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Budget-friendly Carnivals beyond Rio

Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images

From Rio de Janeiro to Venice, revelers take to the streets in colorful costumes.

Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival. Call it what you will, the festivities leading up to Ash Wednesday are one of the world’s truly global parties.

For Americans who have experienced and fallen in love with the cathartic hedonism of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is only logical to want to experience the excitement elsewhere. And the obvious next step is the granddaddy of all Carnivals, the biggest party in the world: Rio de Janeiro.

However, with the recent strength of the Brazilian currency, Rio's skyrocketing cost of living and general inflation in the lead up to 2014’s FIFA World Cup (the final game will be in Rio) and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, celebrating in “The Marvelous City” has become a very expensive option.

Fear not. Here are three budget-friendly (or, at least, budget-friendlier) options for those who want to enjoy an international Fat Tuesday, but don’t want to starve to do it.

Related: New Orleans revs up for Mardi Gras

Veracruz, Mexico
You need not travel to another hemisphere for an international Carnival. Slightly more than an hour-and-a-half flight from Houston is Mexico’s port city of Veracruz, home to one of the country’s largest Carnival celebrations. Revelers fill stadium seats to watch dozens of salsa dance groups compete and then show off their own moves in the town square at night. "Carnival here is not just about music and parties, but also about the food," said Mauricio Reyes, head waiter at Veracruz's well-known Mariscos Villa Rica Mocambo seafood restaurant. "During Carnival, people love to eat ceviche, pompano a la sal (salt-baked pompano fish) and shrimp with chile and lime."

Patras, Greece
Greece’s in-country tourism prices have been down since its economic crises started. For a different spin on Carnival, check out the lively celebration in Patras, which has roots back into the 19th century. This family-friendly Carnival is a mix of different mini-Carnivals that include parades, treasure hunts, a kid's carnival and masquerade balls. As the country is Greek Orthodox and not Catholic, the dates are a little different. It begins on Jan. 17 and continues until Clean Monday (the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent).  

Recife, Brazil
While Rio is Brazil’s most famous pre-Lenten party, it is certainly not the only one in the country. The city of Recife in northeastern Brazil hosts a wild street party that is crowned by the Saturday morning Galo da Madrugada (Rooster of Dawn) which is arguably the largest single Carnival parade in Brazil.

Recife-born banker Diogo Bezerra says, “While Recife has also become expensive compared to the past, it is not yet as expensive as a more developed city like Rio. Now’s the time to come for Carnival as we are one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and prices are catching up.”

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