Handle Rio like a Local!

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Today Martha, a Brazilian guide and proud Rio de Janeiro native, is here to share with us her tips for enjoying her city safely, and blending in as much as possible with the locals. Martha's tips should come in particularly handy for two of the ToursByLocals team, who are about to head to Brazil for a well-deserved holiday! After reading the article, be sure to click on the photos to the right, for Martha's favourite places to visit!

A “CARIOCA” is what I am: BORN IN RIO! I am here to tell you about how to handle our city almost as a local would. I consider the following information a “must-read” for anyone traveling to Rio!

1. It is HOT all year long! Light coats should be considered for May – September evenings. Temperature can vary from 58 F to 110F. The humidity can be up to 94%.

2. To be well dressed in Rio, be sure you don’t wear flip flops during the night time. During the day time everything is well accepted: T-shirts, skirts, dresses, shorts, bermudas etc. Evening Codes: “Boys” should generally wear shirts with sleeves (tank tops is gay code in Rio). Bermudas are okay in casual spots. Leather shoes fit better in evening. Wearing sneakers after dark is an easy way to recognize tourists! A Tip for “Girls”… Brazilians are very feminine, though dresses and “not so high” heels should be considered for evening programs. I observe that wearing the color black is becoming unusual during the hot months.

3. Leave your expensive watches and jewelry at home! As a local, I advise you that tourists are seen from miles away by the pick pockets. You’ll be extra acquainted whenever in town!

4. Do not think that Rio is more dangerous than Paris, London or New York. In Rio it is easier to find out visitors from abroad because of their skin color. And as tourists are normally very relaxed – it’s easier to be caught!

5. Bring a Xerox copy of your passports. It is forbidden not to carry identification papers! It’s “accepted” to have the passport copy together with a hotel/ cruise ship card in case of tourists.

6. Do not forget the sun blocks you are used to (sunscreen costs a fortune here). Not using sun blocks even when cloudy represents a huge risk of being bad burned.

7. Due to our tropical climate and an important rain forest (43,000 hectares) in the middle of the city, light rain coats should be a part of your travel items (just in case)!

8. Major credit cards are accepted all around – Visa and Mastercard more so than Amex. Local money in cash is also very important, but nothing that you cannot take from the distributors (Citibank, HSBC & some Banco do Brasil, with few exceptions). US Dollars and Euros are only welcome in touristy places under a low exchange rate. Exchange rates observed: Money Exchangers in Town > Rio International Airport > Hotel’s Concierge > Rates originated outside Brazilian territory. Forget about Travelers’ Checks – they’re just a headache!

9. The regular tipping in the city is represented by 10% of the total amount of a check, but it’s not imposed anywhere. Restaurants are an exception because the law allows them to extra charge 10% as “service tax”. Brazilians add an extra 5% only if the service is extremely pleasant.

10. Water from the tap is not supposed to be drunk by anyone: either locals or tourists! Carry a water bottle with you at all times and stay hydrated, safely! Drinking two liters of water daily is recommended to avoid dehydration. When you feel the illness’ symptoms, it’s already too late and as less important consequence you’ve ruined two vacation days!

11. Regular plugs are 110V with only two small pins. Most hotels offer one 220V plug, normally at the bathroom.

12. Different than what most people think; going topless is forbidden by law.

13. American Citizens need a Visa to enter Brazil.

Thanks for sharing your advice, Martha! Anyone traveling to Rio this fall or in 2012, be sure to click on the photos above to see Martha's favourite places to visit.
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