Although I have traveled extensively in recent years, Rio de Janeiro is the only place abroad where I actually got an apartment and lived for 14 months.  I have spent time in various hostels, rented various apartments, trained BJJ with the best, and studied Portuguese with the natives.

This post is specifically for people who’d want to live in Rio de Janeiro (2-3+ months) and hit the ground as soon as possible.

High Season

December – March


Rio de Janeiro can be logically segmented into 3 main areas: West, North and South (Zona Oeste, Zona Norte and Zona Sul, respectively).

The West is made up of Barra da Tijuca (the Miami of Rio).  The North is mainly made up of working class people.  The South is where you’ll find all the main attractions: Christ Statue, Sugar Loaf and The Beaches.

Sandwiched between Zona Norte and Zona Sul lies the center area that includes downtown, Santa Teresa and Lapa.


Most people decide to settle in the Zona Sul or Centro areas since these areas offer proximity to activities and are relatively secure.
The main neighborhoods in Zona Sul are (in increasing order of price):

  • Santa Theresa and Lapa: These neighbords are more traditional Rio areas.  Santa Theresa is a bohemian neighborhood frequented by artists, etc.  Lapa is the main site of the city’s nightlife especially on Friday and Saturday street parties.  One disadvantage is that you will not have the beach close by, but if it’s not a pressing issue, and you want to experience an authentic Brazilian experience, these areas maybe for you.
  • Laranjeiras, Flamengo, Botafogo: These middle class neighborhoods, while have no beach access, are great for having a true neighborhood feel.  You want hear much English spoken, and the prices in the supermarkets will be much lower.
  • Copacabana: Copa (as it’s called by locals) is a busy, bustling neighborhood with not-so-clean beach but with tons of restaurants of any budget.
  • Ipanema: Ipanema is a posh neighboorhood with clean streets, a great beach, and an upscale feel.
  • Leblon: This is a mostly residential neighborhood which is said to be one of the most expensive in all of Brazil.


  • Breakfast: Hit up your favorite juice bar and order misto quente (ham and cheese sandwich).  Pair that with one of the crazy juices.  I liked acerola com laranja (acerla w/orange juice).
  • Lunch: Try açai com granola, I liked Bigbi bar.  Alternatively, try comida a quilo (food by kilogram) at many restaurants scattered across town.  I liked Amir’s, Delirio Tropical.
  • Dinner: Try rodizio (buffet style eating).  I liked Espaço Brasa in Leblon, Carretão in Ipanema, Monchique in Copa, Porcão in Flamengo.
  • Late Dinner (after midnight):Big Nectar in Ipanema, Pizza Guanabara in Leblon






  • Room: from R$200-700
  • Apartment (temporary w/furniture per month in low season)
    Copa, R$1400-1800
    Ipanema: R$1900-2300
    Leblon: R$2500+


  • R$4.30 Minimum
  • 10 min ride: R$7-10
  • 30 min ride (from Ipanema to Lapa): R$28-32

Cell Phone

The three main operators are Oi, Claro and Tim.  I opted for Tim pre-paid because it allowed me to buy credits as I go, plus you can enroll in a plan that allows you to pay for the first minute only when calling another Tim member.


Tropical climate: Humid and Muggy.
Temperatures: April – Sep: 18-25C, Oct – Mar: 25-35C.


Rio is surrounded by shanty neighborhoods (favelas) located on hills.  The main safety rule is that if you’re walking uphill, then turn back.  People of darker complexion (darker black/brown hair, darker fair skin) would typically look more or less Brazilian and be slightly safer.

Language Knowledge

The official language is Portuguese.  Portuguese knowledge is required for all services except basic tourist related issues.  English is understood in tourist areas, and by younger people.

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