Rio de Janeiro (“River of January”) is the second largest city in Brazil and the biggest city I have even been to. Rio is known for its beautiful natural setting, carnival, samba, its beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon) and its crime (ever watched City of God?). Rio has a population of around 11 million people and is strange mix of wealth and poverty with everyone mixing together on the beach.
I was pretty nervous on the flight in from Santiago, but our arranged hostel transport was there on time and we arrived in our Ipanema hostel safely. We ventured out to explore and I was happy to find Rio’s Ipanema district to be modern, clean and efficient. We were only a few blocks off the beach and there were lots of stores and restaurants to keep us amused.
Rio is packed full of things to keep a traveler occupied, some of its most famous landmarks include: Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar), the Christ the Redeemer statue (‘Cristo Redentor‘) and Maracanã stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums. A bus tour covered all the must-see sights in a day and we booked ourselves some tickets to see a football game on another afternoon. Not a big football (soccer) fan myself, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the game! The open aired stadium was full of life and excitement, so much more than at any sporting events in North America.
Despite how amazing the experiences were, Rio still has a slightly insecure “vibe” to it. It made me quite uneasy when taxi’s would speed through traffic lights at night (helps to prevent car jacking) and when I saw one motorcyclist riding around holding a hand gun, my feelings about Rio were solidified. Its a beautiful place, but the wealth to poverty gap is too large and the crime rate too high for you to really relax there.
Overall a beautiful place to see and experience once, but not one that is true to the friendliness and hospitality that Brazil is know for. Fly in, see the sights and move on quickly. The smaller towns even only a few hours outside Rio are much safer and more relaxed.
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