Help me make most of my 4 week stay in Rio de Janeiro.
January 6, 2013 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Help me make most of my 4 week stay in Rio de Janeiro.

I am 31 (male), and I telecommute for work from Europe. For work I just need to have a solid internet connection and my laptop, but I need to be able to work from 6am to 2pm when in Rio de Janeiro; I work for European clients.

I have decided to take advantage of my remote work and move to Rio de Janeiro for 4 weeks on the 26th of January. I'll have 1 week off on the 9th Feb, but in the remaining 3 weeks I need to work.

My goals are to start learning Portuguese (I speak Spanish well)), experience Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian culture as much as possible, and to make as many friends and get to know as many people as possible. All this without neglecting my work.

During those 4 weeks of remote work I was thinking to rent an room in someone's apartment to make my stay cost-effective, and to have a chance to meet as many people as possible. Do you think is the best site for the best or you would recommend other site? My main concern is having a solid internet in the place I'd be renting.

Also, can you perhaps suggest some ways of meeting people, some afternoon classes for example, portuguese lessons, language exchange events etc, I'm mostly interested in meeting Brazilian people, but I don't mind meeting expats either.

Will appreciate any advice!
posted by dmagic to Travel & Transportation around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Protip: avoid Barra da Tijuca, a very car-centric rich neighborhood that feels just like the most plastic parts of Miami.

To meet Brazilians, just go to any place where beer is served and say hi.
posted by Tom-B at 2:01 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tom-B. Barra has beautiful beaches and luxury everything, but you need a car to go anywhere and it is incredibly isolating. Cars are necessary in many parts of the city, so get out a map before paying for anything, or decide that you're willing to sacrifice access for being in a really "local" neighborhood.

On my extended stays in Rio I had an apartment in Copacabana, 5 minutes from the metro and 5 minutes from the beach. This gave good access to the things you should enjoy as a visitor, plus access to everywhere else, at a good price and central location Lots of people live in Copacabana, it isn't just a song and beach for visitors. Very very easy to meet people from there. My place was found on Craigslist before airbnb came to be. The exact street was rua Duvivier, if you want a feel for where we were.

My other recommendation is to take one of those weekends and get outside of Rio. It's a big international city, and as you may know from other countries, you get to know the country by getting out of those places. The people, culture, and ecology of Brazil differs so much from place to place.

Lots of people recommend couchsurfing as a way to meet up, because it is very functional. Rio and Sao Paulo too have very active local groups for all kinds of interests.
posted by whatzit at 3:45 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed about Barra, stay in the Zona Sul. Whatzit's Copa recommendation is good. I normally stayin Copa and go the beach in Ipanema.

Do you practice sports? Playing beach volleyball or beach soccer is a way to meet people. I agree with the others that's easy to meet people. But sometimes people say they'll call or they want to see you again out of politeness. It's a Rio social norm, they don't always mean it, if they disappear don't take it personally, keep meeting new people.

If your Portuguese (or portuñol) are enough to understand ads for rooms, EasyQuarto is an option.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 6:59 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you need a car if you stay in Zona sul and Centro. The bus system is. . . fun. I might be the only person who thinks that. But yes the Barra has nothing to offer aside from the large Pedra da Gavea and parts of the huge expanse of mata atlantica in the middle of Rio. I also might be the only person who thinks this, but Ipanema and Copacabana kind of suck. The beach is cool, but Copa is grimy and weird and expensive. For my money, Botafogo, Gloria, Catate, Santa Teresa and Centro are the best parts of the city (all adjacent to each other). You have a nice mix of working class and favelados, restaurants, bars, and things to see and do. There is even a small beach in Botafogo (praia vermelha) right under the pao de azucar. This is a huge expanse of 'real' rio. When I lived there I rarely went to Copacabana or Ipanema.

Centro is one of my favorites though, its gritty but charming, with a lot of conserved colonial buildings right next to the high-rises. The monthly flea markets are great, and the weekly 'farmers' markets are so cool, though these are found in every neighborhood. The street food is good, but so are the restaurants (and there is awesome eating to be had for not much money. Check out the open market saara, and the buildings in which it's housed.

A lot of people in Santa Teresa rent rooms (search for cafe e cama) for cheap (and it's a beautiful neighborhood), though you might not like it because it's kind of dangerous and a little isolated, being one of the few middle class (and sometimes upper class) neighborhoods on a hill. It has no metro but there are buses. There are some good hidden art museums in this neighborhood, featuring Brazilian artists. I understand the tram no longer functions which is too bad.

As for meeting people, unless you are a robot you will meet more Cariocas than you shake a stick at. Go to Lapa on a friday night, go to a par and order beer in the afternoon, just start talking to people. I don't know about any language classes in particular but there are schools all over the city so that's probably a good idea. Portuguese isn't just Spanish with an accent although a good command of Spanish will get you a leg up, especially reading.

Oh, and check out the neighborhood called Urca, there are some pretty cool places there though when it's busy it's usually just rich Paulistas. Rio. Have a blast. It's the craziest place I ever lived. Do not forget to Samba yourself into oblivion, in places like Mangueira if you're not afraid, and don't forget to stay well hydrated with agua de coco and caipirinhas.

I also second the suggestion to get out of the city, head inland to the mountains (Novo Friburgo) and south to the colonial towns (Parati) and the awesome adventure island known as Ilha Grande.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

* Barra da Tijuca, is definitely worth a visit for the beach, the bus ride alone is worth it!
* In the center you can visit Cafe Colombia for a coffee.
* Maybe a weekend trip to SP?
* Maybe a weekend trip to Porto Seguro? (Stay in Arrail'd Adjuda)
* By far the most interesting district is Santa Teresa. A must see! I cold hang out there every day. This being said: I prefer to stay/sleep somewhere near a subway station.
* If you know people and depending on your risk aversion, a real, non touristic baile funk may be a great experience
* Rio will likely be more expensive than your European city. Possibly MUCH more expensive
* Brazilians have become very xenophobic. Fact. The country 10 years ago was a different place. IMHO, a better place for tourists. But people still fall in love with the country.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:49 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Gee, I agree with almost everything said here, but doubt you will bump into many xenophobes, unless you are African, Argentinian or Portuguese.
Please, have a weekend trip to Paraty, a colonial town between Rio and São Paulo, and Ilha Grande, an amazing island on the same road.
And, yes, you will have more friends and acquaintances than you can handle. By day 3.
posted by Deep Brazil at 8:09 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with Deep Brazil that if you are in Rio for four weeks, you gotta get out of town and give Parati a try. It's amazing. Búzios is also pretty cool, as is Angra, Trindade, etc.
I am a Paulista girl myself, so I have only ever visited Rio, but I have spent a good amount of time there, and have a few recommendations. You could try to stay in Ipanema, Leblon, Laranjeiras, Botafogo, Glória, Jardim Botanico or maybe Humaitá. All of those neighborhoods are centrally located, and the bus is pretty easy to get around. I say that because I have had tourists tell me the bus is easy to navigate. Personally, I would avoid Copa because it is expensive, less attractive in comparison with the rest of the city, and comparatively more dangerous (to gringos). I have no idea about how to secure lodging. I could check if something looks shady, but I don't have any particular recommendations for finding a place. Internet is pretty good in Rio, although not spectacular, so you should have service wherever you stay (especially if the place caters to foreigners), but don't expect blazing fast speeds.

I have a few recommendations of things to do in the city itself.

Spend time around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Make a day of it and hike around the whole thing. On the leeward side of the lagoon, you will find all sorts of neat little kiosk-sized restaurants (my favorite is an Arab place. That is a great place to kick it and eat and meet nice people. You will meet many foreigners, because it is just that time of year. It is Carnaval time, so you are pretty much obliged to participate in a samba school practice. Ask around about how to get to the samba schools. Mangueira, Portela (PORTELA!!!) and Mocidade are pretty welcoming to gringos, as are many others I'm sure, I just can't speak with much authority. I love Portela.
Visit as many churches as you can. Churches, especially downtown Rio, are pretty interesting. Of particular note is the Candelária church. It is where the massacre of street children took place in 1993 prior to the first Rio Earth Summit.

Also, drink coconut water out of chilled coconuts on the beach. Drink at a juice bar in Ipanema. Visit the Ipanema Hippy Fair on Sundays at the Praça General Osório. Drink beer and caipirinhas. Find someone to take you on a hike through the Floresta da Tijuca. Visit the neighborhoods of Santa Teresa and Arcos da Lapa. Both deserve a day.

Practically: Don't wear fancy jewelry and walk around with lots of money. Try not to stand out. Pay attention to your surroundings. Assume at some point in your trip that someone is going to try and screw you out of some money and accept that as part of the experience. Please don't go climbing into favelas without a trusted resident of said favela. Avoid buying drugs. Stuff will be VERY EXPENSIVE. Brazil's economy is chugging along at a fantastic pace right now, and it is high season - middle of summer - so shit is already more expensive for tourists, Brazilians and foreigners alike.

What I WOULDN'T do (but you probably will anyway). Go up Sugarloaf or Corcovado. It is the wrong damn time of the year. Both places are SWARMED with tourists and aren't cheap. You won't enjoy the view, there are just too many damn people.

I could keep going, but I'll stop here. Memail me if you have any specific questions. Have fun.
posted by msali at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

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