Rivaling Rio’s famous extravaganza in breadth and numbers is Colombia’s Barranquilla Carnival. It’s a four-day Latino dance party in Colombia’s fourth-largest city, packed with seductive rhythms, gyrating bodies, and all of life’s colours. Whether you enjoy it with the family, with a friend, or alone through unguarded libations, there are some things you can expect and other things that would stifle precious serendipity. Just enjoy the party, and read this before you go.
Barranquilla Carnival is a spectacularly vibrant celebration / Image Source
• It’s Colombia’s favourite party, which means you should book accommodation well in advance – rooms get scarce and can increase sixfold in price.
• Book a room close to Carrera 40 – that is where all the action is. You can dance your way home, stopping at restaurants, kiosks, corners, and house parties along the way; and you’ll be closer to the nightclub after-parties (check online and ask around).
• Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced: rides go from ten to fifteen thousand pesos (US$4.30 to $6.50), all over town.
• Get to the parade early. This can’t be stressed enough. The boxes are often overbooked and even if you have legitimate tickets, it is possible you will not be able to enter if you arrive late.
• It is best to buy your tickets in advance. Tickets on offer from sellers on the street may be fake.
• Buy a hand-woven sombrero or wear your own hat with sunglasses. And don’t forget the sunscreen, or you will get torched.
• There are also “public” areas where you can rent individual plastic chairs for a small fee or stand for free, but those areas are fewer and farther between.
• Your ticket is valid for the entire day: you can take a walk away from your seat if you want to stock up on beers and snacks, go to the washroom, or head down the road for lunch. There are walking vendors that sell cold food and drinks, and you can also bring your own treats.
• You can arrive at 11am but the parades actually start around 1:30pm, with the first dancers busting moves like angels. The parades’ final dancers come through around dusk.
• One last tip, Carnivalers: dress casually and lightly (everyone else does). Carnival is hot, hot, hot!
In addition to the parades, there are other festivals around town during the four days, like the Festival de Comedias and the Festival de Orquestas, a mix of contemporary and traditional theater and music that typifies the Carnival spirit. Check the official Carnival website for more information.
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If you are visiting South America for carnival this summer, we can help you enrich your travel experiences. Check out our tours and activities in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, and across Argentina.
By Brannon Gerling