By Hakan Almerfors, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – With the current exchange rate Rio de Janeiro is in no way a particularly cheap city. In less than five years the prices have gone up almost 50 percent against the US Dollar, the combined effect of a strong Real and inflation rates. For many people travelling on a budget it is essential to find creative ways to keep costs down, so here at the Gringo Times we’ve come up with some useful tips how to make most of a Centavo without sacrificing quality.
Accommodation Serious money can be saved on a place to rest your pretty, weary heads, with two easy ways to a fatter wallet (or shall we say, less slim). The first is to stay in a cheaper area, like Catete or Botafogo, as far away from Ipanema as possible. The second is to stay in a more attractive area for a shorter period while savoring every second – it is just a matter of choice. Hostels are the cheapest for the short term, and for a stay longer than a week sharing a furnished apartment with friends will be the best bet financially. Cooking facilities are an advantage as eating out can be pricey.
Food There is a lot to gain here, as planning your meals carefully can really help the budget. Breakfast in a hostel is usually provided, and if you are in an apartment stock the fridge with bread and cheese. Having lunch in a restaurant is a good option as there are many reasonable offers. The cheapest is PF – which means Prato Feito and is a meal consiting of beans, rice, salad, french fries and either chicken, red meat or fish – it is served in simpler establishments like corner bars. Avoid dinners in restaurants; they are almost without exception expensive. A simple home-cooked meal in a flat or hostel is much healthier for the wallet. For fruits and vegetables check out the open air markets; they have good selections and lower prices than supermarkets.
Nightlife There are good alternatives for a cheap night on the town. Many bars and clubs have parties going on in front. Informal (Rua Barão da Torre 348) and Empório (Rua Maria Quitéria 37), both in Ipanema both usually have this going on at the weekends. In Lapa close to the aqueduct on Fridays and Saturdays there is always a street party with mobile DJs and inexpensive drinks, with a good mix of people. For live samba clubs it is a good idea to start with drinks at home, on the street or in a corner bar beforehand, to keep consumtion inside as low as possible. And forget about nightclubs.
Shopping For souvenirs such as football shirts, beach blankets and handmade jewelry, the beach vendors are a good option. As they don´t pay any rent or taxes, their prices are very competitive. And let’s face it, nothing spells paradise more than shopping while sipping a coconut in a beach chair. Negotiation is obligatory.
Free Stuff & Discounts For free exercise there are many options. Free open air gyms, volleyball nets and football goals are located all along the beaches. A free and interesting museum is H Stern on Rua Garcia de Ávila 113 in Ipanema. It is part of a fancy jewelry store, the guided tours are interesting and informative and the precious stones on display are stunning. It is open Mon to Fri 9 AM until 6 PM and Sat 9 AM until noon. Many activities such as cinema and concerts offer deep discounts, sometimes as high as 50%, with a valid international student card.
Hakan Almerfors is Swedish and has been living in Rio de Janeiro since 2003. He has been working with tourists ever since, in 2007 he created the Rio travel information site Gringo-Rio.com