When coming to Rio de Janeiro, you might think about visiting the famous tourist sights, such as the Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana beach and Christ the Redeemer statue. However, Rio has so much more to offer. And there are lots of things tourists might not know before coming here for the first time. We are here for you!
Check out some cool and interesting curiosities you need to know before going to Rio de Janeiro!
1. Summer rains
Most tourists are probably thinking about going to Rio de Janeiro during the summertime, right? As a tropical city, one might think it’s the best season to enjoy the weather. Well, you are not wrong. The summer in Rio de Janeiro is great. The city is packed up with people from all over the world, the sky is bright blue and the heat might give you a nice tan line.
However, it is also good to be aware that the heavy rain in Rio normally falls from December to March, right during the summer season in Brazil. During this time of the year, the rainfalls usually occur at the end of the day, which doesn’t compromise your fun at the beach anyway. Yet, the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro is probably April and May when the Marvelous City is still warm, but the humidity is much lower.
Surprisingly, wintertime might also be a good time to visit Rio. Winter in Brazil is during June, July, and August. And while Brazilians might love to use coats and jackets during the cooler days, the temperature floats around 26 degrees Celcius, making it amazing weather for beach and sightseeing.
2. Tap water
Tap water in Brazil is typically safe to drink, but you don’t want to do that. Most Brazilians think it is better to avoid it. They all use filters in their house to make the water safer to drink.
So, in the end, why shouldn’t you drink tap water in Rio? The water is treated with some chemical components that might not be good for your health, such as chlorine and fluorine. Old pipes and rust might also affect the water, as well as aluminum found in the plumbing.
Ultimately, it is better to be safe than sorry. Drink filtered water at home and bottled water when out in the city. There is also a recent law that determines all restaurants must offer free filtered water for clients upon request. Just ask for it.
3. Use the subway
When going to Rio de Janeiro, keep in mind that the best way to move around the city is by using the subway system. The subway is usually clean, fast and safe. If you miss the train, another one is coming your way in less than 5 minutes.
Rio de Janeiro is a busy city — the traffic is chaotic during rush hours. So if you are not willing to waste your precious time, just use the subway. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach every single part of Rio yet, but most touristic neighborhoods are covered. If you need to go to Urca or Cosme Velho, for example — to visit the Sugarloaf Mountain or the Christ the Redeemer statue —, you can’t get there by subway. However, the subway ticket allows you to take an integrated bus to these places.
Be aware of priority seats
In Rio de Janeiro, pregnant women, disabled and elderly people are given priority for all seats in public transportation. If the wagon is full and you see some of these people, please offer your seat.
Another thing: the second last wagon in the subway is women-only during peak hours. Be aware of that when taking the subway from 6 am to 9 am and 5 pm to 8 pm from Monday to Friday. The wagon is pink on the outside and has a warning sign written on the doors.
4. Try different foods
Don’t be scared of trying different things when going to Rio de Janeiro. You should taste everything the cariocas (what people from Rio de Janeiro are called) eat and drink. For example, they usually eat rice and beans in every meal.
Other classic foods are farofa, tapioca, açaí, brigadeiro, and feijoada. If you want to learn more about Brazilian foods, take a look at our blog post Top 15 – Brazilian foods you must try.
As for drinks, Brazilians love to sit down with friends in bars to have caipirinhas or draft beer. Go along and try some options!
5. Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet
The sewage system in Brazil was not made to handle things like toilet paper, feminine products, and paper towels. So, please don’t flush any trash down the toilet or you might experience a big problem with clogging.
Most tourists find it weird, but all bathrooms in Brazil have a small trash bin right beside the toilet where you must discard your papers and other things.
Tipping is not compulsory nor expected in Brazil. Actually, tips are only common in restaurants, where a standard 10% service fee is already included in the bill. On the other hand, if going to a pub or nightclub, you don’t need to worry about tipping. Cashiers are the ones handling cash and tipping the bartender is not common.
7. Enjoy the beaches when going to Rio de Janeiro
The city of Rio de Janeiro itself has almost 100 different beaches on its coast. In the north zone and city center, however, most of them are polluted. Nevertheless, the beaches in the south zone of Rio and Barra da Tijuca region are all clean. Each one of them is different from the other and we are sure you will love to visit them all.
Check this blog post and learn more about the amazing beaches in Rio de Janeiro.
When at the beach, make sure to buy a canga (a Brazilian lightweight beach towel) and taste biscoito Globo and mate — the most traditional thing to eat at Rio’s beaches is this cookie made of manioc starch served with cold Yerba mate tea.
8. Nightlife in Lapa
You must spend at least one evening in Lapa, as this is the best way to experience the culture in Rio de Janeiro. Lapa is a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro known for its nightlife, where there is a concentration of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
In Lapa, it’s easy to find places that play every kind of music, from samba and forró to hip hop and reggaeton. Many locals also go to Lapa to drink beers and caipirinhas on the sidewalks. Streets vendors are always around and you can listen to music from other bars nearby. It is a great cheap option for those who want to have fun and meet people without spending too much money. People use the sidewalks to talk, dance, drink and enjoy the night.
Most famous nightclubs and concert halls in Lapa are Lapa 40 Graus, Clube Democrata, Rio Scenarium, Fundição Progresso and Circo Voador.
9. Nearby Cities
There are lots of amazing small cities within the state of Rio de Janeiro and just a few kilometers away from the Marvelous City. If you have time, don’t forget to plan a trip to see these other cities nearby. You won’t regret it.
Read more on our blog post Smaller Cities to Visit Near Rio de Janeiro.
Just across the Guanabara Bay is the city of Niterói. You can get there by bus — crossing the 13km Rio-Niterói bridge — or taking the ferry boat in Rio’s city Centre. Niterói has a much calmer vibe than Rio, even though it is a big city with over 500,000 people. The beaches further away from the city center are spectacular and you should visit Itacoatiara beach. You should also go to Parque da Cidade, a plateau where people go hand gliding and where you have the best view possible from Rio de Janeiro.
Two hours away from Rio de Janeiro is Ilha Grande, a paradisiac island where cars are not welcome. Spend a few days there and you will immediately fall in love with this village. The nature and vegetation in Ilha Grande are amazing, as it is a protected area. Amazing beaches, great boat tours, and a calmer routine. Tourists love Ilha Grande. TripAdvisor often lists Lopes Mendes, one of the beaches in Ilha Grande, as one of the best beaches in the world.
Búzios, Cabo Frio & Arraial do Cabo
Around 170km north from Rio de Janeiro are the cities of Búzios, Cabo Frio and Arraial do Cabo. They are touristic cities with great beaches and bohemian vibe. The water there is clear blue and the small city vibe — with cobblestone roads and small houses — makes them great places to chill.
If you are looking for a cooler wheater, the mountain region near Rio de Janeiro has also great cities to visit, such as Friburgo, Petrópolis, and Teresópolis. These cities are packed with culture and Brazilian history.
10. Safety in Rio de Janeiro
Don’t believe everything you read about Rio de Janeiro. The city is as dangerous as any other big city in the world, especially in a country with such social inequality. But you will be fine taking basic safety rules.
Be conscious about where to use your phone — don’t do it in the middle of a busy street. If you need to use your phone, go inside a drugstore or bakery to check Google Maps, your messages, or call an Uber. Don’t go out alone at night, avoid dark streets, and prefer to run around busy areas at night.
Take an Uber or taxi to go back home after a night out instead of using the bus or walking home. And most importantly, don’t use expensive items on you, such as watches and jewelry.
Act like a local, be cool, and relax. Be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine! Check this great article on Safety in Rio de Janeiro.