Santa Tereza's colonial architecture and antique tram
make an interesting trip away from the sweltering lowlands,
and the area's bohemian shops have great crafts for sale.
The Tijuaca Rainforest Reserve in central Rio has hiking
trails and waterfalls far away from Rio's traffic and urban
For a more adventurous trip, hang gliding and parasailing
enthusiasts can meet at Pepino Beach where flyboys
can be hired for tandem rides over the southern beaches. Surfies
can enjoy some of the best beaches in the world here and renting
a board is easy and cheap.
So much is packed into Rio De Janiero that the city resembles
a tourist minister's dream and whether it's water sports,
shopping or just plain people watching, Rio has it all.
Brazil's currency is the Real (pronounced 'Hey-Ow').
For years the Real was pegged 1:1 to the US dollar making
the country extremely expensive for budget travellers. Since
devaluation in the late 1990's, travelling in Brazil has become
a bargain, though the country's tourist capital, Rio, will
quickly drain you reserves.For up to date currency information, check the Currency
There are numerous banks all over Rio; those located in Centro
will have better rates than those found in the tourist areas
of Copacabana and Ipanema. Euros, Pounds and Dollars are the
most commonly accepted currencies in Brazil. Bringing a reasonable
amount of your money in cash is a good idea but the majority
of your funds should be in traveller's cheques and credit
cards (photocopy these, bringing one copy with you and leaving
one at home with family). It's wise to be very careful when
leaving with large amounts of cash from banks as pickpockets
often frequent the streets outside. The same goes for cash
machines, which can be easily found throughout the city.
Accommodation will take up most of a traveller's budget while
staying in Rio. Low end rooms are priced between $15 and $30
per night. The high season runs between December and February
with Carnival pushing all hotel prices up the most; travellers
on a very tight budget should carefully consider whether to
visit at this time. There are plenty of mid and upper level
hotels available, especially in Ipanema and Copacabana, costing
between $50 and $100 per night, though some five star hotels
can cost much more.
Simple meals cost a few dollars per person with plenty of
snacks available at all hours of the day; cheap supermarkets
also are a way to save money on food.
ntrance fees to the main sights like Cristo Redentor and
Sugarloaf are pricey but not outrageous. There are many
expensive activities in Rio ranging from helicopter rides
to hang gliding over the city's southern beaches, costing
from around $100 per person.
Most visitors stay in Rio's southern zones, where the beaches
are just a few blocks away. If staying further away, several
modes of transport make it easy to get around:
A subway system operates in Rio, with a line extending all
the way to within three blocks of Copacabana beach (though
not all the way to Ipanema). It's cheap to travel, easy to
navigate, and air conditioned all year round. It's also a
good way to get to the neighborhoods of Flamengo and
Botofogo without having to navigate the buses.
Nine out of ten buses going south from Centro will take you
to Copacabana Beach. If staying in Ipanema and you
want to get to Copacabana or v.v., frequent buses cruise by
clearly marked with signs in the front right hand side of
the windshield. Passengers board from the rear, and pay the
fare before slipping through turnstiles into the cabin. Rush
hours should be avoided for serious traffic jams and the elevated
risk of razor artists cutting into bags.
To visit the Cristo Redentor, or Sugarloaf mountain,
it's advisable to take a cab arranged by your hotel to avoid
the pickpockets that prowl the bus lines. Taxis are cheap
and can be flagged down from anywhere on major streets and
intersections. Drivers sometimes only speak Portuguese so
it helps to learn some phrases to get around. Taxis are also
the best way to get to Rio's two airports, Santos Dumont,
where most of the shuttle flights to Sao Paulo operate, and
Galeao (Antonio Carlos Jobim) International Airport
where all transcontinental domestic and long haul international
Although Rio isn't really a walking city, the beaches of Copacabana
and Ipanema are fronted by excellent pathways paved with distinctive
black and white wave patterned tiles. They make excellent
places to grab a fruit drink and people watch, but at night
they can be dangerous along with many of the quieter streets
around the major hotels.
Rio's last remaining tram - or gondino - runs from
the centre of town and takes you back in time to the colonial
district of Santa Tereza. If you sit, its cheap, but if you
hang off the sides, like a lot of the local kids, its free.
The tram can be boarded in Centro.
By funicular train
While the ride is expensive, the train offers fantastic views
on the way up to the two thousand three hundred feet Corcovado
Mountain, topped with the world famous Christ statue that
overlooks the city.
The people of Rio are a microcosm of Brazil's ethnically
diverse population. The city's streets and beaches are packed
with the vibrant mixture of African and European ethnicity
that make Cariocas among the world's most beautiful people.
While most people profess to be Roman Catholic, Rio's society
is an open and tolerant in the country with large artsy, bohemian
scenes in music, design and fashion.
Brazilian food is as diverse and as varied as the ethnic
groups that have settled there; dishes are often a fusion
of ingredients reflecting the African, Asian and southern
European homelands of her people. Churrascerias (barbeque
meat restaurants) are popular, with fixed prices for as much
as you can eat it pays to arrive hungry. Waiters will arrive
every few moments with more and more meat and can be added
to a large salad bar. Buffet restaurants are popular in Brazil
with Rio's middle class, and numerous restaurants in the city
serve these meals that are sold by weight: just pick up a
plate, fill it as high as you want and the scale by the cashier
will print your bill.
Sweet cool and refreshing squeezed fruit shakes are commonly
available at Rio's beaches and along the avenues a few blocks
back from the sea. A popular local 'energy' drink is Acai,
a rainforest bean that is ground up filtered and drunk ice
cold. While it looks like coffee grinds it has a delicious
taste and can give you a boost of energy for you to tackle
those waves at Arpeador or to get back to your hotel on the
crowded bus system.
Portugese is the official language of Brazil, although
English is widely understood in the major tourist areas
and business areas in Rio. Learning some phrases in Portuguese
is a good idea, especially to break the ice with locals when
going out at night, and to help in bargaining in the city's
many outdoor craft markets and navigating the city with buses
The weather in Rio De Janiero is warm all year round. Situated
in the tropical South Atlantic, the seasons here are reversed
from the northern hemisphere; winters tend to be cool and
dry, but not cold, with some rain and storms, lasting from
June to September. In the summer heat from November to March
the humidity is fierce and during this time every Carioca
heads for the beach for relief, especially at weekends. Drinking
plenty of fluids is essential to avoid dehydration and slapping
on sunscreen to avoid getting burned by the strong sun.
Carioca's are extremely casual when it comes to dressing,
and they love to wear as little as possible, especially in
the summer and when hitting the beaches. To be comfortable
in the humid climate and to avoid sticking out as a tourist,
t-shirts, shorts, and sandals are perfect for the beach and
walking around. Few places have dress codes, except for the
city's churches where short clothing is frowned upon, so practically
Thefts and safety
Safety in Rio is an issue most travellers are aware about
before they get to Brazil; in fact, many arrive with money
hidden in their shoes and an elaborate system of hiding valuables
to ensure they don't get mugged the minute they step through
Rio has in recent years improved its reputation in regards
to safety but crime does still exist here and careful attention
should be paid on all the cities beaches; when travelling
to Ipanema or Copacabana its smart to bring just a towel,
a bottle of sunscreen and enough cash to get back to your
hotel. Care must also be taken at all the cities tourist sites
(including the buses and taxis that go to and from them) and
everywhere on Sundays, when police presence in districts like
Centro is limited. Thieves often call tourists 'filet mignon'
for their easily swiped cash and cameras. The most important
thing is to think carefully about bringing expensive cameras
when sightseeing (disposable cameras make great alternatives)
and dress down where ever you go; Brazilians wear shorts and
t-shirts all year round and it pays to blend in.
Most nationalities require a visa before arrival; these rules
generally apply to citizens of countries that don't allow
Brazilian nationals visa free entry. British passport holders
don't need a visa to Brazil while US and Australian passport
holders do. All visitors must have at least six months validity
left on their passports. Work visas are harder to get and
an invitation letter is required to get one issued.
Places to visit:
As Rio's business district, Centro offers little more than
a place to change traveller's cheques or as a jumping off
point for the rickety tram to Santa Tereza. During business
hours it's worth a wander to see where most Carioca's work,
and to see the ornate Opera House, though its best
avoided on Sunday when it's an easy place to be relieved of
This is the center of Rio, whether you live in a favela or
a luxury condo in Ipanema; and on summer days and weekends,
the beach is packed with people sunbathing, rollerblading,
playing futvolley, or just posing in the white sand. The people
watching afforded here puts most other world beach hotspots
like Venice Beach in Los Angeles or Bondi Beach in Sydney
to shame; the name of the game in Copacabana is to show as
much flesh as you can with as little lycra as possible so
ladies - be prepared to get waxing!
Copacabana's ritzier elder sister, Ipanema beach spawned one
of the most iconic songs of the 1960's written to immortalize
the beautiful women who frequent it. The waves are stronger
here than in Copacabana, the bodies are more perfectly tanned,
buffed and primped, therefore its no wonder that this is the
preferred beach to the super rich in Rio and the most beautiful
ones at that.
As the world's largest tropical rainforest set within a major
city, Tijuaca is like the lungs of Rio, offering a cool green
respite to the crowded hot concrete jungle surrounding the
preserve. Hiking trails are so numerous that people can still
get lost for days here and its unwise to hike in the park
alone, especially in the early and late hours when theft can
be a problem. Tijuaca is a fantastic place to experience the
beauty of the South Atlantic rainforest that once stretched
all along the coast south of Rio de Janeiro.
Originally settled in as a way for the city's rich to escape
a cholera epidemic gripping the coastal lowlands around Rio,
Santa Tereza affords a sweeping view of the city, from the
glinting roofs of the favelas to the gleaming skyscrapers
of Centro to the out-stretched arms of Jesus the Redeemer
in between. The colonial enclave was once the home of the
great train robber Ronnie Biggs, and is now re emerging
as one of the city's trendier neighbourhoods.
Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
As one of the world's top five iconic spots, Cristo Redentor
is not to be missed by any visitor to Rio. During the day,
the view of the city's bays, mountains neighbourhoods and
beaches seem to stretch forever, while at night, the tiny
platform seems to float above the city like a spacecraft hovering
above the city's twinkling lights. No matter where you stay
or visit in Rio, the statue and the trademark outstretched
arms are always visible, through gaps in buildings and crowned
on top of rain-forested hills.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)
The two stage cable car system that connects the smooth limestone
monoliths was featured in a chase scene in the 1979 James
Bond film Moonraker. The bubble glass tram cars afford
magnificent views as you glide up to the top, so keep that
camera handy. From the lower station helicopter flights take
off for scenic views of Rio, as small jets rush past to land
at Santos Dumont Airport. A full afternoon is well worth putting
aside for visiting Sugarloaf, especially in late afternoon
as the city glows in the rays of the setting sun.
Almost one third of Rio's inhabitants live in the nearly 500
slum favellas that surround the city. Immortalized for the
drug-fuelled violence in films such as City of God, the favellas
can be a dangerous and risky place to visit. But tours now
exist for travellers who want to see how these people live,
most of whom have immigrated to the city from Brazil's impoverished