Rio de Janeiro- A DIY Backpacking Guide!


How to do-to-it-yourself travel guide in this sexy city!

It's probably the beaches. It's probably the gorgeous people. It's probably the laid back atmosphere. Or it's probably the iconic Christ the Reedemer. For whatever it is, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been written in most of the traveler's bucketlist in recent years.

For us, FrienchieatPinay, Rio de Janeiro was a dream destination since 2013. We've always wanted to see it for ourselves, why most people are gushing over this vibrant city-- despite a numerous warnings that it has danger of its own.

So here's an ultimate guide on how you can also DIY a backpacking trip to Rio de Janeiro! You're welcome! ;)

As a new resident in Vitoria ES, we started our backpacking journey in my new adopted city. But if you're coming from another part of the world, flying to Rio or Brazil is quite pricey. Check out or the mobile app, Hopper for cheap flight deals.

The best thing about traveling around Brazil (or South America for that matter) is that taking buses are convenient and cheap options for long journeys. From Vitoria ES to Rio de Janeiro is about nine hours, with two stops along the way. R$ 96.00- R$130/person or $25-34 (roundtrip).

These are the major bus lines in Brazil: Aguia Branca, Sao Geraldo, Itapemirim, and Kaissara for your bus reservation information. It's in Portuguese but hopefully, your computer can translate these websites to make your purchase a breeze. ;)

Important Note: Once you purchased your ticket online, you need to print out your confirmation and present it to the bus' ticket office at the terminal, as they print out your official ticket stub. Your confirmation is NOT YET your ticket. You will need to present your passport or international IDs with this process. So get them handy.  

Although Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are the famous area to stay in while in Rio de Janeiro, Frenchie and I opted to stay in the neighborhood of Catete, which is in the central area of the city.


Hotel Riazor was our best choice. It is an old charming hotel conveniently located right outside Catete subway stop. R$130/night or $34 for a double bed room including breakfast. We booked it through It is also 5-7 minutes walk to Largo do Machado, where we took most of local buses and some subway trips from Point A to Point B of Rio's tourists spots.

Here's the Metro Rio map for your reference:


Before starting on any trips, we always seek or look for a Tourist Information for their maps and travel tips. Take a look what Rio de Janeiro Tourism gave us. You can also check out this information online:

 Ultimate DIY Guide Around Rio de Janeiro's Tourist Attractions

1.     Christ the Redeemer/ Corcovado

In Portuguese, Cristo Redentor is the largest and most famous statue of Christ in the world-- 710 meters high above the city! Also considered to be the iconic landmark of the country.

How we got there: By 422 bus from Largo da Machado to Cosme Velho (R$3.40/person or less than $1). We opted for the train ride to get to the top, instead of taking the bus tours that most people did. We arrived around 10AM at the ticket office and we were told that the next ticket available is for 2:30PM. (R$62/person or $16 including the roundtrip train ride to Cosme Velho ticket station.)

Tickets available through the website, at Riotur tourist information kiosks at Downtown (rua da Candelaria, 6) and on Copacabana beach (on the boardwalk, near by Rua Hilario de Gouveia), at the Corcovado Train kiosk at Shopping Rio Sul (rua Lauro Muller - Botafogo) at the official box office of the Cosme Velho train station. And Correios - Santos Dumont Airport (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm); Tom Jobim Airport (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday,  8am to 3:30pm); Barra Shopping (Avenida das Américas, 4.666, store106, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 10pm); Botafogo (Voluntários da Pátria Strett 254, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm); Copacabana (Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 540, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturday, 9am to 1pm); AC JK (Visconde de Itaboraí Strett 20/térreo – Centro, Monday to Sunday, 12pm to 7pm; e Largo do Machado (Largo do Machado 35, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm e Saturday, 9am to 13pm).

Price: Adults - R$62 ($16), Children 6-12 years - R$31 ($3.50). Under 6 years - Free. Seniors from 60 years, people with special needs and students have 50% discount upon presentation of the document.

#FrenchieAtPinayTips: Because of the popularity of this tourist attraction, we advised that it's either you get there very early in the morning, or buy the tickets a day or two before your planned trip. It can be a bit windy and foggy once you're up there, so make sure you have a sweater to keep you warm. I think, the best time to go there is from 10-noon. :)


2.     Santa Marta Favela Tour

Rio de Janeiro's favelas are notoriously known for being ruled by drug traffickers or by organized crime groups. Historically, a favela is where the slaves were pushed away from the city, thus it is considered as a slum area where poor people live.

Santa Marta favela on the other hand, became the first favela in Rio pacified by the Brazilian government in 2008. It was made famous by Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" music video.

This was our most favorite part of the trip because we learned so much and it was an eye-opening experience! It was a great way to really understand the life of the Brazilians in the city and how they are shaping up their lives from the community they're from. Plus, we had the tour guide to ourselves and we gained a friend!

Call of book your reservation online:

The meeting point is at a Shell Gas Station near Botafogo subway stop. R$85/person or $22 for advance online booking and R$100/person or $26 for paying at the meeting point. It is 2.5 hours of touring around the favela. Hopefully, you will have our awesome guide, Pedro and tell him we recommended this tour! ;)


3.     Sugar Loaf

Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese is one of the best places to have a nice view of Guanabara Bay.

It has two stages to get to the top of the Urca Hill and the Sugar Loaf by cable car. R$62/person or $16.

How we got there: We walked our way from Botafogo subway stop but it was quite a walk! So I suggest that you take a taxi. There's a public bus that stops near the area but to keep you safe from public transport especially if you're not speaking the language, it's better to take a taxi or walk your way from the subway stop with the help of your Google map app. ;)

Why was it called Sugar Loaf?! Because it has a resemblance to the traditional shape of the concentrated refined loaf sugar. This is the best place to have a panoramic view of the whole city of Rio de Janeiro, just like at the top Christ the Redeemer, plus if you get lucky, you'll meet a tiny little friend roaming around the area. You know, the monkey in Rio 2 (the movie)  ;)


4.     Copacabana beach

For Brazilians, they associate the beach with this mosaic sidewalk. This was designed and completed in 1970 by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian landscape architect. 

This is where you'll see the lovely and gorgeous Brazilians. And football is a topmost activity of many by the beachside.

They also have a sand art that features the famous events in the city.


5.     Ipanema beach

This beach is right next to the Copacabana beach. Ipanema in Tupi language means "stinky lake". But I don't think it was. I didn't smell it at all. ;) This beach was made famous by a bossa nova song, "The Girl From Ipanema".....

How to get there: Take the subway Line 1 and get off at Ipanema/Gal. Osorio stop. R$3.70/person or less than $1

#FrenchieatPinayTips: If you plan to swim in these beaches, don't bring any valuables. Just bring a towel is enough. ;) We have read and heard stories of tourists being robbed/assaulted by the beach even on broad daylight! Fortunately, we never had any close encounter or experience like that. But to stay safe, don't walk alone at night or at almost dusk. Stay at the sidewalk area in case you're there at night.

On this trip, we stayed at three different hotels. That's because we stayed longer than planned and at the same time we wanted to stay at a B&B place in Lapa. Frenchie found Casa da Gente, an idyllic and green place that is truly an inspiration being located in urban city like Rio de Janeiro. It is owned by a French woman, managed by Argentinian siblings, and have Brazilian workers. R$200/per night for double bedroom or $51.


6. Selaron steps

Located next to where we stayed in Lapa. The now world-famous steps was a one-of-a-kind-work-of-art by a Chilean-born artist,  Jorge SelarónThis was his tribute to the Brazilian people, as he had lived right outside the steps since 1983 until his death in 2013.

The steps are literally covered with tiles, ceramics, and mirrors in a form of mosaic. There are about 2,000+ tiles collected from around the world being displayed here. Free or open to public.

How to get there: There are no direct public transport to the steps. You can either take a taxi or take a subway to Gloria or Cinelandia then walk your way from there. We took a public bus and walked about 10 minutes to get there. These are the bus numbers: 123, 161 or 433. R$3.40 or less than $1.


7. Lapa

This is where you can find the Arcos da Lapa, which was originally built to bring fresh water in the city. It is considered to be an impressive example of colonial architecture and engineering as it was built in the middle of the 18th century.

On this modern day, Lapa is known as the bar district of Rio de Janeiro. Every nook and cranny of the area sells your choice of beverage and gives you an ultimate enjoyment through samba music and salsa dancing! The cost of drinks ranges from R$ 15-60 or $4-16, depending on the kind of alcohol you want.

How to get there: To be safe, take a reliable taxi. In our case, we walked because we were staying in Lapa. (They said it is dangerous to walk around Lapa at night, but contrary to that, we didn't feel endangered at all.) But just be sure to stay at well-lighted streets.

#FrenchieAtPinayTips: Just bring enough cash for your drink consumption. Wear casually. Avoid wearing flashy jewelries. And keep in mind that for Brazilians, Sunday is like I-don't-want-to-go-out-I-will-stay-at-home-kind-of-a-day. So don't waste your time going there on a Sunday, although some bars and party places have an exception to this.

*Oh and don't forget to bring an ID (like a photocopy of your passport) if you plan to enter some clubs. It is required by the entrance.


8. Sta Teresa

This is the artsy-fartsy neighborhood of Rio. You can find most art stores and coffee-hang-out-places around. We especially loved the street graffiti arts. Frenchie and I were lucky to have met and watched the artists worked on their graffiti art, which reminded us so much of the one we saw in the Museum of the City of New York

A must-see in this neighborhood is the Parque das Ruínas, where you can also have a panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro but shorter in height as compared to the one in Sugar Loaf hill and Christ the Redeemer. Free entrance.

How to get there: Just like getting to Lapa or Selaron steps. As this area is within the same neighborhood, you can walk around to and from these three places.


9. Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

It is another architectural landmark, looking like an up sided-cone, located in the center of the city that draws tourists' interest to see it rather than visit it for it's purpose as a church. It was built between 1964 and 1997.

As a churchgoer myself, I was surprised that the Sunday mass people were only less than a hundred, despite the fact that Brazil is the number one Catholic country in the world, based on its population. It was my first Sunday mass since I arrived in Brazil. 

How to get there: Take the subway Line 1 or Line 2 and get off at the Cinelandia station. And walk your way up to the church.

#FrenchieAtPinayTips: If you want to attend a mass, the schedules are: Mon-Fri 11am; Sat-Sun 10am. All masses are in Portuguese. There is also a museum at the basement of the church, mostly religious statues. Opens on Wed, Sat, and Sun from 9:00 am till noon. Other days is for reservation only. But the cathedral is open everyday from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.


10. Explore the Central Area

The Central subway station was introduced to me by Frenchie through a 1998 Brazilian-French drama film, Central do Brasil. Which became my all time favorite Brazilian movie!

The central area is where "old Rio" can still be seen. Which reminded me so much of old Manila and downtown Iloilo. To my Pinoy friends, don't you think so, based on these pics?!...

And the one that looks like the Flat Iron Building in NYC!

How to get there: Take the subway and you can either get off at Uruguaiana or Central and walk around from there. R$3.20/trip or less than $1.


11. Hippie Market in Ipanema

Also known as the Feira Hippie Ipanema is a hippie market place only on Sundays at the General Osorio Square. It starts around 10AM until the early evening, wherein you can find art, jewelry, shirts, bags, furniture, hammocks, and other more. 

We tried looking around for a hammock but we never saw any. I ended up buying the infamous Ipanema colorful bracelets, a Copacabana backpack, and a sexy blouse. ;)

But the must try in this fair is the food from Salvador, Bahia-- the Acarajébeing served by these wonderful women! R$9.00/serving or $3.

How to get there: Take subway Line 1 and get off at the Ipanema/Gal. Osorio stop. Just follow the direction to Osorio Square. R$3.20/ person or less than $1.


12. Football Game at Estádio São Januário

This is the very reason why we extended our stay in Rio de Janeiro. We wanted to experience how it's like to watch a football game in this football-loving nation. For football fans like us, we checked a bucket list dream! 

And boy oh boy! To describe it as a religion is totally an understatement!!! The level of passion for each Brazilian fan for this sport or for their favorite team alone, is more than 110%! It was certainly contagious! haha! 

We were so lucky that our favela tour guide, Pedro was able to get us a ticket for this Vasco de Gama vs. Palmeiras SP because they sell like hotcakes! Football games are only every Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year and around Brazil, in the teams' respective stadiums.

In Rio de Janeiro, there are three big stadiums where they held the games: Maracana, Botafogo, and Sao Juanario. (R$60/person or $15.50 but some games can be a bit pricey depending on the teams that are playing.)

How to get there: There are various bus services that connect with the stadium. Bus 473 brings you from Copacabana directly to the stadium. Get on the bus at the Rua Tonelera. The stadium is at the end of the line. Bus 472 also passes right in front of the stadium. You can board this bus in downtown (Av Pres Vargas), Flamengo (Praia do Flamengo), or at the northern edge of Copacabana. From Ipanema you can catch bus 474, which also passes through Copacaban (Av Ns de Copacabana), Flamengo, and downtown. The bus stops a 5-minute walk away from the stadium (follow the Rua Saõ Januário north.) From Rodoviária Novo Rio bus station you can take bus 209, which again leaves you right in front of the stadium.

#FrenchieatPinayTips: We were lucky to have Pedro as our tour guide throughout this whole event. And I don't advise you to go there alone. Although, it is already an adventure of its own. But then again, you need to have a Brazilian friend or a guide that knows the drill. And I kid you not, there were "smsll" riots within the stadium among fans from each team, when we watched the game! ;)

So if you really want to watch a game, try to contact this guy, who arranges everything for you whenever there is a Football game in Maracana Stadium. He also posted schedules throughout theyear, for your reference. Take note: He only covers the games that take place in Maracan.

For food/restaurant choices: It can be a bit frustrating to eat a restaurant around Rio de Janeiro if you don't speak Portuguese because most menus have no pictures and it's not in English. Thankfully, they have this Serve-Yourself-Lanchonete-Buffet-Style.

Basically, it says what it says. You choose your food among the variety of choices from salads, vegetables, meet, rice, desserts, and Brazilian BBQs. You will then place your plate on a weighing scale and pay the amount according to the weigh of your food. It's the cheaper and best option. And you can practically find them around the city. Just look out for signs like this... :)

Rio de Janeiro has brought so much color and new lessons into our lives, through this trip! We highly recommend you to visit this country and city one day, and set aside all your negative assumptions about this place. We hope this guide will be as informative as it was when we were there-- for that future travel of yours. I can't even wait to go back and experience the Carnival in 2016! ;)

Need help with your own Rio de Janeiro DIY trip?