Planning a solo trip to Rio de Janeiro? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The second largest city in Brazil, with a population of ~6.7 million.
- One of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere, Rio de Janeiro is famous for its natural scenery, landmarks, over-the-top parties, and a fun all-around atmosphere.
- Hosted both the 2014 Fifa World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
- Nicknames: Rio, Cidade Maravilhosa (“Marvelous City”).
- Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL)
- Spoken languages: Portuguese.
- Best Time To Visit: all year round! Rio is temperate all year round, so there is really no bad time to visit. The summer months (December to March) are warmer, but see a fair amount of rain.
- Arriving via airport (Galeão International Airport): there are pre-pay taxis in the registered taxi stand outside the airport, and will cost you around R$70-100 to get downtown. For a cheaper option, look for yellow taxis (R$40-50). Alternately, buses are available to key destinations in the city center, and will cost about R$5-12 for a ride.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers in Rio de Janeiro: Aquarela do Leme. Just a 10 minute walk to Copacabana beach, many describe it as the best hostel on the continent. Modern facilities, very clean rooms, and hosts (Thibault and Marielle) that go out of their way to make everyone feel at home – as well as organize lots of activities. Delicious free breakfast daily. Make sure to book ahead to reserve your spot!
- For upscale accommodations near the beach, look no further than Zona Sul.
- For more affordable options, look around Flamengo and Catete.
- Santa Teresa is a more central neighborhood, perfect for those looking for bed & breakfast accommodation near the city centre (with nightlife nearby).
- Starting at R$3.20 for a single ride, the Metrô public transport system is a safe, clean, efficient, and popular mode of travel within Rio.
- Taxis are best avoided. Uber is a good option, although drivers may take the Google Maps route directly through the favelas. Instead, try “99“, the biggest ride hailing app in Brazil (more experienced drivers, and no favela adventures).
- Buses are relatively cheap, starting around R$2.75. They are especially convenient in Zona Sul, where buses are readily available to most locations in the city.
- Rio has the largest cycling network in Brazil (over 150 km long) – consider renting a bicycle from one of the many “Bike Rio” rental stations downtown.
- Note: although Rio has frequent traffic jams during rush hour, a rental car can be a fantastic option as it allows you to travel to more “off-the-beaten-track” places.
- Drinking age is 18, last call is never – Rio never sleeps!
- Botequim (also known as boteco) are simple bars that serve ice-cold beer and appetizers – they can be found all around the city.
- The Lapa neighborhood is the heart of Rio’s nightlife, with several great bars and clubs. The real magic happens on the weekends, when Lapa becomes one big street party with all sorts of music (including samba, reggae, pop, and hip hop).
- To relax: hang out at the kiosks on the beachside boardwalks of Ipanema and Copacabana.
- Rio is packed with Samba clubs (especially in Lapa and Zona Sul) for those seeking the truly Brazilian experience.
- Great bars to check out: Bosque Bar, Bar Bukowski ($$$), Caju, Pavão Azul, Barthodomeu, Botequim do Itahy, and Beco das Garrafas.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The infamous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) atop Corcovado mountain has been named as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World. A must-see for the first time visitor, especially for the stunning views of the city.
- Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) is a popular attraction – ride a cable car all the way up.
- Football (soccer) fans won’t want to miss the Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums.
- Copacabana and Ipanema’s sun-kissed beaches are not to be missed.
- The beach-side boardwalks alongside Copacabana and Ipanema beaches make for a relaxing walk.
- Parque Lage is a small luscious park that marks the start of the trail to Corcovado mountain.
- There are many hiking trails in the nearby mountains for those seeking more of an adventure.
- Check out Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a large lagoon situated between the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
- New Year’s Eve is truly an amazing sight in Rio – everyone dresses in white and heads to the beaches (to make offerings).
- Carnaval is perhaps the city’s most significant annual event, with parades of brightly colored dancers and samba music all along the Sambodromo.
- There are many opportunities for surfing, sailing, and hiking in Rio – ask for the best spots!
- Looking for a healthy and delicious breakfast? Go to one of the city’s famous juice bars: Cittá RJ, Balada Mix, or Polis Sucos (all have multiple locations throughout the city).
- Great restaurants in Rio: Adega Pérola ($$ – casual), La Trattoria ($$ – Italian), Restaurante Marius Degustare ($$$$ – the ultimate seafood experience), Assador Rio’s ($$$$ – all you can eat churrasco), Carretão Lido ($$).
- Where to find good cheap food: many restaurants in Rio are buffet style or, as is popular with locals, comida a kilo’where you pay by the weight of your food! There are countless street vendors in Rio, particularly along the beach walks.
- Pickpockets are very common in Rio – leave all valuables behind (or hidden), and don’t openly display signs of wealth. The best bet is to blend in!
- Dangerous areas: avoid the downtown area at night (particularly Saara and Copacabana’s main streets). On Sundays, when shops close and security is absent, it is wise to avoid the Centro neighborhood. There are around 700 favelas in Rio (slums run by drug-lords), and it is best to avoid them – never enter one without a certified guide.
- More street tips for Rio: wear flip flops as often as you can, dress down, keep a small wallet only (some cash, maximum 1 credit card), leave your passport at the hotel (just bring a color copy of the photo page with you).
Recommended trip duration: 4-5 days