Rio de Janeiro is one of my favorite places in the world. Oh no, wait, it IS my favorite place in the world! Over the past two years I have been trying to spend as much time in this city as possible. As we all know, travelling can be expensive, especially in big cities. It is, however, perfectly possible to have a splendid time in this marvelous city without going broke.
First of all there are many budget-friendly options for your stay in this wonderful city. No need to pay through the nose for fancy hotels with swimming pool and continental breakfast. Why not stay with a Carioca? If you’re lucky enough you might find someone who is willing to host you for free for a couple of days. All you have to do is create a profile on www.couchsurfing.com/ and start looking. Another budget-friendly option is looking for a local host on https://www.airbnb.com/. True, some people on Airbnb ask a lot of money for you to stay at their place. However, you can merely eliminate these more expensive places by selecting the budget you have available for accommodation. Another option is staying at hostels in one of the many favelas. You can find a room as cheap as R$ 30 per night with breakfast included. I can hear you think it is dangerous to stay in a favela. Nowadays there are many pacified favelas though. Sometimes they are even very favorably located, right next to the famous beaches and tourist areas. The favelas of Vidigal, Rocinha and Babilônia would deserve my recommendation.
Things to do
Nearly everyone knows the typical tourist attractions in Rio such as Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. There are however many other; less expensive; things to do in Rio that are worth your while.
Going to the beach is still completely free so take your pick between the many beautiful beaches the city has to offer: Ipanema, Copacabana, Leblon, Barra da Tijuca, Botafogo and Praia Vermelha among others. Maybe you even get to play one of the typical Carioca sports such as footvolley or frescobol.
Even though Rio is a big city, there are plenty of green spaces for you to enjoy some fresh air.
Rio’s botanical garden is definitely worth a visit. You can spend hours discovering the diversity of Brazil’s ecosystem. The garden is open every day and you pay R$ 9 to get in. More information is available on http://www.jbrj.gov.br/#
Cachoeira do Chuveiro
The road behind the botanical garden leads to a trail that ends at a small waterfall. If you’ve had enough of the suffocating heat on the streets of the city, I would definitely recommend a visit to this waterfall. The trail is covered by the trees so the heat won’t get to you. The trail has a medium difficulty and it takes about 20 minutes to make it to the end. It’s definitely worth it because the water of the waterfall is very refreshing.
One of the best views of the city can be seen from the Two Brothers Mountain. To get there you take a bus to the favela of Vidigal. From the bottom of the favela you take a Moto-Táxi (motorcycle taxi) to the top. This will cost you between R$ 3 and R$ 5. You can also walk to the top if you prefer. At the top you will cross the football field and pass through a small gate to where the trail starts. It takes about 30 minutes to get all the way to the top. Bring enough water with you during the hike. The view and the slight breeze on top of the mountain will make you hold your breath in awe.
Pedra da Gávea
If you like more of a challenging climb, you should opt for the Pedra da Gávea. Take a bus to Barra da Tijuca and get off in sub-neighborhood Barrinha. Cross the bridge to get to the other side of the river and make your way to the Estrada de Sorimã. Enter the street through the green gate and continue towards the start of the trail. It will take you around 2.5 hours to get to the top. Part of the trail requires you to climb a steep rock so wear adequate footwear. The view from the top is amazing. Do the trail on a sunny day otherwise you will end up in the clouds like I did.
Lagoa is one of the richest neighborhoods in Rio. It derives its name from the lake in the center of the neighborhood. You can go on a nice walk along the waterfront without spending as much as a penny though. The park next to the water is perfect for picnicking.
Many different cities around the world have been implementing a system of smart bike hire to promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce traffic. Rio has its own system known under the name of Bike Rio, sponsored by Itau Bank. For one day you pay R$ 5 but it’s even more advantageous if you sign up for a month (R$ 10). More information and subscription on http://www.mobilicidade.com.br/bikerio.asp
Forget typical city tours where you pay an absurd amount of money upfront and you don’t even know if the tour is going to be any good. Go for Rio’s Free Tour. You go on the tour and at the end you tip the tour guide in accordance to what you think the tour was worth. Free Walker Tours started out small by offering a free tour of the city center. Two years later the company also offers another free tour of Copacabana, Ipanema and the Lagoa area among other paying tours. More information on http://www.freewalkertours.com/
Going to Rio’s carnaval at the Sambadrome will probably make your wallet bleed. There are, on the other hand, many pre-carnaval and carnaval Blocos (system of street carnaval) that are completely free.
New Year’s Eve
The biggest party of the year takes place at Copacabana beach and is completely free. Happy New Year Everyone!