Living in Rio de Janeiro in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide for Westerners


Living in Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro – So you’ve decided that living in Brazil could be right for you but have no idea what city to go to? Whether you’re tempted by the beach lifestyle of Rio de Janeiro, the big city and hustler vibe of São Paulo, or the small town and provincial feel of living in Belo Horizonte, it’s worth doing as much research to figure out exactly the best place to live in brazil in your specific case. Let’s start with Rio.

Living in Rio de Janeiro – A 2019 Guide

Living in rio de janeiro is the obvious choice when it comes to moving to Brazil, and it’s no surprise as to why. An incredible setting, access to nature within the city itself, beautiful people and a captivating culture make it a city like no other on earth. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind when moving to Rio.

Where To Live

Copacabana – Whilst Copacabana may seem like the obvious choice for living in Rio de Janeiro, the reality is that the novelty may wear off fairly soon. Although the Location is fantastic when it comes to accessing other areas of the city and visiting different beaches, I personally find the area slightly overrated. It’s status as the main “tourist hub” means that you’ll likely be surrounded by other foreigners, get ripped off in restaurants and will be treated as just another tourist.

Despite this, I still like Copacabana as an area primarily due to its beaches and location, but it might not live up to the picture perfect postcards that you saw when you were a child.


Cleaner and trendier than Copacabana, Ipanema is another obvious choice when it comes to living in Rio de Janeiro, and is one that’s clearly understandable. The beaches looking up to “Dois Irmãos”, are full of activities, good surfing spots, and attractive people, meaning that it’s a great location for those looking for a proper “beach lifestyle.” Leblon takes it even further, with chic shopping centres, high end bars and restaurants and an “elegant” feel.

Those looking for a luxury and more elegant lifestyle would be well suited to live in one of these neighborhoods, but for those looking to see the rougher, spontaneous and more down to earth vibe of life in brazil, then they may not be the best bet.


Botafogo and Flamengo are great areas to live for those of you looking to get away from the crowds of gringos in their havaianas and experience a more local vibe whilst still being in a central location. Prices of rent and food are cheaper in these areas, beaches are close by, and there’s more of a down to earth vibe.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca is absolutely huge and driving from one end to the other seems to take forever. Due to its sheer size, your options are limitless for high-end malls and beaches, and it’s proximity towards the edge of the city means that you’re not far from pristine beaches and nature. As a middle/upper class neighbourhood, safety isn’t too much of an issue but I can’t help but thinking that the whole place lacks a bit of soul, atmosphere and is too americanized for my liking.


Locals & Meeting People

Striking up a conversation with strangers in Brazil is far easier and more commonplace than in cancountries such as the UK or Germany, and you’ll find that locals will generally be very receptive. Despite this, the high amount of gringos and “sex tourists” that have been visiting rio over the past few years have somewhat worsened the locals perceptions of westerners (although it’s generally still positive.)

Language barrier is also an issue when living in rio de janeiro, as most Cariocas don’t have a good command of english (although you will certainly find some) meaning that if you decide not to invest in reaching a strong level of Portuguese, you will severely limited in terms of making friends, understanding the culture and and blending in as a local. Learning Portuguese really is the secret to making the most out of life in brazil. Whilst some locals may see you as “just another gringo” if you expect everyone to speak fluent english to you, you will instantly stand out and gain respect from the locals if you at least give a decent attempt at learning the language and make an effort to integrate.

Safety and Security

Rio has a notorious reputation for being a dangerous city in Brazil and elsewhere, and even friends in São Paulo joke about me “getting shot” or “kidnapped” when i travel to Rio. As in most cases, this danger is often massively exaggerated, with most visits being trouble free. The rumours and stories you hear shouldn’t put you off in the slightest.

That being said, crime does exist, and Westerners are often targeted due to their perceived naivety, financial status and lack of knowledge of the culture and life in brazil. Avoid Favelas, many places in Zona Norte and walking around anywhere alone late at night. Having basic common sense, walking with confidence, and having a good command of the Portuguese Language will significantly reduce your odds of getting robbed or ending up at the wrong place and the wrong time.  


As you can expected, the weather is great in Rio de Janeiro all year round, with anything below 20 degrees celsius being considered as cold to the locals. January and February can sometimes be unbearably hot and humid and there are a number of cloudy and rainy days throughout the year, but on a whole the weather is great.


Cost of Living

Despite common thinking, living in Brazilisn’t that cheap, especially when compared to other Latin American Countries such as Peru, Colombia or Mexico. However, it’s still significantly cheaper than the UK, Australia or the USA, with the Brazilian Real (as of late 2018) being weak against currencies such as the US Dollar or Euro.

You can be comfortable living in Rio de Janeiro (If you`re by yourself) for anywhere between $1000-$2000 per month, depending on what activities you decide to do,how often you eat out, go out at night, and where you choose to live.

Job Opportunities

Finding a decent job in Brazil without a visa is a tough deal, and will be significantly harder if you don’t speak Portuguese. Due to Brazilian Protectionist Laws, it’s tough for companies to hire foreigners who don’t already have residency and companies aren’t willing to go through the bureaucratic process of sponsoring a foreigner. However, it is still possible, and the larger the company, the better position they generally are to hire you.  

If you’re thinking about moving to brazil and aren’t sure what path you would like to go down regarding jobs, take a look at this post, and drop me an email and i can see how i can specifically help you in your case.


Despite having a reputation as a crazy party destination, the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is not what you would expect. It isn’t bad by any means, but is eclipsed by that of cities such as São Paulo, Buenos Aires or even little-known Belo Horizonte.

There are good spots, but it just takes some effort to find them. Avoid the Gringo parties and typical tourists spots at all costs, and despite being fun once or twice, areas such as Lapa and Copacabana are massively overrated and aren’t the best options of nightlife in Rio de Janeiro. Gavea, Botafogo and Leblon are good for street parties and small bars whilst Barra da Tijuca is king when it comes to nightclubs.

The Verdict

I absolutely love Rio as a place to visit and spend a few days chilling out on the beach, but i wouldn’t live there as a first choice, mainly due to the fact that its chilled-out, beach lifestyle vibe makes in hard to get into the working rhythm and get stuff done. I also personally got tired of the large amounts of foreigners visiting the city, and found it easier to integrate into local-life in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

If you`re looking for a relaxed beach lifestyle as a long term option, than living in Rio de Janeiro is a great option, but may get seem to wear off on you after a few months if this isn’t the case.

8 thoughts on “Living in Rio de Janeiro in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide for Westerners

  1. Pingback: Living in Belo Horizonte – The Complete Guide 2019 | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  2. Pingback: Living in Chile – The Ultimate Guide to Santiago – 2019 | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  3. Pingback: Living in Buenos Aires as a Westerner – The Ultimate 2019 Guide | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  4. Pingback: Living in Brazil – The Complete Guide to São Paulo – 2019 | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  5. Pingback: Moving to South America – 5 Mistakes People Make & How to Avoid Them | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  6. Pingback: 5 Signs that Living in Latin America Could Be for You | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

  7. Pingback: Moving to Latin America – Preparing for the Big Move -Part 1 | LinguistLifestyle – Living and Thriving in Latin America

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s