Moving to Rio de Janeiro
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What to know if you're moving to Rio de Janeiro
Many expats dream about moving to Rio de Janeiro to experience the colorful carnival season, the sunshine, and the outgoing people. But before you get ready for moving to Rio de Janeiro, read our guide and learn more about the city’s history, climate, visa requirements, and housing.
All about Brazil
Relocating to Rio de Janeiro
History of Rio de Janeiro
Portuguese explorers began moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1502. As they thought the bay at which they landed was the mouth of a river, they named the city “River of January”. However, it took until 1530 for colonization to begin, which was closely followed by a serious conflict with the French who were also trying to seize the area.
The first people moving to Rio de Janeiro settled in the district which today is known as Castle Hill. From there, the city developed into a popular port, especially after gold was discovered in the late seventeenth century. In 1822, the country gained its independence from Portugal, following which the state was eventually transformed from a Monarchy into a Republic. Rio de Janeiro was declared the country’s capital and remained so until the inauguration of Brasilia as the capital in 1960.
Geography and Climate
Any expat moving to Rio de Janeiro will immediately notice two things: being the second largest city in Brazil, its colossal size, and the tourists. The city is located at the Atlantic coast on an inlet in Guanabara Bay, at the foot of the Sugarloaf, a 1,300 foot tall mountain at the entrance of the bay. Rio de Janeiro is also often referred to as “the Marvelous City”.
Contrary to common belief, the weather is not always bright in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, expats moving to Rio de Janeiro should be ready for an impressive amount of rain (although it usually doesn’t last more than a few days). As soon as you hear the words frente frio on the Brazilian news, prepare yourself for rainy days. These “cold fronts” (which are not cold at all) are particularly common between December and March, when average temperatures are around 26°C. Ironically, the average temperature between June and August is only around 20°C.
Speaking the Language
As Spanish is the dominating language throughout Latin America, expats in Rio de Janeiro might expect to get by with a basic knowledge of Spanish. While this is partially true (understanding Spanish may indeed help when moving to Rio de Janeiro), the official language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese.
Although Portuguese is not exactly easy to learn, you should at least try to pick up some expressions and learn how to pronounce certain words and street names. Right after moving to Rio de Janeiro you might still be able to get away with speaking Spanish, English, French, or Italian. However, as soon as you decide to wander off the trodden path, you should learn a few basics.
Rio de Janeiro: Visa Requirements
There are different visa categories for visitors and expats moving to Rio de Janeiro which serve different purposes. There are different short-term visas, which include business visas and visas for tourists and visitors, and permanent visas for those who intend on moving to Rio de Janeiro indefinitely. Tourists from Latin America and many European countries may enter the country without securing a visa beforehand, and have the right to stay in Rio for up to 90 days at a time.
All other visitors must apply for a visa beforehand (please refer to the nearest consulate or embassy of your home country to find out if this applies to you), including expats who travel to Rio for a business trips. Business visa are only valid for business meetings and negotiations, but do not permit you to work in Rio de Janeiro.
Have you signed a temporary employment contract with a company in Rio de Janeiro? Then you should apply for a V temporary visa (VITEM). Keep in mind that your work contract has to be examined and (hopefully) approved by the Ministry of Labor before your visa application can be approved. Thus, it may take quite a while before you receive your visa..
Temporary work visa are valid for a period of up to two years and can be extended once. Since November 2011, you may extend you temporary visa for an undetermined period of time. However, you are limited to the profession which is specified in your visa. You cannot change jobs while working in Rio de Janeiro or stay in the city to find a new job after your employment contract ends.
Many expats who want to work in Rio, and particularly those who think about working on a self-employed basis, apply for a permanent visa instead. With a permanent visa, you are permitted to change jobs and you avoid having to renew your visa. On the downside, you need to show proof of specific qualifications and a work contract in order to be eligible for receiving a permanent visa.
If you plan on starting your own business in Rio de Janeiro, you have to bring a minimum amount of financial capital. Retirees have to have a monthly pension of at least 6,000 BR (about 2,250 USD) to qualify for a permanent visa. Additionally, you need to have a clean police record with no criminal record whatsoever. If you are seeking employment in Rio, you need to prove that your skills and qualifications are a benefit to Brazil’s economy.
Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro
No matter how appealing a housing ad may sound, a personal visit to your future home is essential to make sure that it is all you expected it to be. It goes without saying that both the location of your new home-to-be and its living standards determine the rent you will have to pay and calculate in your monthly budget.
Before you can embark on the apartment search in Rio de Janeiro, you need to decide on the area in which you want to live. This decision will not only determine your monthly budget, your daily commute, and your overall safety, but it will also help you narrow down your search. Different neighborhoods offer different qualities of living and safety levels. This is a brief overview of the most popular neighborhoods:
- Lapa is probably one of the cheapest areas in the city. The neighborhood is full of life, boasting the unique Brazilian life style. Unfortunately, the neighborhood is not entirely safe.
- Botafogo is one of the cheaper neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Don’t be fooled by the close proximity to the beach, as white sand and turquoise water is the last thing you can expect. However, despite its dirty beach, Botafogo still has a lot to offer: shopping malls, cafés and various museums.
- Catete is another reasonably priced neighborhood. Although it does not have access to the beach, it boasts a variety of charming bars and nice old houses.
- Copacabana is probably one of the most famous neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Its beach is nicer than the one in Botafogo. While rental prices are a little bit higher here, they are still affordable.
- Ipanema is the place to be for everybody who is looking for a higher standard of living and wants to be close to Rio’s nightlife. The neighborhood is home to some of the most exclusive bars and clubs in the city. While safety is high in Ipanema, so is the rent.
- Santa Teresa, on the other hand, is the ideal home for well-to-do expats who prefer a quieter lifestyle. The neighborhood may not have access to the beach but has a lot of culture to offer in return. Located on top of a hill, with a beautiful view of the rest of the city, Santa Teresa spreads a bohemian vibe, with its charming architecture. On the downside, the high rent is anything but charming.
A Word of Advice
As in every other major city, the proximity to the city center and to beautiful beaches as well as the standard of living influence the rents. These are higher in top-notch neighborhoods than in the run-down ones, of course. Additionally, an air-conditioned apartment is a lot more expensive than one without an A/C. However, prices and availability of housing also depend on the time of the year. The season is indeed an aspect to be considered when you embark on your housing search in Rio de Janeiro.
During national holidays and Carnival season, especially short-term housing is harder to come by. Tourists, travelers, and visitors flood the city during that time of the year and make for a sharp increase of rental prices.