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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Cidade Maravilhosa is gearing up for the most important date in its calendar, its world-famous Carnival. With expected revenues of R$6 billion and over 1 million tourists arriving from around the world for the biggest party on the planet, the city has sanctioned 509 official ‘blocos’ (Carnival street parties) for this year’s festivities. Here is a guide on how to ‘bloco’ – for first timers and those returning to the fray once again.
With Carnival officially starting on Friday, March 1st, bloco season has been getting into the party spirit since the beginning of February, with plenty of ‘blocos ensaios’ (practice blocos) building up the excitement throughout the month.
Saturday, February 16th, saw the official starting date for Rio’s blocos, including ‘Bloco das Carmelitas’ (Carmelite bloco) and ‘Desliga da Justiça’ (League of Justice) flooding the streets with wannabe nuns and superheroes.
With 509 official blocos happening over three weeks, this aspect of Carnival can be somewhat bewildering for both cariocas and gringos. “You should search for the city’s bloco schedule on the internet and read up on the blocos you find interesting.” comments Tavi Noren of Rio Love Story. Click here for Rio’s official bloco agenda.
“It’s important to know the start time and route each particular bloco will take. Then it’s just a case of putting on your favorite colorful and crazy outfit and preparing yourself to have fun for several hours while you walk and dance.” He adds.
Noren has a few handy tips for revelers, “Know that usually there are long lines for the toilets and do not bring any valuables in your pockets, like an expensive cell phone, as pickpocketing is frequent, especially during the bigger blocos.”
He recommends bloco ‘Rocha da Gávea,’ which takes place on Tuesday, March 5th and starts at 8AM from Praça Santos Dumont and ends close by at Planetário da Gávea. “This bloco is a fun and animated crowd where you can bring the whole family.”
Tom Ashe, from Favela Brass, is putting on his own very special bloco, Amigos da Cacilda, to raise money for the NGO’s exciting expansion in 2019, which will soon have a crowdfunding page. He comments, “Ours is also happening on Tuesday, March 5th, starting at 10AM at the Mississippi Delta Blues Bar.”
Ashe continues, “We’re really excited to be welcoming the New York Jazz Band from York in the UK, who will be joining us to play New Orleans jazz on our Mardi Gras-style parade through the streets of historic Gamboa.”
For something a bit different, Tom Le Mesurier, from Eat Rio, recommends ‘Céu Na Terra’ (Heaven on Earth), which is happening on Tuesday, March 5th at 4PM at HUB RJ in Santo Cristo, and Cordão do Boitatá, which usually takes place at Praça XV, in the city’s historic center, but so far has no confirmed date.
He comments, “As far as tips go, I would say that Monobloco and Sargento Pimenta, the ones that always seem to be touted, are usually so horribly overcrowded that they’re a total nightmare.”
Amigos da Onça, and Tambores de Olokun are also two more alternative blocos that have been recommended in our previous year’s guide.
The best way to get around is by Metro, as bus routes can often become diverted or stopped by the various blocos taking over Rio’s streets.