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Rio de Janeiro

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Welcome to Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro lies between mountains and sea and is renowned for its stunning geography, warm climate, beautiful beaches and luscious tropical vegetation.

Rio sits on a series of spectacular curving bays and beaches - Copacabana, Ipanema, Flamingo and Leblon - where you can find the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife. Famous for the samba and other irresistible rhythms, favourite sightseeing routes include the train to the top of Corcovado and the Statue of Christ, the cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain, half day city tours and day trips to tropical islands and beaches or to the former capital of Petropolis, just one hour away. Rio by night is a must, with restaurants offering all kinds of Brazilian and international food and the famous “revolving” barbecues where you can eat as much as you like before sampling the delights of a typical Brazilian samba show or one of the smaller nightclubs.

The city pulses to the infectious beat of Brazilian music: the choro, the samba and the bossa nova, and the funk carioca, and is the cultural capital of Brazil. Its annual carnival, known simply as Carnaval, draws together the population of the city (known as the 'Cariocas') ranging from the very rich to the very poor, who take to the streets for the world's largest samba parade on the Sambodromo.

Rio is a never-ending story made up of 150 districts, each characterised by unique features like Santa Teresa, a winding maze of streets populated by artists and musicians, which is reached by taking an old tram across an ancient aqueduct called Arcos da Lapa. In the central city area of Rio there are historic monuments and public buildings like the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National History Museum, and the National Library. There are also beautiful examples of religious architecture such as the Sao Bento Monastery. No matter how long you spend exploring the city, it will always deliver new surprises.

Rio will be overrun with international sporting events in the next few years, as it is set to be the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics in 2016, and will be the primary host city for the FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2014.

Information & Facts


Situated in the tropical South Atlantic, Rio de Janeiro is warm all year round. Summers, between November and March, are very hot and humid. Winters are cool and dry, never cold, with some precipitation, lasting only from June to September.

Eating Out

Brazilian cuisine is famous for its use of red meat, a fact deliciously confirmed when eating out in Rio. Churrascarias (Brazilian barbeque) is a simple beef dish, normally spiced only with salt, and often accompanied with feijão com arroz (rice and beans). Other meat may end up in feijoada, a traditional stew made with black beans. Local taste runs toward oily, sweet, and salty food, with a noticeable lack of spices. A popular treat is bacalhau (salted cod), which is usually imported from Norway. Good restaurants in which to look for traditional Brazilian food include Bar do Arnaudo in Santa Teresa, Marius in Copacabana, or Brasileirinho in Ipanema.

Lunch in Rio is an adventure for those on a budget. A range of street vendors selling everything from fruit to grilled prawns to cheese bread offer options for everyone. Use your own judgment regarding food safety by gauging the cleanliness of the stall (and vendor) and how popular it is with locals. The beach has many similar options, including oysters or shrimp tarts, and drinks like fresh coconut water out of the shell and bright purple açai juice. The Brazilian equivalent to MacDonald's, Bob's Burgers, will take your order and deliver to you right on the sand.

Coffee in Rio is traditionally drunk standing at a corner bar, but you'll find a few cafés dotted around, like Café Severino, located in the famous Livraria Argumento bookstore; Jasmin Manga Cyber Café, which offers rare free internet access; or Café du Lage, in a beautiful Roman villa-esque building.

One popular type of Rio restaurant offers a pay-by-weight system where the customer selects his or her food from a buffet, bringing it to the chef to be cooked. This is a great way to sample a variety of different dishes, taking as much or as little as you like while the waiters mark your receipt. Take care to keep your receipt safe, though, as the fee for losing it is often very high. Frontera in Ipanema is a good example of this type of restaurant, or Fellini in Leblon.

There are also a few good organic and vegetarian restaurants in Rio, including Blyss Holy Foods in Ipanema, Universo Organico in Leblon, and the aptly named Vegan Vegan in Botafogo. Most restaurants in Rio de Janeiro are open from 11am to 4pm, and from 7pm to midnight. Some stay open all day, especially on Saturday when people stream in from the beaches at all hours. Restaurants usually add a 10% service charge to the bill, but waiters will appreciate another 5% if their service has been good. If the service is truly terrible, you can ask not to pay the service charge. Some restaurants do not take credit cards, so it's best to ask up front if you don't have cash.

Getting Around

Although a large and sprawling city, the neighbourhoods most frequented by visitors are easy to access using a combination of Rio's public transport, and one's own feet.

The public transport system in Rio is cheap and efficient, and most places can be reached by metro or bus. By far the quickest and easiest way to get around is by the efficient metro, but there are limits to its coverage of the city with only two lines.

Walking around is generally safe as long as there are crowds of people, although walking in the centre of the city is not recommended after the shops close and their security guards go home.

The most inexpensive form of transport is the local buses, which travel all over the city as fast as the traffic will allow. Unfortunately, they are often badly driven, crowded, and the scene of much petty theft, especially during rush hours when the crowded conditions are ideal for pickpockets. Special care should be taken on buses known to be used by tourists, such as those to the Sugar Loaf. Drivers frequently have little to no change, so don't try to use money in large denominations.

Public transport stops between 11pm and midnight, with some buses operating twenty-four hours, but it is safer to hire a taxi late at night. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, charging a lower rate after 6pm (except Sundays, holidays, and in December). Radiotaxi can be ordered and are said to be safer and more reliable, usually with air-conditioning, but they are thirty percent more expensive than regular taxis. Drivers may add a surcharge for extra luggage.

Driving in Rio is not recommended for overseas visitors do to the chaotic nature of the traffic. To hire a car, though, you'll need an international driver's license, and insurance.

Kids Attractions

Cariocas (locals) in Rio are remarkably kid-friendly, with children welcome almost anywhere. Kids on holiday in Rio de Janeiro will love spending time in the sun and surf of the beaches, building sand castles and devouring mounds of ice-cream. Leblon Beach has Baixo Baby, a play area with a vast selection of kids toys. The streets lining the waterfront host entertaining jugglers, magicians, stilt-walkers and fire-eaters, and there are toy cars to rent, so there's always something for children to do in Rio.

There are many places for kids to enjoy the natural wonders of Rio, including the massive Tijuca Forest, which contains Corcovado Mountain with the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, Cascatinha Waterfall, and the giant granite picnic table called the 'Mesa do Imperador'. The forest is immense and best attempted with a guide. Smaller children will tire long before all the sights are seen.

The Parque do Catete, a small, manicured park in the Palácio do Catete, offers a shady refuge from the heat, with ponds, stroller-friendly walkways, music and theatre performances, and even a kind of toy loan service that charges by the hour.

The Rio City Zoo offers a close view of local wildlife, with over 2,000 species to see, most of them native to Brazil. It has an open walk-through aviary, reptile house and primate displays. It's open Tuesday to Sunday and charges a small admission fee.

Rio also has a number of child-friendly museums, including the Museu do Indio (Indian Museum), where children can use stamps and body paint to decorate themselves as native warriors. The National Museum has mummies, zoological displays, historical artefacts, and a 5 tonne meteorite. The Museu do Universo (Museum of the Universe) has models and experiments for kids to discover how the physics and astronomy. Many museums offer free entry for kids under seven.


The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.


The Brazilian monetary unit is the real (BRL), plural reais. There are 100 centavos to the real. The US dollar is also welcome in most tourist establishments. In the main cities foreign currencies and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks or cambios. There is an extensive network of ATMs in the country and most major international credit cards are accepted.


Home to Carnival, samba and the Copacabana, it's not surprising that the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is one of a kind, and Cariocas (Rio's residents) will make a party out of just about any social gathering. Whether you're looking for a relaxing bar or lounge to sip on a couple of 'chopps' (draft beer), or you're in the mood for a big night out at a hip and happening dance club, Rio de Janeiro has it all.

A popular way to warm things up is to start off in the cooler early evening at one of the numerous beach bars for a coconut juice or cocktail. Head off to one of Rio de Janeiro's trendy beach communities, such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon and explore the bars and clubs, but be warned, some of these places may not grant entry to people wearing shorts and T-shirts or flip-flops.

Head off to a trendy restaurant for a late dinner with friends and then at around 11pm, when most clubs open, check out who's playing at the Rio Scenarium, Comuna da Semente or Carioca da Gema. Lapa is a popular spot for revellers as well as Gamba.

Live music and dancing is also big in the entertainment scene in Rio de Janeiro and there is a wide variety, such as Samba, Bossa Nova, rock, MBP (Brazilian pop), blues, jazz and much more. If you search hard enough, there is sure to be a gig happening somewhere in this vibrant city on any given night. You can also watch Samba school rehearsal parties, where local drummers and dancers showcase their skills in warehouses for thousands of people. It's a great way to get a taste of the Carnival atmosphere at other times of the year.

Clubbing in Rio can be expensive, but you can have a cheaper night out by sticking to local drinks. Many clubs will charge you for drinks and entry only when you leave, so keep track of what you spend. Most clubs have a dress code, so t-shirts and flip flops aren't allowed. Each club is different: some will only allow men when accompanied by women, and most will require an ID or passport to enter.

Rio also has a vibrant gay clubbing scene, with many bars and clubs in Copacabana and Ipanema, including Le Boy, La Girl, Dama da Ferro, Fosfobox and The Week. An alternative to clubs and bars in Rio are the street parties. Lapa hosts a street party every Friday and Saturday night near the aqueduct on Avenida Mem de Sá; and Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays are the best nights to head to Gávea, where you'll find music, cheap beer, and many university students on the street in front of the bar Hipódromo.

Pick up a copy of the Friday editions of the O Globo, O Dia or Jornal do Brasil newspapers for listing on nightlife and entertainment in Rio de Janeiro.


Shopping in Rio de Janeiro can be a rewarding experience for tourists on the hunt for bargains, whether they're seeking cheap souvenirs or designer goods. While it isn't considered a major shopping destination, there are numerous shopping centres, boutiques, street stalls and markets offering a wide selection of mementos.

Rio's main shopping destinations are concentrated into areas like Rio Sul in the city centre. There are also numerous shopping districts near the beaches, including Avenida Nossa Senhora and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva in Leblon, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema.

Religious antiques, soapstone carvings, leather goods and gemstone jewellery are Rio's most popular souvenirs, offered by various shops throughout the city. You can also find local gemstones carved into shapes like toucans, jaguars, and other wild figures that make good gifts, alongside tacky options like plastic replicas of Christ the Redeemer.

Good-quality beachwear and Brazilian soccer jerseys are also popular, though you'll need to choose between cheap imitations at market stalls and more expensive official merchandise. Rio is the birthplace of Havaianas (flip flops), so they're available in any number of brands, styles, and colours. One of the best things to buy in Rio de Janeiro though, is music, with albums available of Brazil's distinctive local music. Modern Sound on Barata Ribeiro has the biggest collection, or for a good selection of jazz music and books, head to the artsy Livraria da Travessa.

The gift shop at the Museu do Índio has a selection of pots, woven baskets, and wooden artefacts made by indigenous tribes. Another unique souvenir is the cachaça, or sugar cane brandy, brewed at Petisco da Vila. Try a bottle after watching the production process right in the brewery.

Good-quality local arts and crafts can be found at outdoor weekend markets, the best of which include the Hippie Fair, the Babilônia Hype Fair, and the enormous Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, which has over 700 stalls. For flowers and food, including fruit, vegetables and cheeses (though you won't be able to bring them home), Praca General Osorio in Ipanema and Rua Domingos Ferreira in Copacabana are also worth a visit.

Most items are reasonably priced, as long as you stay away from the obvious tourist traps around the major hotels. Bartering is acceptable though, and you can usually earn yourself up to a 10 percent discount in shops if you pay cash, though most shops and even some markets will accept major credit cards. Shops tend to stay open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and shopping centres stay open daily from 10am to 10pm. Sales tax is 18 percent, and there is no tax refund scheme for departing tourists in Brazil.


Steeped in a rich and diverse cultural history, Rio de Janeiro is a sightseer's dream with hundreds of spectacular attractions awaiting them! With the verdant Amazon rainforest, miles of beautiful coastline and some seriously exciting neighbourhoods to explore, this city has so much to offer. A trip to Rio de Janeiro would not be complete without heading up Sugar Loaf Mountain or an obligatory visit to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the seven New Wonders of the Modern World and Rio de Janeiro's most famous landmark. Ipanema is the place to go for sun worshippers, where miles of sugary white beaches and shopping opportunities abound. Sip on a caipirinhacocktail while singing along to the hit Barry Manilow tune in the Copacabana, or explore the cobblestone streets of downtown Centro, Lapa and Santa Teresa. Sports lovers should head down to the Estádio do Maracanã and enjoy a spot of the national sport of soccer. Tourists will do well to purchase the Rio Pass which enables the bearer to gain free entry to four of Rio's charging tourist attractions, 50% off on all other admission fees, discounts on nightlife, 15 additional deals, and a free map and guidebook full of need-to-know information. The pass is valid for seven days and can be bought from tourist offices around the city starting from a cost of $50.


Brazil spans four time zones: Rio and Sao Paulo: GMT -2 (GMT -3 April to October); Brasilia and Belm: GMT -3 (GMT -2 October to March); GMT -4 in the West.

This peninsula and group of 365 islands (one for each day of the year!) is a holiday playground that boasts 2,000 beautiful beaches and a natural wonderland of mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes and secret coves. Visitors can take trips by schooner, yacht or motor launch to explore the delights of the area, particularly the main island, Ilha Grande. Fishing and diving are the favoured activities for tourists, and on land there are hundreds of walking trails giving access to some of the less frequented beaches like Canto, Abraaozinho, Morcego and Grande das Palmas. The beaches of Aventureiro and Lopes Mendes are also popular with surfers.

Rio's Botanical Gardens were created in 1808 by the Prince Regent of Portugal as a temporary site for acclimatising imported plants. Today it is home to some 2,600 species of plant life, particularly bromeliads and orchids. Colour is added to the botanical treasures by a wealth of wildlife, such as Toucans, Tanagers, Marmoset monkeys and brilliantly coloured butterflies.

After a few days of exhilarating sightseeing and hectic nightlife in Rio, what could be better than to wind down in Buzios, one of Brazil’s most sought-after holiday destinations.

Only two hours northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Buzios was ‘discovered’ by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960’s. Perhaps surprisingly, it has remained unspoilt to this day, its low-key development blending perfectly with the landscape of this privileged peninsula. Chic boutiques, chill out café bars and atmospheric restaurants line the streets of the original fishing village, along with nightclubs that stay open well into the early hours. Watersports and golfing are among the activities on offer as well as lush mountain trails for walking or cycling to enable you to explore the wonderful landscape. Above all Buzios is a place in which to re-charge the batteries before heading home, or better still, to another Brazilian adventure!

The west coast beaches offer calm, clear waters while the east coast ones, facing the open sea, are a little wilder and draw the surfers and water sports enthusiasts. Among the most popular beaches are Azeda Beach, Joao Fernandinho Beach (with several bars and known for its good seafood), Ferradura Beach, and Geriba beach, which is popular for surfing.

This famous Rio beach neighbourhood was just a small fishing village until a new highway changed the face of it sometime in the 1900s. The Copacabana Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1923, and since then the area mushroomed with Neoclassical and Art Nouveau skyscrapers, penthouses and apartments. Visitors still flock, as they have always done, to the glamorous Palace Hotel, the place to be seen. Sometimes the visit is only to have tea or a meal at the famed Cipriani restaurant. The beach itself has white sand and calm water and is festooned with kiosks. It is a popular spot for beach sports like soccer and volleyball, and a good place to sunbathe. Copacabana beach is particularly popular on New Year's Day. According to tradition, visitors dress in white and congregate here to celebrate in their droves, counting more than two million people during this time.

The distinctive statue of Christ the Redeemer, arms spread to welcome the world, is the symbol of Rio de Janeiro and one of the seven New Wonders of the Modern World. It rests on top of Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado Mountain, 2,330ft (710m) above the beaches below, and is accessed via a miniature train that runs from the Cosme Vehlo District through the Atlantic rainforest to the foot of the statue. The train ride offers stunning vistas of Rio, and the view from the summit is breathtaking. Spread out beneath the statue is the Tijuca Forest, resplendent with attractions to enchant visitors in the cool of the rainforest among natural pools and waterfalls. There is for example the Mayrink chapel, which features murals painted by Candido Portinari, one of Brazil's best known modern artists, and the Museu do Acude, housing colonial furniture and a collection of china from the East India Company.

Built over 50 years ago for use in the Soccer World Cup, this stadium is the largest on the continent, seating a crowd of over 95,000. The stadium is currently used to host the local soccer league games, and is the home of the Brazillian soccer team. The Maracana is also often used by international acts visiting Brazil as a performance venue - Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney being among the big names who have played here. Inside the ground is a Hall of Fame honouring soccer greats such as Pele, Roberto Dinamite, Romário, Valdo and Bebeto all of whom have been honoured by having their footprints cast in the sidewalk. A guided tour will take you through the hall, where you can enjoy a display of historical photographs and a great panoramic view of the city.

The name ‘Iguazú’ comes from the Guarani Amerindian dialect, and means ‘Big Waters’. This wonderful spectacle is one of South America’s great highlights. Situated in the Iguazú National Park close to the borders of Argentina and Brazil, the falls are formed by rapids from the confluence of the Iguazú and Alto Parana rivers. Torrents of crystal clear water plunge some 250 feet down and the sound can be heard from miles away. The park covers over 1,500km2s of orchid-strewn wilderness alive with wildcats, anteaters, tapirs, deer and monkeys. Vivid macaws and toucans fly free through subtropical forests and clouds of multi-coloured butterflies dance in the air. The Macuco Safari offers boat trips to the base of Iguazú Falls - make sure you take a raincoat & keep valuables in a waterproof bag! A visit to Iguazú Falls will remain in your memory forever.

Immortalised in a popular song, 'The girl from Ipanema', this part of Rio offers not only its legendary beach, but numerous excellent hotels, bustling nightlife, sophisticated shopping opportunities and quality restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Ipanema (the name, incongruously, means 'bad water') is famous for setting fashion trends, particularly in the line of skimpy swimwear, and fashion fundis should look out for the famous bikini boutiques like Salinas,Blue Manand Bum-Bum.Also do not miss exploring the Rua Garcia D'Avila to shop for designer fashion, jewellery and furniture. Visit the Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems here for a workshop tour. There are numerous other streets in Ipanema to explore as well, including the attractive commercial street Visconde de Piraja that is lined with speciality shops, bars, restaurants and some of Rio's best boutiques. Visit the hippie fair at General Osorio Square on Sundays for wooden sculptures, handcrafts, exotic musical instruments and artworks.

The most festive spot in what is arguably the most festive city in the world. Rio Scenarium is a three-floor dance club dedicated to sultry, sweaty summer salsa nights. The decor is interesting, set in an abandoned antiques warehouse, and the club is adorned with movie props and other oddities. Live acts and dance events take place regularly at the club.

Even though Rio de Janeiro is one of the world's foremost holiday destinations, boasting great beaches, vibrant night-life, and significant tourist attractions, the hard fact is that it remains a city of gross economic inequality - as typified by its sprawling urban slums ( favelas), the largest of which, Rocinha, is home to nearly a quarter of a million people. For tourists looking to get to grips with this social reality, a local named Zezinho runs widely-celebrated tours of Rocinha, the favela in which he grew up. Those worrying that it will be a typical, voyeuristic, seen-from-the-back-of-a-Jeep experience can lay those fears to rest - the great strength of Zezinho's tours is that they are conducted out of love for Rocinha, and a desire to share its culture with foreigners. As Zezinho says, 'It is easy to see poverty or poorly built houses, but what I love about Rocinha is the spirit of the people' - and all who partake in his tour of Rocinha agree that it's a valuable, important, and humanising touristic experience.

Having had their fill of the beach, tourists seeking the 'real Rio de Janeiro' should make a beeline for one of its most iconic neighbourhoods, Santa Teresa. Located at the top of Santa Teresa Hill, the neighbourhood is famous for its winding, narrow streets, its 19th century architecture, and its amazing array of restaurants, bars, art galleries and eclectic shops. A popular area for local artists and tourists alike, Santa Teresa is best reached using its historic tram service, which runs up the hill from the centro(departing from Largo da Carioca square). The tram line - the only one of its kind in Rio - runs right through Santa Teresa's picturesque streets, offering magnificent views of the city below. By all accounts, no visit to Rio de Janeiro would be complete without spending at least some time in Santa Teresa.

You can get away from the city for a day by taking a cruise to Sepetiba Bay and its many scenic tropical islands. The area has calm waters perfect for snorkelling, canoeing and swimming. Islands like Jaguanum, Pombeba, are known for prime nature watching with an abundance of birdlife and dolphins; and Papagaio, Saracura and Bernardo are better for aspiring fishermen. There are also a few good seafood restaurants scattered among the islands.

The summit of Rio's unique 1,299ft high (396m) belvedere, named Sugar Loaf because of its resemblance to the loaves of sugar used by the Portuguese colonists, can be reached by a two-stage cable car ride. The first stage takes visitors up 722ft (220m) to the Morro da Urca, where there is a restaurant, amphitheatre, heliport and spectacular view of the Yacht Club and Botafogo Bay. The second stage takes one the rest of the way to the summit for a panoramic view of the city, and the whole of Copacabana beach. The Sugar Loaf cable car is a major icon of Rio's tourism.

The world's largest urban forest, Tijuca spans 7,900 acres (3,200ha) and sits on Rio's doorstep. Inside the forest, walkabouts will lead you past caves, waterfalls and an abundance of exotic and rare flora and fauna. Stop and enjoy a pre-packed lunch at the 'Mesa do Imperador', a massive granite picnic table. The famous Corovado Mountain and statue of Christ the Redeemer form part of the forest.

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