- Sugar Loaf– A glass cable car takes you to the top of sugar loaf where there are spectacular views of the city and surrounding ocean. Well worth the trip for the incredible views!
- Ipanema Beach– One of the best beaches in the world! Has incredibly white sand and a great boardwalk to see part of the city. Ipanema is a very expensive area and the real estate reflects it so the area surrounding the beach is also worth looking at.
- Lapa –This district looks like 19th century France and is filled with bars and clubs, there are samba clubs throughout offering great live music.
- Santa Teresa– A bohemian neighborhood high in the hills that offers views of the city.There are artistic stairs that were the work of Jorge Selaron called Escadaria Selaron that incorporate tiles from all over the world to make a mosiac stair case. There are art stores and botecas(casual bars) throughout that are a relaxed atmosphere. Beware that few taxis will go into this neighborhood as there are cobblestone streets, there is a yellow trolley that picks up behind the Petrobras building but only runs until 4 pm.
- Park Lague– A beautiful nature preserve that is filled with exotic plants and monkeys! There is also a beautiful art center where artists paint in a very old courtyard style house.
- Copacabana Beach – The boardwalk of Copocabana is one of the most iconic images of Rio and it will not disappoint. It has vendors along the beach and street selling bikinis, drinks, and food. There are also many volleyball games along this part of the beach.
- Christ Statue- Most people envision this statue when they think of Brazil, and it can be seen from the ground in many parts of Rio. You can take a train ticket to the top of the mountain and then walk up a couple of flights of stairs to see the statue. There are usually many monkeys at the top of the mountain and there are also views of the city from the top, but sometimes it can be very foggy since it is so high up.
What to eat and drink
- Churrasco – Grilled meat, traditional Brazilian steak houses are all you can eat and very formal but are a great experience
- Acai – acai is a berry somewhat similar to blueberries that can be made into a bowl that is similar to American frozen yogurt, and has honey , coconut, granola as toppings, but you can also add on additional fruits or sweets!
- Tapioca – a dish that creates something similar to a tortilla, that is a dish filled with something sweet like caramel or savory like cheese.
- Brigadeiros – chocolate bonbons that are a unique dessert to Brazil.
- Feijoada – A meat and bean stew that was made by African slaves in the North of Brazil, the stew is typically made on Saturdays but can be found everyday in certain restaurants.
- Fresh Fruits – the tropical environment offers many unique fruits so head to the local grocery store or market
- Moqueca –A fish and tomato stew usually found in Northern Brazil that is very tasty!
- Pao de queijo-“cheese bread”
- Cachaça -a sugarcane alcohol made only in South America
- Capirinha – A Cachaca drink mixed with limes and sugar, can also have pineapple, passionfruit, strawberry, or vodka substituted.
- Coconut Water- almost everywhere on the beach you can find fresh coconuts that will be drilled into and provide a great treat on hot days!
- Bolinhos de bacalhau (salted cod balls)- these use the popular salted cod and are deep friend, a great snack while on the beach!
- Coxinha- Another popular Brazilian food that is essentially a fried ball of shredded chicken
Transportation and logistics
Flights- Rio de Janiero has two major airports to fly into and they are a cab ride away from the beach. The largest airport is GIG.
Taxis– In Rio, there are taxis that can be found in almost every neighborhood (except for Santa Teresa, see above).
Cars – You can rent a car in Brazil, the roads can be somewhat hectic and dangerous with various levels of traffic, just a note all gas stations provide full service. I recommend flying or taking a private car if traveling to different cities as they can be easier and they are not too expensive.
Walking –There are many parts of Rio that are great to walk through. Copacabana and Ipanema are the more touristy areas so they are patrolled by police and are well lit. There are some areas of Rio to avoid so be very careful to know where you are and where you are going.
What to know before you go
Americans need visas to go to Brazil! Make sure to apply well in advance and to read all requirements so there are no surprises.
A lot of people have asked me about “the dangers” in Brazil. Yes, it is more dangerous than some cities, but not than others. In my opinion it is equivalent to New York city in terms of safety. As long as you know where you are, stay in the right neighborhoods and don’t wear your most expensive jewellery, it is unlikely you will encounter any problems. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and not too dress lavishly, but if you are aware it is easy to have a safe enjoyable experience. However, never go into a favela without a guide you trust. Favelas are the very poor housing developments on mountains and on the outskirts of Brazilian cities. They are often where criminal activity takes place in Rio and they can be very hostile towards unwelcome visitors.
Brazil’s primarily language is Portuguese but there are many English and Spanish speakers as well. The currency is real and is always worth less than the U.S. dollar.