After flying for over 12 hours, my friends and I arrived to the beautiful city of Rio de Janiero! Let me just say, I’d recommend getting a local SIM card (but be sure your phone is unlocked and be sure you are getting the best rate) AND do not exchange money at the airport or from ATM (they are scams). We got a horrible exchange rate at the money exchange kiosk and they wouldn’t let us exchange it back to US dollars (said we would get arrested!!) Also, as soon as you arrive at baggage claim, folks will try to sell you SIM cards but the rates are ridiculous. Instead, go to a local market once you get to the city. Additionally, if you are looking to buy Cachaca (local Brazilian alcohol delicousness) from duty free, it can only be purchased on your return flight home.
Ok, so on to the transportation. If you are riding as a single, I’d suggest taking the blue bus (route 2018). It’s only about $7 USD. We took a taxi since it was 4 of us and relatively cheap. Of note, be sure to negotiate the price before getting in the vehicle. Most of the taxis have wifi, so that’s a really nice feature!!
Some highlights from the trip were the following! Let’s start with places to eat. For a nice sunset dinner, Aprazível is a MUST! The food was amazing, the view was priceless and the ambiance was unmatched. Barra Grill Steakhouse is a must if you want the unlimited carved meats. This restaurant is maybe a 25 minute ride from downtown Rio but they provide free transportation to/from the hotel! If you’re in Ipanema, check out Bar de Beto where you can get a delicious authentic Brazilian shared meal for a great price. In Santa Teresa, visit Bairro de Santa Teresa for a yummy empanada and cocktail which is a perfect treat before walking over to the Escadaria Selaron (the famous colorful steps). If you’re in Leblon, be sure to check out Brigite’s or Zuka. Also, be sure to try all the local favorites including Acai (it’s like a slushie), Biscoito Globo, Caipirinhas, “Queijo Coalho” – Hot cheese in a stick, Brazilian Feijoada and the Guarana soda!
For nightlife, a visit to Lapa is a must! It’s like New Orleans on steroids! There is a cover at Rio Scenarium but it’s a great first stop for the evening. Bar da cachaça is another great one to visit. If you’re in Leblon/Ipanema area, I’d suggest visiting Marina Palace hotel for drinks and nice music.
As for activities, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer can be done in 1 day (be sure to bring your student ID for great discounts). We took a cab to Sugar Loaf Mountain and then took a city bus to the bottom of Christ the Redeemer. From there you can buy tickets to enter and drive up via a certified van. The wait for the tram was really long and not necessary, so the driving option worked best for us and avoided the long wait to get down from Christ the Redeemer. If possible, I’d see these sights in the morning when the visibility is great and less people. If you can, book a boat tour from Marina da Gloria. Most folks purchased tickets the day of but if you want to purchase in advance, visit Rio Adventures. If in town on a Sunday, be sure to check out the Hippie Market in Ipanema.