Capital of the country for nearly 200 years, Rio de Janeiro is still one of the main sources of national culture as well as an important center for commerce and services, with a modern and diversified industry. Furthermore, the city is ranked among the top destinations in the world to host cultural, commercial, technical and scientific events. About 2 million foreign tourists visit the city annually. In 2005, the famous New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach attracted 580.000 tourists. According to EMBRATUR (the Brazilian Institute of Tourism), Brazil received 4.7 million international visitors in 2004, a 15.49% growth, if compared to the previous year. Statistics also show that 97% of the foreign tourists who visit Brazil intend to come back soon. Rio is the most visited city in the country.
A cosmopolitan metropolis, Rio de Janeiro is known worldwide for its extraordinary beauty. Visitors soon find out why Brazilians refer to it as the “Marvelous City”: Rio is nestled around mountains, a huge urban sub-tropical forest (the largest in the world) and a magnificent shoreline. Another of Rio’s greatest strength is the friendliness and hospitality of the people. Also, the city displays an unusual blend of contrasts: the colonial architecture is a reminder of the past whereas strikingly modern glass buildings provide a glimpse of the future. All of these elements combined make Rio a truly unique, breathtakingly scenic spot on the continent.
Brazil has currently a population of approximately 170 million, of which 10.4 million live in São Paulo , the largest Brazilian city. Rio de Janeiro comes second with 5.8 million residents.
Warm and humid year-round, Rio de Janeiro is a tropical city. Summer runs from December through March with temperatures ranging from 25ºC (77º F) to 42ºC (107º F), while winter runs from June through August, when temperatures can drop to around 20ºC (68 F) during the day and to 16ºC (60 F) at night.
Appropriately enough for a city where the beach and warm weather play such an important role, casual dress is the keynote in Rio de Janeiro . A light jacket is often needed, since major hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, subway and most taxis are air-conditioned. For the cool winter nights a light sweater will do.
Portuguese is the language spoken in Brazil . Spanish and English are the most widely understood foreign languages.
The Brazilian monetary unit is the Real (R$). There are bills for R$1, R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50 and R$100. Coins are available for 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and for R$1. The US dollar is by far the most accepted foreign currency. The official exchange rate is published daily in the newspapers. Cash and traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at most banks, exchange bureaux and hotels. As elsewhere, exchange rates for cash and traveller’s cheques are slightly different, and coins are not exchangeable. Personal cheques drawn on overseas banks are not accepted. All major credit cards (VISA, American Express, MasterCard, Diner’s) are widely accepted in Brazil.
Banks are open weekdays from 10am to 4pm and closed on weekends and public holidays. Automated teller machines (ATMs) can be found almost everywhere; some machines provide 24-hour cash withdrawal (R$) facilities for major credit cards.
Nearly all hotels add a service charge to the bill, usually 10%. As for restaurants, tips are discretionary, but are often found on the final bill as a “suggestion” and usually do not exceed 10%. Tips are not expected by taxi drivers, although most passengers will round the fare up. The Real equivalent to U$ 1.00 per suitcase should suffice for airport and hotel porters.
Rio de Janeiro has an excellent telecommunications system, which provides trouble-free connections to virtually anywhere in the world. Most hotels offer International Direct Dial (IDD) services, fax machines and access to the web. Some will have in-room Internet hook-up. Cyber-cafes are also popular and can be found in the main shopping centers. Long-distance and collect calls can be made from IDD pay phones or card phones all over the city. The IDD code for Brazil is 55 and the city code for Rio is 21.
The postal service in Brazil is very efficient and meets all international standards, but at least a week should be allowed for postcards and letters mailed in each direction. Post offices are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Most hotels offer postal facilities for guests .
Like in any other major metropolis and tourist center, being streetwise is the key to a trouble-free and enjoyable stay. Always leave valuables (traveller’s cheques, passports, air tickets) in the hotel safe deposit box and carry as little cash as possible. Please remember, however, to have a photocopy of your passport (or some sort of ID) with you at all times. Rio de Janeiro military police and the municipal guard corps have many stations and reporting centers spread throughout the city. A special branch of the Civil Police, called DEAT (Police Department Branch for Attending Tourists), has specially trained officers to assist tourists. It could be reached at phone number (21) 2511-5112 / 3399-7170. In case of need, you may also contact the hotel front desk for guidance and assistance.
It is recommended that ISMP 2006 participants stay at the hotels suggested by BLUMAR, the conference official tour operator. Also, and whenever possible, take advantage of the transportation provided by conference organizers. If necessary, opt for the special taxis at airports (that work on a fixed fare by area, which is paid in advance at the company’s counter) and for the yellow metered taxis, when moving around the city. Since it is unlikely that yellow taxi drivers speak any foreign language, it would help if you show him/her a piece of paper with your destination clearly written on it.
All major metropolitan centers in Brazil offer an excellent network of private hospitals. However, private medical care is expensive. Therefore, visitors are strongly advised to take out medical trip insurance prior to arrival.