Moving to Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is by far the most glamorous of Brazil’s cities and one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Its beautiful beaches and natural beauty, as well as its lively culture and annual festivities attract millions of visitors annually.

The city is also an important commercial hub of Brazil and, after Sao Paulo, has the second largest economy of any Brazilian city. Major oil, textile, shipbuilding, pharmaceutical, media and communications companies have a presence in Rio and the city also hosts a number of important educational institutions. This diversified economy attracts many foreign workers to Rio’s shores every year, making it a popular expat destination. However, competition for employment is high, and the majority of expats moving to Rio de Janeiro for work have been transferred there as part of a relocation package with their current employer.

Despite being a large city and business centre, with its stunning beaches and favourable year-round climate, the 'Marvelous City' (Cidade Maravilhosa), as Rio is often called, enjoys a far more relaxed lifestyle than other major Brazilian cities such as Sao Paulo or Brasilia. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Cariocas (as the locals are referred to) are used to having foreigners in their city and they are generally open and welcoming to newcomers. However, expats wanting to fully integrate into life in Rio will do well to learn Portuguese. 

As with most Brazilian cities, the extremes of wealth and poverty are obvious; around a fifth of the city’s population lives in poor (slum) neighbourhoods known as favelas. Another major social ill facing Rio is crime. However, local authorities have been working hard to deal with these problems, particularly through police initiatives within the favelas. These initiatives have been especially prevalent in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, which Rio will be hosting. The upcoming games, along with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, have also prompted much infrastructural development in the city.

Rio is densely populated and space is limited. Finding accommodation in a good area in Rio can therefore be a challenge for newly arrived expats. With heavy traffic congestion and safety to consider, living close to one’s workplace and children’s school is an important consideration. Many expats choose to live in apartments in the more affluent Zona Sul area of the city, in neighbourhoods such as Lablon, Ipanema and Lagoa. Those wanting larger accommodation with more space and a garden look to the neighbourhoods further outside the city.

Expats moving to Rio with children need not stress about their children’s education. There are a number of international schools in the city which cater to various nationalities. It’s also essential for expats living in Rio to be covered by a comprehensive health insurance plan – public healthcare in Rio is very underdeveloped and most expats prefer private facilities which offer high-quality healthcare, but at a high price.