Rio 2018

This is my second time in Rio, so my view of the city here is also interlaced with comparisons of when I was first here in 2002. First of all I was 24 years old when I was here last time, and now while I am here I am turning 40, so my experience as a traveller as also developed and I think I am not as romantic about places as I use to be, but I am also more confident and more aware of the dangers that I was 16 years ago. Last time I was here I thought nothing of walking off and wandering around in any part of the city. Read one story here.

Me in Rio in 2002

So this time I flew in from Orlando, USA after spending some time with friends there (see this blog here), and came straight to Copacabana where my wife and I had rented an Airbnb. I loved Rio the first time I was here and my love affair with this city has only grown on this second trip. Don’t get me wrong, Rio has a lot of social issues, crime is very high and while we were here the government of the city had put the military in control of public safety after the recent carnival where they were four people murdered. (See my blog on politics in Brazil).

I would find it hard to compare Rio with any city in the world, all the elements are here, the beaches, mountains, a jungle in the city, a big lake, the bay and of course the city itself, the city is truly incredible. Plus the climate is perfect, ok this time of year the sea was a little cold to swim, but on average the temperature is between 25°C (77°F) and 30°C (86°F), with about 60% humidity and a nice breeze, such perfect temperatures.

In the last couple of years I have become a vegan, so finding places to eat and shops to find food is high on my list of things I look for in a city. Here in Rio, there is no problem finding vegan options at all, Carioca’s (people from Rio) seem to be very health conscious, so there are loads of places to get good food, by fresh vegetables and juice places everywhere. Brazilians also seem to be very much into Açaí, berries that come from a type of palm tree, you will find this everywhere, especially by the beach.

View from Sugarloaf

So how is the city? Like any big city, there are areas and zones. In the south, there are three beachside zones, Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca. All these beach places have their own laid-back vibe. Copacabana is the busiest; behind the main street are a number of bustling boulevards where you fill the fast pace of the city, loads of shops, supermarkets, bars, hotels and places to eat. The beachfront is very developed and is the nicest for walking; also the see seems somewhat calmer than in Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca. Although I would say that Copacabana is the nicest beach, the views in Ipanema are incredible, and during sunset, it is incredible to see the views of the dois irmãos (two brothers) mountain. The streets in Ipanema also have a great chilled back vibe, whereas Copacabana feels like a fast pace city, Ipanema really has that beach vibe going for it. As for Barra da Tijuca, this is a very long beach and would take you more than three hours to walk from one side to the other, but if you are looking to get away from the crowds, this might be the perfect place.

Another area I liked in the south is Lagoa, which is the lake behind Ipanema. On the weekend you also have a nice crowd there. What makes Rio great is all the different areas it has, so you can really get a feeling for the different vibes in the different areas. Personally, I really like taking one of the free Rio bikes on the weekends and riding around the lake.

Lagoa, Big Lake in the city

Downtown the popular to visit and stay are Santa Teresa and Lapa that both have their own funky vibe to them and should not be missed. The train to Santa Teresa is cool and from their, you can catch great views of the city, especially at sunset. We took one of the free (tip) tours of the city and this was quite pleasant, it gives you an overview of the downtown and helps with orientation for sure. Copacabana also is a bit of a party place, but Lapa seems to be the place to stay if you are looking to party in Rio.

Getting about the city is very easy; there is a metro that is about Rs 7per trip, buses are Rs 3.60 a ride and there are taxies and ubers everywhere. The city also has a great scheme for getting people to ride bikes. Sponsored by a local bank (Itaú), the bike allows you to ride for up to an hour around the city of free, and then cost Rs 5 per hour after that. To access the bike you just need to download the Itaú app, which will show you the availabilities of bikes near that station. Just go to the station, on your app select that you want to take a bike, it will then give you a code that you punch into near the bike, then you can take the bike and return them to any of the stations along the way. Just before you reach one hour, you can return the bike, wait 15 mins, and then take another bike. There are bike lanes all over the city, and it is so easy to get from place to place. I was even able to pick up a bike in Ipanema and drop it off in the city centre close to Lapa. On Sundays, one of the streets is closed off on the main Copacabana and Ipanema strip, so everybody walks, runs, rides skateboards, roller-skate or ride their bikes. It’s a great atmosphere.

Capoeria with Christ

Of course, the main tourist things to do are Christ the Redema and Sugar Loaf Mountain. Read my guide here on how to do this.

Staying in Rio was an absolute dream and I would recommend the city to anyone, but do check the safety situation before you go. I loved my time there and just having the time and space to absorb the city and feel that Carioca vibe, nothing beats walking up and down the strip in Copacabana which I tried to do as often as I could while I was there. Rio holds a very special place in my heart and I hope it will not be too long until I can return again.