It feels like we’ve been travelling for days! Probably because we have been travelling for days! Flying to Brazil via Dubai was not the most direct route, but we saved so much in airfares, it was worthwhile. We broke the 2 long flights up with a day in Dubai in between … thank heavens. When we got off the flight from Adelaide, it was a huge relief that we weren’t facing a 14-hour flight to Rio until the next day. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near the airport and that worked very well – shuttle bus between the airport and hotel every 30 minutes, the hotel’s reception staff are used to dealing with arrivals and departures at odd hours and let us check in at 9am instead of the usual 2pm. They also gave us our breakfast vouchers to use prior to check in, which gave us something to do and somewhere to sit until 9am. We’ll probably stay there on the way home too.
We got a few hours sleep, then hopped on a train to the Dubai Mall in the afternoon to have a wander around and get some dinner. Lots of building around the Mall and near Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in Dubai. Now they’re building apartment blocks with names like ‘Burj Kalifa Vista’ … because, um, having an apartment with views of that needle-like building is something to aspire to? We noticed prices had increased a lot since we were there 2 years ago, mostly because the AUD has dropped, but it also seems overpriced according to the Big Mac Index. A Big Mac Meal in Dubai costs around AUD $11.
Early start the next morning, to be on the 7am flight. Checking in was easy, then some waiting around, then the flight. There are a couple of seats that we really like on 777-300 planes and were able to choose them on 3 out of the 4 Emirates flights we’re doing. Right up the back of the plane there are several rows of window seats with only 2 seats rather than the usual 3.
After the rather fraught process of obtaining a Brazilian visa – which will be another whole post of its own – actually getting through Immigration in Rio de Janeiro was very straightforward. We had to fill in a customs form which has been stamped and (most important!) we have to not lose it between now and when we leave the country early next week. We got a taxi from the airport to the apartment we’re staying in – there’s a taxi booth in the arrivals hall which organises payment and accepts credit cards, and the companies that use the service charge a flat rate according to distance. A great system because most foreign arrivals don’t have cash to pay the driver, and the taxis don’t charge extra ‘waiting time’ for getting stuck in traffic jams. It seemed to take us a long time to get to the apartment, but we weren’t stuck in traffic much, and our driver was very … er … pushy when negotiating intersections. Lane markings seem to be mere suggestions here, a bit like in Africa.
Finding the Airbnb apartment was pretty easy, thanks to our host’s good directions. We’re on the 4th floor of a 15-floor building, and the entrance is inside a shopping arcade, right opposite a supermarket. You can see some photos of the apartment here. We are 5 or 6 blocks from Copacabana Beach and have already walked down there twice. Not much action there today as it’s overcast and raining intermittently. Hardly anyone on the beach this morning, a few more people this afternoon but not many swimmers. We dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean – the last time we did that was in Namibia.
Today is San Sebastian Day and lots of places are closed, or they were open this morning, and then closed early in the afternoon. San Sebastian is the patron saint of Rio and it’s a public holiday, but only in Rio. I guess everywhere will be open tomorrow and we’ll get to see what it’s like. We’re planning on visiting Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Hill to see Christ the Redeemer, so hopefully the weather will improve, preferably before the weekend as both attractions get very busy on weekends.