Rio de Janeiro

29 Tips for Smart Rio de Janeiro Travel

January 25, 2016

Rio de Janeiro, Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), is a Brazilian metropolis with breathtaking landscape, white-sand beaches, green rainforests and mountains. Rio de Janeiro travel can be fun, and you’ll need these smart travel tips to enjoy this beautiful and unique city as a local! Here are some ideas for Rio de Janeiro travel.


Visit during the off-season. Millions of tourists descend on Rio during the summer (November – March is best period). Don’t forget that we have the 2016 Rio Olympics coming up! 

1. Getting to Rio. You can get the cheapest plane tickets beginning in February after Carnaval. The rates remain low until May, then they’ll rise again. From August until November you can also get some good deals. All international flights and most domestic flights arrive and depart from the Aeroporto Internacional Antônio Carlos Jobim, known as Galeão (GIG). From the USA, a direct flight will cost around $650, from Europe around $700 and from Japan around $1000. You can always check Skyscanner, Kayak, Hipmunk, Expedia, Momondo, or Priceline to find the best price for you.

2. From the airport. If you’re going to or from the airport, make sure to use the blue REAL bus, which only costs about $5 each way. They run roughly every 30 minutes from 5:30 am to 10 pm. Taxis are plentiful and operate on a fixed-fare basis (use taxis outside the arrivals area – they are cheaper than those from the kiosks inside).

3. Around the city. Buses cost about 3.5 BRL ($1). Be aware that the bus system is a bit confusing – there are about 100 different bus lines in the city, making Rio de Janeiro travel confusing!

4. Taxis. A cab is one of the best ways to move around Rio at night. Use the yellow cabs with a blue stripe! During the day use buses and other public transportation!

5. Metro. Rio has a very good metro system that costs around 5 BRL ($1,25) per trip. The subway system is clean, relatively safe, and efficient. It is a two line system with maps at tourism offices and some metro stations. Use a pre-pay card: find machines at each metro station that allow passengers to buy and load up cards from 5 BRL ($1,25) to the value of their choice, and although there are no financial savings, you’ll avoid queues and the hassle of buying a new ticket each time you take the subway.

6. Car. The traffic makes Rio de Janeiro travel by car a real nightmare, so don’t even think of renting one!

7. Walking. A good way to see the city is on foot! The southern beaches are safe for walking around, so get out and explore!


8. Hostels. You can expect to pay around 20-25 BRL ($5-6) per night for a dorm or around 50-70 BRL ($12-17) for a private room. Hostels become more expensive the closer you get to the beaches.

9. Budget hotels. Prices start at around 100 BRL ($25) per night for a single or double room.

10. Couchsurfing. Although accommodation in Rio is affordable, the best way toavoid spending money is to Couchsurf to find homestays with locals.

11. Airbnb is always a good idea for localfeel and experience. Prices start at around $60-70 per night for an entire apartment.

Note. The rates for beach hotels are considerably higher than those for hotels just a few blocks away from the sand. Barra is beautiful but is far from most attractions – the Olympic games will take place there.


12. Carnival. The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous events in the world and people come from everywhere to participate! It’s a big reason for Rio de Janeiro travel. If you want to attend and get a great deal on a hotel – book many months in advance!

13. Christ the Redeemer. The 100 foot high statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, can be seen from any point in Rio. The best way to get there is to take the tram. Buy the ticket in advance. The price for adult ticket is around 61,60 BRL ($16).

14. Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar). Visit it for stunning views of the city! It is located in Red Beach (Praia Vermelha) and the view is just amazing! You can buy tickets to two mountains, Urca Hill and Sugarloaf Mountain, in advance. The price for adult ticket is around 71 BRL ($18).

15. The Botanical Gardens. If you are looking for a calm moment during your stay, visit the city’s botanical gardens. You can take a free guided tour of the gardens. It is open everyday during daylight hours.

16. The beaches. Visit Ipanema and Copacabana – the two largest beaches in Rio. Copacabana is a Brazilian icon and one of the most famous beaches in the world! This is a good place to taste biscoito de polvilho. They are sold on the beach by peddlers. Ipanema beach was made famous by the song “Girl from Ipanema” and it is truly amazing. Different from Copacabana, the streets behind Ipanema beach are a sight to see and with beautiful buildings and good places to visit!

17. Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. This lagoon, connected to the sea by a channel, is close to Ipanema and is surrounded by a place known as the South Zone. You can rent bikes or pedals to ride around the lagoon or on its waters.

18. Santa Teresa. This uphill district, full of Nature, is close to downtown. The cable cars will get you up in Santa Teresa.

19. Santa Teresa Tram. The tram has been running since 1859. It’s painted banana yellow and is open-sided — your ride will be quite interesting.

20. The Selaron Stairway. This stairway is located in the Santa Teresa and has hundreds of steps, all painted in different colors and motifs. The stairs are very popular for tourists, so to avoid the crowds it is best to visit first thing in the morning.

21. Arcos da Lapa. If you are young and love night life, go to Lapa, and at every door there will be music and dancing! This is an awesome district to go out to on Friday night!

22. Sao Bento Monastery. Built in 1641, is a Benedictine abbey located on the Morro de São Bento (St. Benedict Hill) in downtown Rio de Janeiro. The Mannerist style church is a primary example of Brazilian colonial architecture in Rio and the country.

Food and drinks

Brazil’s cuisine has many international influences. Typical dishes are based on rice and beans, but there are many different regional specialties throughout the country. Rio’s restaurants are as varied as Rio itself – this city has it all. Be aware that most restaurants in Rio do not accept reservations!

Local restaurants will cost around 14 BRL ($4) for a meal with a drink. Meal at a more casual restaurant will cost around 35 BRL ($9). Places near the famous beaches and tourist attractions will cost more.

Note: Many of the city’s finest restaurants offer inexpensive lunch menus during the week.

23. Brazilian specialties.

Feijoada – a hearty and filling stew that is made from black beans, pork and beef and is usually served with rice, collard greens and sliced oranges;

Pão de queijo – tapioca-flour cheese bread;

Acai – a smoothie made with the Amazonian acai berry;

Tutu de Feijao – an unusual paste that is made from beans and cassava flour;

Moqueca Capixaba – a fish dish that is made with tomato, onion, cilantro and garlic and cooked slowly.

Do not forget! Polvilho biscuits and pastel. To drink go for juices like mango, pineapple, guava and others. 

24. “Por kilo”. These restaurants allow you to eat as much or as little as you want of whatever you want. Pay by weight for usually around 24 BRL ($6).

25. Bares de suco. Juice bars serve fruit juices and vitamins along with healthy sandwiches, home-cooked daily specials, and a wealth of delicious appetizers that can easily constitute a meal.

26. Grocery stores. It will cost around 70-100 BRL ($17-25) per week, so this is a good option in order to save money throughout the trip.

27. Street food. Stick to the local fare, and eat at street food vendors whenever you can.

28. Feira De Sao Cristovao. For a taste of Northeast Brazil, visit this place that has about 700 stalls selling typical food, crafts, and ingredients for regional cuisine. Try a local specialty, cassava (mandioca, in Portuguese) with corned beef.

29. Confeitaria Colombo. This is an ideal place to have brunch! This cafe, located in a 19th-century building in the heart of the city center, serves light meals and offers an impressively long list of delicious sweets! Try the “Maravilha de Camarao” (shrimp marvel), a delicious shrimp pastry or the “Casadinhos,” cookies filled with dulce de leche (milk caramel).

Check out: Bar do Mineiro, Bar do David, Zuka, Zaza Bistro Tropical, Espirito Santa,Cine Botequim, Tacacá do Norte, Botero Bar, Fat Choi, Gracioso, Delírio Tropical, Baixo Gago, Bar do Adão.

Total cost for 3 days trip: around $300 + flight tickets

Let us know your favorite spots for Rio de Janeiro travel in the comments below! Check out smart travel tips for London, San Francisco, Boston, New York City, and more by following our blog.

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