Our tour guide put it best: “the tours are there not to make you sad but for you to see and learn about what Favelas in 2015 are really like“. Great experience, that I recommend to all tourists coming through Rio.
FAVELA: squalid and overcrowded urban street with unsanitary conditions and architectural disorganisation. Shantytowns located within or on the outskirts of country’s large cities. Built by squatters on vacant land with salvaged or stolen materials.
Over 1,000 Favelas climb the steep hillsides of Rio de Janeiro, (home to around 6.32 million people). They lack infrastructure but give rise to an impressive jerry-rigged plumbing, and wiring. Originally most of the Favela housing began with makeshift structures fashioned from wood scraps and daub, but today, almost all them are made from concrete and brick.
The question every tourist wants to know is: ARE THEY SAFE TO VISIT? In 2008, the ‘pacification project’ began, whereby Peacemaker Police Officers came into the Favelas and set up permanent bases to clean up the shanty towns in time for the 2014 Soccer World Cup. This enabled and gave rise to Favela Tours. Unfortunately, the Pacifying Police Unit has not gained control of all Favelas, therefore, there are still many that are home to drugs and violence and are unsafe to visit for a tourist even in the company of a local.
Favela TOURS don’t fall victim to a fantasized version of the truth. Rather, these tours show tourists the unfortunate circumstances many people in Rio face as a result of the large disparity in Brazil’s economy.
Rocinha (A.K.A little farm) is the largest favela in Brazil and the most visited by tourists. According to the last Rio census Rocinha is home to 69,161 people. The buildings grow as the family increases in size with some reaching more than four stories high. The majority of the houses have basic sanitation, plumbing, and electricity. Compared to the simple shanty towns or slums, Rocinha has the most developed infrastructure and hundreds of businesses such as banks, medicine stores, bus lines, cable television, including locally based channel TV. The Rio Favela Jeep Tour I chose to go on, took me through the main street, up to a hostel; which offered amazing views of Rocinha and into the winding alleyways that navigate you through the steep Favela community. The truth is that what people explain as the slum, to me looked coordinated, beautiful, calm, friendly and most of all SAFE. The few stalls along the way also allow the tourists to support the local community.