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Rio de Janeiro


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Rio de Janeiro [Wikitravel]:

Rio de Janeiro is a large city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its annual carnival and - on the darker side of things - huge slums and crime problem.

Districts

Rio de Janeiro is largely divided into three districts:
  • Zona Sul (South Zone) including Copacabana and Ipanema
  • Centro including Santa Teresa
  • Zona Norte (North Zone)
In addition, the suburban district of Barra da Tijuca to the west is popular for its beaches.

Understand

It is not an uncommon mistake to point out Rio as Brazil's capital, as in fact it was until 1960. Beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, the Corcovado statue, the stadium of Maracanã and Sugar Loaf Mountain are all well-known sights of what the inhabitants call the "wonderful city" (cidade maravilhosa), and also the first images to pop up in someone's mind, along with the Carnival celebration.

Sadly, most of people also know Rio for its violence and crime. The drug lords and the slums or favelas are the tip of very old social problems. The favelas are areas of poor quality housing, slums usually located on the city's many mountains.

The inhabitants of Rio, called cariocas, are known for being easy-going and friendly, in contrast to the more reserved citizens of other cities like São Paulo.

Get in

By plane

You'll land at International Airport Tom Jobim (Galeão), some distance away from the city center and main hotels, or at the domestic airport Santos Dumont, right by the Guanabara bay. Cabs (Taxis like the locals call them) are the easiest way to get into town, but there is a bus service which stops at Santos Dumont, as well as along the beachfront in Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.

By train

Rio's glorious Central Station, or Central do Brasil, made famous in a movie by the same name, serves mostly local commuter lines, so it's unlikely that you'll arrive through here. It's worth a visit just to see it, though.

It does not worth coming by car. You most probably will get lost as there are very few traffic signs or indications as you get near to downtown

By bus

The long-distance bus depot, Rodoviária Novo Rio, is located in the North Zone's São Cristovão neighborhood. Taxis and coach buses can get you to the South Zone in about fifteen minutes; local buses take a bit longer.

You can hire a trip by boat of course!

Get around

By taxi

A cab is the best way to get around in Rio. Most of the tours will cost around R$15 (US$5), and the car can usually hold four people. You can ask a cab for a city tour, and arrange a fixed price (maybe around US$20).

By car

You can always rent a car (in fact that's the best way to go to distant beaches like Grumari), and that will be an extra adventure. In Brazil, most road signals are placed after the curve you were supposed to take, and do not help unless you already know how to go there. Buy a map, and have fun.

By bus

Buses are a cheap and nice way to get around by day. By night they are more scarce but you can ride them anyway. Buses usually cost R$ 1.80 (US$ 0.75), but some buses with air conditioning charge higher fares.

Bus lines with a * means that this bus has a variant. It means that there may be a bus with the same name, same number, same origin, even same destination but with a complete different tour. Weird ain't it? Ask the driver, he won't mind.

By train

The Metrô Rio (http://www.metrorio.com.br) subway system takes you to the main places, from Copacabana to downtown. The subway is clean, comfortable, and quick, but there are not many stations (especially in Zona Sul), and it closes after midnight. There are two main lines. Line 1 has service to Copacabana, the Saara district, and much of Downtown, as well as Tijuca, where you can visit Corcovado. Line 2 stops at the zoo, soccer stadium, and State University. The two lines intersect at Estácio.

See

Carnival

Still the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnival. This highly advertised party lasts for almost two weeks and it is well known for the escolas de samba (samba schools) that parade in Centro, on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo (Sambadrome). During Carnival, Rio has much more to offer though, with the blocos de rua, that parades on the streets. There are now hundreds of these street "samba blocks", that parade almost in every neighborhood, especially in Centro and the South Zone, gathering thousands of people. Some are very famous, and there's not one carioca that has not heard of "Carmelitas", "Suvaco de Cristo", "Escravos da Mauá" or "Simpatia É Quase Amor".

The rest of the year, samba shows are popular with tourists, and are held at several venues like Plataforma and Scala. These are expensive and not really representative of Brazilian culture, they present a lot of almost naked women and bad musicians, a tourist trap. Much more interesting and genuine, though, are the night practice sessions held by the various samba schools in the months leading up to Carnival. You will find only a small number of tourists here, and I promise you will be served the best caipirinhas of your trip! These go on into the wee hours of the morning, with the fun really only starting at 1-2 A.M. A good cab driver should be able to hook you up, and cabs will be available to take you back when you are samba-ed out. Salgueiro and Mangueira are good choices, as they are two of the larger samba schools, and are located relatively close to the tourist areas in a fairly safe area.

Note that a change is afoot that may make this genuine experience a thing of the past (or more convenient, depending on your viewpoint) for all but the most savvy tourists. The local government is in the process of building a complex of buildings where many of the samba schools are expected to move their practice halls and float-construction facilities from the gritty warehouses typically located in or near their home favelas. One can expect many more tourists, and shows made-up for the tourists as the tourist bureau milks this facility for all it's worth year-round.

Music

Rio was the cradle of three of Brazil most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. In the last years, there was a boom of traditional samba and choro venues. A lot of them are in the downtown district of Lapa. There are good and cheap nightlife options, where you will see some of the best musicians of the country. Any of the city newspaper will give you tips where are the best shows.

If you're not that of an anthropological type of tourist, you can check out the same papers for tips on other kinds of music. Being a big city, Rio has big and small clubs that play almost every kind of music. The major mainstream clubs mostly play whatever's on the Radio - which is usually whatever's on the USA radios and the MTv - but the underground scene has a lot to offer on Rock, E-Music, Rap and such. The best way to find out about those are the flyers handed or left on hostels, cinema and theater lobbies, nightclub lines, etc.

Buy

Always bargain, this can lower prices considerably. But naturally merchants won't bargain unless you ask, especially if you are clearly a tourist. To tourists, can easily be overpriced by a factor of 10 especially in highly informal markets such as Saara or on the beach.
  • A typical Brazilian hammock shouldn't be more than R$20-30 (US$7-10) but they can sell for up to US$150.
  • A beer on the beach should cost around R$3.00 (US$1.00)
  • A caipirinha can be had for the same price (around R$3.00 or US$1.00) and you get a great show as the ingredients are produced from a cooler and lime slices muddled before you eyes
  • You can get coconut water for R$1.50 (US$0.50)
  • For trinkets, your best bet is the "hippie fair" in Praça General Osório in Ipanema every Sunday.
  • For a sterile norteamericano-style shopping experience, head to the malls in Barra da Tijuca.
  • Great bargains can be had on Brazilian-made clothing, as well as some European imports. Imported electronics are insanely expensive due to protective import duties. For example, you will find digital cameras sell for about twice what they sell for in the U.S.
Store managers in Rio often speak some English, as this gains employees an almost-automatic promotion. But "some" can be very little, so it is useful to learn at least some very basic Portuguese. Just knowing basic greetings, numbers, and how to ask directions and prices will get you at least a "B" for effort, and despite finding that store clerks may know more English than you Portuguese, it can still come in handy to know a bit of the language. Spanish is likely to do you much less good than you may think, but if you know Italian, you may find it of more use than you might expect. Don't be afraid to resort to writing numbers, pictures, or resorting to pantomime. (I had a hilarious incident where I was trying to ask for a shirt with a picture of a bird, and instead got directions to the airport.) Clerks will often tap out prices for you on a calculator.

Eat

Rio de Janeiro lacks little in choice when it comes to food - you can probably find something to fit any craving.

Of particular note for an often hot and muggy city are the refreshing juice bars, found on nearly every corner in the city. Choose from dozens of freshly squeezed fruit juices - mix two or three fruits together or simply try the freshly squeezed orange juice.

Don´t miss Brazil's national dish, feijoada!

Sleep

While Rio's fancy hotels are along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, there are lots of small and cheap, but clean, hotels around Flamengo and Catete. Rio also has a large selection of apart-hotels, which provide apartment-style accommodations with kitchen facilities.

The street in front of the strip of tourist hotels in Copacabana can be seedy, due to both garishly-dressed tourists, and a few opportunistic locals ready to take advantage of them. The apart-hotels in Ipanema are a much more pleasant alternative, being both better appointed and in a nicer neighborhood with fewer tourists.

Private condominium apartments can also be rented short-term at excellent rates, and can be found on the Internet. This is probably a preferable means of finding one of these than the notes that will be passed to you by anonymous persons on the street.

If hostel life is more your style, they are also easy to find in Rio. The more expensive ones boast locations that are short walking distance to either Ipanema or Copacabana beach, however if you prefer to stay in Lapa, Botafogo or another area, there are many options.

Prices for most accommodation can more than triple during New Year's and Carnival.

If you don't mind to pay a bit more it's very interesting to stay at Copacabana Palace Hotel in Copacabana beach. It's the most famous hotel in the city where lot of famous people had been guested.

Stay safe

In order to fully enjoy your trip the traveller should pay attention to simple things. Avoid the downtown area, especially Saara, after dark. Although downtown is a relatively safe place during the day, after dark all the people who work there have already gone home. If you are going to a theater or a show, it's alright. But do not wander in those dark streets by night. Go to Copacabana beach, all lighted and policed during the night, though it's not safe for tourists that look as tourists in any time.

Avoid wearing jewelry or other signs of wealth if possible as these attract attention. Thieves have been known to run past targets and tear off necklaces, rings, and earrings without stopping. Earrings are particularly dangerous as tearing them off often harms the owner.

Favelas are a big problem in Rio. These slums grew from being impoverished neighborhoods but are now large areas ruled by drug dealers. If you want to keep your nice vision of Rio, you don't need to go there. However, they are amazingly huge, and a new experience for some-- there are some travel agencies who take tourists on tours there. If you want to go, pay one of those agencies. Never, never go to a favela by yourself, or with a unknown guide. The tour operators have "peace treaties" with the local drug dealers. If you don't have one, you'll be in trouble, maybe lethal.

At night, especially after traffic has died-down you may hear what sounds like explosions. This is not as menacing as it sounds, though it is still indicative of somebody up to no good. These are often firecrackers set-off as signals in the favelas. It might mean that a drug shipment has arrived and in in-transit, or that the police are making a raid into the favela. It is a signal to gang operatives who act as lookouts and surrogate police to be extra-vigilant.

Some drivers in Rio are certifiably insane, and seem to stop for nothing. In particular, they will go whizzing around corners without even slowing down. The crosswalks are located some considerable distance from corners for a good reason. For your safety, cross at the crosswalks - not closer to the corner - and watch for cars regardless of traffic lights.

Get out

The ferry between Rio and Niteroi, a city across the bay, is a pleasant and cheap trip. There are a couple of kinds of boats, ranging from very cheap and slow to fairly cheap and fast. Niteroi does not have many tourist attractions, but it does have a wonderful unique view of Rio and an intriguing contemporary art museum, which looks like a flying saucer jutting out over the sea. Also, one of the most beautiful beaches, Itacoatiara, which can be reached by the bus numbered 38.


Rio de Janeiro [Wikipedia]:

Rio de Janeiro (meaning River of January in Portuguese) is the name of both a state and a city in southeastern Brazil. The city is famous for the hotel-lined tourist beaches Copacabana and Ipanema, for the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer ("Cristo Redentor") on the Corcovado mountain, and for its yearly Carnival celebration. It also has the biggest forest inside an urban region, called "Floresta da Tijuca". The current mayor is Cesar Maia.

Rio de Janeiro is located at 22 degrees, 54 minutes south latitude, 43 degrees 14 minutes west longitude (22°54' S 43°14' W). The population of the city proper of Rio de Janeiro is about 6,150,000 (as of 2004), occupying an area of 1256 km² (485 sq. miles). The larger metropolitan area population is estimated at 10-13 million. It's Brazil's second-largest city after São Paulo and used to be the country's capital until 1960, when Brasília took its place.

History The area where Rio de Janeiro is now was reached by Portuguese explorers in an expedition led by portuguese explorer Gaspar de Lemos in January of 1502. Since the Europeans thought at first the Bay of Guanabara was actually the mouth of a river, they called it "Rio de Janeiro", which means January River.

The city wasn't founded until March 1st, 1565 by Portuguese knight Estácio de Sá, who called it São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro (San Sebastian of the January River), in honor of then King Sebastian I of Portugal. For centuries, the settlement was commonly called São Sebastião - or even St. Sebastian - instead of the currently popular, second half of its name. It was frequently attacked by pirates and privateers, especially by then enemies of Portugal, such as the Netherlands and France. In the late 16th century, the Portuguese crown began treating the village as strategic location for Atlantic transit of ships between Brazil, the African colonies, and Europe. Fortresses were built and an alliance was formed with nearby native tribes to defend the settlement against invaders - neighbor Niterói, for instance, was founded by a native chief for supporting defense.

The exact place of Rio's foundation is at the feet of now world famous Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão-de-Açúcar). Later, the whole city was moved within a palicade on top of a hill, imitating the medieval European strategy of defense of fortified castles - the place was since then called Morro do Castelo (Castle Hill). Therefore, the city developed from current Downtown (Centro, see below) to southwards and then westwards, an urban movement which lasts until nowadays.

Until early 18th century, the city was threaten or invaded by several - mostly French - pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc, René Duguay-Trouin, and Nicolas de Villegaignon. After 1720, when the Portuguese found gold and diamonds in the neighbor captaincy of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro became much more useful port to transport out the wealth than farther Salvador. In 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved to Rio.

The city remained mostly a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Family and most of the Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, moved in. The kingdom's capital was transfered to Rio, which then became the only European capital outside of Europe. Since there was no physical space nor urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes.

When Prince Pedro proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822, he decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of his new empire, yet the city region was losing importance - economic and political - to São Paulo.

Rio was maintained as Brazilian capital after the military overthrew the monarchy and imposed a republic in 1889. However, plans for moving the nation's seat city to the territorial center were considered, until president Juscelino Kubitschek was elected in 1955 and took office in 1956 with a promise to build a new capital. Though many thought it was campaign rhetoric, Kubitschek managed to have Brasília built, at great cost, by 1960. On April 21st that year, the capital of Brazil was officially moved from Rio to Brasília.

Between 1960 and 1975, Rio was a city-state (such as Hamburg in Germany) under the name State of Guanabara (after the bay it borders). But, for administrative and political reasons, a presidential decree known as A Fusão (The Fusion) removed the city's federative status and merged it with the state of Rio de Janeiro in 1975. Even today some cariocas claim the return of municipal autonomy.

City districts

The city is commonly divided into the historic downtown (Centro); the tourist-friendly South Zone, with world-famous beaches; the industrial North Zone; the West Zone; and the newer Barra da Tijuca region.

Centro

Centro is the historic downtown of the city. Sites of interest include both the historic Church of the Candelaria and the modern-style cathedral, the Municipal Theater, and several museums. Centro remains the heart of the city's business community. The "Bondinho", a trolley car, leaves from a downtown station, crosses a former Roman-style aqueduct - the "Arcos da Carioca" built in 1750 and converted to a tram viaduct in 1896 - and rambles through the hilly streets of the Santa Teresa neighbourhood nearby.

South Zone

The southern zone of Rio de Janeiro is composed of several districts, amongst them are São Conrado, Leblon, Ipanema, Arpoador, Copacabana, Leme, Botafogo and Flamengo which composes Rio's famous beach coastline.

The neighbourhood of Copacabana beach boasts one of the world's most spectacular New Year's Eve parties, as more than two million revellers crowd onto the sands to watch the firework display. As of 2001, the fireworks have been launched from boats, to further guarantee the safety of the event.

Passing Copacabana and Leme, on the district of Urca lies the Sugarloaf Mountain ("Pão de Açúcar"), whose name characterises the famous hump rising out of the sea. The top can be reached via cable car, accessible from the Hill of Urca ("Morro da Urca"), and offers views second only to Corcovado mountain. One of the highest mountains in the city, however, at 842 meters, is the Pedra da Gávea (Topsail Rock), in São Conrado. Hang gliding is a popular activity in the nearby peak called Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock) - after a short flight, they land on the Praia do Pepino beach in São Conrado.

Since 1961, the Tijuca forest is a National Park.

North Zone

The North Zone of Rio is home to the Maracanã stadium, still the world's highest capacity football venue, able to hold nearly 200,000 people (however, the biggest stadium of any type is located in Prague, Czech Republic, yet it is not suitable for football). In modern times, the capacity has been reduced to conform with modern safety regulations, and the introduction of seating for all fans. Currently undergoing renovation, it will eventually hold around 120,000. Maracanã will be the site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and soccer competition of the 2007 Pan American Games.

West Zone

The West Zone is the metropolitan region which is most distant from the Center of Rio de Janeiro. It includes Barra da Tijuca, Jacarepaguá, Campo Grande, Santa Cruz and Bangu. Barra da Tijuca remains an area of accelerated growth, attracting mainly the richer sector of the population, whereas neighbouring districts within the West Zone reveal stark differences between social classes. The area has industrial zones, but some agricultural areas still remain in its wide area. Beyond the neighbourhoods of Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepagua, another district which has exhibited good economic growth is that of Campo Grande. Some modalities of sports of the Pan-American Games of 2007 will be held in the Miécimo da Silva Sports Center, nicknamed the "Algodão" Gymnasium, and others in the Ítalo del Cima Stadium, in Campo Grande.

Barra da Tijuca

To the west of the older zones is Barra da Tijuca, a flat expanse of formerly undeveloped coastal land, which is currently experiencing a wave of new construction. High rise apartments and sprawling shopping malls give the area a far more Americanized feel than the crowded city center (Centro). The urban planning of the area, made in the late 1960s, resembles that of North American suburbs, though mixing housed zones with residential skyscrappers. This has attracted businesses to move to the area to take advantage of this. The large beaches of Barra da Tijuca are also popular with the city's residents. Barra da Tijuca is the home of Pan-American Village for the 2007 Pan American Games.

Favelas

Rio is a city of contrasts, and though much of the city clearly ranks alongside the world's most modern metropolises, a significant percentage of the city's 13 million inhabitants do still live in areas of poorer quality housing. The worst of these poorer areas are the slums and shanty towns known as favelas, often crowded onto the hillsides where sturdy buildings are difficult to build, and accidents, mainly from heavy rainfall, are frequent. The favelas are troubled by widespread drug related crime and gang warfare and other poverty-related social issues.

Carnival

The carnival in Rio de Janeiro has many choices including the famous Escolas de Samba parades in the sambódromo and the popular "blocos de carnaval" that parade in almost every corner of the city. The most famous ones are the following:
  • Cordão do bola preta: Parades in the center of the city, it is one of the most traditional "bloco de carnaval".
  • Ipanema's Gand: Gay parade that goes through the ipanema beach.
  • Suvaco do Cristo: Band that parades in the Botanic Garden, right below the Redeemer statue's arm. The name in English translates to "Christ's armpit", and was chosen for that reason.
  • Carmelitas: Band that was supposedly created by nuns, but in fact it is just an alegory of the band. It parades in the hills of Santa Teresa, which have very nice views.
Soccer

Rio de Janeiro is host to four traditional Brazilian football clubs: Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco.

Airports
  • Galeão International Airport
  • Santos Dumont Regional Airport
Miscellaneous

The city will host the 2007 Pan American Games from July 13-29, 2007. Copacabana beach will be the site of the triathlon and beach volleyball with yachting competitions held in Guanabara Bay. The city is building a new stadium near the Maracanã, to hold 45,000 people. It will be named after Brazilian ex-FIFA president João Havelange. Rio de Janeiro was also a candidate for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In one episode of The Simpsons, the family went to Rio. The episode angered several tourist officials and they threatened to sue the producers of the show.

Rio has also been used as a backdrop for many films, such as 007 Moonraker (1979), Blame it on Rio (1984), Bossa Nova (2000), and City of God (2002).

The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World by CNN.

Rio de Janeiro is also the paradise for rock climbers, with hundreds of routes all over the town, ranging from easy boulders to highly technical big walls climbs, all inside the city. The most famous Rio's granite mountain, Sugar Loaf (Pao-de-Açucar), is an example, with routes from easy 3rd grade (american 5.4, french 3) to really hard 9th grade (5.13/8b) up to 280 meters.





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