Río de Janeiro Travel Guide

Discover Río de Janeiro with our insider tips and explore one of the most famous cities of Brazil. Visit the Sugar Loaf, the mythic Ipanema beach and many more attractions in the land of eternal sunshine.

Río de Janeiro, first found by a Portuguese sailor in 1502, was once the capital of Brazil, and today is one of the most visited cities in the country. “Janeiro” means January in Portuguese and the first month of Summer in the South Hemisphere. And something that this city always have is sunshine days and a continuous feeling of vacations floating in the air. Río has the second-largest economy in the country after São Paulo,

 and today is still the financial center of Brazil. Manufacturing, commerce, and tourism are the main industries. Many travelers choose Río de Janeiro to spend a relaxing vacation in paradise beaches, enjoy the nightlife to the rhythm of Samba (the national dance) and discover the culture and charm of Brazilians. 


Copacabana and Leme Beach

Once famous because of Hollywood stars and the Copacabana Palace Hotel as the symbol of that period, Copacabana is still a wonderful place. Visit it in the early morning to see the sunrise or enjoy one of the many sports you can practice (or watch them from a kiosk having a caipirinha!) volleyball, beach volley, foot volley, football, frescoball, jogging, surfing, boogie boarding and so on. On Sundays and holidays half of the beach avenue Av. Atlântica is closed for traffic. At that time people on bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, joggers can enjoy the beautiful beach walk. To go from Copacabana to Leme it’s half an hour walk or a bus takes 2 minutes.

Address: Av. Atlântica – Copacabana, Río de Janeiro
Days and times: You can access the beach at any time but we recommend not staying until dark hours.

To learn more about our trips to Brazil, read this!

Ipanema and Leblon Beach

While Copacabana means middle class and old glam days, Ipanema means fashion and young. During the last military regime, it became some kind of an alternative stronghold for the opposition. Around Posto 9 (life guard tower 6) young leftist intellectuals and hippies smoked weed and exchanged opinions, closer to Posto 8 gay people were meeting and over in Arpoador was the surfer’s meeting point. Although politics are not anymore an important issue on the beach, this area still holds a little of each group. At Leblon beach you will find more people from the upper local class.

Address Ipanema: Avenida Vieira Souto – Ipanema, Río de Janeiro
Adress Leblon: Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, Río de Janeiro
Days and times: All day and night


Prainha Beach

It is considered to be the best surf beach in Río. It has a few kiosks with food and drinks. Avoid weekends, too crowded! The best way to get there (if you don’t have a car) is The Surf Bus. It is a specially designed bus that can take up to 30 passengers with their boards. They run every day and have English speaking staff on board. Call 8702-2837 to confirm a pick-up, they will then give you a time and street corner to be at for the pick-up.

Address: Av. Estado da Guanabara, Río de Janeiro, 10 minutes from  Recreio de Bandeirantes and 30 minutes from Barra de Tijuca
Days and times: daily from 08:00am to 5 pm

Centro Traversa do Comercio

Many pedestrian streets come super alive in week days after office hours, when all the workers go out for the happy hour. Join in on one of the many bars with tables outside to feel like another carioca.

Address: Rua do Teatro 37, Rio de Janeiro

C. Cultural Do Banco Do Brazil

The most important cultural center in Río. There are free expositions, movies and music concerts.

Adress: Rua Primeiro de Marco 66, Río de Janeiro
Days and times: Wednesday to Monday, from 09 am to 9 pm (Tuesday: Closed)

Candelaria Church

The impressive architecture of this building, as well as its decoration, makes it the most photogenic church of Brazil.

Address: Praça Pio X
Days and times: Monday to Friday (from 8am to 4pm), Saturday and Sunday: from 9 am -noon

Teatro Municipal

This Paris style theater is recently restored and is the house of Rio’s opera and ballet. Highly recommended to visit!

Adresse: Praça Floriano, S/N – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20031-050

Santa Teresa Neighbourhood

It used to be the uppermost residential neighborhood in the 19th century. During the 1969s and 1970s many artists and bohemians moved into Santa Teresa’s mansions, giving it the bohemian style it has nowadays.


Museo Chacra du Ceu

This is the last of all historic street cars that once crisscrossed through city. It is the icon of the bohemian Santa Teresa and therefore drives between the city center and Santa Teresa. 

This art museum, at the heart of Santa Teresa, allows wonderful views of the city from its lovely garden, which is situated next to Parque das Ruinas.

Adresse: R. Murtinho Nobre, 93 – Santa Teresa
Days and times: Only Sunday, all day long


Sugarloaf Mountain

Try to avoid this spot between 10am and 11am, and 2pm to 3pm because at those times buses full of tourists arrive. Also if its weekend or a National Holiday, bear in mind that you might find a long line. So– if you are planning to go for sunset head there a couple of hours ahead in order to avoid seeing the sunset from a line! Then enjoy the great view from 400mts above Rio.

Christ the Redeemer

Little more than 700mts above sea level, the impressive statue and photogenic viewpoint is maybe Rio’s most touristy spot, but also a must. Very recommended going as early in the morning as you can (opens daily at 8.30 am) to avoid the crowd.

Adresse: Parque Nacional da Tijuca – Alto da Boa Vista
Days and times: Everyday, from 8am to 7 pm

Samba Schools

The Samba Schools are social clubs, representing a particular neighborhood. They provide entertainment through popular dance nights, just like dance clubs do. They also prepare for and compete annually in the Samba Parade (known as Río Carnaval). They represent the community spirit of a neighborhood, which is usually a particular shanty-town (favela). They are the best-organized entities in the slums, having a direct impact on the society with thousands of people joining rehearsals, samba nights and carnival preparations. They are often politically involved, too.

They are not teaching institutions, as their name suggests, and do not offer samba classes. However, you can attend any of their samba nights and learn how to dance just by watching others. The origin of the name samba school comes from the fact, as the legend suggests, that the early sambistas used to rehearse in an empty lot near college teachers. “We also teach! Here the students learn to breathe and live samba!”



The Gafieiras are the traditional dance-halls of Río, so if you like, it’s ‘dance-hall’ samba, and so it’s danced in the embrace, unlike samba no pé – which you may dance in a crowd at Carnival, but you’re not in contact with a partner. Gafieira is originated from the maxixe, a partner dance that appeared in Brazil at the same time as the tango was emerging in Buenos Aires – and was probably similar to the tango danced in the black clubs of Buenos Aires in the eighteen-eighties.

Vermelha Beach

Located at the foot of the Sugarloaf it is a very special place to be. The water for some reason (it is located quite deep in to the bay) always seems to be quite clean here. There are a few good restaurants in the area and the beach makes a perfect combination with a visit to the Sugarloaf.

Favela Tours

Rio’s favelas tours are popular nowadays. There are almost 1,000 favelas with approximately 1.5 million people just in Rio de Janeiro, who often live without reliable electricity, sewage systems, or drinkable water.  Many of the Favelas have developed projects involving social community-based tours where you can visit, and learn about Rio’s everyday reality as well interact with the local community culture and art like samba, capoeira, and graffiti.

The most popular Favela tours go to Rocinha (Rio’s largest and most developed favela, and it’s the focal point of most Rio favela tours), Santa Marta Favela, located in the Botafogo and Laranjeiras area of South Rio and Vidigal Favela. 

It is very important to consider that only certain favelas are safe for visitors and should only be visited as part of a tour with a reputable tour company. Most tours use a portion of the income to fund community projects within the favelas. Most Favela tours involve a fair amount of walking and last two to four hours so use most  Comfortable shoes: roads can be steep and uneven. 

Favelas are living communities; be sensible and respectful when visiting locals and their homes as this kind of tour may not be suitable for everyone. If you are unsure please ask your travel agent. 

Eating & Drinking


Rua Aprazível 62, Santa Teresa
Tel. 21 – 2508 – 9174
Regional Food 

The making of the menu reflects the multiplicity of Brazilian flavors, highlighting national products. Brazilian culinary is the result of a great diversity of outside influences – deriving mainly from Europe and Africa and merging with the native-Indian culinary.  Cultural miscegenation, which is the portrait of Brazil, is strongly present in Brazilian culinary.

Part of the charm is the house itself. The restaurant takes up several rooms and spills over into a garden. Where the view of downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay is beautiful. Not cheap but catalogued as best restaurant in Río by many Travel Guides.

Espirito Santa

Rua Almirante Alexandrino 264, Santa Teresa
Tel 21- 2507 4840
Brazilian food / Vegetarian Friendly / Vegan Options/ Gluten Free Options

Set in a beautifully restored mansion in Santa Teresa, with sweeping views from its back patio. Amazing seafood dishes.


Rua Dias Ferreira 116, Leblon
Tel. 21 -2511-1476
Japanese Food

This very stylish hole in the wall seats no more than 30, making it the perfect place for a romantic evening. The menu is quite varied -try the deep-fried tuna roll with a honey-sweetened soy sauce for dipping or the tempura prawn roll with smoked salmon.


Rua Prado Junior – Loja B 335
Tel 21- 2275-6147
Brazilian Food

Inexpensive, young and colorful. A good option for a relaxed night.

Botequim Informal

Rua Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 434
Tel 21- 2547 -2871
Brazilian Food 

One of the neighborhood’s popular meeting points. This airy bar serves mainly Brazilian dishes and fresh beer. Gets full on Saturday nights.

Joaquim e Manuel

Av. Atlantica corner with Rua Peru (Posto 3)
Tel. 21 – 2236-6768.
Seafood /Pasta

This traditional restaurant located on the beachfront has amazing seafood, pasta, and high-quality caipirinhas! Easy if you are staying in Copacabana.

Bar do Mineiro

99 Paschoal Carlos Magno St. Santa Teresa
Tel: 21 2221 9227.
Brazilian Food

An excellent choice for a beer. It has the good ambiance of the antiqued and nostalgic. It gets full of locals during weekends, so you should get there early (Saturday feijoada’s day!).

Confiteria Colombo

Rua Gonçalves Dias 32, Centro
Tel. 021 -2505 -1500.
Gourmet Food

The huge, elegant space opens up to a canopy of stained glass that washes filtered light onto huge mirrors. Marble tables and heavy cane-seated chairs are spaced generously around the tile floor. Come here at least for coffee, it deserves the trip to downtown.

Café Gaúcho

Rua São José, 86, in Rio’s Centro
Tel. 21-2533-9285

This Is a classic botequim. Get a cafezinho because you must (0.80 reais, or about 40 cents at 2.1 reais to the U.S. dollar), but be sure to sample the classic sandwiches like pernil (marinated roast pork) and rib roast (4.50 reais). Or for a lighter snack, get the classic combination of media (cafezinho with milk) with pãonachapa com manteiga (grilled buttered bread) for under 3 reais.

Confeitaria Cavé

Rua 7 de Setembro, 137, Centro
Tel. 21-2221-0533
Brazilian Food

This is the oldest botequim in Río. The interior is a little cramped, and the fluorescent lights dispatch any remaining charm, but the cakes are delicious.

Armazém do Café

Rua Maria Quitéria, 77, Ipanema
Tel. 21 – 2 22 – 5039

The Armazén do Café is a local chain with eight locations in Río. The one at this address is the first opened 10 years ago in Ipanema. Coffee blends reflect the range of beans available from different parts of Brazil, and the place is often hopping.

Largo das Letras

501 Almirante Alexandrino St. Centro. RJ Downtown
Tel: 21-2221-8992
Breakfasts / Cake Shop

It is a big mansion and Epitomizes Santa Teresa’s theatrical decay. Flip through a small but well-chosen collection of books about Brazilian history, art and culture, and sigh before the vista of Rio spread out below.

Café Rubro

Rua da Quiyanda 191
Tel. 21 – 2253 – 3214
Breakfasts /Brunch/Lunch

Some of the best espresso (2.20 reais) can be found in Café Rubro, either at this address or one of the other two locations in the city. As you sit in the small, gleaming shop at Rua da Quitanda, coffee blenders are working hard a few floors above you, in rooms rich with the earthy smell of green coffee from all over Brazil.

Tips & Advices

How to get to Rio de Janeiro?


  • Flight: Most major airlines fly to Rio de Janeiro and the international airport is Antonio Carlos Jobin, more commonly known as Galeao Airport. It is located, 20 km (12 miles) from downtown. The second airport of Rio is Santos Dumont airport located downtown, surrounded by the Baia de Guanabara. Most Brazilian airlines now use Santos Dumont for domestic flights. Once at the airports, the best way to get to the downtown area will be with a private transfer.   Unfortunately there are no comfortable public transportation to get to the city center and the taxi service is not safe. There are some shuttle companies. 


  •  Bus: All long-distance buses arrive at the Novo Rio Rodoviaria bus terminal, Av. Francisco Bicalho 1, Santo Cristo. It is close to downtown near the old port. It’s best to use a private transfer or taxi traveling to or from the station. It’s not the best part of town, particularly with all your bags.We recommend that you buy your ticket in advance, especially for travel on weekends or in high season.


  •  Train: Unfortunately, the Brazilian passenger railway system has become virtually non-existent. 


  •  Self-drive: Brazil´s road system is extensive and diverse but driving through the world´s fifth biggest country is still a daunting task. Road conditions are adequate although signage is poor. We suggest you travel by plane for long distance or private transfer for short distance destinations. In Rio, motorists drive fast and aggressively.


How many days should I stay in Río?


It depends. If you are referring to the State of Rio de Janeiro, I’d say 30 days. However, if you mean the city of Rio, 10 days should be fine.


When is the best time to visit?


The best time to visit Rio is between December and March when the weather is warm and sunny enough to hit the beaches. The city’s seductive samba beat and incredible panoramic views last year-round but arrive in February to experience Carnival.


What is the weather like in Rio de Janeiro?


The weather in Rio de Janeiro is a typically tropical climate with high temperatures and high humidity throughout the year, this is due to its location in the tropical South Atlantic. The average annual temperature ranges from 23ºC (74ºF) and 30ºC (86ºF). However, during some summer days (January-March) can reach up to 38ºC (100ºF) or even 40ºC (104ºf). During winter (June to August), temperatures in the area suffer a decline but never gets cold (average temperature is usually not less than 18ºC / 64.4ºF), during this time the weather is cool and dry. Areas close to the mountains tend to be colder than areas near the coast, but also these areas enjoy pleasant weather and warm temperatures. The rainy season runs from November to March. Rains are usually heavy and short. It is unusual for falling water for a whole day.


What to pack?


  • Swimwear
  • Light Cotton clothes
  • Muscular and short sleeve shirts
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
  • Lightweight Waterproof Jacket
  • Beach Towel
  • Comfortable shoes, sandals, sandals
  • Backpack for day trips


Can I find ATMs in Río?


ATM cash machines can be found everywhere in the city, but they mostly only dispense Real currency. We recommend using ATMs which are located inside the bank lobbies and try to avoid ATMs on the streets or in the late evening (most ATMs turn off at 11 pm). The current daily maximum withdrawal is R$ 1000.

Banks open daily from 10 am till 16 pm. Not all banks exchange foreign currency but there are many currency exchange shops.


How much money can I spend per day in Río?


You should plan to spend around R$403 (USD 75) per day on your vacation in Rio de Janeiro, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, R$65 (USD 12) on meals for one day and R$25 (USD 4.67) on local transportation.




What is the proper tipping?


In restaurants, it’s customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Note that tips can’t be added to credit-card bills, so carry cash for this purpose. For tour guides, estimate around USD 10/15 per person, for a full day tour and half of it for the driver. In hotels, you should tip porters for handling bags: USD1.00 for every two bags, the same amount is calculated for drivers if they help you with your suitcases, the housekeeping (between USD0.50 – 1.00 per night), and the concierge staff if they have helped you to arrange dinner reservations, transportation or leisure activities.


Exchange money and using CC


Exchanging foreign money for Brazilian currency in Río de Janeiro is easy and is most commonly done at bank ATMs, Cambios (stores specializing in currency exchange) and travel agencies.

Avoid exchanging money at the airport on your arrival, as queues are long and the exchange rate is bad. The hotels often offer money exchange and convert it in the reception. Hotel exchange rates are less competitive than those of banks and exchange houses but are usually better than those at the airport.

Many Cambios are located on the main avenues of Rua Visconde de Piraja in Ipanema and in Copacabana along Avenida NS Copacabana. Exchange offices can be located inside travel agencies and often give better exchange rates of the Brazilian currency than banks.

Cash withdrawal from ATMs using a credit or debit card is the most convenient method of obtaining Reais. Before leaving home, confirm with your bank or credit card company the procedures and fees charged for international ATM withdrawals. The Brazilian bank may also charge a service fee.

If you do not have an option, it is possible to pay for cabs and other vendors in US dollars or Euros. They will calculate the exchange rate at the time. It will not be the best exchange rate, but you will be able to pay.


Visa Requirements


Tourists from around the world now have reason to celebrate, as Brazil has signed a decree to waive visa requirements for visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. This means it has just become even easier for citizens from these countries to experience the wealth of culture and natural beauty Brazil has to offer.

Tourists from the mentioned countries will be granted a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival, which can be extended for a further 90 days by simply visiting the nearest Federal Police office. The new rules apply to all people traveling to Brazil for tourism, business, transit, or to perform sports or artistic activities.

Brazil is now more open to American, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese tourists than ever before. It is now even easier for visitors to experience the countless stunning beaches along its 7,491 kilometers of coastline, taking in the gorgeous views of Jericoacoara, Angra dos Reis, or Bombinhas, or the pulsating cities of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and São Paulo.

You can learn more about the visa requirements here.



Driving in Brazil


Tourists bearing an international license to drive are entitled to drive in Brazil if their stay is no more than 180 days. For longer stays, they are required to obtain a Brazilian driver’s license.

It is compulsory to have a valid international driver’s license and a valid identification document. The foreign tourist driver is subject to Brazilian legislation.


Dangers and annoyances


Rio de Janeiro has the fame of a crime-ridden city. However, during the last years, a security campaign has been led and things have been getting better. However, using a money belt while traveling is still recommendable. As well as using the safe box in your hotel. Leave your passport in the safe because there is no need to carry it around the city while exploring. Also, try to avoid walking at the beach by night.




Taxi drivers in Rio de Janeiro are usually honest, but occasionally they decide to take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist. If they ask you to pay upfront for the ride, don’t accept this and go out of the car. This is illegal and it indicates that the cab driver is setting his own prices and is not going to use the clocked meter. All official taxis in the city have clocked meters and they can only charge the price which is shown on the meter.


Local Businesses


Project Morrinho
Rua Pereira da Silva 826 Casa 27 Vila Pereira da Silva, Río de Janeiro


Morrinho aims to bring positive change to the local community, as well as challenge the popular perception of Brazil’s favelas. Through its work, Morrinho contributes directly to the socio-cultural and economic development of the surrounding areas. The belief that favelas are merely dominated by drug trafficking and violence is not all encompassing. Morrinho communicates the realities of life through film, plastic arts, theater and music and shows that life in the favela is multi-dimensional.


Morrinho Social, the fourth component, was still being developed as of August 2009. Following the slogan “Initiating a Small Revolution”, Morrinho Social intends to offer professional qualification workshops to the residents of the Pereirão community. The idea has been developed over the past two years and aims to odder an educational component that complements the overarching values of Morrinho of social justice and economic mobility.


Through informal means Morrinho Social will develop the area of education and professionalism under the following courses:

  • Audiovisual
  • Art Education
  • Youth Leadership
  • Youth and Citizenship



How to Help


Muriqui Award for the Copaíba Environmental Association

The Copaíba Environmental Association won the Muriqui award in the 2020 edition, in the corporate category, recognizing its contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and the Mata Atlântica biome. This recognition is one of the most important honors for those who work in the Brazilian environmental area, according to the National Council of the Mata Atlántica Biosphere Reserve (CN-RBMA). The award aims to encourage actions that contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, the promotion and dissemination of traditional and scientific knowledge and the promotion of sustainable development in the area of ​​the Atlantic Forest.

Copaíba was recognized for the results of the restoration and conservation of the Atlantic Forest and for the trajectory of her work for 21 years. To date, 690 thousand seedlings have been planted on 458 hectares in partnership with landowners in the region, protecting around 265 springs and bordering 144 streams. Within the social impact, the projects have involved more than 200 owners from the region of the Peixe and Camanducaia river basins, in the south of Minas Gerais and east of the state of São Paulo, distributed in 19 municipalities. The award will take place at the RBMA 30th anniversary celebration event, which will take place in May 2021 in the state of Ceará.


Sustainability tips


  • Take your reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
  • Choose the consumption of local products from artisans and small producers.
  • Travel the city by bike or on foot, it is healthy and does not leave a carbon footprint.
  • When you go on an excursion, ask for food without plastic wrap.
  • Don’t leave trash in nature.
  • Take a reusable bottle with you to carry water in restaurants.
  • Don’t feed native fauna.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and batteries.