Traveling to Rio de Janeiro alone for the first time and need some planning travel tips? I’ve been to Rio alone, so let me help you with my ultimate guide on “what to know before you go” to Rio de Janeiro for the best, first-time Rio de Janeiro solo travel experience in this top travel destination.
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- Rio de Janeiro Travel Planning Resources
- Why Visit Rio de Janeiro Alone?
- Best Time of Year to Visit Rio de Janeiro
- Rio de Janeiro Solo Travel Packing Essentials
- Getting to Rio de Janeiro
- Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Solo Travelers?
- Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
- Transportation in Rio de Janeiro
- What to Do in Rio de Janeiro Alone Over 50
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Why Visit Rio de Janeiro Alone?
The weather, the natural scenery, the culture, the people, the dancing, the multitude of outdoor activities…it’s endless. Oh, let’s not forget the annual Carnival festival in February.
The Brazilians know how to live and spend their leisure time. They especially know how to do so in their fantastically unique city, Rio.
There are so many things to do in Rio de Janeiro as a single traveler. Go mingle with the Brazilians and see.
Best Time of Year to Visit Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro has it all for any time of year. However, the biggest thing to factor in when visiting Rio is the weather.
If you like hot and humid with rain, which I do not, go during their summer season (December through early March). The summer is also when most Brazilians vacation, so you’ll be dealing with more tourists (especially at Carnival, of course).
Rio’s winter season (July through September), though, is milder (mid 70’s F) but amply nice to enjoy the outdoors. There aren’t as many tourists either and prices are lower. The only downfall is that the daylight hours are decreased.
I went in July and completely enjoyed it.
Rio de Janeiro Solo Travel Packing Essentials
Getting to Rio de Janeiro
As of June 2019, Americans no longer need a tourist visa to visit Brazil. However, it may still be required for others. Check your government’s tourism information for Brazil.
You’ll more than likely be flying into the Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport (GIG). Flying to Rio de Janeiro, or anywhere in South America, is a long-haul flight for many travelers. Be prepared with these 15 long-haul flight essentials.
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After arriving GIG Airport, you have multiple ground transportation options to get to your hotel.
If your hotel doesn’t offer a shuttle, you could take an Uber, rent a car, or hire a car service or taxi (look for the official yellow taxis).
The Metro Rio, unfortunately, does not have a station at the GIG airport.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Solo Travelers?
I get it. You wonder is it safe to travel to Rio de Janeiro alone. Well, crime has reduced in Rio de Janeiro over the years, so it doesn’t have the bad rap it used to. I certainly didn’t let it stop me traveling Brazil alone.
Rio is an extremely large city and a high tourist destination. Like any other large city – think New Orleans or New York City – Rio has its good and bad neighborhoods. Therefore, Rio can have its share of crimes of opportunity, like pick pocketing.
Beach areas are safe during the day. The Zona Sul (South Zone), considered the safest place to stay in Rio de Janeiro, includes the Botafogo, Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana neighborhoods.
In short, just be street-wise and vigilant with your safety and your belongings using these safety tips for traveling to Rio de Janeiro alone:
- Keep your passport in your hotel room safe, but carry a copy with you.
- Don’t go wandering off the beaten path and avoid the favelas – even a tour.
- Avoid walking the beaches at sunset or at night.
- If you need to go out at night, have your hotel arrange a shuttle or taxi, or take an Uber.
- Keep your belongings on you at all times, even on the beach and while swimming (use my favorite water-proof pouch).
- Use a monosling bag as a day bag with pockets securely closed.
- Don’t keep valuables in your pockets or wear flashy jewelry.
- Keep your camera and mobile device(s) in your day bag and only use them when necessary.
- The metro is considered safe, but the buses not so much.
- Caipirinha’s can be strong, so don’t get too intoxicated.
- Consider travel insurance.
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Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
For first-time traveling to Rio alone over 50, I recommend staying at Copacabana Beach, hands down. It’s not that it’s just a nice, central area of Rio to stay and easily accessible to many attractions, but the beach and it’s mountainous surrounding is simply spectacular.
Let’s face it, how many hotel rooms can boast these views?
Or this view from a hotel rooftop?
My hotel recommendation that checks all of the key boxes for Rio de Janeiro solo travel over 50, including location, reviews, amenities, and Sustainable Travel rating, is the Hilton Copacabana.
Transportation in Rio de Janeiro
Personally, I ditched the rental car and relied on tours, Ubers and taxis. Ubers are considered safe in Rio. So are taxis, but you may want to have your hotel or restaurant call your taxi for you so you know you have a reputable one.
Don’t forget walking. You can cover a lot of ground walking safely traveling alone in Rio.
Consider taking the Metro Rio for clean commuting without a car.
Carpoolworld is available if you’re looking for inexpensive transportation.
Lime also has electric scooters to rent in Rio de Janeiro for quick commuting around town.
What to Do in Rio de Janeiro Alone Over 50
You now know Rio de Janeiro is safe for single travelers, know where to stay and how to get there. You’re ready to explore some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro alone.
Here is some of what I did and highly recommend. These can be done in Rio in 2 days, 3 days, or longer on your solo trip to Rio.
Christ the Redeemer
I consider this the #1 must do in Rio de Janeiro alone. Why? It’s not just because it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, but also that the views from Corcovado Mountain are simply magnificent.
There are tours by train, or by van, for getting up the mountain with admission to the Christ the Redeemer statue. I recommend taking the first available tour in the morning and dressing in layers – it can be chilly in the morning at that altitude.
Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) is a close second to Corcovado Mountain. It, too, has sweeping views of Rio de Janeiro from its 396 meter high peak – from the Atlantic Ocean, to Guanabara Bay, to Urca Beach below, and Copacabana Beach beyond. I recommend doing this closer to sunset.
Yes, you can hike Sugarloaf Mountain alone or hike in a guided group. If you have the time to hike, do. However, I do really recommend taking the Sugarloaf cable car, too. It’s awesome. The ride cannot be compared to any other cable car I have ever ridden. For the best of both worlds, hike up and ride the cable car down.
Have a tasty acaí bowl (a must in Brazil) at one of the kiosks, but don’t fill up. You’ll want to save room for a savory, after-sunset dinner and drinks in one of the Urca restaurants after you descend.
At the top you’ll see many, cute marmosets, which have become quite accustom to human company.
Eco Travel Tip
Even with signs everywhere asking tourists not to feed the marmosets, you’ll still see inconsiderate tourists (yes, I’m being nice here), who find it cute to tease them with food, or feed them (with junk food, no less), just to get them closer to take their picture. Don’t be that tourist.
Off-season it’s easy to find a spot for sunbathing and going for a swim at Praia Copacabana (Copacabana Beach). It has numbered postas (lifeguard stands) from 1 (north) to 6 (south). You can use these stands as a marker for your spot on the sand.
Walk the famous, curvy mosaic-tiled Calçadão de Copacabana (Copacabana Boardwalk) with food stalls and places to grab lunch and a Caipirinha while watching the sun-goers play soccer or beach volleyball.
Cross the street to shop the stretch of outdoor shopping stalls for souvenirs to bikinis.
Venture a little further south for the 2-mile long Praia Ipanema (Ipanema Beach) (postos 8 to 12) for more fantastic sun and scenery.
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
You can get lost in this 350 acre park, not far from Copacabana Beach. The Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) is best botanical garden I’ve visited yet. It has more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants, including 900 varieties of palm trees. Who knew there were so many?
The Botanical Garden sits at the foot of Corcovado Mountain with the Christ the Redeemer statue overhead. Spend at least an hour or two here. You can even take a garden tour, if you wish.
Whatever you do, don’t miss walking the Avenue of the Royal Palms. It will make you feel so small.
In the Botanical Garden, take lunch at the tranquil Parque Large. Look straight up Corcovado to glimpse the Christ the Redeemer against the blue sky.
Museum of Tomorrow
The Museo do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) as a great addition to your Rio de Janeiro solo visit. This popular science museum, full of interactive exhibits and games to give you a glimpse into the future, is housed under a way-cool, sustainably designed building by Santiago Calatrava. There are tours with transfers available for your solo travel ease.
Instituto Moreira Salles
Take in some great art and a coffee on the patio in the intimate setting of the Instituto Moreira Salles. Take an Uber there. It makes for a leisurely morning.
Copacabana Fort & Museum
After the museum, stop to rest on a bench to view the mountains looming over Copacabana Beach and absorb the fresh ocean air.
If you want to party and samba the night away, head to the Lapa neighborhood (in the Zona Sul) where the colorful Escadaria Selaron and historic Carioca Aqueduct (aka the Lapa Arches) are also located. Lapa is a key spot for Rio de Janeiro’s nightlife,including street parties. You may catch one.
The Largo da Lapa (under the Arches) can also be a lively scene. For late night food, try the food trucks.
Just remember to be safe, and stay in well-lit areas with others around, and take an Uber between all points around the city at night.
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if my travel tips and ideas for traveling to Rio de Janeiro alone were helpful in planning your solo travel over 50. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!