When in Brazil: A Sunset Helicopter Ride Over Rio de Janeiro
It turns out that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil really is as sexy as it sounds, and as the whole world has always made it out to be. It’s the perfect blend of my three favorite elements: city, mountains and the sea. It’s also teeming with beautiful people, but that’s neither here nor there. And while Rio is a real babe from the ground, she’s even more spectacular from the sky. So if you’re heading to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Wonderful City) and like me, have always dreamed of being a human drone, do yourself a favor and book a helicopter tour at sunset. It’s not as expensive as you may think, and it’s worth every single Brazilian real. Here’s what you need to know.
Booking is Easy
There are many companies in Rio offering helicopter tours, and my experience in the high season tells me that you don’t have to make the plan way in advance. If you’ve done any research at all you’re probably going to find that Vertical Rio is particularly popular- especially on Instagram. And that’s fine, they look fantastic- but don’t jump the gun yet, because another worthy contender exists- Rio Helicopter Tour. This is who we ultimately went with for our tour- and the experience was flawless. The tour lengths and costs are clearly outlined on their homepage, there’s a booking form, and you can even hit them up via WhatsApp, like me and my friends did. Because here’s the thing- we had a special request. We wanted our helicopter doors OFF….the whole time. We contacted them via WhatsApp, quickly had a tour booked a few days later, and they even agreed to accommodate our Instagram fueled vision of doors off, wind blowing in our hair, and feet dangling out over Christ the Redeemer. It seemed they had to go out of their way to obtain a helicopter that would allow this- so our price went up to 525 reals per person, or around $140 USD, which in my eyes is still an absolute steal.
I’m sure any tour you choose will not disappoint- but the guys at RHT were truly amazing and super flexible- even when we missed our 7:00 PM prime time slot because of traffic and had to reschedule for the next day. Which leads me to another important point…
Get There Early
Sometimes when you’re in a foreign country and aren’t familiar with the area, it slips your mind that Google maps isn’t always going to reflect RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. Many of the helicopter tours, including Rio Helicopter Tour and Vertical Rio, fly out of Jacarepagua Airport. Now, this airport (that I’ll never be able to pronounce) is 30+ km from Rio’s city center. On a good day, that should take you 35-40 minutes. When you’re going for a 7:00 PM sunset flight and have to plow through bumper to bumper work traffic…it’s going to be a lot longer. Plan accordingly!
I’ll start with the obvious: camera and/or cell phone. You’re going to want to take ALL the pictures. Clothing that is relatively fitted and isn’t going to be viciously flapping in a high speed breeze is also a good idea. Sneakers, if you want to dangle your feet out the side and not lose your shoes, and lastly- as a female with long hair I feel it is my duty to tell all the ladies out there to TIE IT UP! If you want a cute picture where you’re not eating your hair- a braid is your best bet. Anything else you might bring with you to the airport (money, etc.) can be safely kept in the office.
Don’t Be Scared
And maybe you aren’t! But if you are, allow me to reassure you that you will be strapped in like a toddler in a car seat and the flight is smooth as butter. I actually couldn’t believe how effortless they made take off and landing look, and physically, I hardly felt a thing. Safety is their concern, first and foremost, so you’re going to get briefed and they are going to stress when you can and cannot stick your limbs out the open door. If the idea of high windspeed and a broken arm isn’t enough of a deterrent, they’ll immediately end the flight if you break the rules at any point. You’re also wearing huge headphones, so you’re in constant communication with everyone in the chopper should you have a question.
Wave to Jesus
In my humble opinion- Christ the Redeemer is the highlight of the helicopter tour, no matter which duration you go for. Your pilot is likely going to circle around it twice so that passengers on each side get a good view, but BE ON YOUR GAME! It happens very quickly, and it can be very hard to get the shot you want when you’re spazzing out over the sheer beauty of it and trying to use your camera at the same time.
Remember to Soak It All In
If you do a half hour flight like I did, you’re going to be shocked at how quickly the time goes by. You’ll no doubt be fumbling with cameras trying to catch every magnificent moment, but do try to take a minute to appreciate what your eyes are seeing, because it may just be one of your most epic travel experiences yet- it certainly was for me!
Is a helicopter tour on your bucket list?! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below!