During carnival, it can sometimes be a little difficult even before the cachaça makes its effects known to work out who is girl, boy or undecided. After all, a big slice of the party's fun is its ability to bring everyone together in a riot of colour and costume and uninhibited louche behaviour, but there are definitely some spots that are worth hanging around more than others.
Farme de Amoedo
Even on those rare days when there is no bloco in Ipanema, Farme is, as you might expect, a bit like a parade of its own. Simply turn up and grab a drink, and watch the action, or get yourself invited to one of the impromptu parties that springs up on Rio's gay main street. Expect things to get on the heated side here.
Unidos de Tijuca
Of all the samba schools, Unidos de Tijuca has the closest relationship with the gay community, not least because it hosts Mr Gay Rio once a year. You can find transgender members of the school in the desfile (parade), and the school has a gay-friendly atmosphere while not by any means describing itself as a gay school.
Banda de Ipanema
The most historic Zona Sul bloco of them all. Affectionately known simply as Banda, it began in 1965, rising in status during the military dictatorship. Utterly laidback but always packed, it attracts young and old, gay and straight, drag queens and, simply, queens and while the organisers may not pitch their event as gay, it has become the number one homo-bloco in town. Its not hard to find straight men getting into the swing of things by dressing up as women either. Starts Rua Gomes Carneiro, finishes General Osório, Ipanema. 4 & 18 February.
Simpatia é Quase Amor
This bloco really began to hit its stride in the early post-dictatorship years in Brazil, attracting the young, tanned and beautiful people of Zona Sul in their thousands to their parades. If it is hot, drunk Brazilians you are after then look no further, and whilst the gay representation is a little more subtle than at Banda, it is no less excitable and up for it. Starts General Osório, finishes Henrique Dumont, Ipanema. 11 & 19 February.
Operating a bit like Farme during carnival, the area around this kiosk in front of the Copacabana Palace gets animada during carnival, even when there isn't a bloco around. It's a great place to grab a beer and check out some of the talent.
The party to end all parties, Bitch is held every year at Fundição Progresso and is always eagerly awaited. Make sure you get a ticket in advance, and if you feel like spoiling yourself, the red carpet treatment (including free drinks, food and exclusive VIP area) is available, at a price.
Your average bloco might make up for in enthusiasm what it lacks in glamour, but for the full-on fancy dress experience head to the Jockey Club for the baile gay. A troupe of drag acts will pay homage to Carmen Miranda, and once again there are VIP options galore for those who want to make an occasion of it.