Rio de Janeiro
Arriving at the main airport it is best to check in advance online or in a guide book on how to get an official taxi to your hotel which will mean you avoid the possibility of being overcharged. Alternatively get your hotel to arrange a transfer, this will usually have a extra 20 to 30% added on but does make sure your driver knows where he is going.
Within the city the metro is very simple, cheap and efficient. It does not extend to all areas and if you are staying in Santa Teresa you will have to walk down to Gloria and take a taxi back up. If you are in Leblon the metro goes to Ipanema then there is a special bus link. Lots of areas have all in tickets where you pay for a metro and special bus link, the price depends if the link is express. In addition there are hundreds of bus routes which are cheap and frequent but the driving requires that you do not have a nervous disposition and are slim enough to slip through the turnstiles after paying.
Contrary to many reports picking up taxis on the street did not cause any issues and in all cases they used their meters, occasionally they may not want to go up the hill to Santa Teresa from say Lapa as it is a short journey and not worth the bother but there is always another one.
The last mode of transport to mention is the Bonde tram which ran from the city centre to Santa Teresa, sadly since an accident this has been closed and although it was to re-open this has not yet happened.
As far as safety goes there are areas that are not safe to walk around, this may vary from say weekday to weekend, so take advice from your hotel. We found it far safer than we had been led to believe just do not carry or wear any expensive jewellery or cameras.
We stayed in Santa Teresa which is an old area at the top of very steep hills with amazing views over the city, it has an old fashioned artistic feel. There are a number of places to stay but it is important to be in safe walking distance of the Largo de Guimaraes which has places to eat and some great local bars. Now that the Bonde tram does not run you should consider the transport links from this area,
Mama Ruisa is a beautiful place to stay, more a B&B than a hotel. The building, an old colonial mansion, is beautiful and the design of the public areas and the rooms is outstanding. There is a small pool and the views are brilliant. The staff were lovely, happy to offer advice where needed, book restaurants etc. It is in the top range of prices but there are occasionally deals such as 5 nights for the price of 4, it is worth the splurge, breakfast is not included and is expensive but lovely, so perhaps take it some days and on others go out. Be aware that all services rooms, meals and drinks have a 10% tax in Rio.
There are other cheaper and more expensive hotels in the area, most fairly small and also a network of B&B’s, we found that locals we met thought it was a great choice of area.
The other area that we thought would be good to stay is Leblon, it has its own beach, a lovely lake area and some excellent places to eat and drink and it is close to Ipanema which apart from the famous beach also has some lovely shops, bars and restaurants, it has a more up market feel than Copacabana.
Lots of places do dishes for two people, in true Portuguese style, these really are enough for 2 !
For a top notch dining experience try Tereze at the Santa Teresa Hotel, the cooking is excellent, as is the service and setting, make sure you have a cocktail at the bar which is fabulous.
Sobrenatural, Rua Almirante Alexandrino 432, is one of a number of places in the street and specialises in seafood, it is mobbed at weekends. We went midweek and were a bit disappointed both with the food and the atmosphere, but it gets good reports, perhaps we just did a bad day.
Bar Do Mineiro, Rua Paschoal Carlos Magna is just past the end of the restaurant row and is a great old fashioned “Portguese” type bar doing cheap beer and excellent cheap food. Very friendly staff.
Simplesmente, is before Bar Do Mineiro on the same street and does food till late, it also does some very good cocktails as well as the usual cheap Brazilian beer. The staff are again great.
Espirito Santa, Rua Almirante Alexandro 264 is a restaurant and bar with a back terrace, a variety of drinks and food, the service was a bit off hand but a nice setting.
There are loads of places to eat, one very traditional place is Nova Capela, Av Mem de Sa 96, old school waiters and food, one of the specialities is roast kid served with chips and rice. Lots of locals we spoke to said it was their classic Rio place and we loved it.
Leblon has loads of places both traditional and modern.
Venga Bar de Tapa, R. Dias Ferreira 113B, is very smart with excellent food and service. They also have a place in Ipanema at Rua Garcia D’Avila 147, this street is full of places to eat and one recommended by residents but not tested out was Via Sete for food and cocktails.
Garota de Ipanema, Rua Vinicius de Moraes 49 is where the Girl from Ipanema was written, now it is famed for the shared plates of sizzling steak which you cook at the table, fabulous.
During the week there are loads of places to eat for office workers and many do buffets where you pay by the weight. Rua do Rosario has lots of very popular places and Under Grill at 108 was very good, with a huge selection of dishes, salads, sushi etc. and freshly carved meat charged for by weight.
This is another area worth exploring particularly if you visit Christ The Redeemer and get the bus back to Largo do Machado metro.
Bar Devassa is a local brewery and their bar at Rua Senador Verguiero 2, does a variety of beers and a big selection of food.
Armazem do Chopp, Rua Marques de Abrante 66, is just down the street and is popular with locals it specialises in grilled meats if you haven’t overdosed on them by now
Bars in Rio are called Botequims, they are mostly with open fronts and table service and vary from the basic to the upmarket.
Bar Do Mineiro, without a doubt the best local bar in Santa Teresa. see under restaurants above.
Simplesmente, same street as above stays open late, also above under restaurants.
Armazem Sao Thiago, Rua Aurea 26, is still known by it’s old name Bar do Gomes and is a lovely old fashioned bar at bit further away from the Largo do Guimares but safe to walk by following the tram tracks. It does great snacks but the staff are not as friendly as in Bar do Mineiro, the atmosphere during a local derby football game is brilliant.
Jobi, Av Aataulfo de Paiva 1166, is a local favourite, sit at one of the high tables at the front and drink a chopp, a draft beer, or eat inside.
On Saturday nights has it’s biggest and liveliest Samba night, it is perfectly safe loads of police around and people of all ages – choose a bar where you like the type of music or where the age group suits.
Belmonte, Av Mem de Sa 82, is a lovely bar with great “petiscos” snacks, they have a couple of other places in the city.
Taberna Do Juca, Av Mem de Sa 65, is a big old fashioned place with a old style customers and traditional samba.
There are so many places to choose from both in Av Mem de Sa and the couple of streets off, don’t stray from where the crowds are however.
During the week particularly Friday after works there are loads of bars with outside seating around Travessa do Commercio
Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail is a must, made from cachaca, similar to white rum, sugar and lime, it may take some fine tuning to get the mix just the way you like it but persevering is fun. Sitting gazing out at one of Rio’s beaches with a caipirinha in hand just has to be one of the best things.
The other local favourite is a cool draft beer, called a chopp and usually with the local larger type beer called Brahma.
Wine is not commonly drunk in Brazil but Brazilian wine is now hitting the radar abroad in countries including the UK, most of the quality wines come from the south of the country where the climate resembles some of the northern Italian wine growing areas, so worth keeping an eye out.
Saude, cheers !
See the views by doing Christ the Redeemer, you can do this independently by getting a combined Metro & Express Bus ticket, take the metro to Largo do Machado then the bus to the foot of the hill. The queues for the train up are long but you get an allocated slot so can wander around until your train time.
Centro is worth exploring during the week, and you can take a ferry from Praca Quinze do Novembro over to Niteroi and see the views from the sea, there is also the modern art museum for which you have to take a bus. Also visit the Confiteria Colombo, Rua Goncalves Dias 34, a classic café and restaurant with an amazing selection of savoury snacks.
Walking along Ipanema beach and also Copacabana are musts, you can get to both from Praca General Osorio, choose the appropriate exit. Sit at one of the beach bars and drink the fresh coconut drink or a beer.