How to Participate at the Carnival Parade
For the lovers of the Samba Schools, it isn't enough to just watch the parades on TV or even sitting at the bleachers: in order to be a part of the party, one must be right in the middle of the frenzy! Unlike a movie or a play, however, during Carnaval the spectators may actually become part of the show. A little-known fact to foreigners (but well-known by the Cariocas) is the possibility to purchase a costume from one of the Schools - which doubles as your entry ticket to the event.
There are two options for those who want to make the dream of dancing samba next to the stars of Carnaval come true:
The simplest, fastest and safest way to book your costume is through specialized agencies. The agencies help intermediate the purchase, which facilitates the access for those who have never been involved in a Parade and avoids common mishaps. Just call an agency and they will inform you about the Samba Schools, dates, themes and prices. Of course, you can choose whichever costume you want!
Rio Tickets also offers this service. Click here to know more and reserve your costume in minutes.
It's also possible to contact the schools directly. This option is much less indicated, since communicating with the schools can be challenging. Despite the fact that it may be a little more cost-effective, the lack of organization of most schools ends up harming those interested in parading. That is especially true for the schools in the Access Group, which have been known to not deliver some the costumes on time (this is very rare with the Special Group). Because it's a very popular option, most people start booking costumes starting in October of the previous year, as costume designs are usually revealed in December.
There may also be a variation of prices depending on the classification of the Samba School, which can fall into two main groups:
Special Group (the most prestigious, traditional schools and the elite of the parades)
- Acadêmicos do Grande Rio
- Acadêmicos do Salgueiro
- Estação Primeira de Mangueira
- Estácio de Sá
- Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel
- Paraíso do Tuitui
- São Clemente
- União da Ilha do Governador
- Unidos da Tijuca
- Unidos de Vila Isabel
- Unidos do Virado
Access Group (less famous schools with less capital, but still at a very high level. The champions of this group join the Special Group the following year.
- Acadêmicos da Rocinha
- Acadêmicos de Santa Cruz
- Acadêmicos do Cubango
- Acadêmicos do Sossego
- Caprichosos de Pilares
- Imperatriz Leopoldinense
- Império da Tijuca
- Império Serrano
- Inocentes de Belford Roxo
- Renascer de Jacarepaguá
- União do Parque Curicica
- Unidos da Ponte
- Unidos de Bangu
- Unidos de Padre Miguel
- Unidos do Porto da Pedra
The show of the Access Group is half the size of the Special Group, so their tickets and costumes sell for up to half the price. It can be an incredible opportunity for those seeking an experience that fits in one's pocket, since the Access Group also delivers a carnival of top-notch quality.
Can't decide which school to choose? An insider tip is to always research the winners and parades of previous years to see which school best fits with what you are looking for.
Now that you have your costume reserved (or almost, at least), remember to leave for the Sambadrome well in advance, bring water, and comfortable shoes. And do not forget your costume - without it you will not be able to enter the party!