a trip to Rio in the first place – the girls. Are all single Brazilian girls as hot as the ones you see on the various dating websites?
Nope. That’s not possible, but you will be surrounded by thousands of extremely attractive women for the entire time you’re here. Those European influences are visible in the faces of women in every bar, on every beach, and in every nightclub.
Brazilian women are as sexual and very open minded as you’ve heard, but don’t expect them to fall into your lap just because you’re a gringo. In fact, you’re going to have to learn enough Portuguese to break the ice with them, otherwise they’ll think you’re just another dumb gringo looking for a hooker.
On that note do your best not to dress like a gringo either – it’s a major turn off for girls here. Any girl worth your time will expect you to put as much effort into your appearance as they put into theirs, so start getting yourself in shape now, and ditch that beer belly, at the very least.
Girls here will expect you to make the first move, although smile at her first to make sure she’s interested. If she smiles back make your move, but if she turns away you should move on because she’s not interested.
Even when you do get talking to a potential date don’t be shy about folding your hand if there’s no spark after the first 10 or 15 minutes. Brazilian girls either feel a connection with you, or they don’t. That’s just how it plays out here.
Attending the street parties means you’ll be surrounded by girls for pretty much the entire night, so you’re going to have to put yourself out there and get some friendly conversation going.
One clever way of becoming a more integral part of the Carnival than your regular tourist is to invest in a “costume package” through a reliable travel agent. Your costume means you blend in with the locals, and you’ll even get a chance to march in the parade.
When you’re not in full Carnival mode there are still lots of great places to meet girls here. Ipanema and Joatinga beaches are famous for the hotties who spend their days there, so it’s definitely worth taking some time out to check out life at either of these beaches.
Cafés are also another great place to meet girls who aren’t necessarily looking for a boyfriend, but will be curious about the gringo sitting beside them having lunch and not falling around drunk at a party.
These are the perfect opportunities to smile, and hit them with a friendly “Olá, bom dia” before inviting at least one of them to join you for a coffee and some friendly conversation. Then it’s up to you to convince them that you’re the perfect guy for them.
Where To Stay
We normally give you a breakdown of the different ranges of hotels you can book into first, and then discuss hostels as a backup. You should consider using a hostel as part of your dating plan, at least for the first few nights of your stay. You are staying for the entire week, right? Good. Otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Anyway, back to hostels – these are great places to stay in Rio because you’ll be forced into social situations, whether you like it or not. The fact they’re also a whole lot cheaper than hotel rooms is an added bonus, although even hostel prices skyrocket during Carnaval.
Now to the hotels. Unless you book several months in advance you can expect to pay 3x – 5x the normal rate for a hotel room in Rio during the Carnival. So the $100 per night hotel rooms become $400 per night hotel rooms, and when you get into 5-star accommodation territory you’re going to drop at least $800 per night for your room.
Per night – that’s not a typo! Oh, and some of the hotels won’t allow you to bring “guests” back to you room at 3am. Just so you know.
Another thing to watch out for when booking a hotel room here is that none of the hotels here are interested in bookings of a few days. You’re either paying for at least a 5-day stay, or you’ll have to find someplace else to sleep at night.
If you’re interested in a luxury hotel our top picks are the Grand Hyatt RDJ, Hilton Barra RDJ, and the Belmond Copacabana Palace. Off-season room rates for these hotels start at around $220 per night, but those prices will probably quadruple during the Carnival.
There’s also a great selection of mid-range hotels for you to crash in after a hard day and night of partying, and a few we’d suggest you take a look at include Porto Bay Rio International, Slaviero Lifestyle, Hotel Novotel Santos Dumont and the Windsor Leme Hotel. Room rates for these hotels start at around $100 per night.
Another smart way of really getting into the spirit of the Carnival is to rent an apartment instead. If you can’t afford the upfront cost look at sharing it with a few of your friends, or maybe somebody else desperate for someplace to stay in the run up to the biggest party you’ve ever been to. Check out Airbnb, and similar sites, for apartments you can rent.
Your final option is to couch surf, which is usually free, and Brazilians are generous and welcoming by their nature, making Rio the ideal city to couch surf in. It’s not for everyone, but if it comes down to a choice between going to the Carnival or staying at home, well, we think you’ll be able to make your mind up pretty quickly.
Galeão International Airport is the largest international airport in Brazil, so this is where your flight will touch down. Most of the major airlines have direct flights to the city, including British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Delta, Air Canada, American Airlines and Emirates.
You can expect to pay at least US$1,000 for a direct flight from North America, and at least twice that if you’re flying from anywhere in Europe.
A taxi from the airport to your hotel/hostel/apartment will cost about $35, but if you get caught in heavy traffic this journey could take up to two hours. Airport shuttle buses leave every 30 minutes, are a lot cheaper, but again if you get stuck in traffic you’ll be sitting on a cramped bus instead of a comfortable taxi.
The Rio Carnival attracts thieves, and lots of them. The item they’re most likely to grab out of your hand or pocket is your cell phone, and if it’s an Apple, HTC or Samsung model they’ll go out of their way to relieve you of it.
Only ever bring cash with you when you go out, and don’t show it off any more than you need to. There’s no point in reporting stolen property to police during the Rio Carnival – they have 4 million people to watch over, so your phone or wallet doesn’t count as a priority for them.
If a random, but extremely attractive, girl offers to buy you a drink, or to share a drink with you, then you need to walk in the opposite direction. The drink is spiked, and you’ll wake up a few hours later minus all your valuables. Their drug of choice is a form of roofie, so there are no lasting side effects apart from waking up broke, lost and ashamed of yourself for falling for such an obvious scam.
The last bit of advice we want to share with you is that you should not, under any circumstances, urinate in public during the Carnival. People have peed on the streets for decades, but it was made illegal in 2012, and will now get you arrested.
Planning a trip to the Rio Carnival is going to take a bit more work than going to Burning Man, but it’s worth all the effort you put into it. There’s party that can compare to the sheer excitement and mayhem you get to experience during several days of hot, sweaty partying while you’re surrounded by beautiful Brazilian women.