Rio de Janeiro is a magical place, you’ll find great weather, beautiful people, lush nature and everything a big capital can offer. Unfortunately, it comes with a price — and an expensive one! So if you’re coming from a cheaper country like Bolivia and you’re not sure if your money’s going to last, worry no more, there’s plenty of free stuff to do!
Gladly Rio de Janeiro caters for all people. You can be the high roller staying in the five-star Copacabana Palace Hotel or the backpacker having a blast in a 20-bed dorm room in a hostel located in one of the favelas. It doesn’t really matter and if you want to have fun, you will, whether you’re rich or not.
So, how can you really enjoy Rio without spending a lot? Read on!
1. Climb The Corcovado Mountain
If you thought you could only access Christ The Redeemer by taking the expensive red tram or vans, you were wrong! I mean, the classic tram is cool, but if you’re not willing to shell out the dough, just take the back entrance.
You can climb all the way up to the top through the jungle! Just go to Parque Lage, in the Botafogo neighborhood, where you can start the hike — it takes roughly one and a half hours and it’s super steep.
I must point out that if you actually want to enter the complex, you’ll have to buy the ticket.
2. Play Football at the Beach
Here you have the chance to mix two passion of every Carioca (a person from Rio de Janeiro): football and the beach! Just borrow or buy a ball, gather some friends and head to the nearest beach.
Remember that playing on the sand can be quite demanding, especially if the sun is high up, pounding on the players’ heads. Make sure you slobber yourself with sunscreen and take enough water to keep you hydrated — you don’t want to become a lobster by the end of the day!
3. Dance The Night Away in Lapa
Every Friday and Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro’s downtown, hundreds of people gather to have a good time. What’s special about Lapa is that it’s a street party with all the tribes mixing together listening to their favorites tunes.
It’s one of the best places to try your first caipirinha (traditional cocktail) and really understand what samba is about. But if samba is not your thing, just walk a few meters and you might find hip-hop, pop, reggae or forró, a Brazilian ballroom dance. Just mind your surroundings, as foreigners can sometimes be an easy target for muggings.
4. Hippie Fair at Ipanema
If the sun is shining on a Sunday morning, head to Praça General Osório, between Ipanema and Copacabana, to attend the Hippie Fair. You’ll find stalls selling all types of crafts and clothes from all over South America.
It’s also a great place to savor some popular Brazilian delicacies and have a drink. You could buy some coconut water and eat a bolo de aipim (cassava cake) or bolinho de bacalhau (codfish cake) while you wander around admiring someone’s paintings. Not to be missed!
5. Climb The Sugarloaf Mountain
Compared to the Corcovado mountain hike, Sugarloaf is a piece of cake! If you get to the cable cars in Praia Vermelha and don’t agree with the price tag, don’t despair, you can still have an amazing view of Rio de Janeiro.
However, you won’t be climbing the taller mountain; you’ll climb the Urca mountain and it only takes 30 minutes. The hike is a breeze and many Cariocas do it as exercise — you’ll see many people going up down. In the past, you could hike up and go down with the cable car for free, but nowadays, if you want to do that, you have to pay.
So there you have it, a short list of free things to do in Rio de Janeiro. But let me tell you a little secret: there are dozens of other things that are free and you just have to ask the right people! Cariocas know all the hidden gems and they’ll be more than willing to show you around!
Brazilians are a warm and welcoming people that just want to see you having a nice time. Have you ever been to Rio de Janeiro? Do you know something that most don’t? Share in the comments.
Guilherme is a Brazilian freelance travel writer. He is the Co-Founder of the Slow Spirit Blog, where he writes about a minimalist, sustainable travel lifestyle.