How to Prepare for Rio’s Best All Night Party

How to Prepare for Rio’s Best All Night Party

The preparation required to attend most parties doesn’t go beyond choosing the best outfit for the occasion.  But getting ready for a festival on the scale of Carnival in Rio, what to wear is just the start.  How do you prepare for the biggest party on Earth?

While everyone will tell you that the party is in the streets during Carnival, it would be tough to top a night in the Sambadrome. The Sambadrome (Sambódromo in Portuguese) is a half mile stretch of road that has been converted into a permanent parade ground with bleachers on each side, located in downtown Rio de Janeiro.  The venue can hold more than 90,000 people and sells out for the performances during Carnival.  With huge crowds its best to have some idea of what you’re getting into.

Here’s a crash course in how to survive what will likely go down as the best night of your life, Carnival in the Sambadrome:

Buying Tickets

Before you shell out the big bucks to buy Sambadrome tickets you have to decide which night you want to go.  The Access Group A samba schools are hosted on Saturday, Special Group on Sunday and Monday and Group Rio de Janeiro 1 on Tuesday. The Special Group nights are by far the biggest attractions and the winners of the parade almost always come from these two nights. If you want the best show there is no question that you should purchase your tickets for Sunday or Monday, eight of the best schools perform on each night.

There are several ways to purchase tickets, you can buy in advance online, you can book in person once you arrive or try your luck at scalping tickets outside the Sambadrome on the night you attend. I would highly recommend booking tickets online prior to your arrival, your tickets are guaranteed and you will get the best price with no haggling.  We booked through Green Toad Bus, which took care of all the details and provided a place to meet so we had a group to travel to the Sambadrome with and a small section of new friends to party with us in the stands.

Rio Sambodromo Map

An overview of the sectors in the Sambadrome, we sat in the “cheap seats” in sector 12 and had a great time!

The tickets for 2013 Carnival cost us $55 USD for sector 12 and 13, these are the cheap seats, but arguably the best.  This is the last section of the Sambadrome and consists of uncovered grandstand seating on concrete steps. You may consider bringing a pillow to sit on and a poncho if it rains.  This is where many of the locals come to watch and the schools love to perform for these sections.  An added bonus is that you are at the end of the parade making it easy to score a costume.

For more comfort, a better view or a seat, plan on paying more.  All box seats, chairs in sector 12-13 and seats in sector 9 are numbered and allocated, so you don’t have to worry about losing your spot when you go to the bathroom.  All other grandstands offer open seating, without allocated places (‘first come, first served’).

Getting There and Away

The parade in the Sambadrome starts at 8 pm (gates open at 6 pm) and lasts around 12 hours.  As I mentioned we met up with the Green Toad group in Lapa and were able to walk (20 minutes) from there. You can also take the subway, the closest stops to the Sambadrome are “Central” (for odd numbered sectors) and “Praça 11” (for even numbered sectors). You want to arrive on time or early to get the best seats in the open seating sections of 12 and 13. And don’t even think about leaving early, this is the best part of Carnival! If you don’t have the stamina to stay,  keep in mind most public transport stops running around 1: oo am. Also know that there is no re-entry once you exit the Sambadrome.  Getting home in the morning is no problem as buses and subway will be up and running by the time the party ends at around 8 am.


The Sambadrome is widely considered one of the safest places during Carnival. We brought our large DSLR camera and took pictures all night without any issues.  Always be smart and don’t bring more cash than you need or unnecessary valuables, but at no point did we have any concerns about our safety.

Food and Drink

As mentioned above you will be spending all night at the Sambadrome, so bring a picnic.  Many people will tell you that you can’t bring in food and drink, but we had no problems the only thing refused at the gate is glass bottles. Food and drink inside is quite expensive and focused on mainly beer and burgers. We brought our own food and packed rum and coke to keep us caffeinated all night long, we pre-mixed our drink in a liter plastic coke bottle.


The best part of the Sambadrome are the amazing costumes, get in the spirit of the samba and dress up yourself.  Anything goes, the more ridiculous the better.  But if you haven’t brought a costume you can easily score one at the end of the parade from any of the performers for free, just keep your eyes open for people shedding their outfits.

While even these tips cannot fully prepare you for the craziness of Carnival and the overwhelming sensory experience of the all-night party in the Sambadrome hopefully you will be more equipped to truly enjoy the best party in the world.  For more information about carnival, check out these helpful resources:

For all of your questions on Carnival the comprehensive RCS Travel and Tourism page is an excellent place to start.

If you are backpacking around South America Green Toad offers lots of different packages and from our research some of the cheapest Rio Carnival packages- this is where we booked our Sambadrome tickets.  It is geared to a younger crowd, which was perfect for us.

For a wide range of Carnival packages for the Sambadrome, Carnival Balls and hotels as well as general  information about Carnival check out Brazil Bookers.

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{ May 10, 2013 - 04:05:39 } Living If | How to Rock Carnival in Rio
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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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