Article provided by Rio de janeiro guide
Attractions in Rio de Janeiro
If you are visiting the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil there are several spots that have to be part of your tour. Question then is whether you should go on your own, use private tour guide with car or minivan, or take a bus tour.
I am here talking about tours within the city of Rio de Janeiro. If you are going on tour to other cities within the State, the main time is spent on the road so taking a bus is usually the best option.
My least favorite way of seeing the sights in the city of Rio de Janeiro is by utilizing bus. It is not much cheaper than taking a taxi or using a tour guide. The disadvantages are however numerous, main of which is the time spent. Copacabana and Ipanema are very busy neighborhoods and when using bus there is a high risk that you will have to be spending a large portion of your morning stuck in traffic. Same applies when visiting tour spots. In large groups the tour doesn´t move quicker than the slowest person.
When should you the use car or mini-van tour service, and when should you go on your own?
Sugarloaf, with the birthplace of Rio de Janeiro by its feet, is one of the most famous places to visit in Rio de Janeiro. It is close to the roadway heading to Christ the Redeemer and the city center. The advantage with using guide when visiting SugarLoaf is that you will get added information about the area. Problem is that the tour generally has time constraints and Sugarloaf is a nice place to sit down and relax if you feel like it.
Best is therefore just to get to SugarLoaf on your own.
You will not need a guide for a city tour. Not using a tour guide will, however, demand more research on your part before the visit and it will naturally be slower.
However, traveling to and from the city center from south zone is easy via the metro system.
Theater Municipal in Rio de Janeiro - Close to the exit of the metro station Cinelandia
A visit to Santa Teresa can be done by foot for someone who does not mind walking 30 minutes uphill.
If you use a car service a visit to Santa Teresa can easily be combined with a tour to Christ the redeemer.
Particularly the top view spot, Parque das Ruinas, is worth a visit as it gives great view of the entire downtown.
The visit one seriously should consider using private tour guide is to the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue. Getting there seems easily enough. You take the metro to Largo do Machado and walk or take a bus up to the train station. There are however significant drawbacks with this approach. One of them is the train station itself. If you are visiting in high season it often has huge lines and delays.
It also costs around $10 more per person compared to Paineiras station.
If you take tour with mini-van or private tour guide you will arrive at Paineiras station. This station is much quicker both to get up and down. With private tour guide there usually is time to stop in a second spot close by the statue - Dona Marta. Unfortunately, from my experience with group tours there is often some issue that makes it necessary to drop this stop. It can be awful traffic or someone in the group that moves very slowly. With private tour it is much easier to make a stop hyper quick or you yourself get to choose how time should be managed.
Beyond the advantages already mentioned one huge advantage with guide is that you can combine a tour to Christ the Redeemer with other tour spots. From the statue there is easy access to Santa Teresa where you from the top also have a great view of downtown. As mentioned you can visit this spot on your own using public transport, however this will in itself take more than half a day. Same with downtown which you can visit on your own, but using car service will make it much easier and more places will become accessible.
Of the less common spots one need car or jeep to visit Tijuca Forest. The forest is worth a visit if you go by "The Chinese View" which gives a great view of the Lagoon from almost the opposite end of Christ the Redeemer.
Lastly, it goes without saying that if you intend to visit a Favela you have to do this with a tour guide.