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14 Things to know before visiting Rio de Janeiro


Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Hands up if you want to go to Rio and see the Carnival. And what about the lure of beautiful beaches and beach bodies and vibe - sounding perfect for a beach holiday.

(Note: the Carnival happens from 9 – 15 February, so book your accommodation as soon as possible! Click the banner below for Booking.com options or here for AirBnb) now in order to prevent disappointment. Or if you are overwhelmed by the idea, we can help - click here).

We came to Rio as part of our journey through South America. Brazil in general wasn’t really on our favourites list, but because the cheapest flight we could get was to Sao Paulo, we thought we might as well see the country.

Less than a week in to our travels and in Brazil, there are a few things we realised that you should probably know about Rio, and Brazil in general:

1. Brazil is massive We didn’t realise, but travelling through Brazil is time-consuming, because this is a massive country. An overnight bus from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro took 6 hours. Ok not too bad, but from Rio to Brasilia in the middle of the country will take 15 hours by bus.

We got a direct flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo with Latham (operated by SAA), it was also the cheapest. So if you are planning to go to Rio, take flight prices and distances into consideration. You can also fly to Sao Paulo and then get an internal flight to Rio.

We use Travelstart to book the cheapest flights from South Africa, and they happen to have a sale on to Rio or Sao Paulo at the moment.

2. Very few people speak English If you don’t speak Portuguese, it is challenging to get around. Very few people speak English, even in supermarkets or restaurants or shops. You should at least know how to ask for the price of things and how to get around, because they can take chances and charge you more.