Rio de Janeiro Tourism - A Quick Overview Rio de Janeiro tours, Rio de Janeiro hotels, Rio de Janeiro tourist attractions, Rio de Janeiro travel, Rio de Janeiro tourism, Rio de Janeiro hotels, Rio de Janeiro restaurants, Rio de Janeiro city tours, Rio di Janeiro Rio de Janeiro Tourism - A Quick Overview Rio de Janeiro Tourism - A Quick Overview
Rio de Janeiro is a large city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laidback beach culture and its annual carnival.
Rio de Janeiro is largely divided into four regions:
It is not an uncommon mistake to point out Rio as Brazil's capital, as in fact it was until 1960. Beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, the Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, the stadium of Maracanã and Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) are all well-known sights of what the inhabitants call the "wonderful city" (cidade maravilhosa), and also the first images to pop up in someone's mind, along with the Carnaval celebration.
Sadly, most people also know Rio for its violence and crime. The drug lords and the slums or favelas are the tip of very old social problems. The favelas are areas of poor quality housing, slums usually located on the city's many mountain slopes.
The inhabitants of Rio, called cariocas, are known for being easy-going and friendly, in contrast to the more reserved citizens of other cities like Sao Paulo.
Rio is one of the country's major transportation hubs, seconded only by São Paulo.
Distance from some capitals:
Taxis, though considerably more expensive, are also a convenient way to reach the tourist areas.
From the US there are non stop flights to Rio de Janeiro only from Miami with American Airlines and from Atlanta with Delta Airlines. From New York, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and most of the USA, you have to make a stop in Miami or in Sao Paulo to get to Rio.
The best seasons to travel to Rio de Janeiro with low airfares are from February (after Carnaval) to May and from August to November. Tickets from New York, for instance, can cost as low as U$699.00 including taxes. Buy your flights far in advance, do not wait till the last minute hoping to get a US$300 round trip ticket.
Rio's glorious Central Station, or Central do Brasil, made famous by a movie of the same name, serves mostly local commuter lines (SuperVia ), so it's unlikely that you'll arrive through here. It's worth a visit just to see it, though.
The long-distance bus depot, Rodoviária Novo Rio, is located in the North Zone's São Cristovão neighborhood. Taxis and 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 off the bus station. The coaches connect the station to the city center and main hotel areas of Copacabana and Ipanema. Bus companies include :
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:
Ferries (barcas) connect neighboring Niteroi to Rio de Janeiro and arrive at Praça XV, in the city center.
A cab is one of the best ways to move around Rio. Most of the tours will cost around R$15, and the car can usually hold four people. You can ask a cab for a city tour, and arrange a fixed price (maybe around US$20). The main taxi companies include Central de Taxi, Ouro Taxi and Yellow Taxi. After getting into the taxi, check if the taximeter has been started. If not, ask the taxi driver to do so. You may be ripped off by some taxi drivers. Avoid the blue, green, and white taxis as they tend to charge considerably more for the same ride.
Traffic within some parts of Rio can be daunting, but a car may be the best way to reach distant beaches like Grumari, and that can be an extra adventure. In Rio, most road signals are placed after the curve you were supposed to take, and do not help unless you already know how to go there. Buy a map, and have fun.
Buses are a cheap and nice way to get around by day. By night they are more scarce but you can ride them anyway. Buses usually cost R$ 1.90, but some buses with air conditioning charge higher fares. Keep an eye out for pickpockets when the bus is crowded, and don't be surprised if your driver goes a little faster than you'd like.
Bus lines with a * 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 tour. Ask the driver, he won't mind.
Buses with air-conditioning will have a little higher fare than those without.
The Metrô Rio subway system is very useful for reaching areas from Copacabana to Downtown, although the rest of Zona Sul is not particularly well-served and it closes after midnight (it's open 24 hours during carnival). The air-conditioned subway is clean, comfortable, and quick, and in 2006 it received bilingual Portuguese-English signs and maps to make the life of millions of foreign tourists easier. There are two main lines. Line 1 has service to Copacabana, the Saara district, and much of Downtown, as well as Tijuca, where you can visit Corcovado. Line 2 stops at the zoo, soccer stadium, and State University. The two lines intersect at Estácio.
Recently the last wagon of each train has been marked women-only with a pink window sticker, in order to avoid potential harrassment in crowded trains. Some men, however, are still to get used to this separation and many women, who are accostumed 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 and stay off the pink-marked wagons.
Rio's beaches are undoubtedly one of the main reasons why travellers visit the city. Copacabana and Ipanema are by far the most famous, but there are many others, each with a distinct character. Travellers should be aware that most beaches are polluted, and bathing is not advisable in any of the non-oceanic beaches (except for those in the island of Paqueta). The beaches that are often proper for swimming are Copacabana, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, and Grumari. Some of the most noticeable are (ordered from North to South):
Still the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnival. 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 Carnival, 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 Carnival. You will find only a small number of tourists here, and I promise 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 1-2 A.M. 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 is in the process of building a complex of buildings where many of the samba schools are expected to move 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.
The following is a list of some of the samba schools:
The newest addition to the municipality's attempt to make money off of tourists is the Samba City.
Rio was the cradle of three of Brazil 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, E-Music, 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.
And here's a summary of Rio Clubs and Nightlife
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.
Hang Gliding and Paragliding
Hang Gliding in Rio de Janeiro started in the mid 70.s and quickly proved to be perfectly suited for this town due to its geography with steep mountains encountering the Atlantic ocean which provides excellent take off locations and great landing zones on the beach. Operators include:
If you have the money the following operators give you panoramic flights in helicopters:
Favela (Shantytown) tours
The following operators offer tours of Rocinha:
Pan American Games
Many tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro as well as some urban facilities such as the subway are being revamped for the Pan American Games that will take place in 2007, when the city expects to draw a lot additional tourists.
Always bargain; this can lower prices considerably. 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 10 especially in highly informal markets such as Saara or on the beach.
Great bargains can be had on Brazilian-made clothing, as well as some European imports. Imported electronics are insanely expensive due to protective import duties. For example, you will find digital cameras sell for about twice what they sell for in 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. Spanish is likely to do you much less good than you may think, but if you know Italian, you may find it of more use than you might expect. Don't be afraid to resort to writing numbers, pictures, or resorting to pantomime. (I had a hilarious incident where I was trying to ask for a shirt with a picture of a bird, and instead got directions to the airport.) Clerks will often tap out prices for you on a calculator.
Rio de Janeiro lacks little in choice when it comes to food - 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.
Don't miss Brazil's national dish, feijoada! For connoisseurs of meat, nothing beats a good rodizio.
Southern churrasco has also claimed its stake (and steak) in Rio. Marius has arguably the best rodizio in town. Porcão has 5 restaurants around Rio, whereas Carretão has a good and cheap(er) rodizio.
Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan, and sushi has become widely popular in Rio too.
Travellers with fatter pockets may also splash out a bit at the Dias Ferreira street in Leblon, Rio's up-and-coming restaurants row.
While Rio's fancy hotels are along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, there are lots of small and cheap, but clean, hotels around Flamengo and Catete. Rio also has a large selection of apart-hotels, which provide apartment-style accommodations with kitchen facilities.
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.
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.
Private condominium apartments can also be rented short-term at excellent 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.
Prices for most accommodation can more than triple during New Year's and Carnival. Those are very busy periods and booking well in advance is recommended. Also, during those events, 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. Other than those, the busiest month is January - summer holidays in Brazil.
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, Botafogo or another area, there are many options.
In order to fully enjoy your trip the traveller 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 Copacabana beach, all lighted and policed during the night, though it's not entirely safe for tourists that look obviously like tourists at any time.
Avoid wearing jewelry or other signs of wealth if possible 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.
Favelas are a big problem in Rio. These slums grew from being impoverished neighborhoods but are now large areas ruled by drug dealers. If you want to keep your nice vision of Rio, you don't need to go there. However, they 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, never go to a favela by yourself, or with a unknown guide. The tour operators have "peace treaties" with the local drug dealers. If you don't have one, you'll be in trouble.
At night, especially after traffic has died-down you may hear what sounds like 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.
Some drivers in Rio are certifiably insane, and seem to stop for nothing. In particular, they will go whizzing around corners without even slowing down. The crosswalks are located some considerable distance from corners for a good reason. For your safety, cross at the crosswalks - not closer to the corner - and watch for cars regardless of traffic lights.
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