Sunday, 5 December 2010

Brazil’s best places to stay: Arpoador Inn, Ipanema

(view from outside hotel) Instead of listing the most amazing places to stay in Brazil, the next set of awards from Born in Brazil will focus on the “best” places to stay in relation to the top beaches series of last week. That way, you can plan a trip around some gorgeous seaside locations. Having said that, some of the places I’ll be listing are rather lovely. But not this one. First up, is the Arpoador Inn in Rio de Janeiro. Now, this is no boutique hotel. If luxury is what you’re after in Rio, then your best bet is to stay at the Fasano or Copacabana Palace hotels. The first is the epitome of modern exuberance while the latter is old-school, Art Deco opulence. But both were also out of my price range when I was last in Rio in March so I opted for the Arpoador Inn, on the edge of Ipanema, and bordering Copacabana. If you’ve never been to Rio before, want to be in the centre of things and are a bit worried about crime, then it’s probably a good idea to stay in Ipanema. Not that I had any problems at all while I was there. Tip: when walking around Rio, avoid carrying a lot of stuff with you. In the evenings, for example, I took a small amount of money and a credit card for paying at restaurants – in my pocket. But, back to the Arpoador Inn. It’s pretty basic and, to be honest, nothing special. But it does have the following going for it: it’s the only hotel on Rio’s beachfront that actually sits on the beach – all the others are separated from the sea by the wide, busy road. It’s also on a relatively quiet spot in Ipanema and it’s not too expensive (300 Brazilian Reais or just over £110 per night). Anything cheaper, and you’re likely to be looking at a hostel instead of a hotel. And it’s difficult to find options in-between hotels like the Fasano and Arpoador – for all its sexed-up glamour, Rio is lacking in cool, affordable hotels. Another tip: if you’re going during Carnaval in February, book now and expect prices to soar, although apparently, the Arpoador rates stay quite constant. My room was clean, the shower was excellent and the staff helpful. For the more adventurous among you, I’d be tempted to suggest staying in Santa Teresa, a bohemian suburb largely populated by artists and sitting on Rio’s hillside. It’s not a favela, but is surrounded by them. The residents of Santa Teresa have created a bed and breakfast network – cama e café – in order to encourage tourists to meet locals and experience the “real” Rio. Some of the houses look gorgeous and the owners offer to take you out and show you the sights. Wherever you stay though, Rio is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back. And I’d be tempted by the cama e café option, topped off by one night in the Fasano – if I’m feeling a bit richer by then.

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