Talking to himself the old man whispered something
I didn’t understand. And then he went away as if nothing
had happened. My father despised me.
By Brazzil Magazine
To find out what’s going on at night, pick up the Jornal do Brasil at any
newsstand and turn to the entertainment section. On Friday they insert an entertainment
magazine called Programa, which lists the week’s events.
Nightlife varies widely by the neighborhood. Leblon and Ipanema have up-market, trendy
clubs with excellent jazz. Botafogo has cheaper, popular clubs with more dancing and
samba. Cinelândia and Lapa in the Center have a lot of samba and pagode and are
also the heart of gay Rio. Try some of the bars around Sala Cecilia Meireles. Copacabana
is a mixed bag, with some good local hangouts but also a strong tourist influence with a
lot of sex for sale.
Entertainment is less organized and more spontaneous in Rio than you’d expect. Much of
Rio’s nightlife happens on the streets, in front of bars, in restaurants and anywhere
outside with room to drink and sing. Most bars stay open until 4 am on busy weekend nights
and to around 2 am other nights.
Centro & Lapa
Getting a taxi late at night in Lapa or Cinelândia isn’t a problem; there is also
limited bus service all night long. You can catch buses to the zona sul along the Praça
Mahatma Gandhi on Avenida Luis de Vasconcelos.
Suburban Dreams, at Pedro Lessa 41, Centro, behind the Biblioteca Nacional, is a bar,
open until very late, and right in the center. It’s the only thing open on the block. The
suburbs referred to here are the poorer areas on the outskirts of the city. The bar is
frequented by many gays, blacks and zona norte people. It’s a good change from the zona
sul club scene but don’t bring too much money to this part of town late at night. There’s
no cover charge.
Café Bohemia is a vegetarian restaurant by day and has wild transvestite shows on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. For a couple of dollars you get dancing and a very
funny show if you can get by in Portuguese. It’s on Avenida Santa Luzia; turn right off
Avenida Rio Branco. The show starts about 1 or 2 am.
Bar Brasil in Lapa is an old bohemian hangout and is always lively. Some Cariocas who
live in the zona sul only come into the center to go to Bar Brasil. Lapa is generally an
interesting area to explore at night.
Cochrane, off Rua Voluntários da Pátria, is one of Rio’s more popular gay bars.
Vaticano, Rua da Matriz 62, is a hip bar, popular with the arty Rio set.
Galeria Alaska, on Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, has a transvestite show and
dancing and is a Center of gay Rio.
Ipanema & Leblon
Jazzmania (287-0085), on Rua Rainha Elizabeth, is Rio’s most serious jazz venue. They
have more international stars than any other club, but also the best of Brazilian jazz.
The club is expensive at around $10 cover on the weekend and a little less on weekdays.
The music starts about 11 pm and goes late.
People’s (294-0547), at Avenida Bartolomeu Mitre 370 in Leblon, is a posh club with
some of the best names in jazz. To hear the great music you have to pay a $8 cover charge
and endure the incessant smoking and talking from the snobby crowd. When it gets crowded
the Yves St Laurent types seems to get in and seated, while the Lonely Planet crowd gets
left at the door.
There are several other expensive restaurants/clubs in Ipanema and Leblon, which have
good jazz but look like a scene right out of Los Angeles or New York. Chiko’s Bar, at
Avenida Epitácio Pessoa 560 on the lake, goes late and has no cover charge. Mistura Up,
at Rua Garcia d’Avila 15, and Un Deux Trois (239-0198), at Rua Bartolomeu Mitre 123, are
Lord Jim’s British pub is the place to go if you want to play darts. It’s at Rua Paul
Redfern 63 in Ipanema. The Garota de Ipanema is at Rua Vinicius de Morais 49 and has
lively, open-air dining. There are always a few foreigners checking out the place where
Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting when they wrote The Girl from Ipanema. A
recent Brazilian Playboy survey rated its chopp as the best in Rio—a bold
claim indeed, but who can resist a sample? The petiscos are delicious.
The Zeppelin Bar, behind the Sheraton Hotel on Avenida Niemeyer, is a quaint bar and
restaurant overlooking the ocean. It’s medium-priced with great live folk and pop music
from Thursday to Sunday night. It has a very relaxed atmosphere.
Our favorite bar is also Rio’s oldest. In a town that’s losing its traditions rapidly
to modern Western schlock, Bar Lagoa has changed little. They tried to close it down to
build a high-rise, high-tech, condo complex, but opposition was too strong. It’s open from
about 7.30 pm to 3 or 4 am with food, drink and a loud Carioca crowd.
The following clubs have popular Brazilian music like samba and forró and Rio’s
popular dance classes. You’re unlikely to find any tourists, or middle-class Brazilians
there. If you want to learn about Brazil and dance, or just watch Brazilians dancing,
these are the places.
Pagode da Passarela has samba and pagode on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s
very crowded because it’s affordable to almost everyone: $0.50 for women and $l for men.
It’s in the center near Praça 11. Bola Preta (240-8049) is a big dance house with
different types of popular music each night. They have serestas, roda de samba and pagode.
The club’s right in the center, on Avenida 13 de Maio. Another good place to samba, but
out in the suburbs, is Pagode Domingo Major (288-7297), at Rua Gonzaga Bastos 268, Vila
Isabel. It’s probably a good idea to go with a Brazilian if you don’t speak Portuguese.
If you’d rather not go into town, Clube do Samba (399-0892) is out in Barra at Estrada
da Barra 65. They have samba and pagode Friday and Saturday nights, On Sunday you
can get a feijoada there. This is a middle-class club, with admission costing about
Forró is the popular dance music of Brazil’s Northeast and there are plenty of
Northeasterners in Rio going out dancing every weekend. We actually like the
accordion-laced forró more than most of the current samba, and the dancing is a
blast. A good club for forró is Estudantina (232-1149) at Praça Tiradentes 79,
Centro. They go Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until about 4 am. The cover charge is
As early as October or November the samba schools begin holding rehearsals and dances,
typically on Saturday night. These are generally open to the public for watching and
joining in the samba. Almost all the escolas de samba are on the north side of town
and, of course, things get going late, so you need a car or a taxi. Check with Riotur or
the newspaper to get the schedules and locations. Each school has a quadra (club/arena)
but they also hold rehearsals around town. The major schools’ addresses are:
Rua Clara Nunes 81, Oswaldo Cruz (390-0471)
Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel
Rua Coronel Tamarindo 38, Padre Miguel (332-5823)
Rua Assunção 63, Botafogo
Avenida Ministro Edgard Romero 114, Madureira (450-1285)
Rua Visconde de Niterói 1072, Mangueira (234-4129)
Rua Pracinha Wallace Paes Leme 1025, Nilópolis (791-2866)
Império da Tijuca
Rua Conde de Bonfim 1226, Usina da Tijuca
Rua Silva Teles—Andaraí
Circo Voador under the Arcos da Lapa is a big tent with reggae, samba and trio elétrico
music. The crowd is mostly from the north side. It’s one of my favorites and is very
reasonably priced. They get many of the best bands from Bahia and São Paulo. Their Sunday
night dance gets really crowded. It starts at 11 pm and goes till late. Cover charge is
Down the block is Asa Branca (252-0966). They have samba and pagode shows that
aren’t especially for tourists, though they are staged shows. Scala, Plataforma I and Oba
Oba have expensive Vegas-style shows with naked samba. Scala II has many top musicians
like Gilberto Gil playing there these days. It’s a show house, flashy and artificial, but
I’d go anywhere to see a Gil show.
Pão de Açúcar has a regular performance of the samba school Beija Flor on Monday
from 9 pm to 1 am. It’s expensive and touristy, but it’s samba. Carioca nights are held
Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to 4 am. Mostly rock, but not always, the shows are not
terribly expensive and are under the small pavilion on Morro da Urca—the first stop
to Sugar Loaf. It’s a spectacular view.
Canecão also gets the big stars of music. It’s right next to the giant Rio Sul
shopping mall at the entrance to the Copacabana tunnel.
Maracanãzinho is the smaller stadium next to Maracanã in São Cristóvão. The
biggest shows, like Milton Nascimento, play there.
Parque Catacumba, along the lake, often has free outdoor concerts on Sunday at 5 pm.
Check the newspaper.
There are many discos with bright lights and loud music in the big city, but the hip
venues change regularly—check out a copy of Programa. Interestingly, many of the
discos have stiff dress codes and admission charges, designed in part to deter the many
prostitutes who come to meet tourists. Some are even called private clubs and require you
to pay $20 through a concierge at your five-star hotel in order to enter.
Help calls itself the biggest disco in Latin America and no one seems to doubt it. It’s
at Avenida Atlântica 3432 in Copacabana. Lots of drunken gringos seem to get robbed just
outside. Calígula in Ipanema is where the rich and famous hang, out. The current favorite
is Resumo da Opera; it’s in Lagoa at Avenida Borges de Medeiros 1426.
Things to Buy
Most stores are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm (some stay open even later).
Saturday has half-day shopping, from 9 am to 1 pm. The malls usually open from 10 am to 10
pm, Monday to Friday, and 10 am to 8 pm on weekends.
Pé de Boi
This store sells the traditional artisan handicrafts of Brazil’s Northeast and Minas
Gerais, and it’s all fine work. There’s lots of wood, lace, pottery and prints. It’s not
an inexpensive store; you have to buy closer to the source to get a better price, but if
you have some extra dollars—$10 to $20 it a minimum—these pieces are the best
gifts to bring home from Brazil: imaginative and very Brazilian.
The small store is worth a visit just to look around. Ana Maria Chindler, the owner,
knows what she’s selling and is happy to tell you about it. Pé de Boi (Bull’s Foot)
(2854395) is in Botafogo on Rua Ipiranga 53. It is open Monday to Friday until 7 pm and on
Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm.
Brazil’s Indian agency has a tiny craft shop at Avenida Presidente Wilson 16-A (it’s
actually around the corner from the main entrance). Open Monday to Friday from 9 am to
noon and 1 to 6 pm, the store has woven papoose (baby) slings for $5, jewellery from $0.50
to $5 and musical instruments.
This beautiful music store (222-3539) is at Rua da Carioca 70 in Centro—Rio’s
oldest street. It sells a wide variety of instruments, including all the noisemakers that
fuel the Carnaval baterias (rhythm sections), a variety of small mandolin-like
string instruments, accordions and electric guitars. These make great presents and it’s a
fun place to play even if you don’t buy.
Brazilians, like Americans, seem to measure progress by shopping malls. They love to
shop at these monsters. Rio Sul was the first mall to maul Rio. There are all kinds of
stores. The C&A department store has a good range of clothes and is inexpensive. Rio
Sul is right before you enter the Copacabana tunnel in Botafogo, There are free buses from
Copacabana. Barra Shopping, in Barra da Tijuca, is newer and bigger. It’s at Avenida das
Américas, on the right as you drive south into Barra. It’s hard to miss! They’re about to
build a tribute to Ayrton Senna out the front—a giant racing helmet.
Since your bathing suit has too much fabric attached to the seams, resign yourself to
buying a new one. Bum Bum is the trendsetter of the bikini world, and it knows it. It’s
not cheap, but you’re paying for style not fabric. It’s in Ipanema at Rua Visconde de
Pirajá 437. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of other boutiques that sell bikinis
for less money but with just as little fabric. Ki-Tanga is a good example.
This is an arts and crafts fair, with many booths selling jewellery, leather goods,
paintings, samba instruments and clothes. There is some awful stuff here and some that’s
OK. Prices go way up during the peak tourist season and the air rings with the sounds of
New Yorkers hunting down good buys.
The fair takes place every Sunday at the Praça General Osório in Ipanema. But you can
find the same items at Praça 15 de Novembro in Centro or at the northern end of
Copacabana beach. If you’re just beginning to travel in Brazil, skip it.
Nordeste or São Cristóvão Fair
The Nordeste Fair is held at the Pavilhão de São Cristóvão on the north side of
town every Sunday, starting early and going until about 3 pm. The fair is very
Northeastern in character. There are lots of barracas (stalls) selling meat, beer
and cachaça; bands of accordions, guitars and tambourines playing the forró;
comedy, capoeira battles and people selling magic potions. It’s a great scene. of
course there’s plenty to buy. Besides food, they have lots of cheap clothes, some good
deals on hammocks and a few good nordeste gifts like leather vaqueiro (cowboy)
hats. If you’re ready for adventure and have a car, it’s best to arrive the night before
the market. This is set-up time and also party time. At about 9 or 10 pm the barracas open
for dinner and beer. Some vendors are busy setting up, others are already finished. Music
and dance starts, and doesn’t stop until sunrise. It’s great fun so long as you’re
Getting There & Away
From Rio flights go to all of Brazil and Latin America. Shuttle flights to São Paulo
leave from the conveniently located Aeroporto Santos Dumont, in the city center along the
bay. Almost all other flights—domestic and national—leave from Aeroporto
Incoming visitors at Galeão pass through customs and then continue into a large lobby
where there’s a tourist-information counter run by a private company called RDE which can
arrange hotel and taxi reservations. The staff also try to palm off a `travelers passport’
for the outrageous sum of $25, and attempt to pressure befuddled travelers with the
argument that government regulations require purchase of this junk package. This is a load
of nonsense and a blatant ripoff attempt.
For more airline information read the book.
From Rio there are buses to everywhere. They all leave from the loud Novo Rio
Rodoviária (291-5151 for information), Avenida Francisco Bicalho in São Cristóvão,
about 20 minutes north of the center. At the rodoviária you can get information on
transport and lodging if you ask at the Riotur desk on the ground floor.
Excellent buses leave every 15 minutes or so for São Paulo (six hours). Most major
destinations have leito (executive) buses leaving late at night. These are very
comfortable. Many travel agents in the city sell bus tickets. It’s a good idea to buy a
ticket a couple days in advance if you can.
For complete bus schedules and information, read the book.
To/From the Airport
All international and nearly all domestic flights use Galeão International airport, 15
km north of the city center on Ilha do Governador. Aeroporto Santos Dumont is in the heart
the city on the bay. It’s used for the São Paulo shuttle and some flights to a variety of
other destinations like Porto Seguro or Belo Horizonte. You can take the same bus as for
Galeão airport or get to the city and take a taxi, or simply walk to the airport from
There are two air-con airport bus routes operating from 5.20 to 12.10 am, every 40
minutes to one hour (about $4). One route goes to the center and to Santos Dumont airport,
the other route goes to the city center and along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema,
Leblon, Vidigal, and São Conrado. The driver will stop wherever you ask along the route.
On both routes, you can stop at the rodoviária if you want to catch a bus out of
Rio immediately. If you want to catch the metro, ask the driver to let you off right
outside the entrance to Carioca metro station.
You can catch the bus on the 2nd floor (arrivals) of the main terminal, at the Galeão
sign. The tourist desk inside the airport has schedule and price information. If you’re
heading to the airport you can get the bus in front of the major hotels along the beach,
but you have to look alive and flag them down. The bus company is Empresa Real. Galeão
should be written on the direction sign.
It is safer to catch one of these buses or take a taxi rather than a local bus if you
have many valuables.
Many taxis from the airport will try to rip you off. The safe course is to take a
radio-taxi, where you pay a set fare at the airport. This is also the most expensive way
to go. A yellow-and-blue comum (common) taxi is about 20% cheaper if the meter is
working and if you pay what is on the fare schedule. A sample fare from the airport to
Copacabana is $18 in a yellow-and-blue taxi versus $24 in a radio-taxi. If you’re entering
Brazil for the first time, on a budget, a good compromise is to take a bus to somewhere
near your destination and then take a short taxi ride to your hotel.
Sharing a taxi from the airport is a good idea. Taxis will take up to four people. To
ensure a little bit of security, before entering the taxi at the airport you can usually
get a receipt with the license plate of your taxi and a phone number to register losses or
complaints. If you’re headed to Leblon or Ipanema, the Tunnel Rebouças is more direct
than the beach route.
The buses are a real mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good: Rio’s buses
are fast, frequent, cheap and, because Rio is long and narrow, it’s easy to get the right
bus and usually no big deal if you’re on the wrong one. The bad: Rio’s buses are often
crowded, slowed down by traffic and driven by raving maniacs who drive the buses as if
they were motorbikes. The ugly: Rio’s buses are the scene of many of the city’s robberies.
Don’t carry any valuables on the buses. Don’t advertise being a foreigner, and do have
your money ready when you enter the bus. Be particularly cautious if you’re boarding a bus
in a tourist area. If you feel paranoid about something on the bus, get off and catch
In addition to their number, buses have their destinations, including the areas they go
through, written on the side. Nine out of 10 buses going south from the center will go to
Copacabana and vice versa. All buses have the price displayed above the head of the money
collector. The buses you need to catch for specific destinations are listed under
The train station, Estação Dom Pedro II, is at Praça Cristiano Ottoni on Avenida
Presidente Vargas. To get there take the metro to Central station.
Rio’s excellent subway system is limited to points north of Botafogo and is open from 6
am to 11 pm daily, except Sunday. The two air-con lines are cleaner, faster and cheaper
than buses (discounts are offered with multiple tickets). The main line from Botafogo to
Saens Pena has 15 stops, of which the first 12 are: Botafogo, Flamengo, Largo do Machado,
Catete, G1ória, Cinelândia, Carioca, Uruguaiana, Presidente Vargas, Central, Cidade Nova
and Estácio, which is common to both lines. At Estácio the lines split: the main line
continues west towards the neighborhood of Andaraí, making stops at Afonso Pena, Engenho
Velho and Tijuca, and the secondary line goes north towards Maracanã stadium and beyond.
The main stops for Centro are Cinelândia and Carioca.
Rio’s taxis are quite reasonably priced, if you’re dividing the fare with a friend or
two. Taxis are particularly useful late at night and when carrying valuables, but they are
not a completely safe and hassle-free ride. First, there have been a few rare cases of
people being assaulted and robbed by taxi drivers. Second, and much more common, the
drivers have a tendency to exaggerate fares.
Here’s how the taxi is supposed to operate: there should be a meter and it should work;
there should be a current tabela to determine the fare; upon reaching your
destination, check the meter and look that up on the tabela, usually posted on the
passenger window, which is used to determine the fare. Now, what to watch out for: most
importantly, make sure the meter works. If it `doesn’t, ask to be let out of the cab. The
meters have a flag that switches the meter rate; this should be in the number one position
(20% less expensive), except on Sunday, holidays, evenings between 10 pm and 6 am, and
when driving outside the zona sul (some taxis will switch to the high rate near the
airport, which is legal). Make sure meters are cleared before you start (find out the
current starting number). Make sure the tabela is original, not a photocopy. The
taxi drivers that hang out near the hotels are sharks. It’s worth walking a block to avoid
them. Most people don’t tip taxi drivers, although it’s common to round off the fare to
the higher number.
The meters are weighted towards distance not time. This gives the drivers an incentive
to drive quickly (for a head rush tell your driver that you are in a bit of a hurry) and
travel by roundabout routes. Taxis don’t always run during thunderstorms because
alcohol-powered cars stall easily in the wet, but buses usually plough on ahead. It’s
illegal for cabs to take more than four passengers. This is, of course, irrelevant except
for the fact that most cabs won’t do it because of conventions of the trade.
The white radio-taxis (260-2022) are 30% more expensive than the comuns, but
they will come to you and they are safer.
Car rental agencies can be found at the airport or clustered together on Avenida
Princesa Isabel in Copacabana. There doesn’t seem to be much price competition between the
companies. Prices are not cheap, at about US $70 a day, but they go down a bit in the off
season. When they give prices on the phone the agencies usually leave out the cost of
insurance, which is mandatory. Most agencies will let you drop off their cars in another
city without an extra charge.
Mar e Moto (274-4398) rents motorcycles but it is cheaper to rent a car. It’s in Leblon
at Avenida Bartolomeu Mitre 1008.
For God’s sake be careful! Drivers run red lights, ran up on footpaths and stop for no
one and nothing.
Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro, and Robyn Jones. For more
information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
Used by permission.
Buy it at
Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit
by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
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