Rio de Janeiro – Favela experience

In March 2014 I boarded a plane together with a fellow student. It took us straight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Looking back now, it was a great adventure. Not only the city itself was a intense experience but the fact that our hostel was located in the middle of a favela.

– Favelas are areas built by locals without governance, which you will only find as large greenish spaces looking at Google maps. Although some Favelas seem to get safer and more open to strangers, they are quite community based and thus somewhat dangerous for people which are not related to the area. Within the World Cup 2014 and Olympia 2016 the Brazilian government runs campaigns in order to make the city and the favelas more save. Well, but is there proof that those campaigns are efficient? –

However, we arrived at one „entrance“ of the favela where a member of the hostel picked us up. Entrance means a small, hidden trail going straight up the hill accompanied by tons of electrical cables hanging above our heads. While walking tiny alleys and paths up and down there was so much so see. The houses looked like the opposite of standardized. I remember being impressed by the amount of creativity and individualism but as well by the obvious improvisation of the self-made architecture.

And the view – the view from the favela was amazing. Especially in the morning during sunrise the city had such a special atmosphere. Look for yourself.

I have to say that I am no fan of Favela tourism, but I like to dive into different lifestyles, environments and get to know human diversity. Furthermore I liked to support a local hostel with my stay rather than an international hotel brand. Related to Entrepreneurship in Favelas a great Ted Talk came to my mind, which I saw in 2013 at TEDx Hamburg City 2.0. Check it out here.

The arrival and getting around the city was one thing. Getting back, up the hill, in the dark, with pouring rain through the small paths was another. AND we only had this self-drawn map guiding us the way.

We made it and everything was fine. But that is not the point. It struck me when I then realized that the space of the favela was not yet officially mapped and accessible by services like Google maps. There it was only a blank space – officially. But actually there isn’t. If we did not had this self-drawn map showing the way to the hostel, we would have not know how to get back. That was a strange and somewhat great experience, which I never had before. As I know looked again at the space in Google maps: the favela is there – if you zoom in enough. It is not completely mapped with roads et cetera, but you can see the individual houses and the whole area. Exiting.

Good luck finding it:

About the author


Hi there, I am Jo. Currently, I am a blogger and student, based in London, UK. Living in urban settings with a passion for sustainability inspired me to create this blog. Here, I want to capture and share some of my urban explorations, experiences and thoughts. Feel free to click around, give feedback, share the blog or connect with me. Cheers!

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