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Advice for going to the Rio Olympics

Written by Laurent Escobar | 26th July 2016 |

Category: Brazil

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It’s definitely an exciting time for travellers heading to Brazil as the Olympic Games are fast approaching, with the Opening Ceremony taking place on August 5th, and the Paralympic Games kicking off on September 7th.

Despite the recent turmoil in Brazilian politics the grand spectacle of the Olympics is sure to push that all into the background for a month or so!

If you are interested in attending the games be aware that due to the large influx of tourists, both domestic and overseas, prices are seeing a sharp increase over this period. Venues for the events are clustered around four areas: Barra, Copacabana, Maracanã and Deodoro.

Tickets are now on sale on a first come, first served basis, through an official reseller, which, for UK residents, is CoSport.

The most convenient option for most will be to be based around the Zona Sul, as this offers reliable transport options to all event locations, as well as being the best located for sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro.


Brazilian officials expect up to 500,000 international tourist arrivals during the Games, so expect Rio’s hotels to be almost fully booked. Having said that Airbnb - the official partner of the Summer Olympics, still provides a wide variety of accommodations. Pousadas, on the other hand, offer another good option for those looking for a more personal, less ‘hotel’  experience.


Driving in Rio de Janeiro is a massive pain due to the crowded, chaotic streets and ‘relaxed’ driving regulations. So rental cars are for the bravest souls. Taxis are OK though frankly slower than walking quite often. Luckily, the city has made great effort to provide new transportation options with a new express bus corridor connecting Ipanema and Jardim Oceanico, as well as a new subway line connecting the centre and tourist zones of Rio with Barra.

The local government also launched a public transport pass during the Olympics to allow unlimited access to citywide transport network. The cards are available for one day (USD$7.67), three days (USD$21.47) or seven days (USD$49). The passes are being sold at the city’s two airports, the main bus terminal, metro stations, rapid transit bus stops as well as dedicated dispensing machines throughout the city. That’s that covered then.


While in Rio, it’s important to be just as cautious and responsible as you would in any large urban area. Here are some helpful safety tips:

  • Pick up a map and locate key points of interest and research ways to get around.

  • Leave your passport in a hotel safe and carry a photocopy or a passport card with you at all times.

  • Carry the contact information for the nearest UK embassy or consulate in Brazil, as well as the local emergency service numbers: 190 for the police, 192 for ambulance, and 193 for fire department.

  • Avoid deserted streets and order taxicabs by telephone if you feel lost.

  • Do attempt to learn some Portuguese before heading to Brazil.

  • Follow all local laws and social customs.

Note that various State Departments recommend avoiding going into favelas on your own. Saying that, Brazil’s government has worked hard to ‘pacify’ Rio’s slums for some years and crime has been hugely reduced. Therein lie tales of state brutality which have begun to surface, it has certainly not been a pretty process. However, what it does mean is that local tour operators have started offering tours to some of the surprisingly beautiful favelas, providing some of the best views of the city - minus the crowds.


Before departure make sure you’re vaccinated according to the UK immunisation schedule, which include vaccination against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b… Learn more.

Although the risk of mosquito borne disease is lower during winter (July to September in Brazil), take personal protective measures to prevent yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever, which are transmitted through mosquito bites:

  • Wear light-coloured clothes, long sleeves and long trousers.

  • Use repellents that contain DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, OLEm or PMD - and check the duration of protection and timing of re-application. Know that if repellents and sunscreen are used together, sunscreen should be applied first and the repellent thereafter;

  • Avoid saying in areas with stagnant water (both indoors and outdoors).

  • Insist on air-conditioned rooms or a mosquito net at your accommodation.

The Zika virus has been consistently in the news through 2016, but it generally only poses risk to pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant as some evidence suggests it causes birth defects – in particular microcephaly.

Food and water safety

Gastrointestinal infections can be common in Brazil so you should take some precautions to avoid illnesses caused by unsafe food and drink:

  • Frequent hand washing and always before handling and consuming food.

  • Make sure that food has been thoroughly cooked and remains steaming hot.

  • Choose safe water (e.g. bottled water or, if in doubt, water vigorously boiled).

  • Avoid any uncooked food, apart from fruits and vegetables that can be peeled or shelled.

  • Avoid foods at buffets, markets, restaurants and street vendors if they are not kept hot or refrigerated/on ice.

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