Does the Carnival in Salvador occur at the same time as the one in Rio?
YES. Both Carnivals are at the same time, but Salvador Carnival begins on Thursday and the main events for Carnival in Rio start on Friday. To have the best carnival experience, you would need to choose one or the other.
Which Brazilian Carnival should I attend?
I need help deciding on which Brazilian carnival to choose. Does this sound like you? Well you are not alone! Many people want to know which carnival is better Rio or Salvador? If your planning to head to Brazil for carnival but you can’t decide if you should attend Rio or Salvador, then hopefully we can help. It’s a tough decision to make attending Rio or Salvador Carnival but let’s compare the two.
Honestly, it’s easy to be torn between the two carnivals which are both on at the exact same time. It is also confusing because there are so many different opinions on which is the greatest carnival in Brazil. Some people swear that Rio Carnival is the best in Brazil, while others swear that Salvador Bahia Carnival is the best in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro Carnival Overview
Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the most famous carnival celebration in all the world. The carnival is divided into three main parts. The first is the world-famous Samba Parades at the Sambodromo. The second is the street parties known as blocos and the third part is the Rio Carnival Balls. Samba music is the heart and soul of carnival in Rio.
Salvador Carnival Overview
Salvador’s Carnival is different to Rio because they don’t have any samba schools or samba parades. The main music that is the heart and soul of Salvador carnival is axe, which is a fusion of African and Brazilian pop music. The lack of samba parades meant that the street parties is what Salvador Carnival is all about.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Music
Samba Music is central to all the celebrations in Rio Carnivals. Samba Music is absolutely inescapable during carnival in Rio. It is played everywhere! At all the parades, at all the blocos and at the Rio Carnival Balls.
Salvador on the other hand has the largest African-Brazilian population in the entire country and the main music of Salvador Carnival is axe. Axe is a fusion of African and Brazilian contemporary pop music. If you want to experience more musical diversity in the blocos not just Samba, then Salvador Carnival is the one for you.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Parades
The Rio Carnival Samba Parades is the biggest and best in the world. The Rio Carnival Samba Parades are absolute jaw-dropping masterpieces. They feature giant floats, incredible choreographed samba dance routines, over fifty thousand costumed performers. The samba parades are an explosion of colour, costume, samba and are broadcast to millions around the world.
Salvador has no samba schools and therefore they have no samba parades. The entire carnival is based on street parties. So, if seeing a Brazilian samba parade is a priority then Rio Carnival is your best choice.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Street Parties
Both cities throw epic street parties which are known as blocos. They normally consist of a van with a sound system or stage attached to them, and they pump out the music which large crowds of people follow. The street parties are full of lots of dancing, drinking, partying, socialising, kissing, flirting and fun. Most people dress up in costumes.
In Rio, there are over 500 blocos that occur all over the city. These blocos can have several million people attending or a few hundred. There are all sorts of blocos from a Beatles blocos to gay blocos, something for everyone. The blocos at Rio have trucks with large sound systems or stages. The stages may feature top musicians and singers. How much are the carnival blocos? The blocos in Rio are free! You don’t pay anything to attend the blocos in Rio unlike Salvador.
The street parties at Salvador Carnival operate differently. The street parties are ticketed affairs that can cost anywhere from US$45 to US$300 depending on how good the blocos is. The street parties are considered to be more secure as the area is cordoned off, only allowing those who have a ticket entry to the party. Also, they don’t only feature samba music you will hear more music variety at the carnivals. Actually, the blocos will feature the biggest names in Brazilian music.
Whilst you must pay to attend the Salvador Street Parties because the carnival celebration is only focused on street parties, Salvador carnival has a reputation for throwing blocos that are more intense and wilder then Rio Carnival. The blocos in Rio are all over the city whilst at Salvador Carnival they follow three main parade routes.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Cost
This is a hard question to answer because it depends on several variants. For example, accommodation and food, drinks and day to day expenses are much cheaper in Salvador. But at Salvador you must pay for every single blocos you wish to attend, and they are not cheap with some tickets costing several hundred US dollars.
At Rio the blocos are completely free to attend! However, accommodation, food and drinks etc are much more expensive. Also, you still have to pay to attend the samba parades and any Rio Carnival Parades. But most international flights arrive in Rio and the flight from Rio to Salvador is quite expensive during carnival season.
So, if you are going to buy a ticket to a popular blocos every day as well as a ticket to a camarote which are the blocos after-parties, then your carnival experience is going to be very expensive. Same in Rio if you choose to pay top dollar for the best seats in the sambadromo to attend a samba parade as well as buy tickets to attend the carnival balls you could spend a small fortune.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Atmosphere
Again, this is a tough one to answer because it comes down to personal taste. Both carnivals have an excellent atmosphere, they are both fun, vibrant, lively and can be wild. Half the fun of Rio takes place on the streets in the blocos and the other half takes place in the Sambadrome. Where as in Salvador everything takes place on the streets.
Rio Carnival is absolutely saturated with tourists, so it is said that your carnival experience may not seem as authentically Brazilian as what you would experience in Salvador. So, if you want to experience carnival more like a local would then Salvador is for you. Whilst both carnivals are huge, Rio carnival has a few million more people attending.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Safety
Sadly, Brazil doesn’t have the best reputation for safety and both cities experience a rise in crime during carnival which is unfortunate. There is a much larger police presence during carnival, but you still must keep your wits about you. Pickpocketing and petty crime are rife during both carnivals so its best to leave your valuables back in the hotel room and take the bare minimum out with you.
Some people have mentioned that they felt safer at Rio because of the larger tourist presence but some have stated because access to the blocos in Salvador is closed off that they felt safer. It is just best to not get crazy drunk, stick with the crowds, stay in touristy areas, don’t wander into favelas and only bring the bare minimum out with you, and you won’t find many issues.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Accommodation
Rio Carnival being a large international city has way more accommodation options and is more tourist friendly particularly in the neighbourhoods of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. However, Rio is significantly more expensive than Salvador during carnival.
Salvador is much cheaper but still has loads of accommodation options to suit all budgets and level of comfort. Of course, the prices are much higher during carnival but you can easily find decent accommodation options that won’t break the budget. The price for accommodation is about four times more expensive during carnival though.
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival – Pros and Cons
Rio Carnival vs. Salvador Carnival Pros and Cons to help you decide:
Rio Carnival Pros
- Rio Carnival is a bucket list event! If you want to cross things off your travel list, then this is a must.
- Rio is the biggest carnival in all the world
- Rio is considered the best carnival in the world
- Rio de Janeiro is full of natural beauty
- Rio is a more tourist friendly city
- Rio has two airports where most international flights go to
- The street parties in Rio are free!
- Rio has a better hotel/accommodation infrastructure
- Rio is more organised and less hectic then Salvador
- Rio has the world-famous Samba parades
Salvador Carnival Pros
- Salvador carnival is more authentically “Brazilian”
- Salvador Carnival is considered to be Brazil’s wildest carnival by far!
- The street parties are considered to be much better than the ones at Rio
- Salvador Carnival is in the Guinness World Record Books for having the World’s Largest Street Party
- Salvador is a World UNESCO Heritage city
- Salvador is surrounded by incredible beaches
- Salvador is way more musically diverse
- Salvador blocos features Brazil’s biggest musical acts
- Food and drinks are more expensive
Rio Carnival Cons
- Rio is much more touristy then Salvador with way more international tourists
- Rio generally has smaller style street parties then the ones seen in Salvador
- Accommodation is way more expensive in Rio
- Rio has less musical diversity then Salvador
Salvador Carnival Cons
- Salvador Carnival is actually much more expensive then Rio because you have to purchase tickets to all the best parties
- Salvador is much more expensive to travel to as few international flights go here
- Whilst beautiful, Salvador is not as scenic as Rio de Janeiro
- The hotel infrastructure is much more basic then Rio
- Less tourist friendly with not as many English speakers etc
Take a tour for Rio Carnival!
Leave the guidebook at home and experience carnival under safe and knowledgeable guidance. There are loads of Rio Carnival Tour itineraires you can check out on Tour Radar. Whether you want to samba in the parade, join a conga line with locals, or witness the parades, there is something for everyone.
Carnival in Rio is a crazy, hectic and chaotic experience, which is all part of the fun but if you want to have a hassle-free vacation then why not join a tour! Also carnival is better to experience with people so check out some awesome Rio Carnival Tours here. Or even check out Viator which has hundreds of carnival tours and activities!