Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and the third largest in Latin America. From the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to the magnificent summits of Corcovado (who can forget the Christ the Redeemer statue?) and Sugarloaf, Rio combines natural attractions with a sprawling metropolis. This is a party city and one that you really can’t miss if you love a good time. Most people spend their days on the beach and their nights dancing at the clubs. And as the city prepares for the Olympics and World Cup in 2014, it’s cleaning itself up and becoming a lot safer. One thing to keep in mind is that Rio is very, very expensive. Don’t expect a visit here to be cheap.
- Hostel Prices: You can expect to pay around $25 USD or more for a night for a dorm, or $50 USD for a private room. Hostels, though abundant, are not cheap in Rio, especially when you get close to the beaches.
- Budget Hotel Prices: Prices start from around $60 USD per night for a single room.
- Average Cost of Food: Small, locally owned restaurants here cost $4 USD for a local meal that includes a drink. Nicer meal at a more casual restaurant will cost around $10 USD. Places near the famous beaches and tourist attractions will cost more. Grocery shopping is very cheap and will cost about $20-30 USD per week.
- Transportation Costs: Public buses around the city will cost about $1 USD. The bus system can be confusing so if you don’t speak Portuguese so make sure you have your destination written down. There are about 100 different bus lines in the city – 6 companies go up and down Copacabana beach alone! A cab is one of the best ways to move around Rio. All legal cabs are yellow with a blue stripe. At night, they are the only safe way to get around the city though. Rio has a decent metro system that costs $1.50 USD per trip.
Top Things to Do
- Carnival – The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous in the world and people come from all around the see the parade, dance, and party for days straight! The streets and Sambadrome come alive with thousands of people wandering in festive costumes and famous floats. It’s amazing but book many, many months in advance if you hope to score a hotel!
- Christ the Redeemer – The 30 meter high statue of Christ the Redeemer sits atop the Corcovado mountain and can be seen all over Rio. The statue is also one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. From its vantage point, you can take in the mountains, the bay, and the entire cityscape from the favelas to the skyscrapers.
- Sugarloaf Mountain – The world famous Sugarloaf mountain is one of the city’s most popular tour destinations. It’s almost 400 meters tall and at its peak, the entire city unfolds below you. There are spectacular views of Ipanema and Guanabara Bay and try to get here at sunset or sunrise for a beautiful moment as the sun unfolds upon the city.
- Maracaná Stadium – Maracaná is one of the largest stadiums in the world, seating 100,000 supporters. It was also the site of the historic World Cup final in 1950 between Brazil and Uruguay (Uruguay won!), which is still a touchy matter for Brazilians. Come see a game here and see what really fires locals up.
- The Botanical Gardens – For a moment of calm, head to the city’s botanical gardens. Walk along the meandering paths and trails or take a guided tour (they’re free!) of the gardens. Be sure to check out the carnivorous greenhouse filled with Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. Just don’t stick your finger in them.
- Hit the beaches (often) – Ipanema and Copacabana are the two main beaches people go to. The words “the beautiful people” will take on a new meaning here as Rio’s residents are simply amazingly beautiful and like to flaunt it in tiny bathing suits. Ipanema has classy restaurants and nightlife, while Copacabana has more to do during the day.
- Rio City Zoo – If your travels don’t include a trip to the Amazon or a National Park, you can still get to grips with Brazil’s indigenous animals at the Rio City Zoo. Over 2,000 species are on display with a particularly impressive reptile house and open aviary. This isn’t the place to come if you’re scared of birds as macaws, toucans and all kinds of tropical birds fly freely around you.
- Samba – You can’t escape Brazil’s national dance, the Samba. From the Rio Carnival to nightclubs and street performers, you’ll be hearing its rhythms wherever you go in the city. You can take Samba lessons throughout the city but the best way to learn is to visit a bar and let a local show you.
- Paqueta Island – The island of Paquetá in Guanabara Bay is a favorite with families trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center on weekends. It’s an hour ferry ride and is fairly small, being made up of mainly beaches, a few historical sites, and a park. It’s not going to be a major part of your stay but it’s the most relaxed you’re likely to feel on a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
- Santa Teresa Tram – This tram has been running since 1859 and is the only remaining metropolitan system in South America and the oldest in operation. It’s painted banana yellow and is open-sided; quite the interesting ride.
- The Selaron stairway – Located in the Santa Teresa, this stairway has hundreds of steps on it that are all painted different colors and motifs. The lead artist that constructed this stairway gathered contributions from artists all around the world.
- Arcos da Lapa – For those of you that love the night life, this is an awesome district to be in on a Friday night. There are many clubs to choose from in the area and lots of street food carts to snack at as you progressively throw back more drinks.
- Sitio Roberto Burle Marx – This 100 acre home belongs to one of Brazil’s most celebrated landscape designers. There are over 3,500 plant species on the grounds and a huge collection of art within the home. This is one of the more fascinating, yet little seen historical sites to check out.
- Sao Bento Monastery – Completed in 1641, this baroque monastery is painted gold and covered in ornaments. The traditional Gregorian chanting that occurs on Sundays is really neat.
- Por kilo – A great way to find cheap eats is to look out for restaurants which say “por kilo”. You pay by weight here so can pile your plate high for usually around $7 USD.
- Go soon – Brazil is set to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics! This place is about to get even more popular and with that, prices sky rocket.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation is very expensive in Rio and the best way to avoid spending the money is to Couchsurf or use Craigslist to find homestays with locals.
- Eat street food – Restaurants in Rio are fairly expensive so if you want to save money on food, avoid eating on the beaches, stick to the local food, and eat at the local street food vendors.