If you’re planning on backpacking around Rio de Janeiro, I have one thing to say to you. Congrats! You’ve probably made one of the best decisions of your life. Backpacking around Rio de Janeiro was one of the best experiences I had in my two-month South America trip.
There are a few key areas for you to visit. I found the metro to be extremely easy to use so personally I think it would be wise to either choose one or two areas to stay in and just spend your days exploring the various sites and beaches around the city.
Best Hostel to Stay At
The area I stayed in was called Lapa, which is where the famous Lapa steps are housed. Out of all the hostels I’ve stayed at in the past two months (roughly 15 different ones), the Discovery Hostel here was by far one of the best! It was definitely the most social hostels. We all went out to watch the Brazil futbol games together during Fifa, went to the beach, went to dinner, went to the bar, and even just had a cute movie night ourselves after being “barred out”. They also had a good breakfast, comfortable beds, and great security.
Even though it was not busy season for Rio the hostel was still packed every single night. We ended up having to move hostels for our last night because we didn’t book it in advance and they were all full. However, we loved it so much we just switched hostels down the street so we could easily come back and hang out with everyone we’d met over the past few days. They have a ton of available activities for you to do, and at very reasonable prices compared to most other hostels I have been to.
Main Sites / Attractions
Lapa / Santa Teresa Area
So what is there to do in this area you ask? Well it is the artsy / bohemian district that offers a ton of great restaurants and bars. So it is a great area for going out on the weekend, or even week day for that matter. As mentioned earlier there are also the famous Lapa steps here, although you have to go before 8am if you want to take a picture without a background of tourists.
The favelas are a very historic and infamous part of Rio de Janeiro. Funnily enough I did not have enough time to do an actual tour, but on our last night when trying to find a highly rated trip advisor restaurant myself and 3 other girls ended up walking around the favela’s ourselves. Our Uber dropped us off a ways down the hill so we had to walk up and try and navigate ourselves. It was dark and a bit scary, especially after finding out the restaurant was closed. We ended up walking 30 minutes down and into Copacabana to feel a bit safer. When we got back to our Hostel we found out that we were in one of the nicest, safest favelas which was slightly reassuring to our almost disastrous evening. Nonetheless, would highly recommend taking a tour here with an actual guide! The history and culture of them are very cool.
Christ the Redeemer
This is an almost 40 m tall statue that has become an icon of Rio. If you don’t take a picture with this statue, did you really go to Rio? To visit The Redeemer costs around R$75. You can either get a train up which costs R$75 round trip, or a van up and then a second shuttle for the same total price. We Uber’d there and did the latter option due to the trains departure timing.
The Discovery hostel offers a great free walking tour through the old historic centre of Rio. It took about 5 hours but was totally worth it. If you get the chance to have David as a tour guide, you are in great hands!
There are two main beaches in Rio de Janeiro:
When we were there we became friends with a local who claimed that Ipanema was by far a much better beach than Copacabana. Personally, I couldn’t see the difference between the two so feel free to make your own opinion after visiting both. Keep in mind that Sunday’s are the busiest days for the beach, so only go there on a Sunday if you love crowds!
These are also two great areas to walk around and explore. They are definitely more touristy than Santa Teresa but worth exploring nonetheless.
Planning on backpacking around Rio de Janeiro? Or have you done so already? Leave a comment below with any questions or tips and tricks you have!
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