Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Alex Vickery guides you through Rio de Janeiro, one of the beautiful host cities
DO visit the kiosks scattered along the sides of the beach. They are great places to meet people while cracking open a cold coconut or sipping on a caipirinha, the national cocktail. Also, be sure to take advantage of the many fresh juice stands. They are essentially the Brazilian equivalent of a Starbucks on every corner.
DON’T bring a towel to the beach. It’s like having “tourist” stamped across your forehead. That’s if the bathing suit covering most of your body doesn’t already give it away. Instead, Brazilians use kangas, or sarongs. Don’t worry, many vendors on the beach sell kangas, as well as bathing suits, sunscreen, food and pretty much every other surfside necessity.
DO buy as many pairs of havaianas as your suitcase will allow. Havaianas, a Brazilian flip-flop brand, has found international success, sported on the feet of everyone from Americans to Singaporeans. Here, you’ll find the best variety of styles and lowest prices. Brazilians hardly leave the house without them.
DON’T forget to look both ways before crossing over to the beach. The bustling sidewalk can distract pedestrians from watching out for bikers or skateboarders whizzing by in the bike lane. Use caution in any street in the city; drivers can be a bit reckless with no lane divisions.
DO pay attention to the numbered posts along the three main beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Each post has it’s own unique community; from the rainbow flags along post eight, to the family beach around post 11. Students, along with hip residents of Ipanema, tend to gather between posts nine and ten.
DON’T fall for typical thief traps. If you look down to find your shoe covered in a mustard-like stain just when a young boy runs up to clean it for you, know that he is probably the one who put it there. Keep your valuables such as your phone, camera, and flashy jewelry tucked away, not in your back pocket. Simplicity is the key when it comes to safety. Don’t attract any unnecessary attention to yourself.
DO venture outside of the traditional tourist destinations. While Corcovado and Pão de Açucar are incredible sights, there is much more to see in Rio. Visit the Feira Hippie in Ipanema on Sundays for a local handcrafted market, or explore the lush Floresta da Tijuca. For the more adventurous, go hang gliding in São Conrado or hike up Pão de Açucar instead of riding the cable cars.
DON’T leave without sampling some of the local cuisine. Much of Brazilian food, from the açai fruit to the rich chocolate dessert brigadeiro, can be an acquired taste, but one thing every meat-lover can agree on is the elaborate barbecue buffet called a churrascaria. Servers come around with knives and skewers of various types of meat and serve you a portion at your table. A word of advice, make sure to wear your fat pants that day.
DO learn a few Portuguese phrases during your trip. While a lot of people increasingly speak English, especially with the upcoming World Cup and Olympic games, they greatly appreciate and respect foreigners who attempt to speak their language. Not to mention that many locals only know the Portuguese names of popular tourist hubs (i.e. Pão de Açucar instead of Sugar Loaf). When in doubt, just use a thumbs-up, smile and say “okay.”
DON’T expect locals to be on time. Part of the laidback carioca lifestyle is enjoying life at a leisurely pace. Dinner starts late, nightlife ends even later and seven o’clock probably means eight or nine. Just sit back and go with the flow.