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Carnival Volunteering at a Samba School in Rio

Carnival is an event that breaks all economic and social boundaries – a love and passion for Samba makes everyone equal. The Carnival project enables volunteers to join the preparations and embrace the hard work involved in getting ready for one of biggest parties on earth!

Samba schools competing in Carnival have a full year of intense work to prepare the many costumes, floats, music and dances for the celebration, and volunteers are invaluable in helping with the many hours of preparation.

This project is well suited to creative volunteers with a flair for decoration and craft, as you will be helping some of the leading Samba schools in the creation of costumes and floats. Samba schools are born from the local favelas (urban slums) and most of the schools take their names from the community they represent. Each school unifies and proudly represents people from that community and all Cariocas (Rio-born Brazilians) also have their favorite school.

Carnival volunteer in Brazil with IVHQ

You don’t need to have any experience in costume or stage design, just a willingness to work hard at sewing, cutting, pasting and other craft-oriented tasks to help out with the costume and float design.

While volunteers are hard at work, they can also engage in Portuguese and English language exchange with fellow workers.

Please note that the dates for Carnival change every year - it is held 46 days before Easter - and in 2021 it is on February 12th to 19th. Participation in the actual parade is not included in the project, however volunteers may come across this opportunity at an additional cost by arranging this independently once in-country. This project is available between October and February each year.

Apply now
Apply now
Project Highlights
What you need to know
  • Affordable fees from $545 for 2 weeks
  • Help local schools prepare for Carnival, an iconic celebration of dance, music and parades

  • Assist with making costumes and floats, and choreographing dances

  • Ideal for creative volunteers who enjoy contributing to a range of tasks

  • Available October to February

  • Minimum duration of 2 weeks

  • Volunteer for up to 5 hours per day

Destination Highlights
Brazil at a glance
  • Based in Brazil’s largest and liveliest city, Rio de Janeiro

  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, daily breakfast and 24/7 in-country support

  • Accommodation in a hostel in central Rio

  • Between 5 and 20 volunteers start in Brazil each month

The IVHQ Brazil volunteer program has volunteer projects located in Rio de Janeiro and the volunteer accommodation is based in Glória, a bayside neighborhood in central Rio. Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city of Brazil, located on the coast in the south east of the the country.

Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of each month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 24 weeks. Please note that the Teaching English and Community Development projects have a minimum duration of 3 weeks.

The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of each month and volunteers need to arrive into Rio de Janeiro on the Sunday before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG) or Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) in Rio de Janeiro. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Rio. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are traveling in Brazil prior to your volunteer program, you will need to arrange your own transport to the hostel accommodation.

Orientation is hosted by our Brazil team at their office in Rio de Janeiro. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Brazil – Introduction to Brazil, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.

First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.

Weekdays: A typical volunteer day is as follows:

7.30 AM Breakfast at the hostel.

8.00 AM Volunteers travel to their placements.

8.30AM – 2.00PM Volunteers join the placement staff. Work and hours at the placement are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at. There is usually a morning tea break and lunch break.

2.00 – 5.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to their accommodation, go sightseeing to the beach, or do some shopping. If volunteers are taking Portuguese Lessons, these will generally take place in the evenings.

Please note, this schedule can vary depending on the project that the volunteer is participating on.

Volunteers are accommodated in a hostel in Glória, which is a 3 minutes walk from the metro station. You can expect to share a bedroom with 5 to 7 other volunteers of both genders. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding, private bathrooms and air conditioning provided. All rooms have a communal, co-ed bathrooms equipped with western toilets and hot showers. Volunteers should bring their own towels or rent one at the hostel for 5 BRL each. Lockers are available but volunteers must bring their own padlock.

Accommodation upgrades to private or matrimonial rooms can be arranged at an additional cost after registering for the program. All upgrades must be arranged through the local team no later than 4 weeks prior to your start date. If you require accommodation prior to your program commencement or would like to stay on after the completion of your program, this is not a problem. Ask your IVHQ program manager for more details on how to arrange this.

WiFi is available for volunteers to use at the hostel. You can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone to keep connected.

Volunteers in Brazil are provided with breakfast at the hostel, but they need to arrange their own lunch and dinner. Breakfast generally consists of coffee, tea, natural fruit juice, fruit, brown bread, butter, jam, cheese, ham and porridge. The hostel has cooking facilities to prepare meals and there are nearby shops to purchase food. If you have any special dietary requirements for breakfast, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you.

“Volunteering on the Carnaval Program was the best thing I have ever done, I was thrilled to be able to help with the costumes and gain some friends from the favelas in Rio. You get a true understanding of how life is and their culture. I would definitely do it again.” - Laura Shafer (Carnaval Program Volunteer in Brazil)

Read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Brazil here


Duration Program Fee $USD
2 weeks $545
3 weeks $695
4 weeks $845
5 weeks $995
6 weeks $1,145
8 weeks $1,445
10 weeks $1,745
12 weeks $2,045
16 weeks $2,645
20 weeks $3,245
24 weeks $3,845
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee (from US$299) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • If your chosen duration includes the Carnaval festival (12th - 19th February 2021), a one-off surcharge will apply which covers the increase in the cost of accommodation and living in Brazil during Carnaval. For those who will finish on the week beginning February 8th, US$50 will be added to the program fee. For those who will be on the program during the week beginning February 15th, US$250 will be added to the program fee.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours, transport to and from your placement.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Lunches and dinners while in-country
  • Portuguese lessons (optional)
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Brazil generally find US$150 to be sufficient for weekly expenses
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals

During the weekends, volunteers have free time to relax or take the opportunity to explore Rio de Janeiro and other areas of Brazil. Popular tourist activities include, relaxing on the beaches of Copacabana, climbing Corcovado Mountain, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer, catching the cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain, horse trekking and wildlife spotting in the Pantanal wetlands, exploring Iguaçu Falls and trekking through the Amazon.

See our Brazil Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Brazil!

Capital Brasilia
Population 198.7 million
Languages Portuguese
Currency Real (BRL)
Time zone UTC-03:00

Weather and climate: The climate of Brazil comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large area and varied topography, but most of the country is tropical. According to the Köppen system, Brazil hosts five major climatic subtypes: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, temperate, and subtropical. The different climatic conditions produce environments ranging from equatorial rainforests in the north and semiarid deserts in the northeast, to temperate coniferous forests in the south and tropical savannas in central Brazil. Many regions have starkly different microclimates.

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate on this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.

All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Brazil. All volunteers are required to register to secure their spot on the Brazil program at least 5 weeks prior to their start date. The program fee needs to be paid within 30 days.

Fluency in Portuguese is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Brazil volunteer program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching English, volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Brazil. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Portuguese lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Brazil.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

Portuguese language lessons are available to all volunteers regardless of their ability. IVHQ recommends these lessons for all volunteers in Brazil unless they are fluent in Portuguese. Volunteers with a basic level of Portuguese should strongly consider these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. These language lessons can be organized upon arrival in Brazil, during the program orientation. These language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Portuguese and must be paid for in Brazil to our local program staff.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!