Choosing Where to Stay in Rio De Janeiro
When researching where to stay in Rio de Janeiro, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. For starters there’s downtown, the hip Santa Teresa area, the Botofago neighbourhood, and the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. So I postponed my decision on where to spend my last few days until after I arrived, assuming I’d figure out the best spot later.
After exploring the city by bike, tram, and metro, however, I knew where I wanted to be: buzzing Copacabana Beach. If I could get a place with a view of the sea, even better.
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Table of Contents
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Guest Post Written By Timothy Scott
Expensive Hotel Rates
If you don’t have more money than you know what to do with, sometimes the best place to stay in style is an apartment rather than a hotel. When I balked at the sky-high rates in Rio, a hip apartment with a similar view was just the ticket.
I had just finished up a South America highlights tour that started in Buenos Aires, went through Uruguay and Iguazu Falls, then ended up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I had intentionally tacked on some extra days and nights in Rio to do some research work as a travel editor, but I had three nights free on my own to do what I wanted with.
I wasn’t in enough of a big spender mood to spring for one of the luxury hotels in Rio, however. Although Brazil’s most popular city is more reasonably priced than it used to be for those coming with dollars or euros, there’s not much competition for high-end hotels. So they don’t have much incentive to bring their rates down in dollar terms the way the tour companies and restaurants have just by leaving the local rate the same. Hotels are priced in U.S. dollars, so they have mostly kept that rate the same instead. A night at the hip Emiliano Rio, for example, often tops $750 per night for any room with a view of the ocean.
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An Airbnb Rio Bargain on the Beach in Copacabana
Booking My Rio Airbnb Apartment
After surfing around Airbnb for a while, I discovered a nice Copacabana Beach apartment literally right around the corner from that Emiliano hotel. It goes for less than $50 per night instead (at the time of writing), after including all the extra fees. The notification on the page said it was normally booked, that it was rare for it to be available, so I jumped on it and booked it.
Interested in this Cheap Airbnb with Epic Views of Copacabana from a hammock? Check it out HERE!
I was staying at a hotel two blocks back from the beach prior to the switch, about a 15-minute walk, but thankfully the sidewalks and the malecón (esplanade along a waterfront) are relatively flat and devoid of potholes, so I was easily able to wheel my suitcase from Point A to Point B. Since I was in Rio in July, which is their winter time, I could do this without working up a sweat. I would have hopped in a cab or called an Uber driver in the hot summer.
Arriving at My Airbnb Rio de Janeiro
I was a bit worried about not speaking Portuguese, but the doorman was used to foreign visitors checking in, so he unlocked the entrance gate and I followed the booking instructions to my floor. The means to get up there to the ninth floor was an old-timey elevator with a manual door and a sliding metal cage gate, which I got kind of excited to see. Retro Rio.
My true hosts, a local couple, were on vacation in Europe during my stay, but one family owns the whole floor of condos, so I just had to follow the instructions and knock on the right door for a family member to let me in and hand over the key fob for the electronic door lock. I had communicated with my hosts by Whatsapp before arrival and their aunt was waiting on me. She spoke a little English, plus there were instructions in English in the apartment, so the rules and workings of the place were clear.
There’s always a little leap of faith when you use an apartment rental service, just as there is for an independent hotel that isn’t part of some cookie-cutter chain. In this case the photos were a great representation of what the apartment really looked like and the descriptions were accurate too.
The Bedroom, Living Area & Balcony
What I rented was an attractive, well-designed studio apartment that had an ample bed, a sofa, and a dining room table, wifi (perfect for a digital nomad), plus a chair and hammock on the balcony with the killer view. I had a comfortable place to get some work done or eat breakfast, while the sofa and bed were both comfortable. Much of the time I didn’t need the modern air conditioner with remote control, but when it did get too hot mid-day, I could switch it on and cool off.
The kitchen had a fridge, microwave, panini maker, coffee maker, and electric tea kettle, so I was mostly set for keeping myself caffeinated and fed when not eating at a café or on the street. There were ample dishes, silverware, and glasses. I knew from the listing there was no stove or oven, but I didn’t need either.
The one obvious thing lacking for a lush like me was anything to open a beer bottle or a bottle of wine with. So I bought a combo bottle opener and corkscrew and left it with them as a parting tip. (I’ve probably had a half dozen corkscrews and Swiss Army knives confiscated at airport security when I forget to take them out of my carry-on, so I’ve given up traveling with them.)
A Great Location for Copacabana and Ipanema
I loved being able to walk out of the building here and have my feet in the sand a few minutes later after crossing the street. The owners even provided Rio-style beach sarongs for my spot in the sun. With one of those and a new pair of Havaianas flip-flops, I was starting to look like a local.
Everything I needed was within a 10-minute walk or less: several grocery stores, two metro stations, and dozens of places to grab a fresh juice or something inexpensive to eat. Multiple outdoor bars and restaurants are right on the beach side of the malecón.
Do yourself a favour and check out this epic Airbnb HERE if you are wanting some luxurious yet cheap accommodation!
Utilising Airbnb Experiences While in Rio
I used Airbnb one more time while I stayed here, booking an Airbnb Experience called “Rio by Bike.” I walked 10 minutes (again) to meet my host Gabriela on Ipanema Beach, where we snagged bikes from the public system—on your own they’re less than $1.50 per hour—and we rode all the way from Ipanema to the Museum of Tomorrow in downtown Rio by the port. It was a terrific tour that gave me a good feel for the city and made me appreciate all the bike paths that the city has set up.
Interested in this experience check it out HERE!
I cover luxury hotels for a living and I’m a big fan of pampering places with a big bilingual staff, a nice swimming pool, and a lobby that makes you go, “Wow!” I’m very glad I booked this cool little apartment on the 9th floor above the beach, however, so I could get a little closer to local life instead of being closed off from it. I also saved myself somewhere north of $1,000 over three nights as well compared to what the oceanfront hotels were charging, while still having the luxury of a fantastic view.
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About The Author
Timothy Scott is the editor of Luxury Latin America, the leading source for high-end travel in Mexico, Central America, and South America, established in 2007. See hotel reviews and tour stories in the online magazine and regular updates on the blog. See hotel video tours on YouTube or follow them on Facebook.