Cash-strapped travelers beware, Rio de Janeiro can be an extremely expensive city if you don’t plan your finances wisely. Spiralling prices and an extremely strong currency combine to make Rio not just expensive by South American standards, but expensive by anybody’s standards.
But while the eye-watering prices of many Rio de Janeiro hotels and restaurants may be disconcerting, it is still possible to enjoy a break inRio without breaking the bank. Plan your stay carefully, and it’s actually possible to get by on US$50 a day, even with the dollar in its current weak state. On such a tight budget there will be little by the way of luxuries, but you can be assured of a bed for the night, and plenty to eat and drink.
The first thing to bear in mind when planning your budget break is that some neighborhoods are vastly more expensive than others. The upscale beach neighborhoods of Leblon, Ipanema and to a lesser extent, Copacabana, may boast the most appeal for tourists, choice, but you’ll pay through the nose to stay there. Less touristic neighborhoods such as Botafogo and Flamengo offer more affordable accomodations, and they are still within easy reach of the beaches thanks to Rio de Janeiro’s Metro system. You should also bear in mond that hotels in this price range will be seedy and probably charge by the hour. Look instead to the many excellent hostels to be found here, such as Botafogo’s El Misti Hostel . A dorm bed may not offer much by the way of privacy, but you’ll be able to meet fellow travelers, swap cash-saving tips and, crucially, save big bucks by cooking for yourself. Most hostels offer good breakfasts too, and as these are usually included in the price it’s well worth tucking in. With dorm beds available for around R$35 (around US$17) you’ll still have money in the kitty.
Away from the hostel, fill up on the inexpensive snacks that are readily available from vendors across the city. Burgers and hotdogs are piled high with everything from cheese and bacon to quails’ eggs, peas and olives, and even vegetarians can make a meal out of the garnishes alone. At around R$2-3, it’s worth experimenting at least once. Alternatively, corn on the cob makes a quick, healthy pick-me-up, while churros (sweet batter sticks deep-fried and filled with chocolate or doce de leite)are a less saintly, but hugely popular, snack.
Luckily for partiers on a budget, socialising in Rio can be wonderfully cheap. Forget the upscale bars of the beach districts (although you should be able to stretch to a beer at one of the many simple beach kiosks) and head instead for Lapa, where a giant street party takes place every weekend. Hundreds of stalls selling boozy, fruity concoctions mean there are plenty of bargains to be had, and these drinks tend to be so strong that you won’t need to spend much money at all before you’re feeling the effects. Head here with fellow hostel guests and you can all pitch in for the cab ride home, too.
Another wonderful thing about Rio is that its greatest charms – the beaches and the views, can all be enjoyed without spending a single centavo.
Photos: Ademar Ribeiro