The following is a guest post from another naughty nomad Fuse.
Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city in the world. Period. There are dozens of beaches, beautiful ladies, a booming nightlife and the famous Brazilian vibe that got millions of foreigners in love with the country. I was lucky enough to live there for a few months and literally had the best time of my life.
Saying that, Rio can be a dangerous city where almost nobody speaks English. If you want to make the best out of your time in cidade maravilhosa there are definitely a few things you want to know. From one traveler to another, I will try to share some of my experiences with you and leave you with tips to make the best out of your time in Rio.
How to Stay Safe
The city of Rio de Janeiro has about 6.5 million inhabitants, but the state of Rio de Janeiro extends to approximately 12 million. A large part of town is covered by the infamous Favelas. These areas are mostly known for violence, crime and poverty. Western visitors usually have them described as no-go areas. There are dozens of them in Rio and most of them lie right next to “the better neighborhoods”. Approximately one quarter of Rio´s population live there whilst foreigners usually try to avoid these places by all means.
Most of these districts lie a bit further up the hills, offering breathtaking views. Due to that, some of these districts have been “urbanized” and “pacificated” for tourists and visitors. In fact, some very expensive hotels and bars lie either on top of the favela or just at the border towards more touristy areas. The favelas are usually called “communidade” in Rio and the differences amongst them are striking.
On the one hand you have the immensely dangerous areas like Cidade de deus and Alemão, where foreigners should under no circumstances set foot into. Rather watch the movie “Cidade de deus” to get an impression of it… On the other hand there are “tourist favelas” like Vidigal and maybe some parts of Cantagalo where you can find tons of hostels and clubs which are usually safe to visit.
The dynamics in these areas are constantly changing. The Rocinha favela for example was known to be one of the safer favelas where lots of families and some tourists live. But at some point in 2017, parts of the drug cartel started to fight each other. As a consequence, thousands of police men and soldiers marched into the Favela. There were severe shootings and everyone had to avoid the area for quite some time. We were told that the leading gang bosses forbid to rob or kill gringos in the favelas since it brings about a lot of trouble and scares off potential customers.
If a faveleiro kills a tourist he is usually sentenced to death by the local boss, so they do not do so. If foreigners get killed in the favela, it is mostly because they accidently ended up in the middle of armed conflicts between gangs or between the police and the gangs. But there are also shootings in more expensive areas like Ipanema or Copacabana. It is not so common, but it happens, too.
The point here is, Rio is not safe by western standards. You have to use your brain and be careful about where you are going at what time. There are facebook pages and apps that help you get around. For example, try the OTT (“Onde Tem TiroteioRJ. OTTRJ”) app or facebook page to stay informed. After all, the whole safety issue sounds scarier than it actually is. We lived in Rio for quite some time, went through all sort of districts at all given times and never had the slightest security problems. The truth is, that you get used to the situation and that you will stay safe if you use common sense.
Logistics / Where to Live
If you are looking for accommodation in Rio de Janeiro, here is what I experienced about some of the common districts to live/ not live in as a foreigner:
Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are probably the most well-known districts of Rio de Janeiro. They are packed with Hotels, Restaurants and Bars so you find a lot of Gringos around here. Copacabana is the most vivid of these three areas. There are lots of shops around here and the bars at the beach are packed until nighttime. There is no reason not to live in Copacabana and lots of Expats and tourists fall in love with this legendary stripe, but I think it is neither the best place to live in nor the cheapest.
Ipanema lies next to Copacabana separated by the Arpoador rock. The district is a bit more quiet and tidy. Locals generally tend to prefer this area over Copacabana so you will meet more of them here. Besides that, it is very similar. People usually tend to be either a Copacabana person or an Ipanema person. Both of these places are great anyway so try for yourself and you will find out…
Leblon lies right next to Ipanema and is very similar to it. The place is known to be the most expensive stripe in whole Latin America (!!!). Especially Alto Leblon is packed with Brazil´s richest 1%´s villas and holiday getaways. Generally, Rio de Janeiro is the richest, most glamorous place in whole Brazil. Be aware of that when getting in touch with the locals. All in all we experienced Leblon itself as a bit boring and snobby. Despite that, it can be a nice place to live in if you find something affordable and it is very safe.
Gavea lies further up Leblon away from the beach region. The district is also known to be very wealthy. In this region you will find the famous Rio Jockey club, some nice bars and a good infrastructure with all necessities for the every day live. Gavea is a good district to live in, with the big downside of not having a beach. You can safely live there if you want to but, when in Rio, you should better try to find something closer to the beach especially because living in Gavea will not be much cheaper than Copacabana or Ipanema.
Vidigal is classified as a favela but you will meet lots of tourists here due to the breath-taking view towards Copacabana and Ipanema. There are many hostels here and we never had any problems going there at any times.
Botafogo Decent place with some cool bars. Recommendable to live in from what I have heard…
There is a huge difference between Rio Sul and Rio Norte. The Rio Sul districts are usually much better/ safer/ luxurious to live in than the north ones. If you don´t have any particular reason to do so, do not live in Rio Norte. As a rule of thumb, cut off everything north of Maracana and Sao Cristovao (including Maracana) from your wish list.
When looking for accommodation, make sure that there is a Porteiro included. Some of them will spy on you, though. In our first apartment, we were not allowed to have guests AT ALL. And the Porteiro was down there 24/7. Our second apartment had a porteiro until like 9 o clock or so and we were allowed to have guests. This was an ideal situation.
There is no talking about Rio de Janeiro without talking about the ladies. Rio de Janeiro and Brazil in general are famous for their curvy, tanned goddesses and hordes of horny gringos seem to get off the plane expecting to get their pants ripped off by them right away.
I heard tons of stories about Brazilian girls before I even entered the country. I found some of the rumors to be true and some of them not so much. Anyway, girls and sex in Brazil is a topic that one could probably fill books with. To put it in short, if you are a gringo in Rio you are probably up for a good time with the girls but you need to have balls and be up to your game. I have tried to break the whole thing down in the next few paragraphs.
It’s tough to pin down the Brazilian type because Brazil is an immigration country so the gene pool there is very well diversified. You can find girls in all possible shapes, colors and sizes but there are certain types and looks that you will see around frequently in Rio and rarely anywhere else. On the one hand you have the classic Brazilian Latina with dark hair and tanned skin. You will also find the ebony, curly hair girl that you can easily imagine in a short dress dancing sexy in a carnival´costume, but there are also enough white girls and some Asians if you prefer that. As a rule of thumb, the girls are more European/white in the south and more African/black in the north of Brasil. Rio lies somewhere in the middle (geographically and girls wise). Rio de Janeiro is a very international town. You will find Brazilian girls, Argentinian girls, American girls, French girls… you name it. But let´s start with the locals: The majority of Brazilian girls is NOT pretty.
Really. They almost all have the famous Bunda (butt) and tight hips, sometimes also some breast but their faces are not that pretty on average. The thing is only that there are 100 million of them and since you will probably hang out in the “better areas”, you will be fortunate enough to see the more “well groomed” girls. Usually, there is a correlation between money and beauty, but you will also find some super hot girls from the poorer areas and even amongst the “well groomed” ones you will definitely find many unattractive girls, so do not expect Rio to be one huge playboy mansion. Saying that, you will also walk past some of the hottest girls in your life on the streets of Rio. In the end of the day, Rio brings together the most beautiful chicks of the country, but it depends a bit on the specific location and the time of the year.
Compared to European girls, Brazilians are famous for taking a lot of effort to look good. The surgery and cosmetics business is exploding in the country. They take a lot of pride in their looks and want everyone to know about it. It is not like in Europe where girls try to look manly at times for business/career/ emancipation reasons or whatever. In Brazil, a woman is allowed to be a woman and takes great pride in behaving so. Compared to other Latina types I would say they are friendly, too but a bit wittier or let´s say playful. They can easily turn from super happy and laughing to sort of “challenging” in a friendly way from one second to the other. Generally, they are easy to initiate into conversations but keep in mind that Rio is the top tier town for the rich and beautiful in whole Brazil so the hot girls get hit on a lot every day. Expect their shields to be up!
Fashion wise, they often wear light, colorful summer dresses with flower shapes and forms on it when out at night. They like to show some skin if possible and almost all of them are tattooed. Brazilian girls know how to move their ass. Especially when the funk music is pumping, they dance extremely sexy with their ass going into all directions and they are totally open/ proud about it. You will see that sort of dance in almost every club if the music is right, but it is not like the grinding in the US: do not interpret the funk dance as an invitation for grabbing and touching. Trust me, it is better to just enjoy the show and hit on them from the front side using words initially.
In regard to the international girls, I must say that most of them are also seeking a crazy ride. Nobody comes to Rio to be bored to death. The vibe is sort of contagious. Calibrate your game a little bit in the middle between Brazilian direct game and the usual western stuff and you will also be successful with those ladies.
Game & Nightlife
Is it easy to get laid in Rio? Yes and no. Brazilians love to kiss. It is almost impossible to leave Rio without making out with a chick here. Sometimes you don´t even initiate it. It is just sort of happening to one. There were times when girls asked us if we want to kiss and so on. It is not that much of a thing and it does not mean a lot. At one night, a friend of mine has literally made out with a dozen of chicks at a festival without getting laid. Another time I have made out with a chick that made out with like 5 or 6 others the same evening, some times while I stood like two or three feet away from her. Kissing seems to be sort of people´s hobby down there. I heard that on Carneval you have people lining up to kiss each other and then go to the next.
Getting laid can be another story. Sometimes we found that it came quite easy, but some other times a girl that made out with you like 30 minutes ago would not talk a word with you at the end of the night. In any cases, you should definitely be direct. There is no shy in Brazil, especially not in Rio. Keep your smile up, maintain eye contact, do not be too reactive, have fun and do not give a shit. In short, body language and bravery are the key drivers of your success. Do not be afraid of touching the ladies even in bars or during the day. If you ask yourself if you should go further, touch, kiss, grab her or whatever you should probably do it. Have a bit of an eye on the Brazilian guys. They know their playground well and at times just grab the chicks and kiss straight away. Their super aggressive game can be very annoying especially if you are out with female friends but there are one or two things that one should learn from them, in my opinion.
Speaking Portuguese is a big asset down there but it is definitely not necessary to get laid. The biggest pimp I met in town slept with like 30 girls in 3 months without speaking more than ten words or so in Portuguese. As mentioned above, body language and directness are the key. Latina´s want to be lead in some way. Just grab her waist and point towards the taxi if the time is right. She will probably just smile and wave her index finger if she does not want to leave with you. In that case, just laugh a bit and form a heart with your thumbs and index fingers an You can try again later… If you are not speaking the language, you will usually encounter situations where you talk to a girl or a group of girl and you do not understand anything anymore. Just nod and let her talk with her Portuguese speaking friends for a while. Do not remain there waiting for her. Maybe talk a bit with your friends or with other people walking around in the venue or get a drink or whatever.
After some time you might make out with her a little bit more. Make sure, that you are there when it is time to leave the club. If she stays there with you alone, the green light seems to be on and you can possibly just lead her to the taxi or uber to bring her to your place. If you do speak Portuguese, you are definitely in a huge advantage. You can spike the girl´s emotion on another level. Literally another level. The flirting culture is very out going. What ever you would text a western girl, at least double the amount of naughtiness. You can literally text her stuff like “you are crazy hot, I want to fuck you blab labla” after hanging out with her once or so. It is socially acceptable to say so. Key words here are “Gostosa”, “Gata”, “Safada”…
Rio nightlife is absolutely crazy. Imagine the best 10 parties you have been to in your life. They could all happen on the same day, same time and you can impossibly attend all of them. There are all sort of nighttime activities so you will definitely find your self well entertained down there. You should also know, that the nightlife can be pretty intense. You will not understand one word of what people say, it is loud, people are jumping around half naked, there are dogs running around some times, you smell weed everywhere, beggars want to collect money, others might try to rob you and some times you see groups of guys kissing each other… bottom line: the stimulus is huge and it takes a bit of time until you get used to it.
At the beginning it can even be a bit shocking for the average stiff westerner. My tip here is to keep going out as much as you can to get used to it. We found, that there can be a severe difference between flirting with rich, high class Cariocas and the average, not so rich Carioca girls. Being with a gringo is cool, when it comes to the more working class part of the country. We sometimes felt, that being with gringos can be perceived as a downgrade among the richest Brazilians, though. Also, they might expect you to speak Portuguese with them in order to be successful. There were many parties where neither me nor my friends had the slightest chances with the girls and after all, I think this is one of the explanations to this.
Tinder is the best way to go if you are only interested in plain sex. A decent western account can get hundreds and thousands of matches in only a few months. My recommendation here is to take some time in advance and have some decent pictures made of yourself. I know it is annoying to ask a bro to take a picture but do it anyway. It will pay off, trust me. Have some cool hq gringo photos of your self doing cool gringo stuff in stylish gringo clothes and you will find yourself swimming in matches. You can impossibly text all of them if you play your cards right, and from the ones you meet are most likely down to have sex with you the first time they meet you. They certainly do not expect a candle light dinner or anything. I recommend you to be a gentleman, but you do not have to overdo it. Some times it is enough to just meet at the beach, chat, drink a bit and then suggest to go to your place for some random reason. You should know how to handle the rest…
When it comes to fashion, the Brazilian men are certainly not on the western level. The shops are neither that decent. I recommend you to bring everything you need with you. The shopping is really not worth it. Saying that, you will not need to look like Versace or so when out in the field. Brazilian girls are not looking for fashionable men. They do not really care, I think. We have actually experimented quite a bit in that matter because we somehow had the notion, that a sense of fashion could be one of the cool gringo features that sparks girl´s interest and distinguishes us from the local guys. We were wrong. I mean, try it for yourself but in our experience, a simple t shirt, shorts and some flip flops/ sneakers do the job pretty well for most occasions. Being fit is more appreciated I would say, so work out a lot before coming to Brazil, if you can. Be careful with expensive accessories. It is often recommended to not wear expensive watches and that, because you could get robbed easier. When you are down, though, you will see tons of people wearing jewelry and it is no brainer. The idea here is the same as with the other safety tips: follow them until common sense and experience guide you better.
Forget phone numbers. It often happened to us that the girls offered us her phone number or Instagram after making out. Most of the time it was their polite way of saying good bye. At that time, the game is probably over for you. Try to prevent this from happening and keep the girl entertained until it is time to leave the venue. If she offers you her contacts, take it anyway and try if you can meet up with her some time during the week. Maybe our text game was not on point, but I would say that almost 80 or 90% of numbers/ IGs flaked in Brazil. There is just too much going on for beautiful Latinas. The number one Latina rule is “they do what they want to do and nothing else” applies here. Even if they are super into you they might not be anymore one or two days later. Just seize the moment when it is there.
If the girl actually replies and you get her to agree on a date or tells you that she wants to see you, the war is still not won. Lot´s of times they say “OK yes we meet here and there…” and just don´t come or cancel the last moment. It is a Carioca thing to make appointments very quickly without actually intending to attend them. If you are on a date with a girl everything goes pretty much as the usual. If you can, better try to kiss them sooner than later. As mentioned above, kissing is not that much of an intimidate act in Brazil. You will feel much more confident and calmer after breaking that boundary.
There are many regular parties that happen on a weekly basis. Mondays people usually go to Pedra do Sal in the north. It is like one huge Samba party where they sell drinks and what not. Tuesdays the party is at Canastra Bar in Ipanema It is like one street with two or three restaurants and you have about 500 or maybe thousand people coming. Lots of hot girls, but I found them difficult and there are many fellow gringos around. Thursdays the party move to Baixxo Gavea. That is (again) a street with like three or four bars. Nothing special but somehow everybody goes there on Thursdays. There are lots of young people because a big university is nearby and they have parties on Thursdays, as well. Friday, people usually go to Lapa. It is the big bar district but I have never been the biggest fan of it.
Barra de Tijuca is basically the west part of Rio. It is a (more or less) rich neighborhood with beautiful beaches and some of the most beautiful ladies. There are nice bars and restaurants and you should definitely check out Barra Music. It is a huge night club next to the favela with 3 different levels (basic to VIP) where you can meet all sorts of people. It is sort of metaphorical for the whole place…
Santa Teresa is a neighbourhood where you can find lots of nice bars but it can be a bit dangerous. I was only there one or two times but I think I should have gone more often… There are also some good clubs in Centro, Botafogo and Flamengo, but I am not 100% familiar with them. It is always a good idea to go on facebook and follow like the clubs that interest you the most, or the people that always seem to go on the good parties. There are countless boat- and/or pool parties in the summer so stay tuned as good as you can.
The Rio experience
It has been some time now that I have arrived back from Rio de Janeiro, so I sort of had the chance to let all the crazy memories settle and think about what I have experienced. There were a lot of nights where I just lay in my bed, watched the sky and wondered how it would be to go back to Rio now. The next morning I usually wake up, check the flights and consider taking the train to the airport and one of these days I will do it but until then I keep listening to my Brasil playlist and keep scrolling through all the old photos…
Some friends of mine that have previously been to Brasil have changed a lot. I think that this has happened to me, as well. In fact, it was probably the most valuable time of my life. Brasil is a hell of a ride and I loved every minute of it. I have written this article in a way that my name is not going to be recognized for personal issues, but I cannot finish this article without putting out special thanks to special people. I want to thank all my friends that went down this mad ride with me, especially my flat mates. There was always someone on our couch crying about STDs or potential pregnancies and we have all solved it by using alcohol. Hallelujah! I want to thank my family for supporting me. Thanks for making this possible! I want to thank all the Locals who helped us finding our way around. I know, that this article was a lot about girls and some people will definitely read it as some sort of macho-bragging bullshit, but I have actually developed a very deep connection to many people (men and women from very different origins) and places on this journey and for that I am most thankful.
I love you Rio! Besides all the trouble going on you are the greatest place that I have been so far. If there has ever been anything like a cultural fit, it was us and I will come back to you as soon as possible. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and that it helped you plan your journey. Have as much fun as you can, stay safe and treat the place with respect.