Should I visit Rio?
January 17, 2012 1:36 AM   Subscribe

Brazil Filter: I'll be in Sao Paolo for a week in early February and would appreciate some hive-mind input on the trip. Details within.

The trip is (very) preliminary research for a new book. My goal is to get some first-hand experience with the country, culture and business environment.

I'm arranging meetings now, and expect there will be holes in my schedule.

Here's my question: Is Rio sufficiently different from Sao Paolo that it would make sense for me to spend a couple of days there? And are there enough things to do that I could fill those scheduling gaps productively if I spent the week in Sao Paolo?

By way of background, I live in Asia, it's my first trip to South America, I'm traveling solo, don't speak Portuguese and money isn't an issue.

Thanks in advance.
posted by quidividi to Travel & Transportation around Brazil (7 answers total)
Yes - everyone should visit Rio, it's a beautiful city.
posted by ComfySofa at 2:22 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rio is very different from São Paulo. Worlds apart. One week is way too short to actually learn anything meaningful, but it's going to be fun anyway; filling up your schedule is the least of your concerns, you'll feel rushed. It's important to hang out with locals in São Paulo, more so than in Rio. It's a city that's appreciated much better through the guidance, experience, and eyes of the paulistas.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 2:24 AM on January 17, 2012

One thing about both cities -- plan about five times longer to get anywhere you want to go. The traffic, especially in Sao Paulo, is really thick and it takes forever to get places. Your "scheduling gaps" could well be taken up with getting from one place to another.
posted by xingcat at 4:31 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Without a doubt, yes. I have never spent any time in the city of São Paulo itself but have been through it (by bus) several times. It's a big city. Lots of tall buildings. I'm sure there are some great sites but I have never had much of a desire to go there. (Not to say that it's a terrible city, but no one I know goes there for vacation, only for work or to visit family.)

Rio is pretty awesome. And pretty. The beach is RIGHT THERE and it's pretty easy to get to the major tourist sites. Last time we stayed on Copacabana part of the time and it was really easy to hop a bus to Sugar Loaf. Rio is definitely one of those "bucket list" cities--everyone should visit at least once!
posted by wallaby at 5:16 AM on January 17, 2012

Repeating what everyone else has said, you should definitely find a few days for Rio if you have the time. The two cities on the surface couldn't be more different. It's when you dig a little deeper that you will discover the similarities and differences between the two, but as a non-Portuguese speaker with very little time, the nuances will remain too difficult to ascertain.
São Paulo is a fascinating city, but it can be a major bitch to get around. If you can, I would take the metro as much as possible. It isn't much of an extensive system in comparison with other major cities throughout the world, but it hands down beats any other mode of transportation for getting to a destination in a reasonable amount of time. If you are stuck in a car or on a bus, expect it to take a looooong time to get around.
Paulistanos (people from São Paulo) are great resources for information about their city, but I would avoid putting too much stock into what is a common local sport: Comparing São Paulo to Rio, and how Rio fares unfavorably with respect to São Paulo. Most of what you hear is unfounded and biased. Cariocas can't get a fair shake in São Paulo, so take what you hear with a grain of salt.
For your free time gaps, I would highly recommend taking the metro red line to the first stop west of the Sé Station hub, which is Vale do Anhangabaú. That stop puts you right into the heart of the original "centro". Nearby is the São Bento monastery, the Municipal Theater, and some great shopping and people watching. Normal precautions should be taken, of course, as it isn't the safest area in town, but is clearly one of the most interesting.
Also of interest would be Ibirapuera Park, where you can spend a pleasant afternoon wandering around, looking at the local fauna. Again, take normal precautions, the park isn't necessarily dangerous, but pickpockets abound, and people have a knack for picking out tourists (I know I can spot them a mile away!).
Feel free to memail me if you want specific suggestions. I don't live in São Paulo anymore (my husband can't stand living there), I live further south, but I get to São Paulo a lot and have a deep and undimmed love for the place!
posted by msali at 9:42 AM on January 17, 2012

Please, please, do go to Rio. And consider also Paraty, halfway between both cities, a historic town by the ocean, surrounded by little islands, where you eat the best music or listen to the greatest food - or all the way round - of your life.
I am a Brazilian writer and I would love to give you some tips, if that might help.
posted by Deep Brazil at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback. I will visit Rio. Also:

@TheGoodBlood: I know that a week will barely scratch the surface, but my expectations are modest.

@xingcat & msali: Regular trips to Beijing and Bangkok have made me a big fan of metro travel

@Deep Brazil & msali: Thanks for your generous offers. I'll be in touch.
posted by quidividi at 5:53 PM on January 17, 2012

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