Accommodation Fraud: Rio de janeiro, Brazil
After being awarded a research fellowship at a policy institute in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, I was provided with some 'recommended' rental agencies as I needed accommodation for one month while I was conducting research. I chose to contact the company RIOTEMPORADA as they had what seemed to be reasonable prices (seehttp://www.riotemporada.net/?lang=en) and it was one of the only only agencies able to communicate in English.
I contacted the agency requesting information on apartments falling within my budget. They replied quite quickly, offering an apartment for R$ 2900 for the month. I was informed by the research institute that this was a good price for a "beachfront" apartment.
A contract was forwarded to me and, despite creating the impression that English would not be a problem in communication, it was entirely written in Portugese. As a lawyer I was not prepared to sign a contract I could not understand, but they did not have an English contract. I used Google translate to assist and sent the contract to the institute to request assistance with understanding the terms. It seemed fine.
in order to secure the accommodation I was requested to pay half the rental fee one month prior to arrival. Knowing that I needed decent accomodation, and there was not much time, I sugned the contract and sent the money via Western Union. I was then informed that the flat I had requested was not available and was given another address in a classic bait-and-switch.
After a very long trip from South Africa via Sao Paolo, my mother and I arrived at the apartment just before midnight as flights had been delayed. A man was there representing the company and requested the balance of the rent payment and a R$ 2000 deposit. I paid these amounts and receipts were issued, with an undertaking that the deposit would be returned when I leave the apartment, unless I had damaged the property and so on. The usual. This is when the nightmare began:
1. The flat was dirty and tiny, with no kettle, a broken microwave oven, faulty air conditioner, cracked window, and no telephone or cable TV (as indicated in the contract).
2. It was not a beachfront apartment and did not loom anything like the photographs posted for the flat I had originally chosen for the same amount of money;
3. Although I left at 6 am on the morning of departure, they were insisting that I pay for an extra day at 138 USD;
4. The company refused to come to the apartment on the evening before my very early departure to check the lights, water and gas;
5. Despite a coomitment to meet with me at the flat at 6 am on the day of my departure, no-one arrived. After waiting for 45 minutes, I had to leave for the airport without my deposit being returned to me. i had not choice but to leave the key to the apartment with the doorman;
6. Upon my return to South Africa, I contracted the company to request the return of the deposit. This was a week before Christmas. Promises were made ro deposit money into my account via Western Union.
7. Since then no money has been returned and communication has ceased, after again switching from a clear understanding of English to communication only in Portugese.
This agency has acted in a dishonest, unethical and criminal manner and I would warn people not to use their services.
Unique Suggestions: I have requested assistance from the research institute in Rio as well as the Rio "tourist police" with a kind of shrugging of the shoulders attitude in return. This is common of my experience in Rio, with a veneer of helpfulness that overlies a non-committal, lazy attitude. Language is used to erect barriers when convenient and foreigners are seen as easy targets for over-charging and short-changing.
I assume that its a wonderful place for a holiday on the beaches, it is really very beautiful, but working there is another matter altogether! Go prepared for frustration , from buying groceries to trying to get medicine at the pharmacy for an eye infection.
I do not see this city being ready to host the soccer world cup in 2014. Its not tourist friendly, even at tourist spots like corcovada and sugar loaf mountain (be prepared to be ripped off).
Fun Alternatives: Because of the fact that it is difficult to get good service except at ridiculously expensive "five star" hotels, I have no idea of what the alternatives are, other than to have a reliable contact in Rio.
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Airport/Bus Station Taxi Drivers
I have posted in my blog a few tips to avoid get skemed by the airport taxi driver´s and a good way out of it.
I can tell you DO NOT PAY pre-charged rides... only pay by the clock. When you land on Rio´s International Airport/Bus Stations there will be some taxi companies offering taxis… don’t take those... it is VERY expensive. They will charge you R$100 for a R$30 ride.
Fun Alternatives: What I tell people to do is: instead of taking a cab on a arrival floor (lower floor) you go to the departure floor (higher floor). When a taxi stops to drop off a passenger you get in, and ask you him the ride will be on the clock. (“Cobrança no taxímetro?”) most of the taxis (in that situation) agree on that. Because, they are not allowed to stop there, or they pick you or they are ridding empty all the way to the city on a express way.
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Finally Carnival has gone!
There are only 2 things why to enjoy Carnival:
1) World's greatest party with the wide holiday (5 days in Rio and 240 days in Salvador).
2) Beautiful women almost naked!
But on the other hand, there are a lot of reasons for hating:
1) Men dress female clothes and go street for showing their ridiculous, disgusting and hairy legs.
2) Copacabana becomes a noisy, crowded and dirty place.
3) The unharmonious and screamed samba sang on the streets is very far from a good samba, what you by the way enjoy.
4) Alcoholic drinks without any criteria, car accidents, murders and fights.
Unique Suggestions: You have to move your trip to Brazil until the end of February.
Fun Alternatives: If you have already seen a Carnival parade once, you have already seen all. It is the same every year.
i should just write a page on either how stupid i am or how dishonest brazilians can be. just because laundry is cheap to do in the states does NOT mean it's cheap in brazil. and just because you are going to a professional business to DO business does not mean they are honest.
when we took our laundry across the street from the apt. we had rented in copa, we thought, hey, there's no place to do it ourselves so why not just have it done professionally?
well, we had ONE load washed and it was around $30. for ONE LOAD (which we didn't know until after it was done... yes, we should have asked first) we just piled our beautifully folded shirts into our suitcases and went on our way until we opened our bags up again in our next destination to realize they had ripped off about four or five articles of clothing.
p.s. i did a google search to find a photo of a nerdy guy standing alone without clothes (i searched "naked nerd") and all that came up was a bust shot of a nerd and a photo of a woman with huge breasts and glasses. but i think you get the idea. you'll be standing there like an idiot without clothes.
Unique Suggestions: be sure you know what your laundry weighs and how many articles of clothing you have before it's washed. find out what the cost is ahead of time.
Fun Alternatives: do it yourself.
When you get through the final customs check with your bags and exit into the main airport you'll see a row of 4 or 5 kiosk all with ladies in them waving at you. They are selling tickets for taxis and also exchange currency. AVOID THEM! We paid $R80 for a taxi to Ipanema. When we got a yellow taxi from the hotel to the airport it was only $R40! During our stay, we found out that the yellow taxis are really cheap - and there are hundreds of them, so no worries about trying to find one.
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The speedo swim suit myth
So after reading many VT'ers and guidebooks profess the absolute absurdity to wear boardshorts (aka american style...long swim suits) I was resigned to buying a teeny weeny man bikini upon arrival.
But to my astonishment, and delight, lots of folks were wearing good old boardshorts...yes even Brazillians. How do I know this? Because I heard them speaking Portugese. The real thing I noticed that gave away the gringo status was the pale skin and laying on a hotel towel (2 things I did NOT do)
Now truth be told, there were more men wearing the bikini bottom on Ipanema than not, but I certainly didnt feel like I stuck out. In fact, after 6 full days on the Ipanema beach I hit the surftown of Saquarema where I barely saw any bikini styled bottoms. It was board short city!!! So, if you want to wear one to try it out, great. But dont get stressed out that you absolutely have to buy a pair for fear of ridicule. Board shorts work just fine, obrigado!!!
Rio Hiking offers tours around Rio and in areas surrounding areas. I booked one of these tours and after I woke up at 6 am to go to Ilha Grande, nobody showed up to take us. Apparently when they couldn't reach us on our cell phone at 10 pm the night before, THEY CANCELLED OUR TOUR. (We didn't answer because we were at a football game). Do not use this service unless you want to wake up at the crack of dawn on vacation for no reason.
Unique Suggestions: Have a working cell phone that you answer all the time.
Fun Alternatives: Rio Adventures is a much more legitimate and responsive agency. I would definitely use them instead!
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DIFICULT TO UNDERSTAND
Most of my friends from other countries and also many visitors before coming here that might have heard something about FAVELA TOUR.
I think when you come to Brazil you first think about having fun in the beach, getting mixed with people doing good things like chill out, go shopping, going to the beach, meeting friends, visiting beautiful nature spots. We actually never travel to see poverty and also to experience daily life with people who live under the fear.
We all know that 98% of te hills in Rio are Favelas...I mean SLUMS..or poor Barrios as they say in Mexico, they are controlled by drug dealersand in some hills the POLICE never enter.
Some tour agencies organize excursions to some famous Favela in the city, they pay the Favelas to have safety provided...guess to whom this money is going????
THAT IS WHY I SEE WITH VERY BAD EYES THIS DAFT IDEA!
So if you want to see poverty you must be a health volunteer to work with the DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS IN AFRICA..if you want to see poverty in brazil it is better to be at home watching TV...because if you come to see the real favelas in a FAVELA TOUR you will be giving your money to sponsor these GANGSTER to continue giving terror for the poor population who is forced to live under their laws and horror.
Unique Suggestions: Just to not go to the Favelas...why the risk of getting a bullet in the head..everyday there is always a cross fire, a real war between gangs, and sometimes the Police go to the Favela for the sake to put some order and trying to defeat these drug dealers!
I do not have anything about drug users but I wonder that the money used to buy drugs is the money which bus a bullet that kills an inocent child who is playing in the Favela.
Fun Alternatives: Rio is facing a cruel war against violence, and the violence exist most of the time in the suburbs and also in the Favelas, the society is responding these crimes by protesting, using the midia to tell who is who in the Trafico and going to the street to claim for their rights to b protected!
FAVELA TOURS in a way help the LOCAL MAFIA to survive and impose their LETHAL DICTATORSHIP in many poor zones of the city!
So instead of going to a Favela, just travel to our countryside and find real needing poor village and buy them food, they will welcome you with a smile in the face and they wil probably invite you to join for lunch, then you will have a genuine brazilian experience!
LOTS OF GOSSIPS
Maybe before you choose Rio to travvel many people will tell you that Rio is dangerous, do not even put your feet on the floor because you can be mugged anytime..avoid some places at night because people can rape you, do not take cameras to the ebach because you will not have any pictures to tell your friends that you have been to the Tropics...You will see violence everywhere, riots and massive poverty. LOTS OF BLA BLA BLAS...
If you really be afraid of it you will never leave your house, right???
In fact, Rio is a big urban centre like any other in the World with some social problems like crime and poverty, but not really in the tourist areas...problems can happen but just do not play the fool strolling around in the street with expensive belongings, and act positive that nothing is going to happen with you!
The beaches in a way are well patrolled and the local society is reacting against crime by protesting in the media and demanding high quality in the city's security.
Sometimes the midia OVER REACTS and the dangerous areas of Rio are in the suburbs and when you come to Rio you will not see in a Favela or be hosted in a Favela, so do not worry...
Come to Rio with no fear and you will find out lovely people always ready to help you!
THE MIDIA ITSELF CAN BE YOUR FIRST TOURIST TRAP, so come with your own judgement and tell others that Rio is no problem.
Unique Suggestions: Try to go out with locals and make good friends while you are in Rio, always try to get in touch with people who really knows the place and try to meet atleast someone who speak good english which is quite hard to find in many services in the city!
Lots of traps on the way to the Christ
If you have a car in Rio and decided to go up to the Corcovade mountain to see the statue of Christ, you might end up being exposed to couple of well-equipped trap-guides on the way. Once you exist from the Corcovade exist from before the tunnel, you will end up at a crossing where you will pass under a bridge. There you will see guides with green tshirts (very clever) jumping in front of your car and trying to urge you not to keep on with the car.
If you stop, they will kindly introduce theirselves as authorized guides, show logos on their tshirts, open their guide books to orient you about the place and provide prices. They might tell you that "cars not allowed from this point on", there has been crime cases where the police has banned car travel etc. Final case will end up with an offering of bus trip up and down, 36R per person!
Keep on and when you come to another crossing half-way to the top, you might see the red tshirt guides who will also ask you to guide you on the way. These are, my guess, are local kids trying to grasp a share of tourist wallet. They are not that well equipped and ask for a favor-like contribution to have them into your car and provide local guidance on the obvious.
Unique Suggestions: When you come to the first green tshirt guides, first thing I would do is not to stop, kindly greet and keep on.
If they stop you, you can kindly listen to the initial conversation, say that you will drive up yourself and know that it is actually allowed.
In case they come up with "new regulations by the police" and "no access to the cars", ask why there is no gate there!!!
Fun Alternatives: If all these doesn't work, simply be tough to say thank you, ignore the guys and follow the path. You will come to a car park area, leave the car, pay 2R, take a minibus to the top (which is 10R per person and takes about 10 min by drive. It is almost 2,5 to 3 km uphill so don't go up walking anyway) and enjoy the view.
Fafela Tours are definately a tourist trap. Although they claim to be completely safe (since the druglords are paid a fee to let you in) there is absolutely no guarantee to your safety due to gang rivalries (gangs attack favelas "run" by other gangs in disputes to take over the drug trade in the area) and police actions. People die on a daily basis in Favelas on acount of gang and police actions.
The other big problem is that these tours pay the druglords a fee to guarantee the safety of the tourists. This fee is used to maintain drugtraffic.
Unique Suggestions: Just don´t go.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative.
TAM Airlines Sucks
TAM Airlines is one of the main airlines that services Iguassu Falls but to not use them. My flight from Buenos Aires was suppost to leave at 8:00 AM but when I arrived at the airport at 6:50 AM the TAM agent informed me that they had neglected to inform me that the flight was now at 7:00AM! Instead of working with me to get me there or refunding me my money they simply told me I would have to find another carrier if I wanted to go that day! Luckly Aerolineas Argentinas saved the day with a flight to the Argentine side of the falls where I took a cab to my hotel on the Brazillian side.
Save money on football at Maracana
We went to a football game at Maracana. First of let me say it was amazing!!!! Second we paid 80Reals per person, that included transportation to/from hotel and the ticket to the game. We found out later that the actual ticket was 5Reals! And there are no seat assignments, so you sit where you want. So if you have a few people, better off taking a taxi, even if after the game the taxi will be more expensive than usually. But, in any case, did I mention that the game and the stadium spirit were amazing :)!
Order trip from local agencies
We ordered one trip online just because I did not want any problems the first day I arrived to Rio (Sugerloaf and Corcovado Tour). It was no surprised that I overpaid substantially. My hotel offered the same trips at much lower prices. Better yet, some guys on the beach gave us fliers (it was easy to see that we were tourists), the prices were even lower. The expensive trip that we booked was not that great - the tour guide did not explain much, so it was mostly for transportation and take-pictures-for-the-next-hour tour. So we would be better off if ordered from a local agency.
Drinks on the Beach
Cuidado, com os vendedores dos quiosques da praia, sempre pergunte o pre?o antes de comprar algio ou abrir uma conta num quiosque ou barraca, por que se perceberem que voce e turista, eles vao cobrar muito mais caro.
Be very carefull, with the guys on the beach who sell dirnks an rent chairs, always ask how things costs before buying or opening a tab, be aware that a "Caipirinha" should not cost you more than R$6, and a beer should not cost more than R$ 2,50, an order of fries R$10, or some fried fish, should not cost more than R$ 30. so be aware and carefull.
Atencion para los precios de las bebidas y comidas en la playa, se saben que sos turista, te cobran mucho mas caro, asi que, los precios medios para 2006 son, para una cerveza en lata, R$2,50, Caipirinha, R$6,00, Papas Fritas R$10,0 y Pescado frito R$30, Si te cobran mas que esses precios va a otro kiosco.
Unique Suggestions: Fale para o vendedor que voce sabe o valor das coisas, e nunca abra contas.
Tell the guy who?s selling to you, that on the day before, some other guy sold you the drinks cheaper, and never, never open tabs, always pay for the drinks when you buy it
Cuente a los vendedores que sabeis los precios de las cosas, le comente que en el dia anterior he pagado los precios justos y siempre abone en el momento de la compra, nunca tenga cuentas.
Fun Alternatives: A unica alternativa ? comprar um isopor e levar a cerveja pra praia.
The only alternative is to buy a cooler, and take your own beer to beach. But don?t forget to pick up you garbage afterwards
Compre un cooler y cervezas y en el supermercado, y las lleve para la playa, mucho mas economico, pero nunca se olviden de llevra su basura
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