Updated: Jun 19, 2020
My first great adventure when I started working was Rio and Iguazu, one of the many destinations dreamed on my bucketlist. It was a trip that I planned a long time in advance and on which I was looking for the best tips and advices for when I was there in order to have the best possible experience. However, many of the things I looked for did not found them on any blog or travel page and I had to venture myself, making several mistakes that I could have avoided if someone had told me what to expect on my trip. This is why I will give you some advices below before you go to Rio:
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1. Rio is a huge city and although it is known for being dangerous, but don´t worry! In tourist places it is safe to walk, obviously while still being cautious with personal items as in any big city.
2. The best way to get to and from the airport is by taxi, since the airport is quite far from tourist areas such as Copacabana and Ipanema, which is where the majority of hotels are located and also you have to cross almost the entire city, including some not very pleasant neighborhoods where you will see “cracudinhos” (as a taxi driver told me) in the middle of the street and among the cars.
3. If you are looking to save a budget on your accommodation but want to be close to the beach and several tourist places, I recommend you look for a hotel in Leme, it is a neighborhood that is after Copacabana, very small, safe, but most importantly, cheaper than Copacabana or Ipanema.
4. Rio has many transportation options, among the most used by tourists is taxi and Uber. The taxi has the advantage that the chances that your driver speaks English and / or Spanish are high, since they are a large part of the beneficiaries of tourism in the city and strive for good service. On the other hand, Uber has the advantage that it is cheaper and you do not need to give the driver directions where to go, the bad thing is that you cannot ask him for advice because they will not understand you and also because it could be possible that he is associated with scammers to give you a bad move while getting a little extra money (I'll explain this later so you understand what I'm talking about). The best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to make friends with a taxi driver and call him whenever you need transportation, with that, you have almost the best of all worlds because he offers you an excellent service and you can negotiate rates with him.
5. You cannot say you were in Rio and not take a Skol at one of the kiosks that are found all along the coast of the beaches. Not only I find it a very tasty and refreshing beer for the heat it makes, furthermore, it is also like 3 glasses in 1 and there is the possibility that some band or soloist is playing some of the the most iconic songs in Brazil like “Garota de Ipanema”. Nothing better for your vacation, trust me!
6. If you go to Rio with plenty of time as I did, the best way to know everything is without hiring a tour, because in theory you could see everything in 1 or 2 days but if you want to enjoy Rio, is better to go without hurry and on your pace so minimum 5 days for your stay would be fabulous.
7. Reaching Corcovado and Pao de Açucar does not require more than asking for a taxi or Uber, do not believe any supposed tour guide that you need his help to get on or to buy tickets. I know it sounds very obvious and nobody tells you this but you may thank me later.
One of the first places I went to in Rio was Corcovado, so I had breakfast and asked an Uber to take me there. As you know, the Christ is on the top of a mountain but I had no idea what the entrance or climb up to there was like (and I didn't ask at the Hotel either…soooo foolish). The Uber took me without any problem, but before starting to climb the mountain, a "guide" who was in a tent in the middle of an intersection of several streets stopped us and began to show me the map of Corcovado saying that with his help I could avoid lines to enter as well as get to the highest point at the Christ, because an additional ticket was needed to get there. I did not understand very well, so I asked Uber driver what he thought of the offer of the "guide" and he said it was good. I know, I know, you must be imagining it. Finally said yes and the man got in the car and we finished our Uber drive.
I got out of the car with him and walked to the gift shop where there were some machines. He told me that for the special ticket he needed me to give him 100 Reais to buy it and that the entrance to the park had to be bought with a credit card in one of those machines and so I did it, he helped me buy the tickets and then he said "ready" and left. So easily and ridiculously I fell for his scam, all for not trusting my instincts and following the false recommendations of the Uber driver, who surely took a slice of my 100 Reais.
8. When you go to Corcovado, be prepared to be with many, many people upstairs. Despite the fact that the entries are in hour shifts, they do not control the time that people stay there, which means that people continue to entering but not the same amount go out.
9. If you want a day at the beach but with fewer people, I recommend going to Barra da Tijuca beach, which is located in one of the safest and most exclusive neighborhoods in Rio but is much less touristy (I discovered it when I did Ala Delta). There you will find more space for yourself and much more tranquility than what you can expect on the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana, in addition of being able to take a flight in Hang Gliding if you dare!
10. When you go to downtown to see the stairs of Selarón, the Cathedral and the arches of Lapa, don't be surprised to see at the surroundings lots of "cracudinhos", because it is finally downtown and is not as well cared for as other tourist sites.
11. Generally all food dishes in Rio are HUGE! So get ready to eat delicious and for exorbitant amounts, even breakfast (except for the hotels that are the most tasteless food we had while in Brazil)
BONUS: Yes or yes you have to go for a breakfast / brunch at the Parque Lage restaurant. It is the most delicious thing in the world of breakfasts!
12. If you are going to the “Pedra do Telegrafo” do not freak out and think that you lost your 40-minute walk up the mountain when you see the sign "Piedra do Telegrafo" and a completely normal stone with no panoramic view. The truth is that the instagramable stone is not really the one named “Piedra do Telegrafo”, the stone you will be looking for remains in the mountain of the “Piedra do Telegrafo” and you will have to climb a little bit more to find it.
13. If you plan to do a 1-day tour of the islands and beaches that are close to Rio, such as Angras dos Reis and Ilha Grande, think twice if it is worth paying an exclusive tour, because the difference with those that do the tour on a Sailboat (with more people) is not much different but it is cheaper and there is a bar on board (which means… caipirinhaaaas!).
14. If you go to Foz du Iguazú and you have the time, try to stay a minimum of 2 full days so you don't have to rush to see everything and reach both sides of the Waterfalls (I didn't reach it). I stayed at
15. The best way to get around in Foz du Iguazú is to rent a car as it is a small town and there are very few public transport options.
16. When you go to the falls I advise you to go to the aviary in the morning (which is one of the most beautiful experiences I have had even though a macaw pooped on me) and then at mid-day go to the falls. The path is short, about half an hour and you can spend as much time as you want there but with less people, since most (like I at the time) went early and had to be with the crowd all the time.
17. If you bring snacks for your visit to the falls, beware of thieves and not exactly human ones. Throughout the park you will meet Coatí, alone, accompanied, with babies, it does not matter, but they are everywhere. These little animals have learned to open bags, suitcases and even steal food from your hands, so don't lose sight of your snacks.
Being that for now my dear stamp dreamers, I hope that these unusual but very useful tips will serve you for your next adventure in Rio.
Let me know if you have any more tips missing in the post and tell me how it goes !!