If you have ever thought about Living in Rio De Janeiro for a few weeks or a couple of months I would recommend it without a doubt. After 4 months of living in New York, during winter, I booked a ticket to Rio for sun, beaches and a well needed holiday.
I made my first mistake at the airport by catching a green taxi which cost twice what an uber would have cost. After 5 months of traveling I have realised that Uber is usually always cheaper and airports all have free WiFi so try stick with Uber if possible.
Depending how long you are going to be staying in Rio and what your budget is will determine the best place to stay. Hostels are good if you are not staying long and also makes it easier to meet people if you are traveling alone. My initial plan was to spend 3 months in Rio so a hostel was out of the question. I searched Airbnb and realised that apartments were not cheap. After countless messages to many different hosts I eventually found a studio apartment on the border of Copacabana and Ipanema, commonly called Copanema.
At nearly $650 a month it wasn’t cheap but I had the entire apartment to myself and it was very central. It was a 5 minute walk to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy I was training at and about a 10 minute walk to the very popular Ipanema beach. Watching the sun set from this beach is always spectacular.
Soon after arriving I noticed two facts about life in Rio De Janeiro. It was extremely hot! Coming from NYC winter to Rio was a huge contrast and the humidity was hard to get used to. On top of this not many people spoke English at all. I got by initially by just pointing but it wasn’t ideal.
I realised I needed to learn Portuguese so I signed up at a local school called Caminhos. The school was great and I would definitely recommend it for learning Portuguese and more importantly meeting other like minded people. As I was travelling alone it helped a lot and I became close with a number of people in my class. The school would run activities everyday from volley ball on the beach to soccer against the locals to hikes up the nearby mountain.
My typical day in Rio would consist of me waking up around 8am, rushing to try finish my homework for class, and then getting to class by 9am. The language school would end at 1 and we would go somewhere near for lunch and then head to Ipanema beach to swim, tan and have a few beers. Life was good. In the evenings I would go train at the jiu-jitsu gym and then come home and have dinner. After this I would usually meet up with a friend or two and have a few beers down at the promenade. As I’m sure you can see drinking beers is a big part of the culture of living in Rio.
The weekends would be more of the same. Relaxing on the beach, drinking more beers and going out to bars and clubs around Ipanema and Leblon area. There is a place called Lapa that everyone who goes to Rio needs to experience. It is an area which has lots of bars, restaurants and clubs that many locals and foreigners swarm to on the weekend. There are thousands of people in the streets so just make sure you keep your wallet and phone out of reach.
Another fun place to go is Canasta bar on Tuesday nights. It is a wine bar where a mixture of locals and foreigners come together and enjoy a few drinks. The street is always packed and it’s also a great way to meet new people.
If bars and clubs are not your thing then you can easily spend the weekends hiking and going away to nearby places. There are two mountains close to Ipanema that are perfect for hiking.
Does Irmaos ,which means two brothers, is a relatively easy hike above the Vidigal favela. It takes about an hour and a half to hike up it and you get an amazing view of the whole of Ipanema from the top. The easiest way to get there is to catch a bus to the entrance of Vidigal and from there catch a motor taxi up. The price was around 3 Reals when I last went so make sure to ask the driver before so that you don’t get ripped off at the end of the ride. The motor taxi will know where to drop you and from there you walk past a soccer field and along the path to the top.
Once you have finished I would recommend stopping by Bar de Laje for a beer and a pastel. This bar is at the top of the favela and has the most spectacular views. Some favelas can be dangerous to venture into but this is one of the safe ones and considered a “tourist favela”.
Another hike I would recommend if you’re relatively fit is Pedra De Gavea. It takes about 2.5 hours either way and has quite a few technical sections too. There are companies which offer guided tours and come with harnesses and ropes that make it a lot safer. Naturally my friends and I just did it on our own but there were points which were quite hair-raising. The view from the top is worth it and if you have a proper camera this might be a good time to use it.
The best way to get here depends on how many people you are hiking with. We found that with 3 people it was a similar cost to just order an Uber and split it instead of catching the bus. The drive is about 30 minutes and the beauty of Uber is you can get dropped at the entrance to the park instead of at the bottom of the road which is a 20 minute walk away.
Out of all the places I traveled to in South America, living in Rio De Janeiro was definitely one of the highlights. Rio is one of the places I could see myself coming back to at some stage in the future and staying for a few months. The lifestyle is amazing, the beaches are perfect and the people are beautiful. It is not a surprise that lots of foreigners retire and move to Rio to start a new life.
If you have any questions about Rio De Janeiro let me know and I’ll answer them as best I can.