Rio de Janeiro is a bustling city that will quickly capture your heart.
While the weekdays are spent with a normal flow of visitors, the weekend is when Rio comes alive. The locals flock to the beaches and almost everyone dances to samba music into the early morning. This is a guide on getting around, eating, sleeping and of course dancing your way through a weekend in Rio de Janeiro.
How to Get Around Rio De Janeiro
The cheapest way from the airport is to jump on the dark blue bus waiting outside the terminal for R12. You will know it’s the right bus when you see the crown logo that says Reitur.
Once in the city, there are buses to take you anywhere you want to go. Purchase your ticket on the bus by paying the bus driver, try to carry small bills with you as they don’t always have change.
From the airport if you want to take a taxi, your best bet is taking a radio taxi, they are usually the blue or green ones. These are slightly more expensive but are a safer choice than the yellow taxis, especially from the airport.
Taxis are a good way to get around once you are in the city. If you are going out to a samba club late at night it is much safer to jump in a taxi and get dropped off at your door. Make sure the meter is started when you get in, if not ask him to turn it on or risk being ripped off.
The subway is a clean, air-conditioned and fast way to get around Zona Sul, Downtown and the surrounding barrios. Purchase a single ride ticket for R3.20 at the window and insert it into the turnstile.
During rush hour, the last car on the train is usually marked in pink and only for women passengers. This is an attempt to prevent unwanted harassment. This is still a new change, but save yourself the hassle if you’re male and stay off the last car during rush hour.
Where to Sleep
The fun in Rio comes at a price, it is one of the more expensive cities to sleep. Expect to pay around $30 USD for a dorm bed, $60+ for a private room in a hostel, and $200+ in a basic hotel.
Hostels are your best choice for accommodation in Rio. You can find very clean and well-run hostels in the city, almost all which come with a filling breakfast. We used hostelbookers and booked one with great reviews right off Ipanema beach. The weekends book up quickly due to the influx of Brazilians joining in on the Rio festivities. I suggest booking your accommodations early to guarantee you get a bed.
The energy in Rio comes from getting out on the beach and dancing samba into the night. This is why being in a hostel surrounded by other people to meet and explore the city with makes your weekend much more enjoyable!
What to See
Beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema are the famous beaches of Rio located in Zona Sul. Not only are the beaches breathtaking but the beach culture is fascinating. Rent an umbrella and beach chair and spend Saturday or Sunday people watching and soaking up the sun on some of the best beaches in the world.
Corcovado and Cristo Redentor – A mountain surrounded by the city with the world-famous statue of Jesus, Christ the Redeemer on top. Take the train up the mountain on a clear day and get ready to experience Rio from 2,300 feet up. The statue is interesting, but in my opinion the views from the top are even more spectacular.
Sugar Loaf – Don’t think because you saw the views from Cristo Redentor that you’ve seen all there is to see. Take a trip up Sugar Loaf at sunset and ride in the glass-walled cable car overlooking the length of the coastline and inland to the massive urban forest surrounded by Rio. You get a fantastic view of the bay and the beaches that’s quite different from Corcovado.
What to Eat
Comida a kilo restaurants – These are almost always buffet style restaurants where your plate is weighed and charged per kilo. This is a cheaper way to dine which allows you to try a larger variety of local foods.
Meat – Although often overshadowed by its carnivorous neighbors to the south, Brazil has fantastic beef from the delicious cuts at a churrascaria to the filet mignon sandwich at the nearby beach joint.
Black Beans & Rice – If you don’t leave Rio with a new found love of black beans and rice you were doing something wrong. Pick a cut of meat and skip the fries for a side of black beans and rice. They are a delicious staple in Rio that are surprisingly addicting.
Fruit Juice – My first visit to a fruit market in Rio was eye opening. Within the first 10 minutes I had already tried 6 new fruits that not only had I never tasted, but I had not even heard of before. There are plenty of corner juice stores that will offer 30+ different types of fruit juices. My favorites were Goiaba and Acai juice which locals eat with granola or flakes on top.
Caipirinha – A late night drink that will show you the strength of Rio. Made with cachaça (sugar cane rum), lime and sugar. Warning: tourists tend to order 2 or 3 of these, while locals know a good caipirinha can put you on the floor after 1.
Where to Workout
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – A large lake between Ipanema and Corcovado. Jog or bike around the paved path that is nearly 5 miles long.
Open Air Gym – Along the beach you will find stations that you can stop at during your morning run and knock out a couple sets of pull-ups or dips. Don’t be shy, these will usually be full of locals working out!
Where to Dance
Barrio Lapa – Leave your valuables at home and bring your dancing shoes. Lapa is the place to go Thursday – Saturday night to see some of the best musicians in the country and stay out late at the samba clubs. It doesn’t matter if you can’t dance, just keep moving your feet!
When to Come
Carnival – This is still one of the number one reasons tourists come to Rio. The city explodes with color and lively music, parties last until the sun comes up, and the crowds take to the street with more energy than they’ve had all year. Carnival next year is March 1, 2013, start planning now, the rooms book up quickly!
New Year’s Eve – Rio hosts the biggest NYE celebration in the country. Imagine 2 million people all dressed in white standing on the beach watching a spectacular fireworks show all raising their glasses to good luck in the new year.
One weekend isn’t enough time to truly immerse yourself into the Brazilian culture, but it’s a start. After 48 hours of Rio de Janiero’s non-stop energy and experiencing this colorful city you will most definitely be back for more!