Seductive samba beats, glorious sandy beaches, and vibrant street parties — Rio de Janeiro is possibly the hottest city in the world at the moment, especially after playing host to the Olympics 2016. Even if you’re not a beach-lover or party person, Rio has its artistic side, with galleries, museums and plenty of restaurants for culture lovers. There’s so much to do in the Brazilian city that it’s impossible to see and experience it all in a lifetime.
Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide
Explorer Rio de Janeiro
Rising 396 meters (1,299 ft) above the harbour, this emblematic mountain peak stands at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is known locally as Pão de Açúcar, a name that came about from its shape, which resembles that of concentrated refined loaf sugar. For the best views of Rio, head up to the summit on the glass-walled cable car that leaves from the base of the Babilônia hill.
Perhaps the world’s most famous beach, Copacabana has inspired many classic songs and movies — for good reasons. Stretching across 4km of the Atlantic shore, Copacabana is a great spot to watch locals out and about, play some volleyball and get a feel for the Rio lifestyle. There are historic forts at both ends of Copacabana beach: The 1914 Fort Copacabana is at the south end, while the 1779 Fort is at the north end.
An old neighbourhood on a hilltop next to the centre of Rio, Santa Teresa is a favourite among artists and tourists for its winding, narrow streets and eclectic, bohemian vibes. During the 19th century, it was an upper-class district, as evident from its numerous opulent villas. Today it has been revived as a hip borough, home to art studios, galleries, restaurants and bars.
Painted in vibrant colours and mosaic artwork, this set of steps is the masterpiece of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who created it as a “tribute to the Brazilian people”. There are 215 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world.
Mesquita de Luz
The Mosque of Light, located in Tijuca, is the biggest Islamic religious site in Rio de Janeiro. Dating back to 1951, it’s now known as the Society of Benefit Muslims in Rio de Janeiro (SBMRJ). Founded by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, the society has over 500 members.
Christ the Redeemer
The number one attraction in Rio de Janeiro is this Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ perched on the peak of the 700-metre Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue has become a cultural symbol of Brazil and is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Be warned, though, it
Where to Eat and Drink
There’s a reason why Brazilian cuisine is famous worldwide: Rodizios (steakhouses) serve the most tender and succulent meat in the form of massive skewers, along with refreshing cocktails like caipirinhas. But if you’re not a meat lover, don’t fret. Whether you’re after halal food, vegetarian or organic foods, you definitely won’t go hungry in Rio.
Located next to the Copacabana Beach, this fully-certified halal restaurant dishes up tasty, authentic Middle Eastern food. There are occasional live shows in the upper level of the restaurant. Don’t miss out on the Arabic buffet lunch on Sunday afternoons.
As one of the in-house restaurants in Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel, this casual poolside diner offers the best of Brazilian and international cuisine in a refined atmosphere. Pergola is best known for its Saturday buffet, which attracts locals with the typical flavours of the country, including delicacies such as feijoada.
For the true Brazilian rodizio experience, Rubaiyat won’t disappoint. Based on the “farm to table” concept, this restaurant is famed for its premium beef, which comes from cows raised in the restaurant’s own ranch. Located inside the Rio Jockey Club, the restaurant has an open terrace that overlooks the race track.
If you’re curious about Amazonian cuisine, this is the best place in Rio to go for a different dining experience. The restaurant is headed by chef Natacha Fink originally from Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. She works with natural ingredients from the Amazon, using international techniques creating a cuisine that surprises and delights.
A hot favourite among celebrities, this contemporary hotel draws in crowds with panoramic views of the Ipanema seafront. Located on Avenida Vieira Souto, it boasts one of Rio’s most coveted address.view
Hotel Santa Teresa MGallery
Part of the Sofitel hotel chain, this high-end hotel in the heart of Santa Teresa neighbourhood used to be part of a coffee plantation but has now been converted into a stylish mansion.view
Recently opened in 2014, this new hotel is set in the historic centre of the Bairro da Lapa, surrounded by a bohemian ambiance and artistic flair. Housed in a fully restored 19th century palace, the hotel features 292 rooms and suites.view
Just steps from the Copacabana Beach, this midrange hotel has a clean, fresh look and an incredible location in the heart of Rio. Besides having a laid back and casual atmosphere, the hotel is also one of the most sustainable hotels in Rio de Janeiro with a range of innovative, green-friendly features.view
Best Time to Go
Blessed with pleasant sub-tropical climate, Rio is an excellent place to visit all year round. In summer, temperatures usually range from 23 to 30 °C and in winter, it never gets any lower than 18°C. Due to Rio’s location in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed here: summer runs from December to March and winter goes from June to August.
The best time to visit Rio is definitely between December and March, when the weather is guaranteed to be warm and sunny. February sees the city celebrating the annual Carnival in fervour, with vibrant samba street parades and flamboyant displays of costumes. This four- to five-day festival leading up to Fat Tuesday brings thousands of visitors and locals to the streets for parades, parties and balls. It can be difficult to find an affordable place to stay during Carnival — make sure to book your hotel and flight up to a year in advance.
Several airlines fly from Saudi Arabia to Rio de Janeiro, including British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates. There are no direct flights, and most flights have one or two stops. The journey is at least 22 hours if flying from Riyadh.
Getting from Airport to City
The city’s metro system doesn’t serve the Rio de Janeiro Galeão Airport directly, but the nearest station is the Vicente de Carvalho station on line 2. From there, you can take a bus to the city centre (more info below).
The cheapest and most convenient way to get from the airport to the city is on the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport). There are two BRT lines that serve the airport: the TransCarioca line that passes through 47 stations along the way, and TransCarioca Express, which only makes three stops, including the Vicente de Carvalho metro station. The standard single fare is 3.40 BRL. There are also blue Premium Special buses that cost between 9 and 14.65BRL depending on where you’re going, and takes only 35 minutes to get there.
Taxis are readily available outside of every airport terminal, but be prepared to haggle. You should not pay more than 55 BRL to get to anywhere in the city centre. Make sure you agree on a price before getting in, or check that the driver is using his meter. It is advised that you have your hotel address printed on a piece of paper before getting into the taxi.
The official language of Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, is Portuguese.
The currency in Brazil is the Brazilian Real (BRL). The current exchange rate is 1 SAR to 0.86 BRL.
Brazil’s electricity supplies 110 volts.
The plugs in Brazil have two round pins, similar to the European plugs.