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A Complete Guide to Visiting the Carnival in Brazil

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Welcome to one of the biggest parties in the world! The carnival in Brazil each year is definitely something to add to your bucket list. From partying in the streets to extravagant parades, there is so much to see and do during these epic celebrations.

Having experienced the carnival in Brazil several different years, I definitely have learned a lot along the way. That's why I'm here to share everything you need to know before attending these will parties.

In this guide we'll cover several topics like where is the carnival in Brazil celebrated, what happens during carnival in Brazil, and if Brazil is dangerous during carnival. Let's jump right in!

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What is the Carnival Celebration in Brazil?

The Carnival in Brazil is one of the most spectacular experiences you'll ever have. It is a week of parties in the streets, parades, and people dressed in costumes.

Parties go from the early morning to late at night, and there are a mix of public parties called "Blocos" to private parties in venues. I like to think of the carnival in Brazil as a mix of Mardi Gras and Halloween, as people are all dressed in costumes, but partying hard in the streets.

The carnival in Brazil is a time of year that Brazilians look forward to all year, and is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Costumes during the carnival in Brazil
Olinda, the carnival in Brazil
the carnival in Brazil celebrations
Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro Carnival, the carnival in Brazil

Carnival is a week of celebrations, parties, and parades all throughout Brazil.

Why is Carnival so important to Brazil?

The carnival in Brazil is so important because it marks the beginning of lent. While that may have been the start of it, it is actually so much more than that now.

Carnival is something that people spend months getting ready for, and is a time to celebrate culture, traditional, and the art of samba. It's a time of celebration, parades, and the most anticipated parties of the year for most Brazilians.

How Long is Carnival in Brazil?

While some other carnivals in the world last for two to four weeks, the carnival in Brazil is shorter, and more intense. the length of the Carnival in Brazil depends on exactly which place you are traveling to.

For example, Salvador's carnival starts on a Friday, and the last day is on a Tuesday, while the carnival in Rio is normally a little over a week, and the celebrations in Sao Paulo start a few weeks before. generally speaking though, the carnival in Brazil is about a week long, starting from the weekend before Ash Wednesday, and going through until Ash Wednesday, and some until the following weekend.

the carnival in Brazil

Where is the Carnival in Brazil?

If you're wondering where is the carnival in Brazil exactly, then the answer is actually everywhere! Brazil is huge though, and some celebrations are much bigger and better than others. Here are some of the best places for carnival in Brazil.

The Best Places for Carnival in Brazil

Where is the carnival in Brazil the best? Well, each place I've been has been different, and some are better in some aspects, while some are better for others. Here is a list of the best places for Carnival in Brazil:

What is the Most Famous Carnival in Brazil?

Hands down, the most famous carnival in Brazil (internationally) is Rio de Janeiro. This is where the world renown Sambadrome is located, and where you'll see the most impressive costumes and performances.

It's important to note though, that the parades can only be seen inside the Sambadrome, and tickets can get quite expensive. Nonetheless, the experience is incredible, and definitely makes Rio de Janeiro worth visiting for carnival.

Sambadrome in Rio the most famous carnival in Brazil

The carnival in Brazil that is the most famous is Rio's carnival, for its Sambadrome.

Want to learn more about how Rio is for carnival? We have a full guide that you can check out below:

What is the Biggest Carnival in Brazil?

When it comes to the biggest carnival in Brazil, the award actually goes to Salvador.

While Salvador is a bit more off-the-beaten-path for tourists, this coastal city is the most popular amongst Brazilians, and with good reason.

While Rio has a ton of "Blocos", Salvador works a bit differently, in that there is one giant parade though the city, where over 1 million people party in the streets in one designated area. This gives less variety, but ensures a more seamless and authentic experience. The city itself is also one of our favorite cities in Brazil, so we highly recommend staying to also enjoy all that it has to offer outside carnival.

Salvador, the best places to visit in Brazil

Salvador is one of our favorite cities in Brazil.

Want to learn more about Salvador? Stay tuned for our brand new travel guide coming up next week!

A Few of the Other Best Places for Carnival in Brazil

There are so many other great places for Carnival in Brazil, and here are a few more of our favorites.

Olinda, Recife

Located just a bit further down the coast from Salvador, lies another super popular region in Brazil called Recife. This city is very popular for Brazilians, and the neighboring beach town of Olinda is definitely one of the best places for Carnival in Brazil if you want a truly authentic experience.

Olinda is hardly touched by tourists, but is packed with Brazilians. The streets are flooded, and it is one massive party. Truly chaotic, parties go from early morning til late at night, and there are also some amazing private parties that you can attend. I went here a few years ago with my friend from Brazil, and so far it has been my favorite carnival in Brazil.

Olinda, the carnival in Brazil

Olinda has one of the most fun and authentic carnivals in Brazil.

Sao Paulo

10 years ago Sao Paulo had pretty much nothing going on for carnival. All of the Paulistas would flee the city to visit other areas of Brazil until the government stepped in and decided to ramp up the carnival in Brazil's business hub.

Unlike the other destinations, this carnival has no beach, but I promise it is worth visiting. This year we got to Sao Paulo right after carnival ended, but little did we know that locals decided to rally a bit longer.

the carnival in Brazil, Sao Paulo
the carnival in Brazil, Sao Paulo
the carnival in Brazil, Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo has some of the biggest parties in the country.

With intense day parties along Ibirapuera Park, and epic night parties at La Vou Eu, Sao Paulo really knows how to do Carnival. It's also the perfect city to spend a couple of days of carnival in the beginning or end of your trip, as it is a huge hub of Brazil, and has plenty of International flights.

the carnival in Brazil- Sao Paulo

One of the best parties for Sao Paulo's carnival is in Ibapuera Park.

Want to look for flights to go to the carnival in Brazil? Make sure to book your flights well in advance, so that prices don't sky rocket closer to the date!

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city" to "Brazil". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport in the area to fly. Sao Paulo, Rio, and Salvador are the three most popular ones.

Search for a flight to Brazil for Carnival:

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Entry Requirements for Brazil

Where sure you're ready to hear all about the details of the carnival in Brazil, and what happens during Carnival in Brazil! But first, we have to make sure you'e ready to enter the country, and that you have all of the necessary documents to visit.

Visa Entry Requirements For Brazil

The first time that I traveled to Brazil I actually needed a visa to enter the country. The last time I went and brought my visa, just to find out that US nationals no longer need them!

The nationalities that are exempt from tourist visas in Brazil include AndorraArgentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Canada, ChileColombiaCosta RicaDenmarkEcuador, Finland, France, GermanyGreece, Japan, Iceland, IrelandItaly, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, The Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, SpainSuriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United StatesUnited Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Countries in the Mercosur region don't need to enter with their passport, and can simply bring their country ID card. The countries that are included in the Mercosur region are Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

Covid Entry Requirements For Brazil

All passengers over the age of 12 need to present either a Covid vaccination card, or a negative RT-PCR test in order to enter Brazil. If you are not vaccinated, you must take a test within one day of traveling, and the results must be in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

In addition, they are still using masks in the airports. No one will care when you walk around the airport, but they do ask you to wear one while going through security. So make sure that you bring one so that you don't have to purchase one inside the airport.

Domestic flights will require you to keep your mask on, but honestly we only saw a handful of people who kept them on during the duration of the flight.

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Local Adjustments for the Carnival in Brazil

Before jumping into what happens during carnival in Brazil or what to expect, it's important to cover one last thing- the local adjustments! These are what we like to cover in every article, and are the small things that you may have to adapt to while traveling to any new country. Here are a few things to keep in mind while traveling to Brazil.

Language in Brazil

The official language in Brazil is Portuguese. You may find some people here and there that you'll be able to communicate with. Honestly though, the majority of people in Brazil do not speak English, so we highly suggest trying to pick up some of the basics to get by, and also downloading Google Translate.

Brazilian Currency

The currency used in Brazil is the Brazilian Real. Currently (February 2023) the exchange rate is 5.14 Brazilian Real for every 1 USD or Euro, and 6.34 Brazilian Real for every British pound. We found many places throughout Brazil accepted credit cards in restaurants and even many of the vendors on the streets. We do suggest having some cash on you though for those selling things on the beach, tipping, or other small expenses.

Electrical Outlets in Brazil

The electrical outlets in Brazil are for plug types C & N, which have two round prongs and a grounding pin (the same as Europe). However, Brazil is interesting because many of the outlets we found were also international, fitting both American and European plugs. Brazil operates on a 127/220V supply voltage and 60Hz.

Water Potability in Brazil

Brazil doesn't have safe water for drinking, so you'll have to stick to bottled water. It can get quite expensive (and bad for the environment) to buy a ton of small plastic water bottles, so we suggest grabbing a giant jug of water and the super market, and refilling a reusable water bottle instead.

Tipping Culture in Brazil

The tipping culture in Brazil is an average of 10%. In many places (especially during the carnival in Brazil) you'll find that a service charge is included in the bill. Make sure to check your bill beforehand, and if the service isn't included you'll have to give a cash tip, or request to have it added to your credit card when paying the bill.

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What Happens During Carnival in Brazil?

So what exactly happens at carnival? Well, we're about to explain everything from what you do at carnival, to how people dress, and everything in between.

Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

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the carnival in Brazil pin
the carnival in Brazil pin

What Do You Do at Carnival in Brazil?

The carnival in Brazil varies a bit from place to place. However, they all have parades, street parties, and people dressed up. You'll have to find the line ups, which you can find normally in social media groups, Instagram or Facebook pages, or even apps! Sao Paulo has a an app called "blocos" which is dedicated to sharing all of the best parties in Sao Paulo during Carnival season.

the carnival in Brazil parties
the carnival in Brazil parties
crowds at the carnival in Brazil

There are tons of parties in the streets , which are called "blocos".

Dress up, drink in the streets, and attend as many events as you can! In places like Salvador, carnival is pretty straight forward, as everyone meets everyday in the same plaza and continues partying through the night, while the carnival in Rio has different smaller parties in several neighborhoods, and other places have both public and private parties that you can attend.

private parties for the carnival in Brazil
private parties for the carnival in Brazil

There are great private parties both during the day and at night.

It's all about staying in the know, speaking with locals, and getting your tickets to events in advance if you want to attend major parades or exclusive parties.

Getting Around During the Carnival in Brazil

The Carnival in Brazil is pure chaos, and transportation varies a ton. We suggest trying to walk as much as possible, as it's common for streets to be blocked, and there to be a huge increase in traffic.

In places like Rio, where walking is not possible everywhere, we relied on taxis and Uber, because they were pretty affordable, and much more comfortable and safe. Make sure to give yourself extra time to get places (if you have to meet someone, or get to a reservation in time) as driving times can exponentially grow during the carnival in Brazil.

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Food & Drink in Brazil During the Carnival in Brazil

Each carnival in Brazil varies a bit when it comes to the food & drink situation. However, most have kiosks all over the street parties.

Kiosks During the Carnival in Brazil

Most kiosks actually get their supplies from the same trucks, so you won't find a vast difference in products or prices. The most common drinks are cans of beers, and some premixed drinks like Smirnoff Ice or Skol Beats.

You'll also find a ton of people making Caipirinhas, and many offer several flavors. Other liquor drinks are hard to come by, unless you go to restaurants and grab to-go drinks. So if you're picky, you can just bring your own drinks and cups to the street parties. This is also a great way to save money.

drinks during Rio Carnival

Most kiosks allow you to pay with card, but depending on the service, the machines. may or may not work. It's also typical for people to take advantage by charging more, so make sure that if you use your credit card to confirm the amount being charged before accepting.

There are also plenty of food stands that you'll find, but it'll be mostly fast snacks such as hot dogs, pastel, or skewers of meat. If you're hoping for some healthy options, then you'll have to rely on eating at restaurants.

the carnival in Brazil, Sao Paulo

During the carnival in Brazil  there are plenty of kiosks set up with drinks and street food.

Eating Out During the Carnival in Brazil

The carnival in Brazil is chaotic, and brings millions of visitors. While many people will continue to party and grab street food, it's certainly not sustainable to eat this way the entire trip.

Many restaurants have crazy lines, so we suggest going on side streets a bit away from the parties. Have patience, and plan to eat a bit earlier than later.

Another thing to note is that nicer establishments or more renown restaurants will be mobbed, and most likely reserved in advance, so if you have certain places you'd like to eat like a fancy Brazilian steakhouse or a Michelin star restaurant, we suggest going online to make a reservation weeks in advance.

food in Rio
eating at restaurants during Rio carnival
food in Salvador

If you want a nice sit down meal make sure to reserve in advance.

Staying Hydrated During the Carnival in Brazil

Hydration is key in order to survive Brazilian Carnival! We suggest bringing packets of liquid IV or similar products for the morning, and stocking up on giant bottles of water to keep in your hotel.

Another amazing hangover cure are coconuts, which you can easily find all over the streets and beaches for usually 5-10 Real (depending which area you are visiting). These are a great form of hydration and nutrition, and are also super affordable.

coconuts, island of Campeche, Florianopolis

Coconuts are the perfect way to hydrate after a lot of drinking.

Tip: Ask them to open your coconut after you're done drinking the water, and eat the coconut meat inside! 

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Is Carnival in Brazil Dangerous?

This may just be the most common question we get, and this is where transparency is key. Brazil is certainly not the safest country in the world, and has tons of crime, especially during the Carnival in Brazil.

There are police that patrol a lot of areas, but unfortunately they can't cover everywhere. The most common forms of crime are petty ones like stealing phones (this also happened to my brother and several of my friends). The most important thing to know is that Brazil is a great destination, but you just need to be extra careful and take some precautions to protect yourself at all times.

Here are a few tips for keeping yourself safe during the Carnival in Brazil:

  • Leave your valuables at home! No fancy jewelry, and leave your wedding rings at home (I promise no one is looking to see if you're married- they simply don't care if you are or not)
  • Hide your phone and money. Many people use these tiny fanny packs that go under your pants to secure their belongings. If you need to take your phone out make sure to hold on to it for dear life, and only do so in well lit and surveilled areas.
  • Roll the windows up. Unfortunately this is how my brother got robbed. Many people will put their arm right in the window and steal from you if you are not paying attention. 
  • Don't wander by yourself! Keep your friends in sight at all times, hold onto each other in crowds.
  • Stand out. We saw a few girls with balloons attached to them or with giant colorful hats to stand out. This is an easy way to make sure you don't lose people from your party
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How Do I Prepare for Carnival in Brazil?

Wondering how to prepare for Carnival in Brazil? Well, here we talk about what to wear to carnival in Brazil, the weather, and give you a packing list for Brazil, as well as other tips for visiting.

Weather in Brazil During Carnival

Carnival is in the height of summer in Brazil, therefore no matter where you go, chances are it will be super hot and sunny. Places like Rio, Salvador, and Recife are very humid and tropical, so it also may rain on and off. However, don't stress too much about checking the weather beforehand. Every time I go to Brazil the weather forecast shows thunderstorms for 10 days straight. Meanwhile, it's rained only a handful of times, and it never lasts too long.

Sao Paulo is a bit drier and cooler, so the weather is much more mild than the beach destinations for carnival in Brazil.

Due to the overall tropical weather, we suggest skipping hair tools like straighteners, and opting for products to put in your hair to tame them from frizz.

how to dress during the carnival in Brazil

Carnival is during summer, so you'll definitely want to be prepared for the heat and humidity.

What to Wear to Carnival in Brazil

Wondering what to wear to carnival in Brazil? Well, actually you can find all types! Don't worry- the girls the are covered from head to toe in gems with giant wings is not what you're going to find on the streets and at the parties.

What to Wear to Carnival in Brazil (Girls)

Most girls wear leotards, bathing suits, or thongs, many of them paired with fishnet stockings. Carnival is all about being bold, so you'll also see that girls are covered with rhinestones and glitter all over their faces and bodies. We saw everything from tassels or sheer tops to more halloween style costumes. Whatever the case may be, dress comfortably, and know that less is more, no matter what your shape or size you may be.

One of the great things is that you don't really need to stress about how you will look. Everyone is there to have a good time, and Brazilians are very comfortable in their own skin. You will see old women or super overweight women in thongs and tassels, so embrace your beauty and run with whatever makes you feel good.

how to dress during the carnival in Brazil
how to dress during the carnival in Brazil
how to dress during the carnival in Brazil

When it comes to carnival it's all about the accessories.

What to Wear to Carnival in Brazil (Guys)

Men typically don't wear shirts, and will wear shorts, bathing suits, or even speedos or thongs. If you're going to a higher end paid event however, you most likely will need to wear a shirt, so you should carry one with you if you plan on going anywhere else other than the street parties.

Another thing to note is that the streets get filthy, and people tend to jump and do mosh pits in some areas, so you will definitely want to make sure that your feet are covered. Ditch the heels, flip flops, or any shoes that you would care about.

Finally, make sure to dress comfortably, as you will be under the sun drinking for hours. Wearing a full face of makeup is pointless, as it will probably melt off your face. At the carnival in Brazil, it's all about how you accessorize, so forget the typical hair, makeup, and shoes, and focus on glamming up with fun hats, glitter, and big earrings.

how to dress during the carnival in Brazil

Mario and Luigi hats were commonly sold on the streets in Rio.

Packing List for Brazil

Now that you know what to wear to carnival in Brazil, here is a list of the things that you can bring in advance, but what you can also find on the streets:

  • Glitter
  • Rhinestones
  • Tutus
  • Fishnet stockings
  • Accessories such as wings, horns, hats, crowns, etc
  • Balloons (to not lose each other)
  • Ribbon (for the balloons)
  • Tiny Fanny Pack to go under your clothes (you can find these in pharmacies in Brazil as well)

Now that you have the packing list for what to wear to carnival in Brazil, here are some of the other things to add to your packing list for Brazil:

  • Closed-toed comfortable shoes (ones that you're willing to throw away)
  • Sunscreen (the sun is strong)
  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use 17oz Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle" rel="nofollow" style="outline: none;" target="_blank" class="">Cafago Water Bottles as they hold the temperature well)
  • Flip flops (our favorites are Havaiana flip flops, as they are long lasting)
  • Zippered Bag (to secure your belongings)
  • Lock (to secure your belongings if you stay in shared accommodation)
  • Power Bank (for the long excursions, beach days, and hikes- we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)
  • Bathing Suits (FYI Brazilians pretty much all wear thongs)
  • Small Action Camera (for taking videos) we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof
  • Air Tags (to track your items in case they get stolen)
  • Case Mate waterproof Phone Pouch (we use the Cafago Waterproof Phone Pouch)
  • Travel Adapter (we use Insignia travel adapters as they are affordable and reliable)

Tips for Going to the Carnival in Brazil

Now let's recap! Here are all of the things to keep in mind while going to the carnival in Brazil:

  • Always keep an eye on your belongings
  • Stay with a friend, and make meet up points
  • Avoid wearing any kind of valuables
  • Purchase drinks in a super market when attending the street parties
  • Don't give too much attention to anyone if you are not interested in romantically engaging with them
  • Book well in advance for accommodation, flights, and special events (like the Sambadrome)
  • Download the app "blocos" and check the Instagram pages to stay in the know
  • Plan the night before for where you'd like to go
  • Be flexible! Parties and weather are unpredictable, so remember to always have a Plan B

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Is Carnival in Brazil Worth it?

So the real question is- is carnival in Brazil worth it? We think that it is definitely one of those things that you will either love or hate. It's crowded, it's messy, and not the most comfortable. It can become quite stressful, confusing, and expensive to navigate everything about the carnival in Brazil. 

On the other end, carnival is one of the most exciting and thrilling events that you will ever attend. It's over the top, and extremely fun to be apart of, and it allows you to really experience the culture and pride of the country of Brazil.

So with all of the pros and cons is the Carnival in Brazil worth it after all? Well, that's for you to decide! We personally love it, and will continue to go back, and definitely encourage you to add this incredibly wild experience to your bucket list.

Carnival in Sao Paulo

Wanting to know what it's like to celebrate carnival in Rio? We have a full article about Rio's Carnival that you can check out, as well as a full Rio de Janeiro travel guide for our favorite things to do in the city.

Want to explore more awesome areas in Brazil? We also have a bunch of other Brazilian travel guides that we know you'll love, along with plenty of other South American destinations. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to hear about all of our latest guides!

Ready to start planning your trip? We know it can be overwhelming- that's why we have our own team to help you along the way. We're dedicated to saving you both time and money, so that you can have the most epic trip of your life. Take a look at the different travel planning packages that we offer to get an idea of everything we can help you with!

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