Christ the Redeemer, or Cristo Redentor as he is known in Portuguese, opens his arms wide to the city of Rio de Janeiro! People of every faith, from every part of the world, flock to visit this 1145 ton Jesus! Rio is an expensive cosmopolitan metropolis and Christo Redentor and Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf mountain) are two of Rio’s most famous and pricey attractions. It is possible to save up to R$100 on visiting both. I’m going to tell you how!
There are two main ways people visit this iconic attraction atop Corcovado mountain. First is the cog wheel train from Cosme Velho. The second is one of the shuttle vans departing from various locations around the city. Both options cost R$65 (including your entry ticket). If you have a little more time, you’re reasonably fit and enjoy an adventure, you can hike up Corcovado. This is what we did, complete with a packed lunch. It takes around an hour and a half each way from Parque Lage (easily reached by city bus). There are signs directing you up a path towards Corcovado, it is very well marked with footprint symbols on trees along the way. If you are very afraid of heights (like me) expect a few challenges. Most of the climb is straightforward, however as you become closer to the top it gradually becomes steeper until you reach a rock wall with a ladder.
Once past the rock wall, its continues very steeply so you’re more or less climbing up the tree roots. Its physically not too difficult, but we were thankful for our hiking shoes as it was muddy and you want good grip. Just after the steepest point, we crossed the cog wheel train tracks, continued up a short path which then met the twisting road to the top of the mountain. We followed the road the rest of the way until we reached a set of stairs, walked up the stairs to the gate and bought our tickets. The other bonus, no waiting in line! As it was low-season and a weekday, our tickets cost a mere R$12 each, about $5AUD dollars, ($3.50USD or €3). On weekends, holidays and in high-season the cost is R$24).
If you don’t want to hike both ways, you can take a shuttle van back down for about R$30. We chose to hike, and the steeper parts are a bit more difficult going down. Not just a cheap means to the top of the Corcovado, the hike itself brought us through fertile jungle, streams and waterfalls, seeing wildlife up close such as marmoset monkeys. We even saw a Toucan! Parque Lage is an attraction worth visiting in itself, where we spent some time exploring after our hike, the Botanical gardens (Jardim Botanico) were only 1km up the road so we finished up the day there (entry fee $R10).
Pão de Açúcar
The second most famous sight in Rio also costs around R$65 for the two cable cars to the top. If you’re again happy to hike up to Morro da Urca (the first mountain) you can save yourself some Reals. If you’re a student make sure you take your student card! From Morro da Urca to Pão De Açúcar the cable car is R$40 for an adult and R$20 for a student. The hike is simple, taking about 30 minutes and there were lots of people of the trail.
Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon
The three famous beaches of Rio are of course all free and all easily accessible by public transport. We caught the metro to the edge of Leblon (near the photogenic Vidigal Favela) and walked all the way to the northern end of Copacabana beach, visiting Ipanema’s shopping district along the way. We stopped for lunch at an executivo restaurant. If you want to save on eating out there are often the best places to eat, as well as kilo restaurants. At R$18 you choose your meat and sides, usually fries, salad, rice, beans and farofa (like breadcrumbs but made with cassava flour).
We took public transport everywhere in Rio, the city has an excellent bus and metro system, at R$3,90 and R$4,10 per journey respectively. We never once felt unsafe taking public transport, although most of our outings were in the day time.
Gloria, Santa Teresa and Lapa
Rio Earth Hostel opened early this year and is run by a Brazilian-American couple who are clearly passionate about creating a space where travellers to feel at home. Thank you Filipi and Jess – who recommended the hikes to us. We loved Rio Earth so much our intended 4-day stay in Rio became week! Accommodation generally is expensive in Rio, however there’s a myriad of options and its possible to pay less than R$30 per person if you’re happy to sleep in a large dorm (usually 15 – 18 beds in triple bunks). Favela accommodation is becoming more popular and something we considered. However we were concerned this would make it unsafe to go out at night and may mean relying on taxi’s to travel in and out. We paid R$55 each for beds in a 4-bed dorm (which we had to ourselves for our entire stay). The location of our hostel was perfect, nestled in Gloria, directly below Santa Teresa and just south of Lapa. We could easily walk to all three neighbourhoods and also nearby Flamengo beach and park. We also went out to a Reggae show at the Fundição Progresso. The atmosphere in Lapa on a Saturday night is frenetic, with bars bursting at the seams and people dancing on the street.
Our visit coincided with a festival in Santa Teresa, a Sunday, the neighbourhood was brimming with activity. Plenty of live music, street artists out painting the town and art and crafts stalls, the museums and galleries were also free. The restaurants were full of people, as it was also Rio Restaurant week. I would definitely recommend 5 – 7 days in Rio at a minimum, especially if you want to explore all these neighbourhoods. It can be done on any budget.