BRAZIL | The world's biggest carnival

Brazil's annual Carnival is a four-day festival that takes place just before Lent. While customs, celebrations and costumes vary by region and city, Rio de Janeiro's Carnival is the biggest and flashiest. As the city's top tourist draw of the year, the festival is expected to generate US$1.665 million in income.

You can't be afraid of crowds

More than 500,000 foreign visitors flock to the carnival each year to dance, shout, drink and surge around in happy mobs. Last year, 1.1 million people took part in the celebrations. The occupancy at Brazil's hotels is currently more than 80 percent and is expected to hit 98 percent, beating last year's 95 percent. According to local media, Rio's hotel association says this is the first time they predict an increase in domestic tourists over foreign tourists.

The festival's highlight -- the Samba Parade -- is a fierce competition

What began as street parades developed into a more organized competition among top samba schools from Brazil and abroad. Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 members of each school participate in full-blown costumes that differ every year.

March with a samba school

All you have to do is buy a costume, head to the meeting spot of the samba school you decide to parade with, pay a membership fee and, most importantly, follow what the person in front of you is doing once you enter the parade with your school. Oh, and don't forget to learn by heart your school's tune.
In order to be king, you need to be "as big as a house." And jolly

So says the current King Momo, Rodrigues da Silva, 33, shown here with his daughter. King Momo, the title for the King of the Carnival, must be won via a contest each year. The crown comes with a US$9,800 prize and a hectic party schedule. Da Silva was a bank teller before he ascended the throne. The Queen of the Carnival is also chosen via a contest.