Let’s Go Somewhere is a new project by The Fedora Hat where I will talk about the dreamy destinations I have been to. Of course, I decided to start the series with Rio de Janeiro, since it has always been a dream of mine to visit Brazil at least once in a lifetime.
Being born and raised in the capital of Georgia during the late ’90s, Brazilian culture with Globo telenovelas and Bossa Nova was very popular there, still is. Rio is definitely every Georgian’s dream destination, but if you for a second look at the map and see how far Brazil is from us, you will realize why most of Georgians think that they will never make it to South America. In my case, living in Portugal helped me a lot to achieve my goal since I was way closer to Brazil than ever before. So at the beginning of March, I booked a direct flight to Rio de Janeiro with TAP Airlines and spent the most exhausting 10H on the airplane, but oh boy, it was so worth it!
Here are some tips from me before you head off to Brazil’s most iconic city and discover Rio like a local:
- Rio is not THAT scary.
First things first! Before my trip to Brazil, I read some blog posts about Rio and how dramatically scary it is. Also being friends with a lot of Brazilians in Lisbon, they warned me too about the danger in the city, but after seeing my confused face mixed with a bit of panic, they added: “To be honest, there might not happen a thing, but the CHANCES of happening something horrible are rather high.” I definitely confirm this quote, because literally, nothing happened to me during my stay in Brazil. It’s always better to be on a safe side and not to show off with your expensive cameras or phones. Try to always be and act like a local. One thing I did was keeping my phone always in my fanny pack and not wearing too many accessories or attention-catchy things.
- The iconic touristic places.
Of course, Rio without Copacabana, Leblon or Ipanema is a Rio wasted, but my tip would be in order to avoid extremely overpriced hotels or Airbnb in these areas, you can simply book a cheaper option somewhere close by and take Metro to anywhere. Metro is the safest transport option in Rio and is newly renovated with air-condition and some Portuguese tiles’ art going on. Unlike Europe, in Rio they don’t have daily/weekly/monthly pass in Metro, so basically you need to charge your card for each use. One way ticket costs 4 Brazilian Reais.
While at Copacabana make sure to visit Lala’s Coworking de Beleza & Café , where you can have the most delicious Brigadeiro cake while having your nails/hair done!
Also, unlike the European city center, the center of Rio (Centro) is pretty dangerous if you visit it after 5 p.m. During the day the neighbourhood is busy with Business centers and working people going on, but after 5 in the afternoon you might be the only one walking there, that’s when it gets a bit scary. From Centro you can walk to either Lapa and check the famous stairs, where you always have at least one Brazilian playing the perfectly out of tuned Bossa Nova
Or also to take a walk and visit Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) and check what the future holds.
For swimming forget Copacabana and Ipanema and go to Barra da Tijuca instead, where usually the local people go. The beach and the water there is way cleaner, and the neighbourhood – safer. It was one of the fewest occasions where I could take pictures without my friend shouting at me to keep my phone in the bag.
Also, you will find a lot of cosy & fancy coffee shops with (finally) free Wi-Fi in the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood.
- A taste of the famous Açaí while visiting the Botanical Gardens of Rio.
When they first warned me not to ever use my phone in the streets of Rio, my first question was “but how am I going to orientate without using GPS?” but Rio turned out to be the easiest place to walk around because basically everything has the same name. For example: for The Botanical Gardens you have the station called “The Botanical Gardens” which is situated on “The Botanical Gardens” avenue, easy-breezy. And on your way there, you have one place called BIBI, where they serve the best Açaí in the whole city!
- Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer.
Since I had a really bad experience and I almost left Rio without seeing the main attraction (Christo Redentor) I decided to share my tips for you. Being in Rio at the beginning of March it was foggy and cloudy most of the days. And if it’s sunny down on Copacabana, it might be super foggy at Corcovado, so it’s better to check out their website Corcovado ao vivo where you can see live if the Statue of Christ is visible. Because when I first went there, they were not even selling the tickets due to clouds that made the statue disappear.
My advice would be to take the shuttle bus to Corcovado instead of the Funicular because it’s way cheaper and also it stops at one viewpoint place “Mirante Dona Marta” from where you have the most beautiful view over Rio de Janeiro.
The ticket office usually opens at 8 a.m and it’s always better to go there early because around 10 a.m. there were so many people at the Statue already that you could even barely move, not to talk about how many failures we had during taking a decent picture.
- A day trip from Rio.
A really cool day trip you can have from Rio de Janeiro is Petrópolis. It takes around 2H to get there and you have buses going almost anytime during the day. The trip is quite cheap and is worth visiting because from a very Brazilian city of Rio you will end up in a German look-a-like, safer and more “European” Petropolis. If you’ll read a bit of history from the early 1800s, Germans immigrated to Brazil and started spreading their culture there. Nowadays, the most “developed” parts of Brazil are exactly the German-influenced parts. Fun fact about Petrópolis is that during his last years, Stefan Zweig was living there with his wife. He ended his life there. You can even watch a movie about his life called “Stefan Zweig, Farewell to Europe” and you will see a lot of Brazil going on there.
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