Your complete guide to Rio ahead of the Olympics

Shopprice Australia 

The Olympic Games: for athletes, it’s the pinnacle of physical achievement. For spectators, however, it’s the world’s greatest party, and when the world’s greatest party is being hosted by the world’s greatest party town, you know you’re onto a good thing.

Ipanema. Photo: Ben Groundwater

The Olympic Games: for athletes, it’s the pinnacle of physical achievement. For spectators, however, it’s the world’s greatest party, and when the world’s greatest party is being hosted by the world’s greatest party town, you know you’re onto a good thing.

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro 2016, the Olympic and Paralympic Games that promise to be a joy to watch from afar, but one truly unique experience to view in the flesh. Rio is busy gearing up for its hosting duties, putting the finishing touches on venues, getting its streets sparkling – and in the same vein, it’s time for those planning to travel to the city for the Games in August to get their house in order.

Where do you buy tickets? What do you do while you’re there? Where do you go drinking and dancing until dawn? We have the answers…

Where to watch the Games

The name Rio de Janeiro might conjure images of famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema, but the bulk of the Olympic events will be held in the not-so-well-known suburb of Barra. Accessible via a new public transport link from the main centres of the city, Barra will host events like athletics, golf, swimming, diving, and cycling. Beach volleyball, meanwhile, will be held on the famous sands of Copacabana, while extreme sports such as mountain-biking and BMX will be held in Deodoro, in the north of Rio. If you haven’t managed to secure tickets, there will be “live sites” with big screens set up throughout the city, and in fact across the whole country – though exact locations are yet to be announced. See rio2016.com for more.

How to get tickets

To secure your seat at the Games – particularly for more popular sports such as swimming, athletics and football – you have to book ahead. The only licensed seller for Rio Olympic tickets within Australia is CoSport. There are also unofficial ticket sellers offering Olympic packages, though their prices are far higher. Some events, unfortunately, have already sold out on the official market, meaning you’ll have to rely on last-minute offers once you arrive in the country, or going to watch the big screens at the live sites.

Where to stay

In Rio there are three major areas for hotels and other accommodation: Copacabana, Ipanema, and Botafogo. During the Olympics, Barra, too, will be popular. Copacabana is the most well-known of Rio’s beaches, a 4-kilometre stretch of sand that is home to upmarket hotels such as Copacabana Palace, as well as more budget-friendly beachfront options like the Windsor Excelsior.

Around a small headland from Copacabana sits Ipanema, a laidback beach that is fast becoming the city’s main tourist hub. Options there range from the award-winning Hotel Fasano, to the reasonably priced Ipanema Inn, or the Hotel Arpoador.Another good choice is upmarket Botafogo, near Sugar Loaf Mountain, where hotels like the Mercure offer great mid-priced rooms (mercure.com/botafogo). In Barra, theSheraton is right by the beach, or try the Ibis if you’re on a budget.

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What to do

It can’t be all sport, all the time, and fortunately Rio de Janeiro has no shortage of diversions for the adventurous traveller. First up, if you want to tick off a large amount of sights in a small amount of time, try booking a day tour – seechimuadventures.com.au for packages. If you’re prefer to go it alone, there are still a tonne of options.

The beach near Barra. Photo: Ben Groundwater

For the bucket-list collection, start off at Copacabana Beach, before heading over to Botofogo and taking the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Next, get moving up to the top of Corcovado Mountain to see the 30-metre-high, 635-tonne statue of Christ the Redeemer that so famously guards over the city. It’s then time to move back to the city, to Ipanema, where you can do a tour of the nearby favelas Pavao-Pavaozinho and Cantagalo with local Isabell Erdmann, before finishing off with a drink on the beach at Ipanema as the sun begins to set.

On top of Sugarloaf mountain. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Keen surfers should also try to get down to the beaches of Barra and Praia do Fundo, while football fanatics can do a tour of the famous Maracana stadium.

Where to eat

There are two things that you absolutely have to eat in Rio: meat, and fruit. Both are done insanely well, and you’ll find purveyors through the city. To enjoy a feast fit for a serious carnivore, head to the Palace Churrascaria, a restaurant where cut after cut of delicious meat, from racks of ribs to sirloin steaks to chicken hearts and chorizos, will be delivered straight to your table.

To consume fruit in Rio, you have to head to one of the “sucos”, or juice stands, which blend up every fruit imaginable – and many you’ve never even seen before – into some amazingly good beverages. Try an acai juice at Polis Sucos in Ipanema. And if you’re feeling a little the worse for wear and just want decent food in a great location, head to any of the “kioskos”, or small restaurants, that are stationed along the boardwalk at Copacabana.

Where to drink

While there’s plenty to be said for a cheap caipirinha (a mix of cane spirit and lime – every Rio resident’s favourite cocktail) at one of the beachside kiosks, or a beer in a fancy Ipanema bar, one of the newest trends sweeping the Rio nightlife scene is bars in favelas. It might sound dodgy, but in “pacified” favelas such as Rocinha, Vidigal and Morro do Babilonia, funky bars set high up on the hill, with great views across the city, are proliferating. Chimu Adventures can arrange a guide to take you to places such as Estrelas or Bar Do David in Babilonia, Bar Lacubaco in Vidigal, or Bar do Tino in Morro dos Prazeres.

Cantagalo favela. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Where to dance

It’s Rio – you have to dance. And you will. This is a city that loves to party, and it will take your hand and drag you onto the dancefloor with it. While the bulk of Rio’s tourist-friendly nightclubs are in hotspots such as Ipanema, Copacabana and Botafogo, it’s worth heading further afield one night to GRES Academicos Salgueiro,a traditional samba club that submits teams for the famous Rio Carnival. Events at the club vary, but there’s always live music, there’s food stalls set up in the nearby streets, and there’s always a raucous, sweaty dancefloor in the middle of it all. It’s a true Rio experience.