There are many adjectives one can use when they think of Rio De Janeiro – radiant, beautiful, otherworldly – the list could go on and on. Rio is home to one of the modern wonders of the world, and beaches that stretch for miles and pique interest all over the world. If someone in the western world hasn’t heard of Copacabana, the chances are they’ve been living in a hole. However, it is important to remember that while paradise is only steps away in this city, it is also wonderfully rich in culture, in history, and in the people that dwell here.
The First Glance
To begin with, my experience was almost ethereal; I had seen Rio dozens of times on TV, my excitement building from having scheduled my arrival just in time for the Olympics. I remember it well: I stared out of the aeroplane window at the beaches, golden sand entirely visible from 20,000ft, and the various beachside hills pointing up at me through the wispy clouds just below. As I saw Christ the Redeemer out of the taxi window later on, his open arms were welcoming the entire city and making my heart beat a little bit faster. Then the realisation finally came that I was a continent away from home, in a place normally seen as paradise. The ethereal feeling was replaced with a stirring excitement at the many things the city had to offer, including the hospitality of its wonderful residents. For them, of course, it is not paradise; it is normalcy, and although many of us might be envious of that, it’s important to remember that a sense of routine is relative which I’ve learned. After spending two months here, one begins to sink into the lifestyle, and you begin to take in a different perspective.
The People Of Rio
Many tourists do have some problems here when it comes to communication, as most people are not fluent in English. It is a growing trend for adults to begin learning, and children are also starting younger with English in schools, but it is still not normal to hear fluent English in Brazil. When walking past the townsfolk, one will hear flurries of Carioca (the word for people from Rio, and their dialect), and other different variants of Portuguese (probably going into one ear and coming out the other, even in the case of most linguists). However, one thing you can always count on here in Brazil, and especially in Rio, is the Cariocas’ ability to make one feel at home. Even those without any English will do their utmost to communicate and help you navigate your way through the city. One mustn’t forget that in addition, Cariocas operate at a slower pace than people from the United States or United Kingdom – nothing needs urgency, and even tourists learn in their time here that patience is key. If you are here for more than 30 days, it’s good to bear in mind that you will have to visit the Federal Police, which can take up a good chunk of your day.
Although tourists may find it a little more difficult to get around, Uber is your best friend; not only does it harbour a wide range of UberX cars, but a scheme called UberEnglish with English-speaking drivers is available for those with little to no Portuguese.
Metros and Buses
For those on the Copacabana/Botafogo side of Rio, the Metro is easy to use at only R$4.10 (roughly $1.25USD) per single trip, with another line opening up on the Ipanema side in November that stretches all the way to Barra de Tijuca (the up and coming district, where the Olympic Park is located). If you’re staying for a longer period of time, there is the Bilhete Único Carioca, a different pre-paid card that allows travel on all bus lines and train lines throughout the city. For those who don’t mind a rougher ride, the buses are 30 cents cheaper and reach almost all corners of the city, and over the bridge to Niteroí, where the famous art Museum of Contemporary Art is located.
Don’t Miss: The Most Incredibles Sights To See
Christ The Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain
Of course, there are some absolute must-sees in Rio that one mustn’t neglect to mention. The most important is Christ the Redeemer (or in the original Portuguese, Cristo Redentor) on top of the Corcovado, which gives a most incredible view of Rio spanning from the bridge to Niteroí, all the way to Pedra Da Gávea which overlooks the Rocinha favela. Tickets aren’t exactly cheap by tourist standards, costing around $30USD, but they are absolutely worth the price. Another brilliant tourist spot is Sugarloaf Mountain, where the cable car costs around $25USD. If you are a student or a senior, remember to bring ID – discounts are available.
Nature Spots: Dois Irmãos to Tijuca
Other lesser-known activities are the hike to Dois Irmãos, which also sports beautiful views, while Parque Lage and the Botanical Garden district have some of the most beautiful nature the city has to offer. If nature is of real interest, Tijuca National Park, a manmade forest that spans from the Corcovado to Barra de Tijuca, is another great spot.
Those lucky enough to be in Rio for Carnaval in February will have an absolutely amazing experience, with a week long holiday for residents and parade at the weekend with the most vibrant floats and costumes ever seen. Venturing out of Rio’s official city limits is also a must, all Niteroí also has more beautiful beaches which, although not left untouched by tourists, have a more local feel about them.
For the adventurous
If you are an adrenaline junkie, it’s worth a trip to São Conrado (below) or Urca for a hand gliding ride – the experience costs around $200USD, but this is extremely worth the money with a skyline view meeting the beach that would be hard to find anywhere else. Kayaking and paddle-boarding are also common, and cheaper, with most companies only charging around $50 a trip.
Keeping Safe: Some Guidance
While it isn’t exactly as dangerous as it sounds here, there is a chance that you could be on the receiving end of a mugging. However, it’s important to remember that it is like any other city in the world; crowded places are the domains of pickpockets, and crime is always going to be problem with a population of more than 1 million people. Tourists should take the usual steps to keep themselves out of trouble: make sure your valuables are not visible, and keep your possessions on your person at all times. Drawing attention to your nationality is also not the best idea, so be careful of speaking English at night in built-up areas. But, as previously mentioned, it is like any city; if you stay streetsmart, you will be absolutely fine, and enjoy your time in Rio just like the Cariocas do every day.
There is one thing I am absolutely sure of, and that is that Rio De Janeiro is beautiful in so many ways. The culture and the history are just some of the many other facets it has to offer the visitor, and it definitely qualifies as an otherworldly paradise. Remember, though, that the people here are just as down to earth as anywhere else in the world, and that Rio is accessible to just about anyone. Explore, relax, and make the most of your time in a city that’s up and coming, and provides wonders that are really something to behold.