Rio De Janeiro! Everytime I hear that I can’t help singing “In Rio” from the cartoon “Rio”. Brazil was just meant to be a stopover, it was the cheapest flight home as I was ending my journey in South America from Bolivia and flights were about two times the price as one from Rio. So I decided to hop on a local plane from Sucre to Rio and spend a week in the city before heading home. I felt like I would need some beach time after the frozen altiplano in Uyuni and man am I happy I made that choice! Kiwi caipirinhas anyone?
July is wintertime in Rio but you could have fooled me, it was a balmy 27 degrees, brilliant sunshine and plenty of chicas in thongs strutting down the promenade. I have to say I love cities that have a world class beach on their doorstep, and it’s not just beaches Rio has to offer. Like hiking? well they just happen to have a national park on their back door love rock climbing? No problem, just head over to Pedro da Gavea a mere meters from town! It’s almost too good to be true!
Favela Rochina Image by Alosba
Now don’t let the stories of armed robbery and blatant prostitution scare you off, Rio is a big city in a big country known for its poverty and favelas, but if you are smart you don’t have to be afraid. I personally found myself on the back of a stranger’s mopod getting dropped off in the wrong part of a favela and having to walk a hour down the hillside back into town. Besides the children playing with razors and the dogs looking like they wanted a chunk out of my calf I actually felt pretty safe.
Soooo lets go over some of the highlights of this awesome city! From the airport to the beach and everything in between, let’s get our Samba on!
How to get there
There are two airports in Rio, the local and the International. Both are fairly easy to get to with one being about 40 min closer. Unfortunately you will most likely be flying into the International airport Rio Galeao, as opposed to the smaller and closer Santos Dumont. However don’t despair it is still easy to get into the city and I have done all the work in finding the best way to do so!
I got the Real Airport Bus #2018 from outside the arrivals hall it cost me BRL 10 (EUR 2.7) to get to Santos Dumont Airport which was the closest stop to where I was staying. It goes on to the Central Bus Station, downtown Rio de Janeiro, and the southern parts of the city along the beach, ending up at Alvorada Bus Terminal in Barra da Tijuca. Timings: Buses run every 30 mins 0530-2230.
There are two public buses that go into the city centre as well Bus #324 and #326, but I didn’t take these, they are cheaper but will also take allot longer.
If you want to take a Taxi or better yet a Uber (safer in Brazil) it will cost you about BRL 50-90 (EUR 13-25) depending on the time of the day
This link: How to get to Rio De Janeiro airport has allot of useful information.
By the way the metro in Rio is AMAZING! so easy to get around and cheap as well, this means you don’t need to stay at the very expensive beachfront in order to get to the beach easily!
This link has great info on getting around by subway.
A one way ticket is BRL 3.7 (EUR 1)
Where to stay
Now this is a tough one. There are so many fabulous areas to stay! It really depends on budget but there are a few key touristic areas to stay in Rio such as Santa Teresa, Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. This link: Ten best neighbourhoods in Rio show the main distinctions between the areas to stay in.
Chances are you’ve heard of Copacabana, the famous stretch of white sand and blue water, but personally I preferred the Ipanema beach area. Botafogo also has a lesser known beach which is beautiful as well just without the stunning view of Pedra da Gavea. Gloria is where I stayed, it is a quieter neighbourhood with rambling steps and leafy trees but walking distance to the famous Lapa party district a place that I guarantee you you will not want to miss!
There are hundreds of Hostels in Rio, with the ones at the beach areas being the more expensive ones. However I am going to shamelessly brag about what I considered one of the best hostels I have stayed in! Drum roll please…… Discovery Hostel, is one of the best discoveries I have made! I paid BRL 54 (EUR 15) for a six bed dorm and it included one of the best and most generous breakfasts I have had. Staff are amazing and it’s easy to get information on tours and travel information. The Gloria metro station is also just a short walk away. And you can also walk to the Lapa party street, and the Largo do Machado Square to buy your tickets and get the van to the Christ the Redeemer statue, which I will explain in detail later on in this post.
Image by Barbara
What to do
Oh wow where do I begin? There is too much to do in Rio and I cannot possibly do the subject justice. But I will at least give some of the highlight of my trip. Other than the obvious lazing on a beach drinking caipirinhas.
Dois Irmaos (two brothers mountain)
So this was one of the highlights of my trip and also very easy to navigate by oneself. YOu dont need to book a tour to climb the two brothers mountain just follow the steps that I will explain now. I got a bit lost doing this so I’m going to try to be very clear.
First you need to get to the entrance of Vidigal Favela, don’t be put off by the name during the day its perfectly safe. I got a Uber with some new friends I met at a hostel to the end of the road leading up there but you can take any bus from Ipanema or Leblon saying “Vidigal” on it. The bus stops directly in front. From here, there are two ways: the short and the long. For the shortcut (closed Mondays), take the white vans going up the hill (costs BRL 2.50) or get a more thrilling mototaxi, which will be hanging around by the road leading up (costs BRL 5-10 depending on how you bargain) and get off at Campo do Football (a football field). You can also walk which I did on the way down. You’ll see a door right where the van/moto drops you, enter and cross the football field and when you exit the door across the field, you’ll be on the trail. However, the field is locked on Mondays and you can’t go around.
So…For the long way to get there, I am taking the liberty of quoting a fellow blogger since I did not personally take this route. “Take a motortaxi and tell them “Alto Vidigal”. This is the name of the hostel at the top. They will drop you off at the top of the main road and point you to the right for Alto Vidigal. Instead, continue upwards on the wide road, and ask people you see for “Trilha Dois Irmaos”. Everyone should gladly show you how to get there, and don’t be alarmed when they point you to a narrow path
way between several homes- that’s right! Follow it until the homes end and you’re on the trail.”
Once you get to the trail you simply follow it up through the jungle until you get to the amazing view from the top, enjoy its totally worth it!
Carioca Aqueduct and Lapa steps
These are some of the easiest sites to visit and it can be allot of fun to wander up the steps reading the different tiles from all around the world! You can get the metro to the stop cinelandia from where it is walking distance to both the aquaduct and the steps.
This is also around the location for the famous street parties in Lapa. check out this link on tripadvisor calling in the best street party in the world! It has street food bars and music all night. I personally had such an amazing time I have nothing but good things to say about this area.
Christ the Redeemer
There are many different ways to get to the Christ the Redeemer statue, personally I took the van from the square outside the Largo do Machado subway station. It was walking distance from my hostel and cheaper than the train or group tour. The van goes all the way to the top and back, and it is the same service you have from Praça do Lido in Copacabana. Tickets are sold at a ticket booth at the subway station which is open every day 08:00h-17:00h. the price varies by season BRL 61-74 (EUR 16-20). To make sure that you get your seats on busy days you can book in advance online, just use this link to get to the site. It’s available in English and is straightforward to use (you can pick up the voucher at a collection place of your choice).
View from the top
I went in the afternoon and it was packed! If you want to have more space for yourself then go in the morning. Be prepared as well to wait a long time to get the bus down, I had to wait in line almost a hour.
Personally I didn’t do the Sugarloaf mountain, I was running low on cash and did the free two brothers hike instead and I really couldn’t beat that view. However If you want to know how to do this tour then this link has great instructions on how to visit sugarloaf in Rio. It is a very popular thing to do so I am leaving it on my list.
Another thing I would recommend if you have the time and money is a Favela tour, I explored the Favelas on my own and found some of the best street food deep in the shanties, but to get a better insight into the way these places run you can do a organised tour. These can usually be booked via your hostel and you can read some reviews here. Of course check out the beaches and try as many flavours of caipirinhas as you can (passionfruit and kiwi are high up on my list) if you buy them from the vendors at the beach they will give you an extra shot or two if you ask them to make it a little stronger… Of course the nightlife and carnival season is a whole other story but we have to leave some surprises for you guys, go to Rio and Paaaaaaarty!!!!
Image by Leonadro