Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city of Brazil and was the capital city until 1960. Located on the southeastern coast of Brazil it has a population of around 6 million. The larger metropolitan area is estimated to have 11-12 million inhabitants, which makes it one of the most densely populated places on earth. The city is commonly known simply as Rio, and its residents are known as Cariocas. It is divided into five zones- Centro, North Zone, South Zone, West Zone, and Barra da Tijuca. The city is situated between the mountains and the sea and boasts magnificent natural beauty, from beaches to the mountains and forests. Rio is surrounded by Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world.
Rio is famous for its Carnival – when everyone gets a little crazy, its beaches – featuring the tiny bikinis of Copacabana and Ipanema, and samba music. The most famous icon and best known at first sight is the 30 meter replica of Jesus the Redeemer standing on the top of the Corcovado Mountain. Rio’s Maracanã is one of the world’s largest football stadiums. It can take around 80,000 people. The Sugar Loaf Mountain is a monolith granite peak sticking from the edge of the sea. It can be reached by cable car or by hiking and is a must-see for every visitor.
Cariocas, the people of Rio, are known worldwide as a happy and lively crowd who love to party. The best known fiesta is the Carnival which draws huge masses of visitors to the streets of Rio every year. Rio ’s natural beauty is magnificent. There are numerous beautiful beaches, and the mountains are only a short distance from the city, not to forget the Tijuca forest.
Rio has a typical tropical climate. It is hot all year round with generally high humidity. Summers last from November to March and are very hot and humid. Temperatures occasionally reach up to 40°C and thunderstorms are common. W inters last from June to September and are dry and cool but never cold, with some precipitation. Winter temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C. The warmest month is usually February and the coolest is July. December is generally the wettest month of the year.
January average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 135 mm rainfall February average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 124 mm rainfall March average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 134 mm rainfall April average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 109 mm rainfall May average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 77 mm rainfall June average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 51 mm rainfall July average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 45 mm rainfall August average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 45 mm rainfall September average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 62 mm rainfall October average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 82 mm rainfall November average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 100 mm rainfall December average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 137 mm rainfall
Aeroporto Internacional Antônio Carlos Jobim , also known as Galeão is located on Governor’s Island 20 km from Rio. It handles all international and most domestic flights.
Santos Dumont airport is mostly used by local airlines and is located 20 minutes from the beach where most Rio’s hotels are situated.
Airport Bus: The buses depart every half hour from 5:20 am to 11:00 pm and passes by the city’s major hotels along the beach road. If your hotel is further inland, the driver will let you off at the nearest corner. Taxi: Special airport taxis are available outside the terminal of both airports. You pay in advance. The prices to all destinations are posted on the taxi booths. White radio taxis are also available in the same places and are slightly cheaper. The most reliable of these taxi companies are Transcoopass, Cootramo, and Coopertramo.
Rio has regular bus connections and most destinations are served by very comfortable night buses. Rodoviária Novo Rio handles long-distance and international buses. Menezes Cortes Terminal is a station located near Praça 15 de Novembro and mainly handles buses to Rio’s neighborhoods and the nearby cities.
The central train station, Estação Dom Pedro II Central do Brasil , handles intercity trains.
The public transportation system is cheap and efficient, and most tourist destinations can be reached by bus or metro. However, buses are notorious spots for pick-pockets so consider using taxis which are not that expensive.
The Metro is clean, efficient and quite safe but has only two lines. Services run daily from 5:00 am to midnight, Sundays and holidays from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Local buses cover the entire city and are the cheapest way to get around. However, they are often crowded, driven badly, and full of pick-pockets. If you take a bus ride make sure you do not wear any jewelry or other valuable items. It is recommended you speak at least some Portuguese because the drivers do not speak English.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive but you must make sure the meter is running. A safer option is to call a radio taxi but it costs about 30% more than a regular taxi.
Driving in Rio is not recommended and car hire is expensive.
Be very careful when crossing the streets as the traffic is quite hectic.
Address: Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo Open: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm daily Admission: R$20
Rio's Estádio Maracanã is one of the world's largest stadiums. It can hold almost 80,000 people. Rio is home to four traditional Brazilian footbal clubs: Flamengo, Vasco da Gama, Fluminense, and Botafogo. The matches are a must-see. The fans come to the games equipped with flags, streamers and firecrackers.
Surfing is a very popular sport here. There are numerous beaches suitable for surfing. The best known surfing beach is Arpoador located between Copacabana and Ipanema.
Rio is the center of rock climbing in Brazil. It offers numerous climbing sites close to the city. The best time to brave the cliffs is from April to October. Avoid the warmer months when it becomes too hot to climb.
Rio offers numerous bike paths in and around the city. A long bike path was built along the seashore, from Leme to Barra Tijuca. The roads are closed on Sundays, making them an ideal place for roller skating, cycling and walking.
Rio offers outstanding nature walks surrounded, as it is, by the magnificent Floresta da Tijuca. There also three national parks within easy driving distance from the city. You can also choose from many organized hikes around the city to areas of Corcovado, Morro da Urca, Pão de Açúcar and Tijuca.
Address: Avenida Atlantica and Xavier da Silveira; Neighborhood: Zona Sul
Copacabana is without a doubt the most famous beach in the world. It offers Rio’s classic beach culture and plenty of activities, for example beach volleyball, beach soccer, and sunbathing. Swimming can be sometimes hazardous because of the pollution, but the pollution levels change every day and are posted everywhere. The beachfront Avenida Atlântica is lined with famous hotels, cafes and restaurants. Famous also are its wide mosaic sidewalks designed by Burle Marx.
Neighborhood: Zona Sul
Famous for its fashionable beach and immortalized in the song ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, this district offers loads of entertainment. Apart from swimming and surfing the area offers numerous chic boutiques, fashionable cafés and lively nightlife. Look for one of the famous bikini boutiques where the trends in swimwear fashion are being set. You can also visit the Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems and tour the workshop. On Sundays you will find a market in Praça General Osório where wooden sculptures, handcrafts, music instruments and artworks are sold.
Sugar Loaf Mountain is Rio’s best known landmark. It is a 396m granite peak towering over the entrance of Guanabara Bay. It offers a magnificent view over the city and can be reached by a cable car or an hour long hike. On the top there is a restaurant, amphitheatre, and heliport. Visit in the evening when the view from the top is the beautiful. Avoid the mountain on cloudy days - for obvious reasons - and between 10:00 am to 11:00 am and 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm when crowds are at their peak.
The Corcovado Mountain is 710 m high and on its top stands the unforgettable statue of Christ the Redeemer with his arms outspread. The top of the mountain can be reached by a miniature train. The ride takes 20 minutes and includes some of the most beautiful vistas of the city. The summit also offers a magnificent panorama of the city and is truly a must-see for every visitor.
The train travels through the beautiful Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world which is in itself worth a visit. Tijuca offers numerous natural and cultural attractions, for example, waterfalls and natural pools, the Mayrink chapel painted by one of Brazil’s most famous artists, Candido Portinari, and the colonial furniture and beautiful china housed in the Museu do Acude.
Rio ’s cuisine reflects the ethnic diversity of its citizens. Expect some of the finest dining you have ever experienced. There are numerous excellent Portuguese and Brazilian places, and also fantastic Italian and Japanese restaurants. There is something for every taste. The best bars, restaurants, cafes and snack bars are found in the areas of Ipanema, Leblon, Copacabana and Leme.
Eating out is not expensive. Even in the sophisticated restaurants the dishes range around US$15. A bottle of mineral water is usually less than US$1 and a bottle of domestic beer is less than US$2.
In a budget restaurant expect to pay from US$5 to US$15 per person and from US$20 to US$35 in a more sophisticated restaurant.
Date: It lasts for five days, beginning on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Location: Samba parade at Sambodromo & street carnival in different neighborhoods
The Carnival is the most important and the largest event in Rio. The most interesting and spectacular part is the samba parade held at Sambadromo which seats 70,000 people. The Samba parade features 14 groups of dancers each day, dressed in fantastic costumes, singing and dancing to the music of samba. In Brazil, each city has a Carnival of their own but the one in Rio is the best.
NEW YEAR CELEBRATION
Date: December 31
New Year in Rio is an extravagant party with numerous festivities all over the city. Musical shows are staged in various parts of the city. On Copacabana Beach there is a party to bid the old year goodbye and say hello to the new. Everyone dresses in white. There are numerous parties going on at hotels, clubs and restaurants. At midnight the sky explodes with fireworks in magnificent colors.
FESTA DE IEMANJA
Date: January 1 Location: Avenida Atlantica and Avenida Princessa Isabel, Copacabana Beach
Held on the first day of the New Year, the event draws many people to the Copacabana Beach where celebrations are held in honor of the sea goddess. You can feast your eyes on local costumes and dances and sample some delicious local food.
Cariocas – the people of Rio - love to party. Here everyone will find a party for their taste.
Rio is the music capital of Brazil. Bossa nova and chorro were born here. There is a myriad of excellent concerts showcasing Brazilian music of all kinds.
You can start your evening with a meal at one of the restaurants, then go to the movies or a theater or join the locals who gather in the bars and cafes before they go dancing.
The dance scene is varied and plentiful and dance clubs cater to all sorts of tastes and play the latest hits from every genre of music imaginable. Lapa is a very popuilar clubbing area with numerous samba places as well. If you are looking for bossanova playing venues, visit the bars in Ipanema. Do not miss Rio's famous samba halls called gafieiras , where you can dance to the sounds of samba, pagode, and bossanova.
If you prefer classical music visit Teatro Municipal, located at Praça Floriano in the city center, which is home to the city's orchestra, opera and ballet ensembles. The box office is open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.
The Guanabara Bay was first reached by Portuguese explorers on January 20, 1502 who named the place accordingly: Rio de Janeiro, ‘River of January’. The area was being frequented by both the Portuguese and French for the purposes of smuggling Brazilian wood. In 1555 the French established the first European settlement in this area.
The actual city of Rio de Janeiro was founded near the Sugar Loaf Mountain in 1565 by the Portuguese as a stronghold to defend the territory after expelling the French settlers. The city was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honor of King Sebastian I of Portugal. In 1567 the city base moved to Morro do Castello. Its some 3,000 inhabitants were mainly whalers and farmers producing sugar on extensive plantations. Early on the natives were used as slaves; later African slaves were imported.
After discovering gold and diamonds at the end of the 17 th century the city experienced a rapid development. The massive immigration from Portugal made Rio the colony’s main port. This attracted the attention of pirates who attacked the city repeatedly until they were finally repelled. In 1763 the Portuguese administration in America was moved here. Rio remained a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family fled the country due to Napoleon’s invasion. The Royalty, together with a majority of Lisbon’s noblemen, moved to Rio, which in turn became the country’s temporary capital, making it the only European capital outside Europe. Since there was no infrastructure to house the hundreds of noblemen who came so suddenly, numerous inhabitants were evicted from their homes.
The population increased to 70,000. At that time the huge division between the rich and the poor started to emerge and can be still be seen today. The rich settled in today’s Zona Sul situated between the sea and the hills, and the poor moved into the Zona Norte, on the other side of the hills. During this period, some of the city’s main monuments were established: the Botanical Garden, the Royal Library, Casa França-Brasil and the Customs House.
In 1815 Rio was officially declared the capital of Brazil. The royalty moved back to Portugal in 1821 and left Prince Dom Pedro I to rule the colony. A year later he declined the order to return home and declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal. He became Brazil’s first emperor and moved to the palace Paço Imperial.
The increase in coffee trade revitalized the economy and established the city as an important trade center and port. In 1845 passenger ships started sailing to London, and six years later, to Paris as well. The result was a new immigration wave from Europe. In addition to the internal migration, the city’s population boomed.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
The period from the early 1920s to the late 1950s marks the golden age of Rio. Hollywood stars and high society started coming to this exotic and luxurious resort, drawn to its casinos, nightclubs and beaches. In the 1940s the population started to move to Ipanema and Leblon.
In 1960 Rio ceased to be the country’s capital, and Brasilia was built at great expense. During that period Rio experienced a hotel building boom along the beaches.
The 1970s brought major changes to the landscape of the city as the tunnel connecting the north and the south, the bridge Rio-Niterói and the underground were all built. Rio began losing its luxurious spark as the large immigrant population fled to the poor, interior northeastern areas. Drug-related crime was rife in the slums, or favelas, as they are called. Conditions there only started to improve when Rio hosted the UN environmental conference Eco 92 and measures were taken to improve living conditions in the favelas as well as the renovation of some roads and buildings.
The project of integrating the favelas into the city is still ongoing. The government has introduced some infrastructure, eventually providing schools, basic sanitation and hospitals.
Brazilians are very zesty and passionate. Their conversations may seem quick and full of interruptions, but this is not rude at all. In fact, if you have reserved body language and lack of attentiveness this could be regarded as rude. Keep alert and maintain eye contact.
Light conversation topics should not include politics, deeply personal issues, job, financial status or married life. Appropriate themes are beach, landmarks, culture, dance, current economic developments, etc.
If invited to someone’s home, arrive half an hour late for a dinner and an hour late for a larger party. Bring flowers or a small gift for the hostess. Avoid giving anything in purple and black colors as these are mourning colors.
Brazilians love to dance, they are passionate and sensual. Personal space is close; there is a lot of touching the arms, back and hands during a conversation.
Greetings include a lot of personal contact as well: women usually meet other women by kissing on the cheeks, men greet women by kissing, while men greet each other with a handshake.
The ‘OK’ sign (an ‘o’ shape between thumb and index finger) is a very obscene gesture in Brazil – it is regarded as explicit and should be avoided!
Rio is known as a crime-ridden city but do not be too afraid. The Cariocas believe the situation is exaggerated by the media. The city is not the safest one on the planet but also not dangerously violent, either.
Most of the crime aimed at visitors is petty crime - mugging and pick-pocketing which mostly occur in crowded public places like beaches, sidewalks, and city buses. Take additional precautions when you ride the buses used by tourists – like, for example, the bus to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Public buses are also a hub of pick-pocketing activity so it is best to avoid the window seats and the back rows. Thieves often work in pairs or groups, including many gangs of children. Their routine is simple: one offers to shine your shoes or asks for something while the others grab your bag.
While driving in a car keep your windows partly closed and the doors locked. Thieves often attack cars at intersections.
It is important that you leave all valuables in a hotel safe deposit box. Make a photocopy of your passport in case you need to identify yourself and keep the original in a safe.
Do not wear any expensive jewelry or watches in public! Take out only the amount of cash you intend to spend that day.
Do not take drinks or food from strangers. In a bar, do not leave your drink unattended. An old trick that still works is a ploy called ‘Good Night Cinderella’. Powerful sleeping pills are secretly slipped into drinks or food, and even candy! The drugs make you dizzy and unable to reach your hotel, so, in the guise of offering assistance, they gain easy access to your hotel room and valuables.
Do not take strangers to your hotel room. This is an easy opportunity to become a victim of theft or violence. There are numerous ‘Honeymoon motels’ available if you want to spend the night with someone interesting. Using motels for this kind of adventure is not considered unusual so no one will be offended.
Areas to avoid
Stay on the South side of Rio. Avoid dark isolated places at night, for example Flamenco Park or the Financial District, lonely dark streets or the beach.
Do not wander into the hills.
Under no circumstances enter the slums, or favelas!
Do not take anything valuable with you to the beach. Leave your watches, jewelry, passport, or larger amounts of money at a hotel safe. And another hint: If you conceal your money in your sneakers you will end up losing both.
The sun is very strong between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. Make sure you use a strong sun cream, wear a hat and drink plenty of water.
The police officers who patrol the streets are helpful but most of them do not speak English. If you want to report stolen items for insurance purposes go directly to the tourist police (DEAT). They are located in Leblon, on Av. Afrânio de Mello Franco.
Emergency Phone numbers Police: 190 or 22312020 Federal Police: 2291 2142 Tourist Police: 2511 5112
Rio has a classic tropical climate so it is hot and humid most of the time and temperatures never drop below 20°C so Rio is a popular destination all year round.
During winter and fall the weather is less stable. Nevertheless, the winter months from December to March have many warm and sunny days.
Summer is prone to short, heavy showers and high humidity.
Rio ’s biggest draw, however, is not the weather but the Carnival, which usually takes place in February. Everyone goes a little crazy, the city is incredibly crowded and the prices go up – but it is an event not to be missed.