OK, some background about me. I have been to Brazil several times and lived in São Paulo in the past. This was the first time my partner and I had visited Rio. I will start with a couple of general questions I would have liked to be answered before we visited Rio.
1. I heard Rio is dangerous. Do I need a guide?
No. Rio used to be dangerous, but security nowadays isn't much different to other major cities.
2. OK, so I don't need a guide. Do I want one?
Depends. If you only want to see Pão de Açucar, Corcovado and other major central attractions then no. It is very easy to see these places by yourself, and you don't have to pay a guide to stand and wait for you for the several hours you will spend there. If, however, you wish to see other less well known but worthwhile places that are difficult to get to or far away (e.g. Niteroi) then a guide makes sense. Also, if you value comfort, then travelling in the guide's air-conditioned vehicle makes everything a bit more enjoyable, especially in the summer.
Now a bit about Luis. Unlike many Brazilians, Luis can speak very good English, he does what he says he's going to do, and he shows up on time. All great plus points for a private tour guide. He is a Carioca, and like most, he is passionate about his city. He has considerable knowledge about Rio, and is happy to share it with you.
Bear in mind, however, that it is extremely difficult to become true friends with a Brazilian. I mention this because, to many Brazilians, anyone who is not a friend is a potential target, tourists especially so. To Luis, and any other private guide in Rio, you are their client, not their friend. Where this was made absolutely clear to me was in the payment method. Luis prefers payment in US$ cash. If, like me, you don't have any, you can pay in Brazilian Reais, but at a cripplingly bad fictional exchange rate given to you by a website seemingly set up just for this purpose. This left a bad taste in our mouths and cast a shadow over what was otherwise an excellent experience.
Luis is certainly a knowledgeable and passionate guide, our tour was diverse and covered many parts of the city which we would never have seen otherwise. Just remember to bring enough US$ cash to pay him, otherwise you will leave with the same sense of being fleeced as we did.
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