When the Olympic flame lands in Maracanã Stadium on August 5th, Brazil will become the first South American country to host the Olympics. Over the course of 17 days, 10.500 athletes from 206 countries will compete for the gold. If you are planning to travel to Brazil for the games, these travel tips for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will make your trip much more enjoyable. Here is everything you need to know, along with a special Insider’s Travel Guide to Rio Olympics that only a Brazilian can give to you.
» First: Check your visa
Before booking your flight and buying your tickets for the games, make sure that you have your visa ready. Yes, unless you’re from Australia, Canada, USA or Japan, which were granted a special permission during the games, you’ll need a visa to get into the country. (You can click here to check that).
» Olympic Tickets Rio 2016:
It’s not too late to score tickets to the event, and you can even buy them online and print at home. Of course, some of the main events have already sold out (or are quite expensive). However, even if you can’t score tickets, go anyway! The electric energy around the venues will be an experience in itself, and if you have never been to Rio de Janeiro, this is an opportunity of a lifetime!
» Accommodation For The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro:
To find a place to stay during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics 2016 is likely to be very competitive. The Olympic park will be located in Barra, in the west part of Rio. There will be 3 other centres for different Olympic sports: Deodoro (northwest Rio), Maracanã (north zone of Rio), and Copacabana, which includes the Lagoon (Lagoa) and the Guanabara Bay (Baia de Guanabara). You can check the Rio Olympics 2016 official site to see which sports are happening where.
The best parts of Rio to stay is called the “Zona Sul” which takes in, amongst other areas, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo, Flamengo, Gloria, Jardim Botânico and Lagoa. In Copacabana and Ipanema you’ll find some of the most famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro and some of the best hotels in Brazil . Santa Tereza is also an interesting area, with more of a bohemian, cultured vibe.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: don’t be fool thinking that downtown Rio (also called “centro” in Portuguese) might be a safe bet to find a good accommodation. This is predominantly a business area and most of the hotels there are of 2-star quality, and is not safe for tourists to be wandering around at night. That being said, our second tip is about the favelas. Although some of the most famous ones like Rocinha and Vidigal have been “pacified” (there is permanent police presence there), safety issues still exist and is not that easy to find transportation to and from those places, especially because of its narrow roads uphill.
Now that you know in which area you should book your accommodation, what it’s going to be? A hotel? B&B? Hostel? Well, nearly all hotels are listed and bookable on Booking.com, so it is easy to check reviews and ratings before you choose. Just be aware that all prices will be considerably up for the duration of the Olympics, obviously. A bed and breakfast is known as “pousada” in Brazil and usually they are small, independent guesthouses, with a more personal touch.
If you don’t mind comings and goings all night, a hostel might be a better and cheaper option for anyone travelling solo or for a group of friends. You can check a list of them here, and we can recommend Oztel. But if you want comfort and privacy, there are literally hundreds of apartments for rent in Rio through AirBnb, from studios to super-trendy penthouses. In case you never used AirBnB before, click here for a free USD 20 coupon to use on your first booking.
Just remember: as a rule of thumb it’s better to stay in the Zona Sul.
And if you decide to travel south, have a look at this guide to the best Airbnbs in Santa Catarina, a state that is a hidden gem in Brazil.
» Transportation Guide to Rio Olympics 2016:
Rio has two airports, but you’ll probably arrive in GIG – Galeão International Airport. Upon arrival you’ll find desks of all the main companies in front of you just waiting to sell you a taxi ride from the Airport to Zona Sul.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: download an app called “99 Taxis”, which works pretty much like an Uber, but with registered taxi drivers. You’re not expected to give a tip but people normally round it up to the next Real. Speaking of Uber, we do have it in Rio, so, use as much as you’d like.
The metro system is the most convenient way to get around. It is clean, fast, and safe. Purchase a prepaid card (minimum R$5) from a kiosk at any metro station and add money to it at any other kiosk. You can find free subway maps available at the ticket booths.
There is also a public bike-sharing program called Bike Rio/SAMBA, with over 60 rental stations in the city. It is a fast and easy way to get around town and exercise enjoying a sunny day outside. Throughout the four principal regions of the games – Copacabana, Barra, Deodoro, and Maracanã – you’ll find Bike Rio stations where you can snag an orange cycle for an hour or more – a 24-hour pass costs R$5 reais, about US$1.50.
You should also rent a bike in Botafogo and ride along the famed beachfront promenades in Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon. Be sure to stay hydrated and make frequent pit stops for caipirinhas and açaí. You can also choose a less populated route, away from the beaches, and ride around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a lake surrounded by parks, gardens, and food carts. Stop for a tapioca pancake filled with carne seca (a delicious salty cured beef) and melted cheese.
» Guide to Eating Out During the Olympics in Rio
You are in Rio, so you must try a churrascaria. These ‘barbecue restaurants’ are a paradise for meat lovers! As soon as you sit down, waiters will arrive bearing a bewildering array of meats. It is up to you to select which meats you want until you have had enough and can eat no more.
One of the most famous places is Fogo de Chão: the view of Sugarloaf Mountain adds up to the authentic experience. Another great place around that area is Bar Urca, very popular but small and relaxing, with a great food and drinks menu.
Another signature dish from Brazil is feijoada: a traditional stew made with beans, pork, sausage, and bacon. There are plenty of places where you can find feijoada around Rio, but if you are attending an event close to Barra, make sure to visit Academia de Cachaça.
The neighborhood of Santa Teresa offers a great selection of restaurants, from local cuisine to international food. In case you’re looking for a quick and easy snack, try The Yolo – You Only Live Once – a specialized home hot dog with three options of sausages – vienna, vegan and lamb – and 15 toppings, including fried onions, guacamole and cucumber relish with mint. To drink, order the craft beer malt done to the house, the Pilsen Monster. The hot dog in Brazil is quite different from what people normally see in Hollywood movies, so this a good place to start. Another great quick bite is Comuna Burger, considered by many as one of the best burgers in Rio.
For a great breakfast experience, go to Deli Delícia or Da Casa da Tatá, a small and cosy café in the neighborhood of Gávea. They prepare fresh juices, breads and cakes with local products. You can’t leave Brazil without trying one (or five) brigadeiro. It looks like a chocolate ball, and is so tasteful you will never forget, so order them for breakfast, dessert and after dinner.
For a quick refreshment, stop at Bibi Sucos, a place famous for its large variety of juices and smoothies: among which the best-selling are strawberry, sugar apple, mango and tangerine.
Are you a sushi lover? Hachiko grants you entry into a never-ending treasure chest of sushi and sashimi delights as well as more unusual dishes like fried balls of duck with mango chutney and the spicy salmon.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: For a romantic experience, visit Meza Bar or Aprazível, which is on top of the hill in Santa Teresa. It’s a contemporary Brazilian restaurant that serves dishes from the north and north-east, but the highlight is the amazing view of the city – you can almost see the whole of Rio.
Special occasion asks for a unique restaurant. Don’t worry, the fine-dining scene in the Olympic city is setting records and half a dozen restaurants were awarded Michelin stars last year. Book your table at Roberta Sudbrack or try Mr. Lam for a terrace view of the Corcovado mountain (on which Christ the Redeemer stands) on one side and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon on the other.
» Guide for Drinking & Partying during the Olympics in Rio:
If you want to samba like a local you must spend your nights in the artsy Lapa neighborhood, a 20-minute ride from Copacabana with lots of live music and packed clubs.
Drink, dance, and be merry late into the night at Rio Scenarium, a bohemian hip venue for samba and chorinho (an instrumental music) that sells antiques during the day and later becomes a nightclub with live music. Two blocks away, dancers of all ages roll their hips to jazz and ballroom beats at Estudantina Musical. Carioca da Gema is an authentic bar in an old mansion, where every night there’s a different band playing. As for the ultra-discreet venue, head to Semente or Lapa 40°.
Rock n’ roll enthusiasts will have a great time at Bukowski Bar, one of the oldest rock clubs in town, or Saloon 79, where you can list to classic rock while playing pool. To listen to electronic music and party until the Sun is up, head for Fosfobox or Club Cave.
» Guide to the Hospitality Houses at Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
Back to the games! Even if you don’t have tickets, you can enjoy some of the Olympic competitions in various locations around the city. Open-air events like marathon, cycling and swimming will take place alongside some of Rio’s most famous landmarks. Find out where they are. There is also Rio 2016 Fest, a place where fans from around the world can come together to watch the sporting action on big screens and celebrate.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: the hospitality houses – a rich multicultural experience at different locations, with exhibitions, parties and a good chance to see your sporting idols up close, since this is where many athletes celebrate their victories.
Everybody knows Rio de Janeiro is one of the best cities on the planet to party, but things will reach another level when the Olympic Games get underway. From superstar DJs at Club France, to reggae parties at Jamaica House, Rio will turn into a reveler’s playground. Hollywood stars, royalty, presidents, not to mention medal-winning athletes basking in their triumphs.
Embassies will host hospitality houses across Rio to display the best of their home countries. Set in some of the city’s most exclusive locations, parties at these houses will be the hottest tickets in town next month. While some of the hospitality houses are open to the general public, others will require pre-registration on the guest list and/or payment of an entrance fee.
The most popular house is traditionally Heineken House, which this year in Rio will be located near Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. If there was a gold medal for country houses, the Dutch would be the reigning champions and hot favorites to defend their title in Rio. By day, the celebrated ‘Holland Heineken House’ is sure to be a popular location for watching events; by night, it is always one of the most sought-after locations for Olympic athletes and spectators to party. The Dutch are charging 15 euros for entry – excluding drinks.
Do not miss Club France, with gourmet food trucks serving the best of French cuisine. On eight nights, French DJs will be performing on a giant dance floor with capacity for up to 2,000 people.
For a party with a Caribbean flavor, it will be hard to do better than Jamaica House. Located at the horse racing ground, the Jamaicans will be supplying popular products from their island such as world-famous rum and beer brands. DJs playing mento, ska, reggae and dancehall will ensure a raucous Caribbean atmosphere until 3am. And there will be live concerts too, including a show by Kymani Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley. All of this comes at a price: tickets to Jamaica House will cost 85 reais (US$26).
Britain and Italy have snapped up two of the most spectacular places. The British are taking over Parque Lage, an English-style park just below Christ the Redeemer. Two gala parties here on 12 and 13 August will celebrate medal-winning performances by British athletes.
On the road to Barra, the Italians have chosen the exclusive Costa Brava Beach Club with spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean and a near-private beach. Only open to those on the guest list, the house will offer visitors the very best of Italian and Brazilian cuisine, as well as world-famous fashion brands such as Armani.
Casa Brasil will be located across two former warehouses in the city’s renovated waterfront district. Visitors will be able to sample Brazilian coffee, chocolate, cachaça and wine.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: If you are travelling with your kids, make sure that you visit the Finnish house, which will be open on weekends only. Even though we still have a few months until December, Santa Claus himself will take part in some unusual Christmas celebrations this August.
» Sightseeing Guide to Rio Olympics Games:
For the days you don’t feel like attending any sports events here go some suggestions of places to visit and things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
The city will be busy and chaotic during the Olympics, so if you need a spot to relax and catch your breath you can retreat to the beautiful Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico). It is a quiet oasis of greenery, featuring many native plants as well as other species from around the world. The neighborhood is a special place with lots of authentic shops, modern restaurants and houses built at the beginning of the century. You can have drinks at one of the many bars and restaurants and just relax.
If it’s raining, visit the Museum of Modern Art. The building was designed in the ’50s so it has contemporary architecture and hosts great exhibitions.
For more culture, every first Saturday of the month, Rua do Lavradio receives the Rio Antigo Fair. The century-old street with its historic houses, bars and antique shops offers a relaxed program for those who want to know the history of the city. Hundreds stalls offer several products, from furniture to clothes, accessories and decoration. Leaving the place empty-handed is almost impossible. To give a more relaxed mood to the ride, exhibitors promote musical performances, and exhibitions of photographs and dance shows.
A trip to Rio would not be complete without a sunset on Sugarloaf. Sure, it is a touristy thing to do, but this is one of the most iconic representations of Rio and offers spectacular views of the city and its beaches. Speaking of which…
» Guide to the Best Beaches in Rio de Janeiro:
Go to Copacabana, one of the most famous on the planet. The iconic, waved boardwalk design, tiny bikinis and striking landscape make for the classic Rio beach experience.
As Copacabana beach became more and more crowded, Ipanema beach became the retreat for the fashionably alternative carioca youth. Since it’s a long beach, there is space available for all tribes: families, super-models, sports, and the gay community. Just put some sunscreen on and go to the beach: there you hire out everything, from deckchairs and parasols to massages.
Insider tip to Rio Olympics: if you want a more private and relaxed beach, go to Barra da Tijuca, Rio’s longest beach. It stretches 11 miles and with have excellent waves and water conditions.
Now that you have all the best insider travel tips to Rio de Janeiro, and the best guide to Rio Olympics 2016, pack your bags and go have a great time. Brazil welcomes you!
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24 thoughts on “An Insider’s Guide to Rio Olympics”
this is really thorough, makes me truly wish I was going now!
Glad you liked Rosie!
Brilliant guide, anybody lucky enough to be there should read this! Looking forward to seeing how the event goes 🙂
The opening ceremony was spectacular!!!!
Good tips. Wish I was going!
Maybe a visit to Rio after the Olympics 😉
This is great! Definitely passing this on to anyone lucky enough to be in the middle of the action. Olympics or not, definitely keeping in mind your tip on Barra da Tijuca 😉
Tks Mar! Yep, Barra da Tijuca is the place 😉
I love tips from a local, especially when it comes to food!
So, is there anything wrong with brigadeiro for dinner, instead of just after? 😉
hahaha Chris I can survive on Brigadeiro! cheers!
Amazing stuff. Really wish I was there to experience it for myself. Rio has been the top of my bucket list for quite some time now!
Glad you liked Dave. Rio should be on everyone’s list!
Ahh I really tried to go but was impossible to get tickets through NZ Olympics… But I am going in October so lots of these tips will still be useful for me! Thanks!
October is a great time! Good weather and not that busy 😉 Enjoy!
I would absolutely have loved to visit Rio during the Olympics! All that excitement would be awesome!
Great guide! Wish I was there instead of watching on TV. This will still be a great guide when I make it to Rio one day.
And I didn’t know this was the first Olympics in South America!
Yes! What a honor to Brazil!
Combining the greatest sporting event on the planet with travel is a great idea. It would be a pleasure to blend both experiences. Your guide is a great reference for that. Of course it would be an expensive proposition, hope to do this maybe in the next Olympics.
Absolutely! And glad you enjoyed the guide!
Great guide Mister Robson!!!! Viva Riooooo!!!!
Cheers Ms. of Wonders!!
Great read ,great pictures ,on my bucket list now !!
Glad you liked Ian!