Avoid booking through TravelRio – Accommodation scam in Rio de Janeiro

5 of my girlfriends had flown over from Sydney/London to meet me in Rio – Julie, Sara, Sam (from India travels), Angelique, and Sophie – and this is what they had to put up with on their first day in Brazil.

The stink – When a ‘plumbing incident’ occurs the night before you’re meant to move into your pre-advanced (by 12 months!) booking of an apartment in Rio, you know something filthy is going on..

The shit – Could it be that the original amazing apartment right on Copacabana beach that we had booked was never (ever!) available to be rented out? And the Travel Rio agent preyed on dumb-arse tourists, showing them (through website and emails of pretty pictures and fake testimonials) the internal décor of a beautiful apartment that doesn’t even exist? And then books out this same apartment to 12 different groups, charging them top dollar and greedily taking their deposits only to shove them off to an apartment of a much lower standard at the very last-minute due to a ‘plumbing incident’??

These were the thoughts that were racing through my mind when I received the email from the TravelRio agent informing me of this ‘plumbing incident’ and the ‘last-minute change of address’ at 11pm the night before we were meant to move into the original apartment.

The reason – Why would they do such a horrible thing? MONEY!! Travel Rio still wanted us to pay top dollar for an apartment with fewer features, and were relying on the fact that because this was all very last minute, and 5 of the girls had just gotten off a plane, we would all agree as we had 1) nowhere else to go, and 2) It was crazy Carnival time and everything good was booked out! (allegedly)

The battle – Well, more like a Brazilian stand-off. We tried to negotiate a lower price and refused to hand over the rest of the cash. The TravelRio agent, who was based in the U.S, had apparently explained our reasoning and concerns over the phone to the landlords. The agent then informed us that the owners still refused to discount on price.

This back and forth negotiations took up our whole day. We were at a stand still – unable to unpack our luggage, unable to leave the apartment, unable to enjoy our first impressions of Rio.

The Climax – Eventually after a full day of the Brazilian stand-off, the owners charged into the apartment and everyone started talking at once in a loud and angry manner.

Owner, angry – ‘You need to pay the rest of the money or you can’t stay here’

Girls, angry and jet-lagged – ‘Why should we pay the same amount for this apartment (of lesser value) as we would for the apartment that we had agreed on and signed up for? It is not an equal trade!’

Owner threatens – ‘If you don’t pay then you have to get out or I’ll call the federal police . You have been booked and confirmed for this apartment for months!’.

T, imagining us 6 girls in the Brazilian version of the television prison series ‘Oz’ instantly tells girls to ‘shush’ and takes a less offensive tone – ‘Listen, it’s not that we don’t want to pay, but you have to understand that we have ALL been scammed here’ explains situation calmly, and offers the amount in cash that we were willing to pay for this type of apartment.

After much persuasion and some realisation, the owners take a new tone to the offered amount, which was obviously much higher than the cut the agent was prepared to give them.

The conclusion – We strike a deal, and threaten to call the Federal Policia (the owners cousin) on the Travel Rio agent if she refused to agree. One happy discussion about Italian pasta later and we are all good.

The recommendation – Unless you’re up for the challenge and this kind of ‘Brazilian experience’, DON’T EVER USE TRAVEL RIO TO BOOK YOUR OVERSEAS ACCOMMODATION!!

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE TOP BUNK… if you want to live.

“The ADVENTURE HOSTEL PARATY brings the concept of pleasurable accommodation during your stay in Paraty with all comfort and simplicity that a modern life may offer…” Description from Hostel World.

There were 6 of us staying in the Adventure Hostel in Paraty, Brasil, (Pip, Kylie, Orla, Darran, Joe and myself). We stayed in an eight person dorm which consisted of a tiny room that tightly fit in 4 bunk beds (head to head) and some lockers. As usual, as I am lazy and the top bunk to me means extra work, I rushed for a bottom bunk.

What did I learn? TO ALWAYS CHOOSE THE TOP BUNK… if you want to live.

At around 3am in the morning, we had all been sleeping for a good few hours when the room awoke to a loud CRACK, followed by a high-pitched ‘Aaaah!’

In the next seconds the lights were switched on and what I saw before me I’m going to call as the FUNNIEST scene throughout my whole trip.

Scene – A frozen scared Kylie sitting on her top bunk bed which had broken and fallen on top of… Darran?

Yup! Under Kylie and her bed was Darran’s head, the sound of Darren’s muffled voice swearing, and his legs sticking out kicking.

He wriggles out from under the bed.

Kylie, concerned – ‘Darran! Are you ok?!’

Darran, irritated with a raised controlled voice – ‘Your BED fell on my HEAD. It’s FUCKING SORE!’

It was a miracle! Darran had survived a bunk bed crashing on his head, with Kylie on it, with only a few scratches and a head-ache to show for it!! If that had been me, or anyone else, my head would have exploded and there would be blood splatter all over the room! HE was the most lucky, unlucky, person in this world!!

We all try to settle back in bed, laughing hard at Darran’s fortunate misfortune for at least the next five minutes.

Joe, on my top bunk looks down at me and asks with a grin on his face – ‘Are you scared?’

As the room settles down to silence and almost sleep, Darran’s disgruntled voice erupts more tears and laughter as he concludes in a serious tone ‘This really IS the Adventure Hostel..’

When the owner of the Adventure Hostel was informed of the incident the next morning, he did what any responsible operator of a professional establishment scared of an impending lawsuit would do in Brasil – He laughed.