1. Book accommodation WAY in advance
Accommodation in Copacabana is expensive at the best of times but when New Years Eve rolls around you might want to shut your eyes – prices can triple. I suggest that you book your accommodation as soon as you know you are taking a vacation in Rio as the longer you leave it, the more booked out the place gets and the higher the prices will be. If this worries you, another option could be to stay further out. Rio is very well connected by public transport which makes it really easy to navigate your way around (and if you know how to speak a little Portuguese, even better).
2. Arrive in Rio at least 2 days early
Rio is a city so full of life and culture it gets me excited, but for others it may come as a slight culture shock. With this said, I would suggest that you arrive a couple of days before New Years Eve to get used to the place. Areas such as Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are very well catered towards tourists so you shouldn’t have any trouble settling into any of these popular holiday destinations. However, leaving Copacabana for a little while and getting out of the city center is important if you want to get a real feel for Rio. This will also help you to prepare for what’s to come on New Years Eve at Copacabana Beach.
3. Catch public transport
If you are staying further away from Copacabana or Ipanema beaches then I would highly recommend using public transport to arrive early in the evening. If you can use the metro, do it. Buses fill up fast and you’ll be waiting for a long time to get on one. If you are planning to stay in Rio for at least a few days it would be beneficial to pick up a Rio pre-paid public transport card, available at most stations. You can use this for buses and metros without having to line up and pay.
4. Stick together and exchange phone numbers
2 million people turned up at Copacabana Beach for New Years Eve last year. Just let that sink in for a moment. 2 million. Upon arrival at Copacabana Beach you should definitely decide upon a meeting place which is simple to remember and easy to access. If you lose one another and cannot make contact, head to the meeting place and wait.
5. DO NOT bring valuables to Copacabana Beach
Another highly important tip. If you bring expensive valuables with you they are likely to go missing. Copacabana is not a dangerous place but when 2 million people come together on one beach it can get hectic. And when things get hectic some like to take advantage of the situation.
6. Get down on Copacabana early
Come 10pm last year we made the mistake of leaving the beach and making our way up to the street just to buy one drink. Well, 10 minutes turned into an hour of pushing, shoving and squeezing only to get nowhere. There were so many people trying to enter the beach while so many of us were trying to exit it became a mess. So what did we learn from this? Get down on Copacabana Beach early and stay there. Don’t try and spend your night between places because you’ll lose all of your time getting anywhere. I would recommend arriving between 4pm and 7pm if you want skip the initial herd of people as well as the crowded public transport situation.
7. Set up your spot where it is less crowded
Rio knows how to put on a show for New Years Eve with famous acts, an epic firework display and all night entertainment. As the 2015 celebration marked 450 years of Rio de Janeiro, they took it one step further with 3 stages spread across Copacabana Beach. As the party tends to center around the main stage it can be very difficult to find a spot to sit without getting walked on. If you prefer a little less chaos I suggest you set up in between two stages (or behind the main stage) as you will have far more room to move. Many people arrive early to set up tents and tarpaulins which is a nice idea if you want to bring chairs, prepare food and stay out of the temperamental weather.
8. Bring your own food/drinks/water
The main reason I’m suggesting this is because of the huge crowd you have to force your way through to get to the food vendors back on the street. It could take you an hour to get one beer and then you’ve got to try and find your way back again so it’s just not worth it. Instead, bring a cool box with ice and fill it with food, drinks and plenty of water and save yourself some money while you’re at it.
9. Wear white
It is customary to wear white clothing on New Years Eve in Rio. We didn’t bring any with us and were faced with having to run around shopping malls in the morning sifting through very questionable Brazilian clothing. Trying to find a plain white t-shirt with no weird decal or glitter on was actually a lot harder than you would think. So definitely plan ahead and bring a white outfit with you!
10. Don’t rush home after the fireworks
If you are heading back to your accommodation by public transport don’t leave Copacabana until 5 am, when buses and metros start running again. If you leave after the fireworks and main acts you are likely to face huge crowds as well as a long wait at the bus station. Stay, chill out and listen to the live entertainment which runs until 5 am.