Live in a Rio de Janeiro shoestring

Rio de Janeiro shoestring

Bikinis in Rio may be skimpy, but prices are not. Brazil is one of South America’s most expensive countries. The strong real (Brazil’s currency) means you’ll get less for your dollar, pound or Euro than elsewhere. But fear not: there are ways to enjoy the Cidade Maravilhosa on a budget.

Rio de Janeiro shoestring


Visit in the off-season. Accommodation prices rise by 30% in summer (December-February) and can triple for Carnaval and New Year’s Eve. The good news is that Rio’s tropical location means there’s no bad time to visit. Other tips:

  • The bohemian Santa Teresa neighbourhood has some lovely guesthouses. Rio Hostel has doubles and dorms, plus a pool. On a quiet street, Casa Áureaoffers singles, doubles and triples.
  • If you’d prefer a hotel, skip the pricey beachfront areas and try a working-class neighbourhood such as Catete or Glória instead. Hotel Turístico is basic but close to the Metro.
  • Travelling with a group or staying a while? Consider renting an apartment. Rio Apartments has a wide selection.
  • Dozens of hostels have opened recently, many with doubles in addition to dorms. Ipanema Beach House is one of the best.


Fill up at lunch at one of the many local joints that cater to office workers.

  • Per-kilo buffet restaurants are healthy and reasonably priced.
  • Most juice stands also serve sandwiches; try Polis Sucos.
  • For heartier fare, some bars offer inexpensive set meals at lunch.


  • Lapa’s red-hot samba clubs are well worth the price of admission for live music all night long; try Democráticus.
  • Bring a flyer (check Ipanema boutiques) for half-price admission to nightclubs.
  • Visit a boteco (small neighbourhood bar) for cheap ice-cold beer and tasty appetizers. Bip Bip has free live music.
  • Friday nights, the best party in town is under the Arcos de Lapa, where locals gather to drink, dance and flirt in the streets. The area can be dodgy, so go with friends, stay on well-lit, busy streets and watch out for pickpockets.


  • Rio’s best attractions – gorgeous beaches packed with gorgeous people – are totally free!
  • It’s worth springing for the views from Pão de Açúcarand Cristo Redentor.
  • Many museums have a free admission day, and the excellent Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil is always free.
  • A trip on the clattering Bonde (tram) to Santa Teresa is a cheap thrill.

This article was originally published in June 2009. This article was refreshed in August 2012.