Rio in 2020: How much spending money do I need?


Earlier this year, a friend of mine who lives abroad was planning on coming down to Rio, so she asked me to do a little research on prices and fees. She was here about five years ago for a really short period, so this time around, she wanted to make sure she had the time (and money) to experience most of what the city has to offer.

During the high season, from December to March, having about $80 in spending money per day should be more than enough to eat well, drink, have fun, and go sightseeing all around Rio de Janeiro.

I made the following table of contents for a better view of what that value consists of. Below we also included accommodation prices during the high season. Prices and currency exchange (in Brazilian Reais – BRL – and American Dollars – USD) are on average and can vary according to the foreign exchange fluctuations:

CategoryAverage Price BRLAverage Price USD
AccommodationR$1000,00$200.00
TransportationR$100,00$20.00
LeisureR$200,00$40.00
FoodR$100,00$20.00
TOTAL PER DAYR$1400,00$280.00

 I’m going to disclose a little bit on how I came upon these values in the next few items and give some valuable inside information on alternative options:

Accommodation

As I stated earlier on the table, I came up with that estimate of $200/night during the high season and based on the best-evaluated hotels in the city according to TripAdvisor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t many other good options if you want to pay a little less. Depending on where you’re staying in the city and the season, prices can vary a lot in Rio.

Leblon, Ipanema & Copacabana

These are well-known districts located in the south zone of Rio, where most tourists end up choosing to stay due to it’s closeness to the beach and the touristic attractions. For that same reason, prices here are higher than the usual (especially in Copacabana), so keep that in mind if you choose to stay here.

Botafogo, Flamengo & Catete

These districts are also located in the south zone of Rio, but since they are further from the beaches (about a 10-minute Uber ride), prices here are lower in comparison to the mentioned above. There are a lot of cozy hostels here as well, so that’s also a good thing to check if you’re looking to spend less on accommodations but still keep it comfortable.

Barra da Tijuca & Recreio

Although they’re more isolated in relation to the rest of the districts and touristic attractions, Barra da Tijuca and Recreio have beautiful less-crowded beaches like Reserva and Macumba Beaches.

Many of the best-evaluated hotels that made on the list that I used to come up with the $100/night estimate are located here, so if you’re looking for some serious luxury and top-notch treatment, definitely check your options in both. This can really increase your budget as an Uber ride from Barra to the South Zone, where you will find most of the main touristic attractions, can easily cost around $20 – $ 30 per ride.

Barra da Tijuca aerial view

Transportation

So you’ve probably heard about how Rio can be dangerous if you don’t know your way around the city and taking extra care is indeed sometimes necessary. Cariocas (people born in Rio de Janeiro) try to avoid using buses whenever they can, due to them being more susceptible to robberies, pickpocketing and theft.

The subway is an excellent and useful option that, although a bit limited in regards to traveling anywhere in the city, can most likely still get you to your points of interest (or at least very nearby) in a much safer way. Plus, you can always rely on Uber rides if you’re not sure how to get to the location you want to go or feel unsafe.

To give you an idea on single trip fares on these options, I’ve listed the main transportation methods you might use during your stay:

CategorySingle Trip Fare BRLSingle Trip Fare USD
Bus FareR$4,05$0,80
Subway FareR$5,00$1,00
Uber Fare (on average)R$28,00$5,60

Leisure

There’s a lot to do in Rio in either day or night time, so a little planning is advised especially if your goal is getting to know most touristic attractions as possible. I came up with the $40/day estimate based on several different options as you can see listed below:

  • Cableway ride to the Cristo Redentor monument – R$104,00 / $20.00
  • Corcovado Entrance Fee – R$85,00 / $17.00
  • Jardim Botanico Entrance Fee – R$15,00 / $3.00
  • Average Admittance Fee in closed bars and clubs – R$50 / $10
  • Rio Star (Ferris wheel located on the harbor region) – R$70 / $14
  • Museu do Amanhã & Museu de Arte do Rio Entrance Fee – R$20,00 / $5.00
  • Helicopter rides for around R$550,00 / $110.00

Rio Star Ferris Wheel – You can have amazing views of the city and Guanabara Bay from here.

I also added the price of some of the most popular beverages you might want when in Rio:

DrinkAverage Price BRLAverage Price USD
Beer (600ml bottle)R$15,00$3.00
Caipirinha (single drink)R$20,00$4.00
Water bottleR$5,00$1.00
Mate Leão (my personal favorite)R$6,00$1.20
Assorted Soft DrinksR$5,00$1.00

Aside from the famous beaches, there’s also a LOT of free sightseeing to do around the city if you’re not really looking to blow up big money and also enjoy natural open-air entertainment:

  • Vista Chinesa (Alto da Boa Vista)
  • Selaron Stairway (Lapa)
  • Catacumba Park (Lagoa)
  • Floresta da Tijuca (Alto da Boa Vista)
  • Moreira Sales Institute (Gávea)
  • Quinta da Boa Vista (São Cristovão)
  • Olympic Boulevard and the Ethnic Wall (Downtown)
  • Ruínas Park (Santa Teresa)

Nested in the heart of the urban forest in Rio, the Chinese Viewpoint (Vista Chinesa) is an amazing place to watch the sunset from. And it is free!

Food

Since most hotels and hostels usually offer free breakfast to their guests, I’ve considered the estimate of USD $20.00/day on food comprising two major meals and also some spare cash in case you get the munchies or want to try out any of our local delicacies, like the famous brigadeiro (a candy made out of chocolate and condensed milk) or some pastel (if there are any open food markets nearby where you’re staying, I highly recommend you try this with some caldo de cana – sugarcane juice, yummy!).

Brazilian Street Fair – Picture: Thiago Carlan

To give you a better idea on values, I’ve calculated a few estimates based on the following options:

CategoryAverage Price BRLAverage Price USD
Steakhouses (all you can eat)R$90,00$18.00
Self-Service (per kg)R$60,00$12.00
A la Carte Meals (per person)R$80,00$16.00
Pizza Parlors – all you can eat R$60,00$15.00
Pizza Parlors – Per entire pizzaR$50,00$10.00
Burger Joints (per sandwich)R$30,00$6.00

By the way, don’t forget to check our insider tips on what to eat in Rio de Janeiro where we share the places and food we actually eat in Rio.

Final Considerations & Tips from a Local

I hope this information was useful to give you better understanding on fees and values around the city, but although I think I got most of the major basis covered, I thought I’d also share some useful tips on a few related topics:

  • When going to the beach, make sure to bring out some petty cash for drinks and snacks. Although most salespeople carry a card machine nowadays, it’s best to keep some real money around just in case (always count on bad wifi or GPS signal)
  • Never bring a large sum of money or anything valuable with you if you’re going to do a lot of walking around the city. As I stated before, Rio can be tricky, especially on tourists, so it’s best to be careful not to get mugged.
  • If you don’t know how to speak or understand Portuguese, make sure always to have at least the address you’re staying at with you at all times. Most citizens can speak a little English and will try to help out, but be prepared if they don’t understand you.
  • If going on an Uber drive near a favela (slums), make sure to tell the driver to be careful not to go inside, as some of them aren’t always aware of where the favela’s entrances are.
  • Farmers’ fairs usually have very good street food and cheaper than going to a restaurant.
  • If you’re short on cash, try grocery shopping on the local supermarkets, as they’re much cheaper than restaurants and stores. You can also find many little joints and bars with a la carte meals for a very affordable price.

Ana

Hi, I am Ana, the creator of this blog. I am Brazilian and currently live outside of Brazil. I love traveling, eating and learning about new cultures. I hope the contents of my blog can help you with those things as well!

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