Rio De Janeiro is an incredibly diverse and captivating city. Wedged between the mountains and the ocean, Rio sprawls and winds its way through the valley. The city is charming and energetic and the people match their city’s enthusiasm. From internationally iconic sights to ivory beaches, Rio is bursting with personality. We’re going to help you explore every aspect that this great city has to offer with our Rio De Janeiro City Guide.
How to Get There
International flights to Rio can be very expensive. Flights from the US generally start at $1500USD return and takes 14 hours from LA. Try to get some deals or use any points you have accrued. The trip is well worth it however! The airport is about 15kms north of the city centre, and not an expensive taxi trip.
Where to Stay
You can’t go wrong in this epic city, however there are a few suburbs of the city that are safe, tourist orientated and close to all major attractions:
Copacabana Beach – an obvious choice. Super close to everything, imagine waking up every morning and gazing out across the ocean? You’ll love how central it is and the energy that this world famous beach has.
Botafogo – this is a great tourist area, and is close to everything. It’s more popular with budget travellers, with excellent wining and dining options. It’s a very safe area and you can enjoy the hustle and bustle with the locals
Urca – this neighbourhood is perched on the side of a hill, just underneath Sugarloaf Mountain. Wake up every morning and gaze across the city, and down towards the water. Very close to many attractions and easy to get to.
Ipanema Beach – this beach is very popular with the tourists, for very good reasons. This is the perfect people watching opportunity. The glorious white sands and quality hotel choices will be the perfect home for your Rio adventure.
Leblon – this area is just south of Ipanema Beach and is much more family orientated. A beautiful beach which is popular with the locals.
What To See
“At the Copa, Copacabana – the hottest spot north of Havana” (we apologise in advance for getting this song stuck in your head!). A visit to Rio De Janeiro is not complete without digging your toes into one of the world’s most famous beaches. Stroll along this ivory cove, admiring the sunshine, the hotels and that beautiful water. The beach itself is massive, spanning almost 5kms and is actually very wide, providing heaps of space to spread out and relax on the sand. There is a plethora of vendors along the beach, selling everything from hair braiding, food, drinks, jewellery, tours and crafts. The wide beach is separated from the hotel strip by a busy fur lane road. Along this road, there are hotels, theatres, shopping and more restaurants than grains of sand on the beach.
Tip: Be safe. There have been known to be hold ups of tourists (and locals!) on the beach. It’s a haven for theft – as tourists leave all of their belongings on the beach while they swim, and find them long gone when they return. Try to leave everything at home, but if you do want to bring along your keys or a phone, pop them into a plastic bags and actually bury it in the sand – under your towel. That’s the best way to outsmart those pesky thieves.
You cannot miss the globally iconic Christ Redeemer while you’re in Rio. It will be very busy, as the statue attracts many tourists from around the world, but it will be worth it. You can get tickets from any of the tourist information desks. They have mini-buses running every 15 minutes, up to see the glorious statue.
Once you’re there, you climb some stairs, past a handful of restaurants and souvenir shops. The view at the top of the mountain is breath-taking and there’s no doubts that the Christ Redeemer statue is one of the World Wonders. Jostle through the crowds to take epic photos of the city, or turn around and take the perfect ‘selfie’ under the gigantic, 38m high concrete statue. There are even some foam mats laid out on the ground, to ensure that you get the perfect angle to take a snap of the statue. This ensures that no one else photobombs your iconic photo!
Tip: Go early in the day! If you don’t want your priceless photos to be ruined by other tourists, get in early and enjoy the solitude atop one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
Sugarloaf Mountain offers more incredible views over this unique city. The mountain has become synonymous with Rio, and is featured on almost all postcards and marketing campaigns. Cable cars will take you up the mountain offering unparalleled views. Once you’re on top, you can practically get a 360-degree view of Rio, a city that is perfectly wedged between the mountains and sprawls and snakes its way to the ocean. There are a plethora of restaurants and shops to entertain you, after you’ve taken copious photos. Simply stand at the top and admire this city – it truly is unique and charming. A once in a lifetime city.
Tip: You need to buy tickets online, a couple of days before you want to visit, so you must be organized – they do run out fast. There are specific time slots that you can visit to head to the top of the mountain, so try to arrange your schedule around this.
Another famous beach in Rio, Ipanema Beach is a little more laid back and casual than its big sister Copa. Filled with all sorts of water sports and beach sports – including beach volleyball and beach soccer, Ipanema is playful. Upscale shops and restaurants line the beach, and the people along the beach certainly have an air of sophistication. On Sunday’s there is a Hippie Fair, where local artists and craftsmen sell their wares. You’ll love this slice of heaven.
Tip: Why not sip the iconic Brazilian national drink, the Caipirinha. Sit along the beach and people watch as the sun goes down, all the while sipping on this cocktail. Made with lime, sugar and a local spirit called cachaça, this drink is delightfully dangerous.
Safety in Rio
Keep your wits about you – this is South America after all. Keep all of your possessions locked in a safe deposit box in your hotel or accommodation. Always be aware of your possessions when out in public, especially using any form of transport. Look out for the official taxis – with a taxi identification number and a rooftop light. Taxis are metered and are reasonably priced, however they rarely speak English, so have your address written down and ready to show them. Uber is also massive in Rio, and is safe. You might consider this option to save some cash. Please be careful at all major tourist sites, these places attract the most violent crime offenders. Keep all flashy possessions (camera, phone, jewellery) hidden and always be on the lookout for danger. Stick to common sense and you’ll be fine.
Well, there you have it! Our guide to everything that is Rio. Stay safe, have fun and enjoy the ride!
Author: Michelle Hyde
Images captured by: Ben Fehervary