Come with us to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro 
Travel Guide

Rio has it all! It is quite big and there are plenty of subcultures that can be observed when visiting the city of Rio in the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The people are quite different, the ambiance is unlike anything you will experience, the culture is a mixture of different people that dwell there and the beaches are calm yet bustling with energy through all the hours. Brazil in itself is a vast country and we do intend to go back to explore more because what we saw was only a portion of what Brazil has to offer. One thing we noticed was that no one in Brazil shares similar features in the way they look or can be picked out from a crowd as a Brazilian. The population is quite diverse and you can easily be mistaken for a local. Don’t be surprised if people there spoke to you in Portuguese and thought of you as one of them.


Before you go 
  • Get a Visa: If you are traveling from the United States to Brazil, a visa is required.  Please do plan ahead as visa processing can take up to 8 weeks in some states. For more information about visa requirements to Brazil, click here.
  • Do research on the area you will be staying in:  Look at reviews of the hotel, restaurants, nightlife, look up the weather and look up the current political and economic state of the city (why? because it would suck to get stuck in a foreign country if flights, trains or buses end up being cancelled due to unrest). 
  • Take your usual medicines: for fever, painkillers, Neosporin, halls, diarrhea, headaches and antacids; all of the above medicines can also be purchased there. So, if you don’t have them definitely know how to ask for these in Portuguese.
  • Public Transportation 
    • City Bus – This was the most inexpensive way for us to travel around Brazil. It cost us about 3.40 Reals for each bus ride. This was the most fun and adventurous part for us because our Portuguese is pretty non-existent and English is not a language that is spoken or understood on the streets (at least that is what we found) so we had to rely on non-verbal mechanisms but it turned out just fine. The buses also don’t announce stops; therefore it will be ideal to ask the bus driver to let you know when your stop comes around in Portuguese.
    • Metro (Subway) – This was pretty easy to maneuver and understand. Using a metro card (that you can purchase at any of the stations) and loading it as we went along was the easiest and most budget-friendly. The trains were clean and included a map of the stops inside each car for reference. 
      • Tip: Keep in mind the hours of the metro may vary depending on the holidays that the city is celebrating. Always ask the ticket booth for operating hours before leaving the station or look it up online. 
  • Taxi’s – While the buses and subway offer a great budget friendly way to travel through the city of Rio and it’s neighborhoods, it is only great for daytime. We would not suggest using these methods at night. It is much safer to use taxi service at nighttime, the rates vary but there is always a meter present so you will know what you are paying is what is being charged.
    • Tip: Majority of the taxis do not accept credit cards. It is a cash only service from our experience there so be sure to have enough Brasilian Reals with you if you plan on taking taxi’s. 
  • Overall – If you are a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian who does not prefer meat, this is where it gets tricky. Based on our location, it was hard to find vegetarian options. We found that the Brazilian cuisine is quite heavy on meats. One thing we did not have trouble finding was cheese! We were able to find cheese everywhere but it was not the kind we wanted, it was gooier and overly greasy compared to cheese here in the states. Granted, we did not explore restaurants in every neighborhood of Rio so our range was limited to near our hotel. While we were in Leblon beach area, we found a restaurant called BIBI and they did have vegetarian options.  
  • Juices – One thing we loved was the availability of fresh juices at every corner in the form of local juice stands! The fruits were so ripe and juicy making the juice that much more delicious (and inexpensive!).
  • Acai – It amazed us that we have to go through so much trouble to find Acai here in the states and it is so expensive here but in Brazil- it is everywhere!! You can find it in the form of juice, in the form of yogurt, in the form of ice cream and then choose your toppings. This is a must try! 

Things to do

  • Pedra do Sol – this area is known for its local gatherings on Monday nights from 9 pm onwards for a night of authentic, original and lively samba music and dance. If you want to get the local feel of how Brazilians like to party it up, this is an absolute must.  It does get crowded and the crowd does overflow into the surrounding areas and  street.  When we first arrived, we were like uh what is this? It is closer to a Favela (the slums) and we were just pushing our way through the crowd for a while. However, we ended up finding a spot next to the local musicians (not on purpose) and when the music began – we were able to experience the Brazilian way of doing samba that involved singing and dancing while the local musicians did their thing and played authentic samba music.  
    • Tip = be safe and catch a taxi back to your hotel. People are drinking and it will be late at night, keep your purse/wallets close by and do not wander into the streets or alleys. It is better to stay by the main streets; plenty of taxi’s are available nearby.


  • Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao De Acuar) – An absolute must see!! The view of the city, the ocean and the beaches that the mountain offers will take your breath away. 
    • Tip: To get up to the mountain, you need to take a cable car. You can buy the cable car tickets at the bottom of the mountain. 

  • Leblon Beach – This beach is quieter than the Copacabana Beach and it gives you an amazing view of the Mount Irmaos (The Brother Mountains). There are also many bus stops around this beach making it easily accessible.

  • Copacabana Beach – We were lucky enough that this beach was the backyard of the hotel we stayed at (Copacabana Rio Hotel). It is a lively and fun beach with music, volleyball, tourists and people of all ages. Needless to say this beach can get very crowded. The view is beyond breathtaking both at night and in the morning and a must visit.  

  • Jardim Botanico – This is a vast area of land dedicated to preserving a variety of plants and flowers. These botanical gardens of Rio exhibit a beautiful area for a day walk and truly offer an aesthetic experience. The greenery, the fountains and unique flowers makes this place enjoyable!

  • Marcana Stadium – If there is a football game being played during your stay in Rio, you HAVE to go! Whether you like football (soccer) or not, this is an experience that has be on top of the list of things to do! It is hard to describe but you can really feel the electric atmosphere amongst the crowd. Plus, you get to watch a game at the famous Marcana Stadium. 
    • Tip – You can buy the tickets at the stadium the day before the game. The tickets are not expensive at all (I believe we paid about $16 US dollars for amazing seats and an unforgettable experience). If you are in Ipanema/Copacabana area, you can catch the train, the orange line, to Central, make the switch to green line going towards Pavuna and get off at the stop called Marcana. You walk out and the stadium is right there.
    • Rio Metro Map

  • Escardaria Selaron – This is the place to go if you want to experience a vibrant and colorful side of Brazilian art. These steps are tucked away in a local town called Lapa. The art has been transcribed onto tiles and each tile is unique from its neighbor. We had a lot of fun taking pictures here and the colors made the pictures turn out quite colorful and vibrant. 



    • Christ the Redeemer Statue – This majestic sculpture located on top of a mountain has been recently named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and truly deserve this title.  It is an amazing landmark that can be seen from any panoramic view in Rio. The only way to get up here is by train and it is very important to book these tickets online well ahead of time as it will save you from waiting in line to buy tickets in possible scorching heat. It is a highly visited tourist spot and was very busy even when visiting during a low season. The day we went to visit, it was 97 degrees Fahrenheit so it is very important to drown yourselves in sunscreen and also have at least 2 bottles of water on you. They will be selling water on the train for really low prices prior to making it on the top. They do have a small chapel, a souvenir store and restaurants up there; however it is more expensive as you can imagine.



    • The currency used in Brazil is Reals and 1 dollar is around 3 Brazilian Reals. It is important to have some cash on you as transportation and local restaurants only accept cash. However; Visa and MasterCard are highly accepted around the city of Rio and there are also easily accessible ATM machines. It is definitely cheaper to convert money in the United States as the exchange rates are higher when arriving at the airport.

    • As it goes for any other foreign country; please be cautious of your surroundings and always have a good grip on your purse/wallet. The city can get packed so always hold onto your belongings when passing through a crowd. Always ask your hotel for directions before exploring and when asking directions to locals ask multiple people to make sure you are being directed to the correct area. Do not walk around at night by yourself and strictly use cabs for transport. Also please never go explore the favela on your own, as you will be asking for trouble. Before we left, many people talked to us about Brazil as if there were people walking the streets with guns ready to shoot people at every corner and walking a block alone by yourself will surely result in being kidnapped or hurt. That is NOT true! Obviously, you don’t want to let your guard down and walk around the city in the middle of night- alone but safety has no guarantee no matter where you are. There has to be a level of awareness and a sense of taking necessary precautions when in a foreign country. 


    • Primary spoken language in Rio is Portuguese and it is definitely helpful/important to know at least basics when it comes to ordering food and asking for directions as people rarely speak English in this area.

      It was an experience that will stay with us for lifetime! 
    Travel Diary for Peru will be up soon!! 

    -Dhara & Jenie