Rio de Janeiro
Best time to go
The temperature in Rio de Janeiro is really quite moderate all year round. So, in truth, there is really no bad time of year to visit this city. It’s just that some times of year are better than others. High season runs from December to March, when Rio is festive, pricey and hot. To beat the crowds and higher prices, visit from May to September.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is spoken by more than 99% of the population
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most midrange and top-end hotels and restaurants.
Most Common Electric Socket Electric voltage: 110V. (some hotels have 220V. adaptors)
Rio’s Galeão international airport (Aeroporto Internacional Antônio Carlos Jobim; www.riogaleao.com) is 15km north of the city center on Ilha do Governador. It has left-luggage facilities, an internet cafe, ATMs and currency-exchange desks, and pharmacies as well as a few shops and restaurants.Aeroporto
Santos Dumont, used by some domestic flights, is by the bay, in the city center, 1km east of Cinelândia metro station. It has ATMs, a few shops and an internet cafe.
Brazil has a reciprocal visa system, so if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to secure a visa, then you’ll need one to enter Brazil. US, Canadian and Australian citizens need visas, but UK, New Zealand, French and German citizens do not. You can check your status with the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country.
If you do need a visa, arrange it beforehand. Visas are not issued on arrival; and you won’t be permitted into the country without it. Tourist visas are issued by Brazilian diplomatic offices. They are valid upon arrival in Brazil for a 90-day stay and are renewable in Brazil for an additional 90 days
The international departure tax from Brazil is US$36. This has probably been included in the price of your ticket: if it's not, you'll have to pay it in cash (either in US dollars or reais) at the airport before departure.
Travelers entering Brazil can bring in 2L of alcohol, 400 cigarettes and one personal computer, video and still camera. Newly purchased goods worth up to US$500 are permitted duty-free. Meat and cheese products are not allowed.
Rio is split into 4 zones: the South Zone, the North Zone, the West Zone and the Downtown area (Centro). As far as general tourism is concerned, the only zone of interest is the South and the Downtown area.
The South Zone is the richer and prettier part of the city, with dozens of hills and mountains, the lagoon (Lagoa) and marvelous beaches. It is also safer than other areas, but care must be taken in the slums covering its hills. It is in the south zone where most of your day tours and nightlife will take place, so this is the area where we most recommend staying.
The North Zone is mostly poor neighborhoods, with very little appeal for tourists. With the exception of the Tijuca Forest, Maracana and the Salgueiro samba school rehearsals, no other visits are necessary.
The West Zone includes everything after Barra da Tijuca (commonly referred to as Barra). Barra is a new middle-upper class neighborhood with tons of shopping areas and nightlife. It is, however, mostly modelled on the average American suburb, with large avenues, strip malls and ample parking. Unless you have never seen an American suburb in your life, we recommend limiting your visits here to Pepe Beach, Nuth dance club, Joatinga beach and Barra Shopping mall.
From a tourist’s point of view, the Downtown area is a zone of interest due to its historic and cultural buildings (museums, churches, colonial architecture etc.) Although very active during the day, the downtown area (with the exception of Lapa and a few happy hours), is shady at night.
Rio is a fairly easy city to navigate, with an efficient metro system, a public bike-sharing system and hurtling buses.
Minivans (called vans in Rio) are an alternative form of transportation in Rio and usually much faster than buses. They run along Av Rio Branco to the Zona Sul as far as Barra da Tijuca. On the return trip, they run along the coast almost all the way into the city center. They run frequently, and cost between R$2.50 and R$5. They do get crowded, and are not a good idea if you have luggage. Call out your stop (para!) when you want to disembark.
Walking: The neighborhoods themselves are perfect for getting around on foot.
Bicycle: Shared-bike scheme Bike Rio has numerous stations around town. You'll need a local cellphone (mobile) number to release the bikes at each station.
Tram: Rio was once serviced by a multitude of bondes (trams), with routes throughout the city. The only remaining line is the bonde to Santa Teresa, which partially reopened (1.7km of its 10km of tracks) in 2015. Currently, it begins at the bonde station in Centro and travels over the scenic Arcos da Lapa and along Rua Joaquim Murtinho only as far as Curvelo before turning around.
Bus and Metro:
Premium Auto Ônibus operates safe air-con buses from the international airport along several different itineraries. For the Zona Sul, take No 2018, which heads southward through Glória, Flamengo and Botafogo, and along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon to Barra da Tijuca (and vice versa) every 30 minutes from 5:30am to 11pm and will stop wherever you ask.
It takes 75 minutes to two hours depending on traffic. Heading to the airports, you can catch this bus from in front of the major hotels along the main beaches, but you have to look alive and flag them down.
If you’re going straight to Barra, it’s faster to take bus No 2918 instead. There’s also a bus that links to Santos Dumont Airport (No 2101) and a line to the bus station (No 2145).
Premium Auto Ônibus No 2018, which departs from Galeão, stops at Santos Dumont before continuing south to Copacabana and Ipanema.
Rio’s new light rail (the VLT), slated to begin operations in April 2016, runs from the Santos Dumont Airport to the Rodoviária (bus station) via Praça Mauá. This isn’t particularly useful for travelers, unless you’re catching an onward bus or staying near Praça Mauá. Another line from the airport to Centro may be added in the future, which would provide handy access to the metro.
Rio’s metro system is an excellent way to get around. During Carnaval the metro operates nonstop from 5am Saturday morning until at least 11pm on Tuesday. Both lines are air-conditioned, clean, fast and safe. The main line goes from Ipanema-General Osório to Saens Peña, connecting with the secondary line to Estácio (which provides service to São Cristóvão, Maracanã and beyond). The main stops in Centro are Cinelândia and Carioca.
An ambitious R$2.5 billion expansion should be complete by June 2016. A new line (linha 4) connects Ipanema to Barra daTijuca. It runs from General Osório to Jardim Oceânico with stops in Ipanema, Leblon and São Conrado. A spur to Gávea will eventually link it to the rest of the line.
You can purchase a cartão pré-pago (prepaid card) from a kiosk in any metro station using cash (no change given) with a minimum of R$5 or more. You can then recharge it at any kiosk. Free subway maps are available from most ticket booths.
Ferry : Rio has several islands in the bay that you can visit by ferry, including Ilha de Paquetá and Ilha Fiscal. Another way to see the city is by taking the commuter ferry to Niterói. Niterói’s main attraction is the Museu do Arte Contemporânea, but many visitors board the ferry just for the fine views of downtown and the surrounding landscape. The ferry departs every 20 minutes from Praça Quinze de Novembro in Centro.
Taxi: Rio’s yellow taxis are prevalent throughout the city. They are generally a speedy way to zip around and are usually safe. The flat rate is around R$5.20, plus around R$2.05 per kilometer (and R$2.50 per kilometer at night and on Sunday). Radio taxis are 30% more expensive than regular taxis. No one tips taxi drivers, but it’s common to round up the fare.
Like a local
As a general rule, gringos are somewhat untouchable by drug-lord rules. Your chances of being kidnapped, held hostage, etc are a lot smaller than that of an upper class Brazilian. The small fish, such as young pickpockets and out-of-town criminals, take their chances.
Beware on empty streets just as much as at overly crowded events. The new trend in pick pocketing (some new Eastern-European techniques are now arriving in Brazil) is to create a situation in a crowd where your hands are distracted while they go for your pockets.
Mobile & Wifi
Getting access on your smartphone
You can now get a pre-paid SIM chip from TIM telecom, called Inifinity-Pre, or Claro Pre-pago Ilimitado, to browse the web and get mails on your smartphone. What’s even better is the price for internet usage on these pre-paid chips: 50 centavos per day! That’s right, you can browse, email and even Skype all you want for 50 cents. Imagine how your trip will improve!
The Pricey Alternative: Roaming
Your GSM mobile works in Brazil. It roams calls using local carriers, so you can send text messages, pictures and videos, access the internet and, of course, make and receive calls.