Rio de Janeiro travel - Lonely Planet (2023)

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    Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.

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Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Rio de Janeiro.

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  • See

    Ipanema Beach

    One long stretch of sun-drenched sand, Ipanema Beach is demarcated by postos (posts), which mark off subcultures as diverse as the city itself. Posto 9, right off Rua Vinícius de Moraes, is where Rio’s most lithe and tanned bodies migrate. The area is also known as Cemetério dos Elefantes because of the handful of old leftists, hippies and artists who sometimes hang out there. In front of Rua Farme de Amoedo is Praia Farme, the stomping ground for gay society.Posto 8 further east is mostly the domain of favela kids. Arpoador, between Ipanema and Copacabana, is Rio’s most popular surf spot. Leblon attracts a broad mix of single cariocas (residents of Rio), as well as families from the neighborhood. Posto 10 is for sports lovers, where there are ongoing games of volleyball, soccer and frescobol (beach tennis played with wooden rackets and a rubber ball). Whatever spot you choose, you'll enjoy cleaner sands and sea than those in Copacabana. Keep in mind that if you go on a Saturday or Sunday, the sands get crowded. Go early to stake out a spot. The word ipanema is an indigenous word for ‘bad, dangerous waters,’ which is not far off, given the strong undertow and often oversized waves that crash onto the shore. Be careful, and swim only where locals do.

  • See

    Cristo Redentor

    Standing atop Corcovado (which means ‘hunchback’), Cristo Redentor gazes out over Rio, a placid expression on his well-crafted face. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 710m, and at night the brightly lit 38m-high open-armed statue – all 1145 tons of him – is visible from nearly every part of the city.Corcovado lies within the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. The most popular way to reach the statue is to take the red narrow-gauge train that departs every 30 minutes, and takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the top. Note that same-day tickets are not available from the cog train station. Buy tickets online or from an authorized seller around Rio (the website lists numerous places to buy under 'Selling Points'); you must select a date and time when purchasing. To reach the cog station, take any ‘Cosme Velho’ bus: you can take bus 583 from Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon. You can also go by Parque da Tijuca–authorized van to visit the monument. These depart from three locations around town: Copacabana (in front of Praça do Lido from 8am to 4pm; adult/child R$74/48), Largo do Machado (8am to 4pm; adult/child R$74/48) and Paineiras, a few kilometres north of the statue (8:30am to 5pm; adult/child R$41/15).

    (Video) Celebrate Rio: the sport, the sand, the samba

  • See

    Jardim Botânico

    This exotic 137-hectare garden, with more than 8000 plant species, was designed by order of the Prince Regent Dom João (later to become Dom João VI) in 1808. The garden is quiet and serene on weekdays and blossoms with families on weekends. Highlights of a visit here include the row of palms (planted when the garden first opened), the Amazonas section, the lake containing the huge Vitória Régia water lilies, and the enclosed orquidário, home to 600 species of orchids.There's an outdoor snack bar on the grounds (near a playground) and an appealing cafe just outside the main entrance. The new visitor center shows films (in English and Portuguese) that give the history of the gardens, and has a gift shop selling unique crafts and souvenirs, such as shirts made of bamboo and bowls with pre-Columbian designs made from banana fibers.

  • See

    Instituto Moreira Salles

    This beautiful cultural center hosts impressive exhibitions, often showcasing the works of some of Brazil's best photographers and artists. The gardens, complete with artificial lake and flowing river, were designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. There's also a craft shop, and an excellent cafe that serves breakfast all day as well as lunch and afternoon tea.On display there's usually at least one Rio-focused exhibition, which taps into the extensive archive here: the IMS has more than 80,000 photographs, many portraying the old streets of Rio as well as the urban development of other Brazilian cities over the last two centuries. Check the website to see what's on when you're town.

  • See

    Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

    One of the city’s most picturesque spots, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is encircled by a 7.2km walking and cycling path. Bikes are available for hire from stands along the east side of the lake, as are paddle boats. For those who prefer caipirinhas (cocktails made from limes, sugar, ice and high-proof sugarcane alcohol) to plastic swan boats, the lakeside kiosks on either side of the lake offer alfresco food and drinks, sometimes accompanied by live music on warm nights.

  • See

    Escadaria Selarón

    One of Rio's best-loved attractions, the steps leading up from Joaquim Silva became a work of art when Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón decided to cover them with colorful mosaics. A dedication to the Brazilian people, the 215 steps are a vivid riot of color.

    (Video) Introducing Brazil
  • See

    Arcos da Lapa

    A much-photographed symbol of Lapa, the arches date back to the mid-18th century, when the structure served as an aqueduct to carry water from the Carioca River to downtown Rio. In a style reminiscent of ancient Rome, the 42 arches stand 64m high. Today the arches carry the bonde cable car on its way between Centro and Santa Teresa. Located near Av Mem de Sá.

  • See

    Bonde

    The bonde is the last of the historic streetcars that once crisscrossed the city. Its romantic clatter through the cobbled streets is the archetypal sound of bohemian Santa Teresa. Currently the bonde travels every 15 to 20 minutes from the cable-car station in Centro over the scenic Arcos da Lapa and as far as Largo do Guimarães in the heart of Santa Teresa.After a tragic accident in 2011 the bonde was taken out of commission while much-needed improvements to the track were made. After more than four years the line reopened – but now it only travels 1.7km of its 10km of track. Although work on further sections of the track has been promised, the project's estimated cost (around R$100 million) makes it unlikely that the bonde will continue beyond Largo do Guimarães any time soon.

  • See

    (Video) Lonely Planet - North East Brazil

    Ponta do Arpoador

    At the far eastern end of Av Vieira Souto, this rocky point juts out into the water and serves as one of Rio's best places for watching the sunset. Throughout the day, you'll spot fishers casting off the rock, couples stealing a few kisses and photographers snapping that iconic length of Ipanema Beach that stretches off toward the towering peaks of Dois Irmãos.You'll also see large flocks of surfers jockeying for position offshore. Around the western edge of the rock is the tiny, secluded Praia do Diabo (Devil's Beach); it's a fine place to take in the views, but swim with caution. A very rustic gym is built into the rocks (wtih Fred Flintstone–style barbells with concrete weights and chin-up bars).

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FAQs

Is visiting Rio de Janeiro worth it? ›

1 – The views of Rio de Janeiro are incredible

Its's landscape is truly unique, and it really doesn't feel like you're in a big city. It has plenty of beaches, hiking trails, botanical gardens, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest…the list goes on. In fact, Rio has more beachfront than any other city in the world!

What is the best month to go to Rio de Janeiro? ›

The best time to visit Rio is between December and March, when the weather is warm and sunny enough to hit the beaches. The city's seductive samba beat and incredible panoramic views last year-round, but arrive in February to experience Carnival.

How many days do you need in Rio? ›

With less than a week to spare, you can explore the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro or party with the locals during the annual Carnaval. However, three weeks is an ideal duration to explore Brazil.

Is 5 days enough for Rio? ›

There is a lot of do in this sprawling city so you want enough time to hit everything without skimping on beach time! We spent 5 days in Rio which for us was a really nice amount of time. We got to enjoy the beach a few times, watch the sunset from different spots and go to a handful of neighborhoods.

Is São Paulo or Rio better? ›

The popular cliché says São Paulo is Brazil's New York and Rio de Janeiro is its Los Angeles. São Paulo is the larger business epicenter that runs at a more frenetic pace, and the residents (known as Paulistas) are slightly colder and more hardworking than Rio's Cariocas.

How do I not look like a tourist in Rio? ›

We don't recommend jeans or long pants—you'll get uncomfortably hot. If you're going to the beach or just wandering through the streets, choose beach shorts and light t-shirts with sandals or flip flops. If you are going to a restaurant, choose more up-scale shorts with casual shoes and maybe a polo shirt.

What is the cheapest month to go to Brazil? ›

High season is considered to be June and July. The cheapest month to fly to Brazil is February.

Is the Ocean warm in Rio? ›

Rio De Janeiro is located in the Arctic Circle, at latitude 22 degrees. The swimming season in this location lasts all year round. Average annual water temperature on the coast in Rio De Janeiro is 74°F, by the seasons: in winter 71°F, in spring 72°F, in summer 78°F, in autumn 76°F.

Is English widely spoken in Rio? ›

While many English tourists assume their native language can be used anywhere in the world, English won't actually get you very far in Brazil. It's not a language that's widely spoken in the country. In fact, the British Council reports that a mere 5% of the Brazilian population speaks English fluently.

Are there mosquitos in Rio? ›

Rio de Janeiro, Rio De Janeiro

The risk for mosquito activity is extremely high. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors to prevent bites. The risk for mosquito activity is high. Consider an EPA-registered repellent to deter mosquito bites.

What is the best month to visit Brazil? ›

Overall, the months of September and October are the best time to vacation in Brazil, as you will avoid the major holiday periods as well as the chilly southern winter and the rainy season in the Pantanal.

Can you wear jewelry in Rio? ›

You should: avoid wearing expensive jewellery and watches. avoid carrying large sums of money - consider wearing a money belt. avoid using a mobile phone in the street.

Is it easy to get around Rio without a car? ›

However, a clean and efficient metro system and pleasingly cheap Uber taxis make Rio pretty straightforward to navigate. During daylight hours, exploring Rio's main streets on foot is generally safe, but best avoided at night where possible. If you find yourself on foot at night, stick to the busiest streets.

Can you walk around Rio? ›

At night, you can walk around in the neighborhoods of Rio's South zone, like Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana and Botafogo. However, avoid empty streets and spaces. There is also a big difference between the beaches Copacabana and Ipanema.

Why is Rio so popular? ›

Rio de Janeiro is known for its 72 km (45 mi) of coastline and for a few of the most iconic beaches in Brazil. While the hottest ones — Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon — are in the city's affluent South Zone, some of the coolest beaches (Grumari, Prainha) are in the remote westernmost parts of town.

Is Rio a beautiful city? ›

Rio is by far the most beautiful city I have ever visited, with awe-inspiring views from every street corner and mountain top. Of course, relaxing on the beach has been a great feature of this program as well, as everyone has maximized our privilege of living one block from Copacabana Beach.

Is Brazil or Mexico safer? ›

Even for tourists, the danger areas of Brazil are limited, known and stable. Mexico has violence that can erupt without warning all over the country.

Can you flush toilet paper in Rio? ›

Don't flush toilet paper down the toilet

The sewage system in Brazil was not made to handle things like toilet paper, feminine products, and paper towels. So, please don't flush any trash down the toilet or you might experience a big problem with clogging.

Which Colour should you avoid wearing in Brazil other than black? ›

Never wear the green and yellow of the Brazilian national flag when doing business in Brazil and remember not to make the 'ok' sign with your hand, it is considered rude.

What are some things tourists should be careful about in Brazil? ›

Violent crime
  • Exercise a high degree of caution at all times.
  • Avoid travelling alone, especially at night.
  • Avoid parks or central (downtown) areas of major cities.
  • Avoid poorly lit and isolated streets.
  • Avoid walking on isolated and unsupervised beaches with poor visibility from the sidewalk.

How do you stay safe in Rio? ›

Take Care At Night. Walking around alone at night is something to avoid in any city. Certain areas in Rio have a high crime-tendency and are best avoided at night, even when in a group. These include the city center, Lapa and the beach, especially near the shoreline which is far from the bustle of the main street.

Is three days enough in Rio? ›

Even if you only spend 3 days in Rio de Janeiro, you can see all the best landmarks and attractions. This Rio de Janeiro itinerary will take you to beautiful beaches and tourist hotspots like the Christ the Redeemer statue. You can also explore Lapa, Catacumba Park, and Tijuca National Park.

Do I need a visa to go to Brazil? ›

Citizens of the United States do not require a visa to travel to Brazil for tourism or certain business-related activities.

What is the safest place to visit in Brazil? ›

Florianópolis, Brasilia (the country's capital), Curitiba, and Belo Horizonte are among the safest cities in Brazil, with some of the lowest crime rates in the country. Vacation destinations like Fernanda do Noronha are also quite safe.

Can you swim in Rio beach? ›

Which beaches are safer in Rio. Most of the beaches in Rio have the same level of security. If you are in “Zona Sul” any of the beaches are quite safe to go, such as Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema and Leblon. Barra da Tijuca, a beach in “Zona Oeste” (West Zone) is pretty safe too.

What is the warmest month in Rio? ›

February is the hottest month in Rio de Janeiro with an average temperature of 27°C (81°F) and the coldest is July at 21°C (70°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 7 in August. The wettest month is December with an average of 169mm of rain.

Are the beaches clean in Rio? ›

Thanks to a substantial current, the ocean beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema, and Barra) are much cleaner, but even so, sometimes after a heavy rain the fecal coli form count rises beyond acceptable levels.

What religion is Brazil? ›

Two percent practice Afro-Brazilian religions, and 3 percent are Spiritists. According to the 2010 census, the most recently available data from official sources, 65 percent of the population is Catholic, 22 percent Protestant, 8 percent irreligious (including atheists, agnostics, and deists), and 2 percent Spiritist.

What are the 3 most spoken languages Brazil? ›

The biggest languages present in Brazil include: Portuguese – 208.31 million speakers. Spanish – 6.38 million speakers. English – 8.50 million speakers.

What do Brazilian people speak? ›

Portuguese is the first language of the vast majority of Brazilians, but numerous foreign words have expanded the national lexicon.

Can you drink tap water in Rio? ›

The tap water is not safe to drink, so stick to bottled water. While the tap water in hotel rooms and ice cubes in restaurants are filtered and safe to drink, this is generally not true elsewhere. It's best to stick to bottled water.

What are the problems in Rio de Janeiro? ›

What problems does Rio de Janeiro have? Rio's problems include overcrowding, crime, urban sprawl, poverty, environmental destruction, air pollution, and water pollution.

Are there Scorpions in Rio de Janeiro? ›

The Tityus serrulatus, or yellow scorpion can be found in Rio, Minas Gerais, São Paulo etc.

Is it cheap to vacation in Brazil? ›

Vacations in Brazil Don't Have to Be Expensive

A budget weekend break in Brazil is possible thanks to the many incredible yet affordable destinations available. By avoiding the expensive hotels, tour packages and transportation options altogether, there are plenty of things you can do on the cheap.

Is Brazil cheap? ›

It's not a secret that Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America. Still, for those travelers who earn in dollars, pounds, or euros, the 4-to-1 exchange rate makes the country surprisingly affordable. It's important to note that Brazil is a country of extremes.

What is the rainiest month in Brazil? ›

Averages are for Rio De Janeiro Airport, which is 4 miles from Rio de Janeiro. Based on weather reports collected during 1985–2015.
...
Quick Climate Info
Hottest MonthFebruary (82 °F avg)
Coldest MonthJuly (72 °F avg)
Wettest MonthDecember (0.90" avg)
Windiest MonthOctober (7 mph avg)
1 more row

Can you wear shorts in Brazil? ›

dress with a casual feel, think jeans, shorts and t-shirts or tunics. Rio de Janeiro is also very casual, but with a cool edge, a lot of the locals go from the beach to lunch or for drinks, so carry a light dress or shorts and a loose tee to cover up, as bikinis are for the beach only.

How much do you tip in Rio? ›

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilians have a friendly reputation, but tipping is not a part of the culture. However they are often direct and clear on money they want or do not expect. Restaurants: A 10% "servico" charge is often added to the bill. While there is no legal obligation to pay it, it's customary to do so.

Can you drink the water in Brazil? ›

Bottom Line. Drinking only bottled water in Brazil is the safest route to take, and you want to make sure any bottled water you buy is properly sealed to ensure quality. Steer clear of tap water and well water as well as any ice, juices, iced tea or other drinks made from tap water or well water.

What is the best month to visit Rio de Janeiro? ›

The best time to visit Rio is between December and March, when the weather is warm and sunny enough to hit the beaches. The city's seductive samba beat and incredible panoramic views last year-round, but arrive in February to experience Carnival.

Can I use Uber in Rio? ›

Complete your plans today by reserving a ride with Uber in Rio de Janeiro. Request a ride up to 30 days in advance, at any time and on any day of the year.

Is Rio worth visiting? ›

It has plenty of beaches, hiking trails, botanical gardens, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest…the list goes on. In fact, Rio has more beachfront than any other city in the world! No wonder why Rio may be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Are taxis safe in Rio? ›

We recommend using a Rio de Janeiro taxi to explore the city as comfortably as possible. Taxis are the fastest and safest transportation option in the city, and they are easily hailed on the street. They mostly congregate at taxi ranks and around major hotels in the city.

Why is Rio popular with tourists? ›

Rio de Janeiro has some monuments that are very well known in the world and that tourist come to see: Christ the Redeemer - an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ that was constructed between 1922 and 1931. It is 30 metres high with an 8-metre pedestal, while the arms stretch 28 metres wide.

Why is Rio de Janeiro so popular? ›

Rio de Janeiro is known for its 72 km (45 mi) of coastline and for a few of the most iconic beaches in Brazil. While the hottest ones — Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon — are in the city's affluent South Zone, some of the coolest beaches (Grumari, Prainha) are in the remote westernmost parts of town.

What food is Rio known for? ›

5 Can't-Miss Foods in Rio de Janeiro
  • Feijoada. ...
  • Churrascaria. ...
  • Pão de queijo with Requeijao. ...
  • Coxinha de Galinha. ...
  • Brigadeiro.

Does Rio have good nightlife? ›

Definitely! Rio de Janeiro boasts one of the best nightlife scenes in the world. Lapa definitely has the highest concentration of bars, nightclubs, and music venues in Rio. Still, it's worth venturing into other neighborhoods, too.

Why do Japanese people go to Brazil? ›

Beginning in the early twentieth century, Japanese nationals (Nikkei) arrived in Brazil as contract agricultural workers. Most were younger sons from rural areas of Japan facing the economic upheaval that accompanied Japan's modernization efforts; few intended to emigrate permanently.

What makes Rio so beautiful? ›

3. Enjoying the Urban Mountains. What makes the city of Rio so beautiful is that it is built right around numerous mountains that jut up on the edge of the ocean. Urban development continues to push around and sometimes over the mountains, but there are still a ton of opportunities for leisure left with them.

Why is Rio so polluted? ›

Due to the poor sewage system, raw sewage from millions of people in Rio flows untreated into the bay and other water sources, resulting in high levels of pathogens and pollutants. In some locations, islands of toxic sludge are evident during low tide.

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