Port of Rio de Janeiro
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While not the largest city in the 190 million-resident behemoth that is Brazil -- that honor goes to Sao Paulo -- Rio's six million diverse residents (called "Cariocas") are keenly proud of their city's stature. They are the most outspoken, lively and just plain fun people you'll probably ever encounter. The Cariocas' unmistakable joie de vivre and welcoming spirit is infectious, as they'll gladly share their local secrets on where to go to experience the most important architectural treasures, the most cutting-edge art museums, the most action-packed water sports, or the most memorable caipirinha (the national drink that packs a wallop). But this isn't surprising. Who wouldn't have an open outlook on life living in this perpetually sunny, joyful and fascinating melange of Portuguese, African, European and South American cultures?
Another definite advantage to visiting Rio and Brazil as a tourist is that it remains one of the few true travel bargains left today in this age of the declining dollar. Like its more dressed-up cousin to the south, Buenos Aires, Rio offers the opportunity to live grandly for a day or a week on a much smaller budget than in comparable cities like Paris or Rome, with reasonable prices for five-star accommodations, good bargain prices for world-class cuisine and wine, and the ability to shop until you drop when searching out the latest trendy fashion items and jewelry.
While inarguably exciting, visiting Rio is still equated with the word "danger" in some conversations. In reality, there are some safety concerns if you venture far out of the normal tourist quarters. But the overall situation for visitors has improved greatly in the past decade, and pickpocketing and mugging incidents are not common. So kick back and relax as you are drawn into Rio's magnificent orbit.
Note: To enter Brazil, U.S. travelers must have visas, which cost $140 - $160, depending on how application is made. Visas are valid for stays of up to 90 days at a time over a 10-year period. Visit the Brazilian Consulate's Web site for visa information.
Top Rio de Janeiro Itineraries
MSC Fantasia3 Night South America CruiseRio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Ilhabela, Rio de JaneiroNow
Celebrity Eclipse11 Night South America & Carnival CruiseBuenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Buzios, Santos , Buenos AiresNow
MSC Fantasia7 Night South America CruiseRio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Buzios, Rio de JaneiroNow
Costa Fascinosa7 Night South America CruiseRio de Janeiro, Ilhabela, Ilhabela, Punta del Este, Buenos AiresNow
Azamara Pursuit11 Night Tango, Salsa & Samba VoyageBuenos Aires, Punta del Este, Montevideo, Montevideo, Santos , Ilhabela, Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de JaneiroNow
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock at the city's commercial port, Pier Maua. The downtown business district is within walking distance of the port.
Good to Know
Because Rio has been so famous for its relatively high crime rate -- particularly for pickpocketing -- this is a port of call where organized ship tours can be a good idea. But in recent years, the city government has made an effort to "clean up" the city, and there are abundant tourist police in major areas which has helped deter some crime. Whichever option you choose, absolutely leave anything valuable in your stateroom safe (including items like earrings, wedding rings and expensive cameras). Follow the lead of locals: When Cariocas go to the local beaches, they just carry a towel, sunscreen and some petty cash to buy snacks and drinks from the numerous beach vendors.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Brazilian real (pronounced rey-al; plural is reais, pronounced ray-eyes). For currency conversion figures, go to www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. There are plenty of ATM machines and exchange bureaus in town. Bank hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Brazilian Portuguese. English is widely understood in hotels and shops. If spoken slowly, Spanish is understood by many residents as well.
Brazil is the world's largest producer of colored gemstones (hence the presence of so many reputable international retailers like H. Stern) and is also a major gold producer. Other possibilities to add to your Rio shopping list include designer clothing, handicrafts, leather goods and unique fabrics.