by Chris Dalby, Mao Pengfei
Given the thunderous samba beats dictating the sway of seductive curves and the towering headdresses rivaling the rainbow colors of the chariots during the the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, a few tips may enable visitors to better enjoy one of the world’s greatest spectacles.
This year, despite a tumbling economy and a rapid spread of the fearful Zika virus, crowds are still expected to flock to the streets from Feb. 5-9 to witness samba schools pitting their best dancers against each other.
The five-day non-stop street parties, which will bring together millions of participants, might accelerate the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus due to a combination of heat, crowding and exposure of skin, experts have warned.
However, with a few tips, you can still enjoy Brazil’s greatest spectacle.
1. Take precautions against Zika
Although Zika is not deadly, or particularly serious, to adults, it should not be ignored.
Pregnant women should take great caution if they choose to visit Brazil for the time being, because researchers have linked the Zika virus to a birth defect for fetuses that could lead to longtime health and developmental problems.
Specific measures include covering themselves with repellent and sleeping with a mosquito net. Upon leaving the country, a check-up is absolutely needed as 80 percent of adults with Zika do not show symptoms.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control said that Zika only stays in the body for a couple of weeks. However, the recent discovery of sexually transmitted cases of Zika means that men should get a check-up as well.
2. Visit samba schools
Many of the city’s most famous samba schools welcome visitors. Going to Mangueira, Beija-Flor or Salgueiro on a Saturday night gives you a rare chance to personally see local people’s preparations up close, though without the full flamboyance and atmosphere of the Sambadrome, the stadium designed and built specifically to host the annual parade of samba schools during the Carnival.
3. Avoid famous tourist sites during Carnival
Ignore any recommendation thereto if you only have a couple of days in Rio. However, if you can stick around for a few more days after Carnival, wait to ascend the Sugarloaf Mountain or to visit Christ Redeemer until then.
At the height of the event, these sites will be crammed with tourists, many of whom likely recovering from earlier merriment. Nothing spoils the view of the glinting Guanabara Bay more than a drunk co-ed from Arizona state spewing on your shoes.
4. Enjoy the blocos
Blocos are street parties that happen during Carnival all over the country, usually with a large crowd of dancers following a musical band.
Smaller ones will have a band playing among the mob while larger ones will have their own float. The biggest blocos around famous tourist sites tend to be the most crowded but exploring smaller ones can be equally rewarding.
One note, however, is to trust the opinions of Cariocas (local people from Rio) on where blocos are fun and safe.
5. Dance all day long but protect yourself
Sunrise may mean it’s time for the party to stop in some parts of the world. But not in Rio. Here, it only provides a reason to drink some coconut milk to rehydrate and head to another bloco. That’s right, blocos can happen all day as well as all night.
Given the heat of Rio, if your legs can power you through into the light, make sure you have a hat and sunscreen on hand.
6. Fill your stomach before heading to the Sambadrome
On the main days of the Carnival, thousands of people pick the Sambadrome to watch the parade. Forget about eating promptly during those hours. The line at the hot dog or caipirinha stands will be very long while the state of the bathrooms is not what you want to witness for yourself, if at all possible.
7. Revel, wonder and treasure the experience
The Carnival of Rio is one of the very few spectacles in the world that actually live up to their reputation. If you come in with an open attitude and a bit of Portuguese, and leaving your inhibitions at the door, you will be able to fully experience what makes Rio one of the warmest and merriest places to ever exist.
8. Write your address on a card before going out
Let’s face it, it’s easy to give in to the joys of Rio. A few too many beers, a flirtatious encounter on the beach, and trying out a new nightclub, there’s no telling where you’ll be swept off to. The cab drivers of Rio know the city pretty well but even they have trouble communicating with a slurring tourist. Give them the written address and you’ll be in bed, nursing your hangover before you know it. Enditem