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February 27, 2006 – A journey to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in South America

Winging It In Rio De Janeiro During Carnaval

Rick and I had one more day in Rio de Janeiro without any reservations of any kind before heading back home to take care of our taxes (yay). The main reason for staying a day later is that I wanted to see the parade at the Sambadromo at least once in my life! It'd be stupid not to if you're in Rio during Carnaval. So, it was a bit of a gamble to have nothing booked during Carnaval. This is how we did it.

We didn't have any hotel booked for the night. We had a few plans for this situation. 1) Get tickets to the Sambadromo parade and just stay the whole night, since the parade does go through till morning. 2) If we couldn't get tickets, just leave our luggage at the hotel we were previously at, join the local Carnaval block parties around, and camp out at the beach for the rest of the night. 3) Befriend some other travelers and try to camp out on their floor. 4) Find some people offering possible accommodations in any travelers/backpackers forum. Because we were achy and tired, we ended up looking for a hotel to stay at.

block party Santa Clara, where Samba Schools practice around local streets

Surprisingly, there are quite a few hotels that had open spaces. Found that the big chain ones, especially the resort hotels along the beaches, had free openings. The main reason is that most of these major resort hotel chains sell Carnaval packages (you have to buy for the whole week). But since they can't sell all of these packages, they're happy to sell rooms last minute without having to do a package. We also found that these large chains (e.g., any resort hotel that has 'Othon' in it works) offer cheaper rates than small boutique and lesser-known hotels. For example, the hotel we stayed at, Hotel Santa Clara, was offering a room rate of 440 reals or around $220 USD per night. Another hotel, Grande Hotel Canada (listed in Lonely Planet South America), was offering a room rate of 396 reals or around $198 USD per night. The California Othon Hotel, one of the resort hotel chains along Copacabana beach, was offering a nightly rate of $165 USD! If you're lucky enough, you can even try to bargain the price down (I think that big chain hotels don't seem to care too much about losing a little money rather than all of it). Note that room rates triple/quadruple during Carnaval. So, you might as well stay in a resort hotel since they're usually expensive anyway. Unfortunately, Rick and I didn't figure that out till after we booked our last night at Grand Hotel Canada. O well, now we know I guess.

Since I really, really wanted to go to one of the parade nights in the Sambadromo, I asked our hotel anyway if they had any tickets. Lo and behold, they had a couple and in one of the best sectors, Sector 7 (5, 9, and 11 are good too), and for a good price too! I was planning to just follow LP South America's advice on going to the Sambadromo around midnight and try to get in by buying a $10 USD per person ticket. Just goes to show that it never hurts to ask. At that point, I didn't feel too bad for paying extra for staying at the Grande Hotel Canada. Because we only paid 100 reals or $50 USD per person for the tickets. Other travelers we met on the way to Rio said they paid 350 reals or $175 USD per person for Sector 3, a very crappy sector.

We ended up having an awesome time at the first night of Carnaval at the Sambadromo. I am so glad that we were lucky enough to get last minute tickets to go. I've heard from a few people that the parade isn't a big deal and it's better to party with the local block parties. We experienced a couple of the block parties, and although it's crazy fun, it's really not the same as going to the Sambadromo parade itself!


a beautiful mask float

lion dancers

many colorful dancers parading down the Sambadromo

even dancers dressed as DNA

female samba dancer

male samba dancer

even the sweeper (they sweep after each Samba School's presentation) was dancing and having a blast

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