We booked our flights to South America way back in October and it seemed like the time would never come around for us to board our one-way flight to Rio de Janeiro and experience the awesomeness of Brazil.
Our trip coincidently collided with the biggest football tournament in the world – the FIFA World Cup. We spent endless hours researching Rio and Brazil – and some of the things we read about and heard from other travellers scared the bejaysus out of us if I’m honest!
During the build up to the World Cup, the media was rife with security warnings about traveling to Brazil. We heard stories about people being kidnapped for money, mugged at gunpoint and murdered for their mobile phone.
We landed in the airport feeling a little scared and apprehensive. We were in a new continent, we didn’t speak Portuguese and the media reports of danger, protests and violence were at the forefront of our thoughts.
“Don’t take a taxi as you’ll be kidnapped by a gang and taken to an ATM machine where you’ll be forced to withdraw money.”
This was just one of the many warnings we had read in travel forums and websites across the Internet before we left, so these feelings of fear and uneasiness were adequately justified – in my opinion anyway!
Did we encounter any events like this during our six weeks in Rio? Were we constantly feeling uneasy and did we ever feel unsafe or threatened?
Read on to find out our thoughts on Rio.
We found Brazilian people in general to be extremely warm, welcoming and kind. Their love of life is incredibly contagious.
Unlike a lot of countries, it doesn’t have to be a weekend night in Rio for locals to go out and party. Locals like to party all the time – drinking beer and dancing to samba music on a Tuesday or Wednesday night is common.
It got me thinking, why has countries like Ireland become so set in their ways? Going out to the pub on a Tuesday or Wednesday night would be frowned upon in most towns back home – heck, some people might even say you have a drinking problem if you’re drinking alcohol midweek!
Brazilians don’t need an excuse for a family get together as they happen all the time. I love that about them.
The friends we met in Rio truly made our stay what it was. They welcomed us to family BBQ’s, brought us for Sunday lunch to their favourite seafood restaurant and invited us to many samba parties.
We never once felt unsafe or threatened during our six-week stay in Rio. Having said this, we didn’t venture into places that we were unsure of; we stuck to the main touristy areas and were always extremely careful when it came to travelling on the buses, metro etc.
Our local friend, Alceir, told us that the police presence in Rio during the World Cup was like nothing they had ever seen before. There was literally a police car on every corner watching all the happenings around them – maybe that is why we always felt super safe!
We did witness one woman getting her purse stolen on the main road that runs perpendicular to Copacabana Beach. The police eventually caught the two young guys and the woman was reunited with her purse.
I have no doubt that kidnappings and muggings do happen in Rio and Brazil on a big scale – but they also happen in most big cities around the world. Practicing normal safety precautions will reduce the risk of you coming in to harms way so don’t let the medias perception of a dangerous and unsafe Rio put you off experiencing this captivating city.
Cost of living
Rio is listed as the 13th most expensive city in the world to live in, so it’s not surprising that food and accommodation is a bit on the pricey side.
The cost of everything was considerably increased during the World Cup so I cannot comment on what the norm would be, but here are our thoughts.
Eating out in Brazil is quite expensive and you can easily spend $25-$30 for a pizza and a beer. Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana concentrate many of the best restaurants, cafes, and snack bars in the city and you can expect to pay considerably more here than you would in any other neighbourhood in the city.
We found the per kilo restaurants to be the cheapest option, as you can get a great selection of tasty foods for approx. $15. It’s also the best way of sampling a number of the local dishes in one sitting.
We mostly ate at the guesthouse as we had full cooking facilities and enjoyed the comfort of not having to eat out all the time.
Food at the supermarket was similarly priced to home, apart from things like jam and chocolate which were ridiculously expensive – I wasn’t prepared to pay $15 for a small pot of strawberry jam!
Be warned, a trip to any of the supermarkets in Rio isn’t just a ‘nip in’ kind of job. Expect long queues due to bored, uninterested and extremely sluggish cashiers – I wouldn’t normally comment on something like this but the amount of time we spent in queues was insane!
Metro and bus fares are inexpensive which allow for cheap travel in and around the city.
Prices for accommodation during the World Cup were slightly insane – some hostels were charging $200 for a single bed in a dorm room! I’m sure that’s not common and the prices are normally significantly lower.
We had a really enjoyable and comfortable stay at the Guerreiro Guesthouse in the Tijuca area of the city. It was extremely clean and comfortable and the hosts, Alceir and Patricia, couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating towards us.
ATM’s in Rio
Travel forums, guide books and other travellers had warned us to be mindful when it came to using ATM machines in Rio – and they were right.
Most ATM’s are situated inside shopping centres, big hotels, banks and metro and bus stations due to safety issues. We heard many stories where people’s cards had been scammed and used to buy thousands of dollars worth of stuff.
Luckily, nothing like this happened to us. Our problem with the ATM machines is that they rarely work for non-Brazilian, which resulted in us having to spend numerous hours aimlessly searching for an ATM that would let us withdraw money.
We found the Banco do Brasil ATM to be the best as it always accepted our card and even gave us the option of taking out 800 BRL (most ATM’s have a 300 BRL limit on foreign cards).
Here’s the logo that you need to look our for;
Tours in Rio
For anyone that hasn’t been, Rio is a city that is bursting with natural beauty – from lush tropical mountains to golden sandy beaches. There are lots of things to see and do in Rio, regardless of what type of holiday you’re on.
As touristy and as overcrowded as they are, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the infamous Christ the Redeemer Statue are a MUST see as the views from each place are picture perfect.
I think it’s always good to see a city from a local’s perspective as you get a true insight into what the city is all about.
We met some really cool people, experienced our first World Cup, soaked up our first taste of South American culture and ticked some items off the bucket list in Rio. And for them very reasons, Rio is a place that will always be special, for both of us.
We’ve been working on different projects lately so I haven’t been as active with the blog as I’d like to be. But now that we’re travelling again and in the proper mindset, expect lots of updates and blog posts to come in the next few months. 🙂
Are you planning a trip to South America? Drop us a comment if you’ve any questions that you’d like to share.