Located on the craggy hills above the city, favelas, or shanty towns, house the city’s poorer residents (as well as people looking to escape Rio’s high rents). Favelas have long intrigued those travelers who seek a less polished perspective on the Marvelous City. Hire a local guide to lead you through the twisting alleys, and discover the entrepreneurial solutions developed by residents who, for many years, didn’t receive city services like running water. You’ll taste some of Rio's best food in favela restaurants, and you'll find that smiles are returned more readily and sincerely than on the streets below.
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When traveling to Rio, a visit to the city's favelas will give you a glimpse into daily life in Rio beyond its beaches. Favelas are hillside shanty towns that are mostly controlled by drug lords. During our tour there, we encountered teenage boys armed with M-16s and all sorts of other weapons that you only see in places like Afghanistan. Our guide explained that people feel secure with the gangs because they provide more protection than the corrupt police. Also, the druglord looks out for the residents by helping them with their basic needs like food and medication. Another interesting point that our guide made is that tourists are welcome in the favelas because the druglords want to prove that if the favelas are safe enough for tourists, then they’re safe enough for the middle class to come in and buy their drugs.