Sunday, December 28, 2014

Questions Answered regarding our tours

One of our Football & BBQ tour groups! Tour guides in front from L to R: Dembore, Erik and Obi

I decided to write this because I think its a good idea to cover common questions people have about our work. In order to book a tour we will need some important information from you. Many times I end up sending many emails back and forth to people because in their initial contact with us, they don't give us enough information to book the tour. So, to make everything easy, I have answered the many questions I receive from guests having interest to visit Rocinha. In 7 years of doing this we have managed to correct many problems and now all of our guides are on board!

we will need....

1.) You first and last name and correct email
This makes a difference especially if you are staying at a hostel or hotel. We can access you by having the front desk call or you the hostel receptionist find you to let us know that we have arrived. If you are filling out the form, please double check your email address.

2.) How many in your group
Its is important because many times we combine groups. If you decide that you want a private tour then we charge a little more for this as we lose money if we don't allow others to join. So when you write us let us know how many are in your group including yourself. We can only do a tour if there is a minimum of 2 people. If you book with us and later decide to cancel, please let us know so we can open up space for other people.

3.) Where you are staying
This is one of the most important things. If we have no idea where you are, how can we meet you? A complete address with street number and name of hostel or hotel if applicable. If you are staying in an apartment then we need the and street address apartment number so we can have the doorman call up to you to let you know that we have arrived. In most apartment buildings they will not allow outsiders inside the building. So, we can meet you outside the front door of your apartment.

4.) Day and time
We need to know which day you would like to visit. Try to have two choices of days that you are available so we can accommodate your request. In the summer months, it gets very hot here so we recommend to start early in the morning between 8:30-9:30 am. This way the tour will end before the sun is highest in the sky and the hottest throughout the day. Also afternoons are great for the beach. so, you can do the tour then after have plenty of beach time.

Here is an example of how a email request should look:

NAME: John Smith
LOCATION: Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
DATE & TIME: March 12th, 2015, prefer 9:30am or March 13th anytime
Special request: On March 12th we need to be back to the hotel at 3pm.

**** You can fill out the form on the website or just send us a regular email.
Our site: Favela Adventures  email:

In preparation for your visit to the favela

1.) Please wear good walking shoes or trainers. The streets here are not like in the "developed" city. The favela is an organic self built community. We also will walk through the tight alleyways and the ground is not always flat and there are stairs. Our tours start at the top of the favela and we walk down to the bottom of the community so there will not be much walking up stairs. If you have problems with stairs, please let us know so we can cater the tour better to your needs. We can walk different routes that don't have stairs.

2.) Wear comfortable clothing. This is a walking tour at a slow pace as we want you to see everything and take in the vibe of the community. Dresses that don't hinder your walking, T-shirts and shorts or loose pants are the best.

3.) Things you may want to bring. A camera is no problem here. When you wake up in the morning, check the weather and dress accordingly especially if it will rain or be colder. Keep in mind if its raining the use of rain coat or umbrella. We still make the tours as long as its not a heavy rain or down pour. If its sunny, wear sun protection and bring water. Water and sunscreen can be bought inside the favela if you forget.

4.) Safety. Often people ask is it safe. To be honest, nowhere on this planet is 100% safe. You can be robbed in Rome Italy or pick pocketed in Barcelona. The one thing we can guarantee you is that you won't be robbed or pick pocketed here inside Rocinha. All our guides live here and the community knows about our work here. Your camera will not be stolen here. In the 7 years that I have been doing tours, I have never had anyone have a problem here. If there is a safety issue in regards to conflicts between drug traffickers and police, we will let you know. Only twice since I started doing these tours have we had to cancel visits due to police conflicts. They do happen but its not an everyday occurance. Your safety is always priority number one!

5.) Money. We work with Brazilian reais which is our monetary unit. It becomes complicated if people offer to pay us in another currency. Inside the favela we don't have a "cambio" or a money exchange. We have to leave the community and go to Copacabana or Ipanema to change the money and it can be time consuming. Also, several times guests have shown up saying they can not get access to ATM's or cash. We have some ATM's here inside the community but your card may not work here so please make sure that you are able to put aside cash for your tour in advance.

6.) Location and Meeting points. People who arrange tours with us in advance get priority when it comes to meeting points. In advance for us means trying to book at least one week in advance. There are high season periods from December to March where we get very busy. Booking two weeks in advance is best during busy season. This does not mean that we can't accommodate last minute requests. But you will probably be referred to one of our meeting points close to your location by foot or easy for you to get to by metro or bus. When there is a meeting point involved, I will send you a photo of the guide so you know who to look for.

We ONLY meet guests in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.

Some common meeting points are:

Cardeal Arcoverde Metro Station in Copacabana
JW Marriot Hotel, Av. Atlantica, 2600, Copacabana
Copacabana Palace, Av. Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
Atlantis Copacabana Hotel, Rua Bulhoes de Carvalho, 61, Ipanema
General Osorio Metro Station, Ipanema
Post 8, 9 or 10 (life guard posts on the beach) Ipanema
Post 11 or 12  (life guard posts on the beach) Leblon
Fashion Mall Shopping, Sao Conrado, inside by the McDonalds

7.) Meeting Times. We set meeting times according to those who book in first and have confirmed. Our responsibility is to respect your time and show up at the designated time agreed upon. Arriving 5-10 minutes late, we know that this can happen. But it is your responsibility to make sure to arrive on time. Our guides are given strict instruction to leave meeting points maximum 15 minutes after the meeting time. So, if you are expected to arrive at 10 am and you haven't shown up, the guide will need to leave to start the tour at 10:15 am, for the others who have arrived. If you don't plan on showing up, or you get sick etc, please email us at least one hour before the expected meeting time. Also, many times on weekends we experience cancellations last minute because people get too drunk the night before then suffer from hangover in the morning. Please don't book with us a morning tour if this is going to happen. If we book a tour to meet at for example, the General Osorio Metro Station we will send you details and a few photos. You can find many of these meeting points if you use google maps.

8.) Children. We welcome well behaved inquisitive children. If your child is figgety or cries often, maybe our tour isn't for you. We have had mostly great experiences with children and some not so great. We suggest that a child be at least 7 years old to really get any benefit from this type of experience. Our content is explaining what life is like in a favela and there's a lot of exchange in conversation and questions which may bore a young child. At times there is opportunity for children to meet and interact with local children. There is also the environment which may stimulate a child's interest. If you have an inquisitive, curious child, have some questions set aside for them to ask so they feel like a participant in the group. The the experience is great for everybody. Sometimes we can find kids that will want to play football (soccer) with children visiting. So, during the tour we can allow the children to play for 10-15 minutes and the adults can talk more about the favela.

9.) We do accept donations of school or art supplies. These are things children and youth here need. Please don't bring candy as its bad for a child's teeth and doesn't really help. Many children in favelas unfortunately do not have access to quality dental care. Donations of school or art supplies are given to four different projects here, two day cares, one English school and one art school. On our Blog "Life in Rocinha", we write about projects that receive your donations. Check it out!

10.) In our activities we do not solicit or expect tips. Tips are given usually to show appreciation for a service worker who delivers a great job for the guest.  If you tip your guide, its always appreciated but not expected.  Thank you!

11.)  Photos. It is expected with the different environment that you will want to take photos. We suggest that you can take pictures of almost everything. Please do NOT take photos of the police as most of them don't like it. Also, please do not take photos of people up close. Most people don't want a camera stuck in their face.  Taking photos of street scenes with people in the background is not a problem. Some people in the favela don't mind their picture being taken and may come up and want to be in a picture with you. If you have concerns, ask your guide.

12.) The locals. Don't be surprised if people come up to you during the tour. Just as you have interest in the favela, they have interest in you. Probably 90% of the residents have never been on a plane or ever will. Their only contact with foreigners is YOU!  People are friendly so don't be shocked if a local wants to shake your hand, hug you or give you a kiss on the cheek. Rocinha residents know us and our work. They support us because we do allow this kind of interaction. Its the best way to "get to know" the favela!

13.) Eating in the favela. When I started doing these visits back in 2007, I wanted to include a lunch where guests could sample the food. I found 3 really good places to eat for great prices. I know many people wonder about hygiene in a favela and it is  understandable. All of our choice restaurants are clean and the food is quality. You will not get sick from eating the food here. We take guests to a 'por kilo' restaurant which is like buffet style but you pay by the weight of your plate. For vegetarians there are plenty of choices as well. The restaurants accept all major credit cards, VISA and Mastercard being the most popular.

14.) Souvenirs. There is one place at the top of the hill where we can visit that has arts and crafts made by locals. There is an awesome view from the souvenir shop where you can take pictures. If you need to use the bathroom its a good place to stop and rest. If you have specific requests for a certain type of arts & crafts or souvenirs, let us know.

15.) Drugs etc.... at NO time will we advocate or take part in any kind of illegal activity. If you are looking for marijuana or any kind of illegal substances, we cannot help you with this. We don't judge your activities but police do "keep an eye" on foreigners who may be looking to buy drugs. As you are in a foreign country please be careful what activities you participate in.

If you have questions about something not covered here please contact us at:

Enjoy your visit to Rocinha!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gifts delivered!

There are two parties this holiday season that we have decided to support. One is the small party that took place at 10am on December 11th at Fabrica Verde. The director of the project suggested that we give out school/art supplies so this is what we did.

We were able to distribute the school supplies gift bags to 22 of the children at the project who were selected by the director Ana Paula Telles. There were other organizations and individuals who donated gifts for this party, so it was a shared effort and many children benefitted from this.

From the previous post you can see I wrapped the school/art supplies gift bags and then the following day I delivered them. I thought the project would distribute them to the children, but they wanted me to be present and give the kids their gifts. So, during a tour with 4 guests, we stopped by and I was able to give the presents out. The guests also got to meet the residents and see the project.

There is another party December 17th at 10am where we will present gifts to Creche Castelinho just up the street from where I live.

I want to thank everybody who has donated school or art supplies to our project so that we can deliver them to the children and youth in need! And thank you to Pack For A Purpose for promoting this initiative worldwide to communities in need!

I have decided to put in some photos from the Fabrica Verde party. After the party at Creche Castelinho, I will post some from that event. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holidays in Rocinha!

I have never been much for holidays. I like them but I don't like the idea of one day or a few days of "giving". Everyday you should be thankful and giving in one way or another. School and art supplies are very much needed here in the favela. So, when people ask me what to bring or donate, I let them know that school and art supplies are valuable to the kids here.

I am putting together these kits of school supplies. One of the projects that I work with asked for more school supplies for some of the children. I went through the rest of the donations I had and determined that I can make 22 kits.
Each kit will include:

2 notebooks
2 pens
2 paintbrushes
1 box with 6 paints
1 pack of 12 pencils
1 glue stick
5 erasers
1 pencil sharpener
16 crayons
1 box of 12 colored pencils
1 ruler

To make these kits, some of the materials I bought to complete the kit. Others were donations from visitors to Rocinha.

So, here I have some of the materials that I will separate and will be put into bags.

Here is everything that will be put into the silver zip bag you can see to the left of the photo.

All the school supplies that I have managed to fit into the bags.

Bags filled with school supplies ready to go for the holiday party!

All the gifts wrapped up and ready for the kids party!

I want to thank the numerous people who donated many of the school supplies for the children here. And to Pack for a Purpose who continue to support our work here!