My multiple trip reports are well overdue and it's about time that I reported on where I stayed, what I did, when I was in trouble, when I was treated nicely by a Brazilian and so on. I am motivated to report these trips to provide balance to people who choose to write only those negative, however unfortunate they are, events.
I first visited Rio during 1996-1998 while living in Sao Paulo and stayed at the Hotel Toledo, a low-rent little hotel behind the now Marriott on Copacabana. I ate breakfast every morning and left two Nikon cameras in my room when not sightseeing and never had a problem with security. I spent most of my weekends hanging out, riding the bonde up and down Santa Teresa, drinking choppe while reading on the beach. My last trip to Rio in 1998 I stayed at the Oceano Copacabana and enjoyed my stay, again with no problems. In fact, it was that trip that I ate at a restaurant on Av. Atlantica and when my bill came (around 25 USD) I realized that I had left my money in the hotel. The waiter asked where I was staying and said that since the hotel was close I could drop the money off later that night. He then offered me another beer and I relaxed.
I returned to Rio again only in 2003 and stayed at the Windsor Excelsior on Copacabana and enjoyed the hotel. Again, no security problems at night or during the day. I then went back in 2005 and stayed at the Sheraton Barra (obviously my career was taking a turn for the better) and hosted at the Hotel Gloria. My subsequent trips have found me at rented apartments, Mirasol Copcabana, and hosted at private homes.
Throughout all of this I have had only one negative incident, when I was alone, a bit intoxicated, walking Av. Atlantica to my hotel at 2am. Otherwise all has gone well. My children and wife came with me on one trip and we were all treated with a high degree of hospitality. In fact, we rented beach chairs from the Copa Palace and the guys working there almost served as babysitters for us by playing with our kids and acting as a third set of eyes.
Yes, I made some stupid moves, such as taking the wrong bus to the bus station. In frustration I got off the bus when I realized my mistake and tried to catch a taxi. Thankfully a lotacao picked me up and told me that I had gotten off in front of the most dangerous favela in Rio (my gringo face and duffel made me look like a "tourist"). I took the bonde to Corcovado with my wife and kids only to find out it didn't meet the tram and deposited us in front of another favela. Thankfully, nothing was going on and we walked a bit and found a taxi that drove us to the top. This doesn't mean that all favelas are dangerous or that all are safe, it just shows that you can be close to trouble quickly without knowing it.
In the end, I love the city, I love the people, I love the vibe and I hope others can hear the rest of us shouting that Rio is worth the worry and time. It will pay you back like you can't imagine.