The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is one of the hottest parades in the world, unfortunately navigating booking sites and buying tickets are an equal hot mess. I first turned to rio-carnival.net which was featured on Lonely Planet’s website, so I figured they can’t be sketchy.
Each year, the best samba schools release photos of one or two costumes that can be purchased by the public. Sadly they are not as sexy and scandalous as the ones you see online. These are usually the PG versions at a $$$$ tourist value. Now if you want to join the parade like I do, then you WILL HAVE to purchase a costume. No you can’t bring your own DIY costume or purchase one from Alibaba.
Step 1: Decide what day you want to join the parade
First you want to decide which day you want to join the Carnival. The best samba schools march on Sunday and Monday. For 2016, that is Sunday, February 7th and Monday, February 8th. I opt for Sunday, February 7th since the winner of last year’s carnival Beija-Flor is marching that day. I didn’t choose the Champions’ Parade because most of the excitement from the parade and participants would have died down since they’re not competing anymore. But if you want to see all the best samba schools at once, this would be a cheaper option.
Samba School Rankings 2015
Step 2: Select a costume
Whoah $300 for a costume I’ll never wear again?? Unfortunately, you have to select a costume with a specific samba school which can range from $143 to as high as $543 or more.
These prices vary because the best schools charge a premium for the days they are marching. If you are on a budget, you can get a $143 costume to join a samba school on Friday, February 5th or Saturday, February 6th. I also looked at other sites such as BrazilBookers.com and noticed that their costumes were significantly more expensive ($543) but they do look nicer. However, I wanted to join the best samba school so I purchased a Beija-Flor dress for $300 plus the administration fee of $105. (Don’t get me started on why they have a 35% admin fee because I don’t know why! And as you can see, they raised the prices on me. Sneaky…)
This is the other Beija-Flor costume on Brazilbookers.com.
Step 3: Choosing your size
Please make sure to get the right size costume! They will ask for your measurements including height, waist, hip, breast in centimeters (cm). Remember it’s easier for them to make adjustments for a costume that is too big than too small. According to my size, I got a Small costume, with shoe size 36. You can make all of these inches to centimeters calculations in Google.
Step 4: Payment
After you submit your measurements, they’ll send you an email to make the necessary payment. You can also choose to have your costume mailed to you for $14 or you can pick up the costume for free at Scorial Rio Hotel, Rua Bento Lisboa 155, Rio de Janeiro. Apparently it’s better if you pick the costume up at the hotel because some people did not receive their costume in a timely matter.
Opening hours for visitors to collect their costumes are February 4 to 8 and 13 between 9:00-18:00.
Then it will take you to a “protected” payment system called cielo and you’re done! Now you’ll just have to wait for updates and schedule a pick up time when it gets closer to Carnival.
Note: If you have credit card issues, try using different ones. They declined my Chase cards, Charles Schwab, etc. I was going to give up till my friend allowed me to use his American Express credit card. This one worked!
If you have any tips about purchasing costumes for the Carnival, please share them. I would love to hear if I got ripped off lol and if I should’ve purchased costumes through Brazilian friends.
See you at the 2016 Carnival in Rio!
Here are some photos and videos from 2015 Carnival.