Famed for its Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, sprawling natural beauty, world-famous carnival and wild nightlife, Rio de Janeiro may seem like an expat paradise. Still, like any destination, there are a few downsides to life in Brazil's most visited city.

Check out our list of pros and cons of moving to Rio de Janeiro below.

Lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro

+ PRO: World-renowned nightlife

Rio has an abundance of lifestyle and nightlife options, from bustling nightclubs and bars to a sensational underground scene and samba clubs. The city is home to several party districts, with Lapa being the most famous. 

+ PRO: Annual Rio de Janeiro Carnival

With claims of being the biggest show on earth, the five-day carnival in Rio de Janeiro celebrates the beginning of Lent and is a national holiday in Brazil. This bucket-list event features parades, parties and open-air performances, with 2 million spectators taking to the streets daily during the week-long spectacle.

+ PRO: Breathtaking natural scenery

Rio de Janeiro's dramatic mountainscapes, pristine coastline and urban rainforest make the city a paradise for nature-loving expats. Tijuca National Park – the world's only rainforest located within a city – is an oasis where expats can hike along some of the most serene routes. Other recommended spots to enjoy unparalleled city views are Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer monument on Corcovado Mountain.

+ PRO: Shimmering beaches

The beaches in Rio de Janeiro vary in style, but the iconic white sand, sunny spots and crystal-clear waters are a hallmark throughout the city. Expats can enjoy water sports, beach volleyball and futevôlei (foot-volleyball) or simply admire the stunning ocean view from a beachside bar or restaurant.

- CON: Highly visible economic inequality

Rio has a lot to love, but there are visible economic disparities in the city. The contrast between the city's wealthy areas and the favelas, which lack basic infrastructure, is a stark reminder of Brazil's wealth inequality.

Working in Rio de Janeiro

+ PRO: Important commercial hub for Brazil

Rio's international airport and port status make the city a key commercial hub for Brazil. Highly skilled expats can find employment across a range of sectors and multiple multinational corporations.

- CON: Knowledge of Portuguese is useful

Brazilians prefer establishing personal relationships before doing business. Though English is becoming more commonly spoken in Rio, a working knowledge of Portuguese helps to build rapport with local business partners.

- CON: The job market is competitive

Competition in Rio de Janeiro's job market is fierce, and expats will be up against locals who have the added advantage of not requiring a Brazilian work visa. Employment in Rio is often found through recommendations, so building up a robust network is key. Expats should secure employment in advance of moving to the city.

Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro

+ PRO: Great standard of accommodation

Much of the accommodation in Rio is in the form of condominiums and apartments, some of which offer sought-after on-site amenities such as 24-hour security, gyms and swimming pools. The newer apartment blocks also tend to be larger.

- CON: House hunting is competitive

As is the case in most cities, finding a decent apartment in Rio de Janeiro can be an arduous task. Demand in areas like Ipanema and Barra de Tijuca means rentals do not stay on the market long and tend to be expensive.

- CON: Most accommodation is unfurnished

Long-term rentals in Rio are typically unfurnished, and in extreme cases, expats may also have to buy basic kitchen appliances and light fixtures. That said, the low monthly rental on these apartments usually offsets the cost of buying furniture.

Cost of living in Rio de Janeiro

- CON: High utility prices

The cost of living in Rio de Janeiro can be high but is generally more affordable than in São Paulo. As a port city, Rio enjoys decent grocery prices, but rental, electricity and water prices are surprisingly expensive.

Safety and security in Rio de Janeiro

- CON: Robberies and muggings are common

Robberies on overcrowded buses have become an unfortunate reality in Rio, particularly at night. Expats are advised to avoid bus travel and opt for a taxi in the evening. Scams and petty crimes such as pickpocketing and purse snatching are also prevalent. Expats should stay vigilant and keep a close eye on their belongings, especially on beaches and in the Centro.

Getting around in Rio de Janeiro

+ PRO: Reliable public transport

Rio's metro and bus networks are a clean, efficient and affordable way of getting around the city. Licensed taxis and e-hailing services like Uber and EasyTaxis are abundant and are recommended when travelling at night.

- CON: Aggressive driving and chaotic traffic

Brazilians are infamous for their aggressive driving. To add to the frustration, the city's roads are terribly congested, especially during peak hours.

+ PRO: Cycling is encouraged

Exploring Rio has never been easier thanks to the many cycle lanes – particularly around the tourist areas and beaches – and a shared bike-rental programme. Bike Itaú allows cyclists to rent bicycles on a short and long-term basis using a nifty mobile application.

Expat Health Insurance

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Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

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  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global (10% off family health plans in June)

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