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Rio de Janeiro can be notorious pricy and a bit of a shock for those travelers expecting South American prices. Rio and Sao Paulo happen to be the most expensive cities in the western hemisphere with good reason - Brazil is the economic power of the continent, drawing in a steady flow of immigrants looking to make a better living (Read more about this topic at The Rio Times). But none of this should detract you from planning a visit to the Marvelous City. There are plenty of accommodations and activities for any budget - big or small. You can easily cut the costs of your trip in half if you do the research and are able to find the great opportunities that are available! Here are 5 FREE things to do for the budget traveler and those who just like a great deal!
Theres nothing more amazing or more FREE than strolling down the endless beaches that make Rio de Janeiro famous! There are 35 breathtaking beaches in Rio and on a typical summer Sunday in January, there can be as many as one million people on all beaches combined. Most tourist only visit up to 5 of them.
A 5 minute walk from Discovery Hostel Rio will get you to Flamengo beach and away from it all. While you are there, let your eyes rest on the amazing views of Sugarloaf mountain and the Christ Redeemer Statue. Hop on the metro to Copacabana to see sandcastles dedicated to the fun and bright spirit of Rio. Stop at post 9 on Ipanema to check out all the hot bodies.
Across the more popular beaches you can find volleyball nets and circles of footballers juggling in the sand. You can even find tightrope walkers who strapped their lines to palm trees. Practice your Portuguese and see if you can join in on the fun. The city of Rio highly supports fitness and you can stumble upon many stretching stations or work out areas along the beach. Take a jog along the endless bike paths and stop to utilize one of the many free fitness stations.
When you find yourself stretched out upon the sandy beaches you might be tempted to rent an umbrella and chair to escape Rio's heat. You might want to even bring some spare change to flag down one of the many vendors selling popular Brazilian snacks and drinks. Want a brazilian bikini? No need to move, umbrellas raining down the latest styles of tiny bikinis come right to you - try one on without moving an inch. Anything you want is just a whistle (or brazilian "Pssssshew" away).
On the frugal side? Then just relax on the sand and soak in the brilliant waters, picturesque mountains and beautiful bodies - free of charge.
The name Parke de Ruinas (Ruins Park) might be a bit deceiving as there is not much of an actual park. The main attraction is the ruins of an enormous mansion, once owned by the Brazilian heiress Laurinda Santos Lobo. What remains is the skeleton of the old brick building - the interior left wide open with just a simple stair case leading to an epic 280 degree view of the city. Sweeping views of some of the most famous buildings in Centro, the harbor all the way to Sugar Loaf Mountain, make this stop a must. And did I mention it was FREE??
Tucked away in Santa Teresa's winding streets, the journey to the park is a treasure hunt itself and well worth the hike if you are also interested in exploring the bohemian district. There is a very small art gallery in the basement next to the bathrooms. When we visited it was free and showcased some amazing historical photos of Rio. The gallery showings and price can vary.
Events are also held at Parke de Ruinas. An outside stage opens in the evenings and showcases theatre, acrobatics, music and capoera. Check the schedule to find the times and programs upcoming.
The National Library of Brazil (Biblioteca National do Brasil) is certainly a collection worth seeing with your own eyes. Take a glimpse into one of the 9 million books and items in the library that stakes it claim as the largest library in all of Latin America - The 7th largest library in the whole world! Wander around and try to lose yourself among the literary geniuses or take a free guided tour - in English! Guided group tours: Weekdays - Monday to Friday - 10am to 17h. Saturdays - 12h30 to 16h30
Not blown away? Cross the street and take a Guided tour at the Teatro Municipal. It is about 10BR for a 45 minute tour of this breathtaking historical gem. The city center is filled with countless historical buildings that are beautiful (and Free!) to gaze at. Stroll though the city to find other architectural masterpieces.
Ok, they are not free if you buy something - BUT there certainly are no fees to look! Wander through anyone of Rio's great fairs and markets to find your perfect souvenir. Window shop through the endless stalls of merchandise ranging from handmade goods to your typical touristy knickknacks.
Join in on a FREE walking tour and discover some of Rio's most famous attractions on foot. With a local guide showing you the way, you will hear a bit of history, get some great exercise and gain a new perspective on a city teeming with secrets and culture. You can also get great tips on where to go and what to do while you are visiting.
The tours usually last anywhere from 2 - 3 hours to explore the city. Some public transportation may be used to quickly get from one place to the next. You should wear comfy shoes (Rio is covered in cobble stones), water, camera and an open mind! Don't forget to tip your guide when you are done - though the tour is free, the tips are greatly appreciated!