Thursday, 31 July 2008

Rio de Janeiro Tourist Traps

A little homework can save you some money

It's always a good idea to findout, in advance, how much you should expect to pay for your taxi ride from an airport to your hotel. The hotel would be the best place to ask this question if you are not able to get the information through the virtualtourist site.

It's also a good idea to ask the driver about the cost of the ride before getting into the taxi. Otherwise, you might end up paying for the ride, driver's lunch, and his daughter's new clothes. :)

On the day of my arrival in Rio, a taxi driver approached to me at the airport and tried to rip me off by offering a price 6 times more than what it normally costs to get to my hotel. He told me R$300 to get to the hotel in Leblon when it should only cost around R$50. That was ridiculous.

Fotunately, I had done my homework prior to arriving in Rio and knew exactly how much it costs to get to my hotel. I found myself another taxi driver who offered a reasonable fee.

So it's true. Homework does pay off at the end. Haha.

Beware of Vendors at the Corcovado Train Station

The Corcovado Train is a very popular tourist attraction ( I've taken it twice - see my Corcovado Railway travelogue ), and well it should be, because it is a spectacular trip.

Be very careful of the various vendors that surround the sidewalks and parking areas near the station at the base of the hill as they can be very aggressive in their selling of various things. They are not selling things inside the official station grounds for a reason!

If you have to go past these people, try to get past them as quickly as possible. It is tempting to want to stay and watch their antics, but be very careful in doing so, as this opens you up for being surrounded on all sides by various street vendors yelling at you. Avoid these street vendors and the Chinese made crap they are selling as Rio de Janeiro memorabilia.

Be really careful that this distraction does not open you up to robbery or other attack.

Go around behind the station, and visit the (free!) museum of the Corcovado Train, and a few other areas while you wait for the train to depart.

If you want to visit street vendors, there are many throughout Rio that have better items and more authentic items - and are less agressive than here.

The various vendors that are inside the station area, as well as those at the summit at the statue, are more polite, and have true Rio de Janeiro memorabilia for sale.

Anywhere in the City

Snatching of jewelry while walking
Money changers offer good rates

Don't wear expensive jewelery
Don't check into a bus alone
Stay in southern parts of the city
Make a copy of your passport and leave the passport in the hotel safe
Take only as much money as you really need

Keep all in your hotel safe
Wear a money bag around your neck below your shirt or keep it in front pockets.

Along Ipanema

Don't discuss with anyone while your wallet, purse or camera is on your blanket at the beach. Be alert at all times.
Dealers try to get you into a conversation, while some others are checking what could be taken along....

Don't take the persons into your hotel rooms unless you are sure to know them for quite some time - even if those dark eyes promise you that they like you so much!

Be aware of drug dealers - even don't get close to the idea.
Don't expect too much help from the police. And don't sign any documents before you have talked to your business friends or even your embassy or consulate.

Be alert and have always a friend guarding your belongings.
Watch your belongings when dealers are approaching to sell drinks or souvenirs

If not necessary to bring more than a towel- leave all your valuables at the hotel

Favela-Tours in Rio...

One of the biggest tourist traps in Rio de Janeiro, in my opinion is doing the 'Favela tour'. It's a guided tour inside a favela (shanty town).

I believe people can be curious about how people live in a slum, but visiting it like visiting a zoo, sounds a bit strange for me !!!
I have never done this in any place of Brazil nor will I ever do it!!!

The poor and poorer favelas can be very dangerous. Drug dealing is common and popular amongst the poorest of the favelas. The crime rate is very high in these places. The poor sell drugs to the poorer and it is an endless chain. I reccomend only seeing them from far.

If you still are interested in such kind of "Favela Tour" please never go yourself there or trust anybody you knew a few hours before who wants to show you around....
it is like a self-suicide!!!
If you are really interested to see how the poor are living there, then please contact a Tour Operator and go there within a group!

I will not post any of the Favela Tour -Operators here 'cause I am against this kind of tourism, but if you really want to visit a shanty town you can be sure that you find something, at least you can ask at your hotel reception for it.

For those of you who understand to read in portuguese you can have a look at the Favela's Webpage: />
For the people who are interested in the biggest Favela in Southamerica called "Rocinha" in Rio:

Plataforma 1

Well, first of all I have to say that I didn't know where to put the Plataforma 1-Samba Show,...if it would be better to put it together as NIGHTLIFE or as TOURIST TRAP...
As I am more the kind of "native Rio-tourist" I have never gone there to this show, but I have experienced one time this kind of show in Germany (which was pretty fantastic), but when I think of going to a samba-show in Rio itself I would not really recommend this show, because it is more like a LAS VEGAS-show than really shows you the samba and Carnival-atmoshere like it is!

What's offered is supposedly a song and dance showcase of Brazilian culture. True, the rhythms are fast and catchy and the women are gorgeous and extravagantly costumed, but the whole slick and packaged product has all the spontaneity and charm of a McDonald's Big Mac combo--and about as much connection to Brazilian culture.

If you really want to go here's the adress:

Rua Adalberto Ferreira 32 -Leblon
Tel: 021/2274-4022
Fax: (021) 512-1243
E Mail:

Prices : Admission price depends on whom you book through. Minimum price R$80 (US$40)

Bus: 415

You'll have a much better experience watching and participating in the Carnaval rehearsals, the Blocos, or any of the live music venues around town where real live Brazilians (as well as visitors) gather to enjoy the music played by contemporary artists.

Discoteca HELP-Copacabana

To all of you who maybe are thinking to go to the very famous and - I guess- biggest discothec in Soutamerica called "HELP" in Copacabana be aware of that there you will only find prostitutes, no normal women to go out with the day after or something like that....
for all this women you have to pay!

And besides of this, there are a lot of brazilians who knows that every night a lot of foreigners are there, so pay a lot of attention, because there it can be dangerous ....!

To those of you who still are interested in here's the Web-adress:

Okay, if you are a single boy/man and want to know a beautiful brazilian girl/woman better go to other clubs or discothecs in Rio, ..there are a lot of options better than HELP!


Everything is in reais, so it is still not so expensive for you, but it is, the Christ is a very touristic place, and the prices are for tourists, but if you do not want to be treated like a fool when you spend your money.
I am sorry all the stores in the Christ and also in the Sugar Loaf mountain, but the prices are not honest!

May 14th, 2005

Remember that every souvenir can be cheaper in Santa tereza, in the Hippie Fair in Ipanema and in the little fair in front of Help Disco in Copacabana! Even cheaper are the art crafts sold in the Feira do Nordeste.

You can buy post cards, little pins or very small stuffs, but do not buy overpriced touristic souvenirs.

In Petropolis you can buy statues of Christ, and they are cheaper than in the Christ Mountain itself!;)

Change money

Don't change money with the touts at the airport arrivals hall.

If you arrive at the old terminal take the elevator to the top floor shopping area. There are cash machines and a Banco Brasil with an exchange service on this floor. All the touts at the arrival area change the dollars that you give them at the bank at a much better rate than they give you.

Save money on football at Maracana

We went to a football game at Maracana. First of let me say it was amazing!!!! Second we paid 80Reals per person, that included transportation to/from hotel and the ticket to the game. We found out later that the actual ticket was 5Reals! And there are no seat assignments, so you sit where you want. So if you have a few people, better off taking a taxi, even if after the game the taxi will be more expensive than usually. But, in any case, did I mention that the game and the stadium spirit were amazing :)!

Lots of traps on the way to the Christ

If you have a car in Rio and decided to go up to the Corcovade mountain to see the statue of Christ, you might end up being exposed to couple of well-equipped trap-guides on the way. Once you exist from the Corcovade exist from before the tunnel, you will end up at a crossing where you will pass under a bridge. There you will see guides with green tshirts (very clever) jumping in front of your car and trying to urge you not to keep on with the car.

If you stop, they will kindly introduce theirselves as authorized guides, show logos on their tshirts, open their guide books to orient you about the place and provide prices. They might tell you that "cars not allowed from this point on", there has been crime cases where the police has banned car travel etc. Final case will end up with an offering of bus trip up and down, 36R per person!

Keep on and when you come to another crossing half-way to the top, you might see the red tshirt guides who will also ask you to guide you on the way. These are, my guess, are local kids trying to grasp a share of tourist wallet. They are not that well equipped and ask for a favor-like contribution to have them into your car and provide local guidance on the obvious.

When you come to the first green tshirt guides, first thing I would do is not to stop, kindly greet and keep on.

If they stop you, you can kindly listen to the initial conversation, say that you will drive up yourself and know that it is actually allowed.

In case they come up with "new regulations by the police" and "no access to the cars", ask why there is no gate there!!!

If all these doesn't work, simply be tough to say thank you, ignore the guys and follow the path. You will come to a car park area, leave the car, pay 2R, take a minibus to the top (which is 10R per person and takes about 10 min by drive. It is almost 2,5 to 3 km uphill so don't go up walking anyway) and enjoy the view.

Prostitution in Copacabana Beach

At night all Copacabana coast will be crowded with prostitutes but be careful around the Sofitel Hotel, this is a place for the transvested "girls".

Prefer the girls around "Help" discoteque.

Always ask the price and check with your hands if it´s a girl or not. Good luck.

'Discoteca Help' is not what...

'Discoteca Help' is not what guides say. That's a huge room full of 'women for pay'. No dance, no dance music, no party.

If you travel for sex, be...

If you travel for sex, be aware. Not all the prostitutes are women. Use hand test as suggests.

There was a disco, named...

There was a disco, named 'Help!' next to our hotel. It was advertised as 'latin america's biggest disco'. We through we'd go check it out so we paid the $16 cover to go inside. What a disappointment. It was very empty and many women there seemed to be looking for johns. We looked around and found it a bit pathetic, so we left. Avoid Help! at all cost unless you are looking to pay for some local fun. (By the way I hear the local latex is not to be trusted...)

Watch out when someone calls you "Amigo!"

Although most carioca's may be very, VERY friendly, there are some naughty Carioca's who might want to trick you into something you don't want to get into.
At Lapa, someone was calling for me, and had I stopped and listened to him, who knows what might have happened! He might have bought me a drink, that's true, but let's not be naive; it could have turned out completely different. Fortunately, I never found out.

When you do listen to them, take every possible caution, you never know what might happen...

Try talking to people yourself, and don't listen to the "Ey amigo!" callers...

Favela Tour

Fafela Tours are definately a tourist trap. Although they claim to be completely safe (since the druglords are paid a fee to let you in) there is absolutely no guarantee to your safety due to gang rivalries (gangs attack favelas "run" by other gangs in disputes to take over the drug trade in the area) and police actions. People die on a daily basis in Favelas on acount of gang and police actions.

The other big problem is that these tours pay the druglords a fee to guarantee the safety of the tourists. This fee is used to maintain drugtraffic.

Just don´t go.

There is no alternative.

Watch out at Copacabana

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough! Copacabana can be a really dangerous (though very exotic) place! I heard several stories about girls offering themselves at night at night clubs near the Copacabana (for money, not for free of course, no such thing as a free, euhm, lunch!). Especially when you don't look Brazilian you might get in trouble.
I felt really unsafe when I was walking around while it was raining. A couple of menacing-looking people passed by, seizing me and checking me out... They didn't do anything, as I probably looked too macho and masculin to them (roflol!)...

If you want to take pictures, please do so, but go back immediately after you took them, or put your camera away somewhere safe... Best is to go with as many people you know as possible.
Best advice I got was to put your belongings in a plastic bag (like your regular Carrefour, or GB bags) and to take absolutely as little as possible!
It's not always safe to ask your neighbours to watch your stuff, as they might also take your things and run off...

The alternative to this beach is Ipanema! I don't understand anyway why Copacabana is so popular... Ipanema beach is much nicer, more easy going, less crowded, more colourful...
Niteroi and Leblon also sounded nice; although I saw some pictures from Angra das Reis (or sth) and that looked really like paradise! Sth. to check out on my next trip...

TAM Airlines Sucks

TAM Airlines is one of the main airlines that services Iguassu Falls but to not use them. My flight from Buenos Aires was suppost to leave at 8:00 AM but when I arrived at the airport at 6:50 AM the TAM agent informed me that they had neglected to inform me that the flight was now at 7:00AM! Instead of working with me to get me there or refunding me my money they simply told me I would have to find another carrier if I wanted to go that day! Luckly Aerolineas Argentinas saved the day with a flight to the Argentine side of the falls where I took a cab to my hotel on the Brazillian side.

Watch out at the business district in the weekend!

We stumbled across the business district coming back from the Rodoviaria to get tickets to Brasilia and found ourselves in the midst of hords of homeless people laying on the ground...
We got off the bus and saw clochards everywhere. It gave a really bad feeling, and I was getting really anxious! It only ended when we were amongst 'normal' people again near the new Cathedral... The picture below was taken at great risk; I was feeling like I was being followed all the time, and I really wanted a picture, so I took the chance.
Of course no one was following me, but I felt very paranoid. It was just the whole atmosphere, I guess. Knowing that you have more in your pockets than they will have in four or five months...
Funny thing is that during working days the place is packed with people and you feel very safe, it's really like a different world then!

You have absolutely no reason to go there, believe me! But if you do go, wear fast shoes :-)
But no fancy sports shoes, they might nick them :-/

Try Cinelandia or any other part of the Zona Sul ;-)


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Belle said...

I can not believe I am reading this!
Every single sterotype of RDJ, did you write this like 5 years ago?
Rio is not like this anymore, you may is sound like a war zone.
Dont believe this people, Rio is not like this anymore,it has its negatives, but all major cities do. I feel more unsafe walking around in London than in Rio.
The favelas are nor congo or somalia jheez, just dont come here waving cash around like a dumb tourist and you are less likely to get robbed, just be smart.

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