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Sizzling Secrets to Celebrate Carnaval in Rio Like a Pro…

I’m Katy from San Diego, California.

Before I turned the BIG 30, I was in search for something… anything that was different from the mundane life and job I had at home.

I hit a subtle wall… but a wall nevertheless.

Having worked in odd jobs here and there, I wanted to make a major change.

So I quit my jobs and headed to South America!

Brazil had always been on my radar and I am so incredibly thankful that I chose her as my first stop.  Brazil opened me up, made me vulnerable and taught me the life lessons I needed to learn along my journey.

And some of the best lessons and fun came from my time at Carnaval in Rio…

Interview About Carnaval in Rio…

How did you first hear about Carnaval and what made you decide to go?

It was more my fascination with Brazil that led me to the famous Carnaval. I have always wanted to go to Brazil and in particular Rio de Janeiro.

Several times in the last five years my friends and I would talk/fantasize about going to Carnaval.

It never would go any further than talk, until I finally decided a year ago that I wanted to actually go and stop talking about it!

It was a present to myself for my 30th birthday!

Can you briefly explain the Carnaval events?

To experience Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, you simply have to walk out your front door and it surrounds you. If you are in the city there is no way you cannot experience it, it’s in the air! I say that to set the stage for the different ways you can experience Carnaval. You can spend a lot of money or very little, but either way you cannot escape the spirit!

First there are the Blocos, which are basically THE CRAZIEST block parties that you have ever experienced.  They’re all over the city and there’s even an App that you can download to tell you where and when they are happening. They go on all hours of the day and night. Blocos are where many of the locals celebrate Carnaval. Very fun, very packed with people, and filled with constant singing and drinking. Always a good time, you will not be disappointed!

Then there are the more formal events, such as the balls and private parties. They cost a pretty penny and are mainly for tourist, but fun to experience regardless.

And last, but certainly not least, is the Samba Parade at the Sambodromo. This is where Carnaval comes to life in full color and dance. It is what they show on television each year and if you are wowed by the spectacle on TV, it is even more mind blowing in person!

How did you research Carnaval? Any specific websites or blogs that are good resources?

I started my research with the Lonely Planet, South America on a Shoestring which gave me this website

It was the most helpful website I found and tells you all you need to know about Carnaval; the highlights, places to stay, how to get around; literally everything.

It is also one of the only, as I was told by several locals, trustworthy places to purchase the Samba parade ticket, and they provide transport to and from the parade, which I highly recommend. I emailed them with loads of questions and they were quick to respond and very helpful.

What did you wear and what advice can you give women about what to wear?

I heard about Brazilian fashion before I went, so I definitely did not want walk around with the typical travel wear you see on many travelers.

I packed light, but very stylish clothes.

Alex at helped me out tremendously!

  • Sandals are a must in Rio, everyone wears them!
  • Bring shorts, dresses and pants that are light and airy. Trust me it is HOT and HUMID.
  • Wear clothes that are breathable and stay away from wearing black during the day.

Culturally speaking there is no need to cover up.

Brazilian women are very confident in their bodies, but it is not like they are walking around the city naked. So you can fit in with pretty much any type of clothing, just keep it stylish and don’t be afraid of color.

Beaches are a different story… the less, the better. So don’t be shy!

Did you face any challenges being a woman? If so, what challenges did you face and what would you do to avoid them?

The only challenge I faced was being blonde and blue eyed. I got more attention walking down the street, but that was about it.

Rio is a very diverse city, so you will see every color of hair, skin, and eyes you can imagine. It was probably the only place during my travels in South America that I felt like I fit in without automatically being pegged as a foreigner. That is if I didn’t open my mouth and start speaking.

I would say though that lone women travelers just need to be aware of their surroundings on a constant basis and be smart.

Act like you would in any big city around the world and you will be fine.

Did you face any language barriers?

Yes! Portuguese is a difficult language even for those that speak Spanish.

Spanish and Portuguese, while they share some similar words, are not the same by any means. The way words are pronounced and even the way sentences are spoken are completely different.

My advice… practice Portuguese before you go, especially words for food.  It will help you navigate the menu and make a good first impression if you speak in their native tongue.

I did run into some English speakers, but don’t count on your English to get you very far.

Where did you sleep and what where the accommodations like?

Carnaval is expensive… I am talking three, four, even five times the regular prices you’d find during off season.

So be prepared to spend some money if you are going to Brazil during Carnaval.

When I was trying to find accommodation, hotels and hostels were offering package deals with maximum stay of four or five nights.

  • Hostels were at regular hotel prices and that was for shared dorm rooms.
  • Hotel prices were skyrocketed into the thousands.

So I ended up booking accommodations through to cut down on expenses. It took some time and patience and I started early–in October.

Make sure you book accommodations well in advance for the best prices and location.

I stayed in two different locations, Santa Teresa and Copacabana, during my time in Rio, with two very amazing hosts! I rented a single room out of their home. It was like staying in a hotel but with the guidance of a local host. I really enjoyed it and while it wasn’t the crazy party life of a hostel, it allowed me to escape every so often to get some peace and quiet.

Plus it gave me three new lifelong friends in Rio!

What did you eat? Any traditional foods you’d recommend?

I loved the fruit, coffee, and meat.

Brazilian BBQ is a must for meat lovers!

Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world so they know how to make a good cup of coffee.

The fruit is the most amazing you will ever taste. Every place you go, you can order fresh fruit juice. My favorite was mango!

But I would say the one food item I was most addicted to was Acai. It is the most delicious thing you will ever taste. It is refreshing and healthy for you. Acai is a berry from the Brazilian Amazon. Basically they make a slushy/smoothie type mixture which you can drink or eat with a spoon. Often times it comes with granola and sometimes banana and honey.

What advice or tips can you give women considering going to Carnaval?

  1. Get ready to have the time of your life!
  2. Be prepared not to sleep, in fact, you will not want to sleep for fear of missing out!
  3. Be forewarned… someone might try to kiss you at the Blocos.  For some reason this is a big part of it, especially if you are a foreign woman. So watch out for moving lips!
  4. Take Samba dance lessons.  I love to dance and it is a major part of Brazilian culture so it helped me understand the culture much more.  For every night club you go to, to every Bloco you attend, Samba music will be blasted from the speakers, sung/yelled out from the crowd and danced in the street!  Helio Ricardo offers dance classes as well as a class and night out at one of the hottest Samba clubs in Rio. Here is his website, Plus he speaks English, Spanish, and of course Portuguese fluently!

What was your biggest culture shock in Brazil?

When I told people that I was going to Brazil, the first thing out of their mouth was, “Be careful, it’s so dangerous!”

In fact, I was told this so many times that it made me really consider not going at all.

If I had listened to people, some who had never even been to Brazil themselves, I would have missed out on the most amazing culture shock of all – the Brazilian people!  I was overwhelmed by their culture of acceptance and generosity!

It was something I fell in love with from the moment I was touched by it, and something I will never forget.

Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?

If you are already subscribing to Darcie’s newsletter and frequent as much as I do, then you have a traveling spirit!

Something, however, that always made me step outside my door into my next adventure was fear.

I know this is a strange thing to say especially since fear always has a negative connotation. But it was fear of not experiencing life that has made me take leaps into the unknown.

I guess you could look at it as courage, for fear is a feeling that oftentimes leads you to be courageous.

I remember watching the movie We Bought a Zoo before I left on my journey down to South America.  Matt Damon’s character Benjamin Mee put it in perspective for me by saying…

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

And something great did come of it!

Thank you Katy Schlegel for participating in this interview. For more information on Katy, please visit

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