Rio On Your Own
If you are planning a trip to Rio on your own it is advisable to do your homework before arriving in the city. Book a hotel in the safer neighborhood of Copacabana or Ipanema is always a good idea for first time goers. If budget is not your main concert, opt for the luxurious Copacabana Palace and enjoy the structure of a hotel that has hosted kings, queens and celebrities for almost a century. The Sofitel and the JW Marriott are also good options for the luxurious travelers. For the mid-range, select the Excelsior, the Porto Bay Hotel or even the just-renewed Rio Othon Palace. The Miramar Palace is also a good option with its standard rooms overlooking the ocean. If you are looking for budget accommodations, the Savoy Othon and the Martinique are both within walking distances to Ipanema and a couple of blocks to Copacabana Beach. They are certainly your best bets.
For those looking to stay in Ipanema, well, there aren’t budget hotels we could recommend. For the high end traveller, we would like to inform you that the Fasano is trying to pair up with the Copacabana Palace, offering a more modern structure and with the advantage to have its rooms overlooking the world’s sexiest beach – The Beach of Ipanema. The Caesar Park has built a tradition based on excellent service and has more than once been the choice of top celebrities of the caliber of Madonna. For the mid range, Ipanema has a lot to offer. If you can afford a 4-star in Ipanema, it’s well worth the money to be in and around the Soho of Rio de Janeiro. In this case, the Ipanema Plaza and the Sol Ipanema Hotels are good options for you.
Leblon is the chic residential area of Rio de Janeiro. It’s actually the continuation of Ipanema with high end restaurants, shops and bars. Life in Leblon is a bit more tranquil that Ipanema and Copacabana, but also a bit less fuzzy. The Marina All Suites and the Marina Palace are good options and just a mile from Ipanema
RIo de Janeiro is not Hawaii, so you will not find many resort-like hotels. The Sheraton Rio and the Intercontinental Hotel are the closest you can get to a big-pool, full board, spacious gardens type-of-hotels. Be aware that a taxi will be needed anytime you want to leave your paradise to enjoy real-life in Rio de Janeiro. Yes, even in Rio, you can’t get it all.
In the western zone of Rio is Barra da Tijuca, a Miami-like neighborhood full of celebrities and new hotels offering big pools, safe beaches with service and a more relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you won’t feel like being in Rio but if that’s what you’re looking for, the luxury Sheraton Barra and Windsor Barra are right on the beach. Barra is where Rio de Janeiro is building 60% of its Olympic venues for 2016.
To summarize, you can’t go wrong if you opt for these hotels:
High-end: Copacabana Palace Hotel in Copacabana
Luxury: The Sofitel in Copacabana
Mid-range: Ipanema Plaza in Ipanema
Economy: The Martinique or the Savoy Othon hotels in Copacabana
Getting Around the City
Traveling on your own in Rio de Janeiro is quite easy. There is a public bus that travels to just about every neighborhood in Rio. Stay alert for pickpockets and be sure to take your bus fare out of your wallet before getting on the bus. The subway system is very safe and very affordable. It has 2 main lines with a third one in the works. The subway system is limited and only provides services to a few areas in Rio. The best way to travel around the city if you are alone is by taxi. Make sure the driver starts the meter as soon as you get in the cab. This will prevent you from being over charged. If you’re staying at a hotel, get the concierge to arrange the taxi for you, and always have the address of where you’re staying with you, as taxi drivers don’t speak English.
Zona Sul and Zona Oeste are the safest districts in the city. However, do not go onto the beaches at night unless they are well lit. Also stay away from empty parks and dark alleys as there is a faction that likes to prey on tourists. Don’t walk around with jewelry, passport – keep it down low. Just about anywhere in the city is fine to visit during the day except the favelas. These slums are quite fascinating but join a guided tour and do not visit them alone.
What to See
There are a few favorite attractions in the city. Corcovado Mountain with the Christ the Redeemer statue is the most popular attraction. The view of the bay from the top of the mount is spectacular. Sugar Loaf Mountain has another fantastic view of the bay and the city. And getting to the top is a lot of fun as you have to ride on two different trams. Experience the rain forest by stopping in at Parque Nacional and Floresta da Tijuca. There are over 46 square miles with waterfalls, brilliant flowers and amazing city views. Hiking trails run all through the park including a rather strenuous jaunt to the top of Pico da Tijuca.
If you are looking to meet the locals or make new friends plan on spending a day on one of the popular beaches. The locals or Cariocas are very congenial and will have no problem striking up a conversation with you. Visitors congregate on Ipanema and Copacabana beaches on the weekdays, locals flock to them on holidays and weekends. Barra beach, in Barra da Tijuca is another popular beach with the locals and tourists. Other beaches in the area while not as crowded, can be fun to visit including Flamengo Beach if you are into soccer or Sao Conrado and Praia da Gavea for surfing and hang gliding.
Traveling the city of Rio de Janeiro on your own can be a bit imposing. Careful planning will allow you to truly enjoy Rio on your own.