How safe it actually feels to stay in a favela in Brazil
Brazil

How safe it actually feels to stay in a favela in Brazil

View from a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
So we stayed in a Favela in Brazil. We’re still alive:)

A favela is a type of low-income slum neighborhood in Brazil that has experienced historical governmental neglect.

Table of Contents

Why did we choose to stay in a favela in Brazil?

Basically, because we had no other valid option.

Given the fact that we traveled to Rio during the Carnival, all prices had a 3x to 4x increase and we didn’t want to spend ~700 EUR for 9 days on the accommodation alone. We had a limited budget and wanted to save as much as possible. Plus, a bit of adrenaline is not that bad. So we chose to stay in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Pousada Entrance

On the plus side, Pousada Favela Cantagalo:

  • Has Superb reviews on booking.com (9.3)
  • Is 10 minutes away from both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches
  • It is said to be a safe favela due to being in the South of Rio

On the minus side:

  • It is scary (really) for a newbie to walk around the favela
  • You need to be extra aware of the surroundings

How much did we pay?

We booked through booking.com and paid R$165 (~38 USD / 35 EUR) per night (total for 9 nights was R$1.490 - ~340 USD / 313 EUR). We searched other websites for accommodation but most prices were at least double.

The Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The woman in charge of the pousada was very nice and helpful from the very start, even if she didn’t know much English. However, she did explain that the man at the top of the stairs of the favela is the ‘security guard’ and that each Associação (building association) has one. 

favela streets in rio de janeiro
The favela streets

They are all very skinny cariocas and stay on a plastic chair all day and smoke the biggest joints I’ve ever seen. Oh, and they always have a gun. Like, a real gun.

At that point I didn’t think we'd get out of there alive.

At first, I was trying to figure out a plan if we should stay or plan to move somewhere else in Rio - but I already knew this was the most affordable accommodation we could find by far - and we booked back in December. Being the time of Carnival, all prices must have skyrocketed by now. And so we stayed.

You have to climb 109 very stinky steps to get to our room in the pousada. It always smells like dog poop and dead rats on the stairway, even if you can notice someone is cleaning it every day. But that was the smell on the favela streets as well. Not only this favela in Rio looks like this, but most of them also do.

favela in rio de janeiro
The 109 steps to the pousada

Right in front of our room, there was some new building wannabe, but in fact, it was a pile of garbage and the foundation. 

rio de janeiro favela
The wannabe 'building'

However, the pousada is very clean and nice. It has a terrace on the third floor where they serve breakfast free of charge every day and the views are great. We used it a lot for work as it is so relaxing to see all the favela buildings and the ocean at the same time.

The only downside, and I am not sure if it’s the pousada, the favela or the city is the water. Potable or not, it has a very moldy smell that I found very hard to live with. 

view of the favela in Rio de Janeiro
The view from the pousada terrace

A small room in the favela

We had quite a spacious room with our own bathroom and a double bed. We received clean sheets and towels that were changed every three days. The rooms were cleaned daily.

The A/C did a very good job at keeping temperatures normal and we had plenty of room to lay our luggage.

See more in the pictures below.

Conclusions

It was a great experience to stay in a favela. We felt like we tasted the real Rio culture and got to see how most people live and work, and what the dangers are. Yes, it is mostly still drugs.

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