It’s hard turning your back on a city as amazing as Rio de Janeiro, but circumstances, schedules and work sometimes can’t be avoided and you have to make the best with what little you have. A layover, wedding or funeral might leave one with only a free day in the city, far too brief a period to soak in the beautiful landscape, people and culture, but that’s no excuse to not sneak in for a shred of excitement and a swim in Ipanema.
So grab a day pack, your camera and a bottle of sunscreen – it’s going to be a busy day.
Getting cash and into the city is the first challenge. At Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, ATMs are mostly unmarked and located on the third floor, far above international arrivals. Heading to the end of the hall (as you look inward, to the left,) several international banks have cash machines – just check to see if they subscribe to the VISA or MasterCard before you dip your card, otherwise nothing will work.
The least expensive way to get into the city is via the Real bus, a lumbering, infrequent behemoth that pitches through the suburbs and slowly into the downtown area. It will only cost about $3.50USD ($3.50USD = R$7) and can be found on the international arrivals floor, but it can also take a frustratingly long time to reach the city, so for those on a tight schedule it’s best to take an airport taxi. Grab a yellow cab with a blue stripe and ask for the meter to make sure you get a good rate – it should cost about $25USD to get into Copacabana or Ipanema.
With only one night in the city, it’s important to stay near the activity, so a hostel or hotel in the above beach towns are highly recommended. Ipanema has the reputation of being slightly ritzier, cleaner and more expensive, and one can find a hotel or hostel in the area for $50 and $25 respectively.
After you’ve settled into your lodgings, it’s time to head out into the city. Stay tuned later this week for a tour through some of the best hot spots in Rio de Janeiro.