Date of stay: Nov 2011
Where you stayed: Hostal El Misti Botafogo
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
Rio de Janeiro! One of the most talked about cities in the world. Both famous and infamous at the same time. It’s a vibrant, colourful and diverse city rich in culture, and a must see destination that should be on everyone’s itinerary over this side of the world.
No doubt the best time to visit is during a monumental celebration, like Carnivale or the upcoming FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to visit during one of these occasions so cannot give you specifics on that (that’d be a blog for another time), however if you can make it to Rio during one of these events then you will no doubt be in for something really spectacular. Like Rio on steroids. But good steroids. Not the kind that makes you irritable.
So, without further adieu, I’ll tell you a bit about my experience.
The beauty of travelling through South America is that many places are cheap, and your US Dollar can get you pretty far. Until you get to Brazil that is. Spending the Brazilian Real can be a bit of a shock to the system. Rio is especially expensive, so expect to pay a lot more for accommodation, food etc. And if you’re there for one of the before mentioned ‘celebrations’, then expect things to ramp up again considerably. The good news here is that every penny is worth it.
If you fly into Brazil, you’ll likely have trouble booking a flight in advance as you need either an Amex or a South American credit card, so I recommend booking through a website called Brol.com. Prices are virtually the same.
If you’re landing at the airport just grab a taxi. Don’t pay the rip off R$99 fixed fare, wander a little to your right where the domestic terminal is and there are a couple of taxi stalls that charge around R$45.
If you’re worried about your safety, don’t be. All those prior fears will be alleviated once you finally step foot in Rio. We’ve all heard the stories; yes, it can be bad, but tourists don’t tend to see the worst of it if you don’t go looking for it.
As long as you’re vigilant and you don’t waltz down dark alleyways in your Burberry suit waving your Rolex watch around you should be relatively ok.
It’s fine to take the metro to get around the city too. Safe n Easy.
I did a lot of research on price vs quality and Hostal El Misti Botafogo came up as one of the best.
This is a very busy hostel with a lively atmosphere and travelers galore to meet.
The location is good, in a safe area, but you’ll still need to catch the metro, taxi or bus if you want to go to Ipanema or Copacabana Beaches.
The rooms are ok enough, however ours was a little damp, and the room/sheets were never cleaned in the 5 days we were there (thankfully I smell amazing all the time, so it was no biggie).
Expect to pay minimum R$120 p/n for a private double room.
The breakfasts included are great (toasted sandwiches, good coffee, cake, fruit and fresh juice), and they put on super cheap and tasty dinners every night at 9pm.
The staff are very friendly and helpful, and they offer free airport pickup which is fantastic. If you have to pay for one, they’ll deduct what you paid from the room rate.
For all the main sights of Rio, we did a day city tour which I’d highly recommend. You can arrange these through your hostal no problem.
Ours cost R$145 and we visited Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the redeemer, Santa Teresa, Lapa Steps and the Samboddromo.
It was worth it, although did feel a little rushed around the Santa Teresa area.
Here are many places to check out in Rio, whether on your own or on a tour:
Corcovado Mountain (Christo Redentor – Christ the redeemer)
THE landmark of Rio, and a destination you simply cannot ignore.
You won’t get that postcard shot with the statue and city in the background (you’ll need to be in a helicopter for that) but the stunning 360 degree views over the city are a pure delight.
The area will be packed full of people, making taking a tour worth it as you breeze past some of the queues. If you aren’t on a tour its worth catching the train up to the top as I hear the views are a treat on the way up.
Pao De Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
Stunning views over Rio. Worth sticking around here for sunset and for the city lights to come on. Can stay on here after your tour and make your own way back home.
Probably the best beach in all of Rio. Beautiful surf/sand with a backdrop of the city, and a great beach for people watching, tanning it up or just going for a stroll on the checkered pathway.
Grab a beer from one of the stalls here and just sit back and chill.
Santa Teresa & Lapa Steps
A great little neighbourhood with colourful buildings and graffiti. There are many art shops and cool cafés and restaurants to check out.
The highlight here of course are the Lapa Steps (also called Escadaria Selarón). A world famous set of steps covered in little individually painted tiles with all sorts of cool art, designs, pop culture references and tributes to various cities around the world.
Definitely worth the visit.
Be careful not to wander off the main streets though, as it backs onto several Favelas.
Hippie Market in Praca General Osario
This market is right outside the General Osario metro station, and they have a large range of all sorts of interesting things. Highlights for me were the artists selling vibrant original art, and the Bahian food to sample from the smiling chefs.
Lagoa Rodrigo De Freitas
Nice saltwater lagoon to go for a walk, jog or bike around.
A beautiful botanical garden. Worth a stroll through here for sure. You’ll see many fascinating flora, fauna (bowling ball trees anyone?) & colourful toucans and other exotic birds.
Nice park with an old palace at its centre which contains an art gallery and a fantastic café/bar. You can see Christ the redeemer from here quite nicely. The coffee here is exceptionally good.
There is also a small aquarium in the park with unique fish, small caves and an old tower.
Plataforma is a great restaurant/bar that does samba shows but they can be a little OTT.
If you want to opt for something more genuine check out Samba City, or inquire with any of the Samba Clubs or Schools in the city. You may even get to participate if you’re lucky!
You’ll find good live samba music and bottomless glasses of super strong caipirinhas at any of the follow bars:
Rio Scenarium, Carloga de Gama, Sacrilegio, Melt Club.
Look out or ask for mid-week deals at your hostal. Often you can get half price entry into the clubs and free drinks till 12am.
- For us the food in Rio didn’t impress. Mind you, we were on a budget so you’re likely to get better quality food if you are able to splash out. We found that Brazilian cuisine improved greatly the further you ventured outside of cities.
- Buy water from supermarkets. A third of the price of everywhere else (around R$1.20).
- If you’ve travelled throughout South America beforehand and have finally figured the basics of touristy Spanish, you can throw that all out the window because the Portuguese language will have you starting over from scratch.
- The coffee here is great!
If you have any questions about Rio, drop a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.
Rio doesn’t achieve a perfect 5 as the more we travel the more we begin to appreciate the smaller towns and less frequented places. Parts of the city can also be quite dirty/grim, which in some ways adds to its charm I suppose. However, had we visited during Carnivale or for the upcoming FIFA World Cup the overall rating would likely hit double figures.
Rio has a lot to offer and more than lives up to its name as one of the biggest party capitals of the world. Go and EXPLORE RIO.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes
Overall rating: 4/5
By: Luke Falkner