Rio de Janeiro is a fantastic place with thick unbelievable forests, unique animals, and soft sand beaches. It is home to the most iconic places in Brazil such as Christ the Redeemer, Escadaria Selaron, the Botanical Garden and more. Most people who want to visit Brazil for the first time going to travel to Rio de Janeiro. Here is all the information you need to know before going to travel in Rio.
The national currency of Brazil is the Real (BRL). Currency rate (as of publication): $ 1 = R$ 5,06, €1= R$5,45.
If you need to exchange money the best way to do it is to go to the banks. There you will get the best rate. If the banks are closed try to find currency exchanges (find out about fees before exchanging a big sum). Hotels and travel agencies may also exchange money, but don’t expect a good rate there.
Most people just use ATM’s that accept Visa and Master cards. However, find out from your bank what banks in Brazil you can use to withdraw money. (Half of the ATM’s didn’t work for our cards)
Time zone: GMT -3;
The best time to come to Rio de Janeiro is the period between December and March. The weather is getting very warm and sunny which is a great time to relax on beaches.
If you want to visit Brazilian Carnival, you should plan your trip for February.
For those who are not a big fan of high temperatures and are not going to spend the whole time on the beach the best time would be from April to May and from October to November. (Cody and I visited Rio in the middle of November, and it was perfect for us, the water wasn’t that warm for long swims, but it still was pleasant plus we were able to do hikes and explore Rio de Janeiro)
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. The majority of Brazilians don’t speak English, only 3%, so it was quite difficult to communicate. However, the modern world has created translating apps which help in situations like this.
The majority of people in Brazil are Roman Catholic mostly due to its colonial times and Portuguese roots. A small amount of people are other types of Christianity or just not religious at all.
Rio de Janeiro is not one of the safest places in the world. And even I would say it is quite a dangerous place for tourists. If you are going to travel to Rio de Janeiro you should follow a few rules:
Stay away from favelas. These are dangerous places and there are a few cases when tourists who wandered into favelas got shot or robbed.
Always know where you are. At all times check the maps and don’t get lost.
Rio de Janeiro is not a place where you can wander through narrow streets safely, so better escape walking through any streets that are small and dark.
Even in the most popular places like Copacabana where there are lots of police you can get robbed easily. So, every time you are going out don’t bring anything valuable like jewels or expensive watches and pay attention to your bags.
Always lock your belongings in the safe in hotels to avoid any unpleasant situations.
Avoid walking at night and instead opt for a taxi or Uber. We would take an Uber even if the walk was just a few blocks. One of our friends got mugged not two blocks from their hotel.
The restaurants are accepting cards, but better to carry cash anyway just because some of the restaurant’s banks don’t do international transfer. (That’s what happened to us and I had to wait in the restaurant while Cody ran to the ATM).
There is a big variety of public transportation in Rio de Janeiro. These include city buses, trains, subway and mini buses. The trains and subway are quite limited but reasonably prised.
You can use public transportation to get almost anywhere you need, although the taxis are very cheap and of course most convenient.
I strongly do not recommend renting a car in Rio de Janeiro. First of all, it is not safe and the car can be stolen since car jacking is a big part of crime committed in Rio. Second, you don’t need to rent a car in Rio at all. The taxis are super cheap and you can use the subway which is pretty decent.
Rio de Janeiro is not a cheap place. To survive in Rio and feel comfortable but not too fancy you need to prepare not less than $50 a day per person without accommodation. A dinner without drinks is around $15 – $25 a person and a drink at the restaurant or a bar is at least $5. Pus transportation and all the sights you want to visit definitely will cost not less than that.
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Restaurants: Brazil does not have tipping as a part of its culture. Therefore, you are not obligated to pay any service fees or leave tips. Although nowadays some places will add a 10% service fee onto the bill so if you aren’t okay with this, it is best to check the menu before ordering.
Hotels: It is customary to tip for room service, daily maid and concierge and a bellboy. From R$5 to R$10 will be acceptable or a at least a dollar per bag.
Taxi: you are not expected to tip but rounding up the fare is a nice gesture. Brazilians don’t like to deal with change and even at the stores they will try to round up the bill.