One Woman’s Trip to Brazil
People told me not to travel to Brazil. That for a woman, a trip to Brazil wasn’t safe. You could argue that every corner of the world has it’s dangers. Every adventure has a risk. Everything you do could go wrong and you wind up in a situation that doesn’t work. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity so I didn’t listen to what people were telling me. This story is just one woman’s Brazil trip; it is my experience with the country.
LIVING THE “CIDADE MARAVILHOSA”
Cidade maravilhosa is a march written for the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil carnival of 1935 and has since become the cities anthem, meaning the Marvelous City.
Brazil… This was by far the best trip of my life (not speaking for any unknown future travel of course). Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to visit Brazil. Finally it had been long enough, timing worked out and I said “Ok, LET’S GO!” I was ready to set out on my own woman’s Brazil trip, I only needed to get started.
For this woman’s Brazil trip I wasn’t alone. My boyfriend and I set out on the trip together, but the story is my perspective and the perspective of a woman traveling in Brazil.
Where to go on a woman’s Brazil Trip:
Since we am from Argentina, we didn’t want to go to Camboriú or Florianopolis. These places in Brazil, while beautiful and worth a visit, are usually visited by Argentinian people. I wanted to get out of the crowds and be embedded in the Carioca culture. Finally we decided on Río de Janeiro, Brazil. Río was the perfect mixture between wild nature and a cosmopolitan city.
Woman’s Brazil Trip Transportation Choice:
We decided to travel entirely by bus to Brazil. Flying was expensive and I figured it would be better to save that money and put it towards sites while there. We didn’t want to hire a travel agency for this trip, because usually, these organized voyages only show the traveler the most touristy part of the cities. I, like many woman travelers these days, preferred to have a more complete, and vivid experience of Brazil, off the beaten path.
Our adventure began in the north of Argentina, in a bus from Salta (our hometown) to Puerto Iguazú. It continued as we boarded another bus from Puerto to Río. 48 hours of travel total. Exhausting of course, but also a great opportunity to meet both new people and see new locations.
DAY 1: Río de Janeiro, Flamengo and Catete
We arrived to the Rodoviaria (the bus station) in the afternoon. We took a taxi to the hotel we had booked. Carlos, the taxi driver, gave us great advice about how to move around the city. We stayed at the Riazor Hotel, which is located in Catete neighborhood. I think this is the best location because it is the heart of the city. Catete is very safe, full of shops, supermarkets and places to eat. You could really feel the hustle and bustle there. The hotel was simple but comfortable. Actually, for 120R per night it was perfect. Just what we needed.
That same afternoon, we went to Praia do Flamengo, a few blocks away from the hotel. Local people were jogging, playing sports and riding bike. I was amazed because the streets and the beach were extremely clean. No one would throw garbage away. Everybody were just enjoying their Saturday. We took a walk along the shore while drinking coconut water. The beach itself was beautiful, with the Sugar Loaf cutting the horizon. Where was the great danger we had been warned? I was so relaxed that I didn’t even think about that.
That night, we went to have dinner in the famous Lapa neighborhood. There were plenty of bars and restaurants. The perfect place to enjoy a Saturday night. However, here we could see the “other side” of this great city. There were a lot of homeless people sleeping in the streets and garbage did seem to be more prominent. This remarkable contrast shocked me. On the one hand, we had discos with carioca music where everybody was having fun. On the other hand, poor people were lying on the sidewalks, looking with indifference at the great party around them. They were not asking for money or food. Though many of them were reading and selling books. At that moment, the image of the great Paulo Freire sprang my mind, they could be poor but not illiterate.
DAY 2: City Centre, Leblon and Ipanema
The second day was Sunday. During the morning, we visited Lage Park and the Botanic Garden. Both places were charming. Well preserved spaces, full of nature. Lage is a public park surrounded by the subtropical forest. People took advantage of the great environment to take pictures and have a picnic. The Botanic Garden is the home of different species from all the Amazon. It’s walking trails allow the visitors to discover gorgeous landscapes while they learn about the flora and fauna. It costs 15R and you can stay for as long as you like.
In the afternoon, we went to the famous beaches of Leblon and Ipanema. Once again, I could see both the higher and the lower parts of society all together in one single place: indigents collecting cans, vendors offering their products and children smoking marihuana. During my women’s Brazil trip, did I feel insecure? Evan as a woman in this country? Not even once.
I had been told that there was theft and that it was important to not leave your belongings on the beach, probably a good safety tip anywher e you go. We were careful and luckily had no problem at all. It is my understanding, that many people are afraid of Río, because they believe that the entire city is a dangerous as favela. If you have seen the famous movie “City of God”, take into account that the scenes reflected in the film may take place in the favelas that are 30 km away from the centre of Río. The heart of the city is very peaceful. Leblon and Ipanema are elegant neighborhoods where everybody seemed to have a nice time. People were drinking beer and caipirinhas, but nobody was drunk or creating disorder. So different from my experience with Argentina!
DAY 3: The Aquarium, Urca and Praia Vermelha
In the morning, we had planned to visit the Acqua Río, the biggest aquarium in South America. We got lost trying to find it and we ended up in the middle of a pacified favela. It was very similar to a humble neighborhood from Argentina. People were very nice. They helped us to find our way. It basically became an unexpected yet rewarding detour. Enough time has passed that we decided to stop for lunch at a small neighborhood bar. We had hamburgers and the best maracuyá juice I’ve ever tasted.
After lunch, we finally made it to the front steps of the aquarium. It was amazing! Located in the Port Zone, this place keeps a variety of marine species. The main tank is definitely a must see. Guests walk along a tunnel which goes through the center of the tank, so they can appreciate sharks, manta rays and other fishes up close and from every angle.
Finding the Aquarium
After the calm and peaceful atmosphere of the aquarium, we felt it was time to exercise a little bit. To accomplish this, we set out for Morro de Urca, a hill in Brazil, near Sugar Loaf. There are plenty of opportunities to go hiking there. When we reached the top, we got amazing views of Rio. It is definitely a great option to save money if you don’t want to take a cable car to the Sugar Loaf. We returned by taking the same trek down and spent the rest of the afternoon in the Vermelha Beach, located next to Urca hill. This beach was small but beautiful: it wasn’t crowded and the sunset was breathtaking. A great way to finish that day.
We came back to the city centre by foot and then, we took the subway to Catete. We felt safe and sound all the time.
There are three main aspects about this trip that surprised me the most:
1. The environmental awareness
Local people care about their city and keep it clean. I saw citizens picking up plastic bottles, or any other kind of rubbish, and putting them in bins. I even noticed that most cariocas take great care of the flora and fauna. Green spaces are very well preserved and cared for. People seem to understand that protecting the environment is essential to improve their quality of life. I found this awareness so different from Argentina. Sadly, in my country, people usually throw their rubbish away and they don’t care about maintaining parks, squares and other natural places in good conditions.
2. Respect towards women
Most people told me that the men in Brazil were “machistas” and that I should be careful because I could be sexually harassed in the streets. For my woman’s Brazil trip, I am happy to report that this stereotype was broken in Río for me. Men were very respectful. I didn’t receive any cat callings or wolf-whistles. I noticed that this was the same for all women, for which I witness during my time there. Unfortunately, this is also different in my country. I live in Salta, in the north of Argentina, and whenever I go three blocks away from my place I receive lots of cat callings and sexual insinuations. I think that Argentinians have many things to learn from the Brazilian culture.
I loved Brazilian women’s attitude. They were strong, proud of themselves. I would define them as beautiful fighters. So many of the women I witnessed in Brazil speak their mind and look very confident. They are certain about the fact that men and women are equal. One day, my boyfriend and I were seated on local bus when my boyfriend noticed a woman standing. He offered his sit to the woman and her response surprised us both. She replied with “No, I’m fine. All of us are equal.” For any woman considering or planning a woman’s Brazil trip, I have to imagine you’ll love witnessing this female power and strength as much as I did.
In my opinion, the concept of motherhood was also a strong contrast from Argentina to Brazil. In Salta, my city, most pregnant women take their pregnancy as a sign of weakness. They focus on how they are tired and frustrated. When they become mothers, they complain that they no longer have time for themselves because of their children. On the contrary, Brazilian women tackle their pregnancy with pride and joy. I found this idea of femininity as a model to follow.
If you are planning a Woman’s Brazil Trip, GO FOR IT!
Be ready to be immersed in the amazing carioca culture. Precautions? The same that you would take in any other place: take care of your belongings in the street and avoid unknown places at night. Don’t be afraid of buying food in the streets. Salgados and salgadinhos are really tasty! You should also try acaí and fruit juices. Since we continued our trip to the north of Brazil, we spent only three days in Río de Janeiro. In just those three days is was still an unforgettable experience. The City of God is definitely a place you should include in your bucket list.