By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — The most anticipated festival in Brazil each year, Rio’s Carnival is expected to draw more than a million visitors to the city for this historical and cultural celebration. At the center of it all and where the action takes place with the energetic samba parade is called the Marquês da Sapucaí, or Sambódromo.
The Sambódromo can fit up to 90,000 people and has been recently renovated with state of the art acoustics and sound system, along with additional seating. Demand for tickets is always high though, especially as Carnival approaches (this year from February 28-March 3rd,) and expected to quickly sell out.
For visitors, the best way to obtain tickets is through travel agencies that arrange packages, but beware of scam sites and scalpers on the internet. “I always advise my visitors to purchase their Carnival tickets to the Sambódromo in advance and through a travel agency package,” says Daniel Cabral, a tour guide from Rio Private Tours. “It’s safer and they also offer shuttle services going there and coming back.”
Less expensive tickets are available for the Access Group parades held on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st. The most prominent samba schools perform on Sunday, March 2nd and Monday, March 3rd in what is called the Grupo Especial (Special Group) parade competition.
The Sambódromo is divided up into thirteen numbered sections, each with their own positives and negatives. The best seats are the sponsored VIP booths or ‘camarotes’. These catered, air conditioned spaces have a great view of the parade and hold up to twelve people, with each seat costing around R$4,000.
Underneath the camarotes are open boxes or ‘frisas’ at floor level which gives a great close-up view of the parade. These seats are adjacent to the runway and hold up to six people with a small coffee table. They are located in front of every section and cost between R$1,000 and R$1,800.
Sections two and three have good views of the fireworks that announce the start of each parade. Once the parade reaches sectors four through seven, located towards the center of the Sambódromo, spectators can enjoy a great panoramic view of the celebrations.
The seating in the ‘grandstands’ in those sections are a good choice for a less expensive budget. The lower the seat number, the closer to the runway. Tickets for the grandstands cost between R$300 and R$400.
Sector nine is reserved for tourists and has numbered seats, as opposed to the other sections where people are free to sit or stand where they can. Sector eleven looks over the ‘Recuo da Bateria’, where the drum line waits when the schools pass by, where percussion enthusiasts can catch a good glimpse of this key element of the parades.
Instead of just watching from the Sambódromo stands, it is also possible join in the performances with the samba schools. Those wishing to do so can buy costumes (called fantasias) from the main samba school’s websites and pay a fee of R$1,000 to R$3,000.
Since the Sambódromo is divided into even and odd sections, the best Metro (subway) stop for those seated in even-numbered section is “Centro”, and “Praça XI” for those seated in odd-numbered sections. Taxis are also an option, and are available near the Sambódromo all night.
The doors open at 5PM, but arriving after sunset is a reasonable idea, considering the heat and that the atmosphere starts to peak around 10 or 11PM. Another factor is that the parade runs literally all night, until 6 or 7AM, so it is advised to bring water and plan on getting comfortable.