There is a good reason that Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in the world; it is undeniably beautiful. From the Tijuca rainforest over Sugar Loaf Mountain and down to Ipanema beach, Rio is truly blessed with incredible natural beauty. The people of this amazing city know that they live in one of the most gorgeous places on earth and it is very much reflected in their attitude. The cariocas, as they are called, definitely make it a priority to enjoy all that life has given them. The result is a beach culture that is unrivalled anywhere in the world, a nightlife that will leave you breathless and a music scene that will leave you dancing until dawn. This is Rio de Janeiro.
To ensure that you get the most out of your time in this amazing city, follow these tips.
1. Go to the beach. It doesn’t matter if it is the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana or the lesser known Barra or Grumari, they are all sites to see. Cariocas love going to the beach and it is quite the social scene. The beaches can become a little crowded on the weekends and during holidays, but that is where the action is. You can rent chairs and umbrellas from stalls on the beach and they will muscle in and get you a primo spot. They will often sell drinks and snacks as well so you could spend all day on the beach soaking up the energy. Make sure that you bring lots of sunscreen as it can be particularly warm.
2. Eat. Seriously, eat as much as you can. You will not be disappointed. Try a smoky feijoada, which is a delicious black bean stew with chunks of hearty sausage. On the beach, there will be a constant stream of vendors walking by. An absolute favourite is grilled haloumi cheese. As the temperatures soar, cool down with a refreshing aҫai. It is akin to ice cream, but distinctly Brazilian. If you are a fan of fruit, than you will not be disappointed in Brazil. There are so many fruits that exist there, that have no counterpart in other countries. Make sure that you try caju, which is the fruit that gives us cashew nuts. It is often made into juice in Brazil.
3. Drink. Although caipirinhas have become popular outside of Brazil, they are not quite the same. Grab one on the beach and you will never want to leave. If you need a break from the fiery cachaca try a guarana soda, agua de coco (coconut water) or cana de acucar. The last is made from pressing sugar cane and you are left with a sweet and delicious drink.
4. Grab a Portuguese phrase book. While most educated people in Rio will speak some English, it can be surprisingly difficult to always find someone who can. If you already speak some Spanish, that is great. It will be much easier for you to read menus and signs, but be warned that you will understand very little of what is spoken. Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese are quite divergent. Brazilians have very little trouble understanding Spanish, but unfortunately it doesn’t go the other way as well.
5. Prepare yourself for some late nights. It doesn’t matter how old you are, but Brazilians tend to eat dinner and go out much later than people from English speaking countries. It is perfectly normal to go out for dinner at nine or ten. Try to adjust your schedule or you will be eating alone and not having the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere. If you have plans to enjoy any of Rio’s famed nightlife, don’t even think about heading out before midnight. Most popular bars and clubs don’t really get into the swing of things before two or three am.
6. Keep your wits about you. Unfortunately, Rio does have a somewhat warranted reputation for violent crime. For most tourists, you will have absolutely no problems and there are ways to ensure that your time in Rio is a safe one. Don’t show off large amounts of cash or lots of expensive equipment. At night, stick to well lit areas with lots of people and don’t venture onto the beach.
7. Head for higher ground. Rio is stunning when seen from up above. Take the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain or head to Christ the Redeemer for breathtaking views of the city. For the truly adventurous, try hang gliding or sky diving.
As with any other large city, there is much, much more to do, but if you follow these few basic tips, you will be sure to make the most of your time in Rio de Janeiro.