- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Rio de Janeiro Guide (PDF)
Famed for its Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, sprawling natural beauty, world-famous carnival and wild nightlife, Rio de Janeiro may seem like an expat paradise, but like any destination, there are a few downsides to life in Brazil’s most visited city.
Check out our list of pros and cons below.
Lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro
+ PRO: World-renowned nightlife
From bustling nightclubs and bars to a sensational underground scene and samba clubs, Rio has a lively abundance of nightlife options. The city is home to several party districts, with Lapa being the most famous. Most establishments in Rio are casual but some clubs will have a strict dress code.
+ PRO: Annual Rio de Janeiro Carnival
With claims of being the biggest show on earth, the five-day carnival in Rio de Janeiro celebrates the beginning of Lent and is a national holiday in Brazil. It’s certainly a bucket list event that features parades, parties and open-air performances, with 2 million spectators taking to the streets daily.
+ PRO: Breathtaking natural scenery
Rio de Janeiro’s dramatic mountainscapes, pristine coastline and urban rainforest make the city a paradise for nature-loving expats. Tijuca National Park – the only rainforest within a city in the world – is an oasis where expats can hike along some of the most serene routes. Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer monument on Corcovado Mountain are also great spots to take in the unparalleled city views.
+ PRO: Shimmering beaches
The beaches in Rio de Janeiro vary in style, but the iconic white sand, sunny spots and crystal-clear waters are a hallmark of all of them. Expats can enjoy water sports, beach volleyball and futevôlei (foot-volleyball), or simply admire the stunning ocean view from a beachside bar or restaurant.
- CON: Highly visible economic inequality
While there is plenty to love about Rio, the economic disparities in the city are visible. The contrast between the city’s wealthy areas and the favelas, which lack basic infrastructure, is a stark reminder of the wealth inequality across many Brazilian cities.
Working in Rio de Janeiro
+ PRO: Important commercial hub for Brazil
Rio’s international airport and port status make the city a key commercial hub for Brazil. Highly skilled expats can find employment across a range of sectors and multiple multinational corporations. Despite a decline in tourism in recent years, the hospitality industry still offers many job opportunities.
- CON: Knowledge of Portuguese is useful
Even though English is becoming commonplace across Rio's business circles, Brazilians love to establish personal relationships before doing business, so a working knowledge of Portuguese is advantageous.
- CON: The job market is competitive
Competition in Rio de Janeiro’s job market is fierce and expats will be competing with locals who have an added advantage due to Brazil’s work visa requirements. It is recommended to secure employment before arriving in Rio and to build a robust network as work is often found through recommendations.
Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro
+ PRO: Great standard of accommodation
Much of the accommodation in Rio is in the form of condominiums and apartments, some of which offer sought-after onsite amenities such as 24-hour security, gyms and swimming pools. The newer apartment blocks also tend to be larger.
- CON: House hunting is competitive
As is the case in most cities, finding a decent apartment in Rio de Janeiro can be an arduous task. Demand in areas like Ipanema and Barra de Tijuca means rentals do not stay on the market for long and tend to be expensive.
- CON: Most accommodation is unfurnished
Long-term rentals in Rio are typically unfurnished and in extreme cases, expats may also have to buy basic kitchen appliances and light fixtures. However, the low monthly rental on these apartments usually offsets the cost of buying furniture.
Getting around in Rio de Janeiro
+ PRO: Reliable public transport
Rio’s metro and bus networks are a clean, efficient and affordable way of getting around the city. Licensed taxis and e-hailing services like Uber are abundant and are recommended when travelling at night.
+ PRO: Cycling is encouraged
Exploring Rio has never been easier thanks to the many cycle lanes – particularly around the tourist areas and beaches – and a shared bike-rental programme. Bike Rio allows cyclists to rent bicycles on a short and long-term basis using a nifty mobile application.
- CON: Aggressive driving and chaotic traffic
Brazilians are infamous for their aggressive driving. To add to the frustration, the city’s roads are terribly congested, especially during peak hours.
Cost of living in Rio de Janeiro
- CON: High utility prices
The cost of living in Rio de Janeiro can be high but is generally more affordable than in São Paulo. As a port city, Rio enjoys decent grocery prices, but rental, electricity and water prices are surprisingly expensive.
Safety and security in Rio de Janeiro
- CON: Robberies and muggings are common
Robberies on overcrowded buses have become an unfortunate reality in Rio, particularly at night. Expats are advised to avoid bus travel and rather opt for a taxi in the evening. Scams and petty crimes such as pickpocketing and purse snatching are also prevalent. Expats should stay vigilant and keep a close eye on their belongings, especially on beaches and in the Centro.
► For an overview of life in Brazil have a look at Moving to Brazil.
"Try and embrace the differences you encounter here in Rio rather than opposing them. I think it is very common for expats to arrive in a new country and, after the initial honeymoon period, to focus on all of the differences between the new country and your native country. Such differences are generally experienced as negative. My advice is to try and accept them for what they are, simply different." Niamh, an Irish expat, moved to Rio with her Brazillian husband. Read more about her expat life in Brazil.
Are you an expat living in Rio de Janeiro?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rio de Janeiro. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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