This is a city with energy and beauty as well as great poverty and crime. It is a city with a vibrant soul and a rough exterior. Rio de Janeiro, often just called Rio, beats to the rhythm of samba from its world famous beaches to its equally famous nightclubs. The city is known world over for Carnival and this year is host to the World Cup. When it comes to cities, Rio definitely knows how to party. If you are planning a trip to this city of endless celebration, here is our city guide 101.
Where to Stay
Choosing the right place to stay in Rio is vital. This is a city of millions and each neighborhood is uniquely different from the next. Some are safe and tourist friendly while venturing into others alone is practically a death wish. Stick to the popular areas and you should be fine.
Most of the cities best hotels are located in Zona Sul, near the famous beaches. This is the main tourist zone with better security, more hotel options, and a central location to many of the city’s top sites. Higher end hotels run along Ipanema and Copacabana beach with smaller, more affordable options closer to Flamengo and Catete.
Another popular hotel section is in Centro, the business district of the city. While this is a great option for business travelers, the area gets pretty deserted at night and is surrounded by much more dangerous neighborhoods which lead to higher nighttime crime rates.
The best way to get around Rio is by taxi. The rates are reasonable and overall they are very safe. Radio taxis are the more expensive option but the safest and a good way to guarantee you aren’t being ripped off (have your hotel call you one and they can give you the quotes price based on your destination). The standard yellow taxis are also a good bet, though it is best to grab one from a taxi stand, located all around the city, where taxis that are part of a cooperative will queue up.
For getting around Zone Sul, where most of the tourist sites are located, the bus is a great option. The fare is low and your hotel or hostel can help you navigate the system with a map and time schedule. Taking buses in the daytime is relatively safe though watch out for pickpockets. At night buses run much less frequently and can be more dangerous, especially late after the clubs close. In those cases, call a radio taxi instead. To explore even more of Rio, you can also check out their safe, clean metro system which is usually much easier to navigate than the bus system.
What to See
Rio has many sites worth checking out but by far the most iconic activities in Rio is to just spend a day at the beach. Rio has some very nice beaches with clean sand, good swimming, and a distinct Brazilian vibe. Vendors walk along selling anything and everything. While there is only one official nude beach, which is quite far away from the city center, you will quickly notice that Brazilians, both men and women, wear barely-there swimwear, including speedos and tiny micro bikinis. Brazilian beaches are about relaxing, having fun with friends, drinking a few beers, and enjoying Rio’s great weather.
Another must-see place in Rio is the famous Statue of Christ the Redeemer. Sitting on the top of Corcovado Mountain, the statue of Christ can be reached via taxi, hiking, or the most popular option, via the funicular train. Rio’s other famous peak, Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pão de Açúcar, is also worth visiting, especially around sunset for incredible views of the city. The city has plenty of great museums, churches for architecture, history, or art lovers. And for sports fans, visiting the Maracana Stadium, the largest in South America is also highly recommended.