By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Many travelers who visit Rio fall in love with the Cidade Maravilhosa, and a week’s vacation turns into two, then three…and before you know it you’ve been here a month or more. Unfortunately most can’t stay forever, and there’s a short list of things to do before leaving, beyond the usual tourist magnets.
1) Try a tanga
For the truly adventurous female traveler no trip to Rio is complete without trying the infamous ‘fio dental’ or ‘dental floss’ bikini. For many tourists the prospect of strolling onto a public beach wearing little more than a couple of cheese wires is nothing short of horrifying. But for those willing to give it a go, the rewards are true cultural immersion and a genuine Carioca experience. Microkitten have an eye-popping collection of minuscule bikinis to choose from, but before you swallow your pride and hit the beach…
2) Brave a Brazilian bikini wax
Waxing services in Rio are cheap, professional and widely available in beauty salons and hairdressers. Opt for the ‘virilha cavada’ which charmingly translates to the ‘dug-out groin’ and equals a shamelessly thorough ‘spring-clean’ that will leave you bikini ready in under half an hour. Men needn’t feel left out either, with a full range of options available, from beard and mustache to nostril waxing.
3) Have your fortune told by a Candomblé priest
Priests, known as ‘Pais’ or ‘Mães de Santos’ (literally mothers or fathers of the saints,) usually work out of small houses or private backyards in the favelas, known as ‘terreiros’. A big part of the adventure is finding a terreiro in the first place. Ask the locals. Favela tour guides may be able help, but be sure to agree a price upfront and do your research before you arrive as to what you should wear and how to behave.
4) Bet on the animals
The Jogo dos Bichos (or Game of the Beasts), though technically illegal, is widely tolerated by police and has become something of a Rio institution. To play, locate the nearest vendor (usually found sitting in the street on a crate, against a wall with numbers stuck on it,) and purchase a little numbered ticket which represents one of 21 different animals. Draws are made daily with winners sometimes receiving odds of up to twenty-to-one on their initial investment. Regular players believe that dreaming of your animal the night before betting is a sure-fire sign of an impending win.
5) Spend a night (or an hour!) in a motel
In a country where people frequently live with their parents until marriage, motels are THE option for young couples looking for privacy. Despite outsider preconceptions, many Cariocas insist that going to a motel is nothing seedy or degrading but more a fun and practical solution to annoying inconvenience. Often themed and always discrete, motels to suit every taste and pocket can be found all over the city. For a true Carioca experience, grab your partner, choose your motel and giggle at the mirrored ceilings and extensive condom menus!
Editor’s note: Goodbye Sarah, thanks for everything and we’ll miss you!