With the Olympics just around the corner, people from all over the world are flocking to Rio de Janeiro this very minute. But is it safe to go? And what do you have to know about the samba capital? Here’s a little background info on Rio – and why I love this city so much.
Truth be told, Rio isn’t for the faint-hearted. Yes, the crime rate is quite high and no, you shouldn’t flash your gold jewelry or Prada bags on the beach, but if you travel with cautiousness and an understanding of the culture, there’s a chance you might fall in love with the city of samba and sun – just like I did! Without further ado, here’s 6 reasons you need to put the destination on your bucket list.
Locals Rio citizens, or Cariocas as they’re called, are friendly and warm-hearted. Rest assured, they’ll guide you in any direction or lead you anywhere you want to go – cause they’re super proud of their city! Don’t be surprised if you receive a spontaneous invitation for drinks or dinner by someone you just met; it’s in their culture to be outgoing. Even though Cariocas might not be the most helpful Brazilians on the planet (they can also be stressed city people), you can count on them if you need advice – even if you don’t speak the same language.
It can get crazy hot in Rio, but generally speaking, Rio has the most amazing climate all year round. During summer, temperatures can easily reach 40ºC while winter temperatures are usually between 22-25ºC. Rainy season occurs in late March, but that shouldn’t stop you, cause it never gets cold. The best months to visit Rio (in my opinion) are December-March.
This is closely linked to number 4, cause there’s no beach hopping without a stunning sunset! Rio has been a provider of the most breathtaking sunsets in the world since….forever. Once you’ve seen the sun go down from Arpoador (Ipanema beach), you’ll change. I know I did. When the sun has finally set, many people are applausing it by clapping and cheering. One of my most memorable travel experiences has been to watch the sun set at Ipanema (accompanied by an ice cold Bohemia – Brazilian beer – of course).
4. Beach life
Life is better at the beach. Simple as that. If you’re a sucker for beautiful beaches – like me – there’s no way around visiting the legendary Copacabana and Ipanema. You’ll quickly realize that this is where Rio comes to life – this is the very essence of the city. Everyone gather here: from little kids playing in the sand to families, celebrities, hunks, beach babes and body builders. And speaking of which; Cariocas are very keen on looking good and taking care of their bodies, so don’t be surprised if you find fitness gear and sweaty athletes everywhere you look. It’s all part of the lifestyle here.
It’s a well-known fact that Brazilians know how to party. This is no exception in Rio. Everywhere you go, you’ll find groups of people hanging out by the beach, in one of the many bars or simply on the beach promenades. Ipanema and Copacabana are perfect settings for both romantic evening strolls and cocktails with your friends. There’s usually someone hosting a BBQ and it’s not easy to mingle with the locals. I recommend brushing up on your Portuguese (just a bit) since not everyone speak English. If you prefer exploring the neighborhoods, I can highly recommend spending a night in the vibrant area of Lapa or in the trendy district of Leblon.
So yes, Rio is everything you expect it to be. It’s a hot mess, a stunning capital covered in lush green hills, humid and crowded, relaxing and life-affirming. A question I’ve often received after coming back from my month-long trip in January is: ‘is it safe there?!’ The most legit answer has to be ‘it depends’. Cause while there are so many good things to say about Rio, the crime rate is high and visitors are always instructed to be extra careful. Luckily, I never had any uncomfortable experiences, but I know some who has. Like in any other capital in the world, you simply have to use your common sense when walking the streets at night or taking the metro after dark. As a general rule of thumb: don’t go anywhere alone after dark and avoid hanging out at the beaches (especially Copacabana) after sunset. Other than that, enjoy your time in Rio, which is – after all – one of the most stunning capitals in the world.