When you think of Brazil, do you picture the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro and the beautiful sandy beaches that line its coastline? We sure do. However, it has got a little bit of a reputation for being a bit on the pricey side. But there’s no need to hold off! We’ve created this travel guide to give you the top travel tips to visit and explore Rio de Janeiro on a budget.
It’s no wonder Rio de Janeiro has earned the nickname Cidade Maravilhosa – or Marvelous City. With lushly forested mountains fringing the city and beaches such as Copacabana tracing the shoreline, some may say it’s more than marvelous. The city holds many famous traditions, and its samba-fueled nightlife provide the perfect soundtrack to this bustling city.
If you’re looking at keeping the costs down, we’re here to help. We’ve narrowed down the best things to do, see, places to stay and eat in Rio de Janeiro. Whether you’re after some tasty food or a comfortable place to stay – we’ve got everything covered.
Things To Do in Rio de Janeiro on a Budget
Rio de Janeiro is on many people’s bucket list, and it is no surprise why. This beautiful city is full of amazing architecture, parks and sculptures. Not only that, but it is also built around the surrounding beaches, bays, lakes and mountains – creating a perfect balance.
The best thing about Rio though is that there is no need to go on a commercial tour, as the views are the most important thing to see. All you have to do is hop on the public transport and head to the different areas of town to experience them or join a walking tour around the city.
Visit Sugarloaf Mountain
Perhaps one of the most noticeable landmarks in Rio de Janeiro, the Sugarloaf Mountain – or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese. It overlooks the entrance of Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio. Named after is conical, granite peak which reaches 1296 feet, it is a must see for all travelers. You can choose to take the cable car from the beginning to the top of Morro de Urca.
Tickets start at around $22 per person or hike up yourself for free. If you are wanting to save some money, hiking up the trail also means you may see some of Rio’s wildlife. In particular watch out for the marmosets – tiny, long-tailed monkeys are often seen hiding in the trees.
See ‘Christ the Redeemer’
One of the most iconic landmarks in Rio is likely to be the Christ the Redeemer – or Cristo Redentor in Portuguese – based on the Corcovado Mountain. This 125-foot art-deco statue rises 2329 feet above the city and is visible from almost every point in the city. With some of the most incredible views being at night when it is all lit up.
Recently being named as one the seven ‘new wonders of the world’, it is accessible to tourists in a few ways – either by hiking up the road or taking various modes of transport. Transport and entrance to the statue should cost no more than $30 per person.
Check out Rio de Janeiro’s Beautiful Beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema
The best thing about a day at the beach in Rio? They’re free. Many sun worshippers and surfers flock to the beaches of Rio on sunny days. The two beaches not to be missed for those looking to travel on a budget are Ipanema and Copacabana beach. Ipanema is possibly the most famous in beach in Rio with an amazing view of the wonderful Two Brothers peaks in the background. Depicted on many postcards for its beauty and striking pavement patterns thousands of tourists stroll along Copacabana’s famed wavy mosaic pavement.
However, if you’re not a fan of the crowds at Copacabana or Ipanema, head to the south of Sugarloaf and visit Vermelha – which welcomes families with children in a safe, secluded setting. This is the location where many commercial fishing boats anchor to catch fish to serve in some of Rio’s top restaurants.
Day at the Botanical Gardens
Head to the western part of Rio de Janeiro to visit the expansive Jardim Botânico, or Botanical Garden, which offers a fascinating array of plant life that South America has to offer. With over 500 species of orchids, enormous redwoods, ponds full of giant water lilies, as well as some animals. These include a variety of butterflies, black capuchin monkeys and tiny marmosets.
But the best thing about Rio’s Botanical Garden’s? Entry only costs around $2 per person. It is the perfect addition to a budget guide to Rio de Janeiro.
Art Museum & Galleries
If you’re a culture-seeker looking to find the perfect place to spend some time in Rio de Janeiro the Museum of Modern Art is a place great place to start. After you visit you will agree that it is no surprise it is one of the best contemporary art museums and galleries in Brazil.
Located in Flamengo Park, the largest public park in city, this modern concrete structure is the most well-known work of Brazilian architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy. It’s safe to say it is a popular destination to visit, especially due to its support of up-and-coming artists. Example collections include the Gilberto Chateaubriand, which make up one of the most comprehensive collections of Brazilian art within the last century. The museum is open daily with tickets costing between $1 and $2.5 (R$7 and R$14).
Places to Eat in Rio de Janeiro on a Budget
A trip to Rio de Janeiro would be incomplete without sampling its thriving food scene. Food is a big part of Brazilian culture, they celebrate social relationships, and everything is an excuse to meet friends and family in a bar or around a restaurant table. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, it has grown in popularity over the years, which has caused a lot of prices to increase.
But don’t worry there are still amazing places in Rio de Janeiro that offer incredible food without breaking your wallet, whether you’re after sophisticated dining or local delicacies there is plenty to choose from. Holding a traditional bar culture, Rio is the perfect place to sip a tap beer, enjoy lots of tira-gostos (local way to refer to snacks) and watch the world go by.
Cantinho do Leblon
A hidden gem that usually only the locals know about. Located just a few blocks from the beach it offers Brazilian delicacies with large portions. If you’re traveling on a budget this is one of the best places to head in the city, with the choice to share dishes. Locals recommend trying the picanha, farofa, feijão and arroz de brócolis, which translates to steak, rice with broccoli and black beans. The average price is around $18 for four meals to share.
Address: Rua Dias Ferreira 482, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 22431-050 Brazil
Translating to Blue Peacock, this restaurant is extremely popular so get there early. Located near to Copacabana beach it is one of the most traditional places to visit, with the chance to experience one of the best Brazilian ways of life. The Boteco. Boteco’s are a type of bar that strips everything back to the surface – offering a super simple service with chairs on the street, cold beer, tasty drinks and fantastic food. It’s not luxury or pretentious, it’s one hundred percent Brazilian. It’s recommended to try the pastel or the bolinho de bacalhau – both of which are a reasonable price that definitely won’t break the bank.
Address: Rua Hilario de Gouveia 66 Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 22040-900 Brazil
Confeitaria Colombo, Centro
With its vaulted ceilings, Confeitaria Colombo serves as a reminder of Rio de Janeiro’s elegant high society era. Specializing in sweets and pastries, it has evolved to be a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Brazilians embrace savoury and sweet combos – with crepes, such as brie with apricot, and quiches, such as ricotta, spinach and banana for under $5. The list of deserts is endless, with pastries lined up behing the glass counter waiting to be devoured. Try the tartelette de chocolate e avevlã (hazelnut and chocolate tart) or the classic Portuguese pastel de nata for just $2.50.
Address: Rua Goncalves Dias 32, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 20050-030 Brazil
Baixo Gago, Laranjeiras
If you want to find a great place that all the locals of Rio would recommend, head to Baixo Gago. If you are looking to sample a taste of Brazil, this is your place to try feijoada for just $25 shared between three people. This is a traditional pork and black bean stew served in huge portions, with a side dish of rice, greens and cassava flour called farofa. Located just a short walk from the train station that takes visitors up to the Christ the Redeemer statue, just behind the Largo do Machado, it is the perfect place to sample some amazing food. Another recommendation is the churrasco misto, grilled beef and chicken with a side of french fries, rice, farofa and diced tomatoes. This is also on the menu for $25 between three people.
Address: Rua Gago Coutinho 51 Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 22221-070 Brazil
What was once a wholesale fruit and vegetable market has been transformed into a delightful culinary experience. In the past this bustling market would of been filled with sellers stalls which now form delis, barbecues, cafes and liquor stores. Head to the third floor to dine at the Corujão grill where diners can serve themselves from tall piles of freshly grilled chicken, ribs, beef, pork, picanha (steak) or bacalhau (cod) sizzling on iron plates. Served with side dishes of black beans, rice, french fries and tomato vinaigrette. All this for around $10. Then after you’ve stuffed yourself full of some of Rio de Janeiro’s best barbecue food head to the ground floor. Here is where the high-end Sorvete Brasil ice-cream is made – with flavors like fig and nut or lychee. Individual cones can be bought for just $2 on the balcony.
Address: R. Cap. Felix, 110, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 20920-310 Brazil
Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro on a Budget
If you’re looking for a stay in Rio de Janeiro that doesn’t compromise on its culture, there’s plenty of budget friendly options to choose from. Another option is to head to some of the lesser known neighborhoods such as Lapa which is a short drive from Ipanema and Copacabana. All neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro offer not just sandy toes and sun tans, but also the city’s rich culture. Here’s our pick of the best budget hotels in Rio, for an affordable stay with great restaurants, bars, nightlife and attractions right on your doorstep.
Hotel Atlantico Prime
Situated right in the city center of Rio de Janeiro, the Hotel Atlantico Prime offers everything you will need on your budget trip to Rio. Offering private parking, a fitness centre, restaurant and bar guests have everything right on their doorstep. Guest rooms feature a contemporary decor, equipped with air conditioning, cable TV, minibar, safe as well as complimentary toiletries. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning. Nearby attractions include AquaRio and Guanabara Bay, as well as Maracanã stadium just 4 miles away.
Address: Rua do Rezende, 87 , Centro, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 20231-091, Brazil
Rating: 7.6 (Good)
Price: $23 per night
Ibis Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont
Offering modern accommodation just 0.6 miles away from Santos Dumont Airport, the Ibis Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont is the perfect place to stay. Especially before you jet off to another country on your travels. Guests can take advantage of the onsite restaurant and bar as well as the business centre. In the comfortable rooms guests will find great amenities. These include a flat screen TV with satellite channels, as well as a private bathroom equipped with a shower. For travelers looking to explore the local area there is good access to local public transportation. The Santa Teresa neighborhood is around 0.7 miles away.
Address: Rua Marechal Camara, 280 , Centro, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 20020-080, Brazil
Rating: 8.1 ( Very Good)
Price: $24 per night
Residencial Santa Teresa
If you’re looking for a small hotel in Rio de Janeiro, look no further. Residencial Santa Teresa boasts an outdoor swimming pool as well as free private parking, making it the perfect base to explore everything Rio de Janeiro has to offer. All rooms at this guest house are fitted with a seating area, flat-screen TV with cable channels as well as a private bathroom with a shower and complimentary toiletries. A continental or buffet breakfast is available daily. Guests can easily experience some of Rio’s most well known attractions – including Ilha Fiscal and AquaRio. This is as well as Flamengo beach and the Escadaria Selarón which is just 0.6 miles away.
Address: Rua Francisco Muratori, 117, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 20230-080, Brazil
Rating: 9.3 (Superb)
Price: $35 per night
Hotel Atlantico Tower
Just 650 yards from the Museum of Tomorrow and 0.9 miles from Santos Dumont Airport, the Hotel Atlantico Tower couldn’t be in a better location in Rio. This city center hotel is perfect for those on a budget, but not wanting to skimp on quality of their accommodation. It even features a roof top pool with panoramic views of around the city of Rio. With tasteful wooden furnishings and light tiled floors, the rooms at the Hotel Atlantico Tower are fully equipped with all of the things people will need. Rooms also boast air conditioning throughout, a mini bar and a work desk for people looking to work remotely. Food is served every morning in the form of a breakfast buffet, with a variety of things on offer.
Public transportation is close by with the Novo Rio bus terminal just three miles away which can provide you transport across South America
Address: Rua Visconde de Inhaúma, 95 – Centro, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 20091-007, Brazil
Rating: 7.3 (Good)
Price: $23 per night
Hostel Tavares Bastos
If you are really looking to travel on a budget, and want to watch your spending the Hostel Tavares Bastos is a great place for you. Take advantage of it’s free WiFi throughout. It has a great location near some of Rio de Janeiro’s best beaches. Many of the main sights such as Corcovado, Sugarloaf Mountain are also nearby. It also boasts excellent transportation links across the city – including the subway and bus services. There is a mixture of dormitories at this hostel that provide a comfortable base – many with a nice view over the sea or the city of Rio. The Hostel Tavares also boasts a shared kitchen if you want to make your own food to cut down on cost.
Address: Rua Tavares Bastos 414/84cd, Catete, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 22221-030, Brazil
Rating: 8.5 (Very Good)
Price: $4 per night
Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro
Although Rio de Janeiro may seem like a large and sprawling city, it is actually fairly easy to navigate. The easiest and cheapest way to get around is by subway, which covers almost every area of interest. If the subway doesn’t reach where you are looking to visit Rio also has an extremely logical bus service. It sticks to the main streets and is one of the quickest modes of transportation. There are 30 buses going to Copacabana beach alone!
Travel tip – the buses only stop if someone wants to board. So, if you see your bus coming wave your hand at the drive. Bus tickets cost approximately R$2.50 to R$3.50. Taxis are also available which are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, especially for those out-of-the-way places.
How Much Money do you Need Per Day in Rio de Janeiro?
How much money you will need in Rio de Janeiro really depends on what activities you choose to do. However, visiting Rio de Janeiro on a budget is definitely possible with some great places to stay, eat and activities to do without you having to spend too much. Depending on what activities you choose to do you’ll need around $30-$40 per day. The currency in Brazil is Brazilian reais. Please note that they do not accept USD.
When Is the Cheapest Time to Visit Rio de Janeiro?
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited destinations in Brazil. With over 3.3 million of people from all over the world visiting the city every year. November to February is considered summertime in Brazil, with temperatures hitting an average of 25 – 30°C (77°F – 86°F). This time of year, is popular with people looking to spend some time in the sun. This is also the time to enjoy the famous Rio Carnival in late February/early March. We suggest you book well in advance and expect high prices for flights and accommodation, not ideal for those on a budget. March to May sees fewer crowds and prices starting to drop. The weather stays hot and plenty of nightlife on offer.
June to August has average temperatures of 22 degrees. It tends to be one of the most popular time for Europeans and North Americans taking their summer vacations. Throughout this time prices remain reasonable, with is also being the best time for surfing – with the waves at their choppiest. September until November is often the quietest months of the year for tourism. Prices are likely to be the cheapest and availability high. With minimal rain and pleasant temperatures it is the perfect time to enjoy the forests and mountain scenery, whilst also being able to spend time relaxing on the beach.