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Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Area Code , December 7 1999

The Town:-
What can be said about Rio de Janeiro that has not been said already. It is the most popular destination in South America, and third behind New York and London in the world. The beaches have been made famous through songs, movies and countless postcards. The mountains behind it give views which are probably the best in the world, and the easy nature of the locals make Rio a relaxing destination, which is incredibly rare for a city with 10 million people in it.

The best place to stay for the budget traveller is in Copacabana, which is a bit cheaper then the more upmarket Ipanema area. The quality of accommodation is pretty poor, while the beachfront hotels are astronomically high. The best option, if in a group of three or more is to rent out your own apartment, which is close to the beach (very important) and has facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen which would cut down of eating costs.

The cheapest option is the COPACABANA PRAIA YOUTH HOSTEL at Rua Tenente Morones de Gusmao 85. Although it is quite far away from the beach, it is very popular with travellers and good for meeting people. Prices start at $6.50 US for a bed in a four bed dorm. $15 US for a double, all with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities provided.

The cheapest hotel in the middle of everything is the HOTEL ANGRESE. It is pretty rundown, but the location just of Santa Clara and Av NS de Copacabana is perfect. Rooms start at $14 a single and $25 a double.
Some guide books suggest the COPACABANA CHALË, at Rua Pompeu Loureira 99.
Yet I do not recommend it. When I was there (for two days) the staff were very rude, the rooms were dirty and the people who stayed there were local druggies. Beds cost $6.50 in a four bed dorm or $7 US for a double. Only come here as a last resort.

Easily the best option and (if in a group) the cheapest option is renting
your own apartment. The EMPREENDIMENTOS IMOBILIA RIO LTDA rent out temporary apartments. The manager, Margareth Belsito is very helpful and can be found at Rua SANTA CLARA 98, room 212 T(236-1076) FAX (255-3792). She, or her staff, will show pictures of their apartments and you can choose from there. If in a group of four and two of you don't mind sleeping on the floor or couch, it will cost $5 US a person. This would include a great location, freedom to entertain guests, and kitchen facilities. You must stay for a minimum of five nights, but there is no maximum.

Hygiene is not the best in Rio De Janiero. Be sure not to eat anything that has been washed in tap water, like lettuce for example. Although not as bad as Bali belly, Rio Belly can put you out of action for two to three days.

The cheapest options are the corner shops which sell hamburgers, hotdogs, beans, rice, fruit shakes, pizzas, etc. There must be over 100 in the Copocabana area alone, but the place that I frequented the most was on the corner of RUE BARATA RIBEIRO and CONSTANTE RAMOS (it had no name). It was one of the few places that worked on spotless stainless steel. For around $2 US, you could eat a special combo advertised on the boards. It would include chicken fillet, rice, beans, an egg, salad (remember don't eat lettuce) and a fruitshake.

There are many buffet restaurants on RUE BARATA RIBEIRO, which charge by the weight of your plate. The choice of food is great and the food itself is pretty good. Waiters only get paid by what drinks you order so be sure to have a drink or two.

Most travellers come to Rio De Janeiro for the beaches so why not eat on the beaches? Every fifty metres are little shacks, which, although popular for beer and coconuts, also sell very cheap food. Pastries cost $1US while a huge portion of chips will set you back $1.50 US. Not only do you get reasonable food, but the best views of the beach as well.
Although it is a sin for budget travellers to go to Mcdonalds or similiar fast food restaurants, I must mention that 'Bobs' (a dutch fast food chain now in Brazil) has great hotdogs and milkshakes for $1.50 US.

Night time:-
The nightlife in Rio is not as crazy as the media would have us believe. When we see millions of people dancing on the beach for New Years Eve, we must not be tricked into thinking that this is a regular occurrence. However Rio still does have some fine places to party he night away.

Behind Copacabana and Ipanema is a butterfly shaped lake called LAGOA RODRIGOI DE FREITAS. Along the waterfront are many resturants/nightspots which have great live music and fantastic outdoor seating. They are open until late which make it a perfect place to eat, listen to music and dance all in the one venue.

Copacabana beach is always pretty active and you can drink at the shacks (mentioned before), and then play a bit of night football. Because of the threat of crime, the council has erected many floodlights which light up the whole beach, enabling many beach parties.

On the water front is the nightclub 'Help Disco', which probably got its name because tourists cried help, after entering it. This has to be the seediest, dodgiest most drug orientated night spot I have or ever will see.
In a crowd of 1000, 300 would be prostitutes (blocking the bar), 250 would be Americans trying to pick up the prostitutes, 200 would be drug dealers and the rest would be wide eyed tourists wondering what they hell was going on.
Saying that, if you are in a big group, this place can be a lot of fun, as you just sit back and watch.

Things to do:-
The first thing you must experience is the beaches. Copacabana beach is where the locals come to swim, and the water is warm and pretty clean. The Brazilians are incredibly fit and like to flirt and show off their bodies to any pale tourists, which adds to the occasion. Just like in the song 'The girl from Ipanema', this beach is swarming with beautiful women. The water however is much dirtier and the portable oil rig 200 metres from shore is an eyesore. However, beach volleyball and football games make the beach entertaining without swimming.

Up there with the 'Statue of Liberty' and the 'Eiffel Tower', the 710 meter Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is one of the most famous man made landmarks in the world. Although it is much smaller than what the postcards suggest, it is still an amazing experience. Getting there is an adventure in itself as a slow train ($10US) makes it's way up the Corcovada mountain.
Alternatively you can hire a private guide who will stop on the way, even showing you the gates to Ronald Biggs' house, the famous British train robber, for $13US. Catch the 583 bus from RUE BARAT RIBEIRO, Copacabana. It is open from 8.30am to 6.30 pm.

Just before Copacabana is the two-peaked Sugar Loaf mountain (really a hill), resting beside the water. There is a two stage cable car that takes you to both peaks, for $8 US. Sometimes there is a party on the second, the highest peak, which is popular with tourists, but incredibly dangerous when drunk. It is open 8.00am to 10.00pm and lifts leave every 30 minutes.

The Jardim Botanico (Botanical Gardens) are worth a look and are located just behind Ipanema. It has a range of wildlife from greedy squirrels which let you feed them to a very noisy bird-life.

Opposite the gardens is the ?Jóquei Clube (Jockey Club), a racing track that
has meetings every weekend. Although not the best option for a budget traveller is a lot of fun seeing the sport mad Brazilians cry and yell at their chosen horses. I recommend everyon to see it.

Where is it?
Rio de Janeiro is on the middle east coast of Brazil. Airlines often have discounts to this destination as it is the most popular in South America. If leaving from London, ask British Airways if they have any deals for around $650 US. Iberia and Air France often have cheap deals leaving from Madrid and Paris. Miami also have very cheap deals for around $450 US.
Airfares are very expensive to destinations around South America so it is better to bus it to a nearby country then fly from there.

Useful Information
Because Rio is such a big city, tourist offices, police, pharmacies are everywhere.
Tourist buses leave Rio airport going to both beaches for $3.50 US.
Transport within Rio is very simple as all buses go in the one line, North or
South. Fares cost .40 cents US.
There are many banks and Cambios but only one American Express which is North of Copacabana on Avienda Atlántica.

Weather(Dec 99)
Perfect almost everyday!