The city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been a popular tourist destination since the days of the Portuguese Empire, and it’s still one of the most visited cities in South America today. With its miles of stunning beaches, natural beauty, and unique culture, you can easily understand why so many people are drawn to this destination. Whether you’re traveling with your family or planning a romantic getaway with your significant other, Rio De Janerio will be sure to exceed all of your expectations.
Most travelers fly into Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG). Located on Governador Island, and just 12 miles from downtown Rio de Janeiro, it’s one of South America’s busiest airports. If you haven’t already, plan ahead to ensure a good time to fly. Galeão’s many cancellations and delays around its peak travel periods like carnival and Christmas/New Year’s Eve are no good if you can avoid them.
Once you’ve arrived, no worries about transportation. It’s easy to get around by taxi or bus when in town, but for longer distances it’s best to rent a car. Travelers should note that some traffic laws are different from back home, so brush up on Brazilian road rules before your trip and always drive defensively. Buses are often full of pickpockets who take advantage of sleeping passengers and non-existent seat belts. Lastly, don’t forget your passport!
Getting Around the City
While Rio de Janeiro is known for its famous carnivals and samba dancing, it’s also known for being far from budget-friendly. If you’re traveling on a budget and want to see as much of Rio as possible, try using public transportation; not only will it save you money on gas, but with all of the different bus lines and subway stops, it can also take you most places that you might want to go.
Another option is to stay on one of Rio’s famous beaches, like Copacabana or Ipanema. The beach areas are often more expensive than other parts of town, but you can usually get a cheap meal by visiting one of Brazil’s famous pastelarias, which are open-air bakeries that sell cheap baked goods, such as churros and empanadas. You could also save money by eating your meals at home or buying groceries at supermarkets; if you stay in a hostel or hotel with kitchen facilities you could easily cook for yourself during your time in Rio.
Another way to save money is by using some of Rio’s free attractions, such as Sugarloaf Mountain. To take advantage of these free attractions, simply visit one of Rio’s many tourist offices, where you can get maps and guides on all of your options. Some popular tourist destinations include Jardim Botanico and Pedra do Leme, with its views over Ipanema beach; or you can ride one of Rio’s famous cable cars, taking you up Sugarloaf Mountain. As an alternative, you could also take the more adventurous way down by way of one of its famous toboggan slides.
Where to Stay
The most adventurous travelers tend to stay at hostels for convenience. To explore famous carnivals or watch world-class samba dancers and football players, you’ll want to be near Sambadrome de Samba, Maracanã Stadium and other famous sites. The location of your accommodations depends on what you’re looking for out of your trip. If you plan on experiencing some of Rio’s legendary samba dancing and football matches, staying close by will be helpful. However, if visiting historic churches and museums is more your speed, choosing accommodations farther away could mean better sleep as well as easier transportation around town.
If you choose to stay at a hostel, it’s easy to meet other travelers while still enjoying low costs. Hostels typically offer shared rooms or dormitories and are sometimes co-ed. However, if you’re traveling with your significant other or need added privacy, booking private accommodations is an option as well. Booking apartments is convenient because they come fully furnished and have kitchens where you can prepare simple meals. You may be tempted by an all-inclusive resort, but be aware that these can be pricey, usually cost more than a private apartment and don’t include airfare into their prices.
The Best Activities in Rio
There are lots of things to do in Rio de Janeiro, from hiking through lush forests, surfing along famous beaches and swimming with dolphins to heading out on boat trips or walking around lively city streets. The most memorable parts of traveling aren’t just what you do, but who you share them with and how you get there. In Rio, it’s common for groups of families and friends to take rides down winding rivers on paddle boats or explore by bike or foot. If that sounds like your cup of tea – or if trekking up a mountain is more your speed – there’s plenty of great stuff to see and do while you soak up all that culture and charm. There are tons of amazing activities when traveling through Brazil’s vibrant second largest city!
There are plenty of adventurous activities you can enjoy while you’re visiting Rio de Janeiro. If spending time on gorgeous beaches is more your thing, there are boat tours and paddle boats that will transport you from beautiful beach to stunning beach all along some of South America’s best coastlines.
And of course, there’s also some of South America’s best water sports available right on those same beaches. If you’d rather explore inland, you can take easy day trips or overnight adventures into one of Brazil’s many forests – perhaps hike through Tijuca National Park and search for signs of wildlife or climb up Sugarloaf Mountain and gaze out over that gorgeous skyline. The choices for things to do are plentiful and almost everything seems safe, so keep that in mind, but some options might not be – still have fun!
Where To Eat
If you’re planning on seeing every last bit of that beautiful city, it’s a good idea to make sure you keep your energy up. We recommend finding a restaurant or two that is famous for their amazing food before you go on your travels; that way, when exhaustion sets in after getting lost in Cidade Maravilhosa, you know exactly where to go for dinner. After all, not many people can say they’ve eaten at one of Brazil’s most popular restaurants during their trip.
Some of our favorite places include Portas Do Sol, Zazá Bistrô and Al Pao de Queijo. These restaurants are all local favorites that shouldn’t be missed during your trip. If you can make it out for lunch or dinner at least once during your stay, we highly recommend it! Each place offers an excellent culinary experience that is sure to please even if you’re not big on seafood like most Brazilians are.
You can check out reviews and make reservations for these places before you go. Just remember, at Portas Do Sol, there is only outdoor seating, so it’s important that you dress warmly enough! Of course, if eating isn’t your thing—or you want to save your appetite for later—you might want to spend some time hanging out on Copacabana Beach or exploring Corcovado during your stay. It’s a spectacularly beautiful place and well worth checking out.
Tips For Visiting Brazil
Before you book your flight, make sure you check out our travel guide. It includes all of our favorite tips for visiting Brazil. If you aren’t familiar with South America, be sure to prepare yourself before landing in one of its most populous countries! For example, know what time zone it is and if you’ll be able to exchange your currency. In Brazil, the real (BRL) and the U.S. dollar are both accepted, but not every store will take your money.
Another tip for visiting Brazil is to expect delays and cancellations. More often than not, you’ll experience some sort of delay, so it’s best to leave extra time for travel. If you’re flying into or out of Sao Paulo Airport (GRU), be prepared for your check-in and security lines to be ridiculously long. It also can’t hurt to learn a few key Portuguese phrases before you go—even if it’s just basic greetings like obrigado (thank you) and por favor (please). You may want to give yourself extra time at border crossings due to queues; they sometimes reach 100+ people long! The safety situation in certain parts of Brazil is volatile, particularly when there are scheduled demonstrations in major cities.