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!!

Paraty Beach Party

After an amazing 3 days in Ilha Grande, we catch a crazy bus ride through the mountains to Paraty, which is located on the coast between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Tourists love this town for it’s historical colonial buildings, cobbled streets, and for the parties and events that are held there on the build up towards Carnival.

Paraty Beach Party.

Firstly, this beach party was full of drunk tourists. But there’s something about being a tourist in Brasil, or maybe something about being an old drunk hippy tourist in Brazil high on acid, that made this peculiar man stand out in front of the flaming bonfire, raise his hands as if he were about to do something spectacular, only to whip out his flute and pretend to play meaningful unheard notes that were accompanied by failed tribal dance moves (squatting, standing, lifting arms, big eyes with a theatrical look of wonder.)

It was bitterly disappointing, yet satisfying to watch. He was a man on the edge, and through him it was nice to know where that edge was.

Funny shit.
As I looked through the series of photo’s of this flute playing fire dancing man, English Adam was in the background of each photo… indicating that he thought the old man sucked.