Rio de Janeiro, the sexiest destination you can find in all Brazil, is home to famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema, as well as one of the new wonders of the world, Christ the Redeemer Statue. Despite the breathtaking landscapes, the vibrant culture, and the delicious food that will surely be a highlight of your trip, there are things you should know beforehand to make sure your time in Rio goes as smoothly as possible.
Rio is famous for its high crime rate, so you should have that in mind when walking around. If you're in the main tourist areas, you shouldn't have much of a problem, but you should always be aware of your surroundings because petty theft happens all the time, even in touristy centers all over Rio. This is a perfect occasion to take out the appropriate travel insurance to protect your self from theft and so much more.
I know you will want to take pictures of the beautiful beach, the landscape, and those famous Burle Marx sidewalks. Sure, do that, but once you're done taking pictures, return to your hotel to drop off everything you don't need while on the beach. While the probability is low, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema are known for having gangs that run all over the beach grabbing bags and personal items without you even noticing or having the chance to stop them (which is not advisable, by the way). The best thing to do is enjoy the beach without any electronics or unnecessary money; that way you can go and dip in the water without any worries.
You should become familiar with Rio's neighborhoods before getting there so you can choose your accommodation in one of the tourist-friendly neighborhoods. Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon are generally safe and easy to get around. Santa Teresa, an artsy hilltop neighborhood, is great during the day but not the most convenient for transportation. While Lapa has most of Rio's nightlife and dance clubs, it can be dangerous at night.
And what about those colorful neighborhoods spilled over the mountains? Those are the favelas, and they should be avoided unless you're with a resident or visiting with an organized tour. While favelas are full of hard-working people, they still harbor drug lords and small-time criminals that use petty theft as their primary source of income.
Surprisingly, for such a popular destination for international travelers, not many Brazilians speak English or any language other than Portuguese. Try to learn the basic day-to-day phrases so you can go around and manage everything on your own, smoothly.
Brazil has an excellent credit payment system, so even if you're buying one piece of gum at the market, you might be able to pay for it with a credit card. This is convenient to avoid carrying too much cash in your pocket.
Rio is the "it" city of Brazil, so most internationally recognized events happen there like the Olympics in 2016 and Carnival, among others. During those days or weeks, the city will suddenly shift its prices and double or triple them in many cases. If you can, avoid Rio during those particular dates and save your money by going during the off-season.
If you have a smartphone and a 3G connection (pretty easy and cheap for travelers), you can download the app called BikeRIO to rent a bike and explore the city on the cheap. You can bike all along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, as well as its respective neighborhoods and the lake.
Everyone focuses on the city, but did you know there's a pretty impressive forest behind those beaches? That is the Tijuca Forest, which is the largest urban rainforest in the world. There you can go hiking and enjoy its many waterfalls and other natural features.
Rio is all about sexy bodies and showing off to people. It is common to see people walking in bikinis all over the city and even inside shops and restaurants. And, no matter how small your swimsuit is, you will feel overdressed compared to the local men and women who wear barely anything.
At night, though, while the city doesn't die, it is not as active as some people might expect. Instead of huge clubs and parties, Rio loves its cafes, lounges, and small nightclub scenes. For huge parties, you should visit Sao Paulo.
With such a unique landscape, you have to take your time to see the city and its surroundings from the air. There are helicopter flights that take passengers around The Christ statue and other important monuments and key points of the city, but they are expensive. If you're on a budget, instead head up to The Christ and Sugar Loaf Mountain to see the city from above and from two different points of view. You're going to love it!
Have you been to Rio? What other tips would you add?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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