The common perception among tourists is to avoid jeep tours and go backpacking instead to save money.
But going on your own will only take you so much as tourists generally confine themselves to what they researched online and to the usual spots that are considered as “safe places.” There’s nothing like an organized tour to allow you to see another side or Rio and more importantly, give the proper context to help you understand the carioca culture.
When you go backpacking, you will definitely visit the Christ the Redeemer statue and hike Sugar Loaf and maybe even explore the favelas, but that’s as far as you go especially since not too many Brazilians speak good English and they are confined in hotels and resorts.
An open jeep tour will allow you to visit these destinations and more. How about a trip deep into the Tijuca Forest with its many endemic flora and fauna? It’s a journey not even the cariocas themselves can claim to have experienced.
And you can’t ever leave Rio de Janeiro without arranging for a jungle tour. Aside from the Tijuca forest, jeep tours will take you to Cascatinja Waterfalls, Chinese Viewpoint, Mesa do Imperador (Emperor’s Table), or Monkey’s Waterfall ('Cachoeira dos macacos').
But you can’t learn within the boundaries of your vehicle.
That’s why a major portion of the tour involves walking so you can immerse yourself on the whole experience. The tours last for half a day or a whole day between three to six hours so you will really have plenty of opportunities to mingle and take photos with people, animals and different birds of paradise.
The tours also allow you to join a cruise to Sepetiba Bay to play with dolphins and turtles.
The cariocas’ great respect for nature is evident wherever you go in Rio.
You can sense this balance between the need to pursue progress and the obligation to protect the past. Go on jeep tours and you will immediately see how a skyscraper can exist side by side with an ancient monument.
But cariocas mentality is all about relaxing. These organized tours will take you not just to Copacabana or Ipanema but the other beaches as well that you may not have heard of like Leblon, Arpoador, Leme, Flamengo, Angra dos Reis and São Conrado.
Rocinha Favela, a large slum area, is another destination you shouldn’t try without a guide.
Find out how the old emperors lived with a trip to Petropolis, which was founded by Don Pedro II in Serra dos Orgaos as a summer place in 1843.
The literal translation of the name is ‘House of Pedro.’ The palace is now converted into a museum displaying royal pieces and relics.
The exhibit includes crown of the emperor adorned with diamonds and pearls. You can also find here the Crystal Palace and São Pedro de Alcântara which contained the remains of the royal family. Jeep tours can take you to Petropolis, located about 68 kilometers away from Rio de Janeiro.