Exploring Rio as a local

If you’ve been following my posts on Instagram you’ll have seen that I’ve started uploading one photo a day of my travels around South America last summer. I was looking through a few photos, reminiscing, and realised I had so many photos yet to share. As I wasn’t blogging back then either I have loads of tips and tricks for travelling that feel wasted not sharing. So my first story – discovering Rio de Janeiro as  a local.

I was really lucky with the timing. My beautiful friend Julia is half Brazilian and we always used to talk about going to Rio on holiday together as some of her family live out there. Since then it’s always been high on my travel list. I reached out to ask for some advice on where to stay, where to go and what to visit and in response got a lovely surprise; she was going to be out in Rio at the same time I was! So I got to spend 4 days catching up with my friend and exploring what Rio had to offer with my own local tour-guide.


I arrived at the hotel pretty late, but in Rio late is the new early! So I freshened up and waited for Julia to arrive before we headed off to party in Lapa. We met up with her boyfriend who was just finishing up working – they had a small business selling Brigaderios; a sugary delight like you’ve never tasted before (a separate post to come on that). So this was the first lesson I learned – you don’t need to have a license to sell things in Rio, you had all sorts of people selling all sorts of things along the streets. Lapa was buzzing; music, drummers, cocktails, food and dancing in the streets. Julia’s cousin also came to meet us – he ran a Haviana store, my new favourite brand of flip flop! I tried my first Caipirinha with a hint of strawberry to reduce the bitterness – cocktail of the trip. I spent the next few days learning how to pronounce Caip-ir-in-ha. Rio is just totally up my street; Samba dancing, the music, I loved it.

The next day she took me to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood to visit the Parque das Ruinas – one of the best viewpoints in Rio. The park contained the ruins of a mansion which was surrounded by an art gallery and is a regular venue for cultural events. We climbed the winding staircase to the rooftop where you could see for miles across Guanabara bay. It was stunning, a lovely piece of history being preserved by the locals and of course tourists.

On the Sunday night we had a street party planned. I was so excited to experience this as it just doesn’t happen in England, it’s a thing of the movies. The only caveat was that we had to leave by midnight as apparently that’s when it starts to get dangerous (this made me a little nervous!). We arrived and the side streets were blocked off, there was a stage set up with DJs doing their thing, guys with pop up stands selling beer and cocktails and lots of people laughing and dancing. The guy, below, was hilarious! He’d set up shop on one of the side streets and his little cart carried a massive variety of cocktails, beers and drinks for everyone! It was a really fun night but sure enough we left by midnight to be on the safe side.

The last day we spent together we decided to have a beach day in the sun before heading to a Backstreet Boys concert with her sisters (that’s right we saw the Backstreet Boys make a comeback – laugh if you may but we found out that the Brazilians are mad for them I have never heard so much screaming for a group of boys stuck in the 90s). It was good fun though! Instead of sticking with the obvious Copacabana beach (although it is a gorgeous beach and I enjoyed hearing about all of the antics that go down on New Year’s Eve there) we walked along to Ipanema beach which was just a bit further along. We found a nice spot to sunbath and bought some coconut water straight from the coconut tree. Absolute novelty, I loved it. You had the vendors walking up and down the stretch of beach selling all sorts from beach towels and beers to books and fish. It was just so peaceful to lie on the beach and absorb the sun in such a beautiful country.

So there’s a whistle stop tour of my few days experiencing Rio as a local. I wouldn’t have seen half of the things I did without Julia and her friends or shared half of the experiences so a big thank you to her! I had the best time and definitely plan on returning one day.

Coming soon – The must see sites of Rio and tips for staying safe!

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