Rio de Janeiro and Brazil Overall

Rio de Janeiro (August 15- 18, 2016)

If you know of a city in Brazil, most likely the city is Rio de Janeiro, Rio for short. The former capital of Brazil still holds the status of Brazil’s tourist magnet. Brazilians say that if you are looking for lifestyle in Brazil, live in Rio. Though we could have spent more days here with activities to do, we kept our visit brief because the 2016 Olympic games in Rio were going on during our visit, causing the hostel price to triple.

 Rio 2016 and Christ the Redeemer on top of the mountain

Rio 2016 and Christ the Redeemer on top of the mountain

Before we got to Rio, we did a lot of research. We were lucky to find an average 10 dorm room for $18 a night. Most prices started at $25 and the hostels sometimes had depressingly low ratings. High demand and low supply can be painful for the wallet. Our hostel even ended up overselling and had a girl sleep on a mattress placed on our already tiny hostel floor (had 2 feet space around the mattress to walk in the room) and then had 3 people sleeping in the common area. Snuggle party! And because they ran out of pillows, I had to snatch one from couch in the common room.

At least the hostel had a good location of Botafogo. On our first day, we meandered 2 hours along the waterfront to downtown Rio. Took longer than expected, but we were able to spot various landmarks, people, Olympic stadiums, and random occurrences. My favorite was seeing the military scattered all over the place (extra security due to the games), looking like they were trying to protect items like a street lamp. “Sergeant, the streetlamp is secured. Over.” The most disgusting thing I saw was the dirty river water. Filthy, reeking river water is found in many of the cities we visited and has given Brazil a bad rep, which got extra attention in media because of the games. We saw a small wastewater treatment plant, nicely camouflaged. I was already grossed out by the last stage of the filtration, but when I got to the beginning of the cycle, I felt repulsed. The river has so much filth on top that I couldn’t even see the smallest hint of water. During this walk along the ocean front, I probably saw more than I wanted to.

 One of the old buildings

One of the old buildings

Downtown, we went to the main plaza, ogling longstanding architecture. (Sorry, my architecture familiarity is so low where I can’t even satisfy the mildly knowledgeable with sufficient facts about the era. You’ll have to go see for yourself.) Besides viewing old buildings facades, which history I’m oblivious about, we also toured the national museum. Reading all kinds of juicy history information, I left the museum with more understanding of Brazil’s history and how the country was shaped into its current form.

Another museum we went to was the Earth Sciences Museum (Museu de Ciências da Terra), containing minerals, meteorites, soils, and fossils. One room has dinosaur bones, another describes the big bang theory and evolution process, and the last room we went to displayed every major rock and mineral type found in Brazil. An impressive collection. Awesomely there is no entry fee and they even provide a free tour; the downside is that tour and labels are all in Portuguese. We stumbled upon this overlooked gem by accident as we walked by. If you are walking to Sugarloaf Mountain, keep your eyes pierced for the museum sign on the right side of the main street, and pop in for a quick visit since the museum is on the way.

Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Rio. Taking a cable car to the top, the 360-degree view from there is marvelous. We saw entire Rio, stretching from Copacabana beach to Rio downtown. Also spotted navy ships in the ocean patrolling the shores. There are a lot of Marmosets, tiny monkeys, on the mountain as well. Be careful while munching food around them. 5 monkeys circled me while I was eating bread and I was worried that they were planning a sneak attack. When I discovered one on a branch directly on top of me, I had to move to a safer place with no branches above me and stuffed the remaining bread into my mouth. Outside food is not allowed and the staff will check through bags, but we “accidentally” forgot bread in our pant pockets, which I was happy about in the end since the restaurants there are pricy. Overall we spent 2 hours on Sugarloaf, from daytime, to watching the sunset, until nighttime with the city lights. I would recommend visiting this mountain during this time of day.

 Marmosets invading my bubble and attempting to steal my bread

Marmosets invading my bubble and attempting to steal my bread

Sugarloaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer? We didn’t want to spend money visiting both mountains and had to decide which one we wanted to go to. Christ the Redeemer, a 125-foot (38 meters) statue on mountain, belongs to the new 7 wonders of the world. We could see the impressive statue down below in the city. We pretty much saw it from every angle besides up close. Tourist reported that during the Olympics the wait time to get on the transportation up can be 2 hours, even if they arrived even before opening. Potential 2 hours wait, plus the slow transportation up and down, plus unknown wait time to come back down, would have made this excursion a full day event. We didn’t want to spend an entire day on one sight, especially not when the time would be spent dillydallying in a line. So we count our losses and found satisfaction from the view afar.

We could even see the Redeemer from the Olympic stadium, which is the most memorable event we attended in Rio. I will play many sports, but find sport watching dull. Even so, I’ve always longed to see an Olympic game. To our advantage, bad publicity and fear of the Zika virus kept many sports fans away from Brazil, leaving stadiums half empty, and driving the ticket prices down. For a mere $13 we saw the semifinals for canoe sprint. We brought more excitement to the game by betting. 2 points if your country wins the race, 1 point if your country crosses the finish line before the other person’s country, and -1 point if your country comes in dead last. The two of us had a blast.

 Watching the canoe sprint Olympic game semi final

Watching the canoe sprint Olympic game semi final

At first I was upset that the games happened to be commencing during our visit, driving up prices. Now I’m glad I’m able to cross ‘watching an Olympic game’ off of my bucket list. Looking at my budget, please keep in mind that your hostel price will probably be more around $7 during your visit. Also, the metro cost should be lower since one ride costs $1.25 (R.410), but we were forced to buy a metro pass for $7.65 (R.25) because one of the metro lines blocked passengers and only allowed Olympic game viewers on with the special pass they were selling. If we would have known this ahead of time, we would have taken the bus. Oh well…. Live and learn. I had a great time in Rio overall.


Brazil Overall

Brazil had many awesome cities and sights to offer. I enjoyed every place for its own unique reason. The only place I would skip on my list for sure would be Punta Grossa, nothing special there. In a time crunch I would only go to one of these two: colonial Paraty or colorful Angra dos Reis. Surprisingly, relative to other South American countries we’ve been to, as we were traveling around Brazil, we detected less obvious poverty, just foul smelling rivers in cities.

 View of Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain

View of Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain

The most frustrating part is the language barrier. Knowing basic Spanish, I feel like I should be able to communicate simple topics, but oftentimes that’s not how the cookie crumbled. Over time I was able to identify some small alterations between the languages. For example: Egg is ‘huevo’ in Spanish and “ovo” in Portuguese. At least the majority of Brazilians are friendly and exert patience when we try to get our point across.

We were lucky that we were able to spend more time with locals while in Brazil and get to know more of local views, traditions, history, and politics. We were hosted by various locals in Sao Paulo, which gave me a feeling of being connected. Being able to attend an Olympic game gave the country an extra flair. Overall the visit to Brazil was fantastic and I’m happy that I went. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this vast country. I might just have to return one day.


Cost breakdown of Rio de Janeiro (3 days with total cost of $136.50. Average daily cost is $45.50.)

  • Hostel: $45.87 (3 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $28.78
    • Bus: $17.37 ($16.21 for initial bus to the city)
    • Metro: $11.41
  • Food: $23.77
    • Meals: $17.74 (5 meals)
    • Groceries: $4.50
    • Snacks: $1.53
  • Activities: $38.08
    • Olympic tickets: $12.39
    • Sugarloaf Mountain: $23.24
    • National Museum: $2.45

Paraty and Angra dos Reis

Paraty (August 9- 12, 2016)

Paraty is a cute colonial town. The small town doesn't have much to do besides walking around the small area, checking out the viewpoint, and chilling at the beach. We were there during winter time, which for that region means shorts and t-shirt during the peak daytime and then long pants and jacket for the rest of the day. Maybe even triple layer during nighttime outside. My temperature gauge might have been skewed since I got sick!

 Colonial Paraty

Colonial Paraty

I had a slight fever and headache. Being sick is inconvenient. But who wants to get sick during travels or ever? At least the hostel was top notch for an ill person. Yes, there were too many people roaming around, which inhibits privacy and a relaxing atmosphere, but they had a movie room. I got to lay down and play Netflix on the hostel's big projector screen. Besides working staff, most hostel occupants were out during the day. Unfortunately, noisy guests would join me watching a movie in the evening. Besides that, they couldn't respect other people while watching a movie, they also smoked weed outside (yes, the staff included). So I would get a strong whiff of that stench every once in a while. They were friendly people though. They even rescued a kitten that other people were abusing on the beach. So I got to cuddle with this few week old kitten. So adorable! Made me miss my cat at home.

If I wasn't sick, we would have done day excursions to places nearby. For a dollar bus ride one way, we could have gone to two spots, one with a waterfall and another with a flat rock in the water that we could have slid on. The rock place seemed like a fun place to visit, but I'll probably never know for sure. The explorations I did in town were enough for me, since whenever I was conquering a slight incline up, my headache would spike and I would also have a hard time breathing.

 Picture from Paraty's viewpoint

Picture from Paraty's viewpoint

Even though I hadn't fully recovered yet, we moved to another town to continue doing nothing much. Why? Because the locals were celebrating the cachaça festival. Cachaça is a popular Brazilian alcohol. Paraty has fourteen cachaça distilleries around. Locals are proud of being the main cachaça producer and celebrate this festival every year. This brings in more outsiders. Hence the hostel price increased for the weekend and we would have had to deal with an abnormal number of drunk people. Not the description of fun for budget conscious, non-drinkers. At least we got to see another place in Brazil.


Angra Dos Reis (August 12- 15, 2016)

Compared to the colonial Paraty’s white houses with color accents, most houses in Angra dos Reis were painted one solid color per building, but various colors overall. As I mentioned before, I was still sick. So we slowly strolled to some attractions. They do have an island there that's supposed to be amazingly beautiful, but we passed on that. What we did see where the statues of three kings, the waterfront, and an old convent (Convent of San Bernardino and Chapel of St. Anthony) that's now used as meeting space.

 The three kings statues

The three kings statues

The statues were a 15-minute walk away from our hostel. They are quite impressive in size. The pathway to the statues mostly took us along the waterfront which was nice to see. We eventually made our way onto the docks to see a nice tranquil view of the colorful town. We would have sat down and enjoyed the view longer if not for the threat. We were afraid to be bombarded. Lots of birds happened to gather above us when we wanted to sit down. I'm white enough without their help. So we moved on.

One of our next spots was the old convent apparently has lots of interesting history; they even provide a tour for interested tourists. We just walked through the building ourselves. Some of the sections were in ruins or maybe never had a roof. My favorite part is that a group was using the rooms to teach Capoeira, which is a martial art that utilizes dance movements and is all about flow. If you are interested in watching a YouTube video demonstrating Capoeira click here. No, I'm not in video. It's just a random clip I chose.

 Colorful Angra dos Reis

Colorful Angra dos Reis

We also chose to attend an orchestra concert here. The hostel we stayed at gave us a list of activities and events happening during our visit. At this point my illness has shifted to a cold and violent coughing. I got lots of cough-drops to avoid interrupting the performance, but there was no worry of interrupting though. We googled the building location and imputed the address in my phone maps app, but the destination ended up being residential apartments. Definitely not the spot for a concert. Even if we would have gotten the actual address at this point, we wouldn't have arrived on time. We didn't want to be rude, so we returned back to the hostel confused.

Not everything goes as planned. That's why flexibility is such an important virtue as a backpacker. We have learned to go with the flow. Sometimes the stuff we didn't plan end up being the best happenings for our current destination, but we don't always realize that until after we leave. For example, we didn't know we would be in Brazil during the Olympics. Our next place is Rio, the city hosting the Olympics this year. We are worried about spiked prices there, but maybe we were able see a game? Read the post on Rio next to find out! Some points might shock you!


Cost breakdown of Paraty (3 days with total cost of $62.66. Average daily cost is $20.89.)

  • Hostel: $22.94 (3 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $18.72 (initial bus to the town)
  • Food: $21.00
    • Meals: $9.17 (2 meals)
    • Groceries: $11.83

Cost breakdown of Angra dos Reis (3 days with total cost of $61.99. Average daily cost is $20.66.)

  • Hostel: $45.87 (3 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $3.82 (initial bus to the town)
  • Food: $12.30
    • Meals: $3.36 (1 meal)
    • Groceries: $8.94

Sao Paulo

(August 5- 9 and August 18- 30, 2016)

Sao Paulo is Brazil’s work city, responsible for roughly a third of Brazilian GDP, and the 10th richest city in the world. Not the most touristic haven, but does offer impressive sights. We were staying with a lively, hospitable, local family, whom I got connected with through my aunt. They had a few sight suggestions besides what we already had on our list.

The first day we wanted to go check out Paulista Ave, where everything goes down. We got off the correct metro station, but obliviously ended up taking the wrong turn down the street and only saw a stone church worth of our walking efforts. Disappointed, we headed to Ibirapuera park. The enormous park has museums and an observatory on site. My guess is that more locals take advantage of the space than tourists. You can observe users working out, practicing a dance routine, training their Star Wars lightsaber skills, skateboarding, dog walking, and more. Pokémon Go was recently release in Brazil. Lots of youngsters were spending their Saturday afternoon strolling in the park in attempt of catching Pokémon. The children of our hosts kept asking if we played. Answering “no,” they continued on how we should since we walk so much anyways and can catch rarer Pokémon the further we walk. If I can sell my catches to other trainers for real money, playing might not be a bad idea.

 Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera Park

Moving on from that thought. What else did we see? Entire Sao Paulo, from a skyscraper with free entry. The usual building is called Banespa, but that high-rise was closed for remodeling. So a stone’s throw away was the Predio Martinelli building. Not quite as tall, but gets the point across. While you are in Sé (region) for the tower, I would stop by the Sé cathedral that possesses flair. From the graffiti and increased numbers of homeless in this area, I would recommend exploring this area during daylight.

A good exploring day is Sunday. Every Sunday the city sections off parts of the road for bicyclists. Rent a bike and check off more sights in one day while exercising. We got our bikes from our hosts. One of the bikes had straps around the pedals and due to the weird bicycle construction one of us fell over when we spotted the largest rodents on earth. It wasn’t me…. Anyways, thanks to our excursion we finally got to see Paulista Ave with its true glory. Lots of performers and sellers tried their luck at attracting a crowd.

 Each bicycle street intersection on Sunday has attendees stopping bikers when the light is red.

Each bicycle street intersection on Sunday has attendees stopping bikers when the light is red.

MASP (Museum of Art of Sao Paulo) is also on this avenue. I think they should call the museum ‘Sao Paulo Art Museum’ so the abbreviation is SPAM. Every Tuesday the museum entry is complimentary. The art is not mounted on the wall, but on easels all over, being artistic with the creative arrangement. The description of the art is located behind the piece. Because of the layout, the flow of the museum is rather nice.

We didn’t go to the museum until the second time in this city. Our flight to South Africa was from Sao Paulo. We had another WorkAway job lined up in Sorocaba, but the employers had to cancel because their vacation home was vandalized. So instead we spent more time here, spending the majority of our time planning upcoming countries. A few nights were spent at a hostel, few others at our previous hosts, and others at a couchsurfers home.

Couchsurfing.com is a website were people open up their homes to strangers to stay for free. Most stays usually are only few nights (around three), but totally depends on the hosts’ willingness. Surfers should carefully read potential hosts profile before submitting a request. You want to be sure that personalities will match up and that the host is safe. If the host accepts, ensure proper guest etiquette. Remember, hosts don’t want to be treated as a free hostel/hotel. Most usually look for some cultural knowledge exchange, want to hang out with you for a little bit, and get to know you. Excellent way to get insider knowledge of the country.

 Watching the Olympic opening ceremony with our hosts.

Watching the Olympic opening ceremony with our hosts.

When we stayed with our initial host, they informed us of Brazilian culture and how Brazilian residents view the Olympic games that were held in Rio during our stay. We helped our host’s friend move into her new home nearby by unpacking and ripping out baby bushes bare handed hulk style. During breaks the friend gave insights on lingering effects of slavery. Very interesting topics.

Also interesting was attempting to crack a 60-min escape room. You get locked in a room and get 60 minutes to solve all the riddles and puzzles before the room “explodes” or “some murderer kills you.” Our first room was at a dead professor’s home who had evidence about a local gang. We had to unravel the clues to the evidence before the house got imploded. We exploded. And also died during our second challenge inside a bank room, but got much closer to the end by ourselves. So there is hope for us as we most likely will try more of these around the world.

Oh, and before I bow out, I can’t forget to mention the hookers. If you spend enough time in Sao Paulo, you’ll get to discover the sheer number of obvious hookers they have here. They don’t necessarily dress like hookers; they still wear jeans and t-shirts, but I caught on by observing their behavior. Even during daylight these women will stand on the sidewalk, closest to the road, and often have their purse hanging on a branch or object, waiting for some vehicle to stop and discuss the rates. Of places I’ve visited in Brazil, I mainly saw them in Sao Paulo.

 Huge popcorn display at Paulista metro station.

Huge popcorn display at Paulista metro station.

Overall Sao Paulo was fun and I enjoyed the information we gathered here. After our first stay we moved on to Paraty, a colonial town. I’m looking forward to welcome you back to my blog with an unfortunate story.


Cost breakdown of Sao Paulo (16 days with total cost of $178.24. Average daily cost is $11.14.)

  • Hostel: $19.27 (3 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $75.63
    • Buses: $60.52
    • Metro: $15.11
  • Food: $47.10
    • Meals: $9.10 (3 meals)
    • Groceries: $35.76
    • Snacks: $2.24
  • Activity: $36.24 (2 60-min escape rooms)

Ponta Grossa and Curitiba

Ponta Grossa (July 30 - August 1, 2016)

Would you look at that, it has been a while since we didn’t have a weird border entry. Since Peru to be exact. Brazils border town is named similar to Argentina’s border town called Iguazu. We spent 12 hours in Foz do Iguacu, walking around, admiring the lower prices (not by too much), until we got escorted to Ponta Grossa by overnight bus.

We arrived on a Sunday morning. To our surprise the whole town seemed shut down except for a few shops. We’ve encountered early store closures before, but not closure for an entire day. We weren’t mentally prepared for that. Also the park we wanted to visit didn’t seem worth the trouble and the day was spent relaxing instead. Then moved on to the next city the following morning.


Curitiba (August 1 - 5, 2016)

 Historic district in Curitiba. Love the odd shaped trees in Brazil.

Historic district in Curitiba. Love the odd shaped trees in Brazil.

Curitiba’s Monday is Ponta Grossa’s Sunday. Business are closed. How lucky are we to catch a family day two days in a row? Miss you my fam! (Businesses are closed with intent of residents spending time with loved ones instead of working, hence I call the day ‘family day’.)

Tuesday we put on our shoes, map in hand, armed with suggestions by the receptionist, and we were ready to explore the entire city on foot. The city does offer a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus that stops at all major attractions, but our pride denied us the luxury of spending 45 rand ($14) for 5 tickets, and even though the public busses are much cheaper, they’re potentially confusing for newbs.

First stop was the historic district. Slightly confused on why it’s historic, but besides a puking horse fountain, the location has the memorial building. I would go study here if I was a student. In addition, the open, calm space, contemplatable art was sprinkled around. My favorite was the small gallery on the top floor. Always a fan of positive surprises.

 The puking horse fountain.

The puking horse fountain.

From the memorial we strolled down the shopping strip, ignoring the shops since we both dislike shopping. At the end of the strip was a glass mall that got great remarks for a photo spot. Though the surrounded mall had unique architecture, it was nothing I would go out of the way for. There are a lot of malls in Curitiba, 4 big malls that I can remember, so shopaholics will need to pencil in at least 1 extra day to spend here alongside their money.

Next to one of the malls was this tiny train museum. Labeled in Portuguese, we didn’t get much from the 2 hallways, but the mannequins would freak me out every single time. Real looking and strategically positioned, I always expected them to be a living person. Because we nonchalantly peered into the museum, I wasn’t sure if we were even allowed in and hence was worried to be yelled at by a staff member. Everything was golden though.

Our next stretch was much further away and in hindsight I would recommend taking a public bus to save yourself from too much accumulated walking throughout the day. The botanical garden was roughly 45-minute walk away from the train museum/shopping center. Being on foot allowed us to stop by the old Paiol theater on our way, but the path also had us go through a sketchy neighborhood. The garden itself is vast and has cool hedge structures. We sat down, let our feet rest, and enjoyed tranquil atmosphere. Until a horde of loud elementary school kids came along and encouraged us to keep moving.

 Botanical Garden.

Botanical Garden.

Tired, we called the quits for the day and set aside the rest of the city for the next day. Charged with a full night of sleep, we waddled our way to the Oscar Niemeyer museum, mostly known for its architecture. This museum is recommended for artsy people only, but this Wednesday they offered free admissions and we entered anyways. Checking out their various galleries, my favorite were the usable swings in the Japanese section and the Brasilia, Brazils capital, architecture section. We wanted to check out the modern city ourselves, but the bus ticket prices dispirited us. Now, at the museum, we could see the unique architecture without spending valuable cash.

From the art museum, we marched another 45-minutes to the Ópera de Arame. Took a quick peek and moved on to the Tangua Park. It’s a very parky park. Rebelling feet kept exploration to a minimum, but we did see police training their dogs. If I didn’t care about being peculiar, I would have stood there and watched. I was interested about the drills. No, no. I wasn’t checking out the officers. Get that thought out of your head. I think it’s interesting watching a police truck pull up, guys running out, yelling at criminals (other pretending cops) to lay on the ground and observe how the dogs are utilized in that circumstance.

 Part of the Tangua park.

Part of the Tangua park.

From one park to the other. Last stop of the day was the Bosque Alemão (German Park). The wooden tower contained here gives a lovely overview of the city. The small, dense park has a forest feeling as you stroll through and read the story of Hensel and Gretel. Cute to say the least.

As we explored the city, we constantly used our tourist map to figure out our directions. Oftentimes a local would immediately stop and try to help us. Unfortunately, at this point we only learned to say ‘thank you’ in Portuguese. Most Brazilians only know Portuguese. Spanish and Portuguese have similarities, but only knowing the basics in Spanish, the situation would end up in an awkward stare down between us and the helper. Brazilians are super friendly and helpful. Their kind personalities scared me to take out the map any more than necessary because I desperately wanted to avoid uncomfortable interactions.

The last few days here we spent cooped up in the hostel, avoiding awkward interactions. We needed the time to plan out future destinations. I also wasn’t feeling too well and needed a day binge watching Netflix to recover. Overall I really liked Curitiba and don’t understand why this city isn’t visited by more tourists. The city offers a little of everything and includes an infrastructure making sightseeing easy.


Cost breakdown of Ponta Grossa (2 days with total cost of $76.54. Average daily cost is $38.27.)

  • Hostel: $13.76 (1 night)
  • Transportation: $45.86 (Busses for initial transportation to the city)
  • Food: $16.92
    • Meals: $4.59 (1 meal)
    • Groceries: $8.81
  • Snacks: $3.52

Cost breakdown of Curitiba (4 days with total cost of $71.42. Average daily cost is $17.86.)

  • Hostel: $53.82 (4 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $12.40 ($11.39 for initial bus to the city)
  • Food: $5.20
    • Groceries: $2.45
    • Snacks: $2.75