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A Complete Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide - aerial view of Copacabana Beach
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Rio de Janeiro is one of the most alluring cities on the planet and Brazil’s top tourist destination. Aside from that, it’s also an excellent choice for remote workers, thanks to its attractions, climate, and nightlife. On this basis, here is a complete Rio de Janeiro digital nomad guide.

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Welcome to Rio de Janeiro: The World’s Most Fun-Loving City

Rio de Janeiro is the second-biggest city in Brazil and one of the most famous cities on the planet. 

First founded in the 16th century, Rio became the Portuguese imperial capital in 1808 when the nobles had to flee Lisbon from Napoleon’s invasion. As such, Rio de Janeiro was the only European capital not actually situated in Europe.

Brazil declared independence in 1822, and Rio remained the capital city of the new Brazilian Empire. In the 1960s, the Brazilian government decided to move the capital city to the center of the country, and international architects designed the new federal district of Brasilia. 

Even though Rio lost its status as the capital, it remained one of the country’s primary hubs. 

Every February, the city hosts the largest Carnival in the world. Aside from that, Rio is famous for various other international events such as the 1992 Earth Day Summit, the 2014 Football World Cup Final, and the 2016 Olympics.

Home to over 12 million people in its metropolitan area, Rio is a cultural and industrial powerhouse – but also an accumulation of extreme contrasts.

You’ll find pompous wealth as well as staggering poverty here. Unofficially, the city is home to over 600 favelas (informal neighborhoods built without permits). 

All in all, Rio is an incredibly intriguing place for digital nomads. Here’s why:

  • Few cities in the world compete when it comes to fun; 
  • The infrastructure is decent, and the Wifi is generally passable;
  • The cost of living isn’t low, but affordable compared to North America or Europe
  • The city has countless attractions and a world-renowned nightlife scene;
  • The climate is pleasant throughout the year and hot during some months; and 
  • You’ll find lots of fellow remote workers here. 

With these factors in mind, here is a complete Rio de Janeiro digital nomad guide covering all the bases. 

The view from Christ the Redeemer / Jack Roaming Instagram

The Best Neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro for Digital Nomads

Any Brazil digital nomad will wonder about the best places to live in Rio de Janeiro. In this context, here are the three best neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, as well as one offbeat option.

Copacabana

When it comes to the best area to stay in Rio de Janeiro, most people will immediately mention Copacabana. Its four-kilometer beach is one of the most famous in the entire world and genuinely iconic.

Copacabana is part of the Zona Sul, Rio’s wealthiest part. It’s also the most touristy area. Nevertheless, Copa (as locals it) still retains a lot of authenticity, and you’ll find the typical “botecos” (small, priceworthy bars) everywhere.

Copacabana is generally safe, and you’ll find a great mix of international tourists, Brazilian holidaymakers, and local Cariocas here.

All in all, Copa is arguably the best area to stay in Rio de Janeiro for first-timers.

Ipanema 

Further into the Zona Sul, Ipanema is more upscale and less crowded than Copacabana. Ipanema Beach is another world-famous location – and home to lots of luxurious hotels, bars, and restaurants.

If you want a bit more peace – and have a higher budget, you’ll probably enjoy Ipanema more than Copacabana.

Leblon

On the same beach as Ipanema, Leblon is another high-end district. 

You’ll find Rio’s elite as well as high-end entertainment venues here. The beach is marvelous, and the area is probably the safest in Rio. 

As a Rio de Janeiro digital nomad, you might find Leblon a bit too fancy, but that’s up to your preferences. 

Downtown Rio

Finally, we should mention Centro/Lapa (two adjacent neighborhoods) even though I can’t recommend anyone staying there. 

There are reasons to consider Downtown, but in my humble opinion, the negatives prevail. Here’s why.

Centro has lots of coworking spaces and things to do. Better still, this is the “real Rio,” afar from tourism and gentrification. It’s undoubtedly the most authentic part of Rio de Janeiro and home to countless markets. It’s also a lot more affordable than Zona Sul

However, you might have guessed it, Downtown and Lapa aren’t precisely safe neighborhoods. 

During the day, you’ll see lots of abandoned buildings as well as drug trafficking. And pickpocketing is rife. At night, muggings and violent robberies are common. 

The nightlife in Lapa is legendary, but you have to be super careful when partying here. During my month in Rio, five foreigners told me that they got robbed at night in Lapa, and their stories aren’t exceptions. 

In conclusion, if you’re a seasoned South America traveler – and believe that you can manage the risks, Centro and Lapa might be worth consideration. 

Cost of Living in Rio de Janeiro

Rio is the most expensive city in Brazil. Nevertheless, it’s still nowhere near what you’d pay in an American or Western European metropolis.

Here is a cost of living in Rio de Janeiro breakdown with one month of digital nomad expenses:

  • Airbnb in Copacabana: 900€ (more expensive than usual because I was here during Carnival);
  • Food and Drinks: 300€;
  • Transport: 100€ (my Ubers did add up in the end);
  • Tours and Activities: 50€;
  • Miscellaneous like hairdressers, coworking, and gym memberships: 50€.

Total Rio de Janeiro digital nomad budget: 1,400€ (~1,530 USD).

It’s essential to mention that I visited during Carnival, so I paid high-season prices for several entrance tickets. 

If you visit in high season, 1,5k USD per month should suffice as long as you don’t go to fancy restaurants too much. You can also save if you take local buses instead of Ubers.

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide - aerial view of Copacabana at sunset

Copacabana Beach at sunset

The Best Rio de Janeiro Coworking Spaces and Coffee Shops for Nomads

There is no shortage of well-equipped coworking spaces in Rio de Janeiro. You’ll also find a lot of cozy coffee shops, but the Wifi in these is hit or miss. That’s why I spent most of my time in Rio working in either Bar Flora (inside Selina) or in Coworking Town Copacabana

If you’re looking for more Rio de Janeiro digital nomad workspaces, here is a list of some of the best places in different areas. 

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide - sunset view of Leme and a favela

The contrasts of Rio de Janeiro

Activities and Places to Visit in Rio 

As a Rio de Janeiro digital nomad, you’ll have plenty of things to do when you’re not working. 

Here are some of the most unmissable places to visit in Rio. There are many more, but these are the top attractions to prioritize. 

Christ The Redeemer

Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World

Finished in 1931, the 38m (125ft)-high statue stands on top of Corcovado Mountain and offers breathtaking views over the city. 

You can access the site by tram (Corcovado Station). Another option is to take the vans that leave from Praca Lido in Copacabana.

Sugarloaf Mountain

The Pão de Azucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) is another unmissable viewpoint in Rio. The first gondola went up in 1913, and there are several levels.

From both levels (Urca and Pão de Azucar), the views over downtown Rio and Zona Sul are breathtaking. Come early in the morning or pre-reserve your sunset tickets as this spot is always packed. 

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide - Pao de Azucar seen from Urca

Pão de Azucar seen from Urca / Jack Roaming Instagram

Selaron Steps 

The Selaron Staircase is one of the most Insta-famous places to visit in downtown Rio. 

An artist named Selaron created this staircase with tiles from all over the world. Donors from over 120 countries gifted tiles to Selaron, and he put together an incredible piece of art. 

Like many locations in Rio, this spot is insanely crowded during the day, so be sure to come early.

The Best Museums in Rio de Janeiro

Rio has several top-notch museums. You’ll find most of them in the central area.

Some of the best museums in Rio de Janeiro include the Museo do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow), the Museo de Arte de Rio, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro

The Museum of Tomorrow in downtown Rio

The Best Beaches in Rio de Janeiro

There are innumerable beaches in Rio de Janeiro, but here are some of the most unmissable ones: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Leme. These are located in Zona Sul and are popular among tourists and locals alike. 

If you want a lesser-known beach, Praia Vermelha is an excellent spot close to the Pão de Azucar. 

The Royal Portuguese Reading Room

One of the most stunning colonial locations in Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Room).

Finished in 1837, it is today a public library and holds over 350k items. 

The Botanical Garden

Completed in 1808, the Botanical Garden is one of the best urban parks in Rio. 

There are hundreds of exotic plant species – as well as a soothing Japanese Garden. 

Consequently, if you’re looking for relaxing places to visit in Rio de Janeiro, the Jardim Botanico is a great place to wind down from all the partying. 

Maracana Stadium

The Maracana is one of the most legendary football stadiums on the planet.

Over 70 years old, the stadium hosted several historic games, including the 2014 World Cup Final and the 2016 Olympic Final. 

Football Matches

As you might know, football is a religion in Brazil. When games are on, you’ll notice people with jerseys and packed bars with customers glued to the TV. 

There are several high-profile teams in Rio, including Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo, and Vasco da Gama. Seeing a game is an incredible experience, especially if it’s a derby. 

Lapa and Downtown Rio

Lapa and Downtown are two areas with a bad reputation, and there are undoubtedly a lot of problems. 

However, the local government is trying to redevelop these areas with projects like the Museum of Tomorrow. Aside from that, downtown has lots of colonial architecture and some great coworking spaces.

Lapa is also known for its nightlife scene and Carnival parties. 

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide - Cityscape of Leme and Copacabana

Leme and Copacabana cityscape

Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide: Know Before You Go

To complete our Rio de Janeiro digital nomad guide, here are some FAQs and general things to know.

Wifi and Sim Cards

The Wifi in Rio Airbnbs and hotels is hit or miss. You’ll encounter world-class Wifi in coworking spaces and select coffee shops. 

Always check with your Airbnb host or landlord whether their Wifi meets your requirements.

In terms of Sim Cards, Claro offers 8 Gb of data for R$50. They have the best coverage in Brazil. If you’re on a budget, TIM is a cheaper option. 

Language

Brazil isn’t known for English proficiency. Even though Rio arguably has the best English levels in the country, you’ll still need some Portuguese to get around. 

As such, learning at least a few basic phrases in Portuguese is highly recommendable. 

The Best Time to Visit Rio de Janeiro

The Carnival happens at the end of February every year, and it’s one of the most incredible events on the planet. During that time, you’ll encounter higher prices and lots of crowds. 

The low season is between May and October, where you’ll encounter pleasant weather, better prices, and fewer crowds. It’s naturally not as hot, and you might have some rain, but the relative lack of tourism makes up for that.

December, January, and February are the peak season. If partying and sunbathing are your priorities, come in the Brazilian summer.

 

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How to Get Around Rio de Janeiro

Rio has an extensive metro and bus system, but these aren’t the safest or most comfortable options. 

If you’re carrying a lot of expensive gear, it’s better to take an Uber. You’ll get to most places in Zona Sul for less than 4 USD, and further out, you’ll pay between 5-6 USD. 

Is There a Brazil Digital Nomad Visa? 

As of 2022, you can stay in the country for up to one year with a Brazil digital nomad visa. The conditions include health insurance, working for a foreign company, and meeting minimum income requirements of around 1,5k USD per month. Find more info on the Brazil digital nomad visa here.

Any other Rio de Janeiro digital nomad will need a 90-day tourist visa if they aren’t part of the exemptions (most countries in the Americas and Europe). Find more info on Brazil’s tourist visa policy here

Rio de Janeiro Safety 

One of the primary doubts that many Rio digital nomads have concerns safety. 

In truth, Rio isn’t the safest city on the planet, but you can manage 99% of the city’s dangers with a few simple rules:

  • Do not walk around at night unless it’s a busy area in one of the better neighborhoods; 
  • Guard your belongings carefully, especially on the beaches. I almost got pickpocketed on Copacabana just because I turned my head away from my bag for two seconds. Luckily, I reacted fast enough, and the thief didn’t manage to snatch it. 
  • Keep your belongings in a theft-proof sling bag. I recommend the PacSafe VentureSafe Sling Pack or the Vibe Cross Body Pack. Both have served me well all over Central and South America.
  • If you want to visit a favela or an unknown neighborhood, ask locals and find a local guide. 
  • If you decide to party in Lapa, only take an old cell phone and bills. The same is advisable for Carnival parties.


Rio de Janeiro Digital Nomad Guide: Conclusion

I absolutely loved my time in Rio de Janeiro. 

The city has its downsides, and the contrasts are mind-blowing, but it’s also one of the most exciting and beautiful places on the planet. 

In my view, the primary disadvantage is that Rio isn’t a place where you’ll get a lot of work done. There is simply too much of a party, fun, and beach atmosphere here. If your priority is completing a critical project, São Paulo might be a better digital nomad destination.

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