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Rio Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2020

February 21 - February 29

Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival in 2019 begins on 21 February in the afternoon and ends on 29 February when the last reveller flops to the floor. Locals know where to go and what to do; however, as it’s a big Latin American city, the rules are different for them than for visitors.

So, how does it work for us foreigners? Read on.

The Carnival celebrations here are a mix of Portuguese and African traditions. It marked the last time to eat freely before entering the 40 days of Lent. Nowadays, the party focuses on the parades of the 200+ samba schools at the Sambadrome. They bring about 30,000 participants and there are about 90,000 seats to see the show, which starts at 10 pm and can go until dawn. It is electrifying, but if the energy ebbs you can still slip away.

Rio Carnival Costumes and Rio Parade

The floats move down the 700 metre runway, surrounded by the precise choreography of their followers, who show absolute dedication. Success here can bring fame or, conversely, demotion to a lower league of samba schools; that keeps everyone focused.

The Carnival Balls are another element that should not be missed and were originally inspired by the French Masquerades. Costumes are usually not compulsory, but add to the fun and you may feel out of place without one. Each one has its own theme.

For an alternative carnival in South-America, head to neighbouring Colombia for its Barranquilla Carnival, the world’s second biggest fiesta.

The Magic Ball in the Copacabana Palace Hotel is the most exclusive, though others have prices that are much more reasonable. Usually you can buy an ordinary ticket that gets you in, or a VIP that comes with drinks, food and perhaps a table. Shop around and choose the Ball that fits you. There are the Beer Ball and the Gay Scala Ball (with its pink carpet), for example.

Rio Carnival for Free

Of course millions of locals never go to the Sambadrome and the Balls. The free way to celebrate Carnival is to join in the street parties and street parades. It is not a time for cars or quiet nights. Streets are closed down and the revellers congregate to have fun.

Remember though, that if you do go out to these, take enough money for the night, in a roll (no wallet) and stick it into underwear or interior pockets safely. Leave valuables behind. Only take your cell phone if you have somewhere safe to store it and expect to walk back from wherever you get to.

For more on what to do in Rio, read Rio de Janeiro New Years Eve, and Explore Rio in 2019 with Low Cost Flights.

Rio Carnival Dates

The Carnival will be from 21 to 29 February, 2020.

Flights to Rio de Janeiro

British Airways has flights from London. US carriers American, Delta and United fly from many cities including: Los Angeles, New York and Miami. Norwegian Air will start flights to Rio from London Gatwick in 2019, but sadly not in time for the Carnival.

Can’t make this carnival, then try our round-up of the best carnivals around the world.

Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro

If you are looking for accommodation for the Rio Carnival then fill in the form below. Special offers on Rio Carnival tours can be found here and here. A good website for planning your trip is:

For more inspiration on what to do on your Brazil holidays, visit:



February 21
February 29
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