Rio Basics

One of the most beautiful cities in the world is Rio de Janeiro. It’s a city of incredible beaches and never-ending nightlife with an extremely relaxed atmosphere.

Arrival in Rio by air is done at one of two airports. Most international flights will arrive at Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport. A taxi is the safest and easiest way to get into town. An official taxi queue is just outside the airport. Depending on traffic and time of day, it could take anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to reach your destination. Our taxi to Copacabana for three people cost BRA$65. There is also an express bus to different locations in the city, the bus station, and Santos Dumont Airport, which is located in the city center and serves domestic flights.

Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Santos Dumont Airport

The bus station, Rodoviária Novo Rio, serves destinations all over Brazil and a few international ones as well. It’s big and can be overwhelming. There are several bus companies with ticket booths and destinations listed under the company name. It also has some cafeterias and shops. Pay restrooms are located on both levels, and there’s a baggage storage available. It’s not located in the best area, so watch your bags at all times.

Getting around Rio is easy. There’s a subway, Metrô Rio, that runs to the city center all the way from Ipanema and Copacabana. It also goes as far as Maracanã Stadium. You can buy a single trip (unitário) from the ticket windows and you are given a plastic card. To enter the platform, input the card into the machine and it doesn’t come out. At the time of my visit, a single journey was BRA$3.20 with notice of an increase to BRA$3.50. If you plan on using the metro or buses often, you can get a prepaid card (cartão pré-pago) with a minimum charge of BRA$10. The metro is clean, modern, and safe.

View from Pão de Açúcar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View from Pão de Açúcar

There are several bus lines in Rio. You don’t need a ticket to ride the bus. You can pay an attendant in cash when you board. I only used the bus twice and both were good experiences, although with Rio traffic, the metro was much faster.

Rio de Janeiro is an expensive city and my group of four friends found it difficult to get decent accommodation at a reasonable price. Many hotels and hostels were overpriced and had low ratings on sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com. We ended up going with Airbnb and renting a private apartment in Copacabana, just 10 minutes walk from either Copacabana or Ipanema beaches. It was a great experience in a very nice two bedroom two bathroom apartment. For an entire week, it cost USD$1100, which we split between the four of us. It was a little small, but we were told that’s the norm in Rio.

Escadaria Selarón in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Escadaria Selarón

If you’re into nightlife, you have to go out in Lapa. There are numerous bars and clubs there with music ranging from Samba to Rock. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights are best. The trick is to go early to avoid queues, but things don’t really get going until after midnight. Dress code is casual. One of the most famous and popular Samba clubs is Carioca da Gema.

Finally, I have to recommend a tour guide. I normally would never use a guide for myself, but when you are in a group of four, it can be tough to please everyone. I hired Madson Araújo, a local tour guide, for a five hour cultural tour of Rio de Janeiro. He did a wonderful job taking us all over the historic districts of Rio city center and Santa Teresa. We learned a lot about life in Rio from Madson and got a lot more out of our trip because of his knowledge. He picked us up on time at our apartment in Copacabana, did well driving all over the city in some tough traffic conditions, and showed us some things we never would have known about if we explored the city on our own. He also gave us lots of great recommendations for nightlife, restaurants, and other things to see on our own. Madson is an entertaining and funny guy with great stories, and our entire group highly recommends spending a day with him. He is NOT cheap – it was USD$100 per person for our group of four – but he is well worth the money.

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