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Rio De Janeiro

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Windsor Leme
Windsor Leme - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica, 656, Rio de Janeiro

Orla Copacabana Hotel
Orla Copacabana Hotel - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica 4122, Rio de Janeiro

Windsor Excelsior Hotel
Windsor Excelsior Hotel - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica 1800, Rio de Janeiro

Windsor Marapendi
Windsor Marapendi - dream vacation

Avenida Lucio Costa 5400, Rio de Janeiro

Hotel Rio Lancaster
Hotel Rio Lancaster - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica, 1470 , Rio de Janeiro

JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro
JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica, 2600, Rio de Janeiro

Rio Othon Palace
Rio Othon Palace - dream vacation

Avenida Atlantica, 3264, Rio de Janeiro

Arosa Rede Rio Hotel
Arosa Rede Rio Hotel - dream vacation

Avenida Henrique Valadares 150, Rio de Janeiro

Bruno Mars

Saturday 18th of November 2017 08:00PM to 04:00PM at Praca da Apoteose

Rock in Rio - Guns N' Roses, The Who

Saturday 23rd of September 2017 02:00PM to 04:00PM at Rock City

The great outdoors, the open sky, surviving on what you can find, what can be better than spending a day with nature? Why, spending it with your favourite bands! Yes, festival period is among us mixing all the best things about camping with live music, although the tucker has markedly improved, with the hunt for rabbit now replaced with the hunt for a reputable food vender (a task still considered difficult)! It is with this mentality in mind, that StubHub are now selling Rock in Rio - Guns N' Roses, The Who tickets! Loaded with a remarkable line-up and an atmosphere to boot, Cidade do Rock (Parque dos Atletas) will be brimming with festival goers as Rock in Rio Rio de Janeiro gears up to full swing, so make sure to be there! Buy your Rock in Rio - Guns N' Roses, The Who tickets now here at StubHub!

Solid Rock Rio de Janeiro - Deep Purple + Lynyrd Skynyrd + Tesla

Friday 15th of December 2017 07:30PM to 04:00PM at HSBC Arena (Rio Olympic Arena)

Solid Rock Rio de Janeiro - Deep Purple + Lynyrd Skynyrd + Tesla tickets.  There is something special about experiencing live music that is almost unexplainable.  Why not be there at Jeunesse Arena (Rio Arena) for the Solid Rock Rio de Janeiro - Deep Purple + Lynyrd Skynyrd + Tesla?  You've got the chance here at StubHub to get your hands on some Solid Rock Rio de Janeiro - Deep Purple + Lynyrd Skynyrd + Tesla tickets and be there this time!  This opportunity won't be around forever, so get your Solid Rock Rio de Janeiro - Deep Purple + Lynyrd Skynyrd + Tesla tickets here and now before it's too late!

Bruno Mars

Sunday 19th of November 2017 08:00PM to 04:00PM at Praca da Apoteose

Rock in Rio - Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring

Sunday 24th of September 2017 02:00PM to 04:00PM at Rock City

Be part of the Rock in Rio Rio de Janeiro sensation and get your Rock in Rio - Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring tickets! This festival is said to be 'off the hook', so make sure you bag your tickets now and be part of this epic musical event. Here at StubHub we have a wide range of Rock in Rio Rio de Janeiro, so you can be sure you won't miss out on seeing your favourite artists. 

Rock in Rio - Bon Jovi, Tears For Fears

Friday 22nd of September 2017 02:00PM to 04:00PM at Rock City

Festival fan, are you?  Then you are one lucky duck because the Rock in Rio - Bon Jovi, Tears For Fears tickets you need are available for purchase here at StubHub!  Don't miss the opportunity to be a part of the legendary Cidade do Rock (Parque dos Atletas) experience.  Buy your Rock in Rio - Bon Jovi, Tears For Fears tickets today and get out to Cidade do Rock (Parque dos Atletas) ready for the experience of a liftime!

Rock in Rio - Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys

Sunday 17th of September 2017 02:00PM to 04:00PM at Rock City

Rock in Rio - Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys is finally here! Even better news is that tickets for this amazing festival are finally on sale! So hurry up, get your tickets now and have the best time ever. A festival is always a great excuse to camp with your friends, so besides watching some of the best performances ever and listening to the latest tracks of your favourite artists, get to spend time with your friends and get to meet new people, who also love music. It's certainly a wonderful experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you want to have an unforgettable time, get hold of your Rock in Rio - Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys tickets here and now and join the crowd at Cidade do Rock (Parque dos Atletas). 

Bruno Migliari

Monday 26th of June 2017 08:00PM to 04:00PM at Moviola Bistrô

O quarteto Notre Jam, liderado pelo baixista Bruno Migliari e pelo saxofonista AC, apresenta uma abordagem jazzística da música pop contemporânea através de um repertório de standards modernos arranjados sob uma ótica jazzística, incluindo composições de artistas do cenário pop como Prince, Donald Fagen, Sade, Adrian Belew, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Paul Simon e Stevie Wonder. - todas as segundas-feiras às 20:00 no Moviola.

Ariana Grande

Thursday 29th of June 2017 08:00PM to 04:00PM at HSBC Arena (Rio Olympic Arena)

ALPHA BRASIL - OS 9 CRISTAIS que enriquecem sua vida

Sunday 2nd of July 2017 10:00AM to 04:00PM at Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

CÓNDOR BLANCO RIO DE JANEIRO te convida para : ALPHA BRASIL OS 9 CRISTAIS QUE ENRIQUECEM SUA VIDA Um dos cursos mais esperados de de Suryavan Solar, no qual você aprenderá os segredos dos 9 Cristais mais importantes, que vão enriquecer e transformar sua Vida. Benefícios: Obter ferramentas para utilizar os Cristais para construir uma Vida Maravilhosa; Receber uma análise individualde qual cristal você deve trabalhar neste momento para enriquecer sua Vida, como e porque; Escutar ensinamentos valiosos diretamente do fundador de Cóndor Blanco. Objetivos: Aprender sobre os 9 Cristais mais importantes para construir uma Vida Abundante; Entrar em contato com a energia dos cristais de maneira teórica e prárica; Usa a Magia dos Cristais para mudar sua Vida. Quer saber mais informações? Entre em contato:Tel.: (73) 9 9868-1818 - DimayarE-mail: dimayarcb@gmail.com

“On the eighth day, God created Rio.”

It doesn’t take long to understand why cariocas love to say so. Palm fringed beaches bookended by iconic granite morros, the world’s largest urban forest, and one infamous statue of Christ perpetually watching over the city. One of the most geographically blessed cities I’ve had the privilege to visit, it’s hard not to believe that whatever or whomever created this universe, they had a soft spot for Rio de Janiero.

Cristo Redentor Early Access Tour

Cristo Redentor Early Access Tour

And so did I, long before I first set my own eyes on the city. When I was cleaning out boxes of old college notebooks and projects last summer, I came across detailed ramblings about a fantasy semester in Brazil scribbled in the margins of many a class note. More recently, my mom took on a similar project purging my sister and my’s grade school stockpiles, and came across a report I’d done when tasked with researching any continent – I’d lovingly selected South America. For years, when asked what destination topped my bucket list, I barely had to hesitate.

For as long as I’ve loved travel, Brazil was a tornado force of a desire, with Rio at the eye of the storm. That’s a lot for one city to live up to, regardless of how marvelous it may be.

Sunset at Sugarloaf

Rio de Janiero Botanical Garden

Rio de Janiero Botanical Garden

Itinerary

Originally, as this dream began to take shape in reality, I hoped to spend two full weeks in the city. Later, as I negotiated with Heather, my travel copilot, and accepted how much else of the country I wanted to see, that time was pared down to just one week.

I was determined to make the most of it.

Rio de Janiero Street Art

Sunset at Sugarloaf

By the time we arrived in the Cidade Maravilhosa, we had partied at Tomorrowland in Itú, fallen for the biggest baddest city in Brazil in São Paulo, been charmed by Paraty, and got lost in wild Ilha Grande. We were ready for Rio.

After careful consideration, Heather and I had chosen to split our time in Rio between two different digs – kicking things off at a hostel in Botafogo, and then later moving to an Airbnb near Copacabana beach (get $35 off your first booking!) We bit off a lot before we’d even arrived, booking several tours and creating an exhaustive itinerary. We were so excited we were practically powerless to do otherwise, despite being fully aware of how burnt out we’d be by the end of the week. We even skipped one tour we’d pre-payed for, a favela nightlife tour – pretty much unheard of from this penny pincher — because we were too exhausted and hungover to make it.

Santa Marta

In one week, we crammed in a sunrise tour of Cristo Redentor, a DIY photo safari of Lapa and Centro, hang gliding over São Conrado, a walking tour of Santa Marta favela, a sunset at Aproador, a night out in Ipanema, two beach days, a street art tour, a trip to Jardim Botânico, and sunset at Pão de Açúcar. We literally loved every single one of these activities and I’ll be writing in more detail about each of them.

Even so, we left with much not crossed off our lists.  Rio is a big, sprawling city with so much to see and do — it could take weeks, or months, or a lifetime to explore. I think one of the biggest struggles for any do-and-see-it-all-er heading to Rio will be accepting that in this city, that would be an impossible mission.

Cristo Redentor Early Access Tour

Hang Gliding in Rio

Impressions

There’s a famous comparison that Rio is Brazil’s Los Angeles and São Paulo, Brazil’s New York. After being well and truly and very unexpectedly swept off my feet by São Paulo, I couldn’t help but see why.

While what I loved about Rio did remind me of what I love about Los Angeles — the beach! — a lot of what I didn’t like about Rio reminded me of what I don’t like about Los Angeles – namely, urban sprawl and charmless seediness.

Santa Marta Favela

Santa Marta Favela

Santa Marta Favela

The rivalry between the Cariocas (people from the city of Rio de Janeiro) and Paulistas (residents of São Paulo) is an intense one, just like that between residents of the US’s largest east and west coast cities. To state the obvious, Rio wins by a landslide when it comes to setting. The city’s natural beauty is unrivaled, and the ocean it’s surrounded by is its number one draw.

Sunrise over Sugarloaf

Experiencing this city’s unique beach culture was the highlight of my time in the city, so much so that I’ll be dedicating a whole post to it coming up — stay tuned! While we were visiting in Brazil’s autumn, we found the beaches pleasantly buzzing.

The weather, our busy itinerary and a few unexpected wrinkles in our plan (hello, last minute work assignment and Heather going to the hospital) meant we spent less time there than we would have liked to, and so I dream of returning one day in the summer to spend a whole week doing not much more than beach bumming.

Sunset at Arpoador

Sunset at Arpoador

Beaches aside — and I admit, it’s a rather important factor to put aside — I was surprised to find myself favoring São Paulo in many other categories. Through my eyes, São Paulo had an undeniably chicer, hipper vibe. The art scene was a bit more sophisticated, the restaurant scene a bit more diverse and trendy, and transportation was more accessible (though traffic in both cities was insane).

The more I travel, the greater emphasis I have placed on food. After really swooning over the restaurant scene in São Paulo, especially for Heather as a vegetarian, we were a little disappointed in Rio’s — though I was warned. That said, we did find a few gems. We fell in love with hip Meza in Bogafoto (we went for both dinner and Sunday brunch – with a bubbles bar!) and bohemian Zaza in Ipanema, and made three different trips to cute Oficina Gelato. Yet overall, we were super grateful for the kitchen in our Airbnb – it meant we could cook a few meals, eat takeaway in comfort and not rely on eating every meal out at a restaurant.

Brunch at Meza, Rio de Janiero

Brunch at Meza, Rio de Janiero

Brunch at Meza, Rio de Janiero

Getting around in Rio was a bit of a struggle at times. Traffic was intense and destinations were quite spread out. Due to the language barrier we used Uber exclusively for cab needs — get a free ride of up to $20 with Uber here — but even then we did run into some issues with drivers getting lost and taking ridiculous routes. We spent ages attempting to use the city’s municipal bike program but it requires a local SIM card to unlock the bikes. Heather had one but I didn’t, and so that was out.

The best thing we did for ease of movement was simply splitting our time in two different areas of the city and creating a logical itinerary around those two bases. This allowed us to walk quite a bit, which is always my favorite way of getting around a new city. Next time, I’d love to try using the metro.

Cristo Selfie

One of the pleasant surprises of Rio was how comfortable we felt as two women traveling alone. While we were constantly — like literally, constantly — warned by everyone we encountered to be careful with our cameras, we were vigilant and cautious and had zero issues and really felt surprisingly safe and secure throughout our time in the city.

Frankly, overall we felt this was all throughout Brazil, but it was most poignant in Rio, where multiple viewings of City of God had prepared me to be relieved of all my belongings within moments of stepping onto the streets. It was a nice surprise.

Rio de Janiero Street Art

Ideas

Bottom line? We had a blast. But we were also so busy – and rounding the corner of travel burnout – that we didn’t leave much time to just soak up the magic of the place, which Rio requires quite a bit of.

I look forward to returning someday and putting less emphasis on tours and attractions (only because I’ve now seen them – I don’t regret a single one) and focusing instead on soaking up the beach culture, my absolute favorite aspect of the city, enjoying some of the nightlife, which we regretfully missed out on aside from one over-indulgent night, and attempting some of the beautiful urban hikes and beginner surf breaks I learned about in the area.

Sunset at Arpoador

Sunset at Arpoador

Sunset at Arpoador

I hope I don’t have to wait too long for that return. In the meantime, I can’t wait to share more details from our week in Rio de Janeiro.

Have you been to Rio? Did it live up to your expectations? What part of my trip are you most excited to read about? 3-devide-lines

Many thanks to Heather for the beautiful portraits she took of me throughout this post!

Photo: fgmsp

Here’s a run-down of our top things to do in Brazil for free.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Appriciate street art on Boulevard Olímpico, Rio de Janeiro

 Boulevard OlímpicoRio de Janeiro, BrazilRejuvenated boulevard designed for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Colorful murals adorn several blocks leading from the Museum of Tomorrow. Great place for a stroll and some colorful photography. #gallery #free #art #murals #riodejaneiro #brazil #olympics #rio2016

Escadaria Selaron, Rio de Janeiro

 Escadaria SelaronRio de Janeiro, BrazilFamous stairway in the heart of Lapa. Beware of pickpockets here and watch your cell phones (particularly iPhones!) and cameras here. Go early or around sunset if you want to take plenty of photos with fewer tourists around. Brilliant colors! #free #art #colors #tiles #publicart

Explore sand dunes of Genipabu Beach, Natal

 Praia de GenipabuExtremoz, BrazilCruising through the sand dunes of Genipabu Beach outside of Natal, Brazil. 🙌

Hike to Castelinho Morin, Rio de Janeiro

 Castelinho Morim PetrópolisPetrópolis, BrazilEasy one-hour hike to Castelinho-Morin.

Snorkel at Praia do Perigoso, Rio de Janeiro

 Praia do PerigosoRio de Janeiro, BrazilPraia do Perigoso – paradise after a little hike.

Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, San Jaun

 Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis ChateaubriandSan Juan, BrazilOne of the best art museums in São Paulo and it is always free on Tuesdays! Its building is also one of the city’s landmark and it is located right next to a metro station, which is always useful. #museum #free #gallery #art

Enjoy the sunset over Parque Nacional de Jericoacoara

 Parque Nacional de JericoacoaraJijoca de Jericoacoara, BrazilPreparing for sunset on the sand dunes of Jericoacoara, in Northeastern Brazil.

And the view from Niterói Parque Da Cidade, Niterói

 Niteroi Parque Da CidadeNiterói, BrazilThe best view on Rio is from Niteroi.

Beco do Batman, São Paulo

 Beco do BatmanSão Paulo, BrazilAn outdoor gallery in a cool neighborhood where there are many bars and restaurants. Graffiti is a big thing in SP and this is a great thing to check it out. #graffiti #brazil #streetart #free

Hike to Pedra Bonita, Rio de Janeiro

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilNice hike to Pedra Bonita.

Surf at Praia de Atalaia

 Praia de AtalaiaCoroa do Meio, BrazilThe coolest thing about this beach is the amount of sand before the water. It looks amazing and it makes you forget you are in a city beach. Also good for surfing ? #surf #surfspot #beach #brazil

Explore Fortaleza dos Reis Magos, Natal

 Fortaleza dos Reis MagosNatal, BrazilIt is a fortress from the 17th century built by the Portuguese and once invaded by the Dutch. Not that easy to reach or well preserved but worth going. The scenery of the sea, the fortress, the river going into the sea and crystal clear pools formed around the area make the difference ? #free #history

Get out the city and relax on Praia de Ponta Negra

 Praia de Ponta NegraNatal, BrazilGreat city beach next to a upper class neighborhood and with a good infrastructure. There are vendors walking through it and also bars by the beach that offers chairs and umbrellas to hide from the sun. Beers (Brazilian pilsens ) from 7-9 reais the 600ml bottle. #beach #sun #bar #swimming

Appreciate the sunset at Praia de Porto da Rua, São Miguel dos Milagres

 Praia de Porto da Rua – Rota Ecológica dos MilagresSão Miguel dos Milagres, BrazilSunset at this small fisherman village in the countryside of Alagoas. If you go down from Maragogi to the capital you will see many beautiful beaches and one of them is Porto da Rua. #beach #beachlife #beaches #brazil

Photo: tpsdave

This is but a small number of excellent hikes around Rio de Janeiro. Let it inspire you to strap on your boots and escape the city, enjoy the fresh air and views of the coast.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Sugar Loaf

 Sugarloaf MountainRio de Janeiro, BrazilCable car going down from Urca Hill.

Sugar Loaf is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rio de Janeiro. Avoid long lines for the cable car and hike. You will see the stunning landscape that includes Botafogo cove, Copacabana beach and the entrance to the Guanabara Bay. For photographers, this is the best viewpoint for sunset shots over Rio.

 Sugarloaf MountainRio de Janeiro, BrazilAmazing helicopter trips! 6-7 minutes 88 euro, 12-13 minutes – 190 euro, 15-16 minutes – 220 euro, 21-22 minutes – 275 euro, 30 minutes – 305 euro.

Corcovado

 CorcovadoRio de Janeiro, BrazilView from Corcovado hill where the Christ the Redeemer is located.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer is the largest and most famous Art Déco sculpture in the world. It is considered as New Seven Wonders of the World.

To get to the statue, grab a train that leaves from the Cosme Velho neighborhood. There’s also licensed vans in Largo do Machado and Praça do Lido square. To avoid overpriced transportation (38 and 65 reais) you can take the trail that starts at Parque Lage. The entrance to the Corcovado statue will cost you then 24 reais. The trail might be challenging but it is well equipped with metal chains and steps. You will definitely feel satisfied completing this hike.

 Christ the RedeemerRio de Janeiro, BrazilUsually it is much more people at the Christ the Redeemer;)

Pedra Bonita

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilThe way from Pedra Bonita hike at night. It is better to take a taxi, though;)

To get to his trail take the bus, Tropical 4 to the last stop and change to bus 448. The hike is very steep. You have to register before entering the trail. The coast of the carioca South Zone can be seen from one side, while the imposing Pedra da Gávea looms over, and the immense Barra da Tijuca, with its skyscrapers and large beach, can be found on the right. You can also rent a hang glider in Pedra Bonita and enjoy a flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilNice hike to Pedra Bonita.

Dois Irmãos

 Dois IrmãosBelford Roxo, BrazilFantastic view from Dois Irmãos.

One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Dois Irmãos mountain, is a common background of photos taken on the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. The trail that goes to the top of the mountain begins at the Vidigal community in São Conrado. From the beginning, you can take in a beautiful view of the beach in São Conrado and the Cagarras Islands. Take rests and use the time to take some pictures and catch your breath. You will be awarded by the breathtaking view of the city, which includes the South Zone. Don’t forget to buy some açai to cool down.

Pedra da Gávea

 UrcaRio de Janeiro, BrazilView from Urca Hill at night. The most romantic place in the world 🌎

Pedra de Gávea is part of the Tijuca National Park. To get to the summit, Cabeça do Imperador, you’ll find a trail through the Atlantic Forest. It’s a route for experienced climbers. It is a good idea to hire a professional guide and be physically prepared for this hike. Take a lot of water and lunch with you. From the top of the mountain, it is possible to have a view over the city and Maciço da Tijuca.

Pico da Tijuca

Pico da Tijuca is the highest mountain in the Tijuca Forest, with an altitude of 1.022 meters. To get to its summit, you have climb a 117 step staircase which is carved into the rock. The trail starts in Praça Afonso Viseu square, near the entrance of Sector A of the Tijuca National Park. Enter the forest from the neighborhood Alta da Boa Vista, in Rio North Zone. At the beginning of the hike, you’ll come across the Cascatinha Taunay waterfall, the largest waterfall in the park. The trail has a slight slope and is enclosed by trees throughout the entire hike.

Pedra Do Telégrafo

Pedra do Telégrafo is located in Barra de Guaratiba, West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The region is about 50 km away from the Center. The trail to the Pedra do Telégrafo starts at Praia Grande in Barra de Guaratiba, known as the Camino dos Pescadores.

It is a very popular place during the weekend and you might need to wait in order to take a photo. If you have the opportunity visit this stop during a weekday.

Praia do Perigoso

 Praia do PerigosoRio de Janeiro, BrazilPraia do Perigoso – paradise after a little hike.

This beach is very popular among surfers. On the light 30-minute trail, you can climb to the top of the Tartaruga Rock, which offers amazing views of the coastline. To get to the trail, go to the Parlon Siqueira street in Barra de Guaratiba. This trail is considered mild and does not require high physical fitness.

Vista Chinesa

 Jardim BotânicoRio de Janeiro, BrazilJardim Botânico with palms avenue.

The journey from Jardim Botânico to Vista Chinesa is not long if you travel by car or taxi, around 10 to 20 minutes. The road is very good and paved. Although the climb is steep, it is common to find many cyclists and pedestrians. It has two waterfalls, Gruta and Macacos. The monument was built in the early twentieth century as a tribute to the Chinese who brought the tea to Brazil.

Parque da Cidade

 Niteroi Parque Da CidadeNiterói, BrazilThe best view on Rio is from Niteroi.

The Parque da Cidade was opened in 1976 and has a lookout spot that offers a spectacular view of the coast, the neighborhoods of Niteroi and Guanabara Bay. The park is open from 8:00 till 18:00 (19:00 during summer time).

Travessua

This hike is will take three days between nearby towns Petropolis and Teresopolis. It’s approximately 30 km and deep within the mountain range Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos. It’s one of the most beautiful hikes with breathtaking scenery. While it might be a challenging hike, the efforts are definitely worth it. Along the way, there are two camping spots where tents and facilities can be rented.

To visit a favela or not to visit a favela: it’s a controversial decision many travelers to Rio will ponder at some point or another.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Critics call it poverty tourism, proponents say it de-stigmatizes and brings income to marginalized communities. Even amongst my own peers, there’s discord. Friends from South Africa have made me cross my heart that I’ll never take a township tour, and some of my Brazilian friends strongly discouraged me from visiting a favela as well. Their concerns were not for my safety, but rather that tourists create a “human zoo” by paying to ogle at the darkest side of economic inequality. That, I wanted no part of.

And yet, pretending favelas don’t exist also seemed cruel in its own way. I desperately wanted to be educated, to be exposed, to experience multiple sides of Brazil. After much research and reflection, Heather and I decided we were going to visit a favela in Rio de Janeiro — and that the most respectful way to do so would be to take a walking tour with a small, locally owned company. (Big, drive-by tours in armored vehicles were out from the get go, obviously.)

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

There are many favelas in Rio. We chose to visit Santa Marta for several reasons. First, it was literally within walking distance of our hostel in Botafogo, and we were eager to explore the neighborhood we were staying in. Second, as artists, we were magnetically drawn to the popular mural project at the base of the favela and were excited to see it in person. Third, we found a locally-owned, ethically-run and reasonably priced walking tour with Tour Santa Marta.

We met our guide at a petrol station across the street from Santa Marta. We were pleased to learn we’d lucked out with a private tour, which meant we’d have no distractions from the bajillion questions we were planing to pepper our guide with.

And Pedro was more than happy to answer them. When he first approached us, we did a double take at how young he appeared to be. Later, when Pedro was flipping through his backpack I noted several textbooks, and he confirmed he was attending university nearby using his earnings from tour guiding. Based on his amazing English, I could only imagine his studies were going well.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Pedro explained we’d start the tour with a ride up to the top of the favela via cable car, and wind our way slowly back down on foot. Chiago, the owner of the small tour company, met us briefly to say hello and invite us to stop by his home in the favela on our way back.

As we approached the cable car, I noticed a small piece of street art and reached for my camera, only to realize I’d made the day’s massive face-palm: I left the battery charging back in our hostel room. To my surprise, Pedro translated that Chiago was a photography aficionado and had offered to quickly run home to see if he had a spare on the same size. A favela-dweller with a dSLR camera collection? Our misconceptions were already being broken down.

After an initial bout of the blues I realized it was perhaps a blessing in disguise. Heather, with her journalism background, is much more comfortable and skilled at taking photos in sensitive situations. Frankly, I’d been stressing even before we arrived. Freed from my discomfort and my obligation to take photos, I could focus fully on the experience. So with the exception of a few iPhone snaps, full credit for the photos in this post go to the talented Heather Holt.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

As we disembarked from the cable car, a gift from the government to the favela upon pacification, we marveled at the amazing views over the city. Pedro laughed when we commented what high real estate prices vistas like this would command in the US, and countered that the top of the favela was actually traditionally the least desirable, as pre-cable car, it was a difficult slog up the steep hill on foot.

Santa Marta was the first of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas to be pacified back in 2008. Pacification refers to the government’s plan to wrest control of the favelas from drug dealers and gangs and hand it to a special police force known as the UPP, or the Pacifying Police Unit in English. The results have been mixed, but in Santa Marta, once one of the most violent slums in Rio, it’s almost impossible not to see the changes as positive.

Favelas have been a part of life in Rio since the late 1800’s. The word favela comes from the favela tree, a plant that, ominously, causes skin irritations to all those who come in contact with it. The moniker stuck for the communities mushrooming up all over Rio, populated by former slaves, poverty-stricken squatters, and soldiers who had nowhere else to go.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

With 22% of Rio’s population living in them, favelas are an unmistakable facet of Brazilian life. At 8,000 residents, Santa Marta is on the small side.

Pedro’s fascinating stories were regularly paused to greet friends and acquaintances as we walked. From tiny tots calling his name and running over to ask for help finding their cats to the local barber stopping him to discuss football scores, it truly felt that Pedro knew every single person in Santa Marta.

And we weren’t left out. One of my favorite moments of the day was when we walked by a street-side barbecue and an older gentleman called Pedro over to try some, and translated through him his absolute insistence that Heather and I have a taste as well. With Heather being a vegetarian, I thought it only polite to eat enough for both of us!

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Pedro explained that Chiago had created the tour company to change the conversation on favelas. Born and raised in Santa Marta, he wanted to show the world the energetic, vibrant community that he loved and continues to live in to this day by choice.

That spirit we were starting to understand was introduced to many in the world when Michael Jackson and Spike Lee traveled to Santa Marta in 1996 to film scenes for Jackson’s controversial music video They Don’t Really Care About Us. The government initially opposed the project and they pushed forward regardless, hiring residents as extras in the video and making Jackson a hero to the community in the process. Pedro proudly showed us the football field where Jackson’s helicopter had landed for filming, and the mural and statue the community built in his honor after.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Around the statue there were a handful of ramshackle souvenir-shops with locally-produced art and gifts, as well as a few small bodegas and snack shops.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Knowing that Santa Marta was the first pacified favela and continues to be one of the safest in the city, I frankly didn’t have any security-related qualms whatsoever about visiting. However, we got a serious reality check when, moments after stepping into a local shop to browse, we heard shouting and commotion out the door. While the owner of the shop smiled and tried to distract us, our hearts pounded as we pressed our faces to the window and saw military police with assault rifles aggressively shoving a local resident to the ground.

Just drug related, Pedro later assured us.

It was a reminder that yes, Santa Marta was once one of the most violent slums in the city and many people died here in bloody shootouts. In one of the most poignant physical symbols of change, bullet holes still dot the colorfully painted walls of a former day care center, now HQ for the Pacified Police Unit.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

As our heart rates returned to normal we continued to ply Pedro with questions. In turn, he volleyed them right back at us, asking everything about where we live, what we studied, our travels, and beyond. Soon it felt like we were being shown around by a friend.

That feeling was only reinforced when we arrived at Chiago’s house. He offered us juice and showed us photos of famous visitors he’d welcomed to the favela, big names from Madonna to Vin Diesel to Alicia Keys and beyond. I marveled at how lucky we were to be seated in that cozy living room, invited guests in world that seems so mysterious to so many.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

As we continued our descent down the hill, I reflected on how the day was different from my expectations.

I’d read so many posts from my fellow travel bloggers about their favela experiences before arriving that frankly, they’d all started to run together in my head and I’d even started to feel blasé about the entire experience. After reading about nightclubs and hostels opening in some favelas, and the growing concerns of gentrification, I think I half arrived expecting some sort of hip facsimile of Bushwick. Um, yeah, guys — I’m guessing you don’t need a spoiler warning for this, but Santa Marta is no Brooklyn.

So while many visitors to favelas seem to have their eyes opened to the fact that these are tight-knit, supportive communities with a lot to be proud of, I kind of already went in expecting that. Instead, what humbled me were the bullet-hole riddled reminders of gun violence, the relentless smell of open sewage, and walking paths carved out of mountains and rivers of garbage. Having just come from a morning of hang-gliding over some of Rio’s plushest ocean-side manors in São Conrado, it was quite the contrast. I’ve been exposed to poverty many times in my travels. And yet, my eyes were wide open to it here.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

The further down we traveled in the favela, the more “cleaned up” it felt. Soon, we were almost back down at sea level, and we found ourselves face to face with the mural project that had partially inspired us to visit Santa Marta in the first place.

Just look at this beautiful work! The project was pioneered by two Dutch artists who lived in the favelas for some time and eventually hired local youths to bring their paint-swatch daydreams to life. The project energized and made proud the local community, Pedro assured us with a smile. In fact, the same favelas that residents were once dying, literally, to get out of, have become desirable real estate that some are actually moving into by choice.

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Earlier I mentioned that Santa Marta was within walking distance of our hostel. Santa Marta is in Botafogo, which felt like an entirely different city than the one we’d later experience in Copacabana and Ipanema. We loved our time there and I was sad to learn that our hip hostel, Oztel, has permanently shuttered — so I won’t be writing a full review of it. Admittedly, we had several issues there that in retrospect didn’t look promising for its future, but shucks — isn’t it cute?

Had we had more time at Oztel, I would have happily returned to the base of the Santa Marta for dinner or drinks. We’d actually booked a favela nightlife tour for later in the trip to see yet another side of favela life — with a different company — but had to cancel due to travel burnout and the worst hangovers of our lives (ugh). While I can no longer recommend Oztel specifically, I highly recommend considering a few nights in Botafogo, which is the perfect base for exploring Santa Marta.

Oztel Hostel Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Oztel Hostel Rio de Janeiro

Favela tourism, I predict, will only continue to grow. If you are coming to Rio, I gently encourage you to do some research to find the right fit for you. I never feared for my safety, just for the possibility that I was being unintentionally disrespectful or voyeuristic — however my concerns were quickly assuaged upon arrival.

I believe Chiago had amazing intentions of supporting his family and his community when he started this business, and that Pedro is a fabulous tour guide and all around cool dude to hang with. He even invited us to a football match the next evening with his friends, which we regretfully had to decline because we had other plans. How many tour guides have you ever had that are so friendly?

So, do you need to do a tour? We did see two girls who appeared to just be wandering around without a guide, which in Santa Marta is totally possible to do. However, we felt the most respectful way to visit was to be led by a member of the local community, and had we just gone for a stroll we never would have left with such an informed understanding of the social and economic dynamics of the neighbhood.

Tour Santa Marta offers two hour tours twice a day, at 10am or 2pm, for a minimum of two person, at a cost of 100R per person ($32USD).

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Marta Favela Tour, Rio de Janeiro

What I took away from this experience, in addition to a profound respect for people who manage to live with dignity regardless of their external circumstances, was a reminder that the world is so very small. From Brazil to Bangkok to Brooklyn, gentrification brings both the blessings of stability and de-marginalization but also the curses of scrutiny and rising prices, and people everywhere are just trying their darndest to find a balance between the two.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the community of Santa Marta. But in this present moment, I feel grateful for the opportunity to have been welcomed into it, if only for an afternoon.

What do you think? Would you visit a favela in Brazil?

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Thank you again to Heather Holt Photography for the photos in this post. We paid full price for our tours and I was not compensated for this review.

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A tour of Santa Marta Favela

A tour of Santa Marta Favela

A tour of Santa Marta Favela

Photo: Unsplash

There’s a big drive to make cities more bicycle-friendly, both for residents and visitors. Many cities in South America now have bike-share schemes, some for free, that make it easy to hop between sights and neighbourhoods. Here’s a selection of cities in South America who are driving this concept forward and supporting locals to leave the car and get moving.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Bogotá, Colombia

 CicloviaBogotá, ColombiaBicycles have been really important to Bogota’s transportation, in fact 4 out of 10 Bogotanos use them for their commute. There are a lot of cycle routes that go from anywhere to everywhere and on Sundays, between 7am and 2pm, some of the major avenues are closed for cars and get full of bicycles, skates and people running on a very traditional family Sunday plan.

With its Bicicorredores program, Bogotá has one of the highest amount of reported bicycle trips per day (611,472) in South America.

México City

 Paseo dominical en biciCiudad de México, MexicoEvery Sunday from 8am to 2pm, Paseo de la Reforma avenue closes its car transit so hundreds of persons can stroll around on their bicycles, roller skates, skateboards or simply by foot.

Ecobici has the largest fleet of bicycles in the continent with over 4,000. México City is also the fourth ranked city in the world for bicycle use.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 Bosques De PalermoBuenos Aires, ArgentinaRoses in full bloom at Palermo Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 🇦🇷🌹

EcoBici have free automatic stations, 24 hours service and bike trails that run several neighbourhoods.

Montevideo, Uruguay

 Tablado Rural Del PradoMontevideo, UruguayIf you’re in Montevideo during the week leading up to Easter you have to make a stop here to check out the massive Gaucho fest. Every year since 1871 the Gaucho traditions and lifestyle are put on full display. Rodeos, food, crafts and of course, mate. Lots and lots of mate. #montevideo

Santiago, Chile

 Plaza de ArmasSantiago, ChileThe center of Chile’s capital, Plaza de Armas and its famous Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago are an impressive example of Chilean architecture and vibrancy. #culture #architecture #travelstoke

Santiago is a very bike friendly city. It has many rental spots and bike paths around the centre. More than 510,569 daily trips are made by bicycle.

Rio de Janeiro

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilThe way from Pedra Bonita hike at night. It is better to take a taxi, though;)

Sao Paulo

 Beco do BatmanSão Paulo, BrazilAn outdoor gallery in a cool neighborhood where there are many bars and restaurants. Graffiti is a big thing in SP and this is a great thing to check it out. #graffiti #brazil #streetart #free

Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have the highest number of bicycle lanes in South America.

Rosario, Argentina

 CENTRO CULTURAL PARQUE DE ESPAÑARosario, ArgentinaFrom Rosario to the whole world 😀😎 A small city but with a special charming 😘 #rosario #travelstoke

Rosario is ideal to discover on two wheels. If you’re visiting check out the rental company Mi Bici Tu Bic.

One Last Night in Rio: Retreating to Copacabana To Plan My Next Move post image

Making the spontaneous decision to cancel our trip to Iguaçu Falls was the quite possibly best call I made in all of Brazil. Within seconds of deciding to skip our flights and spend two leisurely extra nights in the State of Rio de Janeiro instead, I felt a weight lift off of me. But I still had one major decision left to make: where to spend the last leg of my trip, after Heather’s departure left me solo.

I’d been waffling big time. I fully intended to make a decision before I ever arrived in Brazil, but kept putting it off and putting it off until literally less than twenty-four hours before Heather’s departure. After a blissful bonus night in Buzios, we’d decided to spend our last night and day together in style — splurging on a night in a beachfront hotel in Copacabana. For about $80 each we’d have a rooftop pool overlooking the beach, a fancy hotel gym, a lavish hotel breakfast, and welcome champagne — sold! We’d never actually made it to Copacabana Beach over our previous week in Rio, favoring Ipanema instead, so we were excited to see what all the fuss was about.

Porto Bay Rio International

Rio Flag Canga on Copacabana Beach

Um, this spontaneous-and-indulgent-decision-making thing? Amazing! The rooms at our hotel, PortoBay Rio, were nothing special — but the views? Worth every real we’d payed for them.

Over bubbly on our rooftop pool, Heather and I went over options for my next move. Together we’d tackled São Paulo, Paraty, Ilha Grande, Rio, and Buzios — and now I had all of Brazil to choose from. In fact, I even considered flying down to Argentina and spending a week with a friend of my sister in Buenos Aires (too cold, I determined in the end.) Slowly I dismissed several of my other ideas. Another week in Rio in a lively hostel? (Actually, I was eager to check out somewhere new.) A trip to the contemporary art wonderderland of Inhotim and the colonial mining towns of Minas Gerais? (Didn’t seem like the most fun place to travel solo.)

Aerial View of Copacabana Beach

Aerial View of Copacabana Beach

Finally, I narrowed my options down to three and turned to my Facebook page for advice. And y’all did not let me down! I got tons of great feedback when I asked for help deciding between these three:

• Brasilia: I’ve always been fascinated by the architecture of Brazil’s capital city, and it was incredibly cheap and simple to get to.

• Jericoacoara and the Lençóis Maranhenses: My heart was telling me to go here, despite the fact that it was logistically difficult, expensive, and pretty much as far away as I could get from Rio. But this beach girl just loved the idea of saying goodbye to Brazil on the sand!

• Bonito and the Pantanal: It was best time of the year to go to these top wildlife spotting destinations, though they are expensive destinations and mildly logistically difficult to plan. Mostly I was drawn by the freshwater diving possibilities.

Now guys, I have to confess something to you. I tried to change my flight to go home early. It’s no secret that I was really struggling with some of the miscommunications and frustrations we’d faced in Brazil, and so for the first time in years and years of being full-stop obsessed with travel, I tried to just throw in the towel on a trip and head back to New York to see my family. Brazil had turned out to be way more overwhelming than expected, and I just wasn’t sure I could do it without Heather to at least laugh along the way with.

In the end, the ticket change fee was over a thousand bucks and so price pretty quickly knocked that out of the running. Looking back, I am so, so grateful I couldn’t change that ticket — because what came next ended up being the highlight of the trip.

View from Porto Bay Rio Hotel Photo by Heather Holt Photography

View from Porto Bay Rio HotelPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

View from Porto Bay Rio Hotel Photo by Heather Holt Photography

In the end, one thing made the decision for me: the fear of loneliness.

I’d been warned that Brazil was a tricky place to travel solo if you don’t speak Portuguese, as most hostels are filled with domestic travelers (very cool if you do speak the local language!) and Brazil is skipped over by many backpackers who are scared off by the higher prices and more stringent visa requirements than those of neighboring countries.

I kind of brushed off those reports before arrival, but over time I was bowled over by how accurate they were for us, as well. Listen, I love my solo travels — but I have never been more grateful to have Heather by my side! The more I looked into Brasilia and Bonito, the most convinced I was that I’d end up feeling quite isolated and spend my trip more or less completely in my own company. In some cases, that would be exactly what I was looking for. In this particular moment though, it just sounded lonely.

I booked a flight for less than twenty-four hours later to Fortaleza, Brazil — the gateway to Jericoacoara.

View from Porto Bay Rio HotelPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

Porto Bay Rio Rooftop PoolPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

To celebrate my decision, we headed down to the beach!

One thing I wasn’t celebrating? The price of my flight. Brazil is not very conducive to spontaneous travel — flight prices were extremely reasonable when I was researching a few months out but absolutely skyrocketed closer to departure date, leaving little room to wing it. One of the things that really pushed me to cancel the Iguassu Falls trip was that I waited too long to book a flight away from the falls, and by the time I really needed to make a decision on where to go next, they were just painfully astronomically priced! As in literally, the day before we cancelled I started looking up flights and actually burst into tears. And um, yeah, considering the distances between Iguassu and anywhere, anything but air travel was an automatic no.

Flights from Rio were luckily a bit more reasonable but also had gone way, way up since my initial searches. Thankfully I had the resources available to stretch myself but it definitely would have been better — from a financial perspective, anyway — to book ahead. If you want flexibility in Brazil, it appears you really will have to pay for it.

Copacabana Beach

Vendors on Copacabana BeachPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

Once again, I felt a massive relief after making my choice. I think I felt like because I’m a scuba diver, I should go to Bonito. Because the flights were cheap, I should go to Brasilia. Instead I chose the least practical, most expensive and most logistically difficult option of going to Jericoacoara.

But dang, it just felt right to follow my heart.

Rio Flag Canga on Copacabana BeachPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

Vendors on Copacabana BeachPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

Fishing Boat off Copacabana BeachPhoto by Heather Holt Photography

After a beautifully lazy day spent beach and poolside, we headed out to toast to the last night of our trip with tapas at Zot. Unfortunately I am a full-blown failure at reading restaurant’s opening hours, and we soon found ourselves wandering the streets looking for a stand-in. Lo and behold, we stumbled onto El Born, another absolutely fabulous tapas restaurant that our Barcelonian friend confirmed via my live-text stream of our meal was incredibly authentic.

Granted, we didn’t do much with our final 24 hours in Rio. But in contrast to our jam-packed first week, it was bliss. Personally, I wildly preferred hip Ipanema to more touristy Copacabana, but they are both beautiful stretches of sand. Our treat-yourself-palooza was the perfect end to the latest chapter in Heather and I’s globetrotting friendship!

Porto Bay Rio Champagne Welcome Drink

And with a long, sad goodbye hug, I was off to tackle Northern Brazil — solo!

Considering a trip to the land of caipirinhas? Consider accommodation where you’ll have a kitchen in which to whip up your own. Airbnb exploded in popularity in Brazil in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and then again ahead of the 2016 Olympics, a shift that continues to benefit travelers — especially those headed to big cities.

Want to get $40 off your first Airbnb booking? Click here!

Airbnb has its perks everywhere around the world, but in Brazil in particular I found it had quite a few advantages over traditional hotels.

Airbnb in Brazil

For one, laundry — I was warned ahead of my trip by several bloggers that laundry service was hard to come by in Brazil, and boy, were they right. Unlike hostels in Europe and Southeast Asia, not a single hostel and even several hotels I stayed at in Brazil did not offer a laundry service of any kind. Some offered to point me in the direction of a local laundromat, but my days were quite busy and setting aside a full one to do a wash and dry just didn’t fit into the itinerary. So having access to a washing machine occasionally along the way of our trip was essential. (A Scrubba washbag would have been a good back up in-between.)

Also, much of Brazil can be fairly challenging to travel for those with special dietary needs — vegans will certainly find themselves occasionally frustrated in this meat and cheese laden land. Solution? Having a kitchen at hand! Even without any special circumstances beyond a light case of picky eating, I enjoyed having some breaks from eating out on such a long trip.

Finally, I personally found Brazil to be at times overwhelming to communicate in. If you don’t speak Portuguese, an Airbnb can be a nice place to retreat, recharge, and get ready for your next round of talking tango. For our six week trip through Brazil, Heather and I rented Airbnbs in São Paulo and Rio de Janiero, and scoured listings for every destination we visited in the country. Here are a few of my favorites!

Airbnb in Brazil

São Paulo

São Paulo had, hands down, the best selection of Airbnbs I’ve seen… anywhere! I was astounded at the amount of super trendy, wildly affordable apartments in some of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, like hip Vila Madalena and charming Vila Mariana. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised; considering São Paulo is the art and design capital of the country, it makes sense its residents would have some pretty well-done dwellings. Based on the amazing and diverse listings I favorited, I feel like any traveler to São Paulo would be crazy not to check out Airbnb listings.

Heather and I ended up renting a colorful one bedroom in Vila Madalena to recover from the Tomorrowland Brazil festival in. We’d originally rented a similarly styled apartment at a lower rate, but when the host cancelled at the last minute, Airbnb happily provided us enough credit to upgrade to this listings. Between the pool, the gym, and the comfy couch, we didn’t want to leave! The hosts were generous and kind, and we left rested and refreshed after two short nights. Starting at $96 per night.

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Looking for something a bit more affordable? Check out this contemporary studio in the heart of the same neighborhood, starting at $53 per night.

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Airbnb in Sao Paulo

Rio de Janeiro

Overall, the Airbnb selection in Rio was a bit dated compared to São Paulo’s slick listings, and in the Southern beach zones, the majority were located in Copacabana as opposed to hipper Ipanema.

That said, I was beyond obsessed with the charming and chic loft we ended up booking for three nights by the beach. Again our host was communicative and helpful, and we relished the opportunity to play house for a few days between hotel-hopping. Rates start at $85 per night.

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Airbnb in Rio

Another listing we considered was a small but sweet studio in Copacabana starting at $60 per night.

Airbnb in Brazil

Not a beach bum? Check out this colorful and artsy offering in Lapa, starting at just $40 per night.

Airbnb in Brazil

Paraty

Paraty probably won’t wow you with its overall selection of Airbnbs. This traveler’s retreat home is a stunning exception. Starting at $96 per night.

Airbnb in Paraty

Airbnb in Paraty

Airbnb in Paraty

Airbnb in Brazil

Ilha Grande

Like Paraty, Ilha Grande doesn’t have a huge selection of Airbnbs. Most are rooms in pousadas or guesthouses rather than freestanding apartments. One incredibly unique exception? A charming ramshackle houseboat floating in Vila de Abraão Bay. Heather and I nixed it due to the lack of electricity and wifi, but for travelers not running online businesses, it might be the perfect fit! Starting at $82 per night.

Airbnb in Ilha Grande

Airbnb in Ilha Grande

Airbnb in Ilha Grande

Airbnb in Ilha Grande

Airbnb in Ilha Grande

Brasília

In a vast sea of drab corporate hotels, Airbnb stands out as an exciting option in Brasília. While most apartments won’t be featured on design blogs anytime soon, I did find one great deal with style in spades. I didn’t end up making it to Brasília on this trip, but when I return I’d love to hit up this modern and cute studio for just $36 per night.

Airbnb in Brasilia

Airbnb in Brasilia

Airbnb in Brasilia

Don’t forget! If you want to get $40 off your first Airbnb booking, click here for my free discount code! I can’t wait to hear about your own experiences in Brazil and beyond in the comments.

Do you look for rental apartments when you travel, or do you still stick to hotels and hostels?

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The Best Airbnbs in Brazil

Why You Should Airbnb in Brazil

Oh, my monthly roundups. They are so ridiculously out of sync with real time now (this post is basically eleven months late, whoops!) that I recently considered axing the series, but I decided to play catch up instead — so brace yourself for a couple of these coming up! However, now that I’m writing on multiple timelines they do serve as a nice roadmap of my archives for those who want to follow my travels chronologically.

Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never… right? 😛

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My first month in Brazil was this roller coaster in which I would be having this unbelievable experience or this really authentic connection or seeing this amazing sight and my heart would be bursting with how lucky I felt to be there, and then moments later something would happen that would leave me baffled or fuming and I’d have to just hold back tears.

A lot of minor things went wrong in Brazil on a regular basis (major attractions being closed, tour disappointments, communication breakdowns) and for some reason I really took them to heart more so than I did on other trips. Maybe that’s because my expectations were so high, maybe it’s because I was nearing heart-attack level stress over work, maybe it’s because I planned a relatively ambitious itinerary. Maybe I just got into a funk early on and had a hard time shifting my attitude. Even so far after the fact, when I hoped to have some clarity, it’s hard to parse, exactly. It terms of frustrations it was up there with Vietnam, which until now was the most challenging trip I’ve ever taken, mentally. Yet there was so much incredible joy in there, too. Like I said — a roller coaster!

Sao Paulo Travel BlogSão Paulo

Indeed, my trip to Brazil was a wild ride. It was also a full six weeks, so it will end up being split up into two roundups — this one here I believe is the longest post I’ve ever written!

Where I Was

• Fifty-two hours in overnight transit

• Two nights in São Paulo

• Four nights in Itú

• Two nights in São Paulo

• Five nights in Paraty

• Three nights in Ilha Grande

• Seven nights in Rio de Janeiro

• Five nights in Buzios

• One night in Rio de Janeiro

Highlights

• Honestly, getting there. Why? Because it was nowhere near as bad as I imagined! A motorbike ride, a ferry, a shuttle, four flights on three itineraries, and a cab ride equaled fifty-two-and-a-half hours in non-stop, door-to-door transit to get from my apartment in Koh Tao, Thailand to my hostel in São Paulo, Brazil.(Normally I would never do a nutso travel itinerary like this, but I had a really short window of time between Songkran in Thailand and Tomorrowland in Brazil!)

It was my longest stretch of uninterrupted transit ever. No fun layovers, no leaving the airports. Just one big blur of boarding passes, security checks and baggage claims. What made it tolerable was flying airlines I love, and having a lounge pass at JFK (thanks for the spare, dad!) that meant I could take a shower and chill a bit before boarding my last red-eye flight to Brazil.

• Falling wildly in love with São Paulo. Honestly, it’s just such a cool place, and I adored both places I stayed there, my hostel in Vila Mariana and my Airbnb in Vila Madalena (where our hosts were some of the sweetest people ever). Both places were both trendy reflections on the city they were set in — which had fun yoga studios, a hoppin’ healthy food scene, and so many chic bars and cafes I could barely stand it. It was good that I loved my accommodation so much, because I spent a lot of time in it — between recovering from my travels and recovering from Tomorrowland, I didn’t do nearly as much as I’d hoped in my two short stints in São Paulo, other than chill.

• Soaking up so much street art. My Instagram tour around the hippest haunts of São Paulo — street art included — was so inspiring and fun, I don’t think I would have appreciated the city half as much without it. I didn’t think it could possibly be topped by the street art tour we took in Rio, but I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite! Both were led by creative, passionate, badass ladies — my favorite kind of businesses to support.

• Dancing my heart out at Tomorrowland Brasil! While there were a lot of disappointments — see below — those couldn’t take away from the hearts-and-rainbow soaked good times we managed to have despite them. Guys, I just love festivals. At this one, the weather was stunning, the natural setting was beautiful, the stages were fun, we loved the cashless wristband system, and in comparison to the Belgian version the music was a little more accessible and the food and drinks were a little cheaper. And oh yeah, champagne was everywhere!

• Dressing up for Tomorrowland Brasil. In comparison to the Belgian original, we noticed that festival go-ers at the Brazilian spin-off were way more into dressing up in crazy outfits — so yeah, we blended right in.

• Making the most of Paraty. After having gorgeous weather for the first week of my trip, Paraty really tested us. But again, we really tried our best to look on the bright side and enjoy the highlights of the seaside town, even when it was darkened by rain clouds — wandering around and photographing the beautifully preserved colonial architecture, a private yoga class and spa day at a really unique, lush villa, and a delightful dinner party and cooking class with two of the most colorful characters in Southern Brazil.

• Soaking up the sun again in Ilha Grande! Oh how happy we were to see blue skies! And we sure made the most of them, wandering every little lane in the charming Vila do Abraão, stand up paddling in the idyllic bay, and tackling three of the island’s sixteen marked hiking trails. Ilha Grande is packed with free and reasonably priced entertainment options — it’s a nature-lover’s playground!

• Being literally the first two people at the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. What a rush! …And a photo op! Getting up and out the door early — rare for this pair — also meant we had plenty of time to explore Lapa and Downtown Rio after, too. We had so much fun spotting tiles from our favorite destinations all over the world in Lapa steps — it was the perfect sightseeing morning.

• Experiencing humbling hospitality in a favela. One of the most eye-opening and enlightening days of our trip was in Santa Marta, where we were welcomed into the home of our tour company owner and got invited to a football game the next day (I wish we’d gone!) by our tour guide. The favela was nothing like I thought it would be — and it’s something I’m so grateful to have experienced. The art project at the base of the hill that made this particular favela famous was the icing on the proverbial cake!

• The rush of hang gliding! I do love my “adventures in jumping off things” series, but somehow hang gliding had alluded me up until this point. What an iconic city to check it out in! Hang gliding is a major industry in Rio, which made it feel very routine, regulated, and safe — can’t recommend a better place to give it a whirl.

• Beach bumming. We were lucky to have beach time in Ilha Grande (so gorgeous!) and Buzios (briefly!) but my favorite beach days were on Ipanema Beach in Rio. In all my years of sun-chasing, I’ve never experienced anything like Brazilian beach culture — one of the biggest reasons I plan to return to Brazil someday despite all the challenges. I loved every second on the sand!

• Playing house. The hostel from our first few days in Rio was a bit of a disappointment, so we were extra wild over our insanely adorable Airbnb by the beach. It was full of charm and character, and was just a really comfortable place to chill out and take a breather from travel — watch movies, order take-away, do some laundry (a surprisingly difficult task to achieve otherwise in Brazil), and generally re-group. I’m a big fan of apartment rentals in general, but in Brazil they are particularly necessary for long trips!

• Going diving in Buzios. After failed attempts in Paraty and Ilha Grande and our first booking being cancelled in Buzios, we were so relieved we got to go diving! And despite the disaster it was to get there (see below) once we were on the Seaquest boat we had a really chilled-out, nice day of diving. I found lots of exotic little creatures to bug out over, and it just felt good to be underwater — in my happy place! — again.

Canceling our trip to Iguassu. It was a hard decision, because I hated wasting the money we spent on what we couldn’t get refunded from our flight and hotel, but I felt ten tons come off my shoulders as soon as we made the call. Honestly, it was a harder decision for Heather than it was for me as she feels less confident that she’ll return to Brazil someday, but I just know that we would have been miserable rushing around in the rain.

• Getting a bonus day in Buzios. It meant we got another night in our insanely adorable beachfront hostel, we got to go out and experience Buzios’s infamous weekend nightlife, and we got a day of beach-hopping in a buggy! Were we hungover and did we wish we woke up earlier? Yes and yes. But it would have been practically criminal to leave Buzios without checking off this flagship activity. I’m so glad we didn’t have to!

• Getting a bonus night in Rio. We did our week in Rio fairly off-the-beaten path — we split our time between a funky hostel in Botafogo and an Airbnb in the winding hills behind Ipanema. So for our final, spontaneous night back in the city, we booked the first beachfront hotel with a rooftop pool that popped up on Tripadvisor. For $80 each, it was a crazy fun and relaxing splurge!

• Catching epic sunsets. As you’ll read below, the sunset time was a bit of a sore spot for us in Brazil. But we did have a couple spectacular ones — a stunning final sunset behind the main stage at Tomorrowland, a giddy night drinking champagne and watching surfers at Aproador and an evening watching the lights of Rio going on from atop Sugarloaf in Rio, and a beautiful sunset from the dock in Buzios.

• Generally feeling much safer than we anticipated. We were a bit on edge about bringing out expensive electronics to Brazil, mostly in Rio, and ended up relieved not to experience any crime — or feel particularly threatened by it, either.

Tomorrowland a href=Tomorrowland Brasil

Lowlights and Lessons

You’ll notice that a lot of the highlights and moments I loved from my trip were almost universally tainted with disappointments and frustrations, too. I think if I had read a post like this that basically told me to brace for impact, I would have been mentally prepared and been able to adjust my expectations and attitude before walking in. So consider this my gift to you.

Also, this is where I hope to work through all my lingering resentments from Brazil so just be warned, this is going to be one of those months where the lowlights are longer than the highlights and I’m going to get petty AF. It’s so much cheaper than therapy!

• Moving way too fast. Seriously, when will I learn. Twelve different beds split across five cities and one festival, all in thirty days? I know better than to think I could do that while working from the road and without burning out — but I forged ahead anyway. This one was my bad, not Brazil’s!

Also, we moved accommodation in three out of those five cities, which added to the sense of chaos. In retrospect, I would have skipped the two comped hotels in exchange for just hosteling all the way through, if it meant less moving parts and check-ins and check-outs.

• Sunset time. It sounds like a hilarious thing to complain about, but seriously, the sun was setting at 5:15-5:30pm throughout our trip. As someone who has hated the dark and suffered from an animal-like craving for Vitamin D her entire life, I am all about the 9pm summer sunsets. The later the better. And when you happen to be on an insane sightseeing schedule like we were, an early sunset just becomes an enormous hassle.

My work productivity starts at an all-time peak the moment I wake up and basically nose-dives throughout the day, so when I’m on the road I try to wake up early and get as much work done as possible before leaving my accommodation. In Brazil that left us with a small window between work time and sunset, and it always felt like we were scrambling against the clock to get everything in that we wanted to do during daylight hours.

• Weather. We were woe-fully unprepared for both the rain and thelow evening temperatures we encountered. Oops.

• Festival flops. So, in a lot of ways Tomorrowland Brasil was a complete organizational disaster, so much so that I was not really surprised to hear it was cancelled indefinitely in anticipation of its third year. I don’t want to take away from what a serious blast we had making the best of it… but Rome was pretty much burning around us and we were just dancing in the flames.

The magnitude and frequency of the issues at this particular event were just plain unforgivable given the ticket price, and they really put a damper on the overall experience. The big three were the camping situation outlined below, almost getting locked out of the festival when trying to upgrade to VIP, and our daily struggle to find one English speaking staff member at a festival with thousands of attendees from English speaking countries. Normally I am super careful to frame my frustrations with my communication issues in Brazil to take all the blame for not speaking Portuguese. But not here — if you aggressively market an international music festival to English speaking countries and have an English-language website and exclusively sell tickets in US currency, you sure as hell better make sure you have at least a handful of staff who are comfortable speaking English so that those guests feel safe and informed.

• Wasting $700 on “VIP” camping. We were extremely disappointed with the Dream Lodge situation and one of my biggest regrets from Brazil is not saving nearly a grand by doing Easy Tents instead. Among a million minor disasters and disappointments, we were literally held hostage on check out day. Also, the layout of the campground was so illogical it hurt our brains, things were stolen from our tent, and staff at our “VIP” campgrounds were indifferent and inefficient and frequently gave us incorrect information or shrugs when we requested help. It just felt like a huge rip-off, particularly painful after it was one of the highlights of our festival at Tomorrowland Belgium.

• Getting booked out. In a way, I really regret not being more spontaneous in Brazil — but in another, I realize that even planning ahead like we did, I struggled. The private room I wanted at my hostel in São Paulo? Only available one night, had to switch into a dorm after that. The room we requested at our hostel in Rio? Snapped up before we got the chance, as were so many of the amazing Airbnbs we first bookmarked. Some adventure tour companies I contacted were booked a whole month in advance, and flights skyrocketed in price if you didn’t book crazy early. It drove me crazy to feel like I was doing so much research and planning so far in advance, and still not getting exactly what I wanted.

I’m trying to use my frustration and disappointments to finally learn this lesson once and for all: JUST BOOK IT. My wavering and wishy-washy decision making over trivial details meant I missed out on AirBnBs and hostel rooms that I knew I wanted right from the get-go! I wondered if I could reach out and partner with those brands, I wondered if maybe I wanted to tweak the itinerary by a day or two here or there, I wondered if I might magically find an even more perfect unicorn of an apartment the day after. My indecision really makes me want to punch myself in the face sometimes.

• A total washout in Paraty. I honestly have concluded that Paraty is a fabulous destination — that we really didn’t get to enjoy because it downpoured the entire five days we were there, with the sun finally breaking through the morning we left. In retrospect, I wish we’d just accepted that it was going to rain the whole time and embraced the time to get work done. But instead we spent a lot of time agonizing over weather reports and trying to run around and reschedule stuff every time there was a momentary break in the clouds. It was a huge waste of time and mental energy, and it would have been better to just get ahead on work.

• When it rains, it pours. Paraty is a pretty good example of the “even when things went right they went wrong” phenomenon. That fabulous dinner party? We had a booking snafu that left us both sick to our stomachs with stress. That spa day we adored? Well, we were pretty bummed when a power cut meant we had to cancel half of it. And yeah, our horseback trip? Well, nothing went right there, other than the fact that we were out of our rooms and the rain was holding off and technically, we were sitting on horses — otherwise it was a complete mess on my part.

Paraty Travel BlogParaty

• Running around Rio. I actually loved every single tour we did in Rio and would be very, very hard pressed to pick a favorite. Our only major “time wastes” were transportation snafus and going to Sugarloaf only to find it closed. That said, we had a very packed itinerary and I left craving more chilled-out beach days! In retrospect, I think I would have been much happier if we’d taken our exact itinerary for Rio and stretched it from one week to two, allowing the extra time to be filled in by work time and morning runs and drinking caipirinhas on the beach. When you schedule things down to the minute it leaves very little room for those inevitable little disasters, like when I had a last minute work call pop up that I had to clear and afternoon for, or when Heather took an unexpected trip to the hospital for an infection.

• Sugarloaf frustrations! Wow, was this iconic Rio site hard to see. Our first evening in Rio, we threw down our bags, rushed like crazy people to get into an Uber, and arrived to find… that the cablecar was closed for three days due to construction. Buzzkill! Later, on our Christo Redentor tour, the guide was talking about taking the other guests there after and we were like, oh gosh, luckily you mentioned this to us because it’s actually closed! And he kind of shrugged and said maybe it was open. And we told him the guards very clearly informed us that it would be closed for three days and he seemed irritated — I couldn’t believe he was going to waste the other guests time like that.

And then it was our final night in Rio and our last chance to go. Our Uber driver was literally the worst I’ve ever had and ignored the apps directions, got lost, and made us frantically late. I was almost in tears in the cab! We made it just in time, and ended up with a stunning sunset… but suffice it to say that it was a microcosm of our time in Brazil.

• Biking blues. In what is pretty much another perfect metaphor for our time in Brazil, we were extremely excited that Rio had a bike share program, with a bike stand right next to our Airbnb! What an affordable fun and sustainable way to get around the city for two bike lovers! Fast forward a few hours and a few handfulls of hair: the bikes required a local SIM card to be unlocked, and we only had one SIM card, and reservations online could only be made for one person, and reservations in person blah blah blah it was completely impossible to do. This was when all the stories about Rio not being ready for the Olympics were reaching a fever pitch and I was reading them thinking… yup.

• Fabulous as our tours in Rio were, there were some minor frustrations — forgetting my camera battery on our favela tour (my fault), not getting the full street art tour because other guests had refused to go into a pacified favela (eyeroll), getting blatantly misled on the hang gliding photo package (such a rip off), having to reconfirm our Christo tour not once, not twice, but three times (and then getting annoyed at our guide when he told us to buy snacks and then immediately insisted we board a shuttle where no food or drinks were allowed and sniffed at us for holding up the group), canceling our favela nightlife tour and not being able to get a refund (actually, the manager kindly offered to give it to us in cash, but it would have taken hours to cross the city to get it so we passed — and this one was our own hungover fault anyway).

Between the poor transportation infrastructure for tourists and the struggle to obtain correct information when booking tours and planning outings, I have concluded that it is very hard to “do stuff” in Brazil and really rewarding and amazing to basically do nothing in Brazil. It’s more or less what I finally gave up and did for my final week in Brazil (coming up next roundup) and, well, it was way better.

Ilha Grande Travel Blog

• A professional meltdown. As I alluded to in this post, I had one of the greatest communication disasters of my entire blogging career while in Brazil that landed Heather and I in deeply awkward, horrible situations I simply felt powerless to disentangle us from. I still don’t feel comfortable sharing every dirty detail (as I can’t find a way to do so without being unprofessional myself), but suffice it to say that it really taught me some huge lessons: the importance of being clear in my requests to and expectations of the brands I partner with, the self-respect to pull the plug when I see so many red flags that there’s a sea of crimson in front of me, and the need for a business manager in my life who stands up for me when I am being treated unfairly.

I was also reminded that sometimes, the risks of partnering with travel brands outweigh the benefits, and that my focus should always be on increasing my income rather than arranging so-called “freebies” that come with a million strings attached.

The entire situation was undoubtedly the greatest mental burden on my time in Brazil, an ordeal that left me sleepless and my stomach twisted with stress and terrified to look at my inbox from the day we left for Tomorrowland to the moment I finally felt free of the situation half-way through our time in Buzios. Dying of curiosity? I promise, the whole story will come out some day… hopefully when I can tell it in print.

• Our symbolically loaded failed transfer to Buzios. It was, in short, a total nightmare. I described it pretty well here, but the bottom line is it was arranged by the organization from my previous bullet point — so, yeah:

The transfer we’d literally triple confirmed from Rio to Buzios left us cooling our heels on the sidewalks of Copacabana for two hours after handing in the keys to our Airbnb, and we eventually had no choice but to take a $90 Uber if we were to reach our accommodation by nightfall.

Frankly, it was one of the most stressful days we had in Brazil — sitting on the hot curb of a notoriously crime-heavy city with thousands and thousands of dollars in electronics and one slowly dying phone, surrounded by dog poo and waiting for a confirmed transfer that never arrived and then later being reprimanded for missing it — and it put us in a pretty funky mood.

• Another spa “situation.” Heather felt so bad for me after everything came to a head in Buzios, she treated both of us to spa day at Casas Brancas. It was kind of a hilarious example of even on the good days, things went wrong. We shivered in the plunge pool until realizing it was, in fact, a broken hot tub, and I found myself wandering around the spa unattended after being left alone, explanation-less, moments into my facial. At least at this point the little stuff just seemed funny.

• Post office rage. Wow, did this little thing not seem funny at the time though: in Buzios, I put together a pile of gifts to mail home rather than continue traveling around the country with. We arrived to a ridiculously long, slow line. I tried to look around for a box to purchase, but unlike US post office, all the mailing supplies are kept behind the counter. I tried to quickly and politely grab a box from an employee in between customers so I could prepare and label my package while I cooled my heels in line for nearly an hour, but they just angrily yelled at me to get back in line, and I watched while every single person in the line went up one by one, got a box/envelope/whatever, and stood there painstakingly preparing their package while the employee just stared at them. This post office is where efficiency went to die. It was the worst system I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t believe everyone just accepted it! Basically I was the stereotypical traveler who can’t accept why things aren’t done the wonderful way they are at home (who would have ever guessed I’d be longing for the coherence of the US postal system) and rather than just patiently accept things for what they were I stood there burning from the inside with rage. Totally not embarrassed about that in retrospect at all.

• Our diving near-disaster. Our first diving attempt was cancelled by wind and when we finally made it, the visibility wasn’t great. But you can’t do much about weather. You can, however, do something about not being a jerk to your customers. From the moment we were picked up by Pablo, I had a bad feeling. He was downright rude, and totally ignored my attempts to speak to him in Spanish when I realized he was from Argentina (I thought perhaps he just didn’t speak English comfortably as first). Then, he gave us the wrong wetsuits — and was totally rude about it! Thankfully our dive day was rescued by the company he handed us off to upon arrival in Arraial do Cabo, because it came really close to being a total wash.

• Losing my dive computer. Yup, that was an expensive mistake. I can’t really be sure when exactly this happened, but my suspicious is it may have been stolen somewhere in Brazil. However, I can’t confirm it — there’s a chance I misplaced it when moving out of my apartment in Thailand, too. Regardless, it stung.

• Sticker shock. Back in Rio, my computer charger died. No big deal, I thought, at least I’m in a big city. Until I saw the $200+ price tag! Say what?! They weren’t kidding about electronics being marked up in Brazil. I literally cried in the store. Thankfully I was totally rescued yet again by Heather, who gave me her charger and let me send a $50 Amazon one to her next stop in Chicago. She’s such a good friend.

• Wanting more. This is just me being greedy, but I wish I’d had more time in a few destinations! There were so many things I wanted to do that I didn’t have time for in São Paulo in particular — parks, museums, walking tours, etc. In Ilha Grande, I’d loved to have tackled more hikes and in Rio I was down for more beach days. In Buzios and Paraty, we definitely scheduled the perfect amount of time, had we not had rain.

• Communication. I wrote extensively about our communication struggles in this post, but suffice it to say I’ll never again brush off someone’s concerns about language barriers. I guess my first 30ish countries just didn’t prepare me for the fact that sometimes, communication frustration can seriously damper a trip.

Rio Travel BlogRio

LOLs

• Google Translate saved our bums many times. This wasn’t one of them — but these wine listtranslations from Paraty still makes me belly laugh when I look at them.

• One of my more comical misunderstandings from Brazil involved bubbly — my thirty minute attempt to purchase a glass of champagne in which I was continually pointed from one line to another until a frightened-looking employee thrust an empty champagne flute into my hands and ran away. That was one of my favorite laughs from Tomorrowland Brasil.

This sign.

• We planned our trip at the height of Zika mania, and my dad showed an uncharacteristic concern for my well-being on this trip. On one heavy phone call where he actually asked me to consider postponing it, he asked me for Heather’s parent’s phone number 😂 Heather is a grown woman in her thirties with her own business who hasn’t lived at home in nearly two decades, so that really tickled my funny bone. And it was also really cute.

Best and Worst Beds of the Month

Best: We loved both our Airbnbs so much, and I adored our ocean-front hostel in Buzios and my charming colonial one in Vila Mariana

Worst: Our hostels in Rio, Paraty and Ilha Grande were nothing to write home about. Rio was particularly disappointing — didn’t get the room we thought we booked and felt kinda meh about the whole place (which later closed, so apparently we weren’t alone.)

Best and Worst Meals of the Month

Worst:I’m going to level with you — really, aside from the specific meals I will list below, we were very underwhelmed by the overall restaurant experience in Brazil. On the whole, prices were very expensive, service was so-so, and meals were, well, often just okay. This is one of the reasons I was thrilled to break up our hotel stays with Airbnbs and hostels that had kitchens — and to have some beach snack picnics along the way!

Best:Normally I pick one standout, but for the reason listed above I’m going to list out all my highlights in one place for anyone who might be planning a trip to Brazil. I loved Raw, Maha Mantra, Biozone, and Motocó Cafe (order the dadinhos de tapioca com queijo coalho and a Guaraná for a super Brazilian snack!) in São Paulo, Banana da Terra and Thai Brasil in Paraty, Meza, and Zaza in Rio de Janeiro, and Salt and Rocka in Buzios. More recommendations can be found in my posts for each destination. Bom apetite!

Buzios Travel BlogBuzios

Spending

This Brazil trip cost a fortune — my four days at Tomorrowland Brasil alone cost almost what an entire month does for me in Thailand! Read the breakdown for more details. This was my second most expensive month of the year, only beat out at the last moment by my month spent in Hawaii. Food, accommodation and transportation all gave me sticker shock in Brazil! It’s wild to think I spent so much even considering some of the work perks I was able to take advantage of — comped tours, transfers, a few nights of accommodation, and using some of my Airbnb credit took some of the sting off what could have been an even bigger bill.

My biggest stand-out expenses were our group transfer from São Paulo to Paraty ($70) our cooking class in Paraty ($80) our unexpected cab to Buzios ($45), our diving day in Buzios ($90) and various cancellation fees for our non-trip to Iguassu Falls ($100, and the best money I’ve ever spent on nothing!)

One thing I nailed was flights, after several hours spent pouring over spreadsheets and search engines trying to figure out the cheapest and most efficient way to get from Thailand To Brazil and eventually back to New York was this:

• I booked a round-trip flight from New York to São Paulo for $508 after watching for weeks. Flights kept dropping due to zika madness and political instability and for once I got them right at the bottom of the curve. One way flights along this route were more than a round-trip ticket!

• I used 35,000 AA frequent flyer miles to fly from Bangkok to New York one-way, paying $60 in fees.

• Knowing how long I was going to be in transit already, I majorly splurged and bought a flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok for $144, basically the priciest way to get from Koh Tao to the international airport in Bangkok — but also by far the fastest and most comfortable. With the insane journey ahead, it was a guilt-free splurge!

I also did something very out-of-character for myself and did a lot of shopping in Brazil! Brazilian bikinis, beach cangas, Havianas, and colorful Brazilian work-out wear were just too fun to resist and I found myself filling my already over-packed bag even further to the seams. It was fun!

Saving

For better or for worse, I had a flood of projects come in while I was in Brazil. For one, I scheduled tons of tour reviews with Viator, which are fun but indeed time consuming. I also picked up projects with a sunscreen brand, a new travel app I hadn’t worked with before, and an old travel app I had worked with before. Between those and my standard annual contracts, it was a very busy month behind-the-scenes, too. I’m amazed I produced any blog content at all! (At the time, it was my lowest posts-per-month rate in five years! I’ve since lowered the bar again, oops.)

In addition to the major professional disaster that I went into detail about above, it was a tough month for making work work. I had a client for a very simple project who absolutely insisted we “hop on a call” and also pushed for a crazy deadline that messed with our plans one week, and I literally spent hours on the phone and in tears trying to track down a product that had been shipped to me for another project the next. Thankfully, it was a very profitable month, which helped offset the crazy cost of Brazil and made the suffering worthwhile! I just barely made it out in the black.

Rio Travel BlogRio, again

Health and Fitness

Real talk: Brazil was BAD for my waistline. And I definitely let it get to my head after working so hard to get back on track in Thailand. Outside of the amazing vegetarian food we sought out in São Paulo, we found Brazilian fare to be heavy, fried, and composed primarily of meat and cheese.

Heather is one of those tall, naturally slim chicas who can literally eat pizza every night and still look like a glamazon. I, unfortunately, blow up at the simple contemplation of cheese plate, and though Heather and I travel together frequently, I found it challenging to be in Brazil with someone who happily eats heavy bread and pasta at every meal. It was so hard to avoid them and seek out healthier food, and it was made a lot harder by traveling with someone who didn’t have much incentive for doing so.

And unfortunately, the insane-in-the-membrane itinerary I created for us didn’t leave much time for working it off. One thing I noted was that yoga isn’t super popular in Brazil. While Sao Paulo had a few studios, Rio had a shocking dearth of them! Ashtanga, Iyengar and Hatha were the styles of choice in Brazil over the Vinyasa and Yin that I favor.

I went to one studio bikram yoga class and used our Airbnb gym once in Sao Paulo, went for one run and a private yoga class in Paraty, went hiking and stand up paddleboarding in Ilha Grande, went to a hotel yoga class in Buzios, and used the hotel gym on our last night in Rio.

What Was Next

Two more weeks in Brazil, followed by summer in the USA!

Thanks for coming along for the ride, my friends!

Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

Rio de Janeiro - the city of samba, expanses of beach, and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue - provides the starting point for this tour, which samples the vibrance of Latin American culture and the beauty of its nature. Scale the heights of Sugarloaf Mountain in a cable car, which affords breathtaking views of the city. Visit Rio de Janeiro’s biggest attractions on a city tour before travelling to western Brazil and the awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls. Experience the might of this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you tour various trails around the falls. Then, head to Buenos Aires, Argentina, dubbed the ‘Paris of the Southern Hemisphere’. A tour of this cosmopolitan city takes visitors from historic plazas to the colourful neighbourhoods of La Boca and Palermo.

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