Rio de Janeiro – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Updated in 2022.

Rio de Janeiro. The place we’d all rather be.

The second largest city in Brazil, and the third largest in South America. Rio is known for its beautiful beaches and beautiful women, as well as for being the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Do some pushups before you get here, because most everyone on Copacabana looks like Greek Gods.

POPULATION: 6,300,000


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DIGITAL NOMAD COMMUNITY IN RIO DE JANEIRO

There are a lot of digital nomads in Rio. Digital nomads come for the lifestyle, the beach, and the nature. There are some decent coffee shops with wifi, but less than you’d expect. We have some cafe recommendations for you. What’s cool about the digital nomad community in Rio is it’s very international. You will see a good mix of North American and European nomads. Rio is a great city to base up for a month or two. 

 

EXPAT COMMUNITY IN RIO DE JANEIRO

There are many expats in Rio, especially in the Zona Sul and Barra de Tijuca. You will meet people here from all over the world. You will meet people from other South American countries. You will meet many North American and European expats. Lots of French and Germans and Portuguese, of course. The expats here often live here for many years. The expats come for the surfing, the beach, and the lifestyle. 

 

RENT AN APARTMENT IN RIO DE JANEIRO

$700.00. If you can get a cheaper place in a nice area for less than this, please tell me how.

 

BEST CAFES FOR DIGITAL NOMADS IN RIO DE JANEIRO

It can be difficult to find a coffee shop in Rio with decent wifi. Here are some of the best cafes in rio for digital nomads

Aussie Coffee: Amazing coffee, familiar vibes, free wifi.

Coffeetown: One of the only cafes in Leblon with wifi and electric outlets.

Starbucks Ipanema: Sometimes you gotta do it. 

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN RIO DE JANEIRO

9.5/10

I have to give it the “almost-perfect 9.5.” Rio is made for partying. The atmosphere, people and music make Rio the perfect place to tie one on. Chances are, you will be staying in Copacabana, so my recommendation will be from there. Although, if you have some time, don’t neglect the area around Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches), which turns into a gigantic street party every Friday night. Lots of bars around here as well.

Bars that My Latin Life recommends:

Mud Bug: Always busy. A good first bar to hit in Rio de Janeiro.

BE+CO: Cool place for a date. Market style bar with a few different food stands. Good place to start your night.

Quartinho Bar: Classic Brazilian boteco-style bar.

Moon Lounge – JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro: Stylish rooftop bar for the big ballers out there.

Boteco Belmonte: Chain of bars. There’s a good one in Ipanema right on the beach.

Pato com Laranja: Fancy outdoor bar with a DJ.

Garoa Ipanema: Lively bar popular among the hostel crowd.

Boteco Boa Pra├ža: One of the top bars in Leblon, right in the center of the action.

Cantinho do Leblon: Great bar to meet up with friends.

Jobi: Every Carioca knows this bar. They have a few famous barfood items. The partying goes late.

 

LEARNING PORTUGUESE IN RIO DE JANEIRO

If you want to make the most of your time in Brazil, you will need to speak some Portuguese. Rocket Portuguese is the best resource for learning Portuguese quickly and easily.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN RIO DE JANEIRO

The rich part of Rio is known as the Zona Sul. This is the best area of Rio for most digital nomads and expats. The best area of Rio for first-timers is Leblon. Leblon is the beach beside Ipanema, in the Zona Sul Leblon is one of the most upscale parts of the city, with the highest rent prices. Airbnbs will cost a bit more here, but it’s worth it. 

Some people will tell you not to stay in Copacabana. It’s a bit of an exaggeration. Copacabana is overall fine, but has good and bad parts. Leme is pretty good too.

Botafogo is another option for digital nomads and expats. In this neighborhood you will be located very centric to everything, and a lot of the nightlife is here. The downside to Botafogo is there is no beach within walking distance. There is a beach but it is highly recommended you do not swim there. There is at least a boardwalk along the unswimmable beach that is good for walking , running, and working out.

Barra de Tijuca, located west of Leblon, is another great area of Rio is . The nightlife here is still really good, everything is walkable, and the beach is even better. Staying in Tijuca, you are somewhat far from the action in Ipanema and Botafogo, but 

An underrated area to stay would be Niteroi, on the other side of the bridge. Niteroi has nice beaches, way cheaper Airbnbs, less gringos, tons of restaurants, etc. 

 

IS RIO DE JANEIRO SAFE?

Somewhat dangerous. Obvious tourists are targeted by muggers. Do your best to blend in as a local. There’s just so many people coming and going (muito fluxo) that it is easy for unsavory people to be anonymous. Fortunately, this is not that hard because Brazilians come in all races, shapes and sizes. Rio is kind of the standard for danger in Brazil when comparing cities. Is Recife more or less dangerous than Rio? Is Belo Horizonte more or less dangerous than Rio? Well, Rio is definitely up there. Don’t walk alone at night if you are new to Rio, no matter how tough you think you are.

 

COST OF LIVING IN RIO DE JANEIRO

Rio is very cheap if you are coming from Canada or the United States, but expensive for Brazil. It’s probably around the same cost of living as Spain or Portugal. Expect tourist prices in tourist areas on gym memberships, apartments, and everything else. Food can be cheap if you know where to look. Luckily a good apartment can easily be found for less than $1000 a month. The real estate in Leblon is some of the most expensive in all of Brazil. Leblon apartments often cost more than high end apartments in Sao Paulo

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

True to its name: a magnificent city. It has everything you could want: perfect weather, incredible nightlife, friendly people and great beaches. But, it’s not all sunshine and sexy-time in Rio.

The city is still dangerous, even after the craziness of World Cup and Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro used to be expensive. Now Airbnbs are plentiful and it’s actually pretty easy to find a decent apartment in a safe area.

Finally, learning Portuguese can pose a challenge for a native English speaker. If you have a good grasp of Spanish it will be easier, but it’s still an uphill battle. Learning Portuguese makes learning Spanish look like a cakewalk, but it is integral to getting the most out of Brazil. English levels can vary drastically, but you can expect to get by in English here. 


OVERALL RATING: 9/10


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