Spring in Rio de Janeiro might have already passed by the time you read this article, but don’t let that stop you from reserving yourself a stay in Rio de Janiero! You see, Rio is just one of those cities where it’s nice to city any time of the year, but if you don’t know a lot about the city it can be hard to really jump right in and feel comfortable with the whole process. So if you’re in that position right now, don’t worry — you’re definitely in good company. In fact, we wrote this guide for you and everyone else that wanted the high points of traveling to Rio no matter what time of year you wanted to go.
So let’s get some of the basics out of the way, shall we? First and foremost, you should know that Rio de Janiero is actually the second largest city in Brazil, but it is arguably the most famous. Most people only know the party side of Rio, where Carnival comes to life in some strange and interesting ways. However, if you’re an outdoorsy type, you’re going to love the overall beauty of the area. The harbor of the city has such a unique entry point that it looks like the mouth of a river. There’s even Sugar Loaf Mountain, which is pretty nice for climbing at 1,296 feet. There’s also Corcovado Peak at 2,310 feet. You definitely have some different options when you’re determined to climb or hike up some mountains.
The social side of Rio is more than just Carnival time — Rio is going to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup games, including the final game. So if you’re a soccer fan, you’re definitely going to want to start planning a trip. There’s also the 2016 Summer Olympics to think about as well. It’ll get sizzling hot in Rio, and you’ll be able to see how the Brazilians truly embrace life to the fullest at all costs.
If you want to really explore Rio, you might have to stay longer or come multiple times. This is because the city is home to multiple districts that have something to offer just about every traveler:
It starts with the Centro (Central), which is the financial and business center of the city, along with a lot of historical buildings. You can view the National Library and the National Museum of Fine Arts here. There is also the Metropolitan Cathedral, symbolizing the connection that Rio has always had to a religious past and even a religious subculture that can be seen everywhere you look.
Then comes Zona Sul (South Zone), which would include Copacabana (yes, the same one from the song!), Leblon, and Ipanema (yes, the same one from that song, too!). This is where you’ll see a lot of luxury reflected through neighborhoods and other tourist friendly sites. This is incidentally where the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains are.
After that we have the Zona Norte (North Zone), which houses the National Observatory and the National Museum as well. There’s also the City Zoo if you really want to see some neat and interesting wildlife. If you think that you’ve seen it all, you definitely need to come to Rio and have your mind blown!
The final district is Zona Oeste (West Zone), which will house Barra da Tijuca, a very popular beach zone. There will be many 2016 Olympics events hosted here, so stay tuned to this space if that’s your thing.
If you’re going to plan a trip, you’re most likely going to need to pick your airport. Most flights are going to land at Galeao – Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport. The airline code is GIG, so you can look up flights online to compare rates. The only thing that tourists don’t like about this airport is that the line for Customs and immigration can be quite long, which means that you’re in for a longer wait than you might have experienced in other countries.
Once you arrive in Rio, you’re going to want to travel by either taxicab or bus. The cabs are very affordable, and they operate on a smoother schedule. Another reason why you don’t want to rent a car is that it can take forever to get around the city, due to the numerous traffic jams that pop up. Let the experienced cab driver deal with that type of frustration. Keep in mind that if you’re going to travel to Rio for any type of special event, you definitely want to try to pay for everything in advance. It’s very easy to end up spending more money than what you wanted to spend by waiting till the last minute. This is one time where we really don’t recommend waiting too long to make reservations. Locking in your price is definitely good.
There’s plenty to see in Rio, but let’s go ahead and get the beaches out of the way, shall we? You see, when you hit Rio you’re going to need to understand the local culture. There’s no such thing as a topless beach, but there is an official nudist beach — it’s called Abrico, and it’s the only one that’s officially nude. However, just because it’s nude doesn’t mean that you should stare at the sunbathers on the beach. It’s very offensive and it’ll draw unnecessary attention.
If you want to actually get in the water, the best beaches are Grumari, Abrico, Leme, Copacabana and Ipanema. The others can be inappropriate for bathing ass the water quality is suspicious.
When it comes to culture, Rio de Janiero has plenty of examples to check out. For starters, the language of Rio is Portuguese, just like the language of Brazil overall. You will find plenty that speak English and Spanish, but knowing some Brazilian Portuguese will definitely help you move around the city easily.
Samba is the national rhythmic dance of Rio, and you can also learn capoeira. It’s a mix of dance and fighting created by the then-enslaved African community of Rio. There are numerous opportunities to learn Brazilian Portuguese at the universities in town.
There are plenty of chances to go shopping in Rio — you’ll want to make sure that you haggle appropriately. Going into the malls and demanding different prices will get you in trouble, but if you’re in the street market, it’s worth your while to haggle. If people assume that you’re a tourist, they’re going to definitely charge you a lot more.
How can we start a guide about Rio de Janiero and not include something about the food? There’s truly something for everyone, but if you want to save money, you have to check out the “comida a kilo” — these are buffet style restaurants where you pay by the weight of the food you placed on your plate. It’s an interesting concept, and it includes a lot of regional as well as international delights.
The rodizios are considered to be all you can eat places, much the way buffet style restaurants are treated in the US.
A good travel guide when you land is a smart idea, but this guide should get you moving in the right direction. Don’t forget to act fast and book your trip to Rio — you will not regret it!