Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with its glitzy Carnival, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Christ statue on Corcovado, and the “itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny” bikinis littering the beach at Ipanema. Brazil’s lively cultural capital nestles between the sea and the mountains, and is home to Tijuca Forest, the world’s biggest urban forest, which was completely replanted during the late 19th century. The city is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, encompassing most of Brazil’s major tourist attractions.
Tourists booking flights to Rio are advised to bring their open minds and attitudes. Temptation runs rapid in Rio — if the samba doesn’t seduce you, the people will. The city moves to the music of the choro, samba and bossa nova, all of which form the principal source of Brazilian national culture. Rio’s infamous annual carnival is a wild, colorful and hedonistic affair that draws together both rich and poor, who flood the streets for the world’s largest samba parade on the Sambodromo.
If you like the heat you will love Rio de Janeiro where the temperature rarely drops below 68 degrees (Fahrenheit). Rio has a classical tropical climate. December to March is summer, and it is very humid with temperatures topping 100 degrees. December has the most rain and July and August the least. Winter is short, lasting only from June to September. Daytime temperatures in winter are in the 70s and 80s the nights are cooler.
Carnival, usually in February, is “the” time to come to Rio. To take in some sights and museums, you will need to arrive a few days before the party starts and linger a few days after. Flights to Rio and hotel prices are higher during Carnival. Book your hotel and Rio de Janeiro flight at least a year in advance.
Another grand party is New Year’s Eve, called Reveillon. Millions pack the beach for the all-night celebration, music, and fireworks.
The city is less crowded and prices are a bit lower in winter, from May to October, with the exception of Reveillon.
The Rio de Janeiro subway doesn’t reach all parts of the city, but it is air conditioned and quicker and cheaper than the buses, which can take you anywhere. You will need to learn enough Portuguese to ask for directions though, since few drivers speak English. Avoid taking buses at night; they can be a hotspot for robberies. The private Fresco buses have regular stops and can be flagged down anywhere on the way to the beach, downtown or the airport. If you’re traveling anywhere in the city at night, take a taxi to play it safe. There are plenty of taxis around, and you shouldn’t have trouble flagging one down. For a more reliable and air-conditioned cab, your best bet is one of the radio taxis and cab companies that serves hotels. It’s always a good idea to negotiate your fare before you get in the car if the meter isn’t running. If you rent a car, stay alert and keep the car doors locked. You’ll have to deal with heavy traffic, poorly labeled streets and scarce parking.