Rio de Janeiro is the former capital of Brazil (until 1960, when Brasília took over the title) and also the second largest city in the country (after São Paulo). It is an enormous city with many attractions. First most, obviously the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the big Christ the Redeemer statue on the Corcovado mountain, and Sugarloaf mountain. Furthermore, there is the world famous annual Rio carnival: a colorful, musical and sensual spectacle. In 2014, Rio will be one of the host cities for the World Cup Football and two years later the Olympic games will be organized by the city.
Officially, about 6 million people live in Rio de Janeiro, but the whole urban area accounts for more than double the amount of inhabitants. There is a great difference between the rich and the poor. The poor live in slums - known as favelas - which sometimes borders directly on the most prosperous quarters of the city.
Rio de Janeiro lies on the east coast of Brazil, on the Guanabara Bay. Residential areas have been built on the flat lands between the rocks. Where it was difficult (on slopes) people built their own houses and huts and that is how the favelas were created. The rocks and hills supply even more greenery to the city: Rio has the two largest city parks in the world, Floresta da Tijuca and Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca.
The economy of the city is very diverse. The (financial) service sector is the most important part, but nationwide the service sector in São Paulo is bigger. However, Rio is first where industrial production is concerned. In this industry mainly food, chemicals, oil, medicine, textiles, metal and ship building are very important.
Tourism is of high importance to the city. Not only foreigners are attracted by the vibrant and diverse Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians also like to spend their holidays in this city.
Galeão-Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (shortly called Galeão) lies on an island in the Guanabara Bay, twenty kilometers from the city center. With a rental car, the airport is easily accessible: the highway BR-101 (Brasil Avenue) leads to the airport and the Via Expressa Presidente Joao Goulart / Linha Vermelha. If these names cause some confusion, the route to the airport is clearly signposted.
Rio has a second airport, Santos Dumont Airport, which is only used for domestic flights.
Rio de Janeiro has a very extensive bus network, it has more than 800 lines which transports a total of 4 million people daily. Furthermore, it has two metro lines which come together in the center of the city (Estácio station). The signs are in Portuguese as well as in English. Line 1 runs through the city centre to Copacabana, line 2 stops at the zoo, Maracanã Stadium and the Rio University amongst others. For tourists there is the historical tram line Santa Teresa (called bondihno). From the Cinelândia stop a tram leaves every 30 minutes.
Don't be intimidated by the busy and sometimes chaotic traffic in Rio de Janeiro. A rental car is an excellent choice if you are traveling to distant (therefore less crowded) beaches. You should avoid rush hour. The road along the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema is closed on Sundays for motorized traffic.
In the centre of Rio it can be difficult to find a parking space. It is also not always a good idea to leave your rental car unattended next to the road. There are often "assistants" that want to "help" you by looking after your car. They do this for a small fee, but don't trust their instructions and only pay when you return to your car.
Compared to the rest of Brazil, hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro are expensive. Moreover, the supply in the (relatively) cheaper segment is scarce. Also take into account that during peak days (carnival, New Years and the holiday month of January) prices will be higher. We suggest that you book your accommodation well in advance. The most expensive hotels are situated next to the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, cheaper options can be found at Flamengo and Catete.
For more information about Rio de Janeiro, we recommend Google and the following sources: