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Life in the Vidigal Favela – Brazil

 I had butterflies when arriving into the favela but they were butterflies for adventure! 

I’m not sure staying in a favela (Slum) is on everyone’s list of places to go, but it was for me and my cousin Amee.  We had no idea what to expect, would we be shot in the cross fire, will we be kidnapped? We questioned our sanity, as did everyone else when we told them of our plans.   We don’t have favela’s in New Zealand, nothing AT ALL compares to a favela!!

This is partly the reason why we needed to experience a favela, both of us knew that in order to live life you have to step out of your comfort zone!  The Favela Expeience comes highly recommended by many travellers on Trip Advisor and the statement from their website had us on board!

“By allowing meaningful and authentic dialogue between favela residents and guests, we show both the positive and challenging realities of life in these communities and do not glamorize poverty in favelas. Ultimately, we practice sustainable tourism because we generate additional income for favela based organizations and residents, facilitate genuine cultural exchange, break negative stereotypes about favelas, and provide accommodations with low environmental impact.”  The Favela Experience Statement

The Favela Experience Hostel is on Rua 3 (street 3), Vidigal Rio de Janeiro – Brazil.

Map of Rio

The Favela Experience Hostel – located next to the most amazing beaches in Rio de Janeiro.

On arrival we were greeted by our hosts Adam, Facu, Rodriguz and Barbi.  They made us feel so welcome and they spoke English! It didn’t take long to settle in!

The beach closest to us in the picture below is Rio’s most famous Ipanema and Leblon.  Around the corner is Copacabana.  Yet I think we have a better view than what they would have?

view down to Ipanema Beach from our favela roof top.

view down to Ipanema Beach from our favela roof top.

Everywhere you look there is something going on in the community.  There are colourful buildings, street art, festivals…. and there seems to be more things going on than down on the beaches.  

street art

street art

Below: Our hostel is second building on the left, with the blue railings and watertank.  I liked walking around the streets, everyone would say Ola (hello) and other things too which I didn’t quite understand… :/

Our street in the favela - the hostel is the building with the big blue water tank-9243

Our street in the favela – the hostel is the building with the big blue water tank

Each time we walked around the favela we felt completely safe.  No one shot us, didn’t get kidnapped.  I felt safe here, very safe.  

favela street night-9273

Favela in the evening

We ate the food, it was ok.  The cheapest places to eat were at the buffet pay per kilo restaurants.  The meal below was $8NZD including the fanta.  Rio doesn’t fit within our tight budget even though we stayed in the favela, things are still very expensive.  I have managed to stay within my $40 USD /per day budget though.  To acheive this we did have to scrimp on several things.  We did go and see Cristo of Redemer but we viewed him from the opposite hill and that only cost us $5NZ on a bike taxi.  If we had have gone up on the train it was $60NZ and we saw the line of people going up!! We also walked down the hill (9km) which save us another $5NZ.  Buses are cheap, we took them or walked and stayed away from taxis.   Booze is really really cheap! 

Pay per kilo, its the cheapest way to eat in Rio

There is definitely a vibe to Rio, its busy and its hot.  The highlight though was with the guys at the Favela Experience Hostel.  If you ever go to Rio I suggest you push yourself outside your comfort zone and meet these guys.  Their experience is passionate and they are down to earth guys.   Facu (host) worked in Motueka in 2012, Motueka is my home town!  Such as small world but it great to hear his passion for New Zealand.

Rio Cat-9216

A little courtyard area at the favela and the cutest naughtiest kitten, Bela

I will never forget my stay at The Favela Experience Hostel, of all the places we went to this is still one of my highlights of the trip.  It was also the start to out most epic journey across South America and Central America.

Road to campo grande

Road to campo grande

We decided to high tail it out of Rio and head for Bolivia where its cheaper for us to survive on our budget.  We took the Androhin bus from Rio to Campo Grande, Pantanal.  Cost $150NZ each and it took 22hrs!! Fortunately the bus was comfy, however both of us didn’t get any sleep and we were both exhausted.

The Androhin bus from Rio to Campo Grande. One of the nicest buses we went on.

Travelling by public transport (Bus) is one of the cheapest ways to travel.  There are many companies to choose from but this is the only one going from Rio to Campo.  You can cut cost by taking different buses but we opted for sleep and comfort.

Most of the country side was rolling hillside with pasture but the sunset I thought was beautiful.


  1. Learn Portuguese, even the very basics will help you out!
  2. Eat in the Favela and buy meals that are ‘pay per kilo’ – its cheaper
  3. Take public transport – its cheaper and easy to figure out
  4. Take the Androhin bus to the Pantanal, they are sleeping buses with a toilet
  5. Oh and when leaving NZ I had to have an exit flight from Brazil before they would let me board the plane in Auckland.  Please PM me and I’ll tell you the sneaky way to get around this which won’t cost you a cent!

Next stop – Pantanal

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