Before coming to Brazil, I had seen reports on TV about the "Favela Tours" in Rio. They were very critical about it. When I arrived in Rio, I was working in a travel agency that would sell this kind of tours (among others). I was very curious to do myself and when my aunt came to visit me in Rio I decided to test the tour. My aunt was very reluctant but i finally convinced her.
We were very pleasantly surprised about it. The tour takes you to Rio's biggest favela called "Rocinha" and a smallest one called "Vila Canoas". The group is small and the guide is very well known and accepted by the favela's inhabitants.
Rocinha is quite fascinating because you realize that it is a city inside the city, with its own hospital, schools, cyber cafe and even...a Mc Donald ! You'll also be able to see some of the projects developped in Favela : painting or crafts for the kids and also a community school.
The guide will give you a good explanation of the favela's situation, with it's good and bad sides (drug traffic, gangs war...). But the people in general are very friendly, and happy that some people come to actually see them. Because they suffer from a very bad reputation. I think that visiting the Favela is very important to understand Rio. Because the Favelas are everywhere, but many people talk about it without never having been there (even the locals).
Of course, YOU SHOULD NEVER GO THERE BY YOURSELF. OK ? But you can totally go if for example you're invited by a friend that lives there. If you don't, the Favela Tour is a good option. I've heard that there are many tours now. But the first one and probably the best one is the one organized by Marcelo Armstrong.
the kids here at a nursery I went to, are looked after from the money that the tour makes, if the tour wasnt there, then what would happen to these children, some of them come from really young mothers some only 13 yrs old so without this nursery some of these children may not eat or be looked after properly.
Many people are often hesitant to do a "tour" in the favelas thinking that they will leave the people who live there feeling like zoo animals or a tourist attraction, but I can promise you that we do nothing of the sort! Part of our mission is to break down stereotypes about what life is like inside a favela, and most importantly, to show that although we give "tours", favelas are most definitely not a tourist attraction... meaning they were not built for your entertainment, so when you come with us, we try not to treat you like tourisits, but visitors.
We bring you there not in a private bus, or car, but using the public transport like anyone else. You arrive as guests, family, to visit our home- or my husband's I should say.
My husband Rodrigo, grew up in Rocinha, the biggest favela in South America where we give our visits and he shows you around the the points of interest, as well as to pass by friends and family to show you what life is really like, not take you on a "safari" like some other companies that pass through.
I know you might think, hey you are just advertising here, so take one of our visitor's word for it, here is a link to his blog about his experience with CARIOCAFREECULTURE.COM
You just can't skip the favelas when you come to Rio, they are such a deep part of what it means to be carioca and have grown up here, whether you grew up in the favelas or not.
One more thing to add.. Where does the money go? To your guide- a favela resident... as a person who grew up in the favela, trying to make a living doing something meaningful, and not working for the poverty minimum wages here in Rio that keep the classes still so divided today...
We also do what we can to give back to our communities. Take a look at our recent project :
Safe and happy travels!
The poor live in the colourful slums (favelas)that cling to the hillsides or in the gloomier ones on the swamps.
Heavy tropical storms sometimes cause landslides and wash houses away.
Don't leave Rio without having seen a favela-oil drums, bright blue walls, spiritist statues, corrugated iron, banana trees, washing lines, kids flying kites...
You will be haunted by Rio's strange sounding church bells, its mists rolling in from the sea and its beautiful people.
Kids are Kids even in Favela, some play, some are on the look out for the gangs, but most just play.