In all of our many trips to foreign lands, we had always opposed engaging the services of a local travel guide or any guided tour operation. Our parents/in-laws, who have much longer operated under the same independent travel MO, recently decided to open themselves to the possibility that a local expert might be an interesting and useful way to navigate some of the tourist-favorite attractions of Rio as well as see some lesser-known treasures. After their fantastic experience with Don Rafa, they urged us to arrange our own booking with him on our months-later vacation to the city.
Alas, he was booked! – yet still very kindly available for a greeting and ride to our hotel after our evening arrival at GIG. Upon his assurance and strong referral, we made arrangements to tour for a full day with his friend and fellow registered tour guide, Sonia Chagas. She met us at our hotel – the Caesar Park Tower on Ipanema Beach – in a clean and comfortable car that she expertly wielded through vast stretches of the city. Her friendliness was effusive and English very good. She explained not only much about the many destinations on our route but also much about life in Brazil and in Rio.
After zipping past lines and quickly making our way to the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue (visitors accompanied by registered travel guides are given special priorities), we remarked that the price of her service for the day was immediately returned – and so very early on in our time together! She was respectful of our preferences and made sure we were able to see some of the more famous attractions as well as some more unexpected, like the relaxing but not too long boat road on a quiet lagoon where we saw much local wildlife.
We highly recommend tours with either Rafa or Sonia. We assume Rafa is as knowledgeable and personable a guide as Sonia. Had we a chance to do it again, we may have only made one change, which would have been to request a little more time to walk in some of the areas by perhaps cutting out some of the driving that we assume those looking for relaxation and a slower pace enjoy but was more seat time than we active folks prefer. We are certain had we said something (or had we known the city was so vast), Sonia would have adjusted exactly to our liking.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.