The largest and most famous Carnival party in the world is starting soon (9th to 14th February). In honor of this cultural heritage, the Brazilians working here at Babbel — the world’s top-grossing online language learning app — share 7 key terms unique to Brazilian Carnival and a few tips to help you survive the tropical party.
São Paulo: blocos de rua x Sambódromo
The richest city in Latin America is not usually a travel destination for foreigners looking for a party. Indeed it is a grey, expensive and logistically difficult to negotiate — especially if your accommodation is not located close to Paulista Avenue.
So why do Babbel’s Brazilians think you should give it a try? Because in the last 10 years the city began to support fun-packed blocos de rua. A bloco de rua happens when people get together on the streets or stroll around certain neighborhoods playing samba, singing and dancing to vintage carnival music. The crowd dresses up in costumes or with a glittery, tropical look. Today, there are more than 100 blocos de rua in São Paulo. And they’re free! Dancing away at São Paulo’s bloco de rua is the best way to get to know the city, the people and its culture.
Skip the trap: If you’re traveling on a budget and “over the top” experiences are not really your thing, avoid the famous Sambódromo. It consists of tiered spectator viewing areas surrounding a long alley for the Samba schools to parade down. Prices can hit 600 euros depending on where you sit.
Rio de Janeiro: beaches and afoxé
Like São Paulo, Rio has hundreds of blocos de rua (carnival parties on the streets). This year, 464 blocos will have people dancing up and down the streets. Although the city also has its own Sambódromo (or venue where over-the-top Samba parades happens), blocos de rua are Babbel’s Brazilians’ favorites.
Babbel’s Brazilians’ recommendation for your time in Rio is Afoxé Filhos de Gandhi. This year, Rio’s first afoxé will happen on the 11th and 12th February. Afoxé are slightly different to a traditional bloco de rua. In addition to the fun and dance, Afoxé include a sacred angle. The Carnival is actually the ceremony of an Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomblé. According to the African language Yoruba, afoxé means “the statement makes it happen” and in Nagô means “the sound that comes out of the mouth when the dust is blown and turns it into verb.”
Skip the trap: The excitement combined with chilled, light beers that you’ll find everywhere can easily make you forget to regularly reapply sunblock and drink water — but you must! This can be a fatal mistake, as temperatures can reach over 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Rio de Janeiro. Protect your skin and hydrate to keep your spirits high.
Salvador: abadás and trio elétricos
Salvador’s carnival is the largest and most traditional in Brazil. The event brings together millions of people to party on the streets of Bahia State’s capital. Every aspect of the party is emphasized. Instead of a simple band or few drummers, Salvador’s carnival has trucks to support the sound system of each party. Salvador’s huge blocos are known as trio elétricos. They are more organized and structured, but also often expensive.
Make sure to buy your abadá (a t-shirt that you wear during the party and also acts as your ticket) in advance because they run out quickly. If you can afford to buy a camarote abadá — even better! Camarote is a venue within the Carnival, where you’re able to watch the whole party from above (and food and drinks are included). This ticket isn’t cheap, but it’s the best choice for someone who wants to experience the most famous carnival of the world in convenient style. Camarote abadá allows you to mingle among the crowd and return to your bird’s nest as often as you like.
Babbel’s number-one pick, however, is something more alternative: the carnival party in the neighborhood of Pelourinho. There, you can join old-fashioned blocos de rua and stroll around a charming area with colonial style.
Skip the trap: At Salvador’s carnival, less is more. Take only what is strictly necessary, and definitely not anything valuable. If you get drunk in the crowd, the chances of losing things are high. Unfortunately, the Carnival is also an ideal hotspot for pickpockets.
– Bloco de rua — Samba, singing and dancing in the streets
– Sambódromo — Tiered spectator seating from which you can watch the outrageous Samba parade (often pricey)
– Afoxé — Afro-Brazilian religious street parade
– Trio elétrico — The HUGE bloco de rua in Salvador (often pricey)
– Abadá — T-shirt that is your ticket for the trio elétrico
– Camarote — Venue within the Carnival offering you a bird’s eye view of the party
– Pelourinho — The stunning colonial neighborhood which hosts traditional blocos de rua