Rio’s Favela Tourism ~ a first-person look

By Dian Hasan | September18, 2009


Encroaching favela in Rio, ascending to the hill top. Photo:

With the growing popularity of “do good” travel or “doing good while traveling” of today, fueled by people’s increased awareness of the planet and its contents, one area of travel that has received renewed interest isn’t your average cup of tea ~ City Slums! Rio de Janeiro should be credited for starting this idea over a decade ago, when Marcelo Armstrong launched “Favela Tours” to take a first-hand look at urban poverty in Rio’s infamous favelas (slums). What is it really like? And what do you really see? Few people, especially from the developed countries can fathom the notion of “poverty”, let along “urban poverty”. So the following “first-person account” from Jason of Pittsburgh, who’s been traveling solo across Latin America gives you a valuable insight into life in the favelas, and how you can help.

I spent some time in Rio De Janeiro and one the most memorable experiences was walking around a favela. Favelas are the shantytowns usually on hilltops where the land is considered unsafe and the settlements are illegal. The movie City of God is about life in a Rio Favela, if any of you have seen it.

My purpose in posting this is to share a unique experience. I do not think the drug lords are good guys. I posted this believing there is a general acknowledgment that people who kill are bad and so I focused on why the residents and its drug lords make Rocinha such an interesting place. They do this through creating their own sense of order. But this entire topic can be a bit touchy as favela life is not so simple. I am not making any moral claims…just showing my brief experience with Rio Favelas.

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We began the tour at the bottom of the favela where we hopped on the back of some motorcyle taxis to ride to the top of the favela, a city within a city of more than 200,000 people.

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We exited and were met with this monstrosity. Apparently most people just make there own tappings on to the overhead lines for electricty.

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The water is also turned on every 3 hours so that people who can not afford water can fill up for free.

The favela we visited, Rocinha, is the largest favela in Rio and we were told was run by different gangs involved in drugs.

We began our walk down the narrow alleys.
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Visited a neat art studio
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Some kids banging on cans for some extra money
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Our group walking single file down the streets
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I have no idea what this girl was on about?

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As you can see I made some nice friends

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Chickens running amok
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Kites were pretty popular. children flying kites used to be a common sight in the favelas as a way to communicate with drug dealers. They don’t need to rely on kites anymore, because they have cell phones, radios and firecrackers. Firecrackers are used as the first warning signal, which I heard once while we were there.

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Open sewers
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Corner Store

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Friendly Carioca

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This was an overall positive experience and a fascinating opportunity to see something completely different.

Source: Jason’s in South America Blog

This entry was posted in Adventure Travel, Brazil, Favela Tourism, Humanitarian, Poverty Tourism and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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