When My Baby Smiles At Me…
Rio de Janeiro (the “r” is pronounced like “h”) is a metro area of over 12 million people sprawling across one of the world’s most iconic and scenic mountain landscapes. It’s known for sun, sand and sexual tourism, Mardi Gras, a giant statue of Christo Redentor (“Christ the Redeemer”) and “The Girl From Ipanema.” The barriers created by Rio’s mountains are frequently the dividing lines between neighborhoods, with most of the nicest neighborhoods, unsurprisingly, being located by the southern beaches. Unlike in many places, however, the real estate up on the hills is not fashionable and wealthy despite the views but is covered with Rio’s infamous favelas (fah VAY lass)–slums. They look pleasant
enough from the beach at Ipanema but the hills that divide Rio’s various neighborhoods are dangerous places tourists should avoid.
Tall and tan and young and lovely…
The gayest part of Rio is spread across Copacabana and Ipanema, with Farme de Amoeda in Ipanema being the central gay street. Posto 9
(Station 9) along the beach a couple of blocks away is the traditional gay beach spot but action is migrating further down the beach to Posto 10 courtesy of tourists unaware they
are crashing a gay beach. Beach volleyball is popular and if you ask the locals to let you into a game they will. (Just be careful not to serve a volleyball into the back of someone’s
head like I did.) Otherwise, you can enjoy all the pleasures common to the world’s beaches and gaze at the many tan and fit people you will see there. There, are of course, beaches all along this part of Rio’s coast and you can easily stroll around the corner into Copacabana to enjoy the beaches there as the distances are not especially large. You can certainly have fun just staying around these neighborhoods of Rio but I have always spent some time venturing further into a new city, not just for tourist activities but for social ones, and I recommend visitors make some efforts to do so.
It is THE place for “muscle boys and hairy men.” The most popular bar at the moment is Combinado Carioca, which promotes VamoSiVê (“Let’s Get Together”) on Friday and Saturday nights. It lies over the hills north of Copacabana. If you wish to head deeper into the city to escape tourists or find out of the way places the best advice is always, no matter where you go, to find residents in the more touristy areas and ask them about the best places to go elsewhere. I’ve done this in every city I’ve visited and it has always worked well, although sometimes you have to ask a few people before you get truly valuable information. As for leather and fetish, Rio de Janeiro is not a leather destination. The closest you’ll find to that scene is Barbado (“Bearded”) Party that occasionally takes place at Fosfobox in Copacabana.
It is customary in Rio for hotels to refuse to allow their guests to bring visitors, at least if the visitors look like locals (no doubt because there’s a good chance a local is a prostitute and they don’t want such transactions taking place on their premises). The workaround is motel rooms rented by the hour, which are a Brazilian tradition. There are also bathhouses in Rio, G Spa in Ipanema and Termas Leblon (Leblon is a neighborhood just to the west of Ipanema). As always, it is hit or miss as to whether they will be good. I went to two while in Rio and one was a total miss and the other was a very nice hit.
She just doesn’t see…
Safety is always a concern on people’s minds when they go to Rio given the city’s reputation for crime, and while there is reason for concern tourists who travel wisely and spend time in the places tourists are likely to be should be safe. Take reasonable precautions. At night, caravans of police vehicles move slowly down the streets of Copacabana, lights flashing, but it’s safest not to walk alone after dark. The numerous apartment buildings in Copacabana and Ipanema frequently have private security guards in the front, behind iron grates, to discourage crime but whether they can offer much aid to someone on the street is debatable.
Swings so cool…
Simply put, there are many hookers and hustlers in Copacabana, at night and during the day. Both men and women can and will approach you in broad daylight at the beach, as well as elsewhere (they both approached me, anyway). Certain gay establishments are also worked by hustlers. Prostitution has been decriminalized but pimping is illegal, though businesses find ways around the law. Visitors who take part in this have to use the previously mentioned rooms rented by the hour. There is something of a stereotype associated with Rio that says if you look like a European or an American (“filet mignon” to certain criminals) some money will be expected to change hands if sex takes place. While not entirely true, visitors should keep in mind that this issue might crop up.