We were a little apprehensive about safety in Rio de Janeiro since we had read so much about robberies, which occur even during the day in busy areas. I did quite a bit of research about the safety of different neighborhoods and decided that I wanted to stay in one of 3 neighborhoods – Botafogo, Ipanema or Copacabana.
After searching for places to stay, I determined that our best bet was Gaia Comfort Hostel in Botafogo – it was rated highly, on a major street (which I liked from a safety perspective) and the price was very close to budget.
Gaia Hostel – Private Room 1
Our room, along with the 2 other private rooms in the hostel, was located on the top floor of the hostel. This was a benefit since it was much more quiet than being located near the dorms which have a larger likelihood of people coming and going at all hours of the day (and night).
The room was clean and a decent size. We had both a full size bed and a twin bed which we used to store all of our gear. Our bed wasn’t the most comfortable thing, but for the 3 nights that we were there it was completely fine.
When I saw that there were cat decorations in the room I started laughing, it’s like they knew that we like cats.
The bathroom sink was a little strange and made me feel like I was in a public restroom. It was one of the faucets where you push down and the water runs for a set amount of time. I assume that they have those faucets to discourage anyone from wasting water but it just seemed bizarre, especially when you are washing your face and need more than a few seconds of water.
The shower was a suicide shower which I was pretty excited about since typically they are always hot. Unfortunately this shower was at best lukewarm. There are few things that are worse than cold showers so I was pretty frustrated whenever I took a shower.
Each day when our room was serviced our towels were replaced. For some reason, the hostel had the towels sealed in a plastic bag. I get it from a hygiene perspective, but it seemed really wasteful as well. Not only were towels being washed after 1 use (wasting a lot of water) but each time they were used a plastic bag was going into the trash.
Gaia Hostel – Amenities
We have gotten used to pretty mediocre breakfasts on our travels. The breakfast at Gaia Hostel was no exception. There were assorted bread products, ham, cheese, cake and fruit. Every morning we arrived early as we were not sure how much food would be left if we got there late.
When you were done eating you had to wash your own dishes. This also meant that the plates you got were washed by someone else. One morning I had to skip over 2 plates in the stack as whoever washed them did a horrible job.
When we were able to connect the wifi was fast. I had no issues connecting the netbook to the wifi but Andy had to go outside the room to get a wifi signal on the MacBook then come back into the room.
The hostel had partnerships with tour companies in the area. One of the offerings was a day long tour around Rio. The tour was exactly what we needed since we could hit all the highlights of the city without having to map out our own transportation. The price was very reasonable and included an English speaking guide.
We were happy that we didn’t have to take public transportation which would have added a lot of transportation time, not to mention being on our own in the city where we did not know the relative safety of the different areas.
The tour did not disappoint. Even though we had absolutely terrible weather, it was still a lot of fun and we saw a lot of cool things.
Our room had an air conditioner in it. On the paperwork for the hostel it stated that the AC can only be run from 9pm to 8am. We were able to turn on our AC outside of these hours so I am not sure if the rule was for dorm rooms only, or if there was no way to control the rooms from turning on the units.
The hostel had a number of different common areas where you could sit around and meet others staying at the hostel. We didn’t spend much time in these common areas, but there were always quite a few people hanging out.
There was a common kitchen at the hostel. We did not use it since we were not at the hostel for too long. From what I was able to see, the kitchen had all of the essential items needed to cook up a pretty decent meal.
The hostel had a laundry room where you could do your laundry, but we decided not to do any laundry for a few reasons.
- It cost 20R or $5 to do a load of laundry
- We had just done laundry in Foz do Iguaçu, so we didn’t have enough to make a full load
- There was no dryer, so you had to air dry your clothes. It was so humid and just damp in Rio because of the rain that if we had done laundry, our clothes would have never dried.
The hostel was located right on a main road. This is something that I explicitly looked for when booking a hostel as I was very apprehensive about robberies in Rio. The fear was unfounded though as we never felt unsafe during our time in the city.
Since we were on a main road, it was easy to get wherever we needed to go and close to everything that we needed – shops, restaurants, bars, etc.
After walking around Copacabana one morning, I realized that we made the right call by booking a hostel in Botafogo. Since Copacabana is where most tourists stay, there were a lot more homeless people who were begging and shady characters. Copacabana reminded me of Michigan Avenue in Chicago – it is a great area with tons of hotels but it brings out a lot of weirdos who prey on unsuspecting tourists.
If we were to return to Rio, I would stay in Botafogo again but not at the Gaia Comfort Hostel. The hostel is absolutely perfect for traditional backpackers as there are a number of dorm rooms, but for us, it was a little more basic than what we would have preferred. Had the breakfast been better and we didn’t have to do our own dishes, it may have swayed my opinion.
Now that I know the city is much safer than it was made out to be, I would choose to rent an apartment. This would give us a little more room and allow us to cook our own meals which would help offset the cost of renting an apartment which is likely higher than staying at a hostel.