Brazil! The land of futbol, bikinis, carnival, and so much more… I finally went. It wasn't a long trip, just three days in Rio De Janeiro, but it was perfect. Initially, I was going to stay longer, but things changed last minute. One thing I've learned from traveling frequently is that trips don't always go as planned, so you must be prepared for anything and everything! Always be one step ahead when traveling ;)
From the start, I knew I would be super prepared for my Brazil trip, mainly because I'm a crazy organized person when it comes to traveling. I'm the type of person who thinks of every scenario that can happen and what I'll need (the worst I know). But as a solo female traveler, better safe than sorry, right? So looking back, I'm thrilled I had these key things for Brazil:
Initially, for Brazil, I was going to go to Rio and Ilha grande, but things changed, and I ended up leaving a little early. When planning for this trip, I knew if I was going to be traveling to another island, I didn't want to drag my tumi suitcase around and let it get beat up. So I bought the Osprey men's 40 backpack, and I don't regret it.
I've never really used a backpack before to travel abroad, and it had its pros and cons:
- I could get around much faster
- I was able to pack as much into it, like a suitcase
- It's pretty heavy (but I just had to get used to it)
So I highly recommend traveling with a backpack if you have more than one destination in mind. Looking back, though, since I only stayed in Rio. I think a suitcase would've been fine.
A major concern for me when heading to Brazil was pulling money out safely. Just to note, I rarely used my card and only used cash in Brazil for safety reasons. Pulling money out wasn't super complicated; I could've relaxed a bit more with this. I was going to pull out money at a currency exchange in the states, but they have a lot of fees. So, surprisingly I saved some money by doing it at the airport in Brazil. I also used the atm at my hostel twice, which worked well. In the end, just trust your gut, be safe, and pay attention to your surroundings.
So, Rio is very cost-friendly. The conversion rate to the US dollar is impressive, but the money goes by fast! You may be getting 300 Brazilian Reals with just 70$, but those reals will go by quickly; a nice dinner will be about 80 Reals, and a tour cost 280 Brazillian Reals…. Do the math, and the money's gone just like that. I thought I could get by with just 300 Brazillian Reals for initially 5 days, but boy was I wrong. I could barely get by with about 500 reals for 3 days. So if you want to vacation comfortably there, I recommend you pull out 200 Brazillian Reals for each day. Which is about 47 US dollars a day ….not too bad.
How I got around
Ubers- Ubers are very affordable in Brazil. For 7 Ubers I only spent about $43.
Including to and from the airport, which is about a 40 min drive.
As for myself, I would probably not stay in another hostel in Brazil. It wasn't the best experience, but it was price friendly. The people in the hostels are great, but… the rooms are not the cleanest, and I did get really sick staying there… However, I don't know if getting sick directly correlates to the hostel. I also met another nomad from Ireland who stayed in a hostel near Copacabana beach, and she said the same about hers. I only stayed in the hostel for one day, and then I booked a last-minute room at a hotel. The hotel I stayed in is called Atlantis Hotel, and it was not only in the best location but also clean. So maybe for Brazil, in my opinion, It's best to stay in an Airbnb or hotel. They're more pricey but definitely worth it.
Atlantis hotel- 107$
Total cost: $447.66 (without flight)
or: $370.66 (without Atlantis hotel included)
Rio and safety
While walking alone, nothing terrible happened to me, but I heard awful stories in the hostel from other travelers. For instance, a guy fought off a local man who tried to steal his cell phone on Ipanema beach. One of the most popular beaches.
The moral of the story is to try not to have or show anything valuable. The goal is to blend in with the environment. But, of course, you'll need your phone; just don't flaunt it or leave it out.
I stayed near Copacabana and Ipanema beach. Both are very crowded and beautiful; reminding me of South Beach in Miami. While on the beach, you have people trying to sell you things 24/7 (so be prepared to say NO a lot), and if you look like me, you'll stick out like a sore thumb. So people will talk to you a lot, and you'll get a lot of stares (just roll with it).
The majority of Rio speaks Portuguese. You might find some Spanish and English, but it is sporadic.
The majority of the fluent English I heard was from my hostel. It still wasn't too hard getting around; I just looked up some of the essential words and was able to get by. Or I just told them, "no habla Portuguese," and they walked off. But, I will say I truly felt like a foreigner walking around. For once, I was able to experience what thousands of non-English speakers here in the USA experience, and I have so much respect for them.
The weather in Rio was beautiful! I got lucky because it was supposed to thunderstorm, but it turned out to be beautiful weather…. But hotttttttt. So moral of the story, don't trust the weather app because it was utterly wrong. It was hot and humid the first day, and the next two days were dry heat. Being from California, I loved every bit of it. Just make sure you bring some flowy outfits ladies! The less, the better, because you'll be sweating!
I did go out the first night with some people from the hostel, and it was a great time. I mainly got beers and stood by as everyone spoke Portuguese, but I noticed how beautiful and friendly the people were. Even though I didn't say much that night, they still included me and tried speaking with me, which is all that matters.
The main beaches are Copacabana and Ipanema beach. You can't go wrong with either. One thing that I absolutely love about Brazil is how body-positive they are! You'll see anyone and everyone rocking their two-piece G-string bikini or speedo. And I love it! You don't have to be one size to be confident on the beach. Just be yourself. Honestly, I found it almost weird if you were rocking a one-piece there but in the end, do what makes you happy. It was so body-positive in Brazil that I bought two bikinis because I thought mine wasn't revealing enough. And I only spent $10.
Also, on the beach, I did get in the water; some locals and blogs said don't because of the water quality, but others said to try it. So I did! Granted, I did get sick that night, but nobody else I went with did... so I don't think it was the water.
Regarding tours, I was going to buy one online through TripAdvisor, but decided not to and see if anything would come up while I was in Rio. And it did! So there are many tour agencies in Rio, and they will walk right up to you most of the time. I went on a tour with this girl I met on the beach. It was about $70 ($30 down from TripAdvisor). It takes you to all the great monuments in Brazil (tickets included), takes you to lunch, picks you up, and returns to your hotel. In addition, they drive you a nice bus with A/C (perfect for those who are like me and sweat too much).
The only con about this tour was there was barely any English spoken, so it was hard to understand, or go into depth about the monuments. The only reason I mention this is because they advertised it as an English-speaking tour, but despite this, it is well worth the money.
Overall, Rio is a beautiful destination. Being there by myself, I felt safe, and it wasn't hard getting around. I spent less than 500 us dollars and was able to get some sun on the beach. I highly recommend traveling there, but to get the most out of your dollar and flight, go to multiple countries in South America for 2-3 weeks. I also recommend trips to different parts of Brazil like Paratay and Ilha grande- something I will do the next time I am there.