10 Most Asked Questions About Rio de Janeiro

When you start giving travel tips, you quickly realize everyone has the same few questions about every city- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is no exception. Here are the questions we keep hearing and answering!

 

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1. How safe is Rio de Janeiro?

 

Everyone's first concern when they come to Rio is, how safe is the city? Movies like "City of God" don't help tourists feel too safe, do they? The most honest answer is that, if you're sticking to the typical tourists spots, it isn't that different from any other South American city. There is always a lot of conflict going on in the city, some as bad as in the movies, but the reality is that the city has cleaned up the South Zone (the only areas tourists ever visit anyways), and when you're there you're a world away from a majority of it. Things can happen anywhere, but mugging and pickpocketing are a vast majority of what will happen if anything does, and at the end of the day that's the risk with most places you'll visit. Overall, safety concerns are definitely not a reason to not visit Rio. But, reading up on common scams, taking precautions against muggings, and making sure you always know where you are is the key to staying safe. Once you know where to go, what to avoid, and what to pay attention for you will realize that Rio is becoming a more and more accessible destination than ever. Read more: Staying Safe in Rio de Janeiro: Our Top Safety Tips & Advice

 

2. When is the best time to go to Rio de Janeiro?

 

Summer, as with most places, is peak season in Rio de Janeiro, but the best time to visit is towards the end of summer as it turns into fall- the beginning of summer is usually unbearably hot, and you might end up spending your time searching for air conditioned cafes and nothing else. December is usually the hottest month, sometimes January is equally scorching, and by the end of February it's still very hot but much more bearable. This is always our favorite time of year in Rio. The winter is still nice (June-September), but not as hot and can even get a bit chilly in the evenings so the city quiets down a bit.

Rio's Carnaval in February is one of the most popular, busiest, and expensive times, but is definitely a bucket list experience. Reveillon (New Year's) is also wildly popular, more so among Brazilians and other South Americans, and is also one of the busiest and most expensive times. Or course, with events such as the World Cup in 2014 and upcoming Summer Olympics, there will be continuing periods of increased tourism and prices. If you plan to visit in one of these times, it's not uncommon to book up to a year in advance.

 

Read more: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Rio Carnival

Read more: The Southern Brazilian City of Porto Alegre

 

3. How expensive is the city?

 

Compared to other parts of Brazil and South America, Rio de Janeiro is relatively quite expensive. Of course, it's cheaper than destinations like Europe, but throughout South America it has a reputation for being costly, as does Chile. If you're only traveling to Rio de Janeiro, then it's easier to budget. If you'll be traveling throughout South America, you'll be among many others surprised by Rio's prices, but don't be discouraged! It's still entirely affordable on a backpacker budget, but if you're on a tight budget make sure to pay attention to prices- even the most basic things such as sunscreen can be surprisingly expensive. Hostels usually run from about $15-20 USD per night, hotels can be anywhere from $50 to thousands, many standard meals range from $7-10, nicer meals from $20-80. Attraction entrance fees cost around $10-20. The currency in Brazil is the Brazilian Real, which fluctuates quite often, usually between 2.2-3.0 Brazilian reais to $1USD.

 

4. Where should I stay?

 

Most tourists come to Rio for the beach life- and that's exactly where they go to stay. Copacabana is the beach area home to many hostels, Ipanema is it's iconic beach neighbor with a more upscale neighborhood. If staying in Copacabana, make sure to look at the map and see that you're walking distance from the metro and beach- most places are close to the beach but sometimes the metro is a bit of a walk. The longer you stay, the more important that will be. If you stay in Ipanema, the popular area is near the General Osorio metro stop, full of restaurants and access to everything else you need.

Lapa, the bohemian nightlife center of the city, is also becoming more popular with tourists. It can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to get to the beach, but it's full of street parties, bars and clubs every night and known for being cheaper (and grungier). Santa Teresa, one of Rio de Janeiro's most beautiful neighborhoods, is great if you want to get away from the crowds a bit- but on top of a hill with close to no public transportation, it's not the most convenient. This is better if you're looking for a relaxing getaway.

 

5. How long should I stay?

 

It depends when you're coming. If you're coming for a big event such as Carnaval and can afford to stay for the duration, we recommend the five days of the festival plus at least two or three before or afterwards so you can actually see the city itself. Rio de Janeiro is a major beach destination, but also offers hikes, outdoor activities, and a lot of unique neighborhoods to wander. Sightseeing can be done in one or two days if you're just hitting the basics and in a hurry, or can occupy over a week if you want to explore several different areas. Four to five days is usually the perfect amount of time to stay in the city of Rio de Janeiro if you're traveling around, and we recommend a week if you want to do a weekend trip to one of the nearby beaches, mountains or islands. This allows for a day or two of beach days- if you're not a beach person, you may be okay with less.

 

6. What is Carnival in Rio de Janeiro?

 

Carnival, like it's famous counterparts of Carnival in Venice, Italy, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, USA, is a week-long party before Lent begins usually at the end of February. Binging on what you're about to give up, if you will. In Rio, a city famous for samba dance and music, carnival consists of five official days of free street parties with live music and an elaborate parade in which different neighborhoods dance and compete for the winning title. Rio de Janeiro's Carnival is the second biggest in Brazil (after Salavador, in the Northeast), and the most well-known to many foreigners. For more information, hacks and advice, or frequently asked questions about Carnival, read here.

 

7. What are the main attractions?

 

The Christo Redentor statue, the giant white Christ statue on the highest hill, is the most iconic image of Rio de Janeiro. The Pao de Acucar, Sugarloaf Mountain, is also very popular and has a different perspective from the Christ but equally incredible views. Famous beaches, from Ipanema to Copacabana are long symbols of the city. For the basic tourist route, this is what you'll see. But once you've checked them off, you'll find there are many, much more interesting layers of the city to explore. Our guide lists all of them.

 

8. Can I visit a favela?

 

Rio de Janeiro is famous for it's favelas (slums), depicted in most every film of the city. This is one of the most commonly-asked questions, and the answer is long. Yes- you can! But you'll definitely want to read up a little if you plan to, so you can make sure to be safe as well as socially conscious an respectful of these areas as neighborhoods.

 

9. What I can I visit outside the city?

 

Just outside the city you can find plenty of day and weekend trips, from beach destinations such as Buzios, Ilha Grande, Trinidade and Paraty, to mountains such as Novo Friburgo, Teresopolis and Petropolis. Most only take up to three hours to get to, and transportation can be arranged independently and through most hostels and hotels.

 

10. What's the difference between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo?

 

Sao Paulo isn't the capital, but it's the largest and most metropolitan city you'll find in Brazil. Literally, it's giant. It's full of culture, great food, and intense nightlife. Rio de Janeiro is the beach destination known for dancing, music and the laidback Carioca way. So the lifestyles are quite different, and of course there's a little friendly rivalry between the two. The people from Sao Paulo say the people from Rio are lazy- the people from Rio say that those from Sao Paulo only care about work. Both are wonderful to visit, but very different types of cities!

Feel free to comment below with any other questions you might have! Now, go enjoy this beautiful city!

 

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