I had many concerns before leaving for a 10 day trip to Rio de Janeiro, but on the return flight I could only dream about the amazing time in Rio. It is truly a significant, amazing and beautiful place - not to be missed by any serious traveller.
Yes, there is poverty and yes the crime may be a bit higher than in the Vatican City, but I experienced no problems and never felt any danger whatsoever. I did not even see anything to make me feel uncomfortable.
I stayed in the Ibis Hotel Rio Central, right downtown, and I still felt safe and happy with my decision to not pay the high hotel prices of the beaches. Downtown Rio is a pleasure to explore; it is vibrant and the markets are awesome. There are also amazing buildings with awesome architecture - especially now that the City is investing in infrastructure and renovations for the Olympic Games and Worldcup in 2014 and 2016.
Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer are woldclass attractions and the view of the city breathtaking. The parks and botanical gardens are exceptional and the beaches, yes the Brazilian beaches......... what more do I have to say.
The only negative point was the language barrier where I struggled a bit to communicate. English is not widely spoken and even my hotel struggled to help me with tourist and travel information. My advice - come pre-prepared with all your travel and tourist information. Although the public transportation is excellent and easy to use, it did take a while to get use to it - especially to communicate where to get off.
The best thing I did was to bring my GPS and city maps - I switched it on in the morning and just went exploring without worrying about getting lost. It saved me many times getting lost and waisting time. With all the mountains in Rio, the City is fragmented and could be a challenge to explore unless you are well prepared with maps and knowledge etc.
The favelas (shanty towns) in Rio is not a problem at all. They are easily identifyable areas to stay away from, unless you do an organize trip.
Don't forget to try the hang gliding...
Otherwise, just have fun.