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Gareth Leonard

Brazilian Beach Etiquette in Rio de Janeiro

Beaches aren’t a destination in Rio de Janeiro; they’re a way of life.

Home to some of the most famous stretches of coastline in the world, Rio’s beach culture is not something to be taken lightly.

With that being said, there are some key factors that you need to understand before crossing over the iconic walkway of Copacabana or Ipanema.

Thanks to the advice of local friends and learning from my own mistakes, I’ve developed a few quintessential rules to Brazilian beach etiquette that will help you blend in like a Carioca (Rio Native) on your next trip to “the marvelous city.”

Less is More

First things first… what do you bring to the beach? The key thing to remember here is “less is more.” While women usually bring           a bag and canga (sarong) to sit on, men come empty handed apart from maybe a soccer ball and some cash.

Neither Brazilian men nor women bring towels to the beach.

As you might expect, less is more refers to the size of the bathing suit as well. Although younger Brazilian men are getting more into the boardshorts, they still sport sungas (speedos) with absolute confidence.

Women on the other hand have remained true to their reputation of limiting their bikini to cover only the most necessary of parts. Unlike some preconceived notions however, they do not go topless.

Find Your Post

Now that you know what to bring, lets figure out where you’re going to sit.

On Ipanema Beach especially, each lifeguard post is marked with a number and represents a meeting point for particular people. For example, surfers and artists tend to stay close to Arpoador at post 7, while gay-friendly beachgoers like the area between post 8 and 9, and the young and beautiful often frequent post 12.

Find the post that best suits your style and start making friends. The beaches can get pretty crowded so it’s important to get along with those around you.

Befriend Your Barraca

Every beach in Rio has small pop-up stands in the sand called Barracas. This is where you can rent chairs and umbrellas and buy coconut water, caipirinhas or beer.

Prices and service vary based on the day and your relationship, so it’s best to befriend the guys who run the nearest Barraca.

Flag Down Your Food

While the Barraca boys have you covered with furniture and refreshments, food vendors bring local snacks straight to you.

Brazilians don’t bring food to the beach.

Vendors sell everything from salgados and acai to sandwiches and seasoned cheese on sticks, cooked right in front of you.

All you have to do is signal them over with a shout or a hand wave when they come trudging through the sand.

Get Active

You could easily sit there all day, drinking cold beers and eating delicious snacks under the shade of your umbrella, but that won’t help your beach body.

To really fit in like a local, juggle a soccer ball with friends, jump into a futevolei or join a volleyball game.

If ball sports aren’t for you, try your hand at slacklining or go skateboarding down the promenade.

There’s a reason Brazilians stay in such great shape and it’s because they treat the beach like one big playground.

Stay for Sunset

In most beach destinations you visit, late afternoon means it’s time to pack up and head home. But here in Rio, sunset on the beach is one of the most cherished parts of the experience.

Shift your chair, drop the umbrella and watch the sky change colors as the sun drops behind the mountainous horizon.

It’s one of those incredibly warming scenes that confirm just how marvelous the city of Rio de Janeiro really is.

Follow these key factors in Brazilian beach etiquette and you might even get invited to the after party.

Have you ever had interesting experiences traveling around Brazil? Share your stories

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