Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport and visa to enter Brazil. The standard visa allows visitors to stay 90 days, extendable for another 90 within the country.
Security: Street crime is a persistent problem in tourist areas, especially after dark. Leave your valuables in the hotel safe. All you need for the beach is a towel and some change for a cold drink. Don’t be paranoid, but as a tourist you’re conspicuous enough. Stay alert. Avoid city buses, outdoor ATMs, and venturing alone into favelas (shanty towns).
Immunizations: Standard immunizations for Brazil are yellow fever (required for entry) and tetanus/diphtheria, typhoid, and hepatitis. If traveling to more rural areas of Brazil like Amazonas, Pantanal, and parts of Minas Gerais, visitors should also get polio, MMR, hepatitis B, and rabies immunizations, and take anti-malaria drugs.
Time: Rio de Janeiro is three hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time from November to mid-February, two hours ahead from mid-February until the start of U.S. daylight saving time, and one hour ahead during U.S. daylight saving time.
Money: The currency of Brazil is the real. For current conversion rates, go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: For international calls from Brazil, dial 00 country code area code number. For long distance calls within Brazil, dial 021 two-digit area code number. For operator-assisted calls in English to anywhere in the world, dial toll-free 0800 703 2111.
When to Go: Rio has a tropical climate: hot 77-95°F (25–35°C) and humid summers, cooler 59-77°F (15–25°C ) and drier winters. Crowded during the Brazilian summer (December to March), especially at New Year and Carnival.
Getting There: Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport is nine miles (20 kilometers) north of downtown. The Santos-Dumont domestic airport is downtown.
Getting Around: When taking a cab, don’t negotiate. The meter should read “1” from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. When the meter reads “2,” rates are 20 percent higher. The subway is modern and safe; navigating buses takes savvy.
Credit Cards and Cash: “Forget traveler’s checks. Nobody likes them here and your U.S. ATM cards are good at ATM machines at most major banks. Bring $100 in cash for emergencies.”—Michael Royster, 2007 president of the American Society of Rio
Language: If possible, study Portuguese before you travel. While many people in Rio speak some English, most cabbies and waiters don’t. Spanish will help you understand signs but not necessarily the people. Buy a pocket-sized Brazilian Portuguese/English phrasebook for your trip.
Clothing and Accessories: Leave expensive jewelry at home and limit flashy attire to a social outfit or two for dining and special occasions. “Women shouldn’t bring narrow heels; the cobblestone sidewalks are a shoemaker’s and orthopedist’s delight. In Rio, havaianas flip-flops are a fraction of the cost in the U.S. Don’t wear a watch; the sidewalks are full of clocks, and besides, you’re on vacation.”—Michael Royster
Sunscreen: Your favorite brand of sunscreen may be hard to find in Rio. “Bring [SPF] 50-level protection. The sun here is very hot.”—Michael Royster
Rio for Partiers
Where to stay, what to know, nightlife, shopping, food, and gay Rio. www.rioforpartiers.com
Sambódromo schedule, ticket sales, costume purchases, and joining the parade. www.rio-Carnival.net
The city’s official tourism portal. www.rio.rj.gov.br/riotur/en
Subway rates, maps of routes and stations, and tools to find museums, churches, theaters, and other attractions. www.metrorio.com.br
Information on the beach and beyond: travel planning, hotel bookings, eating out, nightlife, shopping, services, and gay guide. www.ipanema.com
Hotels, apartments, restaurants, clubs, and tours—focused on the Copacabana neighborhood. Includes surfing guide. www.copacabana.info
Tune into Rio de Janeiro radio before you travel; practice your Portuguese and listen to popular Brazilian music. www.mpbfm.com.br
Rio’s mainstream media is Portuguese-only. The city’s top news and entertainment vehicles include:
Jornal do Brasil
Veja Rio Magazine
The less-comprehensive English alternatives include:
Bimonthly booklet published by the Rio tourism bureau. Features information on current shows, exhibitions, festivals, and so on. Find at airports, bus stations, and other tourist hot spots. www.rio.rj.gov.br/riotur/en/
Rio This Week
Bimonthly entertainment magazine; download PDF file at Web site. “What’s Up This Week” page has event calendar. www.riothisweek.com
The American Society of Rio
Non-profit association celebrating American heritage. Check website for events. www.americansociety-rio.org
Travel website on Brazil offers a detailed Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide and includes not only sundry local attractions like the beaches, but also urban ecotourism. www.brazilmax.com/
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.