I didn’t ask many questions of people who had already been to Rio on their year abroad before me, but at the last minute I panicked and asked a girl in the year above where she ended up living and which areas were safe, which I’m pretty glad I did or else I would have had nothing to start on. I came with a pretty long list of requirements that were altogether quite unrealistic to fulfill: I wanted to live with locals to practice my Portuguese, in either Ipanema or Leblon to be in a nice area and close to uni, with a double room and not pay 400 pounds a month. After extending my stay in a hostel (I stayed in Ipanema Beach Hostel, which was a great location and a really cool hostel that I recommend to start in) from an original 1 week to 2 full weeks, I realized I was going to have to compromise on one aspect or another. I couldn’t be going into uni from a hostel for a 3rd week.
There are loads of options of where you can live. One option that really struck me is that older people who live on their own often have spare rooms in their apartments which they rent out to students. I know people who went for something like this, and like everything it has pros and cons. It gives you contact with residents who offer you a safe environment to live in, they speak Portuguese for you to have constant contact with the language and it’s quite nice to have a family kind-of connection all the way out here, but that family-vibe for me is something I love in small doses when I go home for holidays. Linked to that is the housing program that PUC itself offers. I think just one student from Leeds took the housing program offer, but it’s so common with all the other internationals. If you’re looking for something to go straight into when you arrive without worrying about having nowhere to stay, then it’s probably good for you. Generally speaking apartments have very flexible contracts, so you’re really free to move whenever you want to if you find something more suitable. A downside of the housing program is that it’s a little more restrictive to move out, as it’s more of an agreement with the university, you should have a legitimate reason as to why the agreement with the family isn’t working.
I think I visited 8 apartments before I decided on the one I’m in now. A really helpful website is easyquarto and also a Facebook group called REI – Moradias, where loads of students and young professionals are offering and looking for rooms. I got a phone number of a Brazilian guy (who speaks English!) from a friend who basically fills apartments up with students, and that’s where I found the flat I’m in now. If you’re after the number, you can message me on Facebook or email me and I’ll pass it on. I compromised on my location, as I’m actually living on the outskirts of Ipanema on the border with Copacabana, which is further away from uni than I originally intended, but the metro and buses are so easy to navigate the city, it’s really made no difference. I’m living with a Brazilian guy, a French student, a Spanish student and another student from Leeds which was purely coincidental. Regarding the price of rent here, I’d say it’s the high end of what people pay in Leeds. I pay 1400 reais a month, which works out at around 350 pounds, and my bills on top of that. Areas I would recommend to live are Leblon (very close to uni, just a couple of stops on the bus), Ipanema (a very clean and nice area, but also makes it the most expensive), Copacabana (further from uni, but still just around 40 minutes and its cheaper), Botafogo (north of Copacabana, takes about 40 minutes by bus to uni, very cheap). Basically everywhere has good transport connections thanks to the metro and the buses. Transport is cheap, air conditioned and gets you anywhere you want to go. Uber is also a God send here, it’s less than half the price than in the UK, it’s tracked so you feel safe, and you can get exactly where you want to go without any walking.
The picture I’ve used is the view from my living room, of the favela called Cantagalo. I didn’t tell my family for the first couple of weeks that I was living so close to a favela, but it’s really nothing to worry about. It’s generally just people going about their day-to-day and it makes for a great people-watching spot.
If I can help any more with looking for accommodation or any other aspect of preparing for your year abroad in Rio, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’d be so happy to help you out.
Written by Charlotte Broadhurst – PUC Rio de Janeiro