Brazil Carnival Travel Deals

by Jessica

January 19th, 2011

carnivalbrazilWhen you hear the word “carnival,” if you’re like many people the first thing you think of is the over-the-top celebrations in Brazil. You may not have realized that Carnival in Brazil (which is spelled Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrating the same holiday as Mardi Gras in New Orleans – but it’s true. So if you’ve already been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or you’re in the mood for something a little further from home, then we’re here to help you experience Carnival in Brazil – and without breaking the bank.

Carnival is celebrated differently in different parts of Brazil, so you’ll need to decide first which festivities you want to see. The most famous party – and the most popular in terms of outside visitors – is the one in Rio de Janeiro. But in this article we’ll take a look at a few of the places you might consider going for Carnival in Brazil, as well as the best ways for finding cheap airfare to Brazil, and some Carnival travel tips.

>> In 2012, Brazil’s Carnival runs from February 18 – 21. 

Where to Celebrate Carnival in Brazil

As mentioned, the most famous Carnival celebrations are in Rio. Here’s a bit about what you can expect in some of the cities around Brazil for Carnival.

    • Rio de Janeiro – Rio hosts what is arguably the most famous Carnival celebration in Brazil. Festivities are marked by enormous parades with floats and some of the most outrageous costumes imaginable. Costumes can be huge, making the wearer several times their normal height, but women especially are also known for not covering their bodies with much actual clothing. The parades are organized in different neighborhoods, and the neighborhood celebrations also usually feature performances by “samba schools” which compete with one another.


    • Sao Paulo – The celebrations in Sao Paulo are similar to those in Rio, with big and outrageous parades with costumed revelers and floats. There are also competitions between “samba schools” in Sao Paulo. Because it offers many of the same features as the Rio Carnival but isn’t necessarily as popular worldwide, you might consider the Sao Paulo Carnival instead.


    • Recife – Carnival in Recife may not be as internationally famous, but it does have what is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records the world’s biggest carnival parade (by number of participants) – so it’s nothing to sneeze at. There are other parades in Recife, but they’re only in the mornings, unlike Rio’s night-time parades. There is also no element of competition between groups in Recife.


How to Find Cheap Airfare to Brazil for Carnival

Generally speaking, the tips for finding cheap airfare for Brazil Carnival are going to be the same as they would be for any big event or a particular holiday – but it never hurts to hear them again.

    • Stay Flexible – This is usually the most important thing to finding cheap airfare no matter when you fly, but around an event or a holiday when lots of people are traveling it’s even more critical. Many airfare booking sites have a feature that lets you check many dates/times at once just by marking a box with the words “my dates are flexible” or something like that. If you don’t see that option, you’ll have to check several travel dates and times manually. But the more flexibility you have in your plans, the more likely you are to save money on your flight.


    • Use Budget Airlines that Fly to Brazil – There are lots of budget airlines that fly to Brazil’s airports, so don’t overlook the smaller or regional carriers just because you haven’t heard their names before. You’re likely to find that most of the direct international flights are only on big airlines, but if you find a great deal on a flight into a different city than the one you’re planning to visit you can usually hop on a budget airline in Brazil to get where you want to go (for not much money). Of the budget airlines in the United States, US Airways flies to Rio.


    • Fly When It’s Cheaper – There are days of the week and times of the day that are almost always going to be cheaper to fly; this may change if the event you’re going to is right after one of those days, but this is a good place to start. Typically, Wednesdays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly, and very early morning flights are the cheapest ones of the day.


    • Use Alternate Airports in Brazil – This is more difficult to do if you’re flying from outside Brazil, because most countries have a few international gateways, but if (for example) you’re planning to attend Carnival in Sao Paulo but you find a better deal on a flight into Rio, then consider flying to Rio and then taking one of the small South American budget airlines from Rio to Sao Paulo. You’ll need to do the math to make sure it’s actually cheaper to do that, but it’s absolutely worth looking.


Brazil Carnival Travel Tips

    • Plan Ahead – Since this is such a big event, people who are able to plan their trip 6-9 months in advance stand a better chance of finding a bargain and getting things like a room in a better hotel than those who wait.


    • Stay Long Enough – As is the case with many special events, hoteliers in Brazil often require that you book for a minimum number of days over Carnival. Be sure you check with the hotels you’re looking at before you book, lest you be charged for more days than you’re planning to stay.


    • Learn How to Get Around – Public transportation is the budget traveler’s best friend, but it may not always work the same way during a major event (especially one that involves shutting down streets for big parades). Subways don’t have to stop for parades and can be a good option, but be sure to check with the tourist information office on the best ways to get around the city you’re in during Carnival.


    • Stay Safe – Crowds like the ones that head for Brazil during Carnival make the work of a pickpocket much easier. You can do things to avoid being a victim, like making sure you’re wearing a money belt and leaving your valuables in your hotel room; it’s stuff you should think about whenever you’re in an unfamiliar city, but especially important in big crowds like this.


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