We'd like to welcome Sandy as a guest contributor to Tips for Family Trips! Sandy grew up in Virginia and lived in 10 places before landing in Minnesota, USA with her husband and three children. There is nothing she loves more than planning a trip and exploring somewhere new with her family. We are excited to share her experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!
I went on a family vacation to Rio de Janeiro with my husband, 3 kids (ages 14, 11 and 8) and my parents. We had a wonderful trip and learned some tips along the way that could help other families who are headed to Rio. Here are my top tips for visiting Rio de Janeiro with kids.
Seize the moment!
Two of the biggest attractions in Rio involve being able to see the incredible views. Both riding the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and taking the train to the top of Corcovado to see the Christ the Redeemer statue up close can be done regardless of the weather. However, if you have clear skies, you will see the iconic views of Rio de Janeiro that are in the movies. With an average of 10 rainy days per month, it is common to have days without any views from the top of Sugarloaf and Corcovado. It is worth being flexible and shifting your schedule around to take in these attractions when the weather is cooperating. We experienced a variety of weather on our trip and were very glad we had gone to Sugarloaf while it was clear – even though it was at the end of a busy day.
Spend the day at Copacabana or Ipanema beach
Copacabana Beach was a fun, busy beach for the family. We enjoyed playing in the ocean, relaxing, finding shells and people watching. There are street vendors and shops open for people who want to shop and plenty of restaurants at all different price ranges. Even though there was still another hour or two of daylight, after dinner, most of the shops had closed and the tone of the beach was turning to its nightlife. During the day, the beach was great for families, but was definitely catering towards couples and adults after dinner.
Take a taxi
There is a good subway and bus system in Rio, but we were very happy with the taxis. There are so many taxis in Rio! We never had to wait more than a minute to catch a cab (actually 2 cabs because there were 7 of us). They were inexpensive and quick and took a lot of the stress out of trying to figure out the best route to where we were going. We aren't always taxi people, but were very happy to use the services in Rio.
Prepare your kids (and yourself) for the look of the city
The views of Rio are absolutely beautiful. In fact, I don't know if I have ever seen a more spectacular city view. Rio up close may be rougher than you or your kids are used to. Graffiti is rampant in Brazil, and Rio is definitely no exception. There are also quite a few people living on the streets – even in areas that are largely tourist areas. It would be worth having a conversation with your kids before you go, so they can ask questions and be prepared for what they will see.
Experience a variety of unique foods without the high cost
There are a few great buffets within walking distance from Copacabana Beach where you pay by the kilo instead of by the person. We walked through with our kids, encouraging them to try lots of different things, but just a taste – you can always go back and get more! After you have chosen what you want, they weigh your food and stamp the weight on a ticket and then you sit down. Each time you go back through the line, they add another stamp to your ticket. At the end, you pay for the amount of food you actually took. This was a great way to save money for lighter eaters and also didn't make you feel like you had to eat a lot to get your money's worth. We loved trying all of the foods and so did our kids.