Rio de Janeiro Like a Local

The locals in Rio de Janeiro revel in their good fortune at being surrounded by such dazzling beauty. At the same time, many locals' personal hangouts are not those that they will enthuse about. They may consider their local bars, restaurants, or shops a little modest for tourists' tastes, but these less-celebrated spots are often among the liveliest and most laid-back in the city.


With the high prices in Rio’s shopping malls, it can be hard to understand just how cariocas can afford to look so good. For an answer, take the metro to the Uruguaiana stop. The vast indoor market here is a hotbed of bargain beauty buys, while the maze of shopping streets nearby, known as Saara, is the place to find affordable clothing that will have you looking like a local. From the denim shorts and tank tops that are virtually a cradle-to-grave uniform for female cariocas (the male counterpart being Bermuda shorts and loose T-shirts) to spangly Carnival costumes, Saara and Uruguaiana offer it all in abundance. Take the time to sample the fare at the Middle Eastern food stands here. The name Saara (Sahara) was given in honor of the many Arab settlers who have set up shop in the area.

Lunch Like a Local

Formal dining in Rio is so expensive that only the most affluent locals can afford to indulge, but even budget visitors can enjoy a hearty Brazilian repast at one of the city’s ubiquitous comida a kilo lunch restaurants. Here, diners load up their plates with salads, pasta and rice dishes, pies, tarts, and treats such as stuffed olives and quail eggs. Food is paid for by weight, so hold off on the rice and beans and go for the sushi and the steak if you want to get your money’s worth. Prices are usually cheaper before noon and after 2 pm.

Happy Hour Drinks

Cariocas have adopted the English phrase "happy hour" and applied it to their tradition of enjoying after-work drinks. With few exceptions, there aren't many cheap drinks promotions, but happy hour is always a good time to relax with a beer and watch the locals unwind. The business district is a top spot for happy-hour drinks, with Amarelinho a popular bar where drinkers extend happy hour well past midnight. It's handily located for city-center sightseeing, too.

For after-hours weekend drinking, Rio’s real party action is in Lapa. Although the ongoing gentrification of the neighborhood has led to the opening of numerous chain bars that are almost carbon copies of those in the Zona Sul, there is still plenty of opportunity to find a more "authentic" style of Rio nightlife.

Head here on a Friday night to discover Rio's real Dionysian spirit, as revelers drink, dance, and flirt until sunrise at clubs close to the Lapa Arches. On Monday nights, meanwhile, the legendary roda de samba at Pedra do Sal (Largo João da Baiana) in a working-class district close to Centro, is a favorite among fleet-footed locals, who gather here for an informal outdoor samba party.

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