Posted by: Caroline | July 12, 2013

Rio’s Nightlife

You’ve heard about South American nightlife, right? About how last call isn’t really a concept and revelers stay out until sunrise?

Yeah, it’s true.

Plenty of guidebooks will tell you that Lapa is a hip nightlife area, but what they won’t mention is that it is THE area. If you’re in Rio for only a short time and looking for a way to spend your evening…and night…and morning… make it Lapa.


The first few hours of your night, you should spend at a cafe with a group of new friends from the hostel, a few good appetizers (including $1.50 chicken skewers off the street if you can’t afford the cafe’s, since no one really seems to mind), and a tower of beer.


If you’re lucky, a UFC fight featuring a Brazilian national hero will be on TV.


But after the cafe, the real party is in the streets. Lax open container regulations mean plenty of pop-up vendors line the streets ready to extend your evening with a few fresh-squeezed caipirinhas.



In addition to the more established restaurants, plenty of smaller venues set up shop in the back alleys of Lapa. We spotted one minor beer vendor–based out of a rolling cooler–who went through the trouble of setting up an electronic DJ beside the spot of chain-link fence he had claimed. It added some nice variety to the pop and samba (Brazilian style of music linked to Carnaval) already blasting in the streets.


There’s also plenty of visual interest, with grafitti …


… and the tiles of the Lapa steps, which look much different–both in terms of the art and of the crowd–at nightfall.


Once you’re done wandering the streets, it’s about 3am and you’re ready to go to a real Rio nightclub.

Since I can count on one finger the number of authentic nightclubs I have been to in Atlanta, I may not be the foremost authority on this topic, but I am still going to venture to say: clubbing in Rio is one of the strangest, most expensive nightlife experiences on offer in this world.

First, you show your identification to the doorman. Never mind that passports don’t fit in your pocket, and even if they did it would be less-than-wise to keep them there. So you’ve got to shuffle into your secret leg money belt–the main advantage of which is that NO ONE KNOWS YOU ARE WEARING IT. But, oh well, now they do.

Ok, now you’re in. Wait… someone else needs to see your identification.

Alright, now someone’s got to pat you down. (Ladies, you’re exempt; just smile nicely.)

Next, you get your “credit” card. It’s conveniently pre-loaded with your cover, which will run you on average about R$40 (or about $20). You might be able to save some serious cash by going earlier; check TimeOut Rio for the details before you go.

This card is the way you pay for your drinks, which cost you about 2-3 times what they will from the friendly pop-up vendors from earlier in the night. Make sure to drink slowly, because once you’re finished, you’re expected to buy another. A server will remind you of that if necessary. Multiple times.

Ready to head home? Look for your card.

If you lost your card, your life is over. Hope you had a fun night.

If you didn’t lose your card, you take it to this boarded-up looking area that says “caixa.” You won’t be able to see inside, but trust me, there’s a person. Hand them your card, let them print out the far-too-long receipt, and pay your tab.

Many Brazilian establishments feature this payment system where only one person handles the cash. We brainstormed some reasons why this would happen, especially in a club. We figured it 1) reduces the chance of patron theft 2) reduces the chance of employee theft (as in the American style of pocketing the cash from pouring a liquor drink that can’t be tracked) and 3) in the event of a hold-up, all the cash is in one well-guarded place.

Thankfully, no hold ups!

We spent time at 2 clubs. One was a backpacker-centric deafening dud (Lapa Loca on Friday night). In general, avoid backpacker events.

The other was an absolutely lovely, leafy outdoor space with moderate-volume electronic music and a suave, fashionable crowd (00 in Gavea on Sunday night). Highly recommended (although they host their own backpacker event on Tuesdays, and I can’t speak to the quality of that).

We didn’t even attempt Fosfobox in Copacobana due to the $R50 cover. (What?!?!)

Although clubbing in Rio is in general a hassle, it can be a lot of fun. Just do your research, and plan on spending most of your night soaking up the ambience of the streets. Who needs to dance in a club anyway? Just go find that electronic DJ by the cooler.


  1. So…better than Opera, I take it?

  2. Good one Caroline. Made me laugh. I have enjoyed reading your post. Fran

  3. […] serving as downmarket retailers. That’s not to say it was like the downtowns in Phoenix or post-nightfall Rio, but there just wasn’t much going on. Perhaps this is unsurprising: the city’s […]

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