Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide
Rio de Janeiro is so much more than Carnival and hotel-lined tourist beaches. This second largest city in Brazil is still a major cultural capital. Rio de Janeiro has a majestic beauty, with built-up areas nestled between a magnificent bay and dazzling beaches on one side and an abruptly rising mountain range, covered by a luxuriant tropical forest, on the other. This unique landscape makes Rio one of the most beautiful cities in the world, justifying its title of Cidade Maravilhosa (“Marvelous City”).
Flights to Rio
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão (Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport) is located 20km (13 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro. It is connected to Rio de Janeiro by two major roads, Linha Vermelha and Avenida Brasil. The airport is signposted on both roads.
Bus and taxi are the most hassle-free ways to travel into Rio. Taxis are available, although visitors are advised to ignore the RDE taxi desk and go to the Rio de Janeiro State Tourism Authority desk instead and buy prepaid taxi vouchers. Otherwise, passengers should ensure that their taxi’s meter is cleared of the last fare.
There is an airport shuttle bus every hour which stops at major hotels and beaches. Empresa Real have air-conditioned frescao buses that drive into the city as well as along the seafront stopping off at the hotels (journey time approximately 45 minutes). Public buses run to the city centre.
Hotels in Rio
Rio de Janeiro’s hotel scene is very diversified, offering options in all price ranges. Even economy hotels offer ensuite rooms (i.e. private bathroom), with air conditioning, color TV, phone and a small refrigerator. Most hotels offer a complimentary Brazilian breakfast including fresh-squeezed juices, tropical fruit, plus the usual treats.
Booking in advance is the best way to avoid the higher counter rates. Expect higher rates and a number of mandatory nights during the main events of Carnival and New Years Eve.
Getting sick abroad is a risk associated with travel. Though you can also go to the hospital here, you might have to pay for treatment in other countries. If you have insurance, they can pay for you if you get sick. Potentially you wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket either.
Rio car hire
Road conditions are poor and lacking in signs. The national speed limit on highways is 110kph (68mph) but drivers seldom adhere to the rule. Accidents and road fatalities are distressingly common. Foreigners should carry an International Driving Permit as well as a driving license from their country of origin and third-party liability insurance is required by law.
The more common option for travelers, however, is the country’s bus service which, with the exception of the Amazon Basin, is generally excellent. Buses are punctual, clean and comfortable and this form of travel is very cheap. All the major towns and cities are served by frequent services and it is unusual to have to change buses when traveling between destinations.
Rio caters to all tastes, and exploring the city’s restaurants is definitely to be included on your list of things to do. Try an açaí or eat feijoada, wash it down with a caipirinha and watch the world go by. Experience a churrascaria, specializing in grilled meats or stop by a Padaria, a bakery serving fresh pastries and finger foods, guaranteed to satisfy every sweet tooth. And best of all? Dining is very inexpensive in Rio de Janeiro!
Rio Clubs and Bars
A typical night out in Rio starts with a drink or two in Rio’s many bars. Bars and lounges often ask for a nominal cover in the form of either a drink minimum or a music charge. Choperias (pubs) and botecos (bars specializing in draft beer and appetizers) are casual places you can go wearing a swimsuit.
Then it is time to hit the danc floor and salsa the night away. Rio’s danceterias (discos) pulse with loud music and flashing lights. At a number of places, including samba clubs, you can dance to live Brazilian music. Gafieiras are old-fashioned ballroom dance halls, usually patronized by an equally old-fashioned clientele. Upon entry to some clubs you’re given a card to carry — each successive drink is marked on it. You pay on departure for what you’ve consumed.
Shopping in Rio
Shops in Rio are sophisticated and full of character! The streets are lined with fashion boutiques and jewelers (Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers of gold and the largest supplier of colored gemstones). Keep you eyes out for a jewelry bargain in Minas Gerais. Also look for coffee, art, and samba and bossa nova CDs – they make for a unique souvenir.
Avoiding the heat? Try one of the air-conditioned malls. You could spend an entire weekend in the Barrashopping mall without ever seeing the same shop twice – there’s over 600 of them!
Visas for Brazil
Most European nationals (including UK nationals) need nothing but a valid passport and a return ticket to enter Brazil. Americans, Canadians and Australians do need a visa. Not sure? Check with the Brazilian Embassy/Consulate.
You can apply for your visa as much as three months ahead of your trip. The regular tourist visa allows you to stay for up to three months (it can be renewed if necessary). There is also a transit visa, good for ten days only. Both are easy to get either in person or by mail.