Five tips for slaying Brazil’s Carnival celebrations
For five days a year, Brazilian cities come alive with music, parades and millions of beautiful people showing off all their best assets. It's something every traveller needs to experience at least once in a lifetime, but it can be a little overwhelming – especially if you want your legs and liver to survive. Here are our five tips for squeezing the most out of your Carnival experience.
The most famous celebrations takes place in Rio de Janeiro, but that doesn't mean you should ignore everywhere else. Each region has its own specific flavour, meaning different costumes and different musical beats. Our favourite pick (other than the Marvellous City of course) is Salvador. Depending on which report you believe, between one and four million people flood the city to whip up a hedonistic storm each year. Here, you can buy yourself an abadá (t-shirt) that acts as a ticket to parade with a specific bloco (group), or gives you access to the grandstands to watch the parade.
If you haven't already booked your accommodation, do so pronto as prices rise during the festivities. Now's also the time to start gathering sequins, feathers and risqué swimsuits – dull attire is not an option. If you're travelling on an Australian passport you'll also need to lodge a visa application so you can actually get into the country. It's pretty easy to do, especially if you live in Canberra (go to the Embassy of Brazil) or Sydney (say hey to the Consulate-General) but can take a few days to process. The wait is a bit longer if you live elsewhere and you need to use the post.
It's handy to have some Brazilian money (Brazilian real) with you when you arrive, although lots of restaurants and shops do accept credit cards. Be sensible when you're withdrawing money from ATMs and when you're out partying stick your money in your shoe, and leave your camera back in your hotel room.
Hiring a car is a great way to fit in a couple of Carnival destinations. If you're going to drive through Brazil you can do so with your usual licence, as long as you're not staying for longer than 180 days. Just make sure you're on the ball and driving on the right hand side of the road.
Carnival keeps going 24-hours a day and sleep becomes a rare and valuable thing. With the streets heaving with people yelling, whistling and merrymaking, it can be difficult to catch some zzz's, even when you've made the tough decision to part from the party for a little while. Make sure you bring good quality earplugs, schedule in some time at the beach and keep your body fuelled with the delicious street food for sale.