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How To Spend 48 Hours & $480 On A Trip To Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

How To Spend 48 Hours & $480 On A Trip To Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Including Instagrammable views and beach club lounging.

On my last day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I found out six different people changed their flights to stay just a little bit longer. I (somehow) stopped myself from doing the same — mostly because my credit card bill couldn’t take the hit of a flight change. But it was hard not to give in: Rio has beautiful views, iconic landmarks, and stunning beaches. Who wouldn’t want to stay for just one more night?

Rio embraces a see-it-all-do-it-all spirit that was as demanding as it was invigorating. Coming from the hustle of New York City, I didn’t think any place could tire me out, but Rio was a new kind of challenge. Everyone is so *busy*, but they’re more motivated by the prospect of living life to the fullest — not by working their way to the top (hi, NYC!).

With that in mind, if you have only 48 hours in Rio, you should adopt that same mentality. Even then, you still might want to extend your trip just one more day. For my time there, the Fairmont Rio hosted me, so they ensured I experienced the must-see sites, tried the best foods (and quite a few cocktails), and still had time to chill by the pool; an infinity pool that has unbelievable views, BTW.

Hannah Kerns

Although it’s much easier to hit everything when a luxury hotel is hosting you, you can still visit the city on a budget. Here’s how to make a 48-hour trip to Rio one you’ll want to relive again and again:

Courtesy of Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana


3 p.m.: Arrive at Galeão International Airport

Although there are obviously benefits to taking a red-eye flight, I’d suggest getting into Rio around 3 in the afternoon to make it a bit easier to beat the jet lag. (Plus, an afternoon arrival means you shouldn’t have to wait to check in at your hotel.)

The ride from the airport to my accommodations in Copacabana took about an hour (the traffic was *real*). Once I finally got in my room, a post-flight shower was absolutely necessary, but I’d recommend not taking too long to refresh yourself — you won’t want to miss the sunset.

Uber to accommodations: ~$20

5 p.m.: Head to Sugarloaf Mountain for cocktails

Courtesy of Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Since the traffic in Rio is unavoidable, especially at rush hour, and you have to take two cable cars to get to the top of Sugarloaf, give yourself an hour or so to reach the peak.

Once you reach the top of the mountain, grab a table at Classico Beach Club Urca. The restaurant has some of the best views of Rio, especially as the sun goes down. It makes a great backdrop for a mini sunset photoshoot for Instagram.

Come for the views, but stay for the menu. The restaurant has a solid offering of fresh fish dishes that you may appreciate as an appetizer. If you drink alcohol, a caipirinha (the quintessential Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça, lime, and sugar) is a must-try.

Uber: ~$5

Sugarloaf tickets: $30 ($50 to skip the line in VIP)

Food/drinks: $35

7:30 p.m.: Head back to Copacabana

After a long day of traveling, grabbing dinner closer to your accommodations is for the best IMHO. Marine Resto, the poolside restaurant at the Fairmont Rio, is a great choice for authentic Brazilian cuisine and an elevated vibe. It was one of my go-tos throughout my trip, and I’m still dreaming about the shrimp risotto.

You can’t go wrong with steak, either. (You are in Brazil, after all!) If you’re with a group, think about splitting the $140 blowtorched tomahawk for dinner and a show — they literally blowtorch it in front of you. Yes, it’s on the pricy side, but divvying it up two or three ways is sooo worth it.

Uber: ~$5

Dinner: $40

DAY 1 TOTAL: $135


8:00 a.m.: Check out Christ the Redeemer

The area around the famed statue opens at 8:00 a.m., so it’s a good idea to head over there first thing in the morning. There are several different tours you can book (most cost around $40 and include bus transportation there and back), or your hotel might be able to set it up for you, depending on where you are staying.

Hannah Kerns

When you visit, check out the chapel in the bottom of the statue. While we were there, we were treated to a service, where they explained some of the monument’s history. Fun fact: In the original design, the Christ figure was holding a globe in one hand, but they eventually scrapped the idea because they thought people would think he was holding a soccer ball.

Tour: $40

10:00 a.m.: Walk in Santa Teresa

The MGallery hotel in Santa Teresa has an incredible restaurant called Térèze, where we went for breakfast after Christ the Redeemer. There were so many food options to choose from, including fresh pineapple, mango, and pitaya. I highly recommend the pão de queijo, which is a Brazilian cheese bread.

Afterward, we walked around Santa Teresa. There are plenty of cute shops and cafés in this neighborhood. Plus, there is a ton of street art on buildings and even lamp posts to discover and admire. Keep walking until you get to the famous Selarón Steps, made by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón.

Giordano Cipriani/Getty Images

FYI, it gets very hot in Rio, especially during the city’s summer months (December-March), so you’ll definitely want to pack a bottle of water or two for the walk.

Uber: ~$15

Breakfast: $25

1:00 p.m.: Enjoy a beach day

Copacabana Beach is famous for a reason. To enjoy it to its fullest, check out Fairmont’s Tropik beach club. You can eat and drink at the restaurant space there, and they have a set of beach chairs available for lounging.

Once you wrap up lunch, take a dip in the ocean, rent a paddle board ($10), or walk along the beach for some people-watching. There are plenty of coconut stands on the sand, and a fresh one is the perfect way to revive yourself in time for dinner (and recover from the caipirinhas from the night before).

Hannah Kerns

Note: If you do choose to have a day at Copacabana Beach, leave your valuables in your room or place them in lockers if your beach club offers them, as pickpocketing is an issue around this area in Rio.

If you’d prefer to hang out at a less touristy spot, check out Barra da Tijuca Beach. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Copacabana, so you’ll need to a lot more travel time (and Uber money).

Uber: ~$10

Lunch: $20

Coconut: ~$5

6:00 p.m.: Shop and dine in Ipanema

Before you head to dinner, you’ll want to refresh at wherever you’re staying, then set out to Ipanema, another popular neighborhood nearby, for some shopping and dinner.

On a nice night, you could choose to take the 15-minute walk from Copacabana to Ipanema. (If that’s your vibe, it’s definitely best to walk with a group, keep your purse in front of you, and leave expensive items at your hotel, similarly to how you’d tackle your beach day.) You may be able watch the sunset from Ipanema Beach before heading into town.

Hannah Kerns

After the sun goes down, walk around Ipanema and check out the stores, including Havaianas, the iconically durable (and comfy!) flip-flop made in Brazil and worn by the likes of J.Lo, Kaia Gerber, and Kendall Jenner. FARM Rio is another popular Brazilian brand. With gorgeous designs full of bright colors, this is a great place to check out if you’re willing to spend a little more on souvenirs.

Later, head to Toto for dinner. It’s a reliable spot for high-quality food that isn’t too expensive, and the menu has some standout items like gyoza dumplings with rib meat and fresh pappardelle with ragu. Once you wrap up, grab a drink at a local bar like Etta Bar or Heilige Pocket Ipanema Rio de Janeiro. Then, Uber back to your lodging.

Shopping: $40

Dinner: $50

Drinks: $15

Uber: ~$5

DAY 2 TOTAL: $225


9:00 a.m.: Have breakfast at Café 18 do Forte

For your last day in Rio, head to Café 18 do Forte in Copacabana for breakfast and beach views. Bring a friend and get the two-person deal ($15 per person), which includes food like bread, butter, eggs, bacon, yogurt, and granola. The deal includes two hot beverages like a cappuccino or macchiato.

Food: $15

11:00 a.m.: Check out the Hippie Fair Ipanema

The Hippie Fair Ipanema happens every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Head there next if you want to do some last-minute shopping. With artist stalls, food vendors, and plenty of souvenirs for sale, this market is a must-do before you leave Rio — particularly if you want to bring home gifts for people.

The market’s pretty affordable, too. A Brazil tank top (similar to this one from Edikted) costs about $7, while a feather crown, perfect for channeling Carnaval, can cost anywhere between $25 to $50.

Uber: ~$5

Shopping: $35

12:00 p.m.: Grab lunch at Sel d’Ipanema Beach Club

While in Ipanema, head to the beach for lunch at the Sel d’Ipanema Beach Club. Try any of the crudo dishes ($15), the guacamole ($11), or the chicken wings ($13). On the beach, nothing hits better than a bottle of Corona with lime ($4).

Hang out by the shore as long as you can to soak up the sun, and then Uber back to the hotel to clean up, pack your things, and head to the airport.

Lunch: $40

Uber: ~$5

3:00 p.m.: Head back to the airport

Give yourself plenty of time for the drive to the airport — expect traffic delays and intimidating security lines. It also might take a bit to navigate the Rio airport if you don’t know any Portuguese, so build some time into your schedule for confusion.

Uber: ~$20

DAY 3 TOTAL: $120

Total: $480

It’s honestly a bit surreal how much you can do in Rio for under $500 — and this itinerary still hits all of the must-sees. Of course, if you do want to extend your time in Rio a bit longer, you can have more chill time *and* fit in a few more activities. Soccer is huge in Rio (the city actually boasts the largest soccer stadium in the world), so make time to watch a game if you can.

A sunset cruise would also be well worth the Dramamine, and the views of Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer from the water are peak photography. (Rumor has it that’s how Taylor Swift took in the sites of Rio when she visited the city on her Eras Tour.)