Rio de Janeiro is a huge and chaotic city, full of music, dancing, delicious food, captivating smells, incredible landscapes, and all of the marvels and mess that come with it.
It’s not, however, a place where you can easily fight against the current, and the happiest Cariocas – residents of Rio – have learned that you shouldn’t even try.
Cariocas are free-flowing, open-minded, friendly people who let things happen in their own time, and taking up their lifestyle is the best way to make your trip to Rio de Janeiro a success.
Here are some tips from a local about how to be a Carioca for your upcoming Rio de Janeiro adventure.
1. Plan one thing each day
Whenever I meet anyone newly arrived in Rio, I always give them this piece of advice. Plan to do one thing today, and let the rest happen. Rio isn’t a place where over-planning works out, but it is a place where magic happens if you let things go the way they do.
The best way to be a Carioca is to walk out onto the street, smile at the beauty in the world, do something that brings you joy, and talk to people along the way. You’re sure to find out about some cool event, wander into an epic shop, get invited to the opening of an exhibition or simply make new friends to share a beer with.
Which takes me to my next suggestion…
2. Don’t shy away from making friends in Rio
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Rio is how absurdly nice people are. Cariocas love to converse (with you, with your kids, your dogs, with anyone that passes in the street or shares an elevator ride).
They’ll happily offer their suggestions and tell you about their favorite places to go and things to do (it’s not a ploy to get anything from you). Cariocas are just really friendly people who love to gab.
Always say “hello,” engage in small talk and make new friends – it will open up doors for you to places you didn’t even know existed. You might even get invited along and, as long as you feel good about it, feel free to say “yes” to an invitation.
Just remember that invitations made for another day (for example: “Let’s get together for a drink sometime!”) are often empty promises. Not because Cariocas are lying or impolite, but simply because they aren’t really ones to make plans for the future.
3. Stay awhile in the Marvelous City
You can visit Rio in a day if you’d like – there are tour companies like Xplora Rio that offer full-day, whirlwind trips to all of the city’s major sights for those on 24-hour layovers.
However, if you want to feel what it’s really like to be a Carioca, unpack your bags and stay awhile. Rio isn’t just a place, it’s a lifestyle – and being a Carioca doesn’t happen in a day.
You need to relax into the rhythm to really understand what the city is all about and, honestly, there is so much to do and see that it’s basically impossible to ever get bored. Plan for a day, three days, five days or five weeks – just remember that your love affair with the Marvelous City will only deepen the longer you stay.
4. When you head out, take these things
Always bring a few things with you to make sure you’re ready for any situation. Chuck a canga (sarong) in your bag, along with a bathing suit. Temperatures can hit over 40℃ (104℉) in the city and you never know when you might need to swim to cool off, or something to sit on for an impromptu picnic.
Make sure you have a water bottle and sunscreen because, let’s be fair, it’s hot. Have your bank card (widely accepted) and a bit of cash (but not too much) on hand in case you have trouble with your cards.
Add a telephone and charger – you might be out longer than you think – and maybe a book or notebook if that’s your thing. Leave anything that you’re worried about losing at home.
5. Leave your valuables at home
When you’re traveling around Rio, really, leave your valuables at home. Take your jewelry off, your watches, your nice earrings…. Take off that necklace that your grandma gave you. Trust me on this one: try not to show your wealth in Rio.
If you have enough money to leave your home country and travel to Brazil, you are wealthy in comparison to most of the population here. If you are carrying around something of value, like a beautiful new camera, perhaps put it in an old cloth bag.
Stop inside a shop if you’re going to use your phone. Don’t put anything in your back pocket. Don’t hang your bags on the back of a chair at a restaurant.
Unfortunately, you’re just making yourself a target wearing that fancy watch and designer shoes. Leave the bling at home.
In fact, leave everything at home unless you really need it (although everything you need for an enjoyable time in Rio you can get on the street.) Make your life simpler and easier, with more space to enjoy what Rio has to offer, by traveling light.