Rio de Janeiro becomes the focus of the world as it plays host to the contest for football's greatest prize this summer. It's a city of beaches and bossa nova but also of business. Discover how to do business in Rio in our monthly guide to key cities.
Each month our resident business travel expert Mark Frary writes the Heathrow Express travel guide to a major city. This month: Rio de Janeiro
Business travel buzz
Brazil – the B of the economic acronym BRIC – is the world’s seventh-largest economy and has a higher GDP per head of its 190 million population than both India and China. The automotive, aerospace and transport infrastructure sectors – and tourism – are particularly important.
Image: Rio de Janeiro ©EMBRATUR
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's capital for three centuries until 1960, accounts for around 11% of the country's GDP. The discovery of oil in the Campos Basin has seen Rio grow to be an important base for the oil and gas sectors. It is also home to Petrobrás, the world's fourth-largest company, whose brutalist HQ sits in Centro, Rio's central business district.
Rio has developed a world-class reputation in oil and energy technology, centred on the Federal University's Technological Park; Halliburton and General Electric both have research bases here.
Tech is becoming more important too, with many hailing Rio as 'Silicon Beach'.
British Airways flies five times a week to Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport. Most other airlines, including Brazil's TAM, fly via São Paulo.
Unlike at Heathrow, there is no direct rail link to the city centre in Rio and most arrivals take taxis. A prepaid taxi from one of the airport booths will cost R$99 (£26) to the centre; a metered yellow taxi taken from outside will be half the price, but the vehicle is likely to be of lower standard. Traffic jams are common, doubling the usual half-hour journey.
Image: Cityscape ©EMBRATUR
Taxis are relatively cheap for getting around and even if you are stuck in a jam, waiting time is inexpensive. If you prefer public transport, a modern metro links the city's main areas.
Worried about the language? A growing number of business professionals speak English but do not assume it: you may need a Portuguese translator. Brazilians are very people-focused and you need to develop strong relationships to succeed.
In Rio, football is intertwined with culture. The Maracanã stadium recently reopened after a hugely expensive World Cup refurb. Buy tickets at the stadium in the week before domestic matches, or buy online through a travel agent in advance.
Corcovado, Rio's hunchbacked mountain, is well worth a visit. Standing atop it, arms outstretched, is Rio's most famous symbol; the Art Deco statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Image: Christ the Redeemer ©EMBRATUR
Carnaval, which attracts millions to the city, usually takes place in February and is one of the world's greatest celebrations of music and dance. Getting business done (and a reasonably priced hotel room) may be a challenge.
The black book
Rio has the eighth most expensive business hotels in the world, according to one recent survey by HRG, at £202.56 a night. The five-star Pestana Rio Atlantica is right on Copacabana beach and has a rooftop pool. The Copacabana beach area is one of several places with free outdoor WiFi.
Image: Copacabana Pavement ©EMBRATUR Riotour
Good-value hotel choices are the Best Western Plus Sol Ipanema in Ipanema and the Granada Hotel in Centro. The latter is well-placed for the business district and has been recently renovated. Brazil's famous churrascaria restaurants, serving non-stop skewers of barbecued meat, are a must-do: Porcão Rio's at Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and Fogo de Chao at Avenida Reporter Nestor Moreira are good bets.
The Garota de Ipanema restaurant specialises in picanhas, a grilled top rump steak. It’s where Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim wrote the song Girl from Ipanema. And next door to the restaurant is a souvenir store run by model Helô Pinheiro – none other than the inspiration for the song.
Image: Ipanema Beach ©EMBRATUR
For something high-end, try Roberta Sudbrack at Avenida Lineu de Paula Machado, 916. Sudbrack is an ex-presidential chef and her restaurant is in a lovely two-storey house near the Botanic Gardens.
And if you need refreshment after a meeting, pop into one of the many branches of Bibi – there’s great retro decor as well as tasty juice.
Now you know how to do business – and enjoy Rio – like a local. Read on for some of the key influencers.
Want to know Rio like a Carioca? Here's my selection of insiders:
Paulo del Valle, designer and photographer with a keen eye for Rio's architecture, characters and urban landscapes
Tom Le Mesurier, British expat who writes Eat Rio, a blog which started out about food and drink but now covers much more
Claudia Beatriz Saleh, @claudiabia, world-hopping blogger from Rio who founded the Brazilian Travel Bloggers Network.
Rachel Glickhouse, @riogringa, writer and blogger on Latin America and Brazil
21212, @21212 a start-up accelerator based in Rio.
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