Carnival- Rio de Janeiro
The country's most famous event is Carnival which lasts for 4 days and nights prior to Ash Wednesday with endless exotic parades, balls and parties. The one held in Rio is more glamorous than other parts of the country. They celebrate it with drums, dancing and singing in the streets in an explosion of color and costumes. Schools and businesses close as the whole country shuts down for wild celebrations and months of preparation is on the display. Accommodation at Carnival is a tough job; hotels charge up to 3 times the normal rate for a 4 or 5 night mandatory package.
The origin and history of the carnival lies in the ancient Portuguese and African traditions, and introduced in Brazil around 1723 and has dramatically transformed since then. The SAMBA comes from the West African heritage of Brazil, with energetic rhythms and drums even those who are watching start dancing. Carnival has evolved into two distinct creatures:- the street carnival and the "Parade of Schools" in the Sambadrome. 16 top samba schools each have their hour of glory. Carnival ends on "Mardi Gras" Tuesday. There are festivals taking place all year round in Brazil but nothing compares to the Carnival. It is one of the biggest and most fantastic party.
Sex has always been a concern among authorities and they try their best to prevent Rio from becoming a tourism destination for prostitution, and the crime associated with it. The government distributes millions of free condoms during the carnival time. NOT all sex in the city of Rio de Janeiro is legal. Brazilians say the nakedness at carnival is more about sensuality and aesthetic appreciation.
UPDATE: Rio De Janeiro Carnival 2008: The year 2008 Rio Carnival takes place on the first five days of February this year.
Even though Rio has a bad reputation for violence and drugs, for most people Carnival is truly the best thing you can ever do in Brazil. For people who do not understand or speak Portuguese it is further more important to plan your trip in advance and what to expect. Top carnival groups gather around the hillside shantytowns for weekly rehearsals without all the glitter, many foreigners who plan to participate in the function come here too and practice. You should consider booking the hotel in much advance. Many people like go do everything through the travel agent for a sense of security and most of them also provided transportation to and from the Sambadrome stadium.
Carnival 2009 Dates : From 21 to 24 February,
Carnival 2010 Dates : From 13 to 16 February
You can enjoy the carnival in 3 of the following ways:
#1. Party on the streets with behind one of the many "bandas" and "blocos" which are small local groups and celebrate on the streets. This is the cheapest way to enjoy carnival but many foreign consider it not too safe. Bandas play old/past hits while the "blocos" compose new songs and repeat them. The Banda Ipanema carnival band is particularly famous the gay community and on the Ipanema beach they perform on the Thursday and Saturday. The blocos ( like Carmelitas bloco) are also very famous. The traditional Cordao de Bola Preta is popular among families and children.
#2. Sambadrome stadium: Most important - Tickets must be purchased months in advance to watch from the stands. It has a capacity of about 88,500 people. Although you need not know Samba to enjoy, but its the best to learn atleast a bit to fully enjoy the celebrations. Here the top 12 groups perform for 80 minutes each accompanied by drummers, dancers and over-the-top parade floats. The tickets sell out much in advance but they can be purchased from travel agents for a premium price. It is advisable to leave your valuables behind and just get little pocket money to the parade.
#3. Participate in real Samba: Many larger samba groups do allow tourists to be a part of their contingents provided you wear their "fantasias" (or their costume). The costumes typically cost from a few hundred dollars to even more than thousand and can be purchased via the internet or in some of the bigger hotels of the city. Just that after your group marches out of the Stadium there is almost no chance to go back in the Stadium and enjoy rest of the function, but you can watch on the TV or participate in the Street Carnival (as mentioned in the #2).
In Brazil, most interstate transportation is done by road. In Rio de Janeiro, buses are the main means of mass transportation. Rio de Janeiro has two subway lines (Metro Rio) and several commuter rail lines.
CAUTION / SAFETY:
Most visits to Brazil are trouble-free but keep in mind that Rio has large disparities between rich and poor. The worst of the poorer areas are known as 'favelas' and are troubled by widespread drug-related crime, gang warfare and lack of sanitation and other issues. Try to take taxis belonging to the airport's own service. Tourists should be careful going out after dark. Precaution and Immunization should be taken with Yellow fever, typhoid, Malaria and Cholera so health insurance for Brazil is recommended. You should drink bottled water, eat proper cooked food and boiled milk. Readers are advised to visit US Department of State Website: http://travel.state.gov/travel and http://travel.state.gov/travel/brazil.html for safety and travel guidelines. Even though you will find hotels of all budgets, you should prefer safety over the price.