When to fly
The summer season plays host to one of Rio’s biggest celebrations, Carnival. This 5-day festival gives visitors the chance to learn about Brazilian culture through parties which last all day and night. The atmosphere is euphoric across the city, with people singing, dancing and having lots of fun. Rio de Janeiro is considered the Carnival Capital of the World, so it’s no wonder this is “the” time to come. This is clearly reflected through accommodation and flight prices becoming more expensive, therefore, it is advised to book your hotel and Rio de Janeiro flight at least a year in advance. To take in some sights and museums, you should aim to arrive a few days before the party starts and linger a few days after.
Another grand party is New Year’s Eve, called Reveillon. Millions pack the beach for the all-night celebration, music, and fireworks. Bear in mind this event can also affect hotel rates and makes it harder to find any cheap flights to Rio de Janeiro.
When planning your trip, it should be taken into consideration that businesses are usually closed from just before Christmas through to the beginning of January.
The city is less crowded and prices are a bit lower during winter, from July to September. This is still a great time to visit, weather-wise, as there is very little rainfall and there are still sunny days, although the nights and some cloudy days can be a little chilly.
Cidade Maravilhosa or "Marvellous City" is what the locals call their beloved Rio and visitors coming off their Rio flights will quickly agree. Its recognisable landmarks: Sugar Loaf mountain, Christ the Redeemer and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema provide the dramatic backdrop to the world’s most decadent city.
Nestled between 56 miles of beach and two lush green rainforests, Rio’s natural beauty is spellbinding and cariocas take full advantage of it. On any given day, come rain or shine, the locals are out jogging along Ipanema, skydiving close to Sugar Loaf or climbing a tree in Tijuca. But apart from its aesthetic beauty Rio’s cultural and historical sights are just as fascinating. The Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) and Museu Histórico Nacional are well worth a visit while the port of Paraty, a Unesco World Heritage Site, provides a glimpse into Rio’s colonial past.
Most visitors book flights to Rio during Carnaval, but this is also the busiest time, when thousands of people from all over the world fly in especially for the event, making it difficult to get around the city and finding a hotel room can be a challenge. However if you think a visit to Rio isn't complete without attending at least one Samba show, samba schools conduct pre-Carnaval rehearsals year-round.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) on Corcovado Mountain, the stadium of Maracanã, and the Sugar Loaf Mountain are among its many landmarks. Two cable cars take you 396 metres up the mountain, above Rio’s harbour, where breathtaking views of the city will be indelibly etched into your mind. Sun worshippers should make a beeline for Copacabana beach, while much of the historic architecture can be found in Rio’s financial and business centre.
The Municipal Theatre, National Library and National Museum of Fine Arts are must-sees. If you think you’re a party animal at home, think again. Once in Rio de Janeiro you’ll discover that Brazilians don’t hold back when they let their hair down, putting many other nations to shame whether it’s Carnival time or not.
Rio de Janeiro climate
Summer in Rio is from December through to mid-March where the hot weather is matched with quite a bit of rain. The hottest months, December and January can see temperatures soar to well over 40 degrees Celsius. Flights to Rio and hotel rates can be quite pricey during this time and beaches can be crowded. This is not only due to the glorious weather but also a number of celebrations which take place.
Getting around Rio de Janeiro
The Rio de Janeiro subway doesn’t reach all parts of the city, but it is air-conditioned and quicker and cheaper than the buses, which can take you anywhere. You will need to learn enough Portuguese to ask for directions though, since few drivers speak English. Avoid taking buses at night; they can be a hotspot for robberies. The private buses have regular stops and can be flagged down anywhere on the way to the beach, centre or the airport. If you’re travelling anywhere in the city at night, take a taxi to play it safe. There are plenty of taxis around, and you shouldn’t have trouble flagging one down. For a more reliable and air-conditioned cab, your best bet is one of the radio taxis and cab companies that serves hotels. It’s always a good idea to negotiate your fare before you get in the car if the meter isn’t running. If you rent a car, stay alert and keep the car doors locked. You’ll have to deal with heavy traffic, poorly labelled streets and scarce parking.
There are two main airports for travellers taking flights to Rio: Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG) located on Governor's Island, north of Rio de Janeiro and Santos Dumont Regional Airport (SDU)). The airport is just a mile or so from the centre. Guanabara Bay.An airport bus leaves regularly for the major hotels along the beach road. Taxis are available outside the terminal; visitors are advised to buy prepaid taxi vouchers at the Rio Tourism Authority desk; they are usually a little bit more expensive but give you peace of mind. Public buses are also available.
Rio de Janeiro insider information
- Take a cable-car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain. The journey to the top is done in two stages. The first cable car climbs more than 700 feet up Urca Hill. Then, on another cable car, tourists travel 1300 feet to the summit from which there are wonderful views of Copacabana beach and over the city.
- The world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer is 125 feet high and stands at the peak of the mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park.
- The botanical gardens are home to about 2,600 species of plant life. The gardens were created by the Prince Regent of Portugal in 1808 as a temporary home for imported plants while they were being acclimatized. There are animals too such as toucans, tanagers, marmoset monkeys and exotic butterflies.
- World-famous beaches include Copacabana, where Rio's New Year's celebrations take place, and Ipanema, famous in the song The Girl from Ipanema.
- For retail therapy, check out the upmarket Rua Garcia D'Avila or for budget-conscious travelers, the hippie fair at Praça General Osorio is a good place to pick up souvenirs such as wooden sculptures, leather goods and artworks.
- The Museu Nacional de Belas Artes was inspired by the Louvre. It dates from 1908 and is Rio de Janeiro’s main fine arts museum. It displays artifacts from the 19th century to today from several famous Brazilian artists including Victor Meirelles, Pedro Americo and Candido Portinari as well as foreign and contemporary artists.