Rio de Janeiro



Rio de Janeiro, which literally means “January River”, is the second largest city in Brazil and arguably the country’s biggest tourist attraction with its breathtaking landscape and famous beaches. Located on the South Atlantic coast of Brazil, Rio was the country’s capital till 1960. This “Cidade Maravilhosa (marvelous city) remains one of the most visited cities in the southern hemisphere with its iconic monuments like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro!




Rio is divided into the following districts:


Centro (Center)

  • The historical downtown of Rio, the Centro is also the city’s finance and business hub.
  • Major areas in Centro include:




Zona Sul (South Zone)

  • This is the more tourist friendly and wealthier part of Rio.
  • Major areas include:
    • Leblon: The most affluent area of Rio, Leblon is located west of the Ipanema Beach. The Leblon Beach is considered to be more exclusive than the more popular Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
    • Ipanema: Another wealthy neighborhood in Zona Sul, Ipanema is best known for its eponymous beach, which was rated by the Travel Channel as the “Sexiest Beach” in the world in 2013.  If you need any more inspiration to visit just watch / listen to Bossa Nova classic The Girl from Ipanema!
    • Copacabana: Arguably Rio’s most famous tourist neighborhood, Copacabana is home to one of the most famous beaches in the world. It also boasts of a thriving nightlife with clubs, bars and restaurants staying open all night.
    • Urca: It is a wealthy residential area at the foothills of the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúca).


Zona Norte (North Zone)


Zona Oeste (West Zone)

  • This is a more recently developed area of Rio.
  • Major areas and attractions include:
    • Barra da Tijuca: Often referred to simply as Barra, this neighborhood is known both for its beautiful beach as well as for its vibrant nightlife. It is one of the fastest growing areas in Rio.
    • Jacarepaguá: This is middle-class neighborhood will serve as the site for the 2016 Olympics Park.

Getting around


  • The commuter train network in Rio caters predominantly to the northern half of the city.
  • It must be pointed out that trains tend to be hot and overcrowded.
  • Refer to the Train Route Map of Rio for various lines and stations.
  • A single ride costs R$ 2.90.
  • Refer to the official Rio de Janeiro Train website for more details.


  • Buses provide a cheap and convenient way to commute across Rio; however they are generally not considered very safe.
  • A single ride costs R$ 2.75.
  • Refer to the website to plan your route.
  • Rio is also serviced by air-conditioned, luxury Real VIP buses, which travel between popular tourist stops.


  • The Metrô Rio provides a safe and convenient way for moving across Rio.
  • Refer to the Metro map and the network map of Rio for various lines and stations; you would notice that there are only two lines and they don’t cover the city comprehensively.
  • A single ride costs R$ 3.20.
  • Working hours are:
    • Monday to Saturday: 5 am to midnight
    • Sunday and holidays: 7 am to 11 pm
  • Refer to the official Rio de Janeiro Metro website for more details.


  • Taxis provide a convenient way to move across Rio.
  • Some of the better-known taxi companies are Central de Taxi, Ouro Taxi and Yellow Taxi.
  • Refer to for fares.

Suggested itinerary

Rio de Janeiro in 4 days (Source: Frommers)


Day 1

  • Beaches – Ipanema and Copacabana
  • Corcovado
  • Centro
  • Cinelândia
  • Leblon


Day 2


Day 3


Day 4

Staying connected

  • Brazil uses the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM bands for mobile phones.
  • SIM cards are not readily available to foreign tourists.
  • Service providers: Getting a TIM SIM card is the most practical way out for foreign tourists.
    • TIM
    • Claro
    • Oi
    • Vivo (reportedly the best coverage; however a Brazilian tax id is required).
  • There are TIM stores in most malls and a passport should suffice as an identity proof.

Eat / Drink


The cuisine of Rio de Janeiro is a mixture of Portuguese, African and indigenous food and ingredients. Consequently, the food tends to be spicy and intensely flavorful.

Some typical items of “Carioca” cuisine include:

  • Feijoada: Considered the national dish of Brazil, it is a stew made of black beans cooked with pork, seasoned with pepper and orange peel, and accompanied with rice.
  • Churrasco: This refers to “all you can eat” barbecues, where various kinds of meat are served with salad, beans and / or rice.
  • Sopa Leão Veloso: This is a soup consisting of a broth with shrimp heads and fish and other seafood.
  • Quindim: This is a cake made with egg yolks, sugar, and shredded coconut.

Some noted restaurants serving Rio specialties include:




  • Tereze
    • Cuisine: Brazilian, Contemporary



While Brazil is a meat-dominated country, there are options for vegetarians including “por kilo” restaurants, which are self-service buffet eateries with patrons paying for food by weight. There are also plenty of juice bars offering fresh (and refreshing!) tropical fruit juices.

Some noted restaurants serving vegetarian food include:




  • Cachaca: Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil. It is made from sugar cane through a process very similar to the making rum, though Cachaca uses freshly fermented and distilled sugarcane juice instead of molasses. Some of the best Cachaca has been aged a few years. 


  • Caipirinha: This is an exotic, traditional cocktail that blends Cachaca together with sugar cane, some ice and a few crushed limes. The ingredients are all thrown together and then muddled with a blunt spoon or a masher, with a twist of lime to top it off.


  • Guarana: Made from the Guarana plant, it is a sweet fruit drink that also has caffeine.
  • Beer:
    • Brahma
    • Antarctica
    • Bohemia
    • Baden Baden
    • Eisenbahn
    • Colorado


  • Tipping in Brazil is typically not expected nor given.
  • Taxi drivers don‘t receive a tip, but it‘s nice to leave the change.
  • In restaurants a 10% service charge is often already included in the bill.

Banner image credits: Embratur

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