Glad you decided to consider Rio de Janeiro solo travel! I lived here and have been coming here for the last 10 years. In this Rio de Janeiro travel guide, I will share all my personal experiences and stories about the most marvelous city in the world!
📬 Hello, Trisha! I have been following you since your first trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2014. I am so curious why you keep coming back. A lot of people told me it’s dangerous! I’ve been watching your Instagram stories and I was wondering how is Rio de Janeiro solo travel? It looks so much fun and I would like to have local experiences! I don’t intend to stay for a month like you but I would like to know the safety in Rio de Janeiro in general. I can’t convince my friends to go there so I am planning to fly solo! I am looking forward to your tips. Thank you so much for all the helpful content you put out there!– Michelle Lawler, United States
Glad you are here and you’re right – not everyone will pursue Rio de Janeiro solo travel. I think I’d only recommend it if you already traveled to countries like Cuba or Egypt where you get a lot of attention.
The thing is safety in Rio de Janeiro solo travel is so much different like in other countries. Here, you worry about theft and people stealing your things.
I really feel like every country that has been unlabeled safe has different themes when it comes to safety. I will definitely discuss this later on but feel free to send me a message if you feel like this article is incomplete.
Overall, I will recommend Rio de Janeiro solo travel – you are going to love it! This is my favorite city in the world!
Scared to travel alone? Why not join my trips?
Change the way you travel and spend your money to trips that matter – trips that you will never forget. My group trips are highly focused on responsible travel, supports local communities, and avoids the obligatory touristic circuit.
💃🏽 Rio de Janeiro solo travel: personal experience
I was robbed in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago and that was my only experience that has been bad and sort of derailed my travel. My passport was also taken.
The good thing about that experience is that I was in a crowded supermarket and I wasn’t robbed upfront. I didn’t even feel that someone had already taken my purse.
From this experience, I knew that I had to be more careful and very very watchful about bringing cash. I don’t even bring my phone anymore whenever I go out.
On the other hand, Rio de Janeiro solo travel was one of the best years of my life. First, I stayed for four months and on the second trip, I stayed for another 4. Now, I am spending the holidays in Rio de Janeiro after 7 years of not coming back!
The most common question that solo travelers ask me: why do you love it if it’s a dangerous city? Look, Rio is only dangerous in terms of money and personal belongings.
First, I have many Brazilian friends who live here which makes my Rio de Janeiro solo travel experience different. Technically, I fly to Rio by myself but when I am here, I am never alone.
They would take me to local places and we’ll go to samba parties every night. They’re not only doing that only because I am visiting but this is really the carioca’s way of life.
The Brazilians prefer to party on the streets than go to clubs so you will always see Rio bustling with music, great vibe, and energy. They love dancing on the streets that sometimes causes traffic!
I have a lot of fond memories of Rio de Janeiro but be warned: this is a party city. And it’s not the kind of party that we experience in our homes – this is totally different!
🇧🇷 Why I love to travel to Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian culture is one of a kind!
I believe I was a Brazilian in my past life. I am so drawn to this culture and I feel like it is one of the most unique in Latin America.
I have traveled Latin America extensively (from Mexico to Argentina) and I find Brazil to have a different culture. First, unlike its neighbors, it’s a Portuguese colony.
The rich cultural landscape of Rio de Janeiro is a vivid mix of influences from its indigenous, African, and European roots.
Rio is often considered the beating heart of Brazil’s famed samba music and dance, manifesting in its local samba schools and impromptu street gatherings.
While Carnival in Rio has global fame, it’s deeply rooted in local tradition, serving as a community celebration that encapsulates the city’s zest for life.
Everywhere you go and everywhere you look, there is an imprint of Brazilian culture all over Rio. It’s such a lively city!
It’s a city on the beach
I also lived in beach cities like Tel Aviv and Barcelona. I love this kind of mix! Imagine having the modernity of a city and at the same time, the stillness of the ocean. It is my dream life setting!
Beach culture is integral to Rio’s social fabric. Iconic stretches like Copacabana and Ipanema are more than just scenic spots.
They are communal grounds where locals indulge in soccer, ‘altinho’ (a ball-juggling game), and general socializing, bridging social and economic divides.
Samba and street culture are amazing!
I love music and samba is one of the most unique, lively, and passionate music. Samba is a vibrant genre of music and dance that originated in Brazil, specifically among Afro-Brazilian communities.
Rooted in African rhythms and Portuguese melodies, it’s a cultural expression that captures the essence of Brazil’s diverse heritage.
Characterized by its lively beats, fast-paced drumming, and intricate dance steps, samba is not just a performance but a form of storytelling.
In Rio de Janeiro, samba is more than just music or dance; it’s a way of life. You don’t even have to visit during Carnival to experience samba culture in Rio.
Impromptu street performances, known as “rodas de samba,” are common and offer a more intimate setting to enjoy this cultural treasure.
One of the cultural traits that I love about samba is that everyone is welcome. Once you see the rodas de samba on the street, you can simply join in and dance with the locals!
I so got into samba that I even went to different music venues just to see a samba show!
Brazilians are extremely friendly people
If you are regularly following this blog, you probably know that I have lived with a Brazilian family for 90 days and it is one of the best experiences of my life.
From living with them, I learned about their way of life, what they cook, what they eat, etc. They took me in like I was their own and it was really amazing to have a home away from home.
This is one of the reasons why I am confident about Rio de Janeiro solo travel. I already know people there so I do not, and will never feel unsafe.
If it’s your first time to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians are known for their warm and hospitable nature, and this extends to how they interact with tourists. Brazilians are enthusiastic about sharing their culture!
That said, as with any destination, it’s essential for us to be respectful of local customs, traditions, and etiquette to foster positive interactions.
Basic courtesies like greeting in the local language (Portuguese) and showing interest in the culture can go a long way in enhancing your experience and the friendliness you receive in return.
Of course, I am not speaking for all Brazilians. In busy tourist areas, you may encounter individuals looking to profit from tourism, so it’s always a good idea to be cautious and informed.
✈️ Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide
Best time to travel to Rio de Janeiro
The best time to visit Rio de Janeiro depends largely on what you want to experience. If you’re keen on joining the city’s world-famous Carnival festivities, then late February to early March is your window.
Weather-wise, the summer months from December to March offer warm temperatures ranging from 25°C to 40°C (77°F to 104°F), perfect for beach activities and outdoor exploration.
If you’re not a fan of the heat and crowds, consider visiting during the spring (September to November) or autumn (April to June).
During these seasons, the temperatures are milder, averaging around 20°C to 28°C (68°F to 82°F), and you’ll find fewer tourists crowding the major attractions.
Flights to Rio de Janeiro
There are many direct flights to Rio de Janeiro from the USA, Canada, and Europe. Flight prices start from $700 USD (2-way). In some instances, flights may have to stop in Sao Paulo.
Safety in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, while mesmerizing in its beauty and culture, presents safety concerns like many large urban centers. Travelers should stay vigilant, especially in crowded areas and avoid ostentatious displays of wealth.
Opting for registered taxis or reputable ride-sharing services, rather than random street hails, can mitigate risks.
Additionally, it’s prudent to be cautious in lesser-known neighborhoods and avoid venturing out alone at night.
While Rio demands a heightened sense of awareness, countless visitors have incredible, trouble-free experiences by taking these simple precautions.
Renting a car in Rio de Janeiro
I only did this once and I do not recommend it if you are not used to driving rules in Brazil. My Brazilian friends are the ones who are usually driving but in some cases, I was also asked to drive.
As I stayed in Rio de Janeiro for a while, the driving rules are not strange to me so only consider this is you are confident in driving in another country.
✨ Rio de Janeiro Travel Tips
ATM withdrawals and currency exchange
The local currency is the Brazilian Real (BRL), often displayed as R$. ATMs and currency exchange kiosks are readily available at most international airports.
To avoid any issues with your bank, make sure to notify them of your travel dates in advance. It’s also advisable to use ATMs during daytime and in areas that are busy, as ATMs in secluded places can be a target for theft.
The most reputable and safest banks to withdraw cash from include Banco do Brasil, Itaú, Bradesco, and Santander.
These banks have a large network of ATMs across the country, including in tourist hotspots like Rio de Janeiro, and offer multilingual support, enhancing the overall user experience for international travelers.
They also maintain strong security measures, including surveillance cameras and guards at some locations, making them reliable options for withdrawing cash.
Use of credit cards in Rio de Janeiro
Brazil is actually a credit card country. With the rampant petty theft, everyone avoids bringing cash because almost all establishments accept credit cards!
The first time I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, I was buying coconut water on the beach and realized that I did not have cash. The vendor simply took out his credit card terminal and said he could accept card.
Yep, even beach vendors have their own terminals and no minimum fee to use them.
When using your credit card in Rio, always keep an eye on it during transactions to prevent card skimming or other fraudulent activities.
Inform your credit card company of your travel dates so that your card is not flagged for suspicious activity when used abroad.
Tipping in Rio de Janeiro
Tipping in Brazil is not obligatory but is always appreciated. In restaurants, you’ll often find that a 10% service charge is added to the bill automatically.
Personally, I tip as I would do back home but not to a crazy extent like we are used to in North America. Servers will always appreciate it!
Areas to avoid in Rio de Janeiro
While Rio de Janeiro is a captivating city, it’s crucial to be cautious about the areas you explore. Try to stick to well-lit and populated regions, especially during nighttime.
It’s recommended to exercise caution in less touristy areas and the favelas, which are impoverished neighborhoods known for high crime rates.
I know people who went on their own to the favelas and got robbed although I did it myself and did not have the same experience.
If you don’t speak the local language or don’t have any Brazilian friends, do go to favelas on your own.
What to eat in Brazil
Brazilian cuisine is not my favorite but only because I have been staying for longer periods of time so it gets repetitive. However, there are some things I like about it and you’d probably want to try them for a short visit.
The national dish, feijoada, is a must-try. It’s a hearty black bean stew that features a mix of pork and beef.
Brazil also offers an array of exotic fruits like açaí and pitanga. And, of course, you must try Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, made from cachaça (sugarcane liquor), lime, and sugar.
Okay, you can miss all of those above but don’t skip rodizio. Rodízio is a style of restaurant service in Brazilian cuisine, particularly popular for its barbecue, known as churrasco.
In a rodízio restaurant, waiters circulate among the tables with skewers of various types of grilled meats, ranging from beef, pork, and chicken to sometimes more exotic choices like lamb or wild game.
As they pass by, they offer to slice portions directly onto the diners’ plates. This all-you-can-eat service usually comes at a fixed price, and the meat keeps coming until you signal that you’ve had enough, often by turning over a card to its red side on your table.
Helpful Portuguese phrases for Rio de Janeiro travel
I speak Portuguese and it is one of my favorite languages to speak! Before I became fluent in Spanish, I actually spoke Portuguese first.
However, I found out that speaking Spanish does not necessarily mean you’ll understand Portuguese. I don’t expect you to be fluent but language is one of the most powerful tools that I use in my life as a solo traveler – it makes me feel safe!
Here are some helpful phrases that you can use when you travel to Rio de Janeiro. FYI, the language in Brazil is Brazilian Portuguese.
|Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening||Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite|
|How are you?||Como você está?|
|My name is [Your Name]||Meu nome é [Your Name]|
|Nice to meet you||Prazer em conhecê-lo|
|Thank you||Obrigado (for men) / Obrigada (for women)|
|Yes / No||Sim / Não|
|Do you speak English?||Fala inglês?|
|I don’t understand||Eu não entendo|
|Can you repeat, please?||Pode repetir, por favor?|
|How much does this cost?||Quanto custa isso?|
|Where is the bathroom?||Onde é o banheiro?|
|I am lost||Eu estou perdido (for men) / Eu estou perdida (for women|
|Can you help me?||Pode me ajudar?|
|Where is the [Place Name]?||Onde fica o [Place Name]?|
|I need a taxi||Preciso de um táxi|
|Is there Wi-Fi?||Tem Wi-Fi?|
|One beer, please||Uma cerveja, por favor|
🚕 Rio de Janeiro Transportation Guide
There are many ways to get around Rio de Janeiro. Personally, I just use Uber because it’s really cheap but mind you, Rio de Janeiro is a big city!
The Rio de Janeiro Metro is a convenient and fast way to travel around the city. It serves main neighborhoods like Copacabana, Ipanema, and Botafogo, as well as connects to downtown areas.
- Advantages: Quick, efficient, and generally safe, especially during daytime
- Limitations: Doesn’t cover all areas, so you may need additional transportation for your final destination.
Buses are another public transportation option, with extensive routes that can take you almost anywhere in the city.
- Advantages: Wide coverage, inexpensive
- Limitations: Can be crowded, slower due to traffic, and may not be the safest option at night.
Taxis are readily available throughout the city and offer a comfortable way to get around. They are usually safe if you just hail them from the street. No app needed.
- Advantages: Safe and convenient, especially for short distances or areas not served by the metro
- Limitations: Can be expensive, especially during peak hours or in heavy traffic
Uber in Rio de Janeiro
Uber and other similar services operate in Rio and offer a convenient way to get around. This is what I always use and it’s really cheap and safe.
- Advantages: Generally cheaper than taxis, can be ordered via smartphone apps, and provides the option to see fare estimates beforehand
- Limitations: May not be available in less-populated areas and can have surge pricing during busy times
Rio has a bike-sharing system, with rental stations scattered around the city. You will see this in every corner and it is one of the safest.
Rio has safe bike lanes. I rent bikes when I am staying in Rio for more than 2 weeks.
- Advantages: Great for short distances and a fun way to explore parks or beachfront areas
- Limitations: Not ideal for long distances or navigating through traffic.
Vans and Minibuses
Informal van services are common and often ply routes that buses cover. The busses are really comfortable and you may want to use this when you are visiting tourist spots.
- Advantages: Often less crowded than buses, sometimes faster
- Limitations: Varying quality and safety standards, not always officially regulated.
Ferries are available for crossing Guanabara Bay to reach cities like Niterói.
- Advantages: Offers scenic views and avoids road traffic
- Limitations: Limited routes and schedules, mainly serves specific destinations.
📍 Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: safe areas
Ipanema is one of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic neighborhoods, offering an enticing blend of stunning beaches, upscale shops, and lively restaurants and bars.
In terms of safety, Ipanema is generally considered to be one of the safer parts of Rio, especially when compared to more central or impoverished areas.
The neighborhood is highly accessible to tourists, with well-maintained roads and excellent public transport options, including its own metro station.
Its famous beach is an obvious draw, but it also serves as a great base for exploring the rest of the city due to its central location.
Perhaps the most famous beach neighborhood in the world, Copacabana is an excellent location for travelers.
While it is relatively safe during the daytime and in well-lit and populated areas, caution should be exercised during the night and in less crowded regions.
Copacabana is exceedingly accessible for tourists, with numerous bus routes and a metro line running through it.
The abundance of shops, restaurants, and beach activities also makes it a convenient place to stay, without the need for frequent additional travel.
Lapa is best known for its bohemian atmosphere and vibrant nightlife, marked by samba clubs, bars, and street parties.
While this makes it an exciting area to visit, it’s generally considered less safe than neighborhoods like Ipanema and Copacabana, especially late at night.
Travelers are advised to stick to populated areas and take registered taxis or reputable ride-sharing services.
In terms of accessibility, Lapa is centrally located and well-connected by bus routes. However, the nearest metro station is a bit of a walk.
Nestled atop a hill overlooking Rio, Santa Teresa is known for its colonial architecture, artistic atmosphere, and panoramic views.
It has a more laid-back and bohemian vibe compared to the bustling beach neighborhoods. While generally a safe area, its hilly and sometimes poorly lit streets require some caution, especially at night.
Santa Teresa is less directly accessible by public transportation; there’s no metro service, and the bus routes are limited, but the iconic yellow tram provides a scenic way to reach the area.
🏨 Best Rio de Janeiro hotels
If you are traveling alone to Rio de Janeiro, I would suggest that you stay in a hostel to easily make friends and find people to always go out with. Hostels always organize group activities!
If you are looking for an amazing hotel in Rio de Janeiro, refer to the post above about where to stay in Rio and find the best neighborhood that suits your travel preference.
To make sure that you are looking in the right locations, refer to the links below:
Of course, I always have my go-to accommodations. I try to stay in different places in each visit to be able to genuinely recommend accommodations to readers of this blog. Just ask me!
🧭 Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro
You can always refer to my things to do in Rio de Janeiro list (genuine, local, and not your typical tourist route but here’s a brief list of my favorite activities for seeing the important sights and landmark:
- Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch (from $62 USD)
- Christ Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Hill (from $79.50 USD)
- Hang Gliding or Paragliding in Rio (from $162 USD)
- Helicopter Flight over Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer (from $192 USD)
- Jeep adventure through Tijuca Rain Forest (from $64 USD)
💵 Rio de Janeiro travel budget (one person)
This Rio de Janeiro travel budget below is not a generic cost but what I actually spend when traveling to Rio.
As we are different travelers, I don’t expect you to spend the same but I want to give you an idea based on my personal travel expenses. I don’t really like to give generic travel expenses that won’t apply to all.
|Hostel (shared)||$25 USD|
|Hotel (private)||$85 USD|
|Restaurant meal||$12 USD|
|Unlimited meat||$30 USD|
|Street beers||$1.50 USD|
|Drinks in a club||$8 USD|
|Rooftop brunch||$18 USD|
|Glass of wine||$5 USD|
Remember that the cost of travel to Rio de Janeiro depends largely on what you like to do and what you like to spend for. And these are mine.
🏻🏽 How to meet people in Rio de Janeiro
Join my group travel to Rio de Janeiro!
I organize group travels to Rio de Janeiro every year. Some of the trips are led by me and some are by my local friends. We usually do it during the harsh winter season of North America and during carnival.
Feel free to join a week of fun on an all-inclusive trip to Rio with a small group. My itineraries are unique and local!
I can also arrange your trip for you! One of the things I do for travelers (mostly families and groups) is arrange their trip so they will feel safer during their trip to Rio.
I can customize Rio itineraries and sign you up with tours that support the local community. This way, you don’t have to worry about your trip – I’ll plan everything and all you have to do is enjoy!
Stay in hostels
I have been staying in hostels since I was 19 years old (I am 34 now!) and it’s still one of the best ways to meet people, especially when it comes to Rio de Janeiro solo travel.
When you stay in a hostel, you will get to meet other solo travelers. Additionally, hostels always organize group tours and activities together!
Join the Selina Whatsapp group
Okay, for the whole month that I was in Brazil in December 2021, I did not stay the whole time at Selina but I kept the Whatsapp group! I mean, I didn’t get kicked out of the group so why not stay? So many people to meet who are always looking for things to do!
Every night, the hostel guests get together and I also share with them where to party in Rio – it was a lot of fun to always meet new people!
Join Couchsurfing meet-ups
Did you know that my long-time friends in Rio de Janeiro whom I met in 2014 are all from Couchsurfing?! CS saved my life and I was so glad that I was able to use it during its glory days.
I heard that these days, it’s really terrible to be hosted (as a girl).
Even if I do not use Couchsurfing as a method of staying with locals anymore (I’ve grown up. I used it for 7 years of my travel life), I still use their app called Couchsurfing hangouts. I love hanging out with people here when I am traveling alone!
Go to Pedra do Sal
It’s not only for samba but literally, just stand there by yourself and everyone will be chatting with you! I mean, if you’re a girl, this should be easy. If you’re a guy, well, Brazilian girls like American guys.
But honestly, even without the ulterior motive, you will easily meet people in Pedra do sal because the layout is so open – you can see everyone all the time!
Bumble or Tinder in Rio de Janeiro
My girl friends use Tinder in Rio de Janeiro more and one of them actually said that ever since COVID, Tinder has improved a lot. People were isolated for a long time and now they can go out, they are actually up their dating game!
Meaning, Tinder is not just for sex in Rio de Janeiro but for genuinely meeting people. Of course, this isn’t applicable to all. There are still people out there (whatever gender) who use Tinder for sex. So I’ll let you decide!
Wanna look like a local or feel safer on first-time Tinder dates? You should decide where to go! Email me to get the safest place to meet your Tinder matches in Rio!
Get in touch with me and I will introduce you to friends!
I have so many friends in Rio de Janeiro who can introduce you to local life and take you around. Just get in touch with me (use contact page) and I’ll make an intro!
This is absolutely great for you if you want to have a different kind of travel experience.
⁉️ FAQ: Travel to Rio de Janeiro
Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.