BY Consultant in the Field

Latest travel news from Rio de Janiero

The following travel advice was issued in November 2012, and are the personal reflections from a consultant in the field [CF] on a business visit to Brazil.

General top tips for travel

1. The travel adaptor to use, is the normal two pin European style

2. Change Brazilian Real (BRL) at the airport but if you want a lot of currency then make sure they have enough. Speak to Travelex as they often run out

3. Small denominations for currency if you are going to take taxis 4. High factor sunscreen if working outside, as the breeze on the coast makes you forget how hot it can be. Summers (Our winter) are hot hot..... Be prepared! Expect the odd showers of rain but it remains hot. Bring a small umbrella.

Getting into Brazil (Rio) and Immigration

Brazil is Portuguese speaking; English will get you around, but not widely spoken. A knowledge of Spanish helps you to be understood, but a Portuguese phrase book is useful. For anyone visiting Brazil from Great Britain, you don’t need a visa; just fill in a landing card and a customs declaration; which they stamp and you must keep hold of and hand over when you depart. Be careful about using personal addresses, bear in mind your own personal security when travelling. For those of you who need a visas (look it up on the Brazilian Embassy’s website), you will need to have this prior to entry to the country.  Those of you who have visas or don’t need visas can just go straight through passport control.

Your luggage

In Rio, your luggage gets delivered on belts on the other side of passport control, down the escalators, after your passport has been stamped. If you get a trolley it will help keep all your baggage together.

Getting a taxi

You have two options to get a taxi at the airport in Rio de Janeiro.

1. You can book one just as you leave airside. There is a row of taxi firms just before you turn right to leave airside through the doors. The firms will all shout their wares to you. Pick the one who sounds the nicest as they are all pretty much the same. They are slightly more expensive than outside, but worth it as it takes the hassle out of it and makes it safer if you arrive at night. You can pay with a credit card here, but be careful of cloning in general. Consider paying in cash if you can.

2. You can leave the airport and order a taxi outside. Follow the taxi signs and then take the official yellow taxis. Agree the fare if you can or make sure they set the meter, prior to setting off. Ensure there is a seatbelt in the rear, as many don’t have them. Also make sure the child-lock is off if arriving at night. Make sure the driver had an official ID card. This is why the official taxi firms are safer as they are all registered. They will only take cash; so try to get some change prior to leaving the airport, so you can offer the correct amount for the taxi fare. Be aware you may have to pay for added extras, extra luggage and extra people (over 2). It is around 80 BRL to get to the downtown area. If you are going to the beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema) it will be around 120 BRL. It takes about 45 minutes to get to downtown depending on the traffic. Friday afternoons can take up to 3 hours to get to the airport from downtown.

Maps of the city

As you go exit the airport, still on airside you can get some great city maps between duty free and the taxi offices at a desk on the right.

Hotels

The good news is that hotel staff don’t seem to expect tips in the good hotels. Think about if your hotel safe does not to work and how to secure your valuables. Change rooms if your safe doesn’t work. If you need to look presentable, when you first arrive and you have an early start, pack a travel iron. If you are in a 2/3 star hotel your hotel may not offer a 24 hour housekeeping service. Be careful about your personal security even when in hotels. Never leave bags unattended.

Getting around Taxis downtown

Yellow taxis are the official ones and very reliable. They are not like London cabs and often do not know addresses so know where you are going or have a map with you to explain. Make sure they switch the meter on before starting. They often are small so if you have a lot of luggage you may be better to order a large one from the hotel.

Buses

Buses are a great way to get around Rio. You pay as soon as you get on via a turnstile. It is a tight fit to get through the turnstile so may sure you don’t have too many bags with you. Pick pocketing is rife on the buses so have your wits about you and make sure your valuables are held securely on you. Consider using a money belt or ankle money belt and hiding money on your person. Use a "muggers" wallet (a wallet/purse which has a small amount of money in it and some old credit cards/store cards) and if you get mugged you can hand it over, while keeping your other amount of money hidden. It satisfies the muggers to take this and leave you alone. If you get pick pocketed on the bus and realize, STOP the bus and refuse to let anyone off until they hand over the purse or wallet. Make a scene and they soon hand it back. This only really works if there are two of you. This is from experience! Watch out for men posing with one arm (the other is underneath their shirt and is the one which steals the wallets from under your noses!).

Metro

The metro/underground is efficient and clean. It is extremely busy in rush hours. Buy your tickets prior to getting on via the automatic machines. You can buy a card, which allows you several journeys for a cheaper price (like the London oyster card). Be aware of pickpockets here too. Hold on to your bags.

Locations

Downtown

Downtown is the area of Centro and the central districts to the west of the domestic airport (Aeroporto Santos Dumont). Streets can be uneven cobbles and they are fairly dirty. Wear sturdy shoes, as the pavements can be unobvious! Watch out for street people sleeping on the ground; don’t trip over them. Hold on to your personal possessions, don’t take large amounts of cash and don’t wear expensive jewelry.

The beaches (Flamengo, Copacobana, Ipanema)

Copacobana and Ipanema are the busiest beaches and very touristy, with waves, so surfing can be good. Flamengo is not as busy and although is still busy it is not as cramped. Botofogo beach does not seem to be busy at all. Nice sands but as the marina is next to it, people don’t like going there as they say the water is dirty. But still white sands, no waves. Don’t take valuables to the beaches. Pickpockets stroll the beaches and although there are police patrolling the beaches, the thieves will wait until they pass. Only take a small amount of money and hide it in your belongings. Do not take valuables. When you go swimming, think about using a waterproof money pouch if you have one and don’t want to leave anything on the beach. Don’t take anything you are not prepared to lose, if you go swimming and have to leave your things on the beach.

Pickpockets

Rio is rife with pickpockets. Make sure you consider the “muggers wallet” mentioned above or carrying some money which you are happy to hand over if you get mugged. Make sure you break up your money and don’t carry all of it with you on the streets. Be careful on buses or trains, as they are clever and good at what they do. You will not feel them taking stuff from your pockets or bags. Make sure you hide wallets/purses from view and don’t walk down the road using your phone. Keep it out of sight on the streets and make calls in restaurants and shops. Don’t be a target!

Cloning of credit cards

It is well known that Rio is prone to “cloning” thieves. ATMs outside banks are ripe for the picking; often they show no signs of having been tampered with. Try to take cash with you, but if you need to use credit cards, then use them in the bank’s ATM (where there is more security and they are more regularly checked). Try not to use them in restaurants and shops unless you have to. Make sure that your credit card does not leave your sight and they key in the amounts in front of you. Before you travel inform your bank of where you are going and try to set a daily limit. Remember a debit card is your money and a credit card is the credit companies’ money, so you are safer using credit cards. Check to see whether Visa or Master card is acceptable in the hotel you will be staying. Sometimes they do not accept both.

Leaving Rio de Janeiro

The airport does not have too many places to sit; one café and a duty free shop and it’s not very big for the size of the airport. There are private lounge but you must be a member of a club. Check out www.prioritypass.com or BA and other airline for the membership deals. Exiting is easy. You don’t always need to take out your laptop at security or indeed take off your shoes. Removing belts was random, so wait to be asked. There are lots of electric points around the airside, so if you want to carry on working, you can, but don’t forget to take your two-pin travel adaptor.

Duty free

If you want to buy anything in the duty free airside, you can use any currency and credit cards. The prices are marked in BRL, although it will be show as a US $ sign. Some of the shops airside don’t have chip and pin, and you may have to sign for the goods. Some shops may insist on a minimum spend. Be prepared to have your change in US $. If you forget your Brazilian souvenirs, there is a large gift shop at the airport, on the airside.

That’s about it, so happy travelling and enjoy a lovely city……


The views here are those of the author and are personal reflections on a business visit to Rio de Janeiro. They are not meant to be negative in nature, they are meant to assist the international traveller in being prepared to work there. If they cause offence to anyone, sincerest apologies are offered in advance.

PHOTO: A visitor takes a photo of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)