They say New York is the City That Never Sleeps, but just as strong a case could be made for Rio de Janeiro. This bright, dazzling metropolis, surrounded on three sides by the brilliant waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is known for its thumping rhythm, vibrant colors, world-renowned food, and endless energy.
If you’re looking for a vacation that will remind you you’re alive, this is it. The luscious natural setting is part of what makes Rio such a lovely destination.
Green mountains covered with vegetation contrast with the glittering sea, with narrow strips of land in between, on which houses and skyscrapers rest. Beautiful Guanabara Bay adds even more charm to this already charming neck of the woods.
Why visit Rio? There are so many reasons.
The religious among us visit to see the 10-story statue of Christ the Redeemer – Cristo Redentor – that stands watch over the city in Art Deco style.
Others come to sun themselves on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, while still others walk amongst the jewel-bright leaves of Tijuca National Park, right on the outskirts of the city. So, should you go? We say yes! Here’s how to do it without breaking the bank.
Average Trip to Rio de Janeiro Cost in 2023
An average one-week trip to Rio de Janeiro for two people will cost around $4,000:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $150 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $1,000 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $50 per person, per day
- Transportation: $200 total
- Total Cost: $4,000
Rio is a world-famous destination, with the figures to show for it. “Rio de Janeiro and one of the most sought cities in Brazil for tourism purposes,” explains the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.
“Being one of the largest cultural and economic centers in the country, Rio de Janeiro is located in the southeastern region of Brazil, where 60% of the Brazilian GDP is concentrated.”
It sees 5 million tourists a year, of which 2 million are foreign. A huge proportion of these come during Carnival, which may just be the country’s biggest draw.
While it was shut down in 2021 and 2022, it is now in full swing once again and will doubtless return to its former glory soon.
How much glory, you say? According to Statista, “The number of tourists visiting the city of Rio de Janeiro for the Brazilian Carnival in 2020 surpassed the two million mark. In the 2019 edition of Carnival, Rio hosted 1.7 million tourists.”
Although “The largest number of tourists in the Brazilian famous destination were domestic visitors,” that only adds to the foreign charm for American visitors.
Again, though, you’ll want to make sure you can afford it all. From accommodations to flights, food to activities, transportation to tipping, let’s cover the basics so you can start making your budget today!
Rio de Janeiro Trip Cost: Average by Item
Calculating the average cost of a trip is always tricky, because people travel in so many different ways and have so many different priorities.
Making a budget is, therefore, a deeply individual process. It helps to know the baseline costs of the various categories, however, so that’s what we’ll take a look at now.
Rio is divided into many neighborhoods. Two of the most popular for visitors include Copacabana and Ipanema, both beachfront neighborhoods with an upscale vibe.
These play host to giant houses and enormous beachside resorts, but you can also find hostels and discount stays here. Hotels in these areas range from about $100 a night on up during the off season.
If you look for deals, you can find 4-star stays with free breakfast for about $160 a night, while a 2-star hotel at $110 will still have a pool and a reasonably well-appointed room.
If you’d prefer nicer lodging for the same price, try Centro and Lapa. They’re two of the best neighborhoods to stay if you’re on a tight budget.
Here, you can find nice hotels with rooftop pools and grand views for between $50 and $75 a night – but mind, those are still low-season prices. Want to travel during Carnival?
Plan to spend significantly more on lodging. Even for a modest hotel, you’ll spend $200 a night during the festival.
While you will pay less outside of it, lodging still costs more during Brazilian summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere), when many snowbirds take flight and many locals take their vacations.
Overall, budget an average of $150 a night to stay in Rio. You can substantially reduce this by coming in the off-season, staying in hostels, and avoiding Carnival.
The cost of flying from Los Angeles or New York to Rio de Janeiro is about the same, around $850 during the low season. During the high season, you’ll probably see price increases of a few hundred dollars – though maybe not, if you’re a smart price-shopper.
Keep in mind that if you’re not flying out of an international hub like Chicago, LA, NYC, or Miami, you’ll have to pay more as well – usually between $100 and $200. On average, therefore, expect a ticket to Rio to cost around $1,000 per person.
Before we get to food, drink, and activities, let’s answer one of the most common questions people have about traveling to Rio de Janeiro: what, exactly, is Carnival?
What Is Carnival?
Before we discuss the typical food and activities you might experience in Rio, let’s take a quick detour and talk about Carnival. Also spelled Carnaval, it is a week-long festival that leads up to the Catholic season of fasting, Lent.
You can think of it like Brazilian Mardi Gras. The holiday involves parades with giant floats and troupes of performers, street parties, masquerades, and galas.
If you know how to samba, you’ll find yourself right at home during Carnaval. If you don’t, the tuxedos and ball gowns still provide a beautiful backdrop against which to dance the night away.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
You can enjoy yourself in Rio on quite a tight budget without trouble. The beaches are free, as is admission to Tijuca National Park.
Admission to see Christ the Redeemer is about $20 for an adult, prices that reflect museum admissions as well. If you don’t care about beach life, Centro is a great place to stay to explore the culture and history of the city – and Brazil as a whole.
You’re downtown and within walking distance of science, natural history, and cultural museums. You’re also close to galleries, theaters, restaurants, and – as stated above – the more affordable lodging options.
The markets in Rio are incredible. Visit farmers markets for fresh food that you can prepare yourself at a hotel or room with a kitchenette.
Feira Hippie de Ipanema is a fun flea market, while Saara is a beautiful market full of oddities and housed in bright buildings.
Food is affordable, tours are cheap, and there’s no need to leave the city to find a week’s worth of pleasure, so you can easily spend $50 a day per person and be happy as a clam!
While Rio’s buses are cheap, they’re not the safest way to travel, says US News & World Report: “Apart from serving as a hot spot for pickpockets, city buses run throughout the city, including favelas (shanty towns).”
Taxis are, happily, quite affordable. “Depending on the destination and route, rates can range from $10 reais to $50 reais,” or about $2 to $10, the publication adds. “Keep in mind most Brazilian taxi drivers do not speak English.
We recommend that you write down your destination’s address to prevent confusion.” If you want to take the buses short distances during the day, that’s fine, as long as you know exactly where you’re going.
In general, we recommend setting aside $200 for transportation so you can take several taxis a day, if needed, including to and from the airport.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to Rio de Janeiro:
- Tipping is not routine in Brazil. At restaurants, staff usually add a 10-percent service charge to the bill in place of a tip. Check to see if it’s there, and if not, leave 10 percent (or more if your service was excellent). You can, of course, tip whomever you like, from taxi drivers to baggage handlers – it just isn’t expected.
- Eat per kilo. This buffet-style type of eating lets you pay by the kilo, so if you’ve got a big appetite, it’s a great way to save money!
- Almost all of Rio’s museums offer a free day, where you can visit without paying a dime. Check out the hours of operation and deals on each museum’s website.
- Bring a water bottle filtration system. The water isn’t safe to drink, and buying bottled water can really add up – not to mention it’s bad for the planet. Here are some of the best filtered water bottles on the market today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about budgeting your trip to Rio de Janeiro:
Should I go to Rio during Carnival?
Whether you go during Carnival is up to you! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who love to party, but you’ll pay for the privilege of being there when so many other people are competing for the same resources.
If you’re not a drinker, it’s probably best to skip the holiday and experience Rio’s natural beauty, food, and culture another time.
When should I visit?
Rio de Janeiro makes for an excellent vacation any time of year. When you go depends on what you want to see, whether you’re prioritizing weather or money, and if you’re anxious to go during Carnival.
The hot beach weather comes during Brazil’s summertime, from December through March. This is the highest rainfall period, so you may experience rainy days, though often some of the day will still be sunny.
This is a good time to enjoy indoor activities, such as spas and museums.
Summer (Northern Hemisphere winter) also plays host to Carnival, so make sure you’re okay with the rainy season if you want to visit during this action-packed time. Also note costs will be higher.
The “off” season in Rio runs from May through September, when fewer tourists visit the city. The exception is the month of July, when there is a long break from school and many families take their vacations.
If you travel in May, June, August, or September, you’ll see price breaks.
Bonus: spring and fall months are crisper, with less humidity and clear, expansive views of the city.
Is it safe in Rio de Janeiro?
Yes, Rio is safe, assuming you follow basic precautions. Risk of robbery and assault rise at night, on public transportation, and while alone, so be especially careful then.
Tourists should stay on the south side of the city – Zona Sul. Don’t go elsewhere unless as part of a guided group, don’t walk alone, and don’t look lost.
Even if you have no idea where you are, pull out your phone, call someone or pretend to talk on it, and walk determinedly so you appear less vulnerable.
Will I need a visa to go to Brazil?
Visa requirements were lifted in Brazil several years ago, but they are going back into effect on October 1, 2023. If you travel after that date, you’ll need both a passport and a completed visa. During the transitional period, you can learn more by contacting the Brazilian Embassy.
Where are the best neighborhoods to stay?
If you care about beach life, try the Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods. They’re spendier but close to the fun in the sun. If budget is your primary concern, then Centro and Lapa are great places to stay.
Located near museums and other cultural institutions, you’ll save money on both lodging and transportation to your points of interest.
Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$150 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$1,000 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$50 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$200 total|
|💲 Total Cost||$4,000|
The average cost of a one-week trip to Rio de Janeiro is around $4,000 for two people. Whether you come for a quiet off-season experience of beaches, jungle walks, and street fare, or make the trip during the bustling week of Carnivale, it’s well worth the money. Happy travels!