The main parade of Rio's Carnival is at the Sambodrome, a massive concrete stadium-like structure, built along Avenida Marques de Sapucai. The parade involves more then 50.000 figurants, and a selected number of top samba schools. Most of the schools, representing many districts and social clubs, aren't present in the main Samba School Parade.
Rio's Carnival is centred in samba schools and themes selected for each year. The themes may be very diverse: they can be a myth, a historical or present event, a political or artistic personality, and must embrace every detail of the year's school presentation. The lyrics, the music itself, the costumes of the figurants, the papier-mache figures and paintings of the allegoric car, must all be according with the selected theme.
Each samba school exhibition includes a fixed set of components:
- the Abre-Alas: the opening wing of sambistas marching ahead, colourfully costumed;
- the Comissao da Frente: a long line of well dressed men;
- the Porta Bandeira: the Flag Bearer, a woman carrying the school's flag;
- the Mestre Sala: the Dance Master, dressed up in an ancient century way;
- the bateria: the main file of sambistas with the percussion instruments, imposing the rhythm to the school participants;
- the other alas, dressing and illustrating the diverse peculiarities of the chosen theme;
- the figuras de destaque: the Proeminent Persons, embodied by artistic or sports celebrities;
- the passistas: groups of dancers;
- the Carro Alegorico: the central piece of the presentation, the big luxurious decorated float, presenting the main theme, with its own figurants.
All the schools compete among themselves. There is an official jury considering the details of the parade and the relevance to the theme. The classification gives not only fame and joy for the samba school, but also public money for their activities.
If you are interested in these parades, you should buy the tickets early enough and anticipate hotel booking. Many hotels in Rio require a minimum of a five day during the Carnival period.
If you want to attend to the Main Parade at Rio's Sambodrome - the gigantic stadium where the great parades of the Carnival in Rio take place - you should get the tickets well in advance.
It's not easy to get them. As a rule, tickets for Rio Carnival Main Parade are sold out in an hour, or so. Travel agencies, hotels (and scalpers) get part of them from school samba allotments. So, to get tickets to the parades, you should contact your hotel or a travel agency.
Be also ready to pay more than the face value of the tickets, especially in the very eve of the Carnival dates. Tickets with a face value of, say, US$50, will be sold for twice as much in the weeks before the event.
Be aware of fraudulent ticket sales for Carnival in Rio Sambodrome. Buy your tickets through travel agents and hotels. Tickets have two parts: a magnetic card and a paper slip; you must receive both parts. Tickets for tables or frisas also involve a plastic card to wear around the neck.
A good option for those who are interested in the Rio's stadium carnival events, is to attend the Champion's Parade - a Parade involving the best teams, at the weekend after the initial main parade. It's much easier to get tickets for this event, it's cheaper and is just as fun.
Sambodrome - the massive concrete stadium-like structure where the parades of Carnival in Rio take place - is divided in sectors. Sector 9 is reserved for tourists and is a good option; sectors 2, 7 and 11 are also good choices. Sectors 3 and 5 are reasonable. Others are poor choices.
Tickets for the bleachers (arquibancadas) are cheap, but most of them offer a poor view of the event. Camarotes (special cabins) offer excellent views: they are expensive VIP places. Between the bleachers and the camarotes stand open boxes with chairs and tables called frisas; they are very near the action. You may prefer the cadeiras de pista, between the frisas and the arquibancadas; they can be more comfortable than the frisas.
Tickets for Rio's Sambodromo events are difficult to obtain. In other cases, you don't need to anticipate ticket buying. Just ask how to get them at your hotel, once in Brazil, or a little earlier, if you are a cautious person.