Colm Hanratty, Editor of Hostelworld.com tells us ten things you can do on a budget in Brazil’s most famous city, Rio de Janeiro. Colm travelled there last November to film the Hostelworld city guide video 10 things you need to know about Rio de Janeiro and a podcast about the favelas.
What better way to relax in Rio de Janeiro than spending the day like the Cariocas (native of Rio) do – soaking up the rays on some of the most famous beaches in the world. And of course we all know sunbathing is free, once you don’t give in to the pushy hawkers selling loungers. While the most famous beach is Copacabana, my advice is to check out Ipanema instead. It’s not as hectic and the water is cleaner.
There are lots of neighbourhoods in Rio worth checking out. Botafogo near the Sugar Loaf Mountain has a bay which is nice to walk around, admiring the yachts. Downtown Rio is like any other city centre in the world but still worth exploring. Ipanema and Copacabana are the famous beach neighbourhoods and home to lots of bars and restaurants, while Santa Teresa is full of colourful houses. It’s also where you’ll find the top of Escadaria Selaron – the steps that are featured in the ‘Beautiful’ video by Snoop Dogg and Pharrel Williams.
The city’s botanic gardens are (Jardim Botanico) are home to 7,000 different plant species and cover 140 hectares. It was founded in 1808 by John VI of Portugal but didn’t open to the public until 14 years after that in 1822. Today, in a city as hectic as this one, it’s the perfect place to relax for a few hours. And entrance is a measly R5 (less than £2)..
A stroll around this lake which borders Ipanema, Botafogo and other neighbourhoods is the perfect way to kill a couple of hours without spending a cent. Overlooked by Corcavado from all angles, you can enjoy watching people in their boats, others rowing and fitness fanatics jogging around it at all times of the day.
While Rio de Janeiro is full of bars and nightclubs, the best night is unquestionably the one at the weekly street party in Lapa. Every weekend thousands of Cariocas flock to this neighbourhood and drink in the street instead of in the bars. Don’t worry about bringing drink before you go – street sellers sell cheap cans of beer, tequila shots, hot dogs and more. A night not to be missed when out in Rio.
One of Lapa’s most famous landmarks is the bridge ‘Arcos de Lapa’ with its tall arcs. Watch it for long enough during the day and at some stage you’ll see an old train crossing it. This train is known as ‘bonde’. Leaving from downtown Rio, it crosses the famous bridge into the colourful neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. A ticket on the train costs less than £2 and the journey is an exhilarating one.
Rio is where you will find lots of things, and one of these is the Tijuca Rainforest – the largest urban rainforest in the world. As you would expect as it’s a park, entrance is free. In the park you can swim under waterfalls, hike on paths and more. It is also where you will find the famous Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado) statue.
There are three ways to get to Christ the Redeemer. The first is the taxi which is the most expensive. Second is by taking the funicular which is the most common way to get to the top. But if you want to save yourself a few Real you can hike to the top! The hike is a tough one though and isn’t the best sign-posted, so just make sure you know exactly where you’re going before embarking on the hike.
All over Rio are restaurants known as ‘chuhascarias’ which are essentially meat houses. Waiters circle the room asking you over and over if you want one of an array of meats. What makes it such good value? The fact that they work on an ‘eat as much as you can’ basis. So for around £10 you can eat as much as you can fit inside your stomach. And not only meat – you’ll have a selection of pastas, salads and desserts also.
One of the world’s most famous songs (look it up on YouTube and you’ll recognise the song the second it starts playing), Garota de Ipanema was written in the neighbourhood of the same name. If you want to see the exact table and chair it was written from, visit the aptly named Garota de Ipanema at Vinicius de Morais 49. The thrill is a short lived one, but at least you can say you saw where it was written.