Being in Rio de Janeiro seems like a dream: there are mountains and beaches, smoky bars with caipirinhas, gigantic acai bowls, an eccentric population, and with the Olympics coming up, travelers are going to come flocking to this destination. Travel need not be expensive, so we bring you a list of 5 things to see and do in Rio de Janeiro for under 20 USD.
1. The sun, the sea & the sand
Songs have been written about the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, like the famous Girl from Ipanema. The city is literally surrounded by beaches, however, you’ll find that those who enjoy the party scene tend to converge upon the most famous beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema.. Eating near these locations can be a bit expensive, but it’s a lot of fun to join in the revelries of the beach, to watch a football game, or even play footvolley. Participating in big events (such as viewing the big screens to watch the popular Brazil soccer matches) is free of charge. Keep your wallet in your pocket as you definitely don’t need it - well, unless you want to buy a canga from one of the sellers, or a bikini, or some coconut water – you get the point.
2. See Selaron’s Staircase
Located in the Lapa area of Rio de Janeiro, Escadaria Selaron was the work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron. He decorated the dilapidated steps outside of his home in Rio in an attempt to renovate them and make them more colorful. He started gathering up tiles to continue his project while other visitors from around the world saw what he was doing and donated tiles from their home countries to his project. What you see now is an eclectic and beautiful ode to his beloved adopted country, which became a tribute to him when he died.
3. White arches over a city
At the end of Selaron’s Staircase is the Lapa neighborhood, a place where you can have fun and virtually have every type of live music available at your disposal. Would you like to hear jazz? You’ve got it. Hip-Hop? Yes, they also have it too. Funk, techno, rock, metal, pop, it’s all here. However, these activities cost anywhere between 10 USD to over 100 USD for cover charges, depending on where you decide to go, and are only available during the nighttime. During the day, Lapa is a great neighborhood to just sit down, have a beer, and people watch. Its crowning jewel is the Lapa Arches – free to see, and accessible only if you take the tram to the Santa Teresa neighborhood situated above Lapa. Note that the tram is still being rehabilitated and is temporarily closed.
4. Take a free tour of the city center
There are a few companies that offer free tours of downtown Rio de Janeiro, so try to take one to see some of the sights within the city center as they are guided by a local. The meeting place is normally by the squares near the Cinelandia or Centro metro stops, so you probably won’t have a hard time finding the tour company. You’ll get a chance to see Cinelandia (the National Theater), Carioca Square, and the Colombo Bakery (one of the most ornate interiors you’ll see, and the food is amazing too). While the tour is technically free, you are always advised to tip your tour guides at the end of the tour. There is no set amount for the tip, only what you feel the tour was worth, so if you enjoyed it then you may end up giving more – a general feeling is that if you enjoyed the tour, give at least 10 USD.
5. Great views of Sugarloaf Mountain
Want to see Sugarloaf Mountain, but you don’t want to pay and queue up just to get on the cable car? Head on to the Santa Teresa neighborhood where you’ll be able to get great views of the mountain and the cable car for free. This hilltop neighborhood is home to artisans, and has a great homey vibe to it. At the very top of the neighborhood is Parque das Ruinas and the Chacara do Ceu Museum. There is a minimal admission fee to Chacara, which is less than 5 USD, but Parque das Ruinas is free.
Fun in the Sun
Who says you’ll have to spend a lot of money while enjoying the gems of Rio de Janeiro? Rio has beautiful public beaches that stretch for miles, and also has quirky landmarks, such as the Selaron Steps and the Lapa Arches. Rio is a city of many influences, and this shows as you walk around. There is no type of building which you can point to and say “That is Rio architecture”, because Rio morphs from one shape to another the more you walk. It is a fantastic city to visit, and can be done well under budget, if you know where to look.
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