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I’m planning my next trip to Rio de Janeiro. Here are a few recommendations for first timers to maximize their experience in a Cidade Maravilhosa, “The Marvelous City”. 

(1) Visit the beaches…
Rio de Janeiro arguably has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And there is something for everyone: public, crowded, secluded, white sand, pink sand, surrounded by mountain, smack dab in the city, full of activities, chilled out. Whatever type of beach you want, Rio probably has what you’re looking for. Also on the more populated beaches, there are vendors selling and renting everything you need: umbrellas, chairs, wraps, sunglasses, bikinis, food, beverages. And feel free to haggle. I personally love to rent an umbrella, lay on my canga (sarong), order a cocktail and grilled shrimp from a beach vendor. And yes, I do wear the teeny tiny Brazilian bikini. When in rome… or better, when in Rio.

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(2) Eat the Galetos…
Not gelato (the Italian style ice cream), but galeto– which is Portuguese for a young/small “rooster”. They are maller than you expect because they are young and aren’t pumped with steroid. They are served just like chicken and they are everywhere in Rio. These birds are typically roasted and then grilled with spices and herbs. And because they aren’t typically expensive, this is the perfect food to eat before you go out or when you’re coming home from a night out. On my last trip, this was nearly a daily thing. LOL.
grilled chicken

 

(3) Visit the Samba School Parties…
I have a deep love and appreciation for Brazilian samba. And I respect the pomp and circumstance of the Rio samba schools. Samba Schools are basically community centers that teach music, dance and costume design in order for the community to compete in the the carnival parades at the sambadrome, which airs on television. The winning schools get recognition, money, etc. Anyway, each school has private rehearsals all year to prepare for carnaval, but each week they have at least one public rehearsal to raise money, which is basically the best samba party you’ll ever attend. Live drums, the best dancers, great music, the occasional celebrity appearance, drinks and food. It is an incredible experience– especially for first timers. They start around 10pm go until the sun comes up again. That is NOT an exaggeration. Below is a video from my first trip to Salgueiro in 2014. Footage from other samba schools in 2016 coming soon!

 

(4) Take in all the Natural Beauty…
When you go see the touristy sights, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. On the train ride up the corcovado to see the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) or when you take the bondinho (cable car) to see the views from Morro do Urca (Mount Urca) and Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)– you’ll agree that the views of the landscape, the wildlife, the vegetation and the water are gorgeous. Rio is naturally green and lush, but now it is pretty urban and in many areas visibly impoverished. So keep your eyes open. There are these amazing nature reserves; these areas that are well maintained. And there are other areas that have grown wild and remain untouched despite the urban sprawl around them. I especially like to look up at the trees as I walk the streets. You’ll see beautiful flowers and birds everywhere.
view from urca

 

(5) Hang with the Locals…
Brazilian culture as experienced in America is super different than the real thing in Brazil. Brazilians have a reputation for being very open, warm and inviting– and they are to a degree. But the reality is that people are people no matter where they are from, so it may take some time to crack the code. Keep in mind that Rio is a social place. You’ll often see people out in groups. You can have a great time with no Brazilians friends. You’ll have a better time if you make friends while there. But to have the ultimate experience, do whatever you can to meet people before you go and meet up with them when you’re there. They will probably introduce you to their friends and those friends will probably introduce you to their friends and so on and so on. Obviously the locals know the best parties and places that aren’t advertised on the internet. So with Brazilian friends you could experience a Rio de Janeiero that you never knew existed. Ask your friends about a sarau, a samba de raiz, a baile funk, a true Brazilian churrasco, etc. Below is a pic of Edrick, Carlito and I with three Brazilian friends.
friends in rio

 

(6) [Honorable Mention] City Walking
This gets honorable mention because its one of my favorite things to do in any city outside of Atlanta. I love to walk around and get a feel for a city, by experiencing the sights, sounds and smells. Yes the smells– sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but it always makes memories. On our first trip to Rio, I walked more in the first day than I had the whole month before. My feet felt like they were gonna fall off. But I survived and repeated the same thing the next day with more comfortable shoes. LOL. Videos to come! Share this post with your friends before you travel!

Thank you for reading. Go ahead follow me on social media. And of course by the book below. It is so much fun to read. And it will come in handy when you travel to Brazil. Its not just dirty words, there are REAL LIFE common phrases in it. Thanks, friends!

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