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You may have heard about Brazil’s carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife – but Ouro Preto probably slipped under the radar. However, celebrating here is an experience you’ll be talking about for years to come. A large portion of the population is university students, which means this usually sleepy town is full of wild parties and a young, fun-loving crowd. Here’s everything you need to know.
Unlike Rio de Janeiro where you can just show up and dive straight into the parties, Ouro Preto needs a bit more planning. First, you have to get there. Secondly, you will need to book your accommodation and choose which parties you want to go to. It’s essential you do this weeks (or even months) before you go, so that you stay in the best accommodation options and go to the parties you want.
The most common type of accommodation in Ouro Preto is a republica, which are student halls rented out during carnival for tourists and locals. It’s a large building with several rooms and a huge outdoor space at the back. To stay there, you need to go online and choose your republica and pay for a package per person – the price of this package varies enormously depending on the republica you choose. The package includes the room, food, and all your drinks meaning that throughout the whole carnival, you don’t need to buy any alcohol as it’s all provided for you. The price you pay also includes the street parties (known as blocos) so, the more blocos you want to go to, the more you pay. However, every day the republica has its own party outside which is included in the package. You will receive a t-shirt and bracelet to show which republica you are a part of – don’t lose this, otherwise you won’t be able to get into your dorm.
Each republica has several rooms, and you can either rent a room for you and your friends, or you can rent a mixed room with random people. There are usually female and male rooms, but if you book for you and your friends then it’s fine to be a mixed room. Your bed for the next few days will be an air mattress, which is the standard sleeping option here.
There are over 300 student halls in Ouro Preto that are used during this period, so there are plenty of options to choose from. There has never been a consensus on the ‘best republica‘, as your experience there will largely depend on who you travel with and the others staying there. However, one tip is to look for a republica that has been providing accommodation for at least 10 years, as these tend to know exactly what to do, will have an efficient system in place, and will be used to any kind of mishap that could happen during the event.
You don’t need to bring alcohol or food as this is all provided at the republica. Only bring food if there’s something in particular you want – such as snacks – or if you have specific dietary requirements, as the republica may not be able to attend to certain demands. Make sure you bring your own bed sheets, towels, and pillow too.
Every day, the republica has its own parties which are held on-site. All the drinks are included, and the parties usually have themes such as a ‘white theme’ for example, so everyone goes dressed in white. You can check in advance what the themes will be so you can prepare your costume – getting into fancy dress is one of the biggest aspects of Brazil’s carnival.
Some blocos in Ouro Preto are closed off, and those that want to go there will need to pay to go. In the package you pay for the republica, some of these street parties are included – the number of street parties included depends on how many you paid for. The blocos are usually in a large square or street with live shows, and thousands of people attend from different republicas.
A typical day in a republica starts by waking up and having breakfast. If you want to start drinking at breakfast, you can – and you won’t be alone. The morning is calm and is usually spent chatting with other people, and getting ready for the day ahead. After lunch, the parties start. The republica party and the bloco starts at the same time, so you can choose which one you want to go to. If you go to the bloco, the party there usually finishes around 8pm, so you can then go back to the republica party which continues until the last person leaves. Then it’s sleep, eat, and repeat.
If the idea of student accommodation doesn’t appeal, then you can stay in a hotel. Remember to book in advance and be prepared to pay up to three times the usual price. There are some street parties you can attend and there are several supermarkets throughout the city where you can buy drinks and food.
Ouro Preto is located in Minas Gerais. From the major cities such as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, you can fly to Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, and then take a bus to Ouro Preto. Alternatively, you can take a bus from São Paulo and Rio directly to Ouro Preto, which will take about six hours. It’s also possible to hire a car, but check parking options before you go.