With no end to interesting places to visit, gorgeous viewpoints, and good food to eat, Rio de Janeiro is a city that can be visited on almost any budget. With 6.7 million people and an area covering over 450 square miles – it is undoubtedly a BIG city. However, despite being a large and sprawling metropolitan area, it was also one of the cheaper destinations we have visited to date (Although it is a more expensive South American destination.) So, what should you plan for your Rio de Janeiro travel budget?
We had a very mid-range budget for Rio, with some categories being more like a “budget traveler” and some categories creeping toward “eh, just roll with it”.
We found a nice, regular hotel, took a ton of ubers, ate a combination of street food and restaurant meals, bought a few souvenirs, paid for a few tours or experiences and some attractions, and spent nothing on alcohol.
In this article, I’m going to share our Rio de Janeiro travel budget, and detail our exact trip costs in a variety of categories, plus give a general idea of what things will cost in Rio. This travel budget is for a 6 day trip.
But first, let’s cover some basics.
A Few Basics about Money in Brazil:
Brazil’s currency is the Real, which uses the sign R$.
At the time of writing, there are approximately 5 reais to 1 US dollar. So something that costs R$25 would be approximately $5. Pronunciation tip: You pronounce “real” as “hay-al” and “reais” like “hey-ice” in Portuguese.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but it is good to have cash on hand, too, for things like purchases from street vendors.
If given the choice, always choose to run purchases through your cards in reals, not dollars (or whatever your home currency is). Most credit cards will do the exchange for free, and you’ll always get a better exchange rate that way.
Okay, let’s get into our Rio de Janeiro travel budget, and what things cost in Rio.
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Flights are always a big part of the cost of vacation. We found flights down to Rio de Janeiro for $528 per ticket, and then used points from our Citi card to cover the cost of most of the flight. We didn’t have quite enough points for the total purchase, so we paid $168, or $84 each, in cash for our tickets.
You can read more about my favorite travel credit cards and flight hacks strategies in this post! In fact, this destination was chosen specifically because we got a good deal on flights – one of the strategies I talk about in the travel hacking post!
Total Cost: $168
In general, hotels were much less expensive than in the United States.
We stayed in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio, an artsy, bohemian neighborhood that was beautiful and much quieter than other areas. We loved it!
Our hotel was the Villa Franca. It had a secure entrance, a beautiful courtyard, and a very relaxing lobby entrance that really felt more like the living area of a villa than a hotel reception area.
The rooms were large and decorated nicely, and – very importantly – the wifi and air conditioning were strong.
Cost for 6 nights: R$1425 (approximately $285, or $47/night)
Other Areas to Consider Staying
Other areas we considered staying were Centro, Copacabana, and Ipanema.
Copacabana and Ipanema are more expensive areas, but you will be right next to the beach. The Velinn Reserva Copacabana is a nice, affordable B&B option right near the beach.
Centro is a really convenient location, as there is a lot to see and do in this neighborhood, so you’ll be within walking distance (or very short transport) to many locations. The Americas Granada Hotel was our Centro pick, as it was in a good location, had a rooftop pool, and breakfast.
Entrance Fees and Activities
There are a huge variety of free attractions and experiences in Rio de Janeiro, and we availed ourselves of many free things to do in Rio. However, when we visited a site with an entrance fee, we felt like the cost was more comparable to the US.
We paid for three entrance fees. However, there are different types of tickets you can buy for some of these attractions (particularly Christ the Redeemer), so your cost may be somewhat different:
- Christ the Redeemer Statue: R$167 (about $33, or $16.50 per person)
- Sugar Loaf Cable Car: R$240 (about $48, or $22 per person)
- Botanical Gardens: R$134 (about $27, or $13.50 per person)
Additionally, we paid for two tours/activities:
- Santa Marta Favela Tour: $32 per person. This was such an enriching and interesting tour and one I highly recommend everyone consider – read my full review here
- Football match at Maracana: R$100 per person (These tickets were bought from scalpers, so were marked up. Tickets from the box office would have been around R$20)
There were several other really cool activities we highly considered, including:
- Personalized Walking Tour of Historic Rio
- Helicopter Tour around Christ the Redeemer
- Rock Climbing Sugar Loaf
- Hang Gliding or Paragliding from Tijuca Forest to the Beach
Our Rio de Janeiro travel budget for food and drink included expenditures in several different categories: water, juice/soda, street food, and restaurant food.
Tap water in Rio is not advisable to drink, so either buy bottled water, or carry a reusable filtered water bottle, like this one.
As it was extremely hot and humid in Rio when we were there in March, we went through a TON of water.
Average prices for a 16 oz bottles of water were between R$3-5 ($0.6 -1). Thankfully, it was very easy to find water to buy – frequently there were even people with just a cooler of water standing on the side of the street.
Water bottles at the grocery store were, unsurprisingly, much cheaper than anywhere else. We grabbed a 6 pack of 1.5L bottles for R$14 ($3) at a supermarket – so 1/6 the cost.
Total Cost: We spent R$88 ($18) on water over 6 days, not including what we bought at restaurants.
Juice and Soda
We’re not usually big soda drinkers when we travel, but we had to indulge regularly in Guarana, a beloved Brazilian soda. You can easily find Guarana around the city.
Brazil also has a dizzying variety of interesting and unique fruit juices, and we made it our goal to try as many as possible!
Average cost of soda was R$4-5 on the street, or R$3 at grocery. Juice ranged from R$3 to R$10.
Total spent on soda/juice: R$84 ($17)
Snacks and Street Food
All over the city, you can find carts set up selling a large variety of street food. In addition, shops with counters open to the streets selling empanadas, coxinhas, pastels, or pao de queijo are widely available. We often used these stands for a snack or a quick lunch.
Examples of types of street foods you can find are: churros (stuffed with either chocolate or dulce de leche), Brazilian hot dogs, empanadas, pastels, or coxinhas, trouxinha, tapioca tacos, corn off the cob, fresh squeezed orange juice, and candy.
Average food costs for a churro, hot dog, or empanada were about R$5 ($1), the pao de queijo were about R$1 for a single cheese puff, and candy was anywhere between 10 Brazilian cents to R$1. Many were four for R$1.
We tried quite a bit of the candy sold on the streets *for research*.
We love checking out international stores and seeing what types of things they sell, so of course we visited a local grocery store in Rio. We bought some Brazilian cookies, pineapple, drinks, and a bag of chips.
A quick shout out to the pineapple we bought! We sat on the beach, cut the rind off with a plasic knife, and ate/slurped it straight off the rind. It was UNBELIEVABLY juicy. Make sure you get yourself a pineapple!
Total Cost of Street Food/Snacks: R$98 ($19) on street food, plus another R$58 ($11) for candy + cookies from the grocery store (some of which we brought home for our kids), plus R$8 (<$2) for the pineapple.
We spent between R$25-250 on restaurant meals during our time in Rio, with a couple meals at very casual restaurants coming in at R$25 and R$50 ($5 and $10) for two people, several meals costing about R$150 total ($30), and the churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ – where servers circulate skewers of meat between tables) being R$260 ($52) total.
These meal costs included all food, plus drinks, tax, and tip. Tipping is included in the price of the meal, you do not need to tip extra.
Total cost: R$909 ($181) for 7 meals for two people.
We made a point to try out all the types of transportation that we could in Rio. Here is our breakdown on cost (and opinions) of each of them:
Rio’s metro system is very nice – the trains are air conditioned and clean. One ride costs R$5 ($1), which includes transfers within the metro system. I will say that the metro lines do not go everywhere in the city, so there are definitely limitations. But if you are close to a metro line, it is a cheap, convenient, fast, and safe way to get around the city.
We only took the metro twice, as our hotel in the Santa Teresa neighborhood was not really close to any metro station. However, if you are staying in Copacabana, I would definitely take the metro more frequently, as traffic seems to be worse in that area and there is a line that takes you between Copacabana and Centro, where a lot of the sites are.
You should plan to pay with a credit card.
Total Cost: R$20 ($4)
We only took the bus once, but it is another cheap and easy way to get around. The bus has many more routes than the metro does, but do beware – grab and run situations can happen more on buses, so just watch your stuff and phones closely.
Our one bus ride came after we visited the Dona Marta viewpoint. While we could get an Uber to take us up, it was hard to get one to take us back down, so we walked about 20-30 minutes down the road to the bus stop, which then took us back into the city.
You should plan to pay with cash unless you invest in a bus pass. Note that the official price is actually R$4.05, but our driver, at least, waved the 5 cents. I don’t know if that’s common practice, though.
Quick tip: When waiting for the bus, you’ll need to wave it down to stop for you.
Total Cost: R$8 (about $2)
We took a LOT of Ubers in Rio – 30 to be precise. With an average cost of $4.30 per ride, it was a very cheap, safe, and convenient way to get around, and, depending on where you are, the mode of transportation I would recommend the most.
Total Cost: R$653 ($130)
While the taxi fare quoted to us at the airport was a lot higher than what we paid for the Uber at the airport (more than twice the cost), we found that the two times we took taxis in the city, it ended up being about the same cost that was quoted to us by Uber (we did a quick check in the cab).
Still, I preferred the convenience of Uber a little bit more than taxis, as we put the address into the app, didn’t need cash, and didn’t have to try to hail a cab (not difficult, but still felt more convenient).
Just make sure that the cab resets the meter when you go and have cash on hand. The meter resets at R$5,90.
Total Cost: R$32 ($6)
We rode the Santa Teresa trolley one day, mainly just for fun. This trolley starts at the station near the Lapa arches, goes high up into the hills of the Santa Teresa neighborhood, and then comes back down to the station. Locals use it as a means of public transportation, but you can also just ride it for fun – which I highly recommend you do!
It’s a beautiful neighborhood, and you can get off and explore the area and then pick up the trolley back down to the station. It’s not the most economical form of transportation, so I would really only recommend this as an attraction.
One round-trip is R$20 per person ($4)
Total Cost: R$40 ($8)
This is obviously a very variable line item in your Rio de Janeiro vacation budget. For us, most of the things we brought back were gifts for our kids or for my mom, who was watching our girls.
We bought a Christ the Redeemer statue (R$15), a nice Brazil shirt for my mom (R$150) at the airport (aka paid more than if we had done it anywhere else) a couple little notebooks for the girls (R$20 and 15), a little horse toy from the Uruguaiana street market (R$20), and some sunglasses also from the street market (R$30 and 15).
We bought two incredibly soft blankets for R$90 each from the North Brazil market.
We also spent several dollars on candy and treats to bring home (noted above in the snacks section).
Finally, we spent R$320 ($64) on two Vasco de Gama shirts to wear to the football match. We bought these from a Vasco apparel store near Copacabana. I am sure we could have gotten something much cheaper at the Uruguaiana street market, but we were going with convenience at that point.
Total cost on souvenirs: R$799 ($159)
Rental Car + Gas
We rented a car for one day to take a day trip out to the beautiful beaches of Arraial do Cabo. This was a 2.5 hour drive one way from Rio, which was definitely pushing it for a day trip. Thankfully, the beaches in Arraial were lovely.
If you are doing a day trip from Rio, I would recommend renting a car out of Santos Dumont airport (SDU), as it is closer to the city center.
Rental Car: R$150 ($30)
Gas: R$141 ($28)
Total Rio de Janeiro Trip Costs
Okay so here are the total vacation costs for two people for each of the major categories. For simplicity, I’m just going to refer to the costs here in US dollars.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Finally, an important part of your travel budget is getting some travel insurance before you leave. You never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. (If covid has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what could happen!)
I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.
Final Thoughts on a Rio de Janeiro Travel Budget
Personally, I’m very happy with the cost of this trip. I liked that we got our flights for next to nothing, and that we stayed in a nice place for a very reasonable price. All of the activities and experiences we did were excellent and a great value, and we tried a whole bunch of delicious foods.
Again, I feel like this is a very solid mid-range budget – you could find cheaper, budget accommodations (especially hostels), spend less on meals, and take buses more frequently to bring the cost down.
Rio de Janeiro is an amazing, vibrant, bustling city, and however you set your travel budget, you will have an amazing time!
Other Rio de Janeiro Articles to Check Out:
- A Rio de Janeiro Favela Tour
- 13 Rio de Janeiro Travel Tips: What to Know Before You Go
- 22+ Best Foods in Rio You Must Try
- A Guide for Visiting Sugarloaf Mountain: 4 Different Options