Why I Wouldn’t Recommend an Organised City Tour of Rio

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I arrived in Rio de Janeiro in the early afternoon. The clouds were thick and grey and the streets looked dull. It was the tail end of my trip and the end of a two week tour I was on with GAdventures. We’d all signed up to do an organised city tour run by our hostel as the majority of us were due to fly home over the next few days. With little time to do much but dump our backpacks, we piled into two minibuses and set off for our first stop, Christ the Redeemer. Immediately on my bus we were introduced to a very unfriendly tour guide. She demanded money for the tour straight away. We’d previously been told we would stop at ATMs, but instead she said there was no time and we had to pay in cash. She was rude to us all, and in the end I had to borrow reais off a friend.

Arriving at Corcovado, we transfered to a different bus which took us up to Christ the Redeemer. Constructed out of concrete and soapstone, the statue loomed high above us with outstretched arms. With only 35 short minutes allocated to us, our whole time up there was spent busily snapping photos. Other tourists swarmed all over the place, leaving little space to actually stand and just take in the view. I quickly felt a little stupid. Unfortunately for us also the weather was pretty unfavourable, and we watched as Christ the Redeemer and the city of Rio disappeared before our eyes into the mist.

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The time flew by and suddenly we were rushed off to neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. We were given a brief explanation of the significance of the yellow tram graffiti and posters before being hurried on to the next place.

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We spent about 10 minutes at the Lapa Steps taking pictures. It felt a little ridiculous rushing in and rushing out. There was no chance to get any feel for the places we were visiting and I started to feel like choosing to do a tour of the city crammed into the space of a few hours wasn’t the best idea. Some of the others on my tour felt the same. I guess choosing to do a tour out of convenience because you feel you should see the sights doesn’t always make for great travel memories.

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From Lapa we drove on to make a quick stop at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. This peculiar pyramid-like cathedral was a bit of an eyesore on the outside, but inside were beautiful stained glass windows. Quickly we were hurried off back onto the minibuses to our final stop: Sugarloaf Mountain. On the way we were unfortunately caught in traffic due to a protest outside the Municipal Theatre. Once on the move again we watched as the skies grew darker. We’d originally thought we’d be heading up to Sugarloaf in the daylight, but it was already getting dark by the time we arrived. Two cable cars later and we were greeted by amazing views of the city lights from the top. Although beautiful, there was once again not much time allowed for us to just sit and enjoy the view.

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We opted to do the city tour because of limited time. The price was a little expensive but it was the convenience of seeing everything easily that had initially appealed. In reality it was just a snap-happy couple of hours mostly spent driving around. If I were to do it over again I’d space it out, do a sight or two a day. Spend longer in a place and get a feel for it. The city tour is great only if you just want to get your photo and get out.

I ended up enjoying my time in Rio a lot more when me and a friend just took a taxi to try and find a viewpoint. After a wander up to a fort and being pointed in the wrong direction by a Brazilian guard, we eventually found our way to a beach where were finally able to settle down for the first time in the city and really enjoy the view.

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Grab a friend and go for a wander. I’ve come to learn that this is the best way to see a city.

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