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The best way to Rio de Janeiro
If you go
THE BEST WAY TO RIO DE JANEIRO FROM LAX: Direct service is offered on Delta, and connecting service (change of planes) is offered on American, Continental, US Airways, United and Delta. Restricted round-trip airfares begin at $888.
WHEN TO GO Carnival 2010 takes place Feb. 13-16. The top 12 samba schools in the Special Group compete on Feb. 14 and 15, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Access Group parades Feb. 13; the Champions Parade is Feb. 20.
TELEPHONES To call these numbers from the U.S., dial 011 (international dialing code), 55 (Brazil's country code), 21(the area code) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY Mar Ipanema Hotel, 539Rua Visconde de Pirajá, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 55-21-3875-9191, www.maripanema.com.br. Doubles begin at $380.
Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 2224-7403, www.casabeleza.net. Rates for the three guest rooms in this bed-and-breakfast start at about $121 but rise during Carnival. Breakfast is included.
WHAT TO DO Samba schools: Learn to dance with the locals at an escola de samba, where as many as 4,000 participants in each school prepare year-round to compete with other schools for Carnival titles and cash prizes.
Samba City: Check out costume workshops and float construction, get a samba lesson and see samba shows at Cidade do Samba, or Samba City, which houses the production units of the city's main samba schools. 60 Rua Rivadávia Correa Gamboa; 55-21-2213-2546; www.sambacity.info/cidade-do-samba.htm. Admission is about $5.50.
Volunteer: Contribute your skills to Iko Poran, a Rio-based organization that places volunteers in social service programs throughout the city. Your fee includes lodging and a monetary donation to a local organization. Parading with a samba school costs a bit extra, but you get to keep the costume. www.ikoporan.org
TO LEARN MORE For a description of samba schools and their addresses, rehearsal and parade schedules, ticket information, and costume and travel packages, go to www.rio-carnival.net. Travel agents and hotels can also arrange parade tickets and Carnival packages.