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The following is a guest packing list by Tammy Braun. See all packing list posts.
The good news is that if you are planning to go to Brazil to see the Carnival you don’t actually need to pack very much. I have been to Rio de Janeiro for the Carnival and learned that, much to the joy of my husband, women don’t actually wear that much. Whether that is on the beach, where thongs are a must no matter how wobbly your bum is, or in the bars and clubs, where gals do everything to show off their curves and suntanned bodies.
Rio in particular has got a culture where men and women alike are very concious of their looks and so plastic surgery and sports alike are very popular. So I certainly felt the need to jog away my excesses too, which is why it’s worth chucking in shorts, trainers and two pairs of trainer socks for that.
As it will be so hot in the outdoors, Sambadrome and nightclubs alike, the secret is to pack as light as possible. And although Brazilians care about looks, it doesn’t mean that you have to wear fancy designer clothes. Brazilians dress very simple in fact and so comfortable, loose clothes will be your best friend. You can always jazz an outfit up with some fancy accessories.
>> Read about staying stylish while traveling.
So here goes my ultimate packing list for a Brazilian carnival.
As there are no carnival celebrations during the day you are likely to do some sightseeing. As it will be very hot in February the secret is loose clothes. I recommend you bring the following:
– 2 tank tops
– one pair of shorts
– 2 summer dresses (get some that could also be worn for a night out)
– 1 pair of flip flops
– 1 pair of leggings (can be worn on their own, under leggings or hot pants if you want to diversify your outfits a little)
– 1 sunhat
– shorts for exercising
– running shoes
– two pairs of running socks
A night out
Despite the fact that Havaianas have been invented in Brazil and EVERYBODY wears flip flops in Brazil, I’d recommend some ballerinas for a night out. There will be salsa music everywhere and even as a stiff European I couldn’t keep still. Ballerinas are much easier to dance in and you don’t want to be losing your flip flops in an energetic twirl and then being dragged away by the dancing crowd, flip-flop-less. You can wear the same clothes on a night out that you would wear during the day. So on top of the day clothes meantioned above I recommend you bring the following:
– 1 pair of ballerinas
– some nice accessories, such as necklaces, rings, bracelets or earrings (shouldn’t look expensive though)
– ear plugs (it is extremely loud in the sambadrome, so if you don’t want to get tinitus I recommend you take some)
– some nice hair accessories
Brazil has some of the most amazing beaches and there is nothing more relaxing then spending a day on the beach after a night out partying. Initially I only bought one bikini as I was intending to buy one of those famous bikinis from Rio as a souvenir. Now I am German and we are quite well known for our openness when it comes to nudity. I am sure we invented the concept of nudist beaches, but even I wouldn’t wear those skimpy little nothings that Brazilians call bikinis. You might as well not bother wearing anything in my opinion, so with hindsight I wish I had bought two pairs of bikinis from home. So this is what I recommend you bring for a day on the beach:
– 2 pairs of bikinis
– flip flops
– a sarong (to wear as a dress or skirt on top of your bikini or to use as a beach towel)
– sun cream (people WILL look at you funny if you look like a raw chicken caused by a sunburn)
– sunhat (to avoid sunstroke)
Before I came to Rio I have been told right, left and center that Rio is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and that I WILL be mugged and should therefore not carry any valuables with me. So when I went out during the night I didn’t actually bring my camera with me most of the times, which is something I really regret with hindsight. Fact is I never felt threatened throughout my entire time in Rio. So to capture those amazing colorful parades or backstreet samba rehearsals, don’t forget to bring a small point and shoot camera. There are some other electronics that I couldn’t live without either. So this is what I recommend:
– DSLR camera (during the day)
– small point and shoot camera (for a night out-you don’t want to drag around a heavy camera when dancing away)
– memory stick (to have a back up of all your photos)
– small laptop or iPad
I normally don’t bother with make-up when I am travelling, but when you go to Carnival you should make a little efford. You will feel much better with a bit of mascara, eyeshadow and some lipgloss against all those stunningly beautiful Brazlilian women. This is what I brought along:
– after sun body lotion
– eye shadow
– shower gel
– sanitary napkins and tampons (they are either difficult to obtain or very expensive)
– birth control
– toothpaste and brush
– contact lenses and solution
>> Have a read through the low-key traveler’s beauty kit and learn more about the Diva Cup.
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Brazil
The Best of Rio in a Full Day Tour – Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Selaron and more ↗
With a local guide, visit Copacabana Beach, Botafogo Beach and Palácio Guanabara.
5-hour Private Tour Of São Paulo With Its Main Sights ↗
The itinerary may include stops at Ibirapuera Park, the historical downtown, Paulista Ave. (the most important Brazilian thoroughfare), and more.
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About the author: Tammy is one half of Tammy & Chris on the Move. They are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football or 20th century history. They both have civil service backgrounds, but have left their bowler-hats back in London and are currently working on justice and human right issues in Cambodia. Whenever they get some time off, they travel around South East Asia or plan in which country they will live and work in next. Follow their journey on their blog, Tammy & Chris on the Move, on Twitter or on Facebook.
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Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says
Great post! I’d love to do carneval in Rio. 🙂
Thanks Bethaney. You should – it is crazy!
Thank you so much for posting this. I will be an exchange student through the Rotary next year, and I will most likely be staying in Brazil! I will be back before I leave!
Glad it helps, Jessie!
Pleasure. Sounds exciting. Brazil is amazing, so I am crossing my fingers for you that you will go there. 🙂
Thanks Debora. Glad that an actual Brazilian women agrees with me. 🙂
That’s awesome! Thanks for the packing list 🙂
Maria Clara says
Hi, i loved your website!
I’m Brazilian (from rio de janeiro) and love to travel too, loved your guides and i think that maybe you can add this info.
Buy your sunblock here, may look expensive (as so many other things in rio) but it may be more powerful than what you can get elsewhere.
We have some products to cool down sun burned skin, just ask around the drugstore.
Wear workout tops or bikini tops instead of bras, they are more comfortable in the heat and you can take your shirt off, besides taking less space in the bag.
Besides the traditional bikini size being smaller in Brazil you can find bigger ones, buying the top separately is common and fashion, bring just the bottom part or just 1 bikini and swap the top every other day.
don’t bother to bring a towel to the beach, e use cangas (like a sarong) and there are a lot of diferent tipes to buy. You can use then as a skirt or dress, dry yourself in them or sit on them.
Thank you for the amazing website, will definetly use your packing lists 🙂
Brandi Klein says
Thanks for your comment! I am going to Rio this summer for World Youth Day -I’m super excited and this helps.
Do you have any other tips for backpacking in Rio?