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What do you think of when you hear “Brazil Carnaval”?
I bet it’s the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval with the sambadrome, women in high heels, and feathery costumes. That is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime spectacular. And pretty much the complete opposite of what you’ll find at Salvador’s millions-strong 6-day street party/city takeover.
When is Salvador’s Carnaval in 2020?
The 2020 Salvador Carnaval officially runs from Thursday, February 19, 2020, until Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
But, the city that loves to party can’t limit Carnaval to just those six days.
So, the weekend before are two day-long festivals known as Fuzuê and Furdunço. Those two festivals happen in the Barra and Ondina neighborhoods starting in the afternoon and going on into the evening.
And, because apparently after Carnaval people still aren’t done partying, the days immediately following Carnaval are unofficially officially known the Ressaca de Carnaval (Carnaval hangover). You’ll continue to find more shows throughout the city — before we all go sleep for a month.
What you need to know about Carnaval in Salvador
Carnaval in Salvador has a rhythm and vocabulary all its own. But, I’m here to break it ALL down for you.
Before you plan your trip, be sure to check out my A-Z guide of Carnaval terms. As I learned the hard way my first Carnaval, Google Translate does NOT give you the context you need for Carnaval success.
Once you feel good about the terminology, it’s time to choose the experience that matches your budget and energy levels. From sipping craft cocktails in a high-end lounge to walking with a band to mixing it up with the locals, Salvador Carnaval has an experience for you. My recommendation is create a week that lets you do a little bit of it all!
Once you decide on the type of experience you want to have (camarote, pipoca, or bloco), it’s time to figure out which circuit is the right one for you. There are three primary circuits — with dozens more secondary circuits throughout the city — and each has a vibe of its own.
Hopefully part of your experience will be seeing the afro blocos that, in my opinion, help make Salvador Carnaval the multi-cultural, super-special event that it is. Pro tip: Most of these blocos don’t have their abadá available for sale on the main ticketing sites. If you want to walk with one of these groups, let me know and we can help.
Finally, I have collected all of my best tips and tricks — 18 in total — for surviving the epic event that is Carnaval in Salvador. Don’t get on the plane until you’ve read these.
Salvador Carnaval Planning Do’s and Don’ts
- Do… find a place to stay early. By September apartments are renting for Carnaval, and prices are starting to go up. Salvador receives 750,000 visitors for the week of Carnaval, so housing is at a premium.
- Do… think about transportation. Bus routes are either canceled or significantly re-routed, and taxis and Ubers are expensive and can be hard to come by. Make sure you think about transportation as you evaluate housing options. Pro tip: Some hotels offer shuttles to and from the Carnaval circuits as a part of their Carnaval packages.
- Don’t… wait to buy plane tickets. Prices are only going to continue to go up and up and mileage tickets are practically impossible to use — even outside of Carnaval.
- Don’t… plan to stay for only part of the time. I say this, but I also know plenty of people who come for just a few days. However, the majority of housing options only book packages for the entire week. If you plan to come for just a few days, plan to spend a lot more per night and have fewer housing choices. There is also nothing saying you have to actually partake in Carnaval the entire time!
- Don’t… stay right on a Carnaval circuit. You can get a great view and watch the world go by in your pajamas, but it comes with some very clear drawbacks. Other than the premium price you’ll pay, getting in and out will be extremely difficult. I have one client from last year who did just that, and told me afterwards that had he known he never would have done it. He had to have a police escort to get through the crowds, and this world traveler said it was one of the scariest things he’s ever done.
Let us help you plan your Carnaval
We live and and love this city (and Carnaval). My husband has been a regular performer on the Carnaval circuit for decades. From the craft cocktail VIP experience to walking with a band to enjoying the family-friendly atmosphere of the open stages in the Pelourinho, we’re here to guide you and make your trip planning experience.