A Day in One Place - Rio de Janeiro
Samba. Warm breezes. And Caiprianha. You've reached one of South America's Crown Jewels and you only have one day. As you exit the airport from baggage, go all the way down to your right across an island to the last shuttle stop marked with Linx on it. You will need to call for the shuttle. The Linx hotel is about 8 minutes away from the airport. If you have arrived overnight, your room may not be ready. The front desk should be able to hold your luggage. I was fortunate enough to only wait an hour, so I changed in the restroom and used the free wi-fi and charged my electronics. Take a business card from the hotel so you have the number and address to show any other cab drivers for the return ride back. You may be at another hotel in the city, if so, disregard this tip.
I signed up to see Cristo Redeemer through Viator. Since the tour company doesn't pick up at the airport but in Copacabana, you can put Copacabana Palace as your pick up point. If you are able to check-in, then quickly drop your items upstairs, freshen up and go. Ask the front desk to get you a taxi to Copacabana. I tried to get one that accepts "credit card". However, the card reader wasn't connecting with my bank and I had to pay using USD, which the driver took. You can get Reals upstairs in the airport, which I recommend because I had to scramble in town to find another bank. Copacabana Palace will not let you use their ATM because you are not a guest. If you want to confirm your pick-up location prior to arriving to Rio, call the US support number and have them reach out to the Grey Line tour bus company that will pick you up. I suggest backing a small bag/pack with a bottle of water, snack, maybe a towel and bathing suit to hit the beach later since it's ridiculous to go back and forth. The cab should cost you about 65-75 Real which can be like $20-25USD. Traffic can be slow. If you are staying in Copacabana, you should still find an ATM at the airport to pull out a few reals. Currently, Uber has a strong presence, and I have used it for subsequent visits; and it is even less money.
Copacabana Palace from the outside is gorgeous and one of Rio's premier hotel destinations. Once on the bus, tell the tour guide your name, take a seat and relax. They will also want your paper voucher. There may be a few more stops along the way to pick up other guests, but it takes only a few minutes before you are on your way. The tour guide will point out a few places of interest.
You will arrive at Christ the Redeemer and be dropped off. We arrived a little early for the next cog train up the mountain, so the tour guide let us have a few minutes to roam. Stay close or they will leave without you. Once you reach the top, you can take either the elevator to the very top or walk the stairs. There are a few shops and cafes up there. Again, not all take card, only Real. You have about 45 minutes up top to take pictures and enjoy the view. Try and buddy up with someone else on the tour who can take photos of you and the statues. The best spot is just a few more feet in by the stairs. There are lots of people that can shoot a photo for you, too. Sometimes you have to lay on the ground to get the best angle. Up top you will see all sides of Rio including its other attraction, Sugarloaf Mountain, the bay and Ipanema. The descend down is interesting, too, but can often be packed with tourists so hold tight.
There are two famous beaches in Rio, Copacabana and Ipanema. Once you return back to Copacabana around 3pm, you can either stay at the beach a little or walk around. There are little vendors and palapas all across the beach for snacks, coconut water and other treats. I was able to find a bank a few blocks away for Reals. Find where the vendors are for the coconuts. I think it was $3RL
Then, grab a cab, either on your own or from one of the hotels. Ask them to take you to Gavota de Ipanema. It is a famous restaurant where the song, Girl from Ipanema was written. Brazil is known for their picanhna and other meats. The Picanha here is generally served for two people but they might do it for just one. I opted for the grilled Filet steak and fries which was excellent. They also have wi-fi and a restroom! There is a little boutique next door that sells shirts and other items. Once you exit, go across the street and take a frontage picture. Then, walk up by following the signs towards the McDonald's. This is a good area to walk around, get some souvenirs, There is also a Starbucks in this area. Stop into McDonalds for free wi-fi and get an ice cream cone with chocolate. Order in the back, take receipt towards the front. I grabbed a cab around 9pm. I suggest writing down the name of the restaurant and address to show the cab driver since many do not speak a lot of English.
Your second day you can either get up early and do the Sugarloaf tour which would require you to be at the pick up location around 8am. Or, take a cab back to Ipanema and relax on the beach for a while which is what I did. This is where you can also enjoy a coconut water in a real coconut. I then headed back to Gavota de Ipanema for a late lunch. This time I also had the fried cheese balls and cream papaya dessert. I left the city around 4pm to get back in time to retrieve luggage and freshen up in the lobby restroom. The airport counter opened at 6:45pm. Once through the check-in and pre-security and you have dropped your bag, head to the restaurants and shops located on the upper level. There is also a food court (it's okay) also pre-security. One thing to try while there is the Brazilian coffee and pao de quijero (pow duh Kay joh) which are tiny cheese bread that are to die for! It's like 2.80 Real for 6 pieces or one large one which is like .80. There is also a Brazilian shop that sells logo'd t-shirts and Havianas flip flops for like $5-8 USD! I did not see much 2016 Olympics items here except for a beach towel and a few shirts. There might be more since it's closer to the Olympics. There is also a great chocolate cart across from the coffee cafe that sells amazing chocolate. You can spend a little bit of time here before your late, overnight flight. Once through security and into the departure halls, there are a few more shops and a McDonalds, which by the way, made the best Big Mac I have had in a while. You should also pick up coffee here if you haven't already. Other than that, the airport is unimpressive.
Boarding starts then off you go!
Songs: Girl from Ipanema
The Coffee Song by Frank Sinatra
Rio by Duran Duran