TGW Travel Group

Rio de Janeiro Carnival Top 10 FAQ’s

We have been offering Carnival in Brazil since 2004 and our clients always ask us great questions. Here is a Rio de Janeiro Carnival top 10 list of frequently asked questions. 

1)      When is the Carnival ? –  Rio de Janeiro Carnival , Brazil happens every year the week before Lent. (At the same time as “Mardi Gras” in the USA. Typically it occurs in February of every year but can start at early as late January or as late as early March. Check out the Rio Carnival Dates for every year. 

2)      How do people in Rio celebrate Carnival? –Rio de Janeiro Carnival is celebrated by locals by attending street parties (called “blocos” in Portuguese) as well as at Carnival parties/“Bailes” ( Carnival balls) as well as special parties , concerts , and of course, at the Sambadrome. The Sambadrome  is where the actual Carnival parade is held with all of the fancy floats and amazing costumes that come to most people’s mind when thinking of Carnival.


3)      Do I have to purchase tickets for the Rio de Janeiro Carnival?  – Yes you do. The Carnival in essence is the famous parade and competition held at what is known as the Sambadrome (Sambodromo in Portuguese). It is a long street with bleachers and VIP boxes on each side of the street where the Samba Schools, which are groups of thousands of people in local and folkloric costumes and floats, compete  nightly during the Carnival. The Sambadrome is closed off and a private venue so you must purchase tickets to watch the show.



4)      When should I go to the Sambadrome? –There is a parade at the Sambadrome on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights at the Sambadrome. The first two nights feature samba schools and floats that are not top tier.  It is thus recommended to go the samba parade on either Sunday or Monday as these are the actual schools that compete for the title each Carnival.  Since there are too many samba schools to compete all in one night, they are divided between Sunday and Monday nights.  Unless you are wanting to see a particular samba school on one of the two nights, either night (Sunday or Monday) is generally very similar.

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5)      Should I go to the Samba parade every night?  – Most of our guests (95%) will be  more than satisfied by only going once to the Samba parade. Although we have had cases of people going more than one night, the overwhelming majority of our guests only go once , and are more than satisfied, by going one time to the Samba parade as it can get repetitive.


6)      What do you do on the other nights/days? – TGW takes its guests to exclusive  parties on Friday and Saturday , as well as Tuesday of Carnival (the nights OTHER than the Sambadrome) and has awesome options where locals typically frequent. We also recommend checking out the “blocos” which are the free street parties all around Rio de Janeiro during carnival at least once during Carnival. For more FAQ’s on parties and activities click HERE.

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7)      What kinds of Carnival tickets are available? – The Sambodrome has three different general types of sections. The First are Grandstands (“arquibancadas” in Portuguese). These are basically bleachers. The bleachers are divided into numbered sections (diagram below). The second type of tickets are called Open Boxes (“Frisas” in Portugese). They are basically street level seats where you can see the Carnival parade and floats up close. The final type are the Covered VIP Boxes  (called “Camarotes” ) they are basically the equivalent of a corporate VIP box at a stadium where food and drinks are included as well as security and are quite expensive and exclusive.


(Bleachers, Side View)


Open Boxes (Frisas)

vip boxes

VIP BOXES (on left) (“camarotes”)


8)      What tickets should I buy? As far as the bleachers are concerned, we recommend sections 3,5, 7 or 9. The higher the number, the closer to the middle of the “Sambadrome” avenue and better the view.  If you are on a tight budget, we recommend Section 3 or 5. If your budget permits a bit more, we recommend 5 or 7. Section 9 is the “tourist” section and the ONLY grandstand section that features actual numbered seats.  If you would like to really splurge, we recommend Covered box seats (starting at about $700 to $1k USD range per person)  or Camarotes if you are on an unlimited budget (over $2k per person). Bottom line – GO to the Carnival and defintely purchase tickets that fit within your budget as it would be a shame to go to Rio and NOT see the Carnival!


9)      Should I purchase section 9 tickets that are numbered? – This really depends on the client. If you are not good being around a lot of people then YES this is a good idea. The other bleacher sections, 3,5,7 etc are NOT numbered. This means they are on a “first come, first serve” basis and it can be difficult to find a spot at the beginning of the night. These sections also tend to be livelier as more Brazilians frequent these sections and are singing and dancing! If you really have a problem being with a lot of people or don’t want the hassle of finding a seat then we definitely recommend the section 9 seats, otherwise you are probably good with the other sections.

10)   Can I parade inside the Sambadrome in Costume? – You definitely can! This is actually a very unique and amazing experience! To do so, however, you must purchase a formal costume which is made by the local Samba school which is competing.  Costumes are quite expensive as they are hand made/crafted and take months to make. (you also get to keep the actual costume). Costumes for the Carnival  vary in pricing, but typically start at about $500USD per costume to over $1,000USD. If you do not want to spend this sort of money and do want a cool experience, you can dress up and have an amazing time in the informal “blocos” (street parties) that happen every day around Rio during the Carnival.  All TGW guests receive an customized list of the best blocos to attend as there are literally hundred of them and it can be difficult to choose the best ones.

For more information on Carnival or for current pricing , please click here