Backpacking Rio Carnival: Without Going Broke

Planning on Backpacking Rio Carnival?

Prepare for one of the biggest parties in the world. The city is packed round the clock with partygoers that never seem to sleep. Think you’re ready for the mayhem? Ticket to Brazil? Check. Over the top carnival costume? Check. Hella cash? Cheeeeck…? Backpacking during Rio Carnival doesn’t have to break the budget. Have a look at how I did it on the cheap.

Cheapest Place to Stay for Rio Carnival

Hostels in Rio jack up their prices during Carnival. A lot! Don’t end up  paying $100 for a crappy dorm bed in a dodgy hostel. Hit up Couchsurfing instead! This takes some planning ahead as most hosts book up months in advance. But if you are sincere and determined, you can usually find someone who had a cancelation that can squeeze you in. Plus you get the added benefit of staying with a local that will know all the best local parties. If Couchsurfing doesn’t pan out, check out Air BnB. My friend and I booked a room in an apartment during Brazilian Carnival in a quiet neighborhood. It was so refreshing to escape the craziness and have a calm place to crash.

what is carnival in rio

Cheapest Food in Rio During Carnival

Traveling to Latin America may sound like it’ll be easy on the wallet, but Brazil is expensive. Food prices are not that far off prices in the States. To save money, stay somewhere that has kitchen and cook! We lived off Top Ramen while we were in Rio. Not the healthiest, but we made up for it by stuffing our faces with Acai berries every morning. Street food is also a good option, but can be limiting for vegetarians as Brazilians love their meat.

carnival costumes in brazil

 Party it Up at The Blocos

During the week of Carnival Rio turns into a gigantic party. The streets are flooded with bands, drink booths and beautiful men in drag. There are also extravagant themed costume balls that happen all over the city. We were lucky enough to be invited to a Beatles themed ball with a fantastic cover band. While it was a fun experience, we would never have shelled out the money for a $100 ticket. Why pay so much when you can have the same experience for free outside? Schedules for the biggest (and free!) street blocos can be found online closer to the date.

best nightclub during rio carnival n brazil

Rio Public Transport

Rio is a huge, sprawling city and the action happens all over. Save some much-needed Caipirinha money and skip the cabs. Rio has an excellent metro system that can take you anywhere you need. During carnival the metro runs 24 hours a day and is almost always full of costumed partiers. Invest in a prepaid card for the week.

backpacking rio carnival

Safety in Rio: Don’t Get Hustled

There are a ton of website that pre-sell tickets to the big parade in the Sombrodomo. These sites mark up their prices and charge as much as three times the street price. We bought our tickets the night of the show from scalpers outside the event. This can be a bit sketchy as fake tickets are definitely a concern, but if you have a good intuition I would recommend taking a chance. The top tier schools perform in the Sunday and Monday shows, making those nights significantly more expensive.

Copacabana Rio Brazil

Partying in Rio Carnival is one crazy event you need to get yourself to! 

4 thoughts on “Backpacking Rio Carnival: Without Going Broke”

  1. Nice tips!
    We ended up paying RIDICULOUS amount of money for accommodation (and not only) during carnival in Rio and Salvador da Bahia a couple of year ago. Prices just end up sky high, even for crappy places! Couch-surfing (or “a friend of a friend of a friend”) is probably a decent alternative is you manage to get a host with enough time in advance!

    • Yeah it’s a pricey trip out to Brazil. Couchsurfing is definitely the way to go to cut on accommodation costs, but it’s often hard to organise. Over Carnaval time it’s virtually impossible unless you hook it up a lot earlier.

  2. Great advice! I always try to go for the cheap local transport and street food options. I’ve not tried Air BnB yet but I’ve heard a lot of great things so this could work for me in future. I really want to do Rio next February and will use this information. Thanks for the great post!


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