Rio de Janeiro Travel Tips
Rio de Janeiro Facts
Official Language: Portuguese
Time Zone: UTC-3 (1 hour ahead of EST)
Est. Population: 6 Million
Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful city to visit anytime of the year. The tropical climate has an average temperature of 80 degrees. Though Humidity and thunderstorms are common during the summer, Rio is NOT in a Hurricane Zone.
Currency is the “Real” with major credit cards accepted by most establishments. Portuguese is the official language and some English is spoken by locals. Bring a Portuguese phrase book with you. Hotels have the most expensive rates on phone calls, so purchase a phone card for your international calls.
Banks are open from 10am-4pm (Monday-Friday). ATMs are plentiful and the most convenient way to get Reals. Some ATMs may only accept PIN numbers with 4 digits. Passports and visas are necessary for U.S. citizens. Most malls are open 10am-10pm (Monday-Saturday). Most non-mall stores are open 9am-6:30pm (Monday-Friday) and 9am-1pm (Saturday).
Electricity is different than the U.S., so bring an adapter. If you use a film camera, bring plenty of film, since film is more expensive in Rio de Janeiro. It’s convenient and you can discard unwanted photos immediately. If you use a digital camera, you should bring an extra battery or battery charger.
The major holidays in Rio de Janeiro are New Year’s Eve, Carnaval, Good Friday, Easter, Tiradentes, Labor Day, Corpus Christi, and Independence Day, Holy Mary’s Day, All Soul’s Day, Proclamation of the Republic Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. Rio de Janeiro is the official host for the 2007 Pan American Games. For specific dates, go to the Brazil Tourism Office.
Rio de Janeiro is a major tourist destination, so visitors should use common sense when out and about. For more travel tips, go to Advice and Observations.
Brazilian Portuguese Language
• Bring a Brazilian Portugese Phrasebook with you.
• You will use the Brazilian Portugese equivalent for the following English words/phrases often so memorize their Portugese pronunciation before your trip: Sir, Madame, Hello, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, Goodbye, I don’t understand, Where is?, How much?, Do you speak English?
• Charm, good manners and a thumbs up are appreciated by Brazilians. You are expected to greet small shop owners and elderly people. The more you use (Sir, Madame, Hello, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me), the more help you’ll receive.
Flight To Rio
• Confirm your flight at least 48 hours in advance.
• Check the luggage policy for your airline.
• Make a copy of your passport/flight itinerary/hotel reservations and leave it with someone at home. Carry an extra copy with you.
• Request an exit row seat for more legroom.
• Pack headache, airborne and other medicines in your hand luggage.
• If you have a cold or have problems with air pressure, purchase the special ear plugs for air pressure available at most airports or large pharmacies.
• Bring an eye patch for sleeping.
• Bring plenty of magazines, books, DVDs, CDs and extra player batteries for entertainment.
• Although you can get flights from Los Angeles and Dallas to Sao Paulo with a short hop over to Rio, the most flights leave from Miami, New York and to lesser extent from Atlanta and Houston. Allow plenty of time for your transfer, in case of delay.
• If it’s raining, run into a cafe and relax. Don’t get frustrated trying to read maps and street signs in the rain while dealing with an umbrella.
Before leaving your hotel, check the weather report. Rio can have sunshine and rain on the same day.
• Bring plenty of anti-bacterial wipes (Wet Ones, Purell, etc.) to help prevent illness.
• Before leaving the U.S., find out if your health insurance covers an unexpected visit to the doctor in Rio and the locations of the hospitals covered by your health insurance.
• Have at least a general understanding of the metric system, as it is used for everything.
• If you are a shopper, $600 is the per person limit before you pay a duty on purchase.
Rio Hotel Rooms, Money & Valuables
• Most hotel rooms are small compared to the U.S., so pack accordingly.
• Air conditioning is not available in many older hotels away from the beaches.
• English language television stations are limited (i.e., CNN, MTV).
• Confirm that the breakfast buffet is included in your room price before going to the breakfast room.
• If you need to cancel a hotel room, confirm the hotel’s cancellation policy and get the cancellation in writing in order to avoid cancellation fees later.
• By American standards, downgrade hotel listings of 5, 4, and 3 stars by one star.
• Bring at least one ATM card and credit card from the U.S. Use the ATM card to get Reals, since they usually have a better rate than many currency exchange offices. • • Your ATM card should have a code of only 4 digits.
• Cash is more commonly accepted than credit cards at many establishments.
• Exchange dollars into small bills (5 Reals, 10 reals and coins), since you need small change when out and about.
• Locals don’t wear money belts. If you choose to wear a money belt, you stand out as a tourist.
• Place your money in hidden pockets or deep inside your bag, so that it’s hard for pickpockets.
• Put only things that you are willing to lose in your visible pockets.
• When walking around Rio, carry little cash, a credit card, a driver’s license and a copy of your passport with you for identification. It’s easier to replace a stolen driver’s license than a U.S. passport.
• Store your passport, extra money, plane ticket, list of credit card/ATM card customer service phone numbers and other valuables in the locked hotel safe.
• When dining with a mixed party (men and women), the men are usually always addressed and served first.
• Tipping in restaurants is typically 10-15%, but gratuity is often included. Ask your waiter beforehand if paying by credit card, because they have to add it on first.
Safety for Women
Compared to major U.S. cities, Rio is most similar to Miami. Women should use common sense when walking around. Sisters traveling alone should assume they are traveling in a major U.S. city and take the necessary precautions. Pickpockets don’t fit a profile. So use care when in tourist attraction areas and using public transportation. Seek help from official looking people only (train station agents, tourist office, tour bus drivers, airport information desk, airline employees, hotel desk clerks, etc.). Although its okay for men, visiting women should not walk or jog Avenida Atlantica in Copacabana alone at night.