RIO DE JANEIRO – BETWEEN PARADISE AND HELL

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The city, which each side is surrounded by favela. You will find in Rio the splendor and the poverty, growing buildings, the real nature and a lot of greenery. Some people love it, some of them hate it. Famous for its overhyped beaches, international sports events and unique carnival.

THE MOST POPULAR DESTINATION OF BRAZIL

Rio de Janeiro is the most popular destination chosen by tourists who plan their holiday in Brazil. Why? We have to admit that the city is sufficiently overrated, especially in recent years, as the state government prefers to invest in sporting event than to focus on the social problems of the country or the operating system of the health and safety.

rio blogger

WHAT HAPPENED TO US IN RIO?

Coming to Rio, each of us had very different feelings. I (Ewelina) I was excited – I think everyone of us dreams to visit at least once this city, Marco had a bad feeling, which previously didn’t speak about it, and he had betrayed them a few minutes before he got off the bus. One hour later his predictions came true in the Brazilian paradise.

Finding a host in Rio is barely possible, especially in the high season, considering that it was in January. Even then, people live the carnival or go on a few week-holiday. We succeeded, but yet on arrival we didn’t know where we would sleep. Our previous host, who confirmed our request could not host us for personal reasons. We had only one day and what to do !? Regina from Cabo Frio, where we stayed at, reacted quickly and called her friend, who offered us his help, but on arrival to Rio again plans took on another dimension, and finally we landed at doctor Roberta’s place in the neighborhood of Tijuca. Roberta contacted us on the same day, a few hours before our departure from Cabo Frio. But this is only the beginning of our story

Thus, we got to Rio. We got off at the bus station. Hmm … around 7 PM, slowly it was getting to be dark, the district wasn’t nice at all. We  completely forgot about Uber. We didn’t know the bus stop, but after about 15 minutes we reached the district of Tijuca, where Robert lives. But unfortunately from the bus stop to her house it was still 15-20 minutes on foot. We got off the bus, dusk, the crowd on the street. Marco looked at the application with a map and said: ‘Go left and then straight ahead!’. So I was carrying it on carefully, not looking behind me and holding tightly my backpack that I had in the front. I left Marco 5 meters behind. I was walking briskly and I noticed like a coming wave of children who run onto me / us … I just didn’t know what to do, so I got a kind of back and made a step to the side. When I turned around to warn Marco … unfortunately it was too late, and it was only a few seconds. I saw the phone, which was falling and bounced off the pavement. But I also saw Marco surrounded by a group of 10-15-year old children. I took a step forward to help him, but something stopped me. Fear appeared in my eyes. Once, Marco tried to pick up the phone from the ground, but the kid tore out of hand. I started screaming, ‘Leave it! Leave it! ‘. Marco left it. The child ran out onto the busy street, as fast as he could and imagine, the car stopped 1 meter in front of his nose… it was close. The rest of boys ran away. On the street no one reacted, no one helped.

Probably you will say that we were parading around with the phone in hand, but we did not! Marco kept his hand hidden with the phone in a backpack that was out the front. It was just split second and Marco doesn’t even remember how it happened, he felt only the precipitation of his hand … and then it was just a few seconds. Well, we were really lucky that nothing happened to us, because they usually do have knives and guns. Besides, there is nothing to hide, we didn’t look like natives, we had 4 backpacks so…Marco admitted that he didn’t see them, and unfortunately the navigator failed that time, because it showed a 1 km to go straight, then it turned out that right after 200 meters there was a shopping center, which totally confused his orientation.

South America is a continent of extreme contrast, you don’t know the day nor the hour of a danger, which can come out from the corner. We have listened to many stories that might frighten some of you and for others it will be a sensation.

There is no golden rule for avoiding such dangerous situations (you got our example) and luckily it just ended this way. I was so nervous and I was shaking, I asked Marco: ‘Haven’t you seen them!?’, Marco replied: ‘I haven’t…’. They were slick, tricky and very quickly! We couldn’t be at the same place talking so we moved on. We approached the shopping center and took a taxi, because we had enough experience.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

The city has a lot to offer (but when it’s not raining). 7 days  in rainy Rio, but we’re not made of sugar, so we used every moment, but we must admit that the weather and the city made us very tired. Cloudy sky doesn’t make you cheerful, especially if every few minutes you have to look out the window and you also wake up with the idea of what is the weather like today: sunny or rainy (heh). Besides the triple mindfulness at every step, if you enter to the right street, or if someone is not observing you or not gonna pull away something from your hand or backpack, and so on.

While our list we ticked almost everything except Cristo (Corcovado), because the visibility was zero! And rainy Rio, is not the same city, even we experienced fog at Copacabana, and someone said that there is always the sun shines …

1. Escadaria Selarón – mosaic stairs.

escadaria selaron

2. Santa Teresa-Carioca and tram ride (for free).

street art santa teresa

carioca tram

3. Jardim Botânico (entrance cost 10 R$ in January 2016).

ogród botaniczny rio palms jardim botanico rio jardim botanico rio

4. Parque Lage – free entrance, many people organize picnics there, inside you will find a perfect tiny courtyard of the palace.

parque lage rio parque lage

5. Lagoa – you can jog or walk along the coast.

lagoa rio

6. Cristo Redentore (Corcovado) – the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer – one of the seven miracles of the world. From metro station Lago Machado and Copacabana beach depart authorized buses, which arrive on the top. Time: about 30 minutes. The cost of trip with the entrance included is more than 60 R$ (January 2016).

cristo redentore from parque lage

7. Copacabana and Ipanema – the most famous beaches in Brazil. At Copacbana try caldo to cana (cane juice).

Copacabana

Ipanema Ipanema Ipanema

8. Morro da Urca (on which you can get in 30 minutes) and from there, eg. take a car line to Pao de Açúcar. Unfortunately, you pay the full ticket, just as if you rode on both mountains. The cost 80 R$ (January 2016).

pao de acucar rio view from morro de urca

9. Lapa – a district with many bars and pubs, which lives primarily at night. You will find there a bar, where you can taste more than 100 kinds of Cachaça. Banana and cinnamon – yummy! However, be careful out there and do not enter into some streets, you’d better ask some natives where you can walk or where you shouldn’t. A lot of strange people around there.

10. Pista Cláudio Coutinho – an alternative to a very cloudy day. You meet there a lot of families and athletes spending their time actively. You will have the opportunity to see monkeys.

monkey rio view pista claudio coutinha

11. Shopping Centre Botafogo, from where you will see a beautiful view of Pao de Açúcar and where you can drink tasty local beer.

botafogo

12. Maracanã Stadium – it’s the biggest stadium in the world.

maracana rio

13. Café (Confeitaria) Colombo, which has more than 120 years. You can have lunch, enjoy brigadeiro or drink coffee there. We recommend Cappuccino Colombo that has an unusual taste – sweet and salty like white brownie. Prepare to be standing in a line.

colombo carioca colombo rio

14. National Library (free entrance upon presentation of your passport). Very climatic place worth to visit.

biblioteka narodowa rio national library rio

15. Parque das Ruinas – it’s located near the famous stairs Escadaria Selarón. Free entrance. From there spreads equally beautiful view of the Rio’s favelas. A quiet place for a short break.

view from parque das ruinas

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The easiest way to move around the city is underground, we also recommend it to avoid getting stuck in traffic. However, it’s also safer mean of transport than buses, where are more lurking robbers, and where drivers don’t take care of the passengers’ safety.
Metro has only 2 lines (we were disappointed that so popular city has so poorly developed network of subway lines), but the metro reaching out to all the places that we wanted to see. Here you will learn more: http://www.rio.com/practical-rio/subway-rio. Better if you buy a card which you can charge, thanks to it every other ride is cheaper. Prices change often. The minimum price of a ride was over 3.50 R$, the bus ride cost more than 4.00 R$ (January 2016).
Buses run like crazy, it’s hard to keep your balance. The buses companies don’t belong to the state. They are dirty and smelly, no air conditioning. You meet the bus driver and cashier, sitting on a large bunk. The cashier sells tickets and then you need to pass through the weird gate, ah forget about paper version of the ticket, it doesn’t exist.
There is neither day ticket, nor weekly/monthly.

CARNIVAL

There are people who save money for the carnival the whole year or more. Contrary to appearances, some events are not that expensive, but the price of accommodation is a kind of misunderstanding. A week at a hostel, in 10-person room costs more than 600 euros and people fight for a place. Finding a Couchsurfer at this time is really challenging and you have to be very lucky to find a place to stay. In Rio prices of food at supermarkets, prices of rooms in hostels or apartments rise more or less one month before the event. A few weeks before you experience the pre-carnival and you should go to the downtown, where you will see also a little dance show of a local bloco. Even then, people dress up, paint and drink during the day unimaginable amounts of alcohol considering high temperatures.

Events are held on Sambadromo – Praça Onze, here you will see a real performance with great pomp, naked women (the city authorities prefer to spend every year more and more money for the organization of the carnival than help the health or safety system (what is totally absurd), which you usually see on TV.

sambadrome show karnawal rio sambadrome rio

In addition, the blocos play in the city centre and on the beaches – such events are free from early morning untill late evening. And of course there are many closed events in clubs where entrance fees are very expensive.

bloco lapa bloco pre carnavale

Brazilians are crazy about carnival. They are waiting for this time all year long. Usually it lasts from Friday to Wednesday, which means a few-day holiday in most of companies. At that time, many people lose their head and turns into animals: drugs, liters of alcohol, men dressed as women, sex. Imagine that in February most of Brazilian girls/women become pregnant …

We also know some friends’ stories about how much people spend during a few days, what is unbelievable. Some even into debt. Record holders spend over 3,000 euros for a 3-4-day event, because flights in South America are very expensive, then you have to pay for accommodation and tickets, plus alcohol, drugs and your costume.

FAVELA

fawela rio

City of God surrounded by favelas, from where you will see the best views and wonderful sunsets, and where you will listen to the best jazz music or where are located the best vip clubs in Rio. Strange, isn’t it!? Apparently favela is not so terrible that it describes. However, we decided not to not to go to visit it. Mainly for two reasons: I didn’t want to look at the human poverty or even not to pay travel agency for this kind of attraction, because it is absurd! The image of Rio that we have seen and we have experienced walking in various districts was enough. Their buildings are very characteristic, unfinished houses built by red bricks. They do steal current from the rich neighbors and other fees are usually lower than regular habitants have to pay. Of course we cannot prejudge favelas. This is the place where the funky music was born, where the local artists live, and thus from there come from some personalities of Brazil. Favela is also inhabited by people who want to educate.
What is the favela seen through the eyes of people who have visited it?

Ula, a Polish girl, who has been living in Rio since 2014, currently doing PhD there:

To begin with, the favelas are not Brazilian slums, where on every corner is the drug war of gangs. Not every favela is dangerous 24h/7, especially when it comes to those that are located in the South. The favelas have been pacified first, what means that for many years the police is present there and there is relative peace.
The first thing that struck me when I visited Rio for the first time, was the size of the favelas. They are huge. Thus, their population is also large. Besides, it is not so, that are located just in the suburbs. Actually every richer, calmer neighborhood abuts to the so-called morro, which is a hill, so the favela and their inhabitants are not necessarily criminals. Often, those are people who don’t want to pay high rent or go to work for two hours. It should also be noted that the word ‘favela’ in some quarters is regarded as politically incorrect. Instead, it uses ‘the comunidad’ to not offend anyone.

Most touristic favelas are Santa Marta, Vidigal, Babylonia and Cantagalo. On the streets you can often see the jeeps companies, which offer tours of the favelas. It looks really grotesque and it seems to be a bizarre safari. As if wealthy Americans and Europeans wanted to watch poor people in their natural environment … so I didn’t hurry up with my visit there.
The first time I landed in a favela by accident. I used to give private lessons in English. For the first time I was going for a private lesson home to my student. I got the address and only a taxi driver when he heard where I was going, he gave me an information that I was going to the favela. It wasn’t dangerous, because my student lived right next to the police station, but I felt uncomfortable, because of all the stories and films with the City of God at the head of.

In the favela there is no question of any urban infrastructure such as waste bins or pavements. Everything what you see there established was their own initiative.

The second time I was in the favela, when I went to a jazz concert, what is very popular here, as often happens, the adventurous gringos stop in Rio, they arrange their own business like bars or hostels and they organize good events in the hills. To the place, where the event takes place you can get by moto taxi (costs 5 R$, the taxi driver may wish to double the rate, once he will notice that you are going there for the first time), and it’s not a cheap entertainment, because prices there are equal like those in Ipanema. But at least the money in some way help the favela, because hotels and bars employ people from the area.

Of course, besides of this kind of events, you will hear or watch some videos with very unsavory parties. These videos are usually sent on Whatsapp among Brazilians and they will never see the light of day on the Internet or television. Just a minute, two…and you don’t want to watch it anymore…

Aśka from blog Z Ciekawością przez Świat wrote a great article called ‘The other side of Rio.’ About what!? About favelas! Her and Michal’s experiences are very personal and really full of emotions. Their neighbourhood was favela and anyway they decided to visit it! Get to know its second name.

P.S. If you use applications with maps, traveling by car or having a walk, please remember that the favela is not on it (doesn’t exist on any maps). Pay attention!

SECURITY

As mentioned above: NO GOLDEN RULES TO AVOID DANGEROUS or unpleasant situation both in Rio and other cities in Latin America. You should be cautious five times more. Avoid streets, where there are no people or you see strange people, the homeless, suspicious children. Keep your eyes wide open. Sometimes it’s better to take one mobile phone instead of two. Do not show up your big camera and avoid looking into mobile phones in public places – that’s for sure. Mobile phones in Brazil are fast-moving / fast-selling item, e.g. smart phones cost more than in Europe and are later sold at the black market. We will not assure you that it is a paradise, and that you have not to worry about stories you have been told of or you have seen in media, because nothing has been sucked from the finger, and it’s pure truth. But we absolutely don’t discourage you to visit Rio, because it is worth, and despite our incident, we are thinking how to get back there soon, because we still have a few places to catch up!

Tourist spots are usually calmer and you can easily take some pictures or stop for a moment.

Brazilians do parade with their jewelry: gold watches, thick necklaces, signet rings, etc., Much more than people in Europe. They walk with phones in hand and headphones in ears. Many people have iPhone … which doesn’t change the fact that we have to take it as an instance to follow what they do. Their approach to the danger is completely different, such situations happen every day, yet they attract the attention of thieves. We were very surprised that we – the humble traveler – met such a situation, seeing how they flash around with iPhones in hand or wear gold jewelry …

But there is no rule and it won’t be until the authorities and the police, that do not anything with the basic social problems, won’t change or at least will try to change the system.

NEXT POST about the Miracle of Nature: Foz do Iguaçu.

In the text we used pictures of our readers Artur Skiba and Ula Lagowska. Thank you!

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We hope you found this post very useful and you would like to share your impressions with us? Are you curious how our adventure is going on?  Do you have any questions about Rio or Brazil? Write a few words in the comment.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Juliane Velozo

    Very good information!!

    • Ewelina&Marco
      Ewelina&Marco

      Thank you Juliana! Hope you found it useful 🙂

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