Touring a Favela in Rio de Janeiro

Drug lords, gun battles, poverty…

The image that has stuck by association with Rio’s favelas (shanty towns) after years of struggles couldn’t be further from the present day reality. So, what are Rio’s favelas really like? I took a tour with Don’t be a Gringo! Be a Local to find out.

Years ago you wouldn’t dream of entering a favela, let alone wandering through them at a slow and steady pace, marvelling at the sights, and inquisitively listening to your guide. Nowadays you arguably wouldn’t come to Rio without visiting a favela.

Favella tour

In 2008, the ‘pacification project’ began, whereby Peacemaker Police Officers came into the favelas and set up permanent bases to clean up the shanty towns in time for the 2014 World Cup. The policy was understandably controversial, but has introduced stability in many of the favelas, now making them safe to visit as a tourist intrigued by the large disparity of wealth in Brazil.

The favela tours on offer don’t fall victim to tourism in terms of being a fantasized version of the truth. Rather, these tours show tourists the unfortunate circumstances many people in Rio face as a result of the large disparity in Brazil’s economy.

What was surprising was the real estate prices in the favelas – which have been soaring in recent years. Granted, these homes have the most enviable views on the hills of Rio. The tour will also introduce you to local artists and present the opportunity to make purchases should you wish to do so.

There is of course the concern that as a tourist peering into the lives of the poor this could be dubbed considerably disrespectful, however by choosing a tour agency that aims to put money and life back into these communities, you are contributing in your own unique way as well as better understanding the lives of others less fortunate.

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    December 8, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I’m always curious to know what people think about my country! I’m happy you enjoyed your trip to Rio. Amazing story!

    November 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Awesome Stories post and such on modified your touring in Favela Rio De Janeiro so must nice opportunity theme proceed.

    Fabio Santos
    November 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

    The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro are amazing. One thing is garantee the place is where are located the people more polited in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It`s impressive that people on a hard situation can smile and say hello for you in the Favela when people from the “streets” don`t look to your eyes.

    Carolina Ojeda | Blog #PartiuMundo
    October 9, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Amazing post, Brooke! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am Brazilian and I can assure that to take a tour with properly company guide you won’t have any problem regarding your safety! So I do recommend it! Also, I’m pretty happy people are enjoying Brazil so much! I really miss my country! I love Ireland, but Brazil is awesome!

    September 26, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    I would love to go there one day. Experiences like that can truly change your perspective of life.

    Amazing Review!
    September 25, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I live in Rio and found a link in a brazilian blog that drove me to your page and I found this post! It’s so funny when you find a person that are visiting and writing about your place from around the world! Haha… Your vision is very accurate, the “UPP” is controversial because nothing really changed for the people living in favelas even it’s not so dangerous now for tourists. It is important warning that, despite of the policial presence, there are still drugs lord and guns displayed. Also as you said, favelas is not a tourist point, but a result of the large disparity of wealth in Brazil. I have to say that there are other favelas in Rio, but many of then are in the most rich area on Rio. Welcome and thank you for sharing your experience with the world!

    Marta Chan
    September 20, 2014 at 12:24 am

    First thing I did in rio was a tour to rocinha favela, I have this dream of living there for few minths and do social work with the community. Last night in rio I ended up dancing funky in a favela with the guy who worked in the hostel I was hosted and it was a life time experience =)

    Hannah Walter
    September 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I stayed in a favela in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, for two and a half weeks in 2010. It was very difficult to see at only 16 years of age but I met some of the most incredible people. It was nice to work with some of the children in the favelas and see them so happy despite the horrible conditions they lived in. Very inspiring!

    September 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Amazing! I love your photos!

    Lennae xxx

    Best holiday destinations
    September 19, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for posting nice views.

    September 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Gorgeous photos!

    Kate @ NonstopfromJFK
    September 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Your pictures are beautiful! It’s good to hear that some stability and peace is coming to the favelas – those shanty towns have amazing views, amazing colors and energy.

    But I hope that the people living there can continue living there with these improvements, instead of being pushed out by rich people who want to invest in property with good views and who will drive the rent too high for the locals who have been there for generations.

    Liz || Shopping My Closet
    September 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Definitely a beautiful location but it’s unfortunate most reveiws you read tell you to not go to the favelas due to the danger there. I wish I had been able to visit while I was there!

    Liz @

    Peter Carlson
    September 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Wow! Excellent story and coverage of an uplifting cause. Makes me want to go.