This City Guide to Rio de Janeiro is part of our ongoing series of Wanderlust Women City Guides. We hope they offer you useful tidbits of information as you plan your journey to some of the most interesting places around the world.
Brazil is about to become a sports mecca but is it ready? As the nation prepares to host this year’s FIFA World Cup in July and the 2016 Olympic Games, the nation continues to struggle with inadequate infrastructure and huge security issues. We won’t gloss over these problems in advising you of the best things to see and do while visiting Rio but any traveler should be aware of them. That being said, Rio de Janeiro is a culturally diverse and lively city and often the go-to destination when visiting Brazil.
Top 3 Attractions:
1. Christ the Redeemer – This giant statue is the iconic symbol of Rio, towering over the city on top of Corcovado Mountain. The statue is nearly 130 feet tall and was voted one of the Seven New Wonders of the World in 2007. Pre-booking tickets is advisable as visitors have often waited over four hours in line and that can only be expected to be longer during the World Cup and Olympics. Contact our travel concierge for assistance with tickets.
2. Copacabana/Ipanema Beaches - These two spots are among the most glamorous beaches in the world. They offer incredible surf, scenic views and the best people watching you could ask for. Solo travelers should be wary, however, especially at night, as rape and kidnap are not unheard of and petty theft is also rampant.
3. Sugar Loaf Mountain - You can ride a cable car from one side of the mountain to its peak for spectacular 360◦ views of Rio. Combine this with a visit to the Christ the Redeemer Statue.
Like any major city, Rio de Janiero has its share of upscale and budget eateries. In preparing this guide we thought it quite funny that one of Rio’s top restaurants, Hachiko (Travessa Do Paco 10), offers Japanese cuisine. Go figure!
Expect to pay a lot for hotels in Rio de Janeiro, near and around the beaches. If you do not mind public transportation, then you may try Rio 180 Suites (Rua Doutor Júlio Otoni, 254 – Santa Teresa). This pousada is about 20 minutes from the beach but offers suites with amazing views of Rio and often has great rooms at a discount. Be prepared for an open concept as no walls separate bathrooms and bedrooms in some of the ultra modern suites.
For luxury, there is the five star Belmond Copacabana Palace with all of the plush amenities you would expect, including the price.
Lapa has been called the hub of Rio’s nightlife but stick to its center and don’t explore on foot. Ask your hotel concierge to call you a taxi to the exact spot, club or restaurant you plan to visit and then call that same taxi, if possible, when you leave. Artists and musicians have gathered here for decades and the streets are full of plenty of local flavor and sounds. Grab a caipirinha and dance a samba.
Rio is world renowned for its high crime rate and has tried to clean up its image in time for the World Cup and the Olympic Games. However, recent reports indicate the city has a long way to go. The infrastructure and stadiums are not yet completed. More important for tourist safety is that military tanks have moved into the slums (known as favelas) in an effort to drive the drug gangs out but those individuals have moved into the cities so tourists beware. Be alert, be vigilant, and always let someone know where you will be going, such as the front desk at your hotel.