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Useful Facts about Rio de Janeiro

 

Useful Facts about Rio de Janeiro

 

Read some useful facts and important information about Rio de Janeiro and learn the basics before your arrival in Brazil to make the most out of your travel time in the Marvellous City!

 

Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

 

1. LANGUAGE

 

Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is spoken by the majority of the population. It is the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio, TV, and for all business and administrative purposes. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, giving it a national culture distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbours.

The Brazilian language developed individually from the Portuguese of Portugal, it was influenced by the Amerindian and African languages creating a language with phonological and orthographic variations similar to the differences between American and British English. Nevertheless, many Amerindian minority languages are spoken daily within Brazil's huge territory, mainly by the indigenous peoples from Northern Brazil. Some of the main indigenous languages are: Apalaí, Arara, Bororo, Canela, Carajá, Caribe, Guarani (also in Paraguay and some places of Argentina and Bolivia), Kaingang, Nadëb, Nheengatu, Terena, Tucano, Tupiniquim, among others. 

Watch this video to learn some key words and phrases in Portuguese.

 


 

2. WEATHER

 

Rio has a tropical semi-humid climate that varies depending on the local altitude and doesn’t have any specific weather seasons besides a rainy season during the summer and a dry season during winter. The average annual temperature is 23°C (73.5°F) but the temperature in Rio from December to March, which are the humid summer months, can sometimes reach 40° C (104° F) and in July the lowest temperature is around 18° C (64° F), but the most common temperature is above 30°C (86°F) and it can be like this for the rest of the year along with a cool sea-breeze that moderates the temperature throughout the year.

The average annual minimum temperature is 20°C (68°F), the average annual maximum temperature is 26°C (79°F). The lowest minimum temperature recorded was 4.8°C (40°F) in July 1928, but temperatures below 10°C (50°F) are rare nowadays. The highest maximum was 43.2°C (110°F) in January 1984.

 


 

3. TIME

 

Rio de Janeiro’s time corresponds to GMT -3. During the winter, the sun sets around 17:00 (5:00 pm), while during summer the sun goes down at 8:00 pm. Throughout the year, no matter the season, the city’s activities extend until very late at night.

 


 

4. ELECTRICITY

 

The metric system is used (Kilograms, Kilometres and Litres) and Electricity is 110 volts, 60 Hz. Power outlets are with 2 flat holes and ground connection. If you need to connect your laptop that works with a range of 110-220 volts, you can buy an adapter in any electricity store for R$5 or $$10.

 


 

5. RELIGION

 

The Brazilian Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion. With the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, Brazil ceased to have an official religion, although in 1994 nearly 70 percent of the population declared themselves to be Roman Catholic.

There are increasing numbers of Evangelistic Protestants of different denominations, and small Muslim representations in the larger cities. There is also a large population practicing religions derived from West African origin such as Candomblé, Macumba or Santería and these are pretty common across Brazil.

 


 

6. HEALTH AND VACCINATIONS

 

No vaccination is mandatory to visit the city, except for people coming from Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela as well as parts of Africa and other tropical areas with a high risk of yellow fever. Travellers coming from these regions should get the International Vaccination Certificate against yellow fever as it could be required in the airport.

Despite that, it is important that you take medical advice before you travel and ask your personal physician at least 10 days in advance about the dengue fever vaccination as a preventive measure. Sometimes Rio de Janeiro is vulnerable to epidemics of dengue, especially during the summer months. If this should occur, be sure to use insect repellent and, if you stay in a place with outdoor space, make sure there is no standing water around (insects proliferate on the surface of these waters).

Another important issue regarding public health is public water. Tap water is ok, but it is not highly recommendable to drink as it can contain some microbes that may make you sick. Most people in Brazil do not drink tap water unless it is filtered.

It is strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, before you depart as the standards of public medical facilities in Rio de Janeiro are very low and private clinics and hospitals, while comparable to first world medical facilities, are very expensive. The treatment in public hospitals is free for tourists but if you need specialist assistance, don't hesitate on getting to a private hospital to receive proper and quicker attention.

Below we list some hospitals in Rio de Janeiro that specialise in medical care for tourists, have English-speaking doctors, are open 24 hours, offer home visits, and accept most traveller’s insurance.

The Tourist Doctor: Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 605/406, Copacabana. Tel: 3596-1222.

Clínica Galdino Campos: Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 492, Copacabana. Tel: 2548-9966.

Some Hospitals in Rio de Janeiro:

• Hospital Samaritano: Rua Bambina 98, Botafogo Zona Sul Section. Tel: +55 (21) 25379722
• Hospital Miguel Couto: Rua Mario Ribeiro, Gavea. Tel: + 55 (21) 22746050. Ambulance Service: +55 (21) 22742121
• Hospital Souza Aguiar: Praca da Republica 111, Centro. Tel: +55 (21) 22964114. Ambulance Service: +55 (21) 22212121

 


 

7. PUBLIC PHONES

 

Public phones are all around the city and operate with phone cards available from any newspaper stand. You will find communication centers all over the city with Internet access and phones to national and international calls at a better rate. There is also a wide range of international phone cards that you can use from any landline phone.

Brazil’s country code is + 55 and Rio de Janeiro’s area code is 21. If you are dialling a different state or city in Brazil you should first dial the operator code for the call (21 or 31). So, if you are trying to call to a landline or a mobile phone in Rio de Janeiro from other places inside Brazil you should dial the operator code + the code for Rio de Janeiro before the number (31 +21 + phone number).

 


 

8. HOLIDAYS AND BUSINESS HOURS

 

Businesses in Rio de Janeiro are usually open to clients from Monday to Friday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Retail stores are usually open all day until 8:00 pm and many of them stay open on Saturdays. Tourist attractions and activities are available seven days a week, though holidays are usually pretty quiet and some activities may be closed. For further information see Public holidays in Brazil.

Opening hours for most businesses are:
Banks: 10:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday (many have 24-hour access)
Post Offices: 9:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday
Department Stores and Shops: 9:00 to 19:00 weekdays and 9:00 to 14:00 Saturdays, closed Sundays.
Museums: 9:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday

 


 

9. CURRENCY

 

The local currency is the Brazilian Real (BRL). Bank note denominations are $100, $50, $20 $10, $5 or $2 and coins come in $1.0, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10 and $0.05. The official exchange rate is around BRL$ 2.0 for USD$1 or BRL$2.8 for 1€. Click here for the current exchange rate.

 

Banks, ATMs & Money Exchange Offices

 

Once you get to Rio you can exchange money for local currency at the airport as all exchange rates outside Brazil are high. At Banco do Brasil at the airport you can change money everyday from 8:00 a.m until 22:00 in Terminal 1 or find an ATM or American Express Exchange Office at terminal 2.

If you decide to bring cash, up to USD$10,000 can be brought to Brazil without declaration at customs. We don't recommend using travellers cheques as the exchange rate is not favourable at all, therefore it is recommendable to use them only as an emergency backup.

Almost all ATMs in Rio will give you cash, however, some of them only work with local credit cards, but don’t worry because you’ll find enough that also work with international credit cards. HSBC ATMs allow you to withdraw up to R$1000 a day while Citibank sometimes allow you to withdraw R$2.000 or R$3.000 a day, just take into account that ATM machines in Rio show messages mainly in Portuguese so if you need some help regarding your transaction, make sure you ask for help from bank personnel ONLY and that you don't show your credit card PIN to others.

During high season like New Year or Carnival the ATMs often run out of money, so remember to get some cash in advance. Also, don’t forget that most ATMs in Rio close for security reasons at 22:00, there are some that are open later, but it’s better to get your cash in daylight to reduce the risk of anything bad happening.

Banks opening hours in Rio: 10:00 am to 16:00 pm from Monday to Friday
Post Offices opening hours in Rio: 09:00 am to 18:00 pm from Monday to Friday

 


 

10. TAX

 

The VAT in Rio de Janeiro is 19%. When making purchases in stores with the sign “Tax Free,” you can request a tax refund in the airport by filling out a form and presenting the receipts or invoices. International flights have a departure tax of USD$36 payable in Brazilian Real or American dollars at the tax section just after check in.

 


 

11. RIO AIRPORTS

 

Rio’s International Airport is Antonio Carlos Jobim (GIG) better known by its former name Galeão International Airport. It's located on Ilha do Governador, in Guanabara Bay, some 20km (13 miles) north of the city center and it’s the second most important airport in Brazil after the Guarulhos Airport in Sao Paulo. Getting to the city center from the airport by taxi is the most common way, but there are also buses and other transfer services. You can take a taxi at the airport and pay what the meter marks or fix a price with the driver, just take care that the taxi is part of an official agency or order the service from the taxi stand in the airport itself. The service to/from tourist areas to the airport will cost approximately BRL$70, but most of the hotels and hostels offer taxi services you can order in advance.

There is a public bus that goes to the airport every 30 minutes along Atlantica Ave. (the beach avenue). It looks like any other public bus but it doesn't have a bus stop, so you must just wait for it at the pedestrian crossing and check it says “Aer International” since you’ll have to quickly stop it with a hand signal. The bus fare to the International Airport is R$14,65 per person, it goes to the regional airport and Rio downtown before arriving at the international airport.

Rio also has an airport which operates domestic flights: Santos Dumont Airport, which is located just 10 minutes from the downtown.

 


 

12. TRANSPORTATIONS

 

Although Rio is a large and sprawling city, the most interesting neighbourhoods for visitors are easy to reach. Public transport in Rio is cheap and efficient, and most places can be reached by subway or bus. The quickest and easiest way to get around Rio is by subway, but its coverage is limited as it only operates on two lines, therefore the buses are the main option available to everybody despite the busy traffic in the city.

Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Radio cabs can be ordered and are said to be safer and more reliable, usually with air-conditioning, but they are 30 percent more expensive than regular taxis. Driving in Rio is not recommended and hiring a car is expensive.

 

Buses

 

Regular city buses in Rio de Janeiro are a very inexpensive way of traveling around the city. One ride costs about R$3.40 which is paid to the assistant sitting next to the driver. There are some cheaper buses without air-con and some more modern with air-con versions. During the day it is a decent transport option if you know the routes and if you go through the safest areas of the city. They run until midnight, nevertheless at night it’s not as safe as it is during the day and it probably will be better to get a taxi if you are wandering around late at night.

 

Rio de Janeiro Taxis

 

Cabs in Rio de Janeiro are a very popular choice even amongst locals. They are indispensable, especially after a night out and when you are returning from faraway places, like Samba concerts, and parties. Rio de Janeiro has a very extensive taxi fleet which includes yellow metered cabs or special taxis operated by licensed companies which can be found at the airports.

The flag, or “Bandeira” in Portuguese indicates the rate. The system operates with two standards (1 and 2). The standard is 1 and the minimum rate currently starts at R$5.20. However, after 11pm, Sundays and holidays the fee is 2, indicating an increase in prices of about 20%. Some taxi drivers always charge rate 2 hours, but the practice is illegal. Always make sure the meter is on. Tourists are advised to only use taxis in Rio that have an official identification tag in the window which indicates that this is an official car.

 

Subway – Metro Rio

 

The Rio Metro is a mass transit network that includes 32 stations and two separate lines that move on average about half a million passengers a day. The system consists of two lines. Line 1 runs from downtown to the financial district and districts of the South, which is the most touristy part. Line 2 goes to the suburbs in the north, and the center in the south, and in peak hours there is substantial traffic on this line. The fare is $3.50 and includes the combination with buses arriving in neighbourhoods without stations, such as Gávea and Barra da Tijuca. For travellers, the subway is the most convenient for exploring the tourist neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro.

View the Metro Rio map.

 


 

13. SAFETY

 

It's true that Rio is not the safest place in the world but it is also a matter of taking some safety precautions, especially if you come from a country with a low crime rate and you are not used to thinking that a street robbery could happen to you.

Rio is a city with huge social differences where rich and poor coexist next to each other which makes petty crime the main security risk, especially in the South Zone and Copacabana Beach, whereas most violent crimes occurs in the North Zone and the Favelas.

In the city, as well in all the rest of Brazil, there is a huge lack of education, proper remuneration, government help and resources don’t reach the whole of society. All this due to a badly paid and incompetent police force, which make the streets of Rio a place where everyone tries to find their own way to survive. Don't be surprised if you realise that police officers are keen to receive bribes to supplement their income.

It’s said that the crime rate in Rio is not as bad as it was in the early 1990s, however, drug-related crime has increased lately and even though it doesn’t directly affect the tourist areas, you have to be attentive and react prudently if you have the bad luck to be part of a crime scene. You won't see people shooting in the streets, but since the police are so inefficient you can't expect too much.

Nevertheless, Rio has established a special tourist police unit responsible for patrolling the beaches in Zona Sul and other tourist areas. Many of them speak English and are trained in assisting travelers, Rio is still a wonderful destination that requires you to be completely alert and take some important considerations if you want to fully enjoy your vacation, that way you’ll avoid the police and any unpleasant situations.

Police emergency number in Rio: Dial 190
Federal police: +55 (21) 25115112 or +55 (21) 25115767

Read our guide to safety in Rio to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable vacation in Rio de Janeiro.

 


 

14. CUISINE

 

The cuisine in Rio is the result of the mix of Indian, African and European ingredients. Most of the preparatory techniques originate from the native people with some adaptations made by the African slaves and the Portuguese using local ingredients. Feijoada is the typical dish of Brazil, a delicious black-bean stew made with large pieces of pork, sausage and smoked meat, served with rice, farofa (toasted Manioc meal), which is traditionally served on Saturdays and can be found in almost any restaurant in the city.

Meat lovers can enjoy a classic local dinner known as a churrascaria, a Brazilian barbecue restaurant that usually operates under the rodizio system (all-you-can-eat, served at your table) where the waiter comes to your table with the meat on a skewer and cuts the slices of meat that you want (beef, chicken or pork). If you are looking for something more exotic, you can try a restaurant with Baiana food, a spicy African-influenced cuisine from Bahia (in northeastern Brazil) with delicious dishes where sea food and fish are the main ingredients.

For a regular cheap meal, there are several buffet-style restaurants that sell dishes by the kilo, known as comida a kilo, so what you pay depends on the weight of your plate, this is also a good option for vegetarians. But whatever your culinary approach, you probably will enjoy tasting the plentiful tropical fruits in Rio and the fresh fruit juices from the juice bars on every corner.

Juices are a very important part of Brazilian cuisine, so there are many places to get juice all over Rio de Janeiro, especially in la Zona Sur. Be sure to try the wide variety of tropical fruits and fresh juices (suco) served there and in Lanchonetes (snack bars) that are in almost every corner. In the majority of Lanchonetes, you can enjoy a cake or Salgado for less than R$5. Typical pastries are Coxinha and joelho (rolled dough stuffed with ham and cheese, a dish unique to Rio). Also try the Pão de Queijo (cheese baked dough) and Tapioca, a kind of pancake made from cassava flour, offered by street vendors.

For alcoholic drinks caipirinha is the most popular drink and can be found everyehere. It is a powerful cocktail made with cachaça, a rum-like liquor made with sugar cane, mixed with crushed ice and lime juice and it perfectly gives you a taste of the vibrant atmosphere of this marvelous city.

Police emergency number in Rio: Dial 190
Federal police: +55 (21) 25115112 or +55 (21) 25115767

Read our guide to safety in Rio to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable vacation in Rio de Janeiro.

 


 

15. PEOPLE

 

Rio is and always has been a highly cultured city. The high population density and rich ethnic mix has given shape to all forms of artistic expression, which is evident in the music, dance and lifestyle of the Cariocas especially during Carnival. There are many cultural centers, art galleries and performance venues in Rio, hosting an ever-changing series of events.

The Cariocas are well known for being friendly, nice, agreeable, and good-natured people, however some of them think they are smart enough to pickpocket you while you are entertained with their self confidence and easy going characters, so be careful. Their accent and manners are very particular and distinguish them from other regions in Brazil. Besides being famous for having the most beautiful women in the world, they are also lively people who live in love of their city, their music and their culture.

 


 

16. RESOURCES

 

Bus lines in Rio de Janeiro 
Rio de Janeiro Bus Terminal – Novo Rio
Airports in Brazil
Embassies and Consulates in Brazil

 

Maps

 

Ipanema
Copacabana
Centro

 


 

<<Check out all our Travel Guides about Rio de Janeiro>>

 

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