Rio de Janeiro is one of those cities you know is going to show you a good time from the moment you step off the plane. Rio de Janeiro is the soulful seaside city of Brazil that is famed for its beaches, Caipirinhas, and the wild flamboyance of Carnaval. Rio de Janeiro is one of those places that enchants you from the moment you arrive and has you thinking about it long after you’ve left. Whether you are hanging out on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, watching a live samba show in Lapa, or wandering through the narrow, winding streets of Santa Terese, you won’t be able to escape the allure of Rio de Janeiro. South African travellers do not need a visa for Rio de Janeiro or anywhere else in Brazil for up to 90 days.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most interesting and exciting cities in South America. It is also the second-biggest city in Brazil, which means so much to see. Start your trip to Rio de Janeiro by seeking out a Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil. Academia da Cachaça in the Leblon neighbourhood is widely regarded as having the best Caipirinha in Rio de Janeiro. Catch a train up Corcovado Mountain to see the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer and for incredible views of the city below. For a glimpse into the wild tropical rainforests of Brazil, Tijuca National Park is known for its beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls. Of course you can’t visit Rio de Janeiro and not go to the beach. The best beaches in Rio de Janeiro are Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach, Barra da Tijuca Beach, Prainha Beach, Leblon Beach, and Joatinga Beach. When the sun goes down, the city comes alive with street parties and the sound of samba and forro. Rio is one of those cities that seems to be in a constant state of change, so don’t expect any two days to be the same in Rio de Janeiro.
Flip flops, beach wear, coffee, jewellery, Brigadeiros, and Cachaça are some of the things you will pick up while shopping in Rio de Janeiro. Maybe a record or two too from Toca do Vinícius, a music store dedicated to bossa nova, the music Brazil is famous for. There are also a number of shopping malls in Rio de Janeiro for necessities. The most popular shopping malls in Rio de Janeiro are Shopping Village Mall, Shopping Rio Sul, Bossa Nova Mall, and Shopping Leblon. In terms of costs, Rio de Janeiro isn’t much different to prices in major cities in South Africa. A meal at a regular restaurant is about R110, a local beer goes for about R30, and a coffee costs about R25. A bottle of wine from the store costs about R130. Hostels start from R90 and nice hotels usually start from about R500. If you prefer higher end accommodation, a luxurious room in a 4-star villa or suite in a 5-star beach hotel averages R1500 in areas near the beach.
Cabs and Uber are fairly affordable and reliable. The metro (subway train) is also one of the best ways of getting around Rio de Janeiro. It has three routes running through the city that stop at most major attractions. The metro runs all day, every day and can be accessed with a rechargeable metro card (called a RioCard). The BRT is a public bus that is reliable has stops throughout the city. The RioCard can also be used on the BRT. Walking is obviously a great way to get around if you want to experience the real atmosphere of the city and stumble upon hidden gems or meet people.
The most popular neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro for travellers are Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. If it’s your first time in Rio, you should stay in Copacabana. Centro is the best place to stay in Rio de Janeiro if you are on a tight budget and Ipanema is definitely the coolest area. Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro ranges from luxurious beach resorts, grand 5-star hotels, and jungle villas, to self catering apartments, charming little bed and breakfasts in the suburbs, and budget hostels near the beach.
There are currently no direct flights from South Africa to Rio de Janeiro, but connecting flights to Rio de Janeiro are available from all the major cities. A connecting flight from Johannesburg is about 14 hours. Almost all flights from South Africa will stop in Johannesburg before making the journey across the Atlantic. Flights to Rio de Janeiro land at Galeão International Airport (GIG). Many international airlines offer flights to Rio de Janeiro. Popular airlines are South African Airways, Emirates, Latam Airlines, and Alitalia.
One of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro is see the city from the Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car. The trip is divided into two stages: the first part takes you from Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) to Morro da Urca (Urca Hill) and the second part takes you to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar). At an altitude of 528 metres and 360 degree views, Sugarloaf Mountain offers the best views of the city, the beaches, and the iconic peaks surrounding Rio de Janeiro. If you want to get even higher, a helicopter ride offers unparalleled views of Rio de Janeiro. Another great alternative is to hike up the Morro da Urca trail to the first station and catch the cable car from there to the top. The trail starts at Praia Vermelha and is about 25 minutes.