“Brazil is not what you see but what you feel. Once you spend time here - a week, two weeks - you get in the vibe. It's really intoxicating.” - Francisco Costa
The cost of living in Brazil is around 50% lower than in the UK. Of course, this will depend on what you buy and how you live.
While Rio is generally cheaper than São Paulo, it’s more expensive than the Brazilian countryside and other destinations that aren’t as popular as the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado, or the historic centre of Rio.
For a couple travelling on a moderate budget, you’ll probably spend around £80 per day. Of course, this is an average budget and some tourists can spend as little as £45 per day and others closer to £150.
Let’s have a closer look at how much it costs to travel to Brazil and visit Rio de Janeiro.
The Cost of Flying to Rio de Janeiro
The biggest expense will probably be the cost of flights to Rio de Janeiro. To get to South America from the UK, you’ll probably be looking at around £700 for return flights. These prices can skyrocket during busy periods such as during the Rio Carnival.
During the 2016 Olympic Games, the cost of flights was even crazier!
You can get direct flights from London with British Airways (11h15m) or change at Sao Paulo, Madrid, or Frankfurt. There are also options from Manchester, Edinburgh, or Glasgow, all with transfers. Look on sites like Google Flights or Skyscanner.
You’ll save more money on your flights if you’re flexible. Pensioners, freelancers, and students can benefit a lot from this.
To get offers on flights and accommodation, there are also sites like Holiday Pirates. For example, you can get deals for flights costing £300 returns.
It’s all about finding the right deals at the right time so try to avoid getting your flights at the last minute as they’re more expensive.
What Are the Different Areas of Rio You Can Stay In?
Even though Rio costs less than the UK, the Real (the local currency), has been subject to inflation in recent years. After flights, accommodation will be your second biggest expense.
Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro can easily cost as much as staying in New York City or Paris. While the rich can easily afford this, those living in the favelas can’t...
If you’re staying for around 2 weeks, it’s probably a good idea to look at sites like Airbnb or Booking.com. Pay particular attention to where the accommodation is located as certain areas are not recommended for tourists. Rio is huge, after all! It’s 10 times the size of Paris and 1.5 times the size of New York City.
The public transport isn’t great, either, so it’s probably a good idea to carefully choose the right area: Urca’s particularly safe, Lapa’s near the centre, by the Santa Teresa tram, or the beautiful beaches at Copacabana.
This will all still depend on your budget!
- A night in a dormitory in a hostel can cost between £8 and £15 depending on where it is. The most expensive neighbourhoods include Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon.
- The cost of the hotels will depend on their quality. A 1-start hotel can cost as little as £30 a night whereas a 5-star hotel can have rooms upwards of £150 per night.
- Airbnbs can cost between £25 and £65 a night in the Central Zone and South Zone (Santa Teresa, Botafogo, Ipanema, Leblon, Copacabana).
Here are two places worth checking out:
- The Bike House in Ipanema: Around £30 for a double room with a lovely host.
- Che Lagarto in Ipanema/Leblon: Around £10 a night in a dormitory with a free caipirinha every night between 19:00 and 19:30.
Find out more about the different parts of Rio.
The Cost of Food in Rio
You can eat for around £10 per day in Rio de Janeiro. Food isn’t massively expensive but you’ll need to go to the right restaurants. You should also consider trying the juice bars because, in addition to fresh fruit juice, there’s also breakfast like açai berry purée. You can also try a lot of fruits you may never have had before such as cajá, graviola, cupuaçu, mangaba, etc.
To save money on food in Rio, you can also opt for street food. Try the bolinhos de aipim, baked manioc balls with cheese or chicken, etc. Everything’s battered and fried. Delicious!
Another great way to eat on a budget is to head to restaurants where they charge by the kilo. That’s right, you pay according to weight (of the food!). There are plenty of different dishes to enjoy. The price per kilo is shown when you go into the restaurant. Drinks and desserts aren’t usually included. The restaurant Apo & Apim is particularly recommended.
If you want to head to a restaurant that’s a little bit more expensive, the Marius Degustare offers a sweet and savoury buffer for 150 Reals (around £32) with seafood, Brazilian specialities like moqueca (Amazonian fish stew), vatapa, cheese, and desserts.
To help you better understand the Brazilians, why not get Portuguese lessons?
The Cost of Tourist Attractions in Rio de Janeiro
When it comes to tourist attractions, the cost will depend on what you want to do. The must-see attractions aren’t very expensive.
- Corcovado and Chris the Redeemer: 68 reals (around £15) in the high season if you take the train. You can climb it yourself (but it’s not recommended due to safety) and the entry fee is 22 reals (around £5) anyway.
- Sugarloaf Mountain: you can take the cable car up to the top of the mountain for an incredible view. This will cost 62 reals for a return trip (around £14).
- You can get ready for Carnaval at the Escola de Samba Acadêmicos do Salgueiro. You can get a guided tour and even attend the rehearsals of samba artists (they start preparing ages in advance). It’ll cost around £40 for the experience.
- The botanical garden: for 15 reals (under £4), you can enjoy the fresh air and many different species of plants.
- Ilha Grande: To get to this little slice of paradise, you need to get the ferry for an hour and a half for 14 reals (£3). You can relax in the turquoise waters and enjoy the beautiful beaches on the largest island in Angra dos Reis.
- Free walking tours: You can enjoy a tour lasting between 2 and 2 and a half hours and discover Rio with a local guide. You have the choice of several different tours and ways to learn about Rio. At the end of the tour, you can give your guide a tip.
Discover the best time to visit Rio.
Budgeting for Transport in Rio
Getting around Rio via public transport isn’t easy. The bus network is complicated and not very practical, there’s no timetable anywhere to be found, and you pay the driver when you get on.
If you want to stop the bus, you need to make a big song and dance about it rather than the discrete button we have here in the UK. They’ll then stop wherever they can, leaving you to get through three or four lanes of traffic to get back to the path!
If you’d prefer a safer way to get around, opt for the metro, which runs from 5:00 until midnight and serves the Central Zone and the main tourist areas. It’ll cost you around 3 or 4 reals a journey (under £1).
Otherwise, you could always download 99pop, Brazil’s answer to Uber. You can pay by card through the app but it’s better to pay the driver directly in cash. It’s generally 20% cheaper than classic taxis.
If you’ve got no internet connection, you can always get an official taxi; the ones with the red registration plate and the company name on the side. They’re quite affordable and you can find them anywhere.
So how much are you planning to spend in Rio?
Whether your visiting Copacabana beach, Ipanema beach, the statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor), or spending your time poolside at a beach hotel, you might want to learn some Portuguese before you go. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of talented Portuguese tutors on Superprof who are ready to help you. There are three types of tutorial available, each with its advantages and disadvantages: group tutorials, online tutorials, and face-to-face tutorials.
Group tutorials are great for those on a budget as you can share the cost of the tutor's time with the other students in attendance. It could be useful if you're going to Porto with a group of friends, though.
Similarly, online tutorials are good if you're on a budget as the tutor doesn't have to travel and can, therefore, charge less per hour. Your tutor might even be from Brazil.
Finally, face-to-face tutorials are between you and the tutor. This is the most costly type of tutorial but it's also the most cost-effective.