The Rio airport is pretty dinky. First impression is not of a global city that's hosting the Olympics in a few years.
Exiting the baggage area there's a booth where you can secure a pre-paid, government authorized taxi. As we approached the desk, three different ladies from three different tables screamed at us and tried to get our attention. I stopped and asked them, "What's the difference between you guys?" "No difference, just different companies" they said, and then kept on waving us to their desk. Of course, I thought, there had to be a difference — why else would there be competition stationed right next to each other?
In fact there was no difference. Three official companies, offering the exact same taxi service, for the exact same price, to the exact same locations — and each vigorously competing for your business. It was rather unnerving to encounter the sales theatrics. They would do better to at the least alternate / take turns in securing customers. Or, better, do as Chile does: have just one official taxi company or have multiple companies that offer different services.
After buying the pre-paid voucher, we left the secure area and entered the main airport terminal. Zero taxi touts. It was calm and quiet. A man came up to us and politely pointed us in the direction of the taxi. Far less chaotic than the Santiago international arrivals section.
The first Saturday morning the hotel breakfast was packed with Brazilians and other foreigners but noticeably few gringos. This set the tone — throughout our time in Rio we've seen only a few Americans / English speakers. Where are the Americans? Perhaps they come during the U.S. winter…
Our first days walking around Rio were spectacular. This is a beautiful city. We're staying on Copacabana beach. It's huge, stunningly beautiful, and behind the beach are jagged mountains which makes it seem all the more tropical. Unlike in Costa Rica, the big, bustling city of Rio bumps right up against the beaches — it's truly an urban beach city, and the city is substantial.
An iconic mosaic tile promenade continues all along the beaches. Free of cars, it's a lovely multi-hour stroll. At one point in the promenade there's a "Muscle Beach" weight lifting area, Venice Beach style.
On Sunday J. ran The Rio half-marathon with some blog readers and then we all met up for a massive all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. Delicious.
Safety — no problem. Even though everyone I know seems to have been robbed in Rio, the Leme and Ipnemna neighborhoods seemed safer than B.A.
Dogs — no stray dogs in Brazil. Beats Chile on this front.
Beauty stereotypes — about women are true.