Favela Life in Brazil

With the World Cup mania going on full speed, everyone’s eyes are now on Brazil. This has gotten me to think about my most recent trip to the sunny country and about one of my most memorable experiences there – the week I spent staying in the favela of Pavao near the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.

While I was immersed in the colorful life of the favela – a slum for lack of a better word in English – I was bombarded with questions from foreigners and Brazilians alike: what’s it like to stay in a favela? Is it dangerous? Scary? How do you move around there? How do the locals react when they see you?

That’s why I decided to do this video that shows me making my way from our home on top of the favela down to the street level and back – a full 400 steps each way, navigating the narrow labyrinth-like pathways. The round trip generally takes about 15 minutes. Imagine if you had to climb up 400 steps just to get home! Insanity. But it definitely keeps the residents in good shape.

If you are still wondering what exactly a favela is, check out this good article that explains why no English-language word really characterizes it perfectly:

Why We Should Call them Favelas

And if this video convinced you that you really want to stay in a favela yourself on your next Rio trip, that’s easily done. Just book a room from Fiona, Pavao’s lone Brit: https://www.airbnb.com.br/rooms/841135






  1. wanted to add that i agree, favellas and other informal settlements like these across the world are truly unique urban landscapes that represent the enthusiasm and the toil of people determined to make good out of a not so good situation


    1. Indeed. We met some really hard-working, humble and happy people in Pavao that actually make the favela a pleasant place to be (if you ignore the occasional gang violence). They are definitely making the best of the situation (and getting in great shape climbing those stairs with shopping bags and furniture!).


    1. Oh awesome!! Fiona is such a good tour guide for getting insight into real favela life. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Another great favela location is Tavares Bastos in Catete. The most peaceful place you can imagine with the most welcoming people. Like a little village in a megacity overlooking Pao de Acugar.

    There’s a brilliant guesthouse run by a somewhat eccentric brit: http://jazzrio.com/en/

    I spent a good month there following the world cup and can’t wait to get back.


    1. Cool! Good to know for future reference. So it seems like Brits are truly taking over the bed and breakfast businesses of the favelas. 😛


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