Carioca Nights

    Carioca Nights

    Talking to himself the old man whispered something
    I didn’t understand. And then he went away as if nothing
    had happened. My father despised me.
    By Brazzil Magazine

    Entertainment

    To find out what’s going on at night, pick up the Jornal do Brasil at any
    newsstand and turn to the entertainment section. On Friday they insert an entertainment
    magazine called Programa, which lists the week’s events.

    Nightlife varies widely by the neighborhood. Leblon and Ipanema have up-market, trendy
    clubs with excellent jazz. Botafogo has cheaper, popular clubs with more dancing and
    samba. Cinelândia and Lapa in the Center have a lot of samba and pagode and are
    also the heart of gay Rio. Try some of the bars around Sala Cecilia Meireles. Copacabana
    is a mixed bag, with some good local hangouts but also a strong tourist influence with a
    lot of sex for sale.

    Entertainment is less organized and more spontaneous in Rio than you’d expect. Much of
    Rio’s nightlife happens on the streets, in front of bars, in restaurants and anywhere
    outside with room to drink and sing. Most bars stay open until 4 am on busy weekend nights
    and to around 2 am other nights.

    Centro & Lapa

    Getting a taxi late at night in Lapa or Cinelândia isn’t a problem; there is also
    limited bus service all night long. You can catch buses to the zona sul along the Praça
    Mahatma Gandhi on Avenida Luis de Vasconcelos.

    Suburban Dreams, at Pedro Lessa 41, Centro, behind the Biblioteca Nacional, is a bar,
    open until very late, and right in the center. It’s the only thing open on the block. The
    suburbs referred to here are the poorer areas on the outskirts of the city. The bar is
    frequented by many gays, blacks and zona norte people. It’s a good change from the zona
    sul club scene but don’t bring too much money to this part of town late at night. There’s
    no cover charge.

    Café Bohemia is a vegetarian restaurant by day and has wild transvestite shows on
    Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. For a couple of dollars you get dancing and a very
    funny show if you can get by in Portuguese. It’s on Avenida Santa Luzia; turn right off
    Avenida Rio Branco. The show starts about 1 or 2 am.

    Bar Brasil in Lapa is an old bohemian hangout and is always lively. Some Cariocas who
    live in the zona sul only come into the center to go to Bar Brasil. Lapa is generally an
    interesting area to explore at night.

    Botafogo

    Cochrane, off Rua Voluntários da Pátria, is one of Rio’s more popular gay bars.

    Vaticano, Rua da Matriz 62, is a hip bar, popular with the arty Rio set.

    Copacabana

    Galeria Alaska, on Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, has a transvestite show and
    dancing and is a Center of gay Rio.

    Ipanema & Leblon

    Jazzmania (287-0085), on Rua Rainha Elizabeth, is Rio’s most serious jazz venue. They
    have more international stars than any other club, but also the best of Brazilian jazz.
    The club is expensive at around $10 cover on the weekend and a little less on weekdays.
    The music starts about 11 pm and goes late.

    People’s (294-0547), at Avenida Bartolomeu Mitre 370 in Leblon, is a posh club with
    some of the best names in jazz. To hear the great music you have to pay a $8 cover charge
    and endure the incessant smoking and talking from the snobby crowd. When it gets crowded
    the Yves St Laurent types seems to get in and seated, while the Lonely Planet crowd gets
    left at the door.

    There are several other expensive restaurants/clubs in Ipanema and Leblon, which have
    good jazz but look like a scene right out of Los Angeles or New York. Chiko’s Bar, at
    Avenida Epitácio Pessoa 560 on the lake, goes late and has no cover charge. Mistura Up,
    at Rua Garcia d’Avila 15, and Un Deux Trois (239-0198), at Rua Bartolomeu Mitre 123, are
    also popular.

    Lord Jim’s British pub is the place to go if you want to play darts. It’s at Rua Paul
    Redfern 63 in Ipanema. The Garota de Ipanema is at Rua Vinicius de Morais 49 and has
    lively, open-air dining. There are always a few foreigners checking out the place where
    Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were sitting when they wrote The Girl from Ipanema. A
    recent Brazilian Playboy survey rated its chopp as the best in Rio—a bold
    claim indeed, but who can resist a sample? The petiscos are delicious.

    The Zeppelin Bar, behind the Sheraton Hotel on Avenida Niemeyer, is a quaint bar and
    restaurant overlooking the ocean. It’s medium-priced with great live folk and pop music
    from Thursday to Sunday night. It has a very relaxed atmosphere.

    Our favorite bar is also Rio’s oldest. In a town that’s losing its traditions rapidly
    to modern Western schlock, Bar Lagoa has changed little. They tried to close it down to
    build a high-rise, high-tech, condo complex, but opposition was too strong. It’s open from
    about 7.30 pm to 3 or 4 am with food, drink and a loud Carioca crowd.

    Brazilian Dancing

    The following clubs have popular Brazilian music like samba and forró and Rio’s
    popular dance classes. You’re unlikely to find any tourists, or middle-class Brazilians
    there. If you want to learn about Brazil and dance, or just watch Brazilians dancing,
    these are the places.

    Pagode da Passarela has samba and pagode on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s
    very crowded because it’s affordable to almost everyone: $0.50 for women and $l for men.
    It’s in the center near Praça 11. Bola Preta (240-8049) is a big dance house with
    different types of popular music each night. They have serestas, roda de samba and pagode.
    The club’s right in the center, on Avenida 13 de Maio. Another good place to samba, but
    out in the suburbs, is Pagode Domingo Major (288-7297), at Rua Gonzaga Bastos 268, Vila
    Isabel. It’s probably a good idea to go with a Brazilian if you don’t speak Portuguese.

    If you’d rather not go into town, Clube do Samba (399-0892) is out in Barra at Estrada
    da Barra 65. They have samba and pagode Friday and Saturday nights, On Sunday you
    can get a feijoada there. This is a middle-class club, with admission costing about
    $8.

    Forró is the popular dance music of Brazil’s Northeast and there are plenty of
    Northeasterners in Rio going out dancing every weekend. We actually like the
    accordion-laced forró more than most of the current samba, and the dancing is a
    blast. A good club for forró is Estudantina (232-1149) at Praça Tiradentes 79,
    Centro. They go Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until about 4 am. The cover charge is
    $3.

    Samba Schools

    As early as October or November the samba schools begin holding rehearsals and dances,
    typically on Saturday night. These are generally open to the public for watching and
    joining in the samba. Almost all the escolas de samba are on the north side of town
    and, of course, things get going late, so you need a car or a taxi. Check with Riotur or
    the newspaper to get the schedules and locations. Each school has a quadra (club/arena)
    but they also hold rehearsals around town. The major schools’ addresses are:

    Portela

    Rua Clara Nunes 81, Oswaldo Cruz (390-0471)

    Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel

    Rua Coronel Tamarindo 38, Padre Miguel (332-5823)

    São Clemente

    Rua Assunção 63, Botafogo

    Império Serrano

    Avenida Ministro Edgard Romero 114, Madureira (450-1285)

    Mangueira

    Rua Visconde de Niterói 1072, Mangueira (234-4129)

    Beija Flor

    Rua Pracinha Wallace Paes Leme 1025, Nilópolis (791-2866)

    Império da Tijuca

    Rua Conde de Bonfim 1226, Usina da Tijuca

    Salgueiro

    Rua Silva Teles—Andaraí

    Big Shows

    Circo Voador under the Arcos da Lapa is a big tent with reggae, samba and trio elétrico
    music. The crowd is mostly from the north side. It’s one of my favorites and is very
    reasonably priced. They get many of the best bands from Bahia and São Paulo. Their Sunday
    night dance gets really crowded. It starts at 11 pm and goes till late. Cover charge is
    $3.

    Down the block is Asa Branca (252-0966). They have samba and pagode shows that
    aren’t especially for tourists, though they are staged shows. Scala, Plataforma I and Oba
    Oba have expensive Vegas-style shows with naked samba. Scala II has many top musicians
    like Gilberto Gil playing there these days. It’s a show house, flashy and artificial, but
    I’d go anywhere to see a Gil show.

    Pão de Açúcar has a regular performance of the samba school Beija Flor on Monday
    from 9 pm to 1 am. It’s expensive and touristy, but it’s samba. Carioca nights are held
    Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to 4 am. Mostly rock, but not always, the shows are not
    terribly expensive and are under the small pavilion on Morro da Urca—the first stop
    to Sugar Loaf. It’s a spectacular view.

    Canecão also gets the big stars of music. It’s right next to the giant Rio Sul
    shopping mall at the entrance to the Copacabana tunnel.

    Maracanãzinho is the smaller stadium next to Maracanã in São Cristóvão. The
    biggest shows, like Milton Nascimento, play there.

    Parque Catacumba, along the lake, often has free outdoor concerts on Sunday at 5 pm.
    Check the newspaper.

    Discos

    There are many discos with bright lights and loud music in the big city, but the hip
    venues change regularly—check out a copy of Programa. Interestingly, many of the
    discos have stiff dress codes and admission charges, designed in part to deter the many
    prostitutes who come to meet tourists. Some are even called private clubs and require you
    to pay $20 through a concierge at your five-star hotel in order to enter.

    Help calls itself the biggest disco in Latin America and no one seems to doubt it. It’s
    at Avenida Atlântica 3432 in Copacabana. Lots of drunken gringos seem to get robbed just
    outside. Calígula in Ipanema is where the rich and famous hang, out. The current favorite
    is Resumo da Opera; it’s in Lagoa at Avenida Borges de Medeiros 1426.

    Things to Buy

    Most stores are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm (some stay open even later).
    Saturday has half-day shopping, from 9 am to 1 pm. The malls usually open from 10 am to 10
    pm, Monday to Friday, and 10 am to 8 pm on weekends.

    Pé de Boi

    This store sells the traditional artisan handicrafts of Brazil’s Northeast and Minas
    Gerais, and it’s all fine work. There’s lots of wood, lace, pottery and prints. It’s not
    an inexpensive store; you have to buy closer to the source to get a better price, but if
    you have some extra dollars—$10 to $20 it a minimum—these pieces are the best
    gifts to bring home from Brazil: imaginative and very Brazilian.

    The small store is worth a visit just to look around. Ana Maria Chindler, the owner,
    knows what she’s selling and is happy to tell you about it. Pé de Boi (Bull’s Foot)
    (2854395) is in Botafogo on Rua Ipiranga 53. It is open Monday to Friday until 7 pm and on
    Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm.

    FUNAI

    Brazil’s Indian agency has a tiny craft shop at Avenida Presidente Wilson 16-A (it’s
    actually around the corner from the main entrance). Open Monday to Friday from 9 am to
    noon and 1 to 6 pm, the store has woven papoose (baby) slings for $5, jewellery from $0.50
    to $5 and musical instruments.

    Casa Oliveira

    This beautiful music store (222-3539) is at Rua da Carioca 70 in Centro—Rio’s
    oldest street. It sells a wide variety of instruments, including all the noisemakers that
    fuel the Carnaval baterias (rhythm sections), a variety of small mandolin-like
    string instruments, accordions and electric guitars. These make great presents and it’s a
    fun place to play even if you don’t buy.

    Malls

    Brazilians, like Americans, seem to measure progress by shopping malls. They love to
    shop at these monsters. Rio Sul was the first mall to maul Rio. There are all kinds of
    stores. The C&A department store has a good range of clothes and is inexpensive. Rio
    Sul is right before you enter the Copacabana tunnel in Botafogo, There are free buses from
    Copacabana. Barra Shopping, in Barra da Tijuca, is newer and bigger. It’s at Avenida das
    Américas, on the right as you drive south into Barra. It’s hard to miss! They’re about to
    build a tribute to Ayrton Senna out the front—a giant racing helmet.

    Bum Bum

    Since your bathing suit has too much fabric attached to the seams, resign yourself to
    buying a new one. Bum Bum is the trendsetter of the bikini world, and it knows it. It’s
    not cheap, but you’re paying for style not fabric. It’s in Ipanema at Rua Visconde de
    Pirajá 437. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of other boutiques that sell bikinis
    for less money but with just as little fabric. Ki-Tanga is a good example.

    Hippie Fair

    This is an arts and crafts fair, with many booths selling jewellery, leather goods,
    paintings, samba instruments and clothes. There is some awful stuff here and some that’s
    OK. Prices go way up during the peak tourist season and the air rings with the sounds of
    New Yorkers hunting down good buys.

    The fair takes place every Sunday at the Praça General Osório in Ipanema. But you can
    find the same items at Praça 15 de Novembro in Centro or at the northern end of
    Copacabana beach. If you’re just beginning to travel in Brazil, skip it.

    Nordeste or São Cristóvão Fair

    The Nordeste Fair is held at the Pavilhão de São Cristóvão on the north side of
    town every Sunday, starting early and going until about 3 pm. The fair is very
    Northeastern in character. There are lots of barracas (stalls) selling meat, beer
    and cachaça; bands of accordions, guitars and tambourines playing the forró;
    comedy, capoeira battles and people selling magic potions. It’s a great scene. of
    course there’s plenty to buy. Besides food, they have lots of cheap clothes, some good
    deals on hammocks and a few good nordeste gifts like leather vaqueiro (cowboy)
    hats. If you’re ready for adventure and have a car, it’s best to arrive the night before
    the market. This is set-up time and also party time. At about 9 or 10 pm the barracas open
    for dinner and beer. Some vendors are busy setting up, others are already finished. Music
    and dance starts, and doesn’t stop until sunrise. It’s great fun so long as you’re
    careful.

    Getting There & Away

    Air

    From Rio flights go to all of Brazil and Latin America. Shuttle flights to São Paulo
    leave from the conveniently located Aeroporto Santos Dumont, in the city center along the
    bay. Almost all other flights—domestic and national—leave from Aeroporto
    Galeão.

    Incoming visitors at Galeão pass through customs and then continue into a large lobby
    where there’s a tourist-information counter run by a private company called RDE which can
    arrange hotel and taxi reservations. The staff also try to palm off a `travelers passport’
    for the outrageous sum of $25, and attempt to pressure befuddled travelers with the
    argument that government regulations require purchase of this junk package. This is a load
    of nonsense and a blatant ripoff attempt.

    For more airline information read the book.

    Bus

    From Rio there are buses to everywhere. They all leave from the loud Novo Rio
    Rodoviária (291-5151 for information), Avenida Francisco Bicalho in São Cristóvão,
    about 20 minutes north of the center. At the rodoviária you can get information on
    transport and lodging if you ask at the Riotur desk on the ground floor.

    Excellent buses leave every 15 minutes or so for São Paulo (six hours). Most major
    destinations have leito (executive) buses leaving late at night. These are very
    comfortable. Many travel agents in the city sell bus tickets. It’s a good idea to buy a
    ticket a couple days in advance if you can.

    For complete bus schedules and information, read the book.

    Getting Around

    To/From the Airport

    All international and nearly all domestic flights use Galeão International airport, 15
    km north of the city center on Ilha do Governador. Aeroporto Santos Dumont is in the heart
    the city on the bay. It’s used for the São Paulo shuttle and some flights to a variety of
    other destinations like Porto Seguro or Belo Horizonte. You can take the same bus as for
    Galeão airport or get to the city and take a taxi, or simply walk to the airport from
    Centro.

    Bus—air-con

    There are two air-con airport bus routes operating from 5.20 to 12.10 am, every 40
    minutes to one hour (about $4). One route goes to the center and to Santos Dumont airport,
    the other route goes to the city center and along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema,
    Leblon, Vidigal, and São Conrado. The driver will stop wherever you ask along the route.
    On both routes, you can stop at the rodoviária if you want to catch a bus out of
    Rio immediately. If you want to catch the metro, ask the driver to let you off right
    outside the entrance to Carioca metro station.

    You can catch the bus on the 2nd floor (arrivals) of the main terminal, at the Galeão
    sign. The tourist desk inside the airport has schedule and price information. If you’re
    heading to the airport you can get the bus in front of the major hotels along the beach,
    but you have to look alive and flag them down. The bus company is Empresa Real. Galeão
    should be written on the direction sign.

    It is safer to catch one of these buses or take a taxi rather than a local bus if you
    have many valuables.

    Taxi

    Many taxis from the airport will try to rip you off. The safe course is to take a
    radio-taxi, where you pay a set fare at the airport. This is also the most expensive way
    to go. A yellow-and-blue comum (common) taxi is about 20% cheaper if the meter is
    working and if you pay what is on the fare schedule. A sample fare from the airport to
    Copacabana is $18 in a yellow-and-blue taxi versus $24 in a radio-taxi. If you’re entering
    Brazil for the first time, on a budget, a good compromise is to take a bus to somewhere
    near your destination and then take a short taxi ride to your hotel.

    Sharing a taxi from the airport is a good idea. Taxis will take up to four people. To
    ensure a little bit of security, before entering the taxi at the airport you can usually
    get a receipt with the license plate of your taxi and a phone number to register losses or
    complaints. If you’re headed to Leblon or Ipanema, the Tunnel Rebouças is more direct
    than the beach route.

    Bus

    The buses are a real mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good: Rio’s buses
    are fast, frequent, cheap and, because Rio is long and narrow, it’s easy to get the right
    bus and usually no big deal if you’re on the wrong one. The bad: Rio’s buses are often
    crowded, slowed down by traffic and driven by raving maniacs who drive the buses as if
    they were motorbikes. The ugly: Rio’s buses are the scene of many of the city’s robberies.

    Don’t carry any valuables on the buses. Don’t advertise being a foreigner, and do have
    your money ready when you enter the bus. Be particularly cautious if you’re boarding a bus
    in a tourist area. If you feel paranoid about something on the bus, get off and catch
    another.

    In addition to their number, buses have their destinations, including the areas they go
    through, written on the side. Nine out of 10 buses going south from the center will go to
    Copacabana and vice versa. All buses have the price displayed above the head of the money
    collector. The buses you need to catch for specific destinations are listed under
    individual sights.

    Train

    The train station, Estação Dom Pedro II, is at Praça Cristiano Ottoni on Avenida
    Presidente Vargas. To get there take the metro to Central station.

    Metro

    Rio’s excellent subway system is limited to points north of Botafogo and is open from 6
    am to 11 pm daily, except Sunday. The two air-con lines are cleaner, faster and cheaper
    than buses (discounts are offered with multiple tickets). The main line from Botafogo to
    Saens Pena has 15 stops, of which the first 12 are: Botafogo, Flamengo, Largo do Machado,
    Catete, G1ória, Cinelândia, Carioca, Uruguaiana, Presidente Vargas, Central, Cidade Nova
    and Estácio, which is common to both lines. At Estácio the lines split: the main line
    continues west towards the neighborhood of Andaraí, making stops at Afonso Pena, Engenho
    Velho and Tijuca, and the secondary line goes north towards Maracanã stadium and beyond.
    The main stops for Centro are Cinelândia and Carioca.

    Taxi

    Rio’s taxis are quite reasonably priced, if you’re dividing the fare with a friend or
    two. Taxis are particularly useful late at night and when carrying valuables, but they are
    not a completely safe and hassle-free ride. First, there have been a few rare cases of
    people being assaulted and robbed by taxi drivers. Second, and much more common, the
    drivers have a tendency to exaggerate fares.

    Here’s how the taxi is supposed to operate: there should be a meter and it should work;
    there should be a current tabela to determine the fare; upon reaching your
    destination, check the meter and look that up on the tabela, usually posted on the
    passenger window, which is used to determine the fare. Now, what to watch out for: most
    importantly, make sure the meter works. If it `doesn’t, ask to be let out of the cab. The
    meters have a flag that switches the meter rate; this should be in the number one position
    (20% less expensive), except on Sunday, holidays, evenings between 10 pm and 6 am, and
    when driving outside the zona sul (some taxis will switch to the high rate near the
    airport, which is legal). Make sure meters are cleared before you start (find out the
    current starting number). Make sure the tabela is original, not a photocopy. The
    taxi drivers that hang out near the hotels are sharks. It’s worth walking a block to avoid
    them. Most people don’t tip taxi drivers, although it’s common to round off the fare to
    the higher number.

    The meters are weighted towards distance not time. This gives the drivers an incentive
    to drive quickly (for a head rush tell your driver that you are in a bit of a hurry) and
    travel by roundabout routes. Taxis don’t always run during thunderstorms because
    alcohol-powered cars stall easily in the wet, but buses usually plough on ahead. It’s
    illegal for cabs to take more than four passengers. This is, of course, irrelevant except
    for the fact that most cabs won’t do it because of conventions of the trade.

    The white radio-taxis (260-2022) are 30% more expensive than the comuns, but
    they will come to you and they are safer.

    Car

    Car rental agencies can be found at the airport or clustered together on Avenida
    Princesa Isabel in Copacabana. There doesn’t seem to be much price competition between the
    companies. Prices are not cheap, at about US $70 a day, but they go down a bit in the off
    season. When they give prices on the phone the agencies usually leave out the cost of
    insurance, which is mandatory. Most agencies will let you drop off their cars in another
    city without an extra charge.

    Motorcycle

    Mar e Moto (274-4398) rents motorcycles but it is cheaper to rent a car. It’s in Leblon
    at Avenida Bartolomeu Mitre 1008.

    Walking

    For God’s sake be careful! Drivers run red lights, ran up on footpaths and stop for no
    one and nothing.

    Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
    Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more
    information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
    Used by permission.

    Buy it at
    Amazon.com

    Lonely Planet
    Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit

    by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
    Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
    704 pp.

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