By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For years the city of Rio became increasingly expensive, between currency exchange rates and inflation, it was crossed off the list of many budget travelers. However the famous Carnival celebrations remain alluring, and with a better exchange rate, it is something to be considered again.
There is not much to be done about the flights, this time of year is the summer high-season in Rio so prices always go up and availability is limited. However if one is willing to take a few connections and detours, it is usually possible to cut the air fairs down by 25-30 percent.
As far as the second biggest cost, accommodations, again this is Rio’s peak tourism season so booking as early as possible is the first tip. Rio is full of hotels which are generally more expensive, but there are also lots of pousadas (bed and breakfasts) as well as hostels that will be less expensive.
Dani Rieck a Brazilian who has lived in the UK for twelve years but now runs the Shambhala House in Vidigal, shares, “I think that avoiding the extortionate hotel prices during Carnival, and choosing to stay with locals by renting a room or the entire house, is not only a good way to save money but it will undoubtedly improve the experience.”
She adds, “The offer of private houses and rooms has never been as big as this year’s, with very reasonable prices too. Carnival is ‘religion’ in Brazil and visitors should have the opportunity and the honor to experience it like we do.”
American-Brazilian Evan Farr, co-owner of the Jinga Experience tourism company also shared “Rio de Janeiro has become one of the biggest Airbnb hotspots in the world where you can cheaper options. Also booking hostels or hotels in advance always can bring down the inflated prices.”
The next general cost consideration is food, and British expatriate living in Rio, Tom Le Mesurier of popular food guide Eat Rio, explains, “For people who are staying in Air B&Bs, find a street market and stock up on the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“Also, fill up on street food during breaks between blocos – tapiocas (beiju de tapioca) are tasty, they come with savory and sweet toppings and will keep you full for hours,” adds Le Mesurier.
One of the irresistible (and unavoidable) features of Carnival in Rio are the blocos – or street parties. Around 450 different blocos will happen all through the city during the Carnival period, and they are all free. For these, Evan Farr of Jinga shares, “My recommendation always is don’t try to do too much.”
Adding, “Pick a bloco in the morning and one in the afternoon that are relatively close to one another because there is no use in wasting time in traffic going from one to the next to the next. Also plan blocos in different parts of the city to see how each neighborhood celebrates differently!”
Last but not least, the world over is mesmerized by the spectacular samba school parades at the Sambódromo each year, but the tickets are in high demand and not cheap. For a low-cost alternative Farr suggests going to watch the ‘ensaio técnicos’ (technical rehearsals) when the samba schools hold their final practice parades.
While it lacks the spectacular pageantry and excitement of the actual competition, it provides the festive musical essence of the samba parades that Carnival in Rio is famous for. “[They are] happening the Sundays leading up to Carnival, where the different samba schools run through their parade, is free and a great way to enjoy the festivities,” Farr explains.