10 Things I Wish I had Known Before Arriving in Rio

A list that I composed just after arriving in Brazil, on realising that I had left some essential items back in England, and discovering that some items are teicky to track down in Brazil.

  1. Brazilian power comes in both 240V and 110V flavours. If your electrical device does not come with a transformer, then it may not work.
  2. Brazilian men wear jeans to work, even when it is hot. I expected to be in shorts most of the time, but because of air conditioning and perhaps social convention, shorts are not common among professionals.
  3. Don’t expect to be able to buy much in Rio. Imports are heavily taxed (60-100% import duty), so what little imports you find will be expensive. The average Brazilian does not have much disposable income, so local industry does not cater for the demanding western consumer. If you need specialist equipment (hiking gear, in my case), bring it with you. You can try to import things from overseas, if you can find a online-retailers willing to deliver to Brazil, but you will incur taxes, and will run the risk of your package getting lost.
  4. Designer (or at least garish) clothes are fine for Friday and Saturday night, but wearing them during the week makes you look like a tourist, which is a security risk. Bring some more low-key clothing.
  5. Rio can be noisy. Samba, candonble, fireworks, goal-celebrations, dogs and exhaustless-buses can all be heard until at least midnight, which is great if you want to make some noise of your own, but don’t bank on an early night. A set of decent ear plugs will help.
  6. Brazil has 3 types of electical plug. A UK-US adapter will work, while a UK-Euro adapter won’t.
  7. Power cuts are frequent, and currents are not very stable. If you value your electrical appliances, bring a UPS / stabiliser.
  8. Rio sometimes gets cold. A jacket seems an absurd waste of valuable luggage space in summer, but don’t rule it out for the rest of the year.
  9. Rio is not cheap. Expect to spend R$50 per day without too much effort. Rent in Zona Sul will probably be R$800 – 1000. Utilities will be another R$100 – 200. While mobile phone and gym subscriptions will be another R$200. I think R$3000 per month would be enough for the basics. EDIT 04/11/12 – INFLATION PROBABLY MEANS MORE THAT THIS NOW!
  10. Errmm… don’t start a list of 10 things, unless you have 10 things to list.