In 2016, Rio was probably one of the most used words and hashtags. However, we visited this wonderfully crazy city a few months before the Olympic madness and a few months after Zika virus madness had started. How? We saw a crazy cheap deal on Secretflying page on Facebook and bought the tickets. That’s how! We had 3 weeks to think about what we’d like to do there and each family member had to state at least one thing what he/she would like to do in Rio and so our to-do-list looked as follows: famous and not so famous beaches, eating fresh fruit and fish, visiting Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, hiring a car and driving along the coastline, living in a jungle environment, and just trying to be happy. We checked off all the items of our list. Done!
Booking accommodation in Rio was pretty complicated. We stayed at 3 places rented out by the locals on the popular accommodation platforms like booking.com, Airbnb and Tripadvisor. We speak several languages, including a little Portuguese, but that didn’t help much. Why? Because it’s Brazil. 🙂 Different currency, different bank system, different attitude to life, different everything. Long story short, here is some practical information for your trip and the list of places and things-to-do what we suggest, especially if you travel to Rio with kids.
RIO, the city
- http://www.casadoisirmaos.com.br/ THE place to stay in Rio. Even if it is only for a few days. The views and the hospitality of the hosts are worth every cent you pay for this accommodation. When we entered our bedroom, even our youngest child said ‘woooow!’ when he saw the view from our window. The owners are Canadians living in Rio, and for this reason it was the most effortless communication we had if compared to other accommodation places we stayed at.
- Apartamento Copacabana. Excellent location and good value for money. The apartment is small, cosy, in a secured building and on a big, safe street connecting with the famous Copacabana beach just a short walk away. There is a little less known Leme beach nearby, with caipirinhas being offered all day long. We felt safe, although we took precautions and guarded our children and things constantly. There was a Grand Slam beach volleyball arena on this beach when we were there and we managed to see all the participating Latvian players losing this tournament. 🙂
- Gaia Art & Cafe. We used to own a cafe in Latvia and this place in Rio very much reminded of it. The difference? Their coffee is Brazilian and costs much less. And the summer is much longer. 🙂Tasty vegetarian/vegan food for everyone, live music, and the owner who joins musicians on the stage. We were there on a stormy Friday night. There were people singing along the songs, there was rain and lightning (pay attention to the window in the video below), customers coming and going – we loved all of that! Best thing about it all? We arrived early enough to get a table and the best viewpoint! The very best thing about it all? We ran home in that warm summer rain and had a blast when jumping in and across the puddles. Of course we thought we wouldn’t need a camera and left it at the apartment (safety precautions while in Rio, you know), so the quality of the video is far from being the best but still – the feeling is there.
- Bonde [ˈbondʒi:] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Teresa_Tram Kids will love it and the ride is for free. It’s in the Rio animation movie, too, with that lovely Jamie Foxx’s song “Fly Love”.
- Christ the Redeemer. The famous statue. Go there only if it is your dream or if you like checking off the items of your bucket list. You MUST buy a ticket in one of the sales points in the city centre BEFORE you visit the statue. The trip will take the whole day, it’s quite exhausting and expensive, too. The more you pay, the faster you can get closer to Jesus. 🙂 You must choose the right time (when the sun is not behind the Christ) and the right weather. We went there just because our 4-year-old wanted it so bad (I mean REALLY bad). If not that, I wouldn’t regret not going up there. Too many people, too hot, too expensive, too much trouble. This is one of the cases when the reality is different from what you see in pictures.
Our story is quite funny. Our host agreed to buy the tickets with his Brazilian bank card (because the website did not accept international cards at the time) and we paid him back in cash. We were happy to have our tickets and the Corcovado train scheduled the next day. We arrived at the location before our scheduled time and the lady announced she could not let us in. Why? Because the tickets stated the name of our host and he was not among us, nor we had his ID. The lady didn’t care about anything. A “no” is a “no”. Seeing how frustrated I was to become, she finally approved the following scenario: my husband had to write his name and surname on the printed ticket and sign it. She didn’t ask for his ID though, so he could have easily written that he is Barack Obama or Lady Gaga. Go figure…
- Sugarloaf Mountain. This was on our daughter’s list. If you must choose one landmark of Rio, choose this. We all loved it. Far more relaxing than the Statue. Just go, get your tickets on the spot, then you take a lovely cable car to get up there and the views are spectacular!
RIO, the region
Costa Verde (the Green Coast).
It is a coastline that runs from Rio to São Paulo. Driving in Rio is very challenging and even the locals admired our courage to rent a car and drive through the city. We think driving in Latvia is not better… Our definition of traffic in Rio could be – a systematic chaos. There really is a system how they drive. And it IS chaotic. But they don’t honk their horns as much as the Italians do, so the stress is not so “stressful”. 🙂 When you get out of Rio into the countryside, there are no problems at all. Just drive and be happy! 🙂 There are many beaches along the coast. Choose the one to your liking, buy some crazy fruits and a fresh grilled fish and continue to be happy! We went up to Trindade and stayed near the picturesque town of Paraty (highly suggested!). Our favourite beaches there: Praia do Cepilho and Praihna beach.
There’s a lovely fishing village near the Prainha beach. If you have a possibility to cook your own meals, get some fresh fish at the little port. The fishermen will even clean it for you and it will not be expensive at all. You will have to walk a bit to get to this beach but it will be worth it!
This town is famous for its cobblestone streets and colonial heritage. We chose to explore the town in the morning, spend our days at the beaches, and sleep up in the jungle and mountains.
Chalés Terras Altas de Paraty. Your chance to disconnect from all of your devices (no WiFi, not even a mobile network coverage), listen to a man named Miguel whistle all local bird songs, and live in and with the nature. Rio animation movies in life.
1. Zika virus. We had mosquito nets and repellents with us. We only used the nets up in the jungle houses near Paraty and didn’t stress about mosquitos (there weren’t many anyway). However, it’s only up to you to decide what and who you believe and what might be risky for you.
2. Safety issues. We didn’t have any. But we were careful, didn’t go out late at night, didn’t visit the favelas and didn’t put ourselves to any risk out there since we travelled with kids.
3. Local food tax policy. We loved it! Local food is cheaper than the imported items. It also applied to wine…
4. WINE. Did you know that Brazil produces wine?!? We didn’t. And that was the most pleasant surprise we had when we arrived in Rio. High quality wines at affordable prices. Prosecco or sparkling traditional method wine made in Brazil to celebrate your birthday? No problem!
5. Playlist. We usually torture everybody with our travel playlists. Many have asked for the link of the Rio playlist, so… here it is! Enjoy!