RIO’S SURVIVAL GUIDE
“Rio 40 degrees, marvelous city, purgatory of the beauty and the chaos”. The chorus that Brazilian singer Fernanda Abreu created in the 90s is perhaps the best synthesis of the intricacy of Rio de Janeiro: unparalleled natural landscapes and inescapable urban problems of a metropolis with more than six million people. “Rio is not for amateurs”, it’s a common saying among Cariocas. So, we laid out some important tips for you enjoy and also understand better Rio’s complexity.
Shadow, coconut water and tranquility
Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with beach and it’s there that you’ll spend most hours of your day. One of the major concerns of visitors is pollution. Periodically, the State Environmental Institute tests the water’s quality of the beaches and Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema have favorable conditions of bathing (excluding the rainy season in which there are greater variations).
When you go to the beach, take only the essentials: appropriate bathing suit, towel / sarong, sunscreen, little money and enough disposition to guarantee that famous Rio’s tan. If you are alone and decide to take a sea bath, leave your things with someone who inspires confidence (it may seem weird, but you’ll recognize these people on the beach) or use a super trendy waterproof fanny pack!
Remember to take care of yourself too: stay hydrated, use sunblock several times a day and look for shelter under a parasol when the clock goes around 12h. It’s extremely important!
Walking on the street …
Along with pollution, violence is undoubtedly one of the most familiar and troublesome aspects of Rio. However, much has changed in recent years. According to data from a Unesco study, the death rate from firearms fell by almost 70% in the last decade in the city (the largest reduction in a Brazilian capital). But the sense of insecurity, coupled with social inequalities and common dangers of a major metropolis, still cause fear in many visitors.
With all of this in mind, some precautions can be taken to avoid the risks of burglaries such as: avoiding to walk through tunnels or on beach sand at night; not carrying large amount of money or jewelry, especially if you go out to drink; walking with a copy of the passport, never the original one; visiting the Rio’s downtown and its rich architecture always on weekdays and during the daylight , since at night it becomes an inhospitable place.
Adventure? Always! (But responsibly)
The mountainous relief of Rio favors those visitors who enjoy adventures and contact with nature. Various trails and hikes are possible, gifting you with spectacular views. Before starting a trail, seek information on its intensity and difficulty. A good start may be to venture on the trail of Morro dos Dois Irmãos in Ipanema, which lasts around 40 minutes, with helpful signposts and considered of slight intensity.
If you want a little more intense adventure – besides saving good money – how about doing the Christ Redeemer trail? Departing from Parque Lage at the Jardim Botânico neighborhood, you arrive at the monument on more or less than 1h30 of walk. Another intense trail is at Pedra da Gávea: the view is certainly worth all the effort, but do not do this trail without a guide and without being in really good shape, as it involves parts that require good hiking experience and skills.
Subway? Bus? Taxi? Uber?
In recent years, the city has undergone a major transformation in its transport network, so even the locals are still adapting to the new buses, subway, bus rapid transit (BRT) and VLT (light rail vehicle) lines. The tip is to study the map of the city and use a good mobility app, such as Moovit.
The best option to move between the city downtown and the south zone is undoubtedly the subway. But it doesn’t take you everywhere: if you’re going on a low budget trip and you want to know sightsees such as the Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer and the Botanical Garden, you’ll have to use buses.
Now, if you like to have a little more comfort or you’re leaving a nightclub, taxis and Uber will always be there for you. Taxi drivers can sometimes take advantage of your tourist naivité, making you take a longer route than necessary – which is more difficult on Uber because of the GPS system. Another advantage of Uber is about the price: usually a race comes out at half of the common taxi price.
Who has a mouth goes …
Certainly those who invented this saying would complete with “Rio de Janeiro” instead of Rome, if he knew the cidade maravilhosa. From bus drivers, to day laborers, to vendors or people walking down the street: Cariocas are eager to help tourists, even without speaking the language of the visitor.