If you are lucky enough to be heading out to Brazil for the World Cup doings then obviously I hate you. However, despite that our man in Rio, no less than John Milton, a Mag formerly of the People’s Republic of Heaton and now resident in Rio, has put together a rather spiffing Guide for you which is a good read even if you aren’t going.
Eyes down for a full house.
1 – DON’T think about travelling light to Rio, expecting to save money on t-shirts, sun-cream, shorts, etc. Rio is as expensive as London so you’re better off bringing what you need.
2 – Don’t expect much at the airport; it’s no Terminal 5. Once you’ve left the baggage reclaim and are heading out you’ll pass kiosks of money changers and taxi services. Ignore them unless you need cash for a taxi.
3 – Take one of the many yellow cabs that you’ll find on leaving the terminal – there are no rail links and it won’t be worth the hassle trying to find the right bus. I don’t know what a taxi from the airport costs, so if they try to barter a price (which they won’t) just insist on ‘o taximetro, por favor’ and he’ll put the meter on for you. Be warned, though, that due to a recent increase in the price of petrol the price on the meter relates to a chart that will be displayed in the taxi – he’s not ripping you off.
4 – Once you find a decent bar or botequim (pron. boh-tchee-king) don’t expect to find a wide range of draft, local, national and international beers. You won’t always find chopp (draught beer) and if you do it’ll be either Brahma OR Itaipava. If you’re lucky you’ll have the choice of claro (lager) or escuro (dark) – the dark is just the same as the lager, but sweeter. And awful. You’re better of sticking to bottles. Beers come in litre bottles with small glasses (you’re expected to share). By far the best beer is Atlantica Original (but make sure it’s Original, because the normal Antartica is crap and is sure to give you a rank headache). If your bar doesn’t have Original, then look out for Skol, Itaipava or Bohemia.
6 – Bars in Rio will always have a wide range of food, and some of it is really good. Look out for linguiça (Sliced sausage), bolinho do bacalhao (cod fishcakes), aipim frito (fried manjoca), file apertivo (File mignon, sliced into bite sized pieces) and patata frita com queijo e bacon (cheesy chips with bacon).
7 – If you want a good selection of draught beers, look out for Devasa bars as they brew their own beers, and for a top quality botequim experience with excellent food and chopp go to a Belmonte. Be warned, however, that these are a lot more expensive than your local pé sujo (literally ‘dirty feet’ – we would say ‘spit ‘n’ sawdust bar’).
8 – Each neighbourhood in Rio is unique, make sure you know what to expect. Although Copacabana is not as glamorous as it once was, it is still where most Gringos end up staying therefore you’ll find a higher concentration of thieves and ‘professional ladies’ so if you’re in this area be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. It is the busiest and most densely populated of the Zona Sul neighbourhoods.
Its neighbour, Ipanema, is no less popular with Gringos but it is a more sophisticated proposition meaning there are less ‘Gringo traps’ and it is a much calmer place to walk around. Be warned, however, that this means that the bars and restaurants are generally more expensive.
Leblon is worth a visit but it’s a very upper class residential area, I wouldn’t go looking for a beer here.
For a night out forget the awful, tacky nightclubs of Copa – you just have to go to either Santa Teresa or Lapa. Or both. Santa Teresa is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Rio and is famous for its cobbled streets, tram lines (which are sadly no longer in use), great bars and for being the home of Ronnie Biggs! Head to Bar do Gaúcho for great bar snakes, excellent atmosphere and a caipirinha that is guaranteed to knock you on your arse.
Lapa is Samba central! It is chocabloc with proper, traditional botequims and excellent samba clubs. You will find people drinking and dancing under the famous arcas da lapa (Lapa Arches) all night long. Visiting this recently revitalised area for a great night out is a must!
9 – Caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil – you may have tried one in an up market, arsey hipster bar like Nancy’s Bordello or some other pretentious watering hole, but the watered down version they serve up are a nothing like the real thing, which is a different animal altogether. Made from cachaça, sugar and the juice of a sliced fruit (usually lime) it is bloody strong and pretty dangerous: Treat them with respect! Cachaça is a liquor made from distilled sugar so is similar to rum, and like rum you can get white and dark cachaça, it can also be cheap gut-rot or an aged, smooth, high quality drink. If you sample a caipirinha at your local pé sujo try to avoid a cachaça called 51 – you’ll end up with a 3 day hangover, try to pay a little extra for a better quality liquor. Although the traditional caipirinha (and my favourite) is lime, you’ll find all different flavours such as strawberry, kiwi, pineapple and tangerine. They’re all good! You’ll also find them made with vodka – caipivodka and saki – caipirinha de saquê.
10 – Getting around is pretty easy. There is a metro, albeit with a limited reach – if you’re getting around Zona Sul it is a very good option as you’ll byass the traffic jams which bring the city to a standstill twice a day. If you’re grabbing the bus it’s a flat rate of R$3.00 which at least means we avoid the embarrassment of trying to explain to the driver where we’re going. Bus stops rarely have a list of busses that stop at them, and if they do they’re probably not up to date; you certainly won’t find a timetable and routes at them. Ask at your hotel, ask the locals (who are always willing to help) and even have a look at Google maps. Yellow cabs can be stopped on the street and are readily available.
So there you go – tf’s top ten tips for visiting Rio! Remember, as with any tourist destination, keep your wits about you, don’t get into any stupid situations and you’ll have an absolutely crackerjack of a time!