The Bare Minimum Travel Guide to Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has definitely made our "places you must see" list, primarily for 3 factors

1.) Landscape - ocean, beaches for miles and miles, mountains, cliffs, bays, lakes, forests all within the city limits.  The houses, apartments buildings and favelas strewn about that landscaping just make for about 500 breathtaking views from around the city. 

2.) Samba - Dancing and costumes that are just awesome, truly Brazilian and something you must experience.  Bonus points if you make it to Carnaval. 

3.) Brazilian Beef - I don't know what they do to their cows down here, or how they season and cook it, but you can buy a $2 USD Carne Churrasco (shish-kabab) on the side of the road and it will blow your socks off.  The $10 USD steaks at restaurants are also awesome.

Here's the skinny;


Where to stay

Ipanema - less touristy, better beach, more "local," safer, more expensive that Copacabana

Copacabana - "tourist trap" but will have all of the conveniences that you want and a huge beautiful beach.  Safe enough so you really don't have to worry, but always be a conscious traveler.

Leblon - less touristy that Ipanema even, more "local" that Ipanema, safer, more expensive that Ipanema

These neighborhoods are all in a row - Copacabana, then Ipanema, then Leblon.  We stayed right in between Copacabana and Ipanema, 1.5 blocks from one beach and 5 blocks from the other.  All of the streets around there are similar, so you don't need to be too choosy.  Use Airbnb to book your place to stay, it's way cheaper than a hotel and the hosts are awesome.

Note that the ocean water here is cold, so if you're looking for a "tropical" beach vacation with 82 degree water that you can bathe in for 40 minutes comfortably, then go to the caribbean.  In Rio, you can probably last for like 8 minutes in the water.  Candidly, it's like 75 and below, which is too cold in my opinion but some weird people like it that way.


Things to eat/drink

Drink Caiparinhas - the national drink

Eat Beef Stroganoff - I thought this was german or something, apparently is a big thing…and it’s awesome

Eat Feijoada - basically black bean stew and magical meets - a national dish

Eat any beef (carne) anywhere - Brazillians do beef way better than Americans

Drink Brahma, Bohemina, Antarctica Original Beers

Eat “Churrasco” - which is basically grilled meat - you chose your meats.  Brazil is amazing at making simple meat preparation delicious.


Places to go

Samba School - Salgueiro or Manguiera - they’re both huge and amazing.  One night a week is “Samba School” at each where you see them practice, then get to join in for the fun.  It’s a huge party.  Salguiero is mostly locals.

Copacabana Beach

Ipanema Beach

Lapa - Selaron Stairs (amazing), Lapa Arches and the cities nightlife hub are here.  Go for the big outdoor party on Friday nights.  Eat the “churrasco” grilled meat on a stick.  You’re welcome.

Tijuca National Forest - amazing views, nature, hand-gliding, monkeys (north of Barra - to hike to see the Stone of Gavea, and near Christ the Redeemer for a bunch of other stuff including waterfalls - two totally separate areas)

Christ the Redeemer (obviously, this is amazing)

Sugarloaf - Pao de Acucar (amazing)

Botanical Gardens - very beautiful, cool plants, monkeys - not mind blowing thought

Parque Lage - close to botanical gardens, super cool and beautiful for its own reasons, monkeys too.



The more Portuguese you know, there better off you’ll be.  No one here speaks English.  Follow my “meeting English speakers in foreign countries on Instagram” strategy.  If you know any Spanish, you can use it to kind of bridge the gap, but it’s basically all Portuguese here. At a bare minimum, you should know;


Greetings (not perfect spellings, just how you pronounce them)

Hello - Ola (Oh-la)

Goodbye - Tchau (Chow)

Good morning - Boa Dia (Boa-Jia) - the D in the middle of a world sounds like a J

Goodnight - Boa Noce (Boa Noich)



Chicken - Frango

Beef - Carne

Linguica - Sausage

Water - Agua

Beer - Ceverja



One - Um

Two - doo-iche



Thank you - Obrigado (I’ve said this 1,345 times…)

Please - por favor

Check please - Por favor a conta (or Voce Pode me dar a conta)


Read Rio Blog posts for more details and have an amazing trip!!  Contact Us if you have any questions!