Brazil Carnival Behind the Scenes (Part 1)

I decided to document the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro experience for two reasons; The first was to show you all just how epic the celebration is here in Brazil, and the second was  so that I could remember what happened the night before.

DAY 1 We started the “official” Carnival celebration with a bloco in the beautiful Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio. It was live music and dancing in the hills above Rio de Janeiro.

From there we made our way down to Ipanema beach for the rest of the night to party with thousands of people who gathered around Arpoador for more music and making out.

DAY 2 – The next morning, I had to wake up early and go pick up tickets for Sambodromo for both days of the “grupo especial” parade.

I had originally bought one ticket for the second day but when I found out that I would have the opportunity to be in the parade that day, I bought a ticket for the first day so that I could watch.

Tracking those down proved harder than I thought, thanks to some misguided information saying that I could pick up my tickets directly at Sambodromo.

Not being fluent in Portuguese made it difficult to communicate about tracking down the tickets as well as reserving my costume. I simple task made difficult leads to a lot of frustration.

Buying Carnival Tickets Advice: I would avoid buying your tickets online like I did because you can’t negotiate price like you can locally and they won’t make any changes if necessary. You should buy tickets for carnival directly through Liesa or from one of the many travel agencies setup around Rio.

I eventually got the tickets sorted and met some friends at a great party in Parque Nossa Senhora Glória, a beautiful park just outside Lapa. The drums were kicking and the costumes were in full effect!

From there we shifted down towards Flamengo and the Gloria Marina for another party along the water. Things escalated when somebody broke out the homemade Cachaça and ginger drink, which was very tasty and potent.

We ran home quick to change and eat before heading home to Lapa for the Monobloco concert.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival com Monobloco
Going crazy singing along to Monobloco in Lapa

Monobloco is one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to because everybody sings and dances in unison and you can pop your top anytime you want.

Needless to say, we stayed there until the sun was coming up and then made our way to the streets so I could learn the “Lepo Lepo” dance from a couple of new friends.

DAY 3 – After a quick nap, I woke up and traveled back to Copacabana to pick-up my costume for the big show with Mocidade Samba School.

– The story behind the costume – 

After visiting Vila Isabel’s Pre-Carnival party, I spent weeks calling every samba school possible to ask them if I could join. I waited for hours to speak with someone at the offices of Rio’s tourism board and Carnival’s official operator, Liesa, for credentials into the parade. They all told me the same thing… I was too late.

Just after the last samba school sent me a message saying “no,” I went to Portuguese class and explained my situation. Wouldn’t you know it, one of my classmates was booking her samba school costume through El Misti Hostel that evening (thanks universe) and said she thought that they still had availability. Apparently they reserve a few spots at different samba schools in Rio where you don’t need to go to rehearsals first. 

After getting the costume home I ventured down to Ipanema beach again for a massive bloco along the famous Ipanema beachfront promenade.

Drained from all the people and partying, I decided to sneak away from the festa and make my way to the beach for a much needed Carnival time out.

This short pause proved to be incredibly helpful because things were only escalating from here.

Stay tuned for part two of Behind the Scenes from Rio Carnival coming up next where I share some illegal footage from Sombodromo, party with Jesus watching and eat at a buffet.

Until then, don’t miss my version of Pharrell Williams – “Happy” Rio de Janeiro Edition


My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


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