Struggling to fit all Rio offers into your itinerary?
Everyone wants to visit Rio during Carnival but the city is a thrill to visit any time of year. The natural beauty of the city lures visitors with its white beaches curling around striking peaks and tropical waters. Throw in all the renowned landmarks and you’re left to ask – when to go and for how long? Here are some tips for getting into and getting around Rio de Janeiro.
Tips for finding your perfect flight:
Since it’s such a popular destination start booking flights and hotels at least six months or more before Carnival. Working to extend your budget then be flexible about which day you can arrive and depart. Look at hotel and flight packages as well.
Most people visit during the peak months between December through March. You’ll find the most expensive flights during that time. Fares, depending on which city you depart from, can run between #800 to $2,000 as reported by Delta and United Airlines.
The largest airport, Galeao, handles international flights and is close to Rio central. It’s about 12 miles from the most popular zones: North (Zona Norte), Center (Centro) and South (Zona Sul.)
Most intra-Brazil airlines fly in and out of the smaller, Santos Dumas Airport. The airport has been upgrading in expectation of crowds for the World Soccer Games and Olympics.
Getting around Rio de Janeiro airports
Landing after a long flight in a new country can be daunting but maneuvering through either airport and into town isn’t difficult. There are plenty of taxis however White vehicles are Executive Cars and more expensive than Yellow Taxis. Public buses and private companies make regular stops as well. Look for them in front of the arrival terminal. Be sure to purchase a ticket before boarding for several departures each hour until 11pm. If you’re fortunate, your hotel may have a shuttle, but confirm before your arrival.
Like many crowded cities, driving around Rio is full of challenges that can dent even the most enthusiastic traveler’s spirit. Save yourself the frustration and don’t rent a car but go local, traveling by taxi or bus. Whenever you venture out be sure to have a card from the hotel with you to show drivers. It’s especially helpful if neither of you speak the same language.
Where to stay?
Rio is one of the world’s most popular destinations with lodging for all kinds of travelers. Prices depend on the hotel, neighborhood, how close you want to be to beaches and the season. It’s not unexpected to spend over $300 a night during Carnival for prime locations. Book with shared rental companies and home stays for less expensive options.
Copacabana and Ipanema, are the most popular areas. Copacabana hosts the five star Palace Hotel which has hosted nobility, celebrities and presidents, but there are more modest rooms within walking distance. Check out other neighborhoods like Flamengo and Santa Teresa.The Lapa District, is a cultural center with lots of nightclubs and music. Accommodations are more modestly priced there in quirky, small hotels to Airbnb rooms. Read more here.
What to look for when eating out in Rio?
Dining out in Brazil doesn’t have to break the budget. Looking for a quick snack in the airport? Try the ubiquitous Cheese Bread, Pão de queijo. The little, toasted balls of delicious, cheesey goodness are served warm and gluten-free at most concession stands. Caipirinhas, the national cocktail, are made with the sugar cane liquor, Cachaça and fruit juices but muddled lime is most popular and thirst quenching in the tropical heat. Rio is full of Pilsner beers, always served icily cold. Order a Chopp tower, a tall, frosty dispenser served at the table, for a larger group.
Hotels feature a variety of restaurants but look for the most popular places along the beachfront. Looking for something less expensive? Buffet restaurants are tucked into neighborhoods and you can fill up inexpensively on a variety of meats, seafood and side dishes. Great people watching too.
How best to navigate the airport?
As Brazil has been preparing for several major sports events construction is everywhere, especially in the airports. Follow instructions to navigate between airlines and baggage claim, then between terminals and transportation. Use bathrooms when you find them. Be prepared to wait in lines at food stands.
Most everyone speaks Portuguese with a little English but more often Spanish over English. Apps like ‘How to Say,’ can make it easier to converse. Phrase books can also help.
Rio de Janeiro is packed with excitement and iconic landmarks. Expect crowds – it’s worth aggravation but be careful with valuables in more crowded areas. Be sure to take the tram up Sugar Loaf Mountain for views, to see the indigenous monkeys and marvel at the waterfront. The Christ the Redeemer Statue must be experienced. Stroll the signature, wave-patterned board walks along beach fronts.
Carnival season is crazy fun as streets erupt in spontaneous parties, costumes and painted faces. Even if it breaks the budget, spending a night, (all night!) in the Sambadrom with its parades of song and dance will stay with you forever. You’ll be amazed as dance school after dance school competes with special songs, floats and feathers.
Getting around Rio de Janeiro can be a cultural experience like no other. Have fun!
This post has been sponsored but all opinions are my own.