Tips for PUC Rio
Rio is amazing, and you will probably have the best experience of your life while studying there. However, you need to be careful, and hopefully my advice can help you avoid some of the situations that I encountered.
-Do not hang out on the beach late at night, you’ll be robbed at gun-point.
-Do not walk around late at night either, if you have to then walk fast! Uber is really common there and very cheap so take an Uber!
-The only favela you should go to visit is Vidigal, but do not live there! Loads of PUC international students decide to live there, and after a few months, something unsafe happens and they all have to move.
-Watch/read the news on your phone (learn Portuguese asap), it will tell you if drama is going on in the favelas, and places to avoid. [When I was there, there was a gun-war and we had random gunmen who took over the area around the school and Joatinga].
-Always carry valuable items in your underwear. Even when you think it is safe, there is a pick-pocketer somewhere watching you. I was robbed so many times because I left my bag unattended at the beach or my phone in the small pocket of my bag (someone literally opened the pocket and took it out while I was walking).
-You should withdraw money from Bradesco, there are no withdrawal fees. HOWEVER, the Bradesco located in Copacabana on Rua Santa Clara is compromised. Me and my friends who used an ATM there all ended up having our cards copied. If you do end up a victim of fraud, don’t panic: your parents will be able to send you money using Western Union- you go there with your passport to pick up the cash.
-You can take an Uber from the airport- there is wifi there, go to the second floor and I think you have to go to Terminal 2 (you can ask someone at the airport “oi, to procurando o lugar pra pedir um uber, ce sabe onde esta?”).
-Lay on your bag if you take it to the beach. If not, someone will run by and grab it while you’re not paying attention.
-There are some safe parts of Rio. Recreio is awesome and safe, as is Barra. Recreio is also great for surfing. You can take the metro to Barra, or a bus from a stop along the beach to go to Recreio.
-Don’t rely on the bus to take you to school. It is almost always late. Try to get a bike, but be careful with the cars and stay in the bike lane when possible (they drive like maniacs).
-VEGANS: you will find vegans in Rio, but it is very uncommon, and so expensive to buy vegan alternatives. (There are also festivals and events showcasing vegan alternatives.) I suggest you go to Hortifrutti to buy Soy Protein, which is not expensive. There are also so many fruits and veggies there. Just be prepared to not eat as well as you can in the US, and also bring any vitamins with you (they are so expensive in Brazil).
-The cheapest grocery store is Mundial. It’s crazy when you take a visit to Mundial! Completely jam-packed full of people but very cheap. I went there every week, and they don’t accept international cards so always go with cash. You will need 60-100 reais to shop for the whole week depending what you buy.
-I paid pretty much everything in cash, not many places accept international cards (apart from shopping centers). So go prepared, make sure your bank is prepared for you to use international ATMs.
-TRAVEL! As much as you can. Go up to Buzios and Arraial do Cabo at some point (Air BnB is great). Travel to Bahia, and if you have money/time, go to other countries in South America. A really cool place I visited is Itacare in Bahia. It is also interesting to go to places like Sao Paulo and Curitiba, because they are so developed and it literally feels like you’re back in the US.
-You can always take a bus to travel. If airlines are too expensive (this is usually the case) and you are travelling to a state that is quite close like Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Curitiba etc., you can take a travel bus for about 150 reais return. It takes ages but it is cheap (it took me 10 hours to get to Minas Gerais). You just search in google "Onibus Rio de Janeiro a (location)". You probably won't be able to buy the ticket online with your card, so try to find a Brazilian friend who will let you use theirs, or go to the actual bus station and pay there in cash.
-Contact me! If you need help with anything, I probably have the answers. I also have loads of friends still in Rio/ lots of friends all over Brazil.