The ultimate guide to avoid tourist traps in Rio de Janeiro

Are you not much of a planner and you simply decide to go with the flow during your travels? Great, but this also makes you more vulnerable to tourist traps. Not if you’ve read this article, of course. Check out this ultimate guide to avoid tourist traps in Rio de Janeiro, written by a local.

First things first: choosing where to stay

One of the first, and most important, decisions of a trip is choosing where to stay. However, this can be tricky as hell. I’ve already written an entire post about the pros and cons of each neighborhood in Rio, which you can check it out here.

-> Neighborhoods in Rio

One thing worth reinforcing, though, is that Copacabana might be the most famous neighbourhood, but isn’t always the best option. All places in this neighbourhood take advantage of its worldwide fame, so be ready for poor services and disproportionate prices. You will realize Ipanema is a much better option.

In case you decide to stay in Copacabana, I suggest you to look for a place near Cardeal Arcoverde’s subway station. It is the best area, in my opinion. 

Christ Redeemer

Is Christ Redeemer itself a tourist trap? Well, some people might say so and they have a point. As it happens with most of the main touristic attractions around the world,  it is expensive, often crowded and stressful.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not willing to discourage anyone of going to Christ Redeemer. The view from up there is beautiful, and I’m super  proud of housing one of the 7 wonders of the world. I’m just warning you so you don’t get frustrated once you get there! You know, expectations vs reality…

I would suggest you to consider skipping it and seeing this famous statue from Mirante Dona Marta, in Santa Teresa instead. It is free of charge, and you will be able to enjoy the view of both Christ Redeemer and Sugarloaf at the same place. You will need a cab or a rideshare application to get there, but remember to ask the driver to wait for you. It shouldn’t be easy to get another one upon return.

If you have a bucket list and feel the need of getting up there to the statue anyway,  prefer going in the morning rather in the afternoon

Sugarloaf

I could never say the same about Sugarloaf. Watching the sunset from there is the kind of experience that will make you instantly fall in love with Rio. It is possible to save money by taking an easy trail which starts from Pista Cláudio Coutinho. In about 30 minutes you will get to the first mountain (Morro da Urca), where you can buy tickets for the second one for only half of the price. Bring students ID if you have, so you can save a few more bucks.

Partying

Rio is a great city for partying, being Lapa the most famous nightlife center around the city. A common mistake is to go there randomly without previous recommendations on where to go. “I will figure it out when I get there”, “I will see what calls my attention and then choose”, are some of the headlines. It may seem wise at first, but chances are you will end up in a tourist trap.

You will probably have lots of fun anyway, but if you want to be around locals and have an authentical experience, these are the places you should avoid:

  • Rio Scenarium, Carioca da Gema e Lapa 40 Graus: outrageous prices, focused on gringos. For me, it is the perfect definition of a tourist trap.
  • Baródromo: bar in honor to Carnival, but which actually reinforces main stereothypes about Rio and Brazil, in general.

If you want my local advice, hear me out: do your pre-drinking at Bar da Cachaça. Whenever possible, attend to street parties. They are not only the best ones, but also part of Rio’s nightlife culture. The samba that takes place every Monday and Friday at Pedra do Sal, for example, is an excellent idea. Same for Bar do Nanam, at Praça Tiradentes, only 10 minutes away of Lapa. In spite of the short distance, you better take a cab for safety reasons.

Bem Brasil parties

If you are staying in any hostel in the city, you will be offered a discount ticket to a Bem Brasil party.  This is a pretty renowned company here, running for over 10 years now, but I must warn you: don’t go if you are the type of traveller who seeks for authentical and local experiences. They focus entirely on foreigners, so if you do a drinking game in which you have to sip whenever you see a local, well… You will end up your night almost sober.

If everyone at the hostel is going, you can show them this article. If they decide to go anyway (most likely), no problems to join them. You will have fun, that’s for sure, but please don’t leave Rio without having a taste of what our nightlife is really like.

Do you want to blend in with the locals?

Read When in Rio’s alternative schedule, with suggestions of cool parties to attend.

Beaches

No trip to Rio will ever be complete without one laying down all day at Copacabana or Ipanema beaches, right? But the truth is everyone, especially the beach vendors, will instantly recognize you as a tourist. Yes, even if you have dark hair, skin or despite of your efforts of blending in. Sorry, but we simply know… This doesn’t mean everyone will want to rip you off, but some of them will try.

-> Don’t miss reading: 11 ways to be a local on Rio de Janeiro’s beaches

About that, all I can say is: there are hundreds of beach tents, one next to each other. Doing a quick field research before choosing one to stay won’t harm you. Also, whenever possible, don’t accept prices based solely on the word: make sure you see it written somewhere. 

That’s it. I hope these tips are useful for your trip! Rio is an amazing place to be, despite of you might have heard on the media. We are waiting for you here with open arms, just like our main symbol.

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