I had been apprehensive to travel to Rio and South America in general – mostly because I could only speak English and I felt it was necessary to speak the local language to get by in South America.
Wanderlust and the brutal heat of summer in central Texas won out over my apprehension. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend so I relied on my frequent flyer miles to book a trip to the Southern Hemisphere in order to escape the Texas heat in early September 2010.
I decided on Rio but nothing was available so I used 40,000 of my American Airlines frequent flyer miles to fly to São Paulo instead and took a bus to Rio after a couple of nights in São Paulo. Brazil is known for comfortable bus transport and I enjoyed the 4 hour trip chatting with my Brazilian seatmate – we used my Brazilian/Spanish dictionary to look up the words.
September is off-season for Rio since it is still officially winter. Temperatures can range anywhere from chilly to pleasant and it was pleasant most of my visit with one cold windy rainy day. Average temps in September are 19 – 26 Celsius (73 – 79 F)
It’s a nine-hour flight from Dallas to São Paulo but it was overnight so I slept most of the time and was able to avoid jet lag. I’m lucky that I am able to sleep on the plane – I know many people have difficulty sleeping while flying.
I enjoyed my walks on the beach every morning and I walked the 4 km length of Copacabana beach one day with some new friends. My sister-in-law who is from Peru introduced me via email to a friend of hers from Peru who was living in Rio. I met Fiorella and her husband Rodrigo for beers one night. Fiorella also invited me to spend an afternoon enjoying lunch and walking along Copacabana beach. And they invited me to dinner at their apartment one night! Fiorella and Rodrigo were so kind to me and generous with their time.
Rio is a beautiful city with an ocean as well as mountains right up to the coast. It does get excessively hot and humid in the summer months – late December through to February. The heat doesn’t stop people from visiting for New Year’s Eve celebrations and Carnival – as many as 2 million people flock to Copacabana beach to celebrate.
The beach promenade along Copacabana features a wave pattern designed by Roberto Burle Marx who was a prominent landscape artist, musician, and ecologist in Brazil.
When I started reading the travel guides for Rio they all warned about getting mugged in Rio – so much so that I was a little nervous about wandering around on my own. I began to think it was inevitable that I would be mugged, robbed at knife point or attacked in some manner.
I am happy to report that I was not mugged, robbed, nor attached in Rio de Janeiro. The closest I came to being robbed was being ripped off my the fruit vendor in Ipanema!
I know crime is a big problem in Ro and other big cities but it is not in every part of the city and I felt safe walking around during the daytime and taking the subway around Rio. It felt like any other big city where there are plenty of places that it is advisable to stay away from during the daytime or night.
I recommend always taking taxis at night when in an unknown neighborhood. Around my neighborhood in Ipanema I walked to close-by restaurants in the evenings and felt safe doing so.
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) watches over Rio de Janeiro. The 40 meter tall statue of Jesus sits atop Corcovado in Parque Nacional da Tijuca. The view of Rio from atop the mountain is outstanding!
Brazil is a country rich in minerals. While in Rio I visited H Stern jewelers at the Ipanema location where they have a small museum with various mineral on display. I could walk to H Stern from the hostel but H Stern offers free transportation to/from the showroom – you’ll need to attend a short tour and be shown some gorgeous jewelry afterwards with no pressure to buy. I viewed several sparkly gems but I’m not much of a shopper so I didn’t buy anything.
Brazil will host World Cup 2014 in June and Rio hosts the Summer Olympics in 2016. Although Brazil has made great strides at reducing poverty with their Bolsa Familia program there is a long way to go and I am hopeful that these major events assist in generating income for the regular folks in Brazil.
I don’t plan to visit Rio during the major events but I am looking forward to returning to Rio again to see more of the beautiful city. I do love Rio!
Where would you like to travel in order to escape the weather where you live?