i had an eight hour lay over in rio one time and i just took a bus to copacabana directly from the airport. the bus swung all throughout rio (not through the favela) so i got to see a lot more than i would have seen by taking a cab directly to copa.
there are favela tours and general sight seeing tours, although i cannot vouch for any particular company. a simple internet search led me to this one:
here's info about having a personal driver:
i'll connect you with a vt memeber who knows a lot about brazil and you can email him directly. let me get his exact spelling down on the username and i'll re-post.
A jeep tour is a nice alternative to a regular sightseeing tour in Rio de janeiro and they are quite cheap too.
They have various kind of tours and the guides i have met when there were very good and english speaking.
I went on a trip where we visited the Corcovado, Coacabana, the Tijuca forest and Santa Teresa and i thought the trip was very good value for money.
Just please remember to tip the guides and drivers when you go on the tour as they rely very heavily on tips and the tour is cheap anyway.
Brazil Expedition was recommended to me by the Mango Hostel. I dont usually do tours in most places but with its sometimes questionable reputation abroad , I thought it was worth checking this tour out. My first tour was the Carioca Expedition that included Christ the Redeemer, Santa Tereza, Tijuca Forest among others and for the price (70 Reals) I can say it was worth every cent. Not only was my guide amazing (so so friendly and down to earth) but knew everything about Rio De Janeiro. After the success of my first tour , I decided to go to a football match at the world famous Maracana Stadium with other backpackers. It was one of the most amazing things I have done in the world thus far and this company is absolutely legit, safe and entertaining and I wish them the best of luck :)
After a ride of one hour you can reach the fishing village Itacuruçá, located about 90 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro.
This is the boarding point for the tropical islands schooner cruise. The welcome befor boarding is a sampling of the Brazilian national drink: Caipirinha. The recipe is simple, the taste divine: cachaça (made from sugar-cane), lime, sugar and crushed ice.
From Itacuruça, you take a Saveiro, that looks like a schooner and cruise through the beatiful Ilha Grande Bay.
With the sun shining above you, and the turquoise sea below, you can see a myriad of islands around. However, you should consider the weather, as the trip can easily be ruined by rain.
At one of the islands a buffet-lunch, enriched with fresh seafood has been served. Beverages during lunch are not included in the price. After lunch you have a couple of hours to relax, and enjoy the beach. The resort where we stopped for lunch provided great food, and it was completely deserted, which was fantastic. It was really nice in any case. The excursion allow you to see some of the coast south of Rio, so if you are interested, definitely choose it.
Don't forget to bring along beach-wear and beach-towels and sun-protection is highly recommended, because the sun can be intense for a long day out.
After this the schooner sails back to the mainland. Tour includes the transfer to/from your hotel by bus.
Pink Fleet is a unique nautical tourism proposal which unites glamour, comfort and safety in several differentiated services. A ship equiped with the most advanced nautical tecnology, which tours at Rio de Janeiro coast.
Departing from its exclusive pier in Marina da Glória, Pink Fleet provides to its passengers a new look at the Wonderful City. A Pink Fleet look.
Much more than a ship. Pink Fleet is a floating entertainment space, equiped with th e most advanced nautical tecnology. 180 feet long, 4 decks, 6 areas, 450 passengers and 50 crew members. A structure specially designed for tourism, gastronomy, entertainment, events and to do business.
Carioca Expedition! This tour lasts from 10:00 AM to about 4:00 PM. A good way to kill a day. It's about R$65,00 for the tour. You start off, depending on how the weather was before, either with a visit to a waterfall in Tijuca Forest (rainy the day before) or with a hike to Pedra Bonita (sunny the day before). I was given the waterfall route since when I was in Rio it rained a lot. The next part takes you to Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado. This is how I got to see Christ a second time (although the 2nd time I didn't enjoy it as much only because of the HUGE crowds and my friends weren't with me this time but I still LOVED coming to Cristo Redentor ^_^ ). Your time at Corcovado and Christ isn't long, about 20-30 minutes so snap all the pics you can! Next you're taken to an optional lunch (you have to pay) in Santa Tereza neighborhood at a local place. From there the last part of the journey takes you to the Escardaria Selaron, a set of stairs made from tiles from all over the world! This capped off my trip to Rio because this was one of the last things I had wanted to see (the other being Maracana but I couldn't go due to money/time issues, but there's next time). Pick up and drop off are at your front door so no need to worry! I highly recommend this if you want to see a lot of Rio in a day.
All of the reports about the dangers of Rio encouraged me to spend a little extra money and hire a guide for one of the days we were in Rio. I saw the company we used, Brazil Expeditions, recommended in Lonely Planet (listed as South America Experience in there but I was redirected to this website). Our guide, Wilson, was affable, knowledgable and delivered the tour just as stated on the website.
We opted for the Carioca tour which included a hike in Tijuca Park to the top of Pedro Bonita, followed by the option of going hang gliding (we didn't do this), after which we voted to go have lunch in Santa Teresa and then to the top of Corcovado to see the statue of Christ.
The price was 85 reals per person, slightly more than the advertised price of $35 listed on the website. For this particular trip, be sure to bring along good hiking shoes (tennis shoes preferable), water, sunblock and wear light colored clothes preferably shorts and a light top.
OK, this in the end was somewhat of a tourist trap in my opinion. However, it was interesting. A lot of gems are mined in Brazil and therefore a lot fine jewelry is created there. H.Stern shows you from start to finish how they find/mine and create their various precious stones and jewelry through this interactive presentation that I actually did find informative.
When you get there they give you little tiny shots of caipirinha, I swear, and they also have little servings of water, gelatto and crackers or something for your enjoyment. Then you get this little headset thing and walk through this exhibit where you get to see the various jewelers at work and whatnot. At the end they sit you down and show you multi-karat rings and brooches and pendants and try to feel you out, as to whether you're there to buy or not. We weren't. So they let us leave. But their jewelry was beautiful. And reasonably priced.
The Chinese pavillion was one of the stops during my jeep tour of Parque Nacional da Tijuca. The place is great and offers a splendid view to Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. Pitty it was cloudy when I was there. he big picture on my Rio Intro page is taken from the pavillion.
As far as I know the place is reachable only by car.
Here is some info I found on the net:
Pavillion in oriental style at 380 meters. The name dates back to the days of the Prince Regent D. Joao, when the Chinese laborers, brought in to grow tea, were housed in the neighborhood.
You will enjoy this unforgetable cruise in a typical "saveiro" schooner to spend the day at Bernardo Island. It is a private island and you can only go there with a tour. The Tropical Island tour is highly recommended, it stops at a secluded beach where you can swim in the emerald green waters before reaching your island. A Samba band with dancers accompanied us on our trip and tought us on the boat how to Samba. This was not very easy as the boat tends to rock at the wrong time. Great fun, food and excursion.
A couple of blocks away from Bar 20, between streets Garcia D´Ávila and Anibal de Mendonça is Rio's Diamond Row. In addition to the Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems, visit the headquarters of jewelers H. Stern to take the free workshop tour, and see the steps in the production of a jewel. If you arrange with your hotel, they will come and collect you for the tour, which I really enjoyed and take you back to your hotel even after you have left their building and gone to do some other shopping in the area. Explore Rua Garcia D'Ávila, the most sophisticated cross-street in Ipanema. Designer furniture, fashion, jewelers, and branches of shops like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Mont Blanc are perfect for window-shopping (and a little day-dreaming).
H. Stern Gem Museum
The world headquarters of Brazil's most prestigious jewelers are in Ipanema. Take the workshop tour and watch the intricate steps by which a rough gemstone is transformed into a beautiful jewel. From the lapidary art to the polishing process to jewelry crafting, it is a fascinating process. The museum can be visited on request, and features Mr. Stern's private collection of tourmalines and a variety of gemstones. Ask your concierge or the H. Stern representative in the lobby of your hotel to make the arrangements for you. Workshop tours are free (including transportation from and back to your hotel).
Adress: Rua Garcia D'Ávila, 113 - Ipanema
Amsterdam Sauer Museum
Another museum in Ipanema's Diamond Row dedicated to gems. This one has a replica of a mine, and a variety of rough stones and gems in all colors you can imagine. Just one block away from Praça da Paz, the most charming square in the neighborhood. Open from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Adress: Rua Garcia D'Ávila, 105 - Ipanema