The Advanced Tourist Guide to Rio de Janeiro

So you want to witness the beauties of Rio de Janeiro? Behold! I'll tell you how to do this as if you really know your ways around the city. This is a practical guide to tourists who do not want to go the default tourist way. Welcome to the Advanced Tourist Guide to Rio.

Before we get started, some facts about the city and a few surviving tips:

Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, just like New York, NY.
The current population of the city is around 5.8 million people.
Yes, this is a violent city. But that's nothing to be afraid of. Just take the same precautions you take when you go visit any major city.

That said, let's do this.

Maybe you've head about the carnival, the Sugar Loaf, the Cristo Redentor, Copacabana, Ipanema and such things. What you may not have heard is what I'm about to tell you: those are tourist traps. Really. Read on...

How to avoid the traps in a nutshell

The Carnival.

The carnival (known here as Carnaval) is *the* trap of all traps. The Carnaval really sucks, the city gets empty because everybody leaves town. There's a mythical aura about this subject. Something might have lead you to think that the carnival is some sort of free (as in free speech and as in beer) sex celebration where girls are horny as hell and guys get lucky. That's not quite it. Sure, you might get laid, but it's not that easy. You don't just walk around and get girls (or guys) just by being there. As a tourist this can happen to you, but those girls have a name: hookers, and there's plenty of those here. The Carnaval is not a fuck party. If you really want to get laid, be prepared to pay for it and take proper care. Okay, enough about this subject. The only thing that happens in Rio in Caraval times is the Samba School's parade, but once you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. As an advanced tourist you might want to skip that part. If you don't want to skip that part, here's my tips about this strange party.
  • Take care. The Carnaval time is a dangerous one for tourists, just because there's too many of them wandering around. Be low profile (this is actually a general tip)
  • Avoid the big Bailes de Carnaval (Carnaval parties held at clubs and stuff like that).
  • If you want to have sex and are willing to pay for it, use the phone. There are several websites with pictures and phone numbers of those girls/guys, just google. Avoid those "adult clubs".
  • The real street Carnaval that cariocas (people from Rio) like actually happens some weeks before the actual Carnaval period (which changes every year). There are several bands playing samba on the streets in the weekends before the carnaval. Mostly in Ipanema and Copacabana. This is the real fun stuff. Just plain old school street carnaval with lots of beautiful people. And it is free and generally safe.
    5- If you *must* see the Samba School parade, try to get a nice spot at the Sambodromo (the place the parade happens) or watch it on the TV.

The Sugar Loaf

90% of the local population has never been there. I've been living here my whole life (I'm 25, since you've asked) and I went there twice. The cable cars that get you to the top are cool, but the ticket is overpriced. Note that the Sugar Loaf is actually two very close hills: the Morro da Urca (the little one) and the Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar) itself, the big one. It's a beautiful place, and since the Urca neighborhood is crowded with military people, it's a pretty safe place. It is worth the visit, but you can add some spice into that: You can actually *walk* to the top of Morro da Urca. It's a easy and quick walk, and a fun one. You're an advanced tourist, give it a shot and save some bucks. Once at the vicinities of the cable car station, go place yourself in a way that your back is facing the station. There's a running /walking track that goes along the hill (named Pista Claudio Coutinho). Just go there and you'll see a track into the woods. Follow the track and you're all set. Loads of people do this every weekend, so don't be afraid of getting lost. And you can always ask around. You can also climb the Pao de Acucar, but that's just for the climbing initiated. If you are one of those, follow the same path into the Claudio Coutinho track and walk to its end. You'll know you got there when you see a bunch of climbers.

The Cristo Redentor Statue / Corcovado

Corcovado is the name of the hill, Cristo Redentor is the name of that huge statue of Jesus with arms wide open. There are several ways to get there, one of them is to pay an extorsive price and get a train ticket. That's nice, but not advanced enough. The Corcovado railroad station is in Cosme Velho. There's a lot of guys who will try to talk you into getting you in their cars and go up there. Don't! They're the ultimate tourist leeches. Here's what you might want do do: Look at the railroad station. There's a square left and a small street by the rails. Go down (or up, in our case) the street a little bit and find your way into the rails. Don't worry, that's perfectly legal. Bring some water / gatorade / whatever with you, it's a 2+ hour walk. Just follow the rails and eventually you'll get on the top. This is the most advanced way to get there. There's also some waterfalls along the way, so you can freshen up. Don't forget there's a train that passes by from time to time. Take extra care when you walk trough the bridges, they're tricky. Start your walk early and get back down before sunset. Don't be afraid of getting lost, just follow the rails and you'll be fine.

Miscellaneous Traps to avoid

  • Not everybody speaks english here. When asking directions or something like this, try to find a hotel or a good-looking restaurant. Those places are likely to have people that can help you out.
  • When taking a bus, don't sit in the last row. Choose the seats next to the driver and avoid sitting alone by the window, it's safer that way.
  • The general rules of big city survival applies: try not to walk alone, avoid dark, desert places and know where are you going to and how are you going to get there before you go.

General tips
  • Learn the subways. Trey're not very large, but they're the safest transportation.
  • Choose your hotel / hostel / you name it, wisely. Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon are good places. Copacabana is served by the subways, so it's a good choice, even though Copacabana is a very weird place.
  • If you happen to choose Ipanema, the subways will get you there too, altought there's no subway station there. The hint: get a subway ticket called "Integracao Ipanema", or just "Ipanema" at any station. You'll use the ticket on the subway and you're gonna save it. Once you get to Copacabana you'll get out of the train, walk out of the station and take a silver/blue bus with a big M on its side. Hand the ticket to the guy in yellow and you're off to Ipanema. This works both ways, Copacabana subway station -> Ipanema and Ipanema -> Copacabana subway station.
  • If you feel like e-mailing your parents or noding about your trip, there's a lot of cyber-cafes around. Just ask around.
  • Don't go sunbathing in Copacabana. Just don't, unless you're a über-advanced-tourist who is going to do it just because I've told you not to. Go sunbathing in Ipanema or Leblon. Or, if you have the chance, ask someone to take you to a beach named Joatinga, it's a lovely place.
  • Buy a local phone card, they're cheap and might be very useful.
  • Don't go around showing off you're notebook / handheld / digital camera / . Use them, but be discrete.
  • If you're felling homesick or if just want to talk to other foreign people, go to Shenanigan's Irish Pub in Ipanema (just where the subway bus takes you). It's always packed with tourists from everywhere and you can share your own tips and hints and get some fresh ones. The food is great and they probably have your favourite beer. If you need directions or anything, talk to the waitresses, they're lovely and kind girls who will help you out. (Disclaimer: I do not own the pub, I'm not an employee of the pub and I don't have any legal or financial connection with the place whatsoever. I'm just very fond of it.)

Useful Addresses / Phone Numbers / Websites
  • US Consulate - Avenida Presidente Wilson, 147 - Centro (Phone# 2292-7117) | Website:
  • British Consulate - Praia do Flamengo 284, 2nd Floor - Flamengo (Phone# 2555-9600) | Website:
  • French Consulate - Avenida Presidente Antonio Carlos, 58 - Centro (Phone# 2210-1272) | Website:
  • Tourist's Police Station - Av. Afrânio de Mello Franco - Leblon (a colorful one, can't miss. Look for Scala, the Police station is right in front of it) - (Phone# 2511-5112 / 2511-5767)
  • Rio Convention Bureu's website:
  • Shenanigan's Irish Pub - Rua Visconde de Pirajá, 112 A - Ipanema (Upstairs, look for the green awning)

That's about it. Rio is a beautiful city and you will enjoy yourself, that's for sure. Cariocas are very proud of the city and we love to show it off. We're a very friendly people and you'll be very welcome here. Be safe, be smart and you'll be just fine. If you're planning a trip to Rio, /msg me and I'll show you around!

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