Updated: Apr 29, 2019
A stunning city with a lively atmosphere and vivid culture, Rio does not disappoint the ethical and environmentally-aware traveler.
Date/Duration of Travel
Need Visa (If you are from the United States, Australia, Japan or Canada, you can do an e-visa online that took me 48 hours to get, but starting June 2019, citizens from United States, Australia, Japan and Canada will no longer need a visa to travel to Brazil!)
Valid Passport (not entirely sure of how long it needs to be valid, but go with 6 months to be safe!)
No Vaccines Necessary
Must Declare over 10,000 BR upon entry/exit
Check travel advisory for safety
I stayed in an Airbnb in Copacabana (on the beach).
Search accommodation here.
Book an Airbnb here. (get $30 off :))
From the airport, I just called an Uber. I also used Uber to go on all of the hikes and for grocery shopping-one of my friends even used Uber at 4am to go home (so the service does feel safe even late at night). The only time I used a different form of transportation was when I went to Cristo. I took an Uber to the bottom of the hill, and from there used the van service to go to the top--it is hard to use an Uber to go to the top as there is no parking lot and it is difficult to call an Uber at the end of your tour. There is also a train to the top, but it doesn't stop at different view points. However, the train did look like a nice experience in itself.
They speak Portuguese in Brazil, and most people do NOT speak English. There are some useful phrases that you should know, but if you are alone, definitely download google.translate to try to communicate if possible.
These are the only phrases I used outside of google.translate:
Good morning (good afternoon) Bom dia (boa tarde) (I heard people saying Bom dia alllll day, so I wasn't sure what the real protocol was for that)
Good evening (good night) Boa noite
How are you? Como vai você?
Thank you Obrigado (shortened to brigado when it was super casual)
Goodbye (very informal/most used) Tchau
Suave To be used when you really enjoyed something. Something an Uber driver taught me that most locals loved when I said... meaning really nice (I think).
The travel warnings when I visited seemed quite extreme and dire, but I experienced nothing but hospitality and warmth from the people of Rio.
With that being said, I did take the following precautions:
I did not walk alone at night
I did not keep my phone out when I walked
I kept small cash on me "just in case"-- but I never had any issues
There is a favela near Copacabana that locals assured us is perfectly safe to walk through during the day, and some offered to walk us through, but I didn't take this offer... though I believe it to be a genuine and kind offer.
Also, I took an Uber into a neighborhood that was supposed to be home to a sustainable store, but it did not exist. A nice lady invited me into her home and fed me sweets while I waited for a new Uber... She did not speak any english so it was a truly beautiful, magical interaction between us.
Things to Do
March is just at the end of summer in Brazil, and the weather is HOT: Go to the BEACH
Go surfing: amazing surf spots here and the water is 25C in March. Great surfing recommendations here
Go hiking: there are plenty of hiking locations. We went on the "Pedra Bonita" hike. It was very easy, only about 30 minutes long, people do yoga at the top, and it has incredible views in the afternoon. It is often very foggy (like it was for us), if you go before noon. We took an Uber up and called his number when we were finished with hike. There are plenty of other hikes depending on what group you have with you, and I recommend following the hiking recommendations here.
See Cristo and Corcovado in the Tijuca Forest National Park: This is an iconic statue that you simply must visit if you go to Rio. There can be crowds, but most of the cruise ship crowds will be gone in the evening. We went up there around 4pm, and it was perfect to see the sunset and incredible view of the city. The national park is amazing.
Go for a walk along Copacabana: The beautiful black and white, zig-zag design is a dream to run/walk on. You can walk all the way to Ipanema beach.
Take a yoga class at Saraswati Yoga.
Vist Jardim Botânico: and see some monkeys!
Take a day trip to Ilha Grande. An amazing small island near Rio. There are incredible beaches and more islands to visit nearby. Just come prepared and bring cash and book accommodation ahead of time.
Where to Eat
As a vegan, you can pretty much eat ANYWHERE comfortably. There are acaii bowls and many traditional Brazilian restaurants feature quinoa and lentils. With that being said, there are two incredible restaurants that you must go to when in Rio.
Gaia Art & Café
R. Gustavo Sampaio, 323 - Loja A - Leme, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22010-010, Brazil
You will find a lot of traditional Brazilian delicacies in a vegan form here which helps you feel like you aren’t missing out on trying anything! A lot of locals stopped in for their amazing lunch special which had different features each day. They do have dairy in some of their foods, but they have vegan substitutes for most items. This is also a gluten-free haven. I recommend trying the lunch special and their pizza with tapioca crust!
Av. Henrique Dumont, 110 - Loja B - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22410-060, Brazil
This is a dedicated vegan restaurant but ready to entertain. Their menu is updated every couple of months so they have very modern vegan dishes on the menu. They even had Seitan steak (which I ordered), that I haven't seen at a vegan restaurant in the U.S. yet. They had pitchers of cocktails, perfect for a Sunday brunch with friends, and sparkling and still water on tap to minimize waste. Their cocktail menu was very creative, and I was through-and-through a major fan of this restaurant. I spoke to the owner, and they will be opening a second restaurant in São Paolo this year!
Where to Shop
After doing A LOT of research on where to shop in Rio, I narrowed it down to 3 places that I was going to visit. Unfortunately, the research that I did online was no longer dated..
The one place that did work out was Farm Ipanema.
LJS C-D 202 A 204, R. Visc. de Pirajá, 365 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, 22410-003, Brazil
Though they aren't the most sustainable brand: they have many sustainable practices in place, info available here. Although I couldn't read it as it is in Portuguese. I shopped here because I appreciate that they do have sustainable efforts, but I noticed shopping there that their clothing is mostly made in China. It makes me question what the sustainable measures they take actually are. I do know they plant a tree in the Amazon for every purchase made and they support local designers, and hey, that is most definitely a start!
I also checked out:
R. Visc. de Pirajá, 547 - SL.226 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 29185-000, Brazil
I could not find this store, and the girls at the Farm shop did not know where it was either.
Rua General Venâncio Flôres, 481 - Loja C - Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22441-090, Brazil
This location is in the middle of a neighborhood and one of the locals said it no longer exists, but maybe it is something that can be ordered online.
Luckily, the Rio airport (GIG) is actually a phenomenal place to shop.
You can find Farm and Osklen here. Osklen is a phenomenal sustainable brand with the "as sustainable as possible" philosophy. They have a location in Ipanema too.
Osklen (I visited the airport location)
R. Maria Quitéria, 85 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22410-040, Brazil
They have amazing sustainable clothing for men in particular--something that I find more difficult to source. It is unique and with solid ethics. This is becoming one of my favorite brands. You can find their sustainability practices here.
I also stumbled upon an amazing jewel.
Flavia Amadeu (I visited the airport location)
R. Rio de Janeiro, 47 - Dom Giocondo, 69906-380
They have extremely strong sustainability practices, and they are now my favorite brand for jewelry. Many of their proceeds go to conservation and preservation of the Amazon. Find more information here.
Also, the markets can be a great place to support some locals, but use your own discretion when it comes to things looking like they have actually been hand-crafted by the individual or just mass-produced at a small cost.
Things to buy in Brazil
The exchange rate from Brazilian Reals to USD was 1BR to .25$. That being said, it is quite inexpensive to shop here. I definitely recommend getting swimming suits, TEA (there are a lot of unique blends here, which was very unexpected to me), and some sustainable bright clothing from any of the brands listed above.
I had a great impression of Rio's sustainability measures overall. The coconuts on the beach only gave away paper straws. The main tourist attractions were very environmentally educational, and the people in general seemed to care a lot about being active and taking care of the environment-all of the trails were VERY clean.
Have you traveled to Brazil recently? We would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.