Top Tips to Enjoy Rio de Janeiro on a Budget
However, Rio is not the cheapest city. But there are many great things to do even with a small budget. Below you find the six best free places to visit and the cheapest option to see the famous Christ statue.
Getting to and from these places costs something, of course. We took Uber taxis most of the time. Tarik also went in the public bus a couple of times but didn’t take any valuables with him. This is definitely the cheapest, but not the safest way to get around. Here you can read tips about Brazil’s food, transportation, security and more.
1. Copacabana Beach
Next to the beach, you find palm trees, a walkway, and a bike lane. During the weekend, one part of the road is closed for cars and can also be used by pedestrians. Copacabana beach is world famous and we could understand why.
Its wide sandy area stretches 4 km/2.5 mi and the blue water is filled with surfers and bodyboarders. In fact, there is something to enjoy for everyone. People playing volleyball, football or other games, working out, sipping cocktails, listening to music, hanging out with friends or just relaxing.
Every couple of meters, you can find a different barraca (small booth) that sells snacks, cocktails, and other drinks. Some also play music. Besides those, you can choose from a seemingly endless flow of vendors walking up and down the beach, selling all different kinds of stuff; cold and hot food, drinks, toys, beach equipment etc.
2. Ipanema Beach
It is smaller than Copacabana, a little more relaxed and definitely also worth a visit. Besides, it is also more popular among the locals and there are even more people playing sports and working out.
The layout is very similar and you can also find lots of food and drink options. At the right side of the beach and along the strip, there are many artisans who sell their colorful, unique crafts and jewelry.
Every Sunday, there’s a nice and colorful hippie market at the “Praca General Osório” in Ipanema. Besides all different kinds of food and products, you can also find paintings and other art.
3. Escadaria Selarón
The famous stairway called Escadaria Selarón was created by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. There are 215 steps, which are covered in over 2000 tiles, ceramics, and mirrors that were collected from over 60 countries around the world. He worked on this incredible artwork for 23 years until his death in 2013.
It’s a lot of fun walking up these colorful stairs and admiring the work of a passionate artist. Moreover, you can discover so many beautiful details everywhere. You might even spot a sticker with our logo somewhere! 😉
There are almost 800 favelas (Brazilian slums) in Rio de Janeiro with a combined population of more than 1.5 million people. Before going to Brazil, we thought that favelas are dangerous for anyone not living there. In fact, there are favelas that not even policemen enter. But we found out that some favelas can be visited! Our Airbnb place was even located in one and we were glad to experience such a vibrant community.
When we arrived, we noticed that the houses looked different from the rest of the city. They are usually smaller, with fewer safety features and many are painted with colorful graffitis. The favela we stayed in is called Babilônia/Chapéu Mangueira and is actually a great neighborhood. There was a football field and a martial arts studio across the street from our place. Hence, we often saw people working out and having fun there. On our street, there were also some small shops and restaurants that offered good and cheap products. Everybody was very friendly to us. Apart from lots of graffitis, there were also beautiful murals made out of mosaic tiles.
In 2009, the Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (Pacifying Police Unit) entered this favela and since then there has been a huge decline in crime. Today, this area is one of the safe favelas in Rio and armed police officers were present every day. Yet, “safe” is a relative word in Rio. On the street, you should be cautious and only take with you what’s necessary anywhere in the city, of course. Despite being pacified, we still heard gunshots now and then. Some were far away, others sounded like coming from just a bit further up the mountain. Consequently, we stayed on the main street and neither went up nor followed our street deeper into the favela. So everything was fine.
Other “pacified” favelas that can be visited include Vidigal, Santa Marta, Tavares Bastos, and Pereira da Silva. Before your visit, make sure to inform yourself where exactly you can go or go with a tour guide.
Rio is filled with colorful graffitis. Especially in the favelas, you can find many pieces of art. However, the biggest and most impressive mural is located in the city center. It stretches 170 m/ 558 ft with a height of 15 m/ 49ft and is called “Etnias”, which means ethnicities.
Artist Eduardo Kobra painted it in honor of the Olympic Games in 2016. It symbolizes the union of the people of the world and the diversity of the ethnic groups of the five continents. You can find it close to the train station Parada dos Navios.
6. Pedra do Sal
If you want to experience an authentic Brazilian street party you should check out Pedra do Sal (Rock of Salt) in an area known as “Little Africa”. In its center, there is a big rock surrounded by houses. At its bottom, a group of musicians sits around a table, playing amazing live Samba music. Surrounding them and on the rock, many people have fun, dancing and singing along.
In the neighboring streets, there are booths with cheap drinks, also music and more people having a good time. Although the live music stops around 12 am, the party on the streets continues until the early morning.
The best time to go is on a Monday or Friday night. We really enjoyed the atmosphere at this joyful street party and can really recommend trying some delicious Caipirinhas, dancing and meeting new Brazilian friends.
7. Christ the Redeemer (Budget Version)
Even though it costs an entry fee, we had to go see Rio’s iconic Christ statue. We took an Uber taxi up the mountain to the parking lot of the Tourist Information Center. From there, you either have to take a bus or the train up the rest of Corcovado Mountain. After making sure it was safe, we decided to walk. The scenery in the Tijuca Forest National Park was beautiful; lots of green vegetation on both sides of the road and different outlooks over Rio. We arrived after half an hour and paid the entrance fee of R$ 13 (2.9 €/US$ 3.4) per person (low season). Then we ascended the mountain even more by elevator, escalators, and stairs.
At last, we reached the top at a height of 709 m/ 2,326 ft and were stunned by the view. There were green mountains on one side, and the city and the ocean on the other. It is incredible to see this huge city from above. The statue called Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer in English, is also impressive. It is 30 m/ 98 ft tall and the arms stretch 28 m/ 92 ft wide. The pedestal adds another 8 m/ 26 ft to its height.
From there, the bus back to the tourist center is free. If you are lucky you can get an Uber taxi, but our rides were canceled when the drivers saw our pick up location. But there are buses that can take you all the way down to public transportation at a small cost.
We can always recommend Couchsurfing to meet cool locals and save money. But it’s not guaranteed that you will find a host.
Therefore, Airbnb is another good option to find affordable places. We stayed in Leme right next to Copacabana and only five minutes from the beach for only 10 €/US$ 11 per night! If you subscribe through this link you will get a $30 voucher for your first trip!
In case you prefer hotels, we recommend booking.com.
You Might Also Like These Pages
Sign up for the Peace Love Travel newsletter for more travel stories and tips: