The popularity of some posts surprises me. Some time ago, I wrote an article expressing my shock once I discovered the high prices in Rio de Janeiro. That piece became one of the most read posts on this blog.
Due to the popularity of that post, I have wanted to write in detail about the traveling costs in the Rio de Janeiro state. Brazil is a country avoided by a lot of backpackers and travelers. I want to help people who may be considering a visit soon or in the future.
I am focusing in the state I visited. Brazil is too big to draw general conclusions based on the visit to one of its regions. Also, take into consideration that the prices expressed in here are applicable to low season. The price of some goods and services can increase during high season. And let’s not forget about that wild party Brazilians celebrate once a year: Carnaval. The prices increase in an exponential (or should I call it catastrophic) way during that time of the year.
All prices are in dollars.
Rio de Janeiro (The City)
This is hard to say but it is almost impossible to find a room with a private bathroom for a decent price in the “Marvelous City”. I stayed in Copacabana for $30 per person per night (a total of $60 for my husband and me). For $60 a night, I was expecting something nice (not fancy but at least comfortable). Instead, I ended up in this tiny room with a piece of foam doubling as a mattress and an old air conditioning unit. My conclusion is that you will need to budget $80 to $100 per night if you want to stay in a comfortable place. These are bad news for those who are in search of budget options.
For backpackers, dorm prices range from $15 to $35 (more expensive for dorms in Leblon). By default, hotels are more expensive than hostels or private rooms.
Tip: Let me clarify something really important. When I visited, I stayed in the Zona Sul (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon). You may be tempted to stay in parts of the city offering cheaper accommodations (the difference is not that much in my opinion). In a city like Rio de Janeiro, you have to take into consideration how safe is the area where you are staying. That is why I highly encourage you to stay in an area far from dangerous neighborhoods (consult a guide if you need). The beaches are full of police officers, residents and are safe during the day (and even at night). I have heard the Santa Teresa neighborhood is safe too.
Tip: Try to stay in a place where breakfast and Wi-Fi are included.
Public transportation is effective and safe. Expect to pay from $1 to $2 to move around the city in a bus. Small buses (a little bit smaller than a van) can be used to move between the beaches. They only cost about 50 cents.
The city has a clean and modern Metro service. Each ride is about $2 (btw, I think this is kind of expensive). Experts consider taxis to be reasonable priced. I never used one during my stay. Consider them if you want to save time.
Tip: Try to use buses during the day or early evening. Always be aware of your surroundings.
Tip: To get from the international airport to the Centro (downtown) or Zona Sul (beaches), you can take a bus that costs $7 per person. You can use this option to save on taxis.
Salgadinhos are the cheapest things to eat around town. They are deep fried snacks (yucca or flour dough stuffed with different types of meat) found in virtually every corner. They cost from $ 1 to $2 a piece. A glass of fruit juice is about $2 (recommended, try as many flavors as possible). Simple salads and sandwiches run from $5 to $7. Combine some of these options to form a meal.
A tasty and filling meal (which you will want most of the time) will cost you from $10 to $12. Fruit stands or simple restaurants serve lunches and dinners consisting of one piece of meat and three side dishes. In my opinion, this is one of the best values you can get in the city. Don’t think fast food chains are going to save you money. Their prices range from $10 to $12 too (shocking, I know) and their food is not as fresh as the one found in local restaurants.
The “comida a kilo” restaurants (where you fill your plate with different goodies and are charged by the weight) do not convince me. The times I visited, I ended up paying from $12 to $15 and I wasn’t even full. If you are a light eater, these places might work for you. Girls with big appetites like me are better off in other establishments.
Be prepared to pay $25 to $50 in a restaurant (way more for fine dining). Churrasquerias charge $30 to $40 per person.
Tip: Everything sold in the beach if highly overpriced. Walk one block away from the beach if you want to find something more affordable.
Tip: Buy snacks and beverages in supermarkets. There are a lot of small ones around the beaches.
Tip: Ethnic food can be found at good prices.
Tip: Most bills include the tip. Check your bill carefully to avoid double tipping.
Tip: Some restaurants charge a fee if there is live music at the moment you are dinning. This is not disclosed upfront. Ask before sitting unless you want to pay $6 to $12 for the music.
The good thing about Rio de Janeiro is that most of its attractions can be visited independently. That fact represents huge savings for the traveler who wants to explore at its own pace.
Here is an example of what you can do:
Walk around the Centro, hit the beach or people watch – Free
Corcovado visit or ride to the top of Pao de Azucar – About $20
The museums, botanical gardens and the Copacabana Fort have very economical entrance fees (about $2).
Now, things are different if you want to explore Rio on a guided excursion. Expect to pay $80 to $100 per person for a city tour including Corcovado, Pao de Azucar, the Centro and lunch. Adventure related activities are also expensive. A jeep tour around the Tijuca Forest costs about $70 per person and last 4 to 5 hours (it is not even a day tour). Other activities like hiking, mountain biking, climbing or paragliding are more than $100 (these were out of my budget).
Petropolis (to see the Imperial Museum or hiking in the mountains close to the city)
Entrance to Imperial Museum: $6
Bus from Rio de Janeiro to Petropolis: $10
Niteroi (to see Oscar Niemeyer’s futuristic Contemporary Art Museum)
Entrance to museum: $2.5
Ferry from Rio de Janeiro to Niteroi: $1.5
Paraty’s food and transportation costs are comparable to the ones found in Rio de Janeiro. However, this colonial city offers better accommodation and excursions prices.
In this lovely city, I stayed in a room with private bathroom for $15 per person per night ($30 total for my husband and me). The surprising thing is that while I paid half of what I paid in Rio for accommodation, the quality of the accommodation increased by a 100%. I am not exaggerating on this. I got a big room with a comfortable bed and nice bathroom. The communal areas offered a lot of amenities, the breakfasts were huge and there was the possibility of booking affordable excursions thru the hostel. Now that is what I call a decent and charming place to stay. I talked to several other travelers and they all found the accommodations nicer and of better value than in Rio (even hotels and B&Bs).
Because I couldn’t afford to pay for adventure in Rio, I was really elated when I discovered the prices in Paraty. One day, I booked a catamaran tour around the islands and hidden beaches of the area for $30 per person (5 hours). Another day, I booked an excursion to the mountains for $45 per person (this was an entire day trip including entrances to four waterfalls and one hacienda). I really loved the affordable tour options in Paraty.
Costs are similar to Paraty.
This place can be more expensive than Rio de Janeiro.
Do you have budget recommendations for the Rio de Janeiro state? Let me know in the comments section below.