Brazil has always been one of the most expensive countries on any backpacker’s South American itinerary, and its capital, Rio de Janeiro in particular can be hard on a travellers budget. This is only going to get worse over the next few years as prices are set to skyrocket with the hosting of the 2014 FIFA world cup this summer and the 2016 Olympics, but with a little bit of careful planning and knowledge there are ways to travel through Rio on a basic budget. So whether you are here to see the world cup or just to visit a truly remarkable corner of the world, your wallet will thank you for reading this!
Climb the other mountains.
Climbing the iconic Sugarloaf mountain in Rio is considered an absolute must, but the problem is for backpackers on a really tight budget it can cost a lot of money to get a tour or cable car up to the top. So instead why not just head to the surrounding Morro da Babilonia and Morro da Urca? The peaks may not be quite as high as Sugarloaf mountain, but they aren’t far off and offer just as amazing vistas and views, as well as some pretty good hiking routes. Plus they’re free!
Pedra Do Sal.
Head down to this rapidly developing area every Monday and Friday night to become part of the musical rhythm of the free Samba party. Join the cariocas as the samba circles build up into full on festival mode with dense crowds joining in and singing, it is really hard not to be drawn into the atmosphere.
Get back to nature.
Rio may be famous as a densely packed city, and for good reason, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to escape the dense urban sprawl and see some of the truly stunning natural scenery South America is famous for.
The Parque Nacional Da Tijuca is the busiest national park in Brazil, but it is so big it never feels too crowded. There are dozens of hiking trails of various lengths and difficulty winding through the stunning forest, and some of them, like the Vista Chinesta offer stunning views!
Beaches are always perfect places to spend a day people watching and relaxing in the sun for free too, and Rio is no exception. The busiest beaches are of course the more famous ones, Copacabana or Ipanema for example, but the further West you head the quieter and more remote the beaches are, and are better for water sports like surfing.
Take a historic walking tour.
Brazil has a deep and rich history, and there is no better place to explore that than downtown Rio. Stroll aimlessly through the winding, atmospheric streets and within easy walking distance of each other are the magnificent buildings of the Royal Palace, the Bibliotecha Nacional and the striking Teatro Municipal. Take a guide book with you or read up about the history on line and you will gain a better understanding of the history of this part of the city without taking an expensive tour. The distinctive Portugese colonial architecture and the abundance of bars and restaurants also make this area an atmospheric to explore, especially when the samba music starts playing!
Undoubtedly the number one attraction in Rio de Janeiro is the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, and many people view this famous modern wonder of the world from the Jardim Botanical, and pay through the nose for the privilege. Yet smart budget conscious travellers can simply head to Parque Lage instead, a gorgeous stretch of greenery less than half a mile from the botanical gardens and giving you great views of the statue for absolutely free. You can even hike up to the statue from here, but getting close will again cost you money.
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!