If you are lucky enough to visit Rio on a Sunday you will be in for quite a treat. The main roads by the beach were closed off and there was an abundance of people chilling out, playing games, barbeques, drinks and music. It was quite the experience. Sunday really is the day of rest here. We were lucky to be on a quieter end of the beach as I was told by a gentleman we met that Copacabana beach was jam packed. There certainly was a very chilled out vibe going on that day.
However, turning my attention back to the start of my time in Rio I remember the feeling of being bombarded the moment I stepped off the plane. My luggage had not arrived, and we needed to wait until the next day for it to be delivered. I was understandably already a little on edge. This was made worse when we went through the exit doors. There were people left, right & centre trying to get your attention. Various taxi firms all fighting for your custom. The best advice I can give is to just step away from it all and consider your options. There were too many people there to know which company was which. We therefore stepped outside and got a yellow cab off the street. Make sure you ask in advance of the cost.
The taxi ride to the hotel was to be as expected. I already knew that we would be driving through the poorer areas. There were children walking in the middle of the roads trying to sell you things when your car stopped in traffic. It brought to down to earth quite a bit.
We stayed in the quieter side of Rio as it was cheaper. See my post on travelling cheap versus comfort. It was very active however. There were lots of shops and places to eat and people had stalls set up all along the side of the roads. I read about the dangers of being in Brazil and people I spoke to made it out as if I would have to guard my money and belongings with my life. But I honestly never felt that way at all.
We were literally across the road from Flamengo Beach. The heat hit you instantly. If you are from anywhere cold like UK, then it is quite a shock. We left England when it was minus temperatures and snowing and for Rio to be over 33 degrees at some points was quite the transition.
We took a walk along Flamengo Beach and there is a path that leads you all the way to Praia Vermelha, The Red Beach, arriving at the bottom of Sugarloaf.
Flamengo Beach is perfect if you are looking for a quieter stay, close to the sights and you wake up to the view of Sugarloaf Mountain each day.
Although the beaches initially look inviting the closer you get to them the more pollution you see. I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the beaches connected to the Guanabara Bay. If you want to go swimming I would wait until you were at Copacabana as this is connected to the sea.
Speaking of Copacabana, this is one of the most famous beaches in Rio. Its clear blue water and bright inviting sand bring tourists from all over the world. If you want to sunbathe, swim, drink, play and socialise then this is the beach for you. There are lots of activities going on and lots to do….and lots of people. If you don’t mind crowds especially in the busier seasons, then Copacabana is the go to place.
A word of warning though. More tourists unfortunately mean more scams happen. I still didn’t feel like I would be avictim of theft, but there are plenty of people wanting to scam you to make a few extra quid. And it happens so fast you don’t initially realise it. They keep you talking and distracted so you don’t have to time to evaluate what it is happening. Before you know it hey have provided you a service you didn’t ask for and then want paying for it. We are usually too polite to put up a fight, after all they have just given you a service. If anything does happen to you or you feel like something is ‘off’. Just stop. Take a second. Stop them talking to you and just take the time to think things through.
I loved Sugarloaf Mountain. It was by far my favourite place to go. The views were outstanding and you could stay up there for as long as you wanted. They had restaurants, toilets and seating areas so you really could sit back and relax and take in the amazing views below.
The first time we went up to Sugarloaf we took the cable cars which was a pretty awesome experience in itself. You can just buy these on the day for 80 Brazilian Real per adult (around £20) and take the next available car. There are two sections to the top. You initially get off the car at the first section and can have a wander round to take some pictures. This is where the main seating area is and there are restaurants if you want to stop and have a bite to eat.
You can then get on the next cable car which will take you all the way to the top of Sugarloaf providing you with breath-taking views of Rio. We however didn’t spend too much time up there. The sun was high in the sky and there were not many places to sit and really take in the views. We much preferred the views and ambiance of the first section.
We came back to Sugarloaf a couple of days later to try and find the route to walk up to the first section. There is a pathway that leads you along the bottom of the mountain where you can see the marmosets etc and then there is a path on your left leading you up to Sugarloaf. The climb is estimated at 40 minutes, but we think it took less that that. You can go at any pace you want. It is understandably quite steep in some parts, but I saw people of all abilities climbing it.
If you wanted a free day out you could climb to the first section of Sugarloaf, bring some food and spend the day taking in the views. Although I understand most people would like to take the trip to the very top of Sugarloaf, it really isn’t necessary if you’re looking for a free trip.
Christ the Redeemer
Originally getting tickets for Christ the Redeemer seemed like it was going to be quite the ordeal. The official website states that you cannot buy tickets from the station for the same day. We did however try and book these a couple of days in advance once we knew what the weather would be like. This proved very difficult, the website kept crashing or wouldn’t let me input my information. After reading other posts about this it seemed a lot of people were having the same trouble. We were met with endless information about the best way to see this monumental structure. It all got rather confusing.
However, I remembered while I was doing my initial travel research I had come across a website called Viator. Viator provide tours/tickets and they always had great reviews. We bought our ‘skip the line’ tickets direct from Viator’s website for around £23 per person. After downloading the tickets to our phone (or you could print them) all we had to do once we arrived at the base of Christ the Redeemer was show the ticket attendant our phone. We were on the next train leaving the platform. Simple.
One thing I would recommend however is to just ‘get in line’. Don’t sit down and wait for your time. It was 8:00 when we arrived and we were given tickets for 8:40. We got straight in line for the 8:20 train as we were going to argue that we had ‘skip the line tickets’. However, the 8:20 train didn’t even show up until 8:40 so we got straight on that one. Had we sat down and waited for ‘our time’, the queue would have gotten so big I’m in no doubt we would have had to wait for a later one. So, get in that queue.
Taxis in Rio
One thing I would suggest however, unless you are fluent in Portuguese, is to have GPS on your phones. If you are getting a taxi anywhere, write out the address and show the taxi driver the location on your phone. This way they know that you know where you are going, and you can follow them if they deviate off course. When we got in our taxi to Christ the Redeemer our taxi driver first said 2 hours at 150 Brazilian Real. It was in fact 10 mins away for around 10 Brazilian Real. And that was after me writing the full address out in Portuguese!
Rio’s Views really have been the most amazing so far. I am already missing my coconuts on the beach and Acai berry drinks.
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