Brazilian Carnivals: What, when, where and how
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1. Is there just one ‘carnival’ or are there several? Where are they?
Carnival is a holiday in Brazil – this year it will go from Friday, March 1st to Tuesday, March 5th.
Every city across the country hosts its own carnival parties and parades, so it’s really happening everywhere in Brazil, every day, from March 1st to 5th. But the most famous carnival – in terms of the total number of people it attracts every year – is the one in Rio.
2. What are the most booked dates for the Brazilian Carnivals?
This year we reported the greatest number of bookings from Thursday, February 28th until Wednesday, March 6th.
3. How many people attend the Brazilian Carnivals and how important is it for the travel space?
Thousands! Since every city hosts their own parties and parades, it’s almost impossible to have a specific number, but the streets and clubs they all get filled with thousands of people. Places like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Minas Gerais attract people from all over the country and the world to their carnivals. Last year, Rio’s carnival attracted approximately 6.5 million people – it’s a great moment for the local economy.
4. What are the top source markets for the Brazilian Carnivals? Is it mostly attended by locals or is it also frequented by international travelers?
São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Recife, and Minas Gerais have both the “classic” carnivals – the famous parades as seen on TV – and the “street” carnivals, which are the parties held across the city streets.
Travelers from all around the world attend these events. It’s normal to come across with people from Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, and many other places. Also, several tourists from Brazil travel to different places for different carnival’s experiences. For example, people from São Paulo like to go to Minas Gerais to enjoy their carnival, people from Rio de Janeiro go to Bahia, and so on.
5. Why and how should travel agents go about promoting the carnivals as a potential holiday experience? What strategies are crucial? How early should they start?
The Carnival is one of the most expected dates for the travel agents in Brazil, it’s the second most booked travel date for tourists, falling second to New Year’s – it practically sells for itself! Normally, the travel agencies start advertising about the carnival on December and keep going until the carnival’s week – mostly because many people decide to travel at the last minute.
Normally, people are looking for the cheapest rates. During this holiday, travelers are not seeking for comfort or luxury. It would be important for the travel agents to have cheap rates because that’s what the travelers are looking for.
Planning is crucial during this season, travelers will need buy tickets or passes for the parties, and these should be bought as early as possible.
6. What type of hotel accommodation should travelers be considering to best enjoy the carnivals? Is a more simple hotel right in the centre of the activities advisable, or should they go for ones further away but with better facilities?
A good shower, a decent bed, competitive rates, and breakfast included are always preferred. Having a location closer to the parties/parades is also very important, since many people rely on Uber to travel long distances and go to the places nearby by feet.
7. Which are the most famous hotels in the city where all the celebrities stay?
Normally, travelers can encounter celebrities at the most expensive hotels. During the parades in cities like São Paulo, Rio, and Salvador there are special balconies where people can meet celebrities. One very famous hotel that usually is frequented by celebrities is the Belmond Copacabana Palace, in Rio. Other hotels include, São Paulo’s Holiday Inn Anhembi, due to its proximity to the Sambódromo, and the Fasano Hotel in Rio, and both are also known to provide accommodation to celebrities.
8. Which are the best carnivals in Brazil? Where do travellers typically buy their carnival tickets – and can travel agents help to sell these (and if so, what are the commissions)? How early do they buy them?
Depends on what the traveler is looking for. As mentioned before, places like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia are very famous for having both, the “classic” carnival with the parades, and the “street” carnivals. Destinations like Minas Gerais are super famous for having just street carnivals, and many people are looking specifically for this.
Normally travelers buy accommodation and flights on sites online, especially because travelers believe these to have cheaper rates. If a travel agent wants to sell more during the carnival, it’s crucial for the travel agents to advertise their good rates. Each year, tickets are sold through different websites, but usually they can be bought in sites like ‘Tickets For Fun’. This year, tickets can be purchased on TFF and on another site called Total Acesso.
Going to Rio’s carnival is pretty much like going to a concert – you have many options to choose from where to sit – the farther away you are from the parade the cheaper it is. This year, tickets vary from BRL 95 to BRL 500 (or roughly 25 to 125 US dollars).
Travel agents should look for tour operators that have allotment in the hotels, this way they can benefit from attaining better rates – the commissions can be anywhere from 10% to 15%.
As said before, people tend to book around December, but many people also place their booking at the last minute.
9. So many people and so many activities, but how do travelers go about dining out – during the carnival period are dining reservations recommendable, and if so, where and at what times (and how can travel agents sell these)? Are there typical festive dishes to try?
The parties typically start at noon and go all the way to midnight, so people eat in places close to the events – fast food is typically the norm during the events, tourists don’t normally go out to restaurants or eat at upscale eateries during the carnivals.
It’s important for the travel agent to have competitive rates with breakfast included – Breakfast is the most important meal for someone who is attending to the carnival.
Travelers look for different and exotic drinks instead of food. A mandatory one is Caipirinha! If someone from outside of Brazil is looking to trying a drink that brings together everything that has to do with carnival, that would be caipirinha.
10. Rio’s Carnival is registered on the Guiness Book as the biggest carnival in the world – what are some of the key experiences travellers look forward to when attending this world acclaimed event?
Watching the parade is one of the most fantastic experiences but being part of the parade is something that more people should do. Some Samba Schools limit the total number of tourists that participate because it is a competition, and people should come prepared to dance and sing.
Travelers for the most part look forward to having a good time with their friends and to dance to samba.
11. When international travelers attend the carnivals, do they typically travel alone, in family, or with friends? How should a travel agent be channeling the offering according to each segment?
Normally they travel with friends. Carnival is not the best place to be with children or older adults.
It´s very important to understand what the international traveler is looking for – during these dates almost every city is crowded with people and parties that can last all night long.
12. Is it typical for travelers to book last minute accommodation and flights during the carnivals? How far in advance do people typically book?
The largest number of people book their trip around 30 days prior to carnival – however the more time a person waits, the less likely they’ll be able to find flights, there aren’t many flights for last minute bookers.
13. Do people bring children to these festivities?
International travelers don´t normally bring children along, but Brazilian people of all ages celebrate. There are parties just for kids, and each samba school has a sector just for them.
14. What are ‘Samba schools’ and how are these relevant to the celebration of the carnivals? How do tourists get tickets and can travel agents help?
Samba schools are the ones seen on the carnival parades, the massive cars with decorations and people dancing on them – That’s what we refer to as the “classic” carnivals – Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the best places to go to enjoy this kind of event. Normally, people just buy their tickets to the parades online on sites like Tickets For Fun.
There are major differences between a classic carnival and a street carnival. For starters, the environments are completely different, and the price reflects it. Travelers don’t have to buy tickets for the streets carnivals, people just show up. Travelers tend to bring their own beverages, so it helps them save more money. On the classic carnival, the rates are much higher. Let’s take as an example, paying the lowest fare on the classic carnival (95 BRL, or 25 US dollars) is the equivalent to the average money spent in 2 or 3 days at a street carnival.
15. Do international travellers require a visa? How long does it take to process a visa for Brazil? What specifically should a travel agent be doing to support this – and how can the local hotels help too?
People from the MERCOSUR, Mercado Comun del Cono Sur (Southern Cone Common Market), don’t require a Visa – Brazil also has agreements with approximately 90 countries for which Visas are not required – best would be to check before booking in order to take the necessary precautions and issue a Visa if necessary, processing normally takes about 60 days.
16. Should travellers consider investing in travel insurance? Do they require special jabs for Brazil?
For a tropical place like Brazil, it’s a good idea to have jabs – especially during the carnival, which is the peak of the summer – and insurance is a must for any traveler, you can never be too careful.
17. While in Brazil, is it true that cabs/taxis don’t typically accept credit cards? Is it advisable to keep cash handy when travelling to Brazil? Do cabs/taxis have higher rates during different hours of the day?
It’s true, most taxis here only take cash. In cities like São Paulo and Rio, travelers can find taxis that accept credit cards, in smaller cities, however, it can a bit more difficult, that’s why many people prefer to take Ubers. Generally, it’s a good idea to have some cash in hand to buy waters, drinks…the rates for both for taxi and uber really increases during the carnival and during the day.
18. What other important factors are there that international travellers should consider when booking their stay during the carnivals in Brazil?
It is important for travelers to identify what are their expectations from their trip to Brazil. If they are looking for parties or a peaceful beach – Brazil has both to offer, for example, the south region of the country is normally a great place to relax with the family during these dates, since the people from the south tend to go to Rio or Bahia during the carnival, as a result, the southern cities become more “peaceful”.