de Janeiro! The plane lifted off from Sao Paulo in total darkness for its
final leg into Rio de Janeiro. We came up out of the darkness into
high morning sunlight and my spirits soared. Too
many years had passed since I'd last seen my favorite city. There
is much that I like about Rio; its people, their music, the exotic ambiance
of the place, the almost other worldly beauty, the beaches, the sharp mountains
and hills that loom up like concertos out of the landscape, the constant
ocean breezes, the California-like atmosphere, the royal imperial palms,
tree lined streets, restaurants strung along Avenita Atlantica, the women
who are like no other, Corcovado, the jazz clubs, samba, the style of the
Carioca, Jardim Botanico, Ipanema, Copacabana - more than I could ever
say in words, even though superlatives abound.
Paul Guaguin saw Rio de Janeiro from the deck of a ship and decided to
become an artist. We first saw Rio de Janeiro in 1981 and fell it in love
with it. Time has passed, but here we are again. The microphone clicks
on, the flight attendant tells us the time, it's 6 AM, June the 7th.
We are to place all carry-on bags under the seat or in the overhead compartment,
we are to move our chairs into an upright position and fasten our seat
belts. We are informed that we are about to land at Antonio Carlos Jobim
International Airport, where the temperature is 79 degrees, and that we
are bid welcome to Rio de Janeiro.
I say to no one in particular; as I look out the window at the city below
'...I'm happy to be home again.'
Here I was
back in Rio, just about to make the startling discovery that I could finally
afford to live here, here in my favorite city, and beyond that, that I
could actually live here cheaper than I could live anywhere else I wanted
to live, and more than that, the most startling discovery of all....
that I could buy an ocean view apartment for the amazing price of only
for the trip was to research the real estate conditions in Rio de Janeiro
for this magazine. For this purpose I wanted a central location to
work from, so I had picked a hotel in Copacabana where I could take exploratory
trips in every direction and do an analysis of each of the better neighborhoods
for prices and living conditions. As I've already more or less implied,
I was in for a number of pleasant surprises.
checking into my hotel I had an excellent lunch at the Siqueira
Grill in Copacabana. Just before going to lunch I had exchanged
some dollars into the Brazilian Real at 2.41 Real's for the dollar. The
meal was enormous, steak, sausages, grilled chicken livers, quail eggs,
beets, bean salad, three different cheeses, creamed spinach, various vegetables
plus other odds and ends, all washed down with a half dozen Brazilian Pilsner's.
If I could
have eaten more I would have, as the menu was endless, all cooked in the
Churrasco style. There was a wide assortment of deserts that would
have done justice to the finest French restaurant, there was also fresh
fruit, espresso, juices, and anything the imagination might consider.
When I went to pay the bill it came to a little more than 10 Real (BRL).
Obviously something was wrong. I walked outside and sat down at a
bench on the beach and pulled out my calculator. I had paid about
$2.50 for a $15 to $20 meal, how could this be? In an instant it struck
me what had occurred. The price in the restaurant were pegged to
the Real, and the Real was being treated as if it were still being pegged
to the dollar on a one to one exchange ratio.
In other words,
to the restaurant they had just charged me $10 for a meal, but due to the
exchange rate I'd gotten it for only $2.50. In a fit of excitement I rushed
over and bought a copy of El Globo, Rio's major newspaper. I turned to
the Real Estate section and my excitement was confirmed. Apartments
were for sale in Copacabana for BRL60,000 - or, US$24,896. I could buy
an apartment in the world's most exciting city for $25,000 - I knew in
an instant that I'd hit the jackpot.
Rio is eleven
miles long - and in most of the best neighborhoods not much more than a
half mile to a mile wide.
this odd anomaly, consider that Rio is a city pressed between a steep mountain
and the ocean. The city is long and narrow. The best neighborhoods for
anyone wanting go buy real estate are Flamengo, Jardim Botanico, Ipanema,
Leblon, Copacabana, Lagoa and Santa Teresa. My favorites have always
been Flamengo and Santa Teresa. Flamengo would appeal to most readers,
but Santa Teresa will only appeal to the more adventuresome.
Teresa, one of Rio's oldest neighborhoods, was built on the lower and middle
slopes of Corcovado mountain to escape the heat and humidity of the low
lands. Therefore, it offers majestic views of the harbor, Pão de
Açúcar (Sugar Loaf,) and the surrounding hills some of which
contain favelas. Santa Teresa is the Bohemian section of Rio de Janeiro,
filled with artists, expatriates, writers and some international fugitives.
It was the home of the famous British train robber Ronnie Biggs, a long
time fugitive from British justice. It is nestled within a set of
hills above the center of the city. Picturesque and village-like, it it
is filled with vividly painted turn-of-the-century houses; spectacular
views of downtown, Guanabara Bay, Sugar Loaf, and Corcovado; and it hosts
several cozy restaurants and bars; plus the famous antique bonde (streetcar)
that clatters its way through the winding cobblestoned streets.
I visited Santa
Teresa first, and found its streets were romantic and peaceful. Of
all the areas described in this article, Santa Teresa is the only area
which still has some remnants of Rio's crime problem. Caveat Emptor!
During the day it is a very peaceful neighborhood, but at night people
from the surrounding favelas are said to enter the area and can be a source
of crime. Rio's crime problem is less than a third what it was a
few years ago, and in most ot the areas I visited the crime problem has
been almost totally eliminated. Santa Teresa is going to appeal more
to artist types than to those seeking a luxury apartment.
If you are
an artist type, it is very probable that you are going to want to live
in Santa Teresa. The buildings are older and there are not as many available
as in other areas of the city, hence prices in Santa Teresa are more difficult
to write about. I saw a store front with an apartment behind priced
at BRL80,000 = US$33,200 - It would have made a good coffee house, small
gallery, architects office, or display space for photography. I also saw
a three BR, two bath condominium in a newer building for - BRL110,000 =
US$45,643 - it did not have the ambiance of the older buildings, but it
was more than acceptable. Those wanting something in the Santa Teresa
district are going to have to pound the pavements and do some searching.
Not so for the other areas I am about to describe. The reason for
this is that the choice properties in Santa Teresa are older, separate,
free standing structures that are not part of the mainstream real estate
market. I admit that it is high on my list of preferable areas, because
of it's unique ambiance and artistic feel. My guess is that a desirable
older house is going to cost me around $US75,000 - a price I feel comfortable
with, as prices in this area were around $150,000 to $US200,000 just a
few years ago and will probably go back to that price again when the currency
problems are resolved.
- An Area Reborn
of my favorite neighborhoods is Flamengo, and area where I lived for several
months some years back. There has been a tremendous resurgence in
the Flamengo district, especially in the classy waterfront area.
This area has many older beautiful buildings, sporting excellent DECO architect
(see photo) without any of the crime problems of Santa Teresa.
Classic Building - Excellent view - large living room, ample kitchen, 2
BR, 3 baths, maids quarters, garage. BRL120,000 = US$49,800
Flamengo Beach Studio Apartment - large kitchen, bath, view. BRL51,000
Magnificent Location - living room, den, 2 BR, furnished kitchen, facing
park, garage. BRL148,000 = US$61,4000
Near Botofogo Beach - View of Pão de Açúcarr, 3 BR,
living room with view, patio balcony, 2 baths. BRL150,000 = US$62,450
Panoramic 180 degree view - cinematographic vista of sea and Pão
de Açúcar, 4 BR, 3 baths, maids quarters, luxurious fixtures
and kitchen amenities, double garage, two full verandahs. BRL320,000 =
There are countless
more. I could list a full webpage of Flamengo properties with prices
just like this. Imagine, a beach front studio apartment in Rio de
Janeiro for $21,000! - Note that beach front in Flamengo doesn't
mean directly on the beach. There is a park between the beach and the residential
area, but what a park! Jogging trails, museums, picnic areas, exercise
areas, and other recreational facilities. Flamengo does not have the flash
of Copacabana; what it does have is a great deal of quiet charm.
people who moved to the new subdivisions in Barra da Tijuca have moved
back to neighborhoods like Flamengo. Living in the suburbs is fine,
but nothing can compare with living in Rio itself. There is always
something to do and see in Rio.
(Rio Dwellers) are a fun-loving people who know how to live. There
is no end of entertainment, including opera, ballet, soccer, samba, theater,
countless movie houses, good jazz, great eats, surfing, diving, rock climbing,
hang gliding, biking, jogging and living the good life in general, all
without ever having to leave the city.
can you find so much?
songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim once made the statement that there won't
be equality in the world until everyone gets to live in Copacabana. Few
places in the world can match the excitement of Copacabana. Just
walking down the street is an adventure. If eleven million Cariocas
aren't enough company for you, join the millions of tourists who visit
Rio de Janeiro for fun and sun. Restaurants, clubs, shows, tours, beach
events, dancing and enjoying the good life is a big part of life for Cariocas
as well as the endless stream of tourists that visit Copacabana each year.
with the tourists can be as much fun as interchanging with the natives.
Living in a
modest penthouse in Copacabana would appeal more to those under the age
of 50 then those over. Walking from the beach towards the mountain that
backdrops Copacabana one moves from the hectic splendor of the beach with
it's endless round the clock volleyball courts, swimming, jogging, sun
tanning, roller blading, snack bars, coconut juice vendors, bathing suit
vendors, splendid looking bodies, beachfront cafes, tourist hotels, skyscraping
condos, diamond vendors, jewelry stores, and international ambiance towards
two blocks of bustling shopping, cyber cafes, grocery stores, drug stores,
flower stores, hotels, espresso stands, shopping centers, department stores,
chic clothing stores and more. Past that one enters the peaceful
tree covered streets of private residences, homes and condos. I'll
give you some advice. Buy one.
Let's stop right
there. Not that I couldn't supply you with fifty more all in the
same ballpark, but because a point has to be made. The last listing
is for an ocean front residence on Avenida Atlantica directly over looking
Copacabana beach. Look at that price! Only $186,600 and you haven't even
started to negotiate.
Copacabana - Front
view of the sea. 2 bedrooms, recently remodeled. BRL183,000 = US$76,000
Copacabana - 3
BR, 2 Bath, Ocean view terrace, BRL160,000 = US$66,400
- Ocean Front - Living room, den, 3 BR, 2 Baths, fully featured
kitchen, garage, verandah. BRL450,000 = US$186,600
on Copacabana Beach has always been a dream beyond the reach of most of
us. In the US you couldn't get a backwater condo in Miami's racially
tormented streets for twice the price.
For less than
the price of an average home in the USA you could live on the world's most
exciting beach, and take my word for it, Copacabana is as exciting a place
as you'll ever see.
there! I've been in this area a thousand times and I've never grown
tired of it nor have I ever failed to find pleasure in wandering through
it's streets, eating at it's cafes, restaurants, and espresso bars, and
enjoying it's special Copacabana ambiance.
is like no other, it's better than a side show, better than a three
ring circus, it has a cast of characters you couldn't afford to hire, a
lineup of beautiful women that have found the secret of inspiring awe,
add to that all manner of international tourist, adventurer, artist, and
expatriate ready to carry on a conversation about life around the world.
Of The New Millennium
once had a vision that Rio would some day become what Paris was in the
1920's, perhaps given the current monetary situation that may yet come
to pass. What created the special ambiance of 1920's expatriate Paris
was a combination of factors; the French acceptance of other races and
cultures, the French celebration of art and things artistic, the overwhelming
beauty of Paris, and most of all the depressed state of the money in France
following WW I - These same factors exist in Rio de Janeiro today
almost to the letter. Few people in the world are more tolerant than
the Carioca, and few places have a better city environment to offer at
such bargain prices. Consider that you can live for five years in
Rio for what would currently get you by in Paris for one year. Those
flocking to Paris today are chasing Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Annis
Nin, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and other Lost Generation figures who if
they could come back to earth would probably be headed to Rio rather than
What Rio has
to offer the expatriate is the world of tomorrow, coupled with architectural
charm, an exciting culture, and all of the accruements of living a modern
lifestyle at a price anyone can afford. Paris offers the same thing,
but the view is a backwards view through the wrong end of the telescope.
Paris is overpriced, the real estate is minuscule and cramped, the possibilities
limited. Paris is a view towards the past, Rio is a view towards
tomorrow. I like the view.
- Other Factors
There are other
areas besides the areas mentioned. Ipanema is considered more stylish
and chic than than Copacabana, but I found real estate there that was also
a bargain. Let's talk about these other areas and some of the other factors
that make Rio a good expatriate destination.