If you like cities, beaches, colorful places and good food, Rio de Janeiro is probably on your travel bucket list. There are some tips you need to know to get around and save money in the biggest city of Brazil.
1. Call the Bus
In Rio de Janeiro, you need to call a bus just like you would do with a taxi. Even if you’re at a bus stop, it won’t pick you up unless you raise your hand and manifest your interest.
What I really appreciated during my trip: there’s someone in the bus to give your change back! I don’t know if it’s common in your home town, but in Montreal we never get our change back in a bus.
Something I learned because I was with a local: yellow seats are for disabled persons, elderly or pregnant women. It’s not really clear and you need to know that… Locals make fun of it and use to say: “Yellow seats are for old person… or tourists”. Don’t be that tourist.
2. Take the Metro
The metro is super clean! Seriously, I would give it a price!
I didn’t take it at night, but during the day I felt safe. I recommend to use it. Find everything you need to know on this Guide to Public Transport in Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio de Janeiro, “jaywalking” worth a mention as a transportation mode. It is almost weird to cross the street at an intersection. People just do whatever they want and it’s a little chaotic. Nothing compared to Asia, but still…
Just like anywhere else in the world: Watch out for the motorcycles and scooters!
4. Know Where to Take a Taxi
At the airport, if you prefer to take a taxi instead of a bus, go to the departure zone. Taxis are less expensive there than at the arrival zone. Again, thanks to my local friend for this advice!
I met none taxi driver speaking English, you better practice your Portuguese if you want to go somewhere, or have it written down on a paper!
You should have a Portuguese Phrasebook with you since taxi drivers, waiters and the majority of people don’t speak English. It’s a 9$ well invested that can save you a lot of hassle.
5. Eat All the Food
I was totally impressed by Brazilian cuisine! Fruits, tapioca, feijoada, and BBQ… you won’t have any trouble to find delicious food in the marvellous city.
You may be tempted to keep your usual eating habits, but don’t be afraid to do like locals and drink a fresh juice for breakfast and have street food for the lunch. It’s cheap, and delicious! If you have a small budget, that’s the best way to save money and eat for 15$ a day.
Another way to save money on food is to go a “Por quilo”. You pay according to the weight of your plate.
Wanna take the knowledge home? Take a cooking class. It’s a lot of fun!
6. Don’t Drink Tap Water
Do not drink tap water! Even locals don’t do that. You’ll easily find bottled water everywhere. I know it’s really not eco-friendly, so you can also use any purifying device you have and a reusable bottle. In fact, please choose that second option.
7. Withdraw Money at the Airport
Rio de Janeiro is not an expensive destination for food and activities. For a 10 days trip, I spent less than 300$ and I really treat myself. I could easily have spent less than 200$. (Note: I stayed at a friend so this budget doesn’t include accommodations.)
There is no problem to use your credit card almost everywhere… except banks. Ahah!
I’m joking of course, but I had more trouble trying to get cash during my trip than paying with my card.
My VISA wasn’t accepted at some banks, but it did at some City Bank and Itaú. Sometimes, I had to go to 3 or 4 banks to find one accepting my card and it’s pretty random; It could work with a City Bank in Lapa, but not with another one in another neighbourhood. Go figure…
Normally, I recommend to never change money at the airport because the exchange rate is bad. But, in this case, I recommend you to withdraw a minimum of cash at the airport so you’ll be able to get around by the time you find a bank accepting your credit card.
8. Apply Basic Safety Rules
Nothing bad happened to me, but Rio de Janeiro is a “dangerous” city. Any universal safety advice apply here: watch your stuffs, don’t get around alone at night and listen to your intuition.
You should read: Rio de Janeiro – How to stay safe at the beach.
Did you go to Rio de Janeiro? What tips would you give to travel in this destination?
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