Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laid-back beach culture and its annual carnival. The "Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea" has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The harbour of Rio de Janeiro is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear as the mouth of a river. Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including Sugarloaf mountain at 395 meters (1,296 feet), Corcovado Peak at 704 meters (2,310 feet), and the hills of Tijuca at 1,021 meters (3,350 feet). These features work together to collectively make the harbor one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Rio de Janeiro hosted many of the 2014 FIFA World Cup games, including the final. It also hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, becoming the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics.
Includes Lapa and Santa Teresa. The city's financial and business centre also has many historic buildings from its early days, such as the Municipal Theatre, National Library, National Museum of Fine Arts, Tiradentes Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and Pedro Ernesto Palace.
The South Zone is made up of Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema, as well as the districts along Flamengo Beach. Contains some of the more upscale neighborhoods and many of the major tourist sites, such as the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, and Sugarloaf and Corcovado Mountains.
The North Zone includes the Maracanã stadium, Quinta da Boa Vista Park with the National Museum the city's Zoo, the National Observatory and more.
The West Zone is a rapidly growing suburban area including primarily the districts of Jacarepaguá and Barra da Tijuca, popular for its beaches. Most of the Olympics in 2016 were hosted there.
It is a common mistake to think of Rio as Brazil's capital, a distinction it lost on April 21, 1960 when Brasilia became the capital. Beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, the Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, the stadium of Maracanã and Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) are all well-known sights of what the inhabitants call the "marvelous city" (cidade maravilhosa), and are also among the first images to pop up in travelers´ minds, along with the Carnaval celebration.
The South Zone holds most of Rio's landmarks and world-famous beaches, in an area of only 43.87 square km (17 square miles). Many of them are within walking distance of each other (for instance, the Sugarloaf lies about 5 miles from Copacabana beach). Most hotels and hostels are located in this part of the city, which is compressed between the Tijuca Range (Maciço da Tijuca) and the sea. There are important places in other regions as well, such as Maracanã stadium in the North Zone and the many fascinating buildings in the Centre.
Sadly, most people also know Rio for its violence and crime, especially related to drugs. And social problems, as slums or favelas, areas of poor-quality housing and living; these slums are usually located on the city's many mountain slopes, juxtaposed with middle-class neighbourhoods.
Rio was founded in 1565 by the Portuguese as a fortification against French privateers who trafficked wood and goods from Brazil. Piracy played a major role in the city's history, and there are still colonial fortresses to be visited (check below). The Portuguese fought the French for nearly 10 years, both sides having rival native tribes as allies. For the next two centuries it was an unimportant outpost of the Portuguese Empire, until gold, diamonds, and ore were found in Minas Gerais in 1720. Then, as the nearest port, Rio became the port for these minerals and replaced Salvador as the main city in the colony in 1763. When Napoleon invaded Portugal, the Royal Family moved to Brazil and made Rio capital of the Kingdom (so it was the only city outside Europe to be capital of a European country). When Brazil became independent in 1822, it adopted Monarchy as its form of government (with Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II). Many historians and Brazilians from other places say cariocas are nostalgic of the Royal and Imperial times, which is reflected in many place names and shop names. In 2009, the city won their bid to host the games of the XXXI Olympics in the summer of 2016. This was the fifth bid by the city, whose 1936, 1940, 2004, and 2012 bids lost.
Rio is one of the country's major transportation hubs, second only to São Paulo.
- International and most domestic flights land at 1 Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (IATA: GIG Galeão International Airport), Av. Vinte de Janeiro, s/n° - Galeão, Ilha do Governador (20 km North from the city centre and main hotels), ☎ , fax: . While you can sometimes zoom through Immigration and Customs, be prepared for a long wait. Brazilians travel with lots of baggage and long queues can form at Customs, which are usually hopelessly understaffed.
- 2 Santos Dumont Airport (IATA: SDU), Praça Senador Salgado Filho, s/n - Centro (Located east to the city centre, by the Guanabara bay.), ☎ , fax: . Gets flights only from São Paulo and some of Brazil's largest cities such as Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Salvador, as well as the capital Brasilia. Airlines that service Santos Dumont include: GOL, TAM, Webjet, Azul and Avianca. Don't rush off without taking a look inside the original terminal building - a fine example of Brazilian modernist architecture.
Four bus lines operated by Real depart from right outside the arrival section of Galeão and Santos Dumont. Buses are air-conditioned and comfy, with ample luggage space. They run roughly every 30 minutes from 5:30AM to 10PM.
- 2018 Aeroporto Internacional do RJ/Alvorada (Via Orla da Zona Sul) runs between both airports, the main bus terminal and further along the beachfront of Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, and has its terminus at the Alvorada terminal near Barra Shopping in Barra da Tijuca. The full run takes at least 60 minutes, often double that. Tickets are R$ 16 (Dec 2016).
- 2918 Aeroporto Internacional do RJ/Alvorada (Via Linha Amarela) runs to the Alvorada bus terminal, via Jacarapaguá (the best spot for taxis) from Galeão airport along the Linha Amarela in as little as 35 minutes, traffic allowing. R$ 12(Jan 2012).
- 2145 Aeroporto Internacional do RJ/Aeroporto Santos Dumont (Via Seletiva da Av. Brasil/Av. Pres. Vargas) runs between the two airports and the main bus station, at R$ 5.
- 2145 Aeroporto Internacional do RJ/Aeroporto Santos Dumont (Via Linha Vermelha e Perimetral), same as above, along a slightly different route.
There are two types of taxis. As you leave Customs you will see booths of different companies offering their services. These are considerably more expensive (ex: Galeão - Copacabana R$70; Galeão - Ipanema R$99) than the standard yellow taxis that are to be found outside the terminal building but the quality of the cars is generally better. These taxis can often charge double the price of those ordinary taxis from the rank located around one hundred metres from the arrivals exit and should cost you about R$40 (July 2009) on the meter to reach Ipanema or Copacabana or R$50 to Jardin Botanico. The price can go up by R$10 or more if you get stuck in a traffic jam. It is possible to pre-book airport transfers.
Money change facilities are limited and high commissions are charged. Slightly better rates can be obtained, illegally, at the taxi booths but they may want you to use their cabs before changing money for you. In any event, don´t change more than you have to as much better rates are available downtown.
From Europe, TAM Airlines offers direct flights from Paris (daily), London and Frankfurt (both three times a week). Alitalia flies five times a week from Rome, Air France flies twice a day from Paris, British Airways three times a week from London, TAP twice a day from Lisbon and on Fridays and Sundays to Porto, Lufthansa four days a week from Frankfurt, KLM four days a week from Amsterdam and Iberia daily from Madrid. From Africa, Taag connects Rio to Luanda four times a week, and from Asia, Emirates has a daily non-stop flight to Dubai, where is possible to continue to many Asian destinations (also, from Rio this flight continues to Buenos Aires).
From North America, there are non-stop flights to Rio de Janeiro from Charlotte, New York and Miami with either American Airlines or TAM Airlines, Washington, D.C. and Houston with United Airlines, Dallas with American Airlines, Atlanta with Delta Airlines, and Toronto with Air Canada. Travellers from elsewhere in the region have to make a stop in the aforementioned U.S. cities or in São Paulo to get to Rio.
A number of carriers (including TAM, Gol, LAN, TAM Mercosul, Emirates, and Aerolíneas Argentinas) connect Rio de Janeiro to Argentina (Buenos Aires and Cordoba), Venezuela (Caracas), Paraguay (Asuncion), Uruguay (Montevideo) and Chile (Santiago). Avianca and Copa Airlines connect Rio with Bogotá, Lima and Panama City, respectively, offering onward connections to Central America or other South American cities. LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas offer connections from their respective hubs to Australia and New Zealand.
Rio's glorious 3 Central Train Station (Estação Central do Brasil, former: Estação do Campo, Estação da Corte, Dom Pedro II), Praça Procópio Ferreira - Centro (You can get there either by bus or subway (subway is better; get off on Central station, hub for lines 1 and 2). made famous by a movie of the same name. It's worth a visit just to see it. - Serves mostly local commuter lines (SuperVia), so it's unlikely that you'll arrive through here. Five of eight Rio's suburban train lines depart from here. SuperVia Deodoro branch (23km, 40min); SuperVia Santa Cruz branch (Platform 6, fifty five km, seventy five min); SuperVia Japeri branch (Platform 8, sixty two km, eighty three min); SuperVia Belford Roxo branch (Platform #10, thirty one km, less than one hour); SuperVia Saracuruna branch (Platform #12) toward Saracuruna (sixty two km, one hour); - Campo Grande (Platform #2) line and Gramacho line (Platform #13). - More details Zona Norte
- The long-distance bus depot, 4 Rodoviária Novo Rio (in the North Zone's Santo Cristo neighborhood, coach buses can get you to the South Zone in about fifteen minutes; local buses take a bit longer. Frescão air-conditioned coaches can be caught just outside the bus station. The coaches connect the station to the city centre and main hotel areas of Copacabana and Ipanema.). Bus companies include Itapemirim, Penha, Cometa, 1001, and Expresso Brasileiro.
- 5 Rodoviário de Campo Grande Bus station (Terminal Rodoviário de Campo Grande), Rua Aurélio de Figueiredo, Campo Grande, Zone Norte (BRT TransOeste terminated here.). Buses to/from Duque de Caxias, Nova Iguaçu, Itaguaí, Mangaratiba, Niterói and São Gonçalo cities.
Several companies offer bus passes from Rio to the rest of the country. The Green Toad Bus also offer bus tickets online for buses from Rio de Janeiro to Ilha Grande, Paraty, São Paulo, Florianopolis, Campo Grande, Foz do Iguacu and some other destinations in Brazil. They have bus passes to take you to other countries as well.
Ferries (barcas) connect neighbouring Niterói to Rio de Janeiro and arrive at Praça XV (see down), in the city centre.
Rio is connected by many roads to neighboring cities and states, but access can be confusing as there are insufficient traffic signs or indications of how to get downtown.
The main interstate highways passing through Rio are:
- BR-116, which connects the city to the southern region of Brazil. Also known as Rodovia Presidente Dutra
- BR-101, which leads to the north and northwest, and
- BR-040, which will take you in the central and western areas.
Rio de Janeiro possesses an extensive and complex, highly multi-modal public transportation system, adapted to the city's unique topography - large areas covered by mountains surrounded by pockets of densely populated flat lands. Among the public transportation modes, there is subway, heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, local buses, microbuses, cable cars and ferry boats.
The city uses a prepaid transport SmartCard, the RioCard Bilhete Único Carioca, which costs R$ 3.00 (refundable) and gives access to nearly all available public transportation (mostly excluding touristic rides), also offering discounts if the user takes more than one transportation within a 2-hour time period and stays within the Rio de Janeiro municipality. It is very convenient to get a Bilhete Único if you plan to use public transport on a regular basis during your stay in Rio, as it saves you the hassle of constantly figuring out which type of integration ticket to buy. If you stick to subway, heavy rail, bus rapid transit and local buses (not including executive buses), a public transport trip using the Bilhete Único shall cost between US$1-US$ 2.
- Ferry boats depart from 6 Praça XV. Station (Estação das Barcas), Praça Quinze de Novembro. The city ferry network include: Eight stations (Praça XV, Praça Arariboia, Charitas, Paquetá, Cocotá, Ilha Grande, Mangaratiba, Angra dos Reis). - Six lines are: Praça XV - Praça Arariboia (20 min., R$ 4,80); Praça XV - Charitas (20 min., R$ 13); Praça XV - Paquetá (50-70 min., R$ 4,80); Praça XV - Cocotá (55 min., R$ 4,80); Ilha Grande - Mangaratiba (80 min., R$14); Ilha Grande - Angra dos Reis (80 min., R$14)
By light rails
- Santa Teresa Tram, Centro
- Corcovado Rack Railway, Zona Sul
- The VLT (it stands for the initials in Portuguese of "light vehicle on rails") is operated by the government, and can drop you off in some metro stations, touristic spots and points of interest (like the Santos Dumont Airport).
By cable car
- Teleférico A is a cable car service operating in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The line operates between Bonsucesso Station and the Complexo do Alemão favela. Six stations. The length is 3.5km (2.2mi). (Zona Norte)
- Sugarloaf Cable Car (Zona Sul)
Buses are still the cheapest and most convenient way to get around the South Zone (Zona Sul) of the city due to the high number and frequency of lines running through the area. For the adventurous or budget traveler, it is worth asking your hotel or hostel employees how to navigate the system or which routes to take to arrive at specific locations. However, you should be mindful of questionable characters and your belongings. By night buses are more scarce, and most lines will usually not be running by the time the bars and clubs are full. Buses start at R$3.80 (Feb 2017); buses with air conditioning charge higher fares. The fare is paid in cash to a controller or the driver inside the bus, by passing through a roulette. There are no tickets, and try to have change/small bills. Some residents and students have a digital pass card. Keep an eye out for pickpockets when the bus is crowded, and don't be surprised if your driver goes a little faster and brakes a little more suddenly than you'd like. Except for minibuses, buses now have two doors: passengers get in through the front door and get off through the back (it was otherwise until 2001-2002).
Some bus stops in the South Zone are equipped with a shelter and a bench, but sometimes, far from tourist areas, they are less obvious and have no signs at all - you might have to ask. As a general rule in most parts of Brazil, buses stop only when you hail them, by extending the arm. If you don't hail and there are no passengers waiting to get off, the bus simply won't stop. The same can be said if you are on the bus wanting to get off at a particular stop. You should know the surroundings or the name of the intersection of the area you are going, or inquire to the employee operating the roulette, so you can signal to the driver that you want to get off, or he may not stop! There are no schedules nor timetables, but there is an invaluable book called Ruas de Rio de Janeiro (The streets of Rio de Janeiro) that has maps of Rio and lists bus routes by bus line. Although it does not list the exact schedule of arrivals and departures, it lists the bus stops, and one an easily orient oneself and navigate the city using it. Usually buses run no less infrequently than every 15 minutes. However, they can run just once an hour or more infrequently late at night or in remote areas of town.
There are a baffling 1000+ bus lines in Rio (including variants), covering nearly all of the city, operated by perhaps a dozen independent operations. (At least 6 operations ply the streets of Copacabana and Ipanema.) The  website contains a catalog of the lines, but is of little help unless you know the line number or can enter exact street names. Many lines differ only a few streets from each other in their itineraries, and some even have variants within the same line. Bus lines with a * or a letter means that this bus has a variant. It means that there may be a bus with the same name, same number, same origin, even same destination but with a complete different route. Lines are numbered according to the general route they serve:
- beginning with 1 - South Zone/Downtown
- beginning with 2 - North Zone/Downtown
- beginning with 3 - West Zone/Downtown
- beginning with 4 - North Zone/South Zone
- beginning with 5 - within South Zone
- beginning with 6 - North Zone/West Zone
- beginning with 7 and 9 - within North Zone
- beginning with 8 - within West Zone
Most popular lines for tourists are 583 and 584 (from Copacabana and Ipanema to Corcovado railway station), as well as 464 and 435 (from Copacabana to Maracanã). Buses 511 (Ataulfo de Paiva) and 512 (Bartholomeu Mitre) are also popular as they take you to Urca for the station to take the cable car up the Sugarloaf mountain. Typically bus drivers and controllers won't understand any foreign language. If you can't speak Portuguese at all, use a map. Trying to speak Spanish is usually not particularly useful.
By Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
- TransCarioca: links the Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport to the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood, also connecting with the Line 2 (Green) subway line that gives access to Zona Sul and the Centro. Useful for visitors who want to go from the Galeão airport to the touristic neighbourhoods (Barra and the beaches of Zona Sul) and are on a tight budget;
- TransOeste: links the future Jardim Oceânico subway station (which shall be operating before the 2016 Olympic Games) to the extreme northwest of the municipality (Santa Cruz and Campo Grande neighbourhoods). Useful for visitors staying in Barra da Tijuca to move around in the area or to go to the Zona Sul or the Centro by connecting to the subway;
- TransOlímpico: likely to be inaugurated before the 2016 Olympic games, it connects the Deodoro neighbourhood in Zona Norte to Barra da Tijuca, passing through several Olympic facilities. Basically useful to visitors to the Olympic events.
The Metrô Rio subway system is very useful for travel from Jardim Oceânico (in Barra da Tijuca) to Downtown and beyond, passing through the the Zona Sul beaches including Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana (the extension to Leblon and Barra da Tijuca shall be inaugurated before the 2016 Olympic games). It closes after midnight (24 hours during Carnaval). The air-conditioned subway is safe, clean, comfortable, and quick, and has much better signage, etc., than most transport in Rio, making the lives of foreign tourists easier. There are two main lines: Line 1 (Orange) has service to Ipanema (General Osorio), the Saara district, and much of Downtown, as well as Tijuca. Line 2 (Green) stops at the zoo, Maracanã stadium, and Rio State University. The two lines are integrated between Central and Botafogo, so check the train's destination if you board within the integrated section for a destination in the Zona Norte. A one-way subway-only "unitario" ticket is R$4.10 (Jul 2016). The ticket window will give you a card that you insert in the turnstile; do not pull it out unless you've purchased a multi-trip or transfer pass. Rechargeable IC cards (minimum charge R$5, no deposit required) are also available and definitely worth getting if you'll be in town for a few days.
Since 2003, the Metrô company operates bus lines from some stations to nearby neighborhoods which are not served by the subway system. This is particularly helpful for places uphill such as Gávea, Laranjeiras, Grajaú and Usina. Since the city grew around the Tijuca Range mountains, these neighborhoods will never be served by the subway, but you now can take the integração (connection) minibuses. The company calls it Metrônibus and Metrô na Superfície (literally, Subway on Ground), but actually they are ordinary buses in special routes for subway commuters. You can buy tickets for these - just ask for expresso (pronounced "eysh-PREH-sso", not "express-o") when buying a ticket, then keep it after crossing the roulette (prices range from R$ 2.80 to 4.40, depending on the transfer you want, as of Sep 2010). When you leave the subway, give the ticket to the bus driver (who shall be waiting in the bus stop just outside of the station). If you buy an ordinary ticket, you won't be able to get this bus for free - then it will cost a regular fee.
Recently the last car of each train has been marked women-only with a pink window sticker, in order to avoid potential harassment in crowded trains. Some men, however, are not yet used to this separation (since it is very recent) and many women, who are accustomed to hassle-free everyday travel in Rio's subway, also think the measure is unnecessary. Anyway, if you're a man, avoid getting into trouble with local security staff and stay off the pink-marked cars. Note that the women-only policy for the wagon is valid only in the rush hour.
By SuperVia suburban trains
Eight lines operating. Five of them from Central station (see above). They can be useful exploring the northern and western suburbs and bairros (quarters).
In the areas without subway, trams, SuperVia or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) use a cab. All legal cabs are yellow with a blue stripe painted on the sides. Taxis not designed like this are special service cars (to the airport or bus stations) or illegal. Rio taxis are not too expensive on a kilometre basis, but distances can be quite considerable. A journey from Zona Sul to the Centro will cost around R$20, and from the airport to Copacabana is around R$50 for example. The car can usually hold four people. You can ask a cab for a city tour, and arrange a fixed price (may be around US$20). Major taxi companies include Central de Taxi, Ouro Taxi and Yellow Taxi.
After getting into the taxi, check to see if the taximeter has been started, it charges R$4.40 (March 2011) for the minimum ride, called bandeirada), and R$1.60 per kilometer. If not, ask the taxi driver to do so. Some taxi drivers may wish to negotiate a fixed price in lieu of using the taximeter stating that they want to help you out and give you a cheaper fare. This is common for taxi drivers queued at tourist stops such as Pão de Açúcar and may be a confidence trick. Keep in mind that the taximeter may give you a better price. When in doubt, use the taximeter. You are the customer and you are in control. If the taxi driver will not comply, leave the taxi and find another.
You may be ripped off by some taxi drivers. If you have any doubt about drivers being completely honest, consider having your route mapped out on your smart phone with Google Maps and GPS turned on and ready to go before entering the taxi. By doing so, you can see if your taxi driver closely follows this ideal route. Remember that Avenida Atlântica switches traffic directions during the day, so Google Maps might get it wrong during the morning or evening hours on that road.
If you want to avoid being ripped off then it may be worth taking a 'radio-taxi', particularly when arriving at the airport. Radio Taxis are usually the blue, green, or white taxis and they do cost a little more than the typical yellow taxi. The advantage of a radio taxi is that you pay a fixed rate regardless of the time of day or if there's heavy traffic etc., this means that you do not risk the price increasing at the drivers discretion. To book in advance you can contact Cootramo Radio Taxi via their website https://www.cootramo.com.br/, or Rio Airport Transfer (English Speaking) via their website http://www.rioairporttransfer.com/
For those traveling to Rio for Carnaval it's worth using a company that allows you to book and pay in advance, and to try and pay as much in advance as possible as prices tend to increase a few weeks before Carnaval.
Be aware that traffic jams in Rio can be terrible at times. A taxi ride from Ipanema to the bus terminal for instance can take an hour and a half if you get seriously stuck, so make sure you have margins in case you really can´t afford to be late.
Rio de Janeiro is covered by some e-hailing services, Uber being the largest of them. Notable e-hailing services in the city, are:
- T81 (Brazilian service)
- Easy (Brazilian service)
- TeLevo (Brazilian service)
Traffic within some parts of Rio can be daunting, but a car may be the best way to reach distant beaches like Grumari, and that can be an extra adventure. Avoid rush-hour traffic jams in neighborhoods such as Copacabana, Botafogo, Laranjeiras, and Tijuca, where moms line up their cars to pick up their children after school. Buy a map, and have fun.
Note that Rio has an interesting programme of traffic management. Between 7AM and 10AM on weekday mornings the traffic flow of one carriageway on the beachfront roads of Ipanema and Copacabana is reversed, i.e. all traffic on those roads flows in the same direction, towards the city. Note also that on Sundays the carriageway closest to the beach is closed to allow pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, skaters and others to exercise.
- Ramos (in-bay) - inappropriate for bathing
- Flamengo (in-bay) - inappropriate for bathing
- Botafogo (in-bay) - inappropriate for bathing
- Urca (in-bay) - usually inappropriate for bathing
- Vermelha (in-bay) - sometimes inappropriate for bathing
- Leme (oceanic)
- Copacabana (oceanic)
- Arpoador (oceanic)
- Ipanema (oceanic)
- Leblon (oceanic)
- São Conrado (oceanic) - sometimes inappropriate for bathing
- Barra da Tijuca (oceanic)
- Recreio dos Bandeirantes (oceanic)
- Grumari (oceanic)
- Abricó (oceanic, nudist beach)
Abricó is the only official nudist beach in the city of Rio de Janeiro,it lies next to Grumari beach. Only accessible by car/taxi. A cheaper option is taking the bus numbered 360 (Recreio) that passes along Copacabana/Ipanema/Leblon, and from the end of the line (ponto final) take a cab.
It is also worth visiting the beaches in Paquetá, particularly:
- Praia da Moreninha (on the Guanabara Bay, but often not clean enough for swimming)
Cariocas have a unique beach culture, with a code of customs which outlanders (even Brazilians from other cities) can misconstrue easily. Despite what many foreigners may believe, there are no topless beaches. Girls can wear tiny string bikinis (fio dental), but it doesn't mean they're exhibitionists. For most of them, it's highly offensive to stare. Until the 1990s, men and boys wore speedos, but since then wearing Bermuda shorts or boardshorts has become more common, although speedos ("sungas" in Portuguese) seem to now be making a comeback. Jammers are less common but still accepted.
Waves in Rio vary from tiny and calm in the Guanabara bay beaches (Paquetá, Ramos, Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca) to high, surf-ideal waves in Recreio. In Leme, Copacabana, Arpoador, Ipanema, and Leblon, there's a popular way of "riding" the waves called pegar jacaré (pe-GAHR zha-kah-REH; literally, "to grab an alligator"). You wait for the wave to come behind you then swim on top of it until it crumbles next to the sand.
Commerce is common in Rio's beaches, with thousands of walking vendors selling everything from sun glasses to fried shrimp to cooling beverages (try mate com limão, a local ice tea mixed with lemonade, or suco de laranja com cenoura, orange and carrot juice). For food, there is also empada (baked flour pastry filled with meat or cheese) and sanduíche natural (cool sandwich with vegetables and mayo). Vendors typically shout out loud what they're selling, but they won't usually bother you unless you call them. All along the beaches there are also permanent vendors who will sell you a beer and also rent you a beach chair and an umbrella for a few Reais.
Leblon and Ipanema are the most cool beaches. The beaches in Barra and Recreio (Quebra-Mar, Pepê, Pontal, Prainha, Grumari) are the best and cleanest beaches, being the favorite among surfers, paragliders and nautical sports. São Conrado beach is a hang gliders paradise.
In the West Zone you can find some of the best beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Barra da Tijuca's beach is a 17 km sand line of clear waters. Surfers love it, and many people also. The sunset is beautiful, especially during the winter. The beach is relatively safe at night, although development of tourism by big hotels such as the Sheraton have brought with it the inevitable appearance of (discreet but ever present) prostitutes. As you go along you get to Recreio, which is even clearer, and much less crowded. Prainha is now very far away from the crowded Copacabana. Its perfect waves made it famous. It is also on a biological reserve, with restricted car parking spaces. Avoid the weekends and enjoy this between mountains-beauty of the nature on the week-days. There are many surfing schools all along the Barra beach that hold one and half hour surfing classes. The classes are fairly inexpensive and are mostly populated with locals. Some of the surf instructors do speak English.
- Corcovado. (including Cristo Redentor) The funicular train up costs R$56 (low season) or 68 R$ (high season)for a round trip up to Cristo Redentor, and it is definitely worth the view. Students from Brazil pay 50% - R$18 but are usually requested to prove showing some ID or document. The queue for the train, in Cosme Velho, can get rather long; you purchase a ticket for a particular departure time (that day only). The trains run every 30 minutes. Try going when the morning coach parties have already passed through, i.e. when most tourists are having their lunch. Don't take the train too late in the day since late afternoon trains may be cancelled if delays throughout the day build up. This is common over holiday weekends. Take a taxi to Cosme Velho, or take the Metro-Onibus Expresso combination (see above) from the Largo do Machado station. If you opt for a taxi to go up instead of the funicular, it's R$20 round-trip to enter the park, then another R$18 or so for the shuttle up to the monument. After dark, be aware that the steep descent down Corcovado in a shuttle can be dangerous since some less-professional park drivers choose to speed down the mountain to create a roller coaster type effect and even turn the headlights off temporarily to thrill the passengers. If this occurs, passengers should tell the driver to stop by shouting "Pare!" (PAH-ree). Report any such conduct to a police officer at the base of the park before you descend to the base of the mountain by taxi. There's also a hiking trail that begins at Parque Lage and gets there (see Hiking and Trekking on the 'Do' section below).
- Pão de Açúcar. The Sugarloaf mountains (one taller, the other shorter), Brazil's top landmark, with a two-stage aerial tramway to the top; a definite must see. There is also an unsigned trail leading to the second station, however tickets to the top are not available anymore at this point. Ask locals for directions. The buses number 511, 512, 591 and 592 and the subway buses from Botafogo bring you to the base station. Do not make the mistake of thinking you have seen enough once you have seen the view from Cristo Redentor. Try Sugarloaf at sunset for a truly mind-blowing experience. R$62 (the way back is free after 7PM), 50 % student discount, even for foreign students.
- Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas - A large lagoon in the middle of South Zone, with great views to Corcovado and Ipanema and Leblon beaches; you can jog or cycle all the way round; there are skating areas and you can hire little pedal-operated boats.
- Streetcar of Santa Teresa - Until recently, you could ride for a few cents to this scenic neighbourhood. The tram is currently closed, after accidents, but it is planned to reopen.
- Maracanã - The largest football stadium in South America and once the largest on Earth. It is currently in a state of disrepair following the Summer 2016 olympics, and daily tours have been suspended. There is also a Soccer Museum inside it.
- Parque Lage - A small park, once a private mansion, which is now home to a school of fine arts. Contains some interesting plants and wildlife as well as strange concrete structures that will entertain the kids. The park is the beginning of a hiking trail Corcovado, through sub-tropical rain forest (see Hiking and Trekking under the 'Do' section)
- Jardim Botanico - The Botanical Garden, planted in the 1800s. It is both a park and a scientific laboratory. It contains a huge collection of plants from all over the world, not only tropical ones. If you take the bus note that Jardim Botanico is also the name of a neighborhood so make sure you take the right one to the entrance. The admission is R$6. The gardens are well kept and very lush. Not far from the cafe, first you hear swooshing sounds. Look up and you can see small monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
- Paço Imperial (1743) - Old Imperial Palace (though impressively modest), colonial architecture (in downtown, next to Praça XV, Fifteen Square).
- Casa França Brasil (1820) - French cultural centre, with gallery and video hall (in downtown, next to CCBB).
- CCBB - Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (1906) - A cultural centre with gallery, movie theater, video room, library and stages; usually hosts the main exhibitions in town (in downtown). An interesting building with old-fashioned elevators/lifts.
- Candelária Church - Neoclassic cathedral (next to CCBB).
- Mosteiro de São Bento (1663) - Saint Benedict's Monastery, colonial architecture (in downtown).
- Ilha Fiscal Palace (1889) - Located in the Guanabara Bay, next to the Navy Museum
- Gloria Church (1739). Small but interesting church reached by a funicular. Nice views. (metro: Gloria)
- Palácio Gustavo Capanema - Former ministry of culture, designed by French architect Le Corbusier; though small, it is regarded as an important pioneering in modern architecture (downtown).
- Arcos da Lapa (1750) - Lapa Aqueduct, colonial structure that brought water from springs to downtown.
- Catedral Metropolitana - a modern, cone-shaped cathedral, designed by Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca (in Lapa).
- São Francisco da Penitência church (1773) - Colonial church.
- Teatro Municipal (1909) - City Theater, inspired by the Paris Opéra House (in Cinelândia square).
- Biblioteca Nacional (1910) - National Library (in Cinelândia square).
- Câmara Municipal - The City Hall, hosts the city council (in Cinelândia square).
- Palácio do Catete - The former presidential palace (1893-1960), now hosts a museum of recent history and nice gardens (in Catete).
- Itamaraty - Former presidential palace (1889-1893) and foreign office; now hosts a museum of South American diplomacy, a library and the UN information offices in Brazil (in Downtown, next to the Central station).
- Palácio Guanabara - Former palace of the Imperial Princess, now governor's office; eclectic architecture; not open to public (in Laranjeiras).
- Art Deco. Rio is a major centre for the Art Deco style of architecture. Indeed, the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado is considered a classic example of Art Deco work. There are numerous buildings in Copacabana and elsewhere that employ this style.
There is no shortage of things to do on a rainy day. In addition to a wide range of museums, Rio has many cultural centres, which are run by banks and other organizations and usually host free exhibitions. Details of what is on can be found in the Segundo Caderno section of the daily O Globo newspaper, which provides more detail in a weekly Friday supplement. Also very useful is the Mapa das Artes Rio de Janeiro, which provides detailed bi-monthly listings as well as detailed maps of the city. This is free and can be picked up at most museums.
- Museu Histórico Nacional (National Museum of History) - A museum of Brazilian history stretching from colonial to imperial times; big collection of paintings, and artifacts (downtown).
- Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) - Includes large paintings from Academicist and Neoclassical Brazilian artists, as well as many copies of European sculptures (downtown, Cinelândia square).
- MAM - Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art) - The second most important contemporary art museum in Brazil, after MASP (downtown, next to Santos Dumont airport). Modernist architecture spreading over almost the sea.
- Museu da Imagem e do Som (Image and Sound Museum) - For researchers about Brazilian film, radio, and broadcasting industry (downtown).
- Museu Naval (Navy Museum) - Located downtown not far from the ferry terminal. (www.mar.mil.br/dphdm/)
- Museu do Carnaval (Museum of Carnaval) - History of Brazilian carnival and parades (in downtown, next to the Sambódromo).
- Museu Chácara do Céu - An important collection of South American modern art (in Santa Tereza).
- Museu da República (Museum of the Republic) - Hosted on the former presidential palace, this museum hosts permanent exhibitions about recent Brazilian history (from 1889 on); one of main features is the room where president Getúlio Vargas shot himself in 1954 (in Catete).
- Oi Futuro (Formerly Centro Cultural Telemar) - Formerly Museum of Telephone, it now hosts a fine gallery with temporary exhibitions of digital art or art with interactive medias; it is sponsored by the local phone company (in Catete).
- Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf (International Naïf Art Museum) - In Cosme Velho, next to Corcovado rail station.
- Museu Carmem Miranda (Carmem Miranda Museum) - About this Brazilian actress and singer (the lady with pineapples-and-bananas hat), the national icon in the 1940s and 50s (in Flamengo).
- Museu do Índio (Museum of the Indian) - A small museum with a collection of Brazilian Indian (povos indígenas) photographs, paintings, artifacts and other craft (in Botafogo). Very popular with local schoolchildren, but has much for adults as well.
- Museu Villa-Lobos, Rua Sorocaba, 200 - Botafogo, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 10AM-5:30PM. A modest collection about Brazil's most important composer. Free entrance.
- Museu Nacional (National Museum) - Actually, it's the Natural History museum, with dinosaur fossils and lots of mounted tanned animals; go there if you want to see a jaguar without getting into the jungle; it was formerly the Emperor's Palace (in São Cristóvão, just next to the Zoo).
- Museu do Primeiro Reinado (First Reign Museum) - A museum about the reign of Emperor Pedro I (1822-1831), but with a modest collection (in São Cristóvão).
- Museu Museu de Astronomia e Ciências Afins (Astronomy Museum) - Also has an observatory (in São Cristóvão).
- Museu do Trem (Train Museum) - A modest collection of 19th century engines, train cars and streetcars (in Engenho de Dentro).
- Museu Aeroespacial (Aerospace Museum) - Located in Campo dos Afonsos (in the suburbs).
- Museu Casa do Pontal - The most important collection of popular arts and crafts (in Recreio dos Bandeirantes).
In addition to Jardim Botânico and Parque Lage, mentioned above, other parks worth a visit are:
- Parque do Flamengo, also known as Aterro do Flamengo.
- Parque Guinle
- Campo de Santana
- Quinta da Boa Vista
- Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos
Still the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnaval. This highly-advertised party lasts for almost two weeks and it is well known for the escolas de samba (samba schools) that parade in Centro, on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo (Sambadrome). During Carnaval, Rio has much more to offer though, with the blocos de rua, that parade on the streets. There are now hundreds of these street "samba blocks", that parade almost in every neighborhood, especially in Centro and the South Zone, gathering thousands of people. Some are very famous, and there are few cariocas that have not heard of "Carmelitas", "Suvaco de Cristo", "Escravos da Mauá" or "Simpatia É Quase Amor".
The rest of the year, samba shows are popular with tourists, and are held at several venues like Plataforma and Scala. These are expensive and not really representative of Brazilian culture, they present a lot of almost naked women and bad musicians, a tourist trap (much like the real thing.) Much more interesting and genuine, though, are the night practice sessions held by the various samba schools in the months leading up to Carnaval. You will find only a small number of tourists here, and you will be served the best caipirinhas of your trip! These go on into the wee hours of the morning, with the fun really only starting at 1-2AM A good cab driver should be able to hook you up, and cabs will be available to take you back when you are samba-ed out. Salgueiro and Mangueira are good choices, as they are two of the larger samba schools, and are located relatively close to the tourist areas in a fairly safe area.
Note that a change is afoot that may make this genuine experience a thing of the past (or more convenient, depending on your viewpoint) for all but the most savvy tourists. The local government built a complex of buildings (Cidade do Samba) where many of the samba schools are moving their practice halls and float-construction facilities from the gritty warehouses typically located in or near their home favelas. One can expect many more tourists, and shows made-up for the tourists as the tourist bureau milks this facility for all it's worth year-round.
Here is a list of some of the samba schools:
- Mangueira, Rua Visconde de Niterói, 1072, Mangueira, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Rehearsals every Saturday, 10PM.
- Salgueiro, Rua Silva Teles, 104, Andaraí, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rehearsals every Wednesday, 8PM.
- Acadêmicos da Rocinha.
The newest addition for tourists is the Samba City [dead link].
Rio was the cradle of three of Brazil's most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. In recent years, there has been a boom of traditional samba and choro venues. A lot of them are in the downtown district of Lapa. There are good and cheap nightlife options, where you will see some of the best musicians of the country. Any of the city newspapers provide pointers to the best shows.
If you're not such an anthropological type of tourist, you can check out the same papers for tips on other kinds of music. Being a big city, Rio has big and small clubs that play almost every kind of music. The major mainstream clubs mostly play whatever's on the Radio - which is usually whatever's on the USA radios and MTV - but the underground scene has a lot to offer on Rock, EDM, Rap and such. The best way to find out about those are the flyers handed or left at hostels, cinema and theater lobbies, nightclub lines, etc.
New Year's Eve celebrations
Rio hosts the country's largest and most popular New Year’s Eve celebrations. The huge fireworks display and music shows attract 2 million people to the sands of Copacabana beach every year. People dress in white for luck and toast the arrival of the new year. It's usual also to have some national and international concerts on the beach for free.
Rio de Janeiro is the main destination for lesbian and gay travellers from all over Brazil and the rest of the world. The city has been chosen as the best lesbian and gay international destination in 2009, and the sexiest gay place in the world in 2010 and 2011.
Hang gliding and paragliding
The Hangliding and Paragliding flights have found in Rio de Janeiro, the ideal land for its high hills and favorable wind. Different from other places in the world, in Rio, the sport could be done in urban areas and landing on the beach! These conditions naturally attract many tourists who get the courage to enjoy a flight. And even the most inexperienced person can flight since there´s no training or special gear needed. Operator:
- Sky Center, ☎ . ,
Hiking and Trekking
Not surprisingly, a huge city that has an actual forest within its limits has lots to offer for hikers. It's always advisable to have a local with you when trekking in Rio (Couchsurfing's Rio de Janeiro group usually organizes hikes around the city), as some treks are not very well-marked. Since the early 2000s there hasn't been any reports of violence/burglary on the city's trails (a problem in the 90s), but the rules on the Stay safe section apply as anywhere else in the city. Some of Rio's hiking trails include:
- Parque Lage - Corcovado
The trek is fairly demanding and steep, and takes about 1h30/2h to complete, but yet very popular among locals - it's normal to see whole families doing it, as well as groups of friends and foreigners. Buy the "Metrô + Metrô Na Superfície" ticket and go to Botafogo. From there, take the metrô bus to the station Hospital da Lagoa, which is close to the Parque Lage. Ask the park's staff or look for signs that say "Trilha" to get to the start of the trail, just behind the ruins of an old house. From there you have two paths: going straight ahead leads to a waterfall that is usually full of families on the weekends (it's a good spot to stop on your way back if you go back the same way), and left leads straight to the main path of the trek. Along the way there are 3 waterfalls (just one you can actually bath in, though) and a small path where you have to hang on to a chain to pass through some rocks. Until this point you will be going up, but always surrounded by forest. The first views of the city will start after the chain (about 1h/1h30 in). Then you get to the train tracks, either follow the rail tracks or the road up to the Christ (another 15 minutes). Views from here on are breathtaking. However, entrance to the monument costs R$22 (Dec. 2014). To go back down, you can get a van for about R$20 or walk about half a mile down to the parking place. Tickets from there only cost about R$10.
This is a short and fairly easy hike, taking about 20/30' to complete, also very popular among locals, specially because you can go up for free then hitch a ride back on the cable car (after 7PM, it's free to return on it). The hike begins at Pista Cláudio Coutinho in Urca, and is very popular among the locals. If you ask the guards they'll point you to the start. It's uphill, but just the first five minutes are really steep and will need you to use your hands. From there on just keep to your left. There are amazing views of Urca and the Guanabara Bay during the final 20 minutes, some of which are angles you don't get from the vantage points above. The trek actually ends on top of Morro da Urca, the smallest of the two. Remember, tickets to get to the final station of the cable car on Pão de Açucar are only sold at the ground station, not at the second station at Morro da Urca.
If you have the money the following operators give you panoramic flights in helicopters:
Favela (Shantytown) tours
A number of operators offer tours of Rocinha, the largest and safest Favela in Rio. Many tours are done by outside companies in safari-like buses, which can lead to awkward interactions with the locals. Try to go with someone who lives in Rocinha on a walking tour. It is also possible to arrange tours to other favelas, although Rocinha has a longer history of tourism and is one of the more developed favelas.
You may hear stories about people being invited by locals to visit their home in a favela. If you receive such an invitation do think carefully about it and perhaps ask around about the person that has invited you. Many of the favelas are rife with drugs and guns so think carefully about how much you trust the person that is inviting you. A search on the Internet may reveal some accounts of tours others have taken. A visit like this will obviously be more authentic than a book tour and could be the highlight of your visit to Rio; on the other hand you are taking a risk. Also consider that Favelas are normal neighbourhoods in Rio and not a zoo.
For tourists there are many interesting things to learn. Why not take a rainy day in town to have samba (the national rhythm) classes or capoeira, a mix of dance and fighting created by the then enslaved African community. Is not as hard as outsiders may think, and it's original and fun. At Casa Rosa Cultural, an antique house in Laranjeiras neighborhood, they offer special classes for the beginner tourists.
If you are staying in Brazil for an extended time, major universities offer Portuguese courses for foreigners, usually for a very low price and with high educational standards.
- Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
- Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) - Offers courses at various levels in Portuguese for Foreigners. R$428 for one semester, or R$214 if you're a regular student at UFRJ.
- Universidade Federal Fluminense (located in Niterói)
- Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) - Its courses Portuguese for Foreigners are popular, but a bit pricey at R$1632 per semester for the beginner's levels.
- Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos
- Cultura Inglesa
- Instituto Cervantes
- Aliança Francesa
- Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) - the National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics. A centre with an international renown for scientific excellence and superb working conditions in Mathematics. You can take any course for free. The summer courses (Jan-Feb) are very popular and there is even the possibility of getting some modest funding for the summer.
- Casa do Caminho Language Centre - Learn Portuguese here with the profits going back into the Casa do Caminho
When shopping in street commerce, always bargain; this can lower prices considerably. Bargaining in stores and malls, though, is usually impolite. But naturally merchants won't bargain unless you ask, especially if you are clearly a tourist. To tourists, items can easily be overpriced by a factor of 20% especially in highly informal markets such as Saara or on the beach.
- A typical Brazilian hammock shouldn't be more than R$20–30 but they can sell for up to US$150.
- A beer on the beach should cost around R$3.00
- A caipirinha can be had for the same price (around R$3.00-R$4.00) and you get a great show as the ingredients are produced from a cooler and lime slices muddled before your eyes
- You can get coconut water for R$2.00-3.00
- For trinkets, your best bet is the "hippie fair" in Praça General Osório in Ipanema every Sunday.
Great bargains can be had on Brazilian-made clothing, as well as some European imports. Most imported items, however, such as electronics, tend to be insanely expensive due to protective import duties. For example, you will find digital cameras sell for about twice what they sell for in Europe or the U.S.
Store managers in Rio often speak some English, as this gains employees an almost-automatic promotion. But "some" can be very little, so it is useful to learn at least some very basic Portuguese. Just knowing basic greetings, numbers, and how to ask directions and prices will get you at least a "B" for effort, and despite finding that store clerks may know more English than you Portuguese, it can still come in handy to know a bit of the language. Don't be afraid to resort to writing numbers, pictures, or resorting to pantomime. Shop assistants will often tap out prices for you on a calculator. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Brazil, with American Express to a significantly lower degree. But beware that many stores will accept either Visa or MasterCard, but not both! If you carry only one, look for the sign in the store window before attempting to buy.
A great choice of gift, since they do not take much space in the suitcase back home, are bikinis, a trademark from Rio for its quality and fashion style.
Shopping malls can be found all over town, with the cheaper ones in the Zona Norte like Shopping Tijuca and Shopping Iguatemi and popular upscale shopping malls concentrated in the Zona Sul like Shopping Rio Sul and Shopping Leblon and São Conrado Fashion Mall and BarraShopping in Zona Oeste.
Organic food arrived in the Brazilian supermarkets but if you want to support local small scale farmers you might consider the following fairs of Circuito Feiras Organicas Carioca:
Ipanema, Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz, de 7h às 13h
Tijuca, Praça Afonso Pena, de 7h às 13h | LEBLON, Praça Antero de Quental,de 7h às 13h
Bairro Peixoto, Praça Edmundo Bittencourt, de 8h às 13h | GLÓRIA, Rua do Russel, de 7h às 13h | JARDIM BOTÂNICO, Praça da Igreja São José da Lagoa, de 7h às 13h
In Rio de Janeiro you can probably find something to fit any craving. A good approach to local food is "comida a kilo" - buffet style restaurants where you pay by the weight of the food on your plate. An excellent place to go with your friend or even with your partner is the Fellini restaurant. Located in Leblon, the place has a "pay for what you eat" buffet, with really good and beautiful food. Great for all tastes, it has even Asian food on the menu- approximately R$5 per 100g. More information available online . Another one is Ming Ye, Rue do Lavradio 106, near Lapa. Ming Ye offers a wide range of Chinese stir-fry and delicious sushi, as well as Brazilian dishes for cheaper prices (around R$3 per 100g).
Don't miss the Brazilian most famous dish, the feijoada (fay-zho-AH-da), a black bean stew filled with big chunks of meat, like sausages, pork and beef. Along with the "feijoada", you also get some colorful side dishes that come with it, such as rice, cassava (roasted manioc), collard greens, fried pork rinds, and some orange slices, to sweeten things up a bit. This is bonafide, authentic carioca culinary excellence, almost worth the trip alone! Best while sipping down a "caipirinha".
For the hungry, nothing beats a good rodízio (all-you-can-eat service). These are available in numerous types, although the most well-known are the churrascaria, all-you-can-eat grilled meats. Marius, in Leme has arguably the best churrascaria in town. Porcão has 5 restaurants around Rio, whereas Carretão has a good and cheap(er) rodizio. At various restaurants around town, you can also find rodízio style dining featuring seafood, pizza, or various appetizer-style snacks. The defining element of rodízio is that unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet, the servers continuously bring skewers of various meats.
If you like meat but want an alternative to the rodizios, a good place to eat at is Filé de Ouro (Rua Jardim Botânico, 731, Jardim Botânico; phone: +55 21 2259-2396; see Google Maps for directions). The place is simple and cozy. During the weekends there are usually big lines, but the steak is delicious. Try "Filé à Oswaldo Aranha", with toasted garlic.
Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan, and sushi has become widely popular in Rio too. If you are a sashimi and sushi lover, you will find a great deal of options in Rio de Janeiro. If you are in Ipanema or nearby, a great tip is Benkei, that has an "all you can eat" buffet, with high quality products, great environment and staff for nice prices.
As a former ex Portugal colony, Brasil has maintained many influences of this country on its culinary. Therefore you will find great authentic Portuguese restaurants in Rio. A good option, from the localization to the ambiance, and naturally the food, is the CBF Restaurant, in the Tiradentes Square, a lovely area full of antique architecture.
In Leblon, the best choice is the hip and contemporaneous Zuka where chef Ludmila creates many original recipes. In Ipanema, Zazá Bistrô is a trendy, sexy and exotic place with great South Asian dishes. Good to go as a couple.
Because its huge coast, many Brazilian specialties are in the seafood area. They are very rich in shrimps, lobster, calamaris, shellfish, clams, mollusks and many other tasty fishes. So, once in this land, don't miss the opportunity to order those lovely dishes. An option of restaurant very well known is Azul Marinho which is located below the building of Arpoador Inn, in Arpoador, very close to Ipanema. However, expect to pay at least R$100 per person, and set menus go about R$120 per person, excluding drinks.
The highest recommendation for a decently priced superb meal is at Sobrenatural, that has the some of the freshest fish in Rio. Go on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, when they have live samba and chorinho music by renowned artists. Try their moqueca dishes. It is located at Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 432 Santa Teresa.
For sophisticated people who enjoy simple life, Via Sete is in the heart of Ipanema, on Garcia D'Ávila. This grill restaurant offers a great bang for the buck: from their veranda you get to people-watch pretty Brazilians. There you can enjoy tasty wraps and sandwiches.
Felice is one of those tasteful places you can just hang out all day and all night: it has a great breakfast, a healthy lunch, varied gourmet ice-cream flavours at the palour, and a hip sunset after hour vibe. St.Tropez inspired dinner menu with a fair cost benefit and a lounge crowd after 11PM.
Travellers with fatter pockets may also splash out a bit at the Dias Ferreira street in Leblon, Rio's up-and-coming restaurant row.
There are many places to get pizza and lots of restaurants also offer pasta.
Rio is also famous for its pastries and street food, heritage from Portuguese and old European culture. In most cafeterias (lanchonete; lun-sho-NETCH) you can have a pastel (pahs-TELL) or salgado (saw-GAH-do; local pastry) for less than R$2. Typical pastries are coxinha (ko-SHEEN-ya; chicken nugget shaped like a chicken leg), and unique Rio's joelho (zho-EH-lyo; rolled dough filled with ham and cheese). Also try pão de queijo (pawn-deh-KAY-zho; cheese baked dough), typical from Minas Gerais but very common in Rio as well, and tapioca (typical from Bahia), a kind of crepe made out of manioca flour.
For drinking, ask for guaraná (gwa-ra-NAH; soda made from the seed of an Amazon fruit, also available as a strong drink), mate (MAHTCH; sweet ice tea; not like Rio Grande do Sul or Argentina's hot and sour mate), água de coco (ah-gwa-djee-KOH-ku; natural coconut water) or caldo de cana (caw-do-djee-KAH-na; sugarcane juice). There is also a common fruit called açaí (ah-sah-EEH), with a dark-purple pulp out of which are made juices, and ice-creams. Typical cariocas eat it like cream in cups or glasses, mixed with granola, oats or other flakes. The best place for such drinks are one of a number of Rio's open juice bars. Very often, these are located on street corners and have long, curved bars offering you juices from pretty much every fruit you can imagine. The best option is a small chain of juice bars called "Big Bi's". The juices are astounding value alongside their good selection of salgados and sandwiches. Their açaí is one of the best in terms of value and taste and the staff are excellent. On top of all this, if you leave a tip, you get a big "Obrigado" from all the staff. For the best Big Bi's experience, try the Tangerina ao Limão juice along with the famous Bauru sandwich for a total of a mere R$13. Finish it all off with an açaí to go. Perfect. Big Bi's has a few branches dotted around Copacabana and Ipanema, one of which is on the corner of Rua Santa Clara and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana. If you then cross the road of Rua Barata Ribeiro, you will land at an exquisite ice cream parlour.
There are many specialized "health food" shops that offer an incredible variety of rich meat and vegetable sandwiches, plus an awesome variety of fruit juices, many of them delicious and usually unknown by foreigners. Among them are graviola, fruta do conde, jaca, açaí, guaraná, pitomba, mango, coconut, orange, lemon, papaya, melon, etc. (they make it as you ask and all food is 100% organic and fresh. The meal is often prepared as you wait, so you can ask them to mix whatever fruit you want and create a customized mix if you like). You must try açaí and guaraná, Amazon fruits which are famous to be the strongest energizers and anti-oxidants of the world. They also offer Brazilian snacks (including many Italian and Oriental delicacies), and other simple but delicious things to eat. I never got enough of them! These shops usually are cheap and hang many fruits at the entrance or somewhere visible to display their quality.
Warning: look for clean places, as hygiene can be poor in many street shops.
If your palate is homesick for more familiar tastes, Rio has most of the fast-food chains found around the world (McDonald's, KFC, Domino's, Outback, Subway, Pizza Hut and Burger King). Bob's and Habib's are the biggest national fast food chains.
Many foods that in other countries are simply picked up in the hands and eaten, are either eaten with knife and fork (such as pizza) or are picked up by wrapping a napkin around the food so that it is not touched with the hands (such as sandwiches). You will undoubtedly notice napkin dispensers on the tables in most restaurants for this purpose.
Leaving a club or a bar, late in the night? The best option is Cervantes in Prado Júnior Street, in Copacabana. It closes only with the sun raising. The menu is composed by big sandwiches, with whatever you want: ham, salami, cheese, tenderloin and so on, with one home special ingredient: a big pineapple slice. It's a tropical taste to the end of your night. Look out for the legendary "Penguin Waiter", who've been working there forever. You won't have a problem to find out who he is.
- Botequim (pronounced 'boo-chi-KEEN') also well known as boteco - These quite unpretentious bars with simple appetizers and lots of ice-cold chope (draft beer) are everywhere and are almost inseparable from the carioca lifestyle. Try Bracarense (85, José Linhares street, Leblon), one of the most traditional.
- Juice bars - Of particular note for an often hot and muggy city are the refreshing juice bars, found on nearly every corner in the city. Choose from dozens of freshly squeezed fruit juices - mix two or three fruits together or simply try the freshly squeezed orange juice. For a delicious Brazilian special try the açaí, a smoothie made from a deep purple fruit from the Amazon.
- Caipirinha, a drink made of cachaça (a Brazilian liquor made of sugarcane juice), lime, sugar and ice cubes.
- Kiosks along the boardwalk at Copacabana and Ipanema beach stay open all night.
- Devassa. Nine locations in Rio (and one in São Paulo), including Leblon (Rua General San Martin 1241, +55 21 2540-6087) and Jardim Botânico (Av. Lineu de Paula Machado 696, 021-2294-2915). Well-crafted microbrews, a tropical take of English ale styles.
- Lapa - A good bet for Thursdays, several bars and clubs, but the party is in the street. There you will find people dancing and playing Samba, Choro (soft rhythm with flutes and mandolin), Reggae and Hip Hop, as well as ballroom dancing (gafieira), but no Rock (except for some underground, which doesn't happen often or in the same place, but usually in some less known places of Lapa) or Pop music. While drinks are sold in the bars and clubs, vendors also roam the streets wearing coolers full of beer for even cheaper prices. It can also be a very exciting and packed place on Friday and Saturday nights. Be sure not to bring valuables, as there are a lot of pick-pockets operating in the area. Don't take it for the neighborhood with the same name in São Paulo, which is totally different.
Being in Rio and not going to one of the countless samba live music bars, certainly you've missed a lot on your trip. In Lapa, the nightlife district of Rio, there are many nice bars with great atmosphere where locals go for dancing and meeting people. There are a couple of them in the Zona Sul as well. Most of these bars work with a kind of consumption card, which is handed to you when you enter. Everything you consume is marked on this card, and losing it means you'll have to pay a really high fee of sometimes more than R$200,00! So take good care of it.
For those who like to go clubbing, Rio has some good options. You'll be seeing lots of flyers and talk about "raves" Usually Rio's raves are devoted to trance, which is pretty popular, especially with the upper-class youngsters, though some electronic parties do have good djs and live acts from around the world. The night in Rio is pretty much divided between mainstream and underground.
Mainstream would be such "raves" and big electronic festivals, as well a nightclubs like Zax Club (Barra da Tijuca), Baronetti (Ipanema) and Boate Praia (Lagoa) that are devoted to pop, dance and variations of house and trance. Those are not, however, places you go for the music. They are usually packed with "patricinhas" (tanned, long soft-haired girls with gym-built bodies) and specially "pitboys" (upper/middle-class boys, known for having various degrees of martial arts training and a certain tendency for violence). Yes, fights are one of the major problems with the mainstream clubbing scene in Rio. It's also fairly expensive. You'd be expecting to pay between R$30 and R$50 to get in a club (girls pay less, but all those clubs will have an f/m proportion around 1/3) and between R$50 and R$100 for a "rave" or electronic music party being held at spots like the Marina.
Though with far less options, the underground clubbing scene is more available and interesting than the mainstream. Most of the underground clubs are on Zona Sul and offer different parties for each day of the week. The underground club scene has a more diverse public, from goths to punks also with strong hedonistic tints. It's very gay-friendly and most of the parties and clubs have almost the same m/f proportion. It is also far cheaper than the mainstream clubs, with tickets starting as low as R$5 and not going further up than R$25. Some good alternative clubs are Fosfobox (Copacabana), Dama de Ferro (Ipanema) and Casa da Matriz (Botafogo).
For a real "carioca" experience, try Mariuzinn Copacabana. Brazilian Funk and electronic music, with an eccentric crowd. It just finishes when the last dancer gives up. Which means early in the morning. It will be an unforgettable experience.
In the Zona Sul, you will find Rio's fanciest and most popular hotels along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but there are lots of small, cheap, clean hotels around Flamengo and Catete. The street in front of the strip of tourist hotels in Copacabana can be seedy, due to both garishly-dressed tourists, and a few opportunistic locals ready to take advantage of them. The apart-hotels in Ipanema are a much more pleasant alternative, being both better appointed and in a nicer neighborhood with fewer tourists.
Accommodation in the lower Centro can be convenient for business travellers. The surrounding areas, however, are far from pleasant at night, being nearly deserted and lacking decent restaurants and leisure options. The central Santa Teresa neighbourhood, however, is quite departed from the city centre life and has plenty of pleasant bed and breakfasts and a significant nightlife.
Given Rio's rise as a fashionable destination with creative and fashion people, some hotels that cater to the design-conscious crowd have also been popping up at the most upscale neighborhoods. The city also has a large selection of apart-hotels, which provide apartment-style accommodations with kitchen facilities. Private condominium apartments can also be rented short-term at reasonable rates, and can be found on the internet. This is probably a preferable means of finding one of these than the notes that will be passed to you by anonymous persons on the street. These apartments generally have a one-week minimum, or two weeks during Carnaval or New Years holidays.
Accommodation in Rio is probably Brazil's most expensive. There is a relative shortage of hotel rooms on the cheaper range and booking in advance is recommended. Moreover, prices for most accommodation can more than triple during New Year's and Carnaval. Those are very busy periods and booking well in advance is recommended. Note that most hotels in tourist areas will only sell 4-day packages and charge in advance - even if you want to stay only for a couple of days during those events. Other than those, the busiest month is January - summer holidays in Brazil.
Motels, that you will see mainly on the outskirts of the city, are not motels in the North American sense. Rather, they are places you go with your lover for a few hours. One famous motel, overlooking the Sheraton in Leblon, was taken over by the US Secret Service when George Bush Sr stayed at the Sheraton. It is not recorded whether heart-shaped beds, mirrors on the ceiling and on-tap porno movies affected their work!
If hostel life is more your style, they are easy to find in Rio. The more expensive ones boast locations that are short walking distance to either Ipanema or Copacabana beach. However if you prefer to stay in Lapa, Glória, Catete, and Botafogo, there are many other choices available. Hostelling has become increasingly popular in Brazil, and many of them are located at walking distance from hot spots. Beware, however, not to be taken to any fraudulent scheme - you might end up being robbed. Look for accredited places with Youth Hostelling International and similar franchises.
To experience Rio from another point of view, there's also the opportunity to stay in various hostels in one of the favelas. Due to presence of many police units (called Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, UPP), it is reasonably safe to stay in some favelas. Ask your hosts about the actual situation, though. See for example Zona Norte for a stay in the Complexo do Alemão.
Rio is vulnerable to epidemics of dengue fever, particularly during the late summer months of February and March. If an epidemic occurs, be sure to take the appropriate precautions by using insect repellant and, if you happen to be staying at a place with a balcony, make sure there is no standing water around. Use sunblockers, especially in your face and shoulders, to avoid having a bad experience with sunburns. Any common drug store sells a variety of sunblockers, and even cocoa butter lip sticks, to avoid having little cuts after dry lips.
Here is a list of medical clinics and hospitals in Rio de Janeiro that accept international traveler´s health insurance:
- The Tourist Doctor [dead link], Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 605/406, Copacabana, tel: 3596-1222. Rio de Janeiro's most trusted and experienced team of English speaking doctors, offering 24 hour care to you in the comfort of your own hotel or apartment rental. We accept most major traveler's insurance and health plans, and offer completed medical forms and receipts for those travelers with reimbursement policies. We are your family doctor away from home.
- Galdino Campos Clinic, Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 492, Copacabana, tel: 2548-9966. 24 hours, 7 days a week. All specialties. Accepts most traveler's insurance or health plans. Home-care visit at hotels and hostels also available.
It is important to note that while the following information may panic you and also make you question whether to go or not to Rio, most visitors to the city have a great time with no incidents.
Still, Rio can be dangerous. As a traveler, even if you don't leave the "Zona Sul" (which includes Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Gávea, Jardim Botânico, Flamengo, Laranjeiras, Botafogo, Urca) or Western Suburbs (Barra, Recreio), you may experience a palpable tension over security.
Generally, tourists (also called "gringos," which is not derogatory but means "outsiders") and teenagers are considered "easy" targets for criminals. Day-to-day living has also been affected by this. For example, regular banks all have fortress style security doors and armed security men. Rio can be a dangerous city and it is wise to follow these rules even if they seem exaggerated.
In order to fully enjoy your trip the traveler should pay attention to simple things. Avoid the downtown area, especially Saara, after dark. Although downtown is a relatively safe place during the day, after-dark all the people who work there have already gone home. If you are going to a theater or a show, it's all right; but do not wander in those dark streets by night. Go to Ipanema beach, all lighted and policed during the night, though even there is not entirely safe for tourists who look obviously like tourists.
On Sunday, most shops are closed and their security guards are absent, so the neighbourhood Centro is not safe in the daytime. Also, even the bigger streets in Copacabana are less safe after dark so the beach walk is probably the best option.
Should you find yourself being mugged, the normal advice applies:
Don't resist or do anything to aggravate the muggers. Try not to stare in their faces as they might think you are memorizing their appearance. Eyes to the ground is probably your best bet. Let them take anything they want (keep your arms limp). Afterwards, leave the scene quickly but calmly (don't run in panic screaming for the police).
In the morning, especially before the police arrive, if you are walking or jogging on, Copacabana should be considered unsafe. Even with people around, joggers are popular targets for mugging. If you plan on jogging make sure not to wear anything that may tempt a mugger (watch, iPod etc.) and if you can, wait until after 10AM.
When in downtown during the rush hour, be aware of pickpockets as in any other big city centre. The difference in Rio is that the pickpocket can often be a bit violent: one of them pushing you forward in the bus or to the ground in the street while another one takes your wallet and runs away. It's not that usual or as bad as it sounds, but try to avoid being in real danger by reacting strongly as these guys often operate in armed groups (2-5 people), some unnoticed by you.
In the area around Copacabana beach (and maybe in the city centre), the tourist should be aware of a shoe shining scam. The tourist will be approached by a shoeshiner and to his astonishment discover a large, dirty blot on his shoes (which is actually shoe polish or mustard but looks like quite something else). The tourist is typically shown to a chair and has his shoes or sandals cleaned in the best manner. Only after this service is rendered, the outrageous price of somewhere around R$1000 or more is revealed. At this point, muscular friends of the shoeshiner typically appear to "oversee" the completion of the transaction.
The subway is fairly safe, so it is recommended to use it if you want to go from one place to another. Although you may be used to taking the handy and good trains in Europe or even in North America to go across many places, you won't need to take a train in Rio. If you do, it can be a fairly nice trip to the suburbs or a chaotic journey to a bad neighborhood in a train where people sell all kinds of weird stuff, where everyone will look at you in a way you will feel you are an alien, about to be mugged. Buses on the South Zone are fairly safe as well, but, in the city centre, they can be quite crowded. Inside a bus, being mugged is always a threat: less so but still possible in the South and tourist zones. Always remember that Bus 174 movie. It happens so often that they don't even go to the news (only homicides or big cases where the police got involved such as this Bus 174 go to the news). In the subway, it is quite unlikely though, which is one extra point to the subway!
Don't walk around with lots of money in your pocket. ATM's are everywhere (prefer the ones inside shopping centres) and credit/debit cards are widely accepted. But don't walk around without any money: you may need something to give to the bad guys in case you are mugged. Not having money to give a mugger can be dangerous as they may get angry and resort to violence. An excellent idea is to buy a "capanga" (literally meaning bodyguard), that is, a small frontal unisex pouch, normally used to carry your wallet, checks, money and car keys.
Avoid wearing jewelry or other signs of wealth (iPods, fancy cell phones/mobiles, digital cameras, etc.) if possible, at any time of the day, as these attract attention. Thieves have been known to run past targets and tear off necklaces, rings, and earrings without stopping. Earrings are particularly dangerous as tearing them off often harms the owner.
There are around 700 favelas in the city and most of them can potentially be unsafe in Rio: and there is always one near you (by a couple of miles or just a few yards). These are easily recognized by their expansive brick walls, and are often on a hillside. The slums grew from being impoverished neighborhoods but are now large areas ruled by drug lords. If you want to keep your nice vision of Rio, you don't need to go there. However, some favelas are amazingly huge, and a new experience for some—there are some travel agencies who take people on tours there. If you want to go, pay one of those agencies. NEVER go to a favela by yourself or with an unknown guide. The tour operators have "safe-conduct pacts" with the local drug dealers. If you don't have one, you'll be in BIG trouble. You'll most likely be approached by the drug baron's guards and asked what you are doing there (and these guys typically don't speak English). If you don't have a good reason (and you probably don't), the consequences could be dire. Don't count on the police to help you, as they don't like to enter the favela either, except in special circumstances, though most likely they will check if you are carrying any drugs upon leaving the favela.
In Brazil, every state has two police forces: the Civil (Polícia Civil) and Military (Polícia Militar). Only the latter wear uniform (in Rio, it is navy blue). The city of Rio also has an unarmed Civil Guard, dressed in khaki. Policemen can usually be trusted, but corruption in Brazil is still rampant and a few officers may try to extort you or demand a little bribe. When this happens, it is usually very subtle, and the officer may typically say something about "some for the beer" (cervejinha). If you are not willing, refuse and ask for another officer. Don't ever try to bribe a policeman on your own—most of them are honest and you might end up in jail.
The local emergency dial number is 190.
At night, especially after traffic has died down, you may hear what sounds like fireworks and explosions. This is not as menacing as it sounds, though it is still indicative of somebody up to no good. These are often firecrackers set-off as signals in the favelas. It might mean that a drug shipment has arrived and is in-transit or that the police are making a raid into the favela. It is a signal to gang operatives who act as lookouts and surrogate police to be extra-vigilant. However, real shoot-outs may occur, especially on weekends. If you are on the street and you hear a shooting, find shelter in the nearest shop or restaurant.
For your safety, cross at the crosswalks, not closer to the corner, and watch for cars regardless of traffic lights.
Carjacking can be a threat too, especially if you are outside the tourist areas and after dark. It is perfectly acceptable (even if not exactly legal) not to stop at the traffic lights if there is nobody else on the street and you feel it's okay to go (if there are no other cars). You will see even police doing this. Some major motorways such as Linha Amarela (Yellow Line: connects the west zone(Barra da Tijuca) to the north zone - may be your way to Norte Shopping for example) and Linha Vermelha (Red Line - the main connection from the International Airport) are strongly avoided late at night. Both motorways are surrounded by favelas, so carjacking is usual and shoot-outs may occur between rival drug lords or between drug lords and the police. If you rent a car, be aware of all these issues. As a tourist, it may be better not to rent one anyway, as if you get lost and go to a bad neighbourhood (and again, there will always be one near you), you will most likely be in trouble.
If you want to go to a traditional escola de samba (samba school), Mangueira is a good place. This is close to a favela, so you should go with a guide accordingly. If you do have a trustful Brazilian friend that can take you, that's excellent. Ask the friend to take you to Maracanã as well to watch a football (soccer) match! Yet exercise great caution if you go by yourself especially if two of the local Rio teams are playing (Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo, and Vasco). These matches can be very exciting but also very dangerous especially if between Flamengo and Botafogo or Vasco. If it looks like the team for which the fans around you are cheering is losing, it is wise to leave the stadium before the match ends. You don't want to be in the middle of a very angry bunch of football fans when they all cram out of the stadium.
The Rio Times is the only English language news publication dedicated to the English speaking foreign community living and traveling in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They have been publishing weekly online since March 2009, covering Rio Politics, Business, Real Estate, Sports, Entertainment, Travel, as well as offer Classifieds and a daily Rio Nightlife Guide.
- Lavamaq's, Praia do Flamengo, 118 - Flamengo (two blocks south of Metro Catete), 21 2557-5965. Self-service laundry, $R25 wash and dry.
- Australia, Avenida Presidente Wilson, 231, Centro, 23rd Floor, ☎ , fax: .
- France, Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, 58, Centro, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Germany, Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, 58, Centro, ☎ , fax: .
- Italy, Avenida Presidente Antonio Carlos, 40 Castelo, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Japan, Praia do Flamengo, 200-10 andar, ☎ , fax: .
- United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Praia do Flamengo 284/2 andar, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande. Angra is surrounded by 365 islands, the largest being Ilha Grande, a pretty island and former penal colony with beautiful beaches and good hiking. Angra is 2–3 hours from Rio by car and it is a one-hour boat ride from there to Ilha Grande. The options to go to Ilha Grande are: by bus (Costa Verde) and then a ferry (CCR Barcas) or transfer door to island.
- Arraial do Cabo is a small town near Búzios. Its beaches have the most beautiful turquoise waters of Rio de Janeiro state. Beaches like Forno and Prainhas do Atalaia are surrounded by virgin lush green coastal vegetation and have clear blue waters similar to the Caribbean ones.
- Búzios is a small peninsula about three hours east of Rio. It has several beaches, lots of places to stay and an abundance of night clubs.
- Niteroi - The ferry between Rio and Niteroi, a city across the bay, is a pleasant and cheap trip (as of January 2013, R$ 4.50). There are a couple of kinds of boats, ranging from very cheap and slow (called barca) to fairly cheap and fast (called catamarã, catamaran). Niteroi does not have many tourist attractions, but it does have a wonderful unique view of Rio and an intriguing contemporary art museum , which looks like a flying saucer jutting out over the sea (designed by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer). Also, it has one of the state's most beautiful beaches, Itacoatiara, which can be reached by the bus numbered 38.
- Paraty - One hour south of Angra, this is a fully-conserved 18th-century colonial town by the ocean, hidden by tall jungle-covered mountains which used to be a hideout for pirates after the Portuguese ships; a must-see for people interested in History and Culture; also good for Rainforest hiking and kayaking.
- Paquetá - Though not exactly outside of Rio, because it is an island and can only be reached by a 70 minutes ferry ride, this district of Rio makes an excellent (and inexpensive) day trip. The island is an car-free zone, so travel is limited to bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. There's not a lot to do on this island, but the ferry ride is worth it.
- Petrópolis - In the mountains outside Rio. A good place to cool down when Rio becomes too hot. It's known as an "Imperial City", the place chosen by Brazil's Royalty to spend the summer. There's a nice imperial museum. The city also hosts one of Brazil's first breweries which can be visited.
- Praia do Abricó The best public naturist beach around Rio, located in Grumari, right after Prainha. Facilities and telephone service are quite limited, so plan ahead.
- Teresópolis - Another mountain town, near Petrópolis.
- Serra dos Órgãos -Nationalpark in the mountains west of Rio.
|Routes through Rio de Janeiro|
|Vitória ← Niterói ←||N S||→ Itaguaí → Ubatuba|
|Fortaleza ← Teresópolis ←||N S||→ Nova Iguaçu → São Paulo|