Oh boy! Don’t know where to start and what to detail.
First of all, our flight schedule made it so interesting that reaching Rio itself became something distant and worth looking forward to. American Airlines decided to have fun with us. Flight delays, cab (and bus) rides between airports, food packets, multiple airlines (it was supposed to be all American), additional immigration scrutiny, first class upgrades — you name it. Chances are we experienced it during this 4-days-only trip.
But none of these take away or diminish what we had in these 3 days. Well, actually let me tell you. If Brazil is in your tourism agenda, don’t ever budget more than 2–2.5 days for Rio alone. Either make it a 3 day weekend trip OR include Argentina in your itinerary. Perhaps a perfect Brazil itinerary will include a 2–3 day trip to Iguazu Falls (border of Argentina and Brazil), something I did not have the time to cover.
I am not going to bore you talking about Rio 101 — which is enjoying the Atlantic view sipping a Caipirinha (or a Cachaça straight), visiting the omni-present Cristo, the cable car ride to Pão de Açúcar (I found this to be a ceremonial must-do), Sambódromo (venue of the Carnaval) & Catedral de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. Second priorities include Maracanã, Jardim Botânico and a few others. Perhaps the most important activity is the beach. Watch it, walk by it, swim in it, watch the sunrise over the horizon, swim some more, walk some more — I mean the beach is it.
Things you should know –
- Brazil doesn’t speak Spanish (popular misconception), it is Portugese. All the way. Very loyal to their language. I liked it about them. Just like the French.
- Tour guides and internet reviews talk about pick-pockets and thefts and muggings. While I agree they are every bit true (I have a friend who got pocket picked and stabbed), but that doesn’t mean everyone is like that. Brazil is still rated very low on tourist safety. But don’t forget having the moment. Be careful, stay alert — but don’t forget having the moment.
- If you are visiting Brazil in summer, the only thing you ever need is a swimsuit and something to cover it when you are not at the beach. Don’t waste your time (packing) and energy (carrying) heavy dresses. They are useless.
- Rio is expensive. Perhaps more expensive than US. Average meal made me lighter by $15–25
I believe that NOT knowing another person’s language and NOT making an attempt to speak/understand it by itself does not constitute rudeness. If you keep this in mind, you will usually have a good time visiting non-English speaking countries.
People in general are assertive, but not rude. Reminded me of India on several counts. I mean when was the last time an actual person called you for a wake-up call? Even my bags were “brought” to my room J Very rarely did I get direct and precise answers, whenever I asked the locals any questions.
But they are way ahead of India. How? The infrastructure is amazing. The roads, the public toilets, the maintenance of all this. I have not gone to Russia. Or China. But I think India should perhaps emulate Brazil, rather than try to emulate developed economies and fail in that.
Had lot of time for culinary exploration — Brazilian, Amazonian, Arabian. On the other hand, I had most fun enjoying Mango, Papaya and coffee (hey, Brazil supplies a large portion of Starbucks’ coffee).
Before I knew, the vacation was over and we were waiting at the Rio airport, when I noticed an AF 443 that was leaving for Paris. Couldn’t help remembering AF 447 which took off may be from this exact gate and never landed, killing 228 people.
We totaled flight delays of 14 hours which is pretty irritating, but that disappeared when I checked off South America as the 5th in my “visited continents” list J
Rio photo album is avbl at http://bit.ly/rkriotrip