Destination guide: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro or the “Marvelous City” is undoubtedly the tourist capital of Brazil and where you can see icons as emblematic as the Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, as well being the home of the famous Rio Carnival.

Check out our offers on flights and discover the magic of Buzios, Cabo Frio, Angra dos Reis, the Lapa Arches, Petropolis, the Corcovado and the Tijuca National Park. Don’t put it off any longer, purchase your tickets at LAN.com and fly to Rio de Janeiro.

  • Rio de Janeiro- Practical Information

    Currency

    Brazilian Real

    Language

    Portuguese, Spanish, English

    Timezone

    UTC/GMT -3

    Budget & Costs

    Brazil, with its booming economy and strong real, is one of Latin America’s most expensive countries. Travelers who have visited the country in years past will notice a substantial increase in the costs of food, lodging and just about everything else (but the beach is still free).

    How much to budget depends on where you stay and how much ground you plan to cover. Some cities, such as Rio, have grown particularly pricey since 2005. Rural and less-visited destinations are often significantly cheaper. Bus travel costs about R$8 (US$4.60) per hour of distance covered. Flights, which sometimes run fare specials, might not cost much more for long hauls. Decent accommodations and particularly rental cars (which cost about R$100 per day) can quickly eat up a budget.

    If you’re frugal, you can travel on about R$100 (US$60) a day – paying around R$40 for accommodations, R$30 for food and drink, plus bus travel, admission to sights and the occasional entertainment activity. If you just stay in hostels and plan to lie on a beach, eating rice, beans and cheap lunch specials every day, you may scrape by on R$75 a day.

    If you stay in reasonably comfortable hotels, eat in nicer restaurants, go out most nights and book the occasional flight or guided excursion, you’ll probably spend upwards of R$250 a day (more if traveling solo). If staying overnight at very comfortable guesthouses in resort areas, eat at the best restaurants and not stint on excursions or nightlife can easily spend upwards of R$500 a day.

    Lastly, during the December-to-February holiday season, lodging costs are higher than at other times of the year. During Carnaval accommodations prices double or triple (and four-night minimum stays are typically required), but a month or so afterwards, the prices drop to low-season rates. Another thing to remember: resort areas near major cities – such as Búzios near Rio and Morro de São Paulo near Salvador – are often packed on summer weekends. There will be fewer crowds – and sometimes lower prices – if you visit during the week.

    Brazil is fair value for solo travelers, as long as you don’t mind staying in hostels. Otherwise, a single room generally costs about 75% of the price of a double room.

    Sample Prices

    1L petrol R$2.70
    1L bottled water R$1.20
    300 mL chope (draft beer) R$3-4
    Glass of açaí (Amazonian berry juice) R$4
    Souvenir T-shirt R$20-60
    Admission to samba club in Rio R$20
    Two-hour flight from Rio to Salvador (one way) R$300-440
    Double room in a comfy pousada near the beach in Bahia R$160
    Eleven-hour bus ride from São Paulo to Florianopolis R$84-112
    Four-day excursion in the Pantanal R$800

    Visas

    Brazil has a reciprocal visa system, so if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to secure a visa, then you will need one to enter Brazil. Check with the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country before your trip.

    Tourist visas are issued by Brazilian diplomatic offices. They are valid from the date you arrive in Brazil for a 90-day stay. They are renewable in Brazil for an additional 90 days. In most embassies and consulates, visas can be processed within 24 hours.

    In many Brazilian embassies and consulates it takes only a couple of hours to issue a visa if you go in person (it’s instant in some places), but the processing can take a couple of weeks or more if you do it by mail. You will normally need to present a passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended arrival date, a passport photograph, and a round-trip or onward ticket (or a photocopy of it) or a statement from a travel agent that you have it. If you don’t have the ticketing requirements, having proof of means of support – such as credit cards or bank statements – may be acceptable.

    If you decide to return to Brazil, your visa is valid for five years.

    The fee for visas is also reciprocal. For most nationalities, a visa costs between US$20 and US$60, though for US citizens it’s US$130 (which is what the US charges Brazilians for visas).

    Applicants under 18 years of age who are traveling alone must also submit a notarized letter of authorization from a parent or legal guardian.

    Business travelers may need a business visa. It’s also valid for 90 days and has the same requirements as a tourist visa. You’ll also need a letter on your company letterhead addressed to the Brazilian embassy or consulate, stating your business in Brazil, your arrival and departure dates and your contacts. The letter from your employer must also assume full financial and moral responsibility for you during your stay.

    Depending on where you are coming from when you arrive in Brazil, you may need a yellow-fever vaccination certificate. On your arrival in Brazil, immigration officials sometimes ask to see your onward or return ticket and/or proof of means of support such as credit cards or traveler’s checks.

    Visa regulations change from time to time, and you should always get the latest information from your local Brazilian embassy or consulate.

    Business Hour

    Most shops and government services (including post offices) are open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday. Shopping malls usually stay open till 10pm Monday to Saturday, and some even open on Sunday (usually late, from 3pm to 9pm). Because many Brazilians have little free time during the week, Saturday morning is often spent shopping.

    Restaurants usually open from noon till 2:30pm and from 6pm till 10pm; aside from juice stands and cafés. Few restaurants open for breakfast, but those that do generally serve it between 8am and 10:30am. Bars typically open 7pm to 2am – until 4am on weekends.

    Banks, always in their own little world, are generally open from 9am or 10am to 2pm or 3pm Monday to Friday.

    Telephone

    Introduction

    Public phones are nicknamed orelhôes (floppy ears). They take a phone card (cartão telefônico), which are available from newsstands and street vendors. The cheapest cards start at R$5 for 20 units. All calls in Brazil, including local ones, are timed. Generally, one unit is enough for a brief local call (but calls to cell phones will quickly burn through your phone card). The phone will display how many units your card has left.

    Wait for a dial tone and then insert your phone card and dial your number. For information, call [tel] 102. The Portuguese-speaking operator can usually transfer you to an English-speaking operator.

    To phone Rio from outside Brazil, dial your international access code, then 55 (Brazil’s country code), 21 (Rio’s area code) and the number.

    Making Phone Calls

    Long-Distance & International Calls
    International calls aren’t cheap in Brazil. Skype (www.skype.com) is the best way to make free or inexpensive international calls from many internet cafés, hostels and guesthouses.

    If you’d rather call from a landline, your best bet is buying an Embratel phone card from a newsstand (sold in denominations of R$20 to R$80). These have a bar on the back that you scratch off to reveal a code to enter along with the number you are calling (instructions are printed on the cards in English and Portuguese). You can make calls through some pay phones. Rates run about R$2 a minute for calls to the US, R$3 a minute to Europe, and about twice that to Asia and Australia.

    Many internet cafés in Copacabana also have private phone booths for making calls. Rates, which fluctuate quite a bit, generally run at about R$1 to R$2 per minute for calls to the US and Europe, and much more to Australia and Asia. In Copacabana, try Telenet (Rua Domingos Ferreira 59; [hrs] 9am-10pm Mon-Sat, 11am-9pm Sun), Telerede (Av NS de Copacabana 209A; [hrs] 8am-2am) or Locutório (Av NS Copacabana 1171; [hrs] 8am-2am). In the center of town there is Central Fone (Basement, Av Rio Branco 156, Centro; [hrs] 9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat).

    To make a call to other parts of Brazil, you need to select the telephone company you want to use. To do this, you must insert a two-digit number between the 0 and the area code of the place you’re calling. For example, to call Búzios from Rio, you need to dial [tel] 0 + xx + 22 (0 + phone company code + Búzios city code) + the eight-digit number. Embratel (code 21), Intelig (code 23) and TIM (code 41) are several big carriers.

    Unfortunately, you cannot make collect calls from telephone offices. Public phones and those in hotels are your best bet. For calling collect within Rio, dial [tel] 9090 + phone number; to call collect within Brazil, dial [tel] 90 + phone company code + area code + phone number. A recorded message (in Portuguese) will ask you to say your name and where you’re calling from after the beep. For international collect calls, try dialing [tel] 0800-703-2111.

    Mobile Phones

    The cell phone is ubiquitous in Rio and goes by the name celular (this is also the nickname given to hip flasks of liquor).

    Cell phones have eight-digit numbers, which usually begin with ‘9’ or ‘8’. If you have an unlocked GSM phone (using the 900MHz and 1800MHz wavelengths, the same as used in Europe), you can simply buy a SIM card (called a chip) for around R$10 to R$16. To buy the card, you’ll need your passport or at least a copy of it. Among the major carriers, TIM, Vivo, Oi and Claro, TIM generally has the best, most hassle-free service. You can then add minutes by purchasing pre-paid cards (cartões pre-pago) from any newspaper stand. Cards come in denominations of R$20, R$40, R$60, which you’ll burn through at the rate of around R$1.90 per minute for a local call.

    If you’d rather rent a phone, ConnectCom ([tel] 2215-0002; www.connectcomrj.com.br) has the goods, and will even deliver to your door. With advance notice, it will also give you a number before you arrive. Phone rental is R$10 a day plus call charges.

    Electricity overview

    European plug with two circular metal pins

    Electricity overview (european)

    Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades

     

    Electricity overview ( Japanese)

     

    Two parallel flat blades above a large circular grounding pin

     

    Electricity overview ( Two parallel)