If you have ever thought about vacationing in Rio de Janeiro there are a few things you need to know about where to stay and various options available.
There are three basic options when considering travel in Brazil, each with pros and cons depending on what type of vacation you would like to have. I will try to provide some basic information for each.
Hotels in Rio
The first thing anyone is going to think of is a hotel of course. If you are planning on staying in the area of the two main beaches, Copacabana Beach or Ipanema Beach, there are plenty of options to choose from, although not many names that Americans will recognize.
Currently there are only two American hotel chains in Rio, the Marriott and the Sheraton.
Both hotels are very nice, both directly on the beach, but they can be pricey. I have personally stayed in the Marriott and it is a nice hotel, but a standard room was $250 a night, and that was 10 years ago. The Sheraton is located at the far end of Ipanema beach, actually it is just past Leblon, but all tourists think of that entire stretch as Ipanema.
If you are the type of person that likes your room cleaned every day, that likes to go sit down for breakfast in the hotel and that prefers access to a pool, then a hotel is the way to go. Both the Marriott and the Sheraton have pools, although the Marriott pool is on the top of the building and really isn’t anything more than a wading pool no more than 4 ft deep.
Sheraton Hotel in Rio de Janeiro
The granddaddy hotel of them all on the beach is the Copacabana Palace which dates back to the 1920s when American movie stars and politicians used to vacation there. It’s very elegant, very old style architecture and yes, expensive.
Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro
The downside to hotels is that they tend to be pricey and the hotel taxes in Rio continue to climb. They do not have a sales taxes in Brazil. They use a Value Added Tax on everything, which is basically a hidden tax on every step along the way to producing a good. With hotels, the tax isn’t hidden, but the point is that this is another way that the government uses to collect revenue absent a sales tax, so they are steep. I have been to New York City several times, and I believe they are more than the taxes there.
But again, there are many different hotels to choose from along the beach front and some people enjoy the secure feel of a nice hotel, especially in a place like Rio which can be a little dicey in areas at night.
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How to Find an Apartment in Rio
When I first went to Rio over 10 years ago, someone suggested I rent an apartment. It sounded like the most bizarre thing to me. However, it is quite common in other parts of the world primarily because it is so much cheaper than hotels. Not only is it $20 - $25 a night cheaper, but there are no taxes. You typically go through an apartment manager website and they arrange everything for you, including someone to meet you at the airport if you like.
Renting an apartment in Rio is cheaper, but there are differences from a hotel, so if you are a hotel type person that wants clean linens every day, you should consider that you will have to pay extra for maid service and that can add up. Typically, most people renting an apartment for a week or 10 days have the maid come in once or twice during the entire stay to clean and bring new sheets and towels.
Also, apartments are generally located in residential buildings so you will be mingling with normal, everyday Brazilians that aren’t in the service industry. So if your goal is to meet normal Brazilians and make friends, this may be a good option for you.
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Hostels in Rio de Janeiro
Finally, there are hostels, which is my least favorite option. I personally know of 2, one in Copacabana and one in Ipanema. There are many more, but these are the only two that I have personally walked by. So if you have seen the movie Hostel, you probably would never want to think about staying in hostels, however, you will not be in some out of the way, former eastern bloc setting I assure you. Both are located in the heart of the beach areas.
My major problem with them is that you have to sleep in the same room with a bunch of people you do not know like you are in the army. There are also a lot of people coming in and coming out of the actual building so security can be an issue. I know for a fact that the hostel in Copacabana was robbed last year after the front desk person buzzed someone in, and several thugs rushed the door and robbed everyone inside of their personal belongings before bolting.
I would say you need to have a definite sense of adventure if you are choosing this route. Also, you probably need to be on the younger side too because that is typically the type of crowd that stays in these places.
They are relatively cheap compared to apartments and hotels and that is their biggest draw. I imagine some young people love the atmosphere of meeting strangers from other countries, so again, this option may appeal to some.
So really, the decision on where to stay comes down to the type of person you are and what makes you comfortable. If you like to be pampered, to have a front desk to call for everything and to have your room cleaned every day, stay at a hotel. If you are looking for a nice place to stay and want to save money per night, there are many excellent apartment opportunities.
Finally, if you are a youngster hoofing it around the world with a backpack, check out a hostel because you are going to meet a lot of people just like you doing the same thing.
But above all, get to Rio de Janeiro one way or the other. You won’t regret that decision.