- Clinging precariously to the mountainsides that surround the city's affluent south zone, Rio's favelas, or shanty towns, are a source of both fear and fascination for visitors. Middle-class locals will tell you that to enter into such a place is to risk violent attack, but in reality, there is much more to life in the favelas than drug crime and violence. While it is not advisable to venture into the favelas alone (not least because the lack of street names makes it easy to get lost), visiting with a recognized and respected tour group such as the long-established Favela Tour will give you a unique and valuable insight into the way these communities are run. English speaking guides will take you to Rocinha, the largest favela in South America, and normally one other favela as well. It is usual to visit a school that is part-funded by the favela tours, so you can get an idea of where some of your tourist money is going.
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