5 Smart Tips for Carnival 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The 2013 rio carnival is scheduled to begin on Saturday, 18 February 2013 and last till Tuesday, 21 February 2013.

What is the Rio Carnival?

Those of you who don’t know what the Carnival is, watch Blue Sky Studio’s Rio. Amazingly enough that’s how my interest developed. The Rio Carnival is a series of exuberant and boisterous parades and parties. The festivities begin 40 days before Easter and right before the more somber season of Lent. The Carnival is an important part of Brazil’s culture and people start preparing for it months in advance. The many samba schools in the city put up brilliant parades as well as street parties orchestrated to live music.

Rio Carnival History

The Carnival was first introduced to Brazil in 1850 by the Portuguese. In the beginning it was more of an elitist event with parties held by the Parisian bourgeoisie. However, it quickly became popular among the common people and the dancing and costumes took on an African and Amerindian influence. During the time of the festival, it was common for the rich to dress as poor, men to dress as women and for the poor to dress as princes and princesses. Slaves were allowed freedom for three days to enjoy the partying and even to this day, the black communities living in slums are the ones most involved with the Carnival festivities.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the Rio Carnival started holding competitions of people dressed in exotic costumes performing parades to an orchestra of musical instruments. The Samba was introduced to the Carnival towards the beginning of the 20th century. Before that the dancing styles were mostly European like waltzes, Scottish and Polkas. The working class constituted of mainly African-Brazilians came up with their own rhythm and music called the Samba.

In recent years, the biggest parade has been moved down to the Sambodromo which is a purpose-built street created for the parades.

5 Smart Tips for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

The 2013 carnival is scheduled to begin on Saturday, 18 February 2013 and last till Tuesday, 21 February 2013.

Here are some secret tips for you to get the max out of your Rio Carnival experience:

  • Don’t get confused by the many Carnivals held around Brazil during the time. The Carnivals in Olinda and Salvador have good reason to lay a claim to being the best carnivals in the country. However, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is easily the biggest and most exciting of all and the city is rightly known as the Carnival Capital of the World.

  • Rio is full of places to stay for tourists. There are 5 star hotels as well as places to crash for the average tourist. But if you really want to enjoy the carnival, stay close to the area where the biggest parades take place and at the same time remain same, stay in the Zona Sul or Southern Rio. If you want to indulge a little then Leblon and Ipanema are the two most luxurious districts in Rio. For the tourist on a budget, Flamengo, Botafogo and Lapa are most cost-effective options and they are only about a 15 minutes ride away from the more up-market neighborhoods via the subway. If you want the best deal, get connected with a local via a forum or through Twitter and have him/her suggest you the best place in your given budget. Trust me, this will help save you a lot both in terms of money and hassle.

  • It’s best to book your flight at least 4 months before the Carnival. Good deals sell out fast and tickets become more expensive nearer the time. Buy your festival tickets in advance as well especially for the Samba Parade competition and the Magic Ball event. Don’t miss out on the Scala Gala Ball. The experience will remain incomplete if you don’t visit at least one Samba night-school. The party in Cordão do Bola Preta is very popular among tourists.

  • No, a samba school is not the place to go to learn Samba – at least not in Brazil. A Samba school is merely a collection of people organized together to prepare for the Carnaval. They hold samba nights to entertain locals and tourists. If you want to learn Samba your best bet is to watch and learn and just let loose.

  • You will need a little time-off no matter how much of a party animal you are. The Carnival can be really tiring – a FUN, HAPPY tiring but exhausting nonetheless. Do visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Made during 1922 and 1931 the statue weighs 635 tonnes and 39.6 meters tall. It’s seen as an emblem of Christianity and is protected by the National Heritage Institute. You can see the statue make appearances in Hollywood movies such as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Fast Five and 2012.

Calendar of Events at the Rio Carnival 2013

Daily Events – 18th to 21st February, 2013
Every day for the duration of the Carnival, the evenings are packed with fun dances at the Cinelândia. The concertas in Lapa and Samba Land start at 10 PM every night whereas the Rio Scala Ball starts an hour later at 11 PM.

Major Daily Events

Friday, 17 February 2013
The Opening Ceremony starts at 1 PM with the Mayor of the city crowns the carnival King, also known as Momo, and is given the city’s keys. At 7 PM, children in beautiful costumes participate in the parade arranged by the Samba Schools.

Saturday, 18 February 2013
The day will kick off with Street Band called the Cordão do Bola Preta at 9:30 AM. At 4 PM, the Banda de Ipanema starts at Praça General Osório in Ipanema. The Street Band Competition in Av. Rio Branco, Centro starts at 10 PM followed an hour later at 11 PM by a parade of the Samba Schools in the Access Group. The last event of the day is the Magic Ball at the exclusive Copacabana Palace Hotel at 11 PM.

Sunday, 19 February 2013
The Samba Schools parade in the Special Group at 9 PM.

Monday, February 20th
The Samba Schools parade in the Special Group at 9 PM.

Tuesday, February 21
Catch the last parade of Banda de Ipanema at 4 PM. Samba Schools in Group B present their parade at 9 PM. The Gay Costume Ball starts at 11 Pm in Rio Scala.

On a parting shot, I know most tourists visit Rio for the Carnival but if you need a little peace and quiet during the parades and parties, do not miss a lazy afternoon on the beach, visit the Botanical garden, and squeeze in some football by visiting Maracanã Soccer Stadium. You will need it after the hectic fun and frolic of the Carnival.

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