Did I mention that I drove all the way from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro? I’ll admit, after avoiding this type of task for so long, I’m feeling very empowered.
We’ve spend the week back and forth between my father-in-law’s house and Ipanema where my husband has been working for the week. Such a life. And as my daughter and I lounged on the sand I began to remember what a complicated micro-environment the beach of Rio de Janeiro might seem to be to a foreigner. The mystery is mostly a result of the human traffic that crosses, back and forth, along the horizon. What are they doing? What are they selling? What is in those metal, spouted boxes that man is laboriously transporting on his back?
So, for those who have a plan to visit the sands of Rio, here is a break-down of what it is you can buy on the beach. (R$5 = US $2.15)
Cadeiras and Guarda Sol:
While not an outright purchase, you will definitely want to have a good seat on the beach for shopping. As soon as you hit the sand you will most likely be offered chairs and a sun umbrella, and most likely from various vendors a mere few feet from each other. If you have the inclination, inquire about the prices from a couple. I went with the first guy that got my attention and paid R$5 per chair and R$7 for the umbrella, only to discover that the prices at the next stand had the umbrella for R$5. Yes, I lost out on about US $0.86. Bastards. These prices are for the day.
Do not fear the Matte Man. The most curious of the beach vendors for me was the one lugging around the big metal canisters. The man sells a brand of tea, “sweet tea” if you are from the southern part of the the US, made from Mate leaf. Honestly, I had never tried a drink from this category of vendor. However, yesterday, in the name of investigative reporting, I indulged. You have the option of draining a cup of only the tea from one canister, or combining the fluid of both to include a type of lemonade. I must say, I’m sorry I hadn’t given the Matte man a chance before.
It was refreshingly delicious. The tea has a unique flavor, slightly bitter, but in its sweetened state with a shot of lemon beverage, it is perfect for the beach. A cup of this costs R$4 from the Matte Man. You can also buy a bottle from where you get your beach chairs, but it is just not the same experience.
The Matte Man may also be carrying a couple bags of a Brazilian beach classic – the Globo Biscoitos. As far as I know, these crunchy, donut shaped biscuits can only be bought on the beach or alongside the highway. You have the option of sweet (dulce) or salty (salgado), although neither of these super light snacks is heavily either. In my opinion, it is better to buy on the beach than the road, because the crunchy quality means many messy crumbs, not good for a car. It is a great snack for kids, although I did consume quite a few myself during the course of this study. The Globos were R$5 a piece, which I thought was a bit pricey for crispy air. But a beach vendor has to make a buck somewhere.
If you are with a child on the beach, he or she will want ice cream. This is unfortunate, because I found the ice cream to be one of the more expensive items in terms of value within this traveling mall. A smallish sized pop costs R$7:
and a regular wrapped cone cost R$15!
I’m certain that some of those Magnum bars on his product board could have run me into the R$20’s. If you are trying to satisfy the sweet tooth of an adult, the Matte limão is a much better value. But if you are with kids, it will be a hard sell against sorvete.
What I believe to be a relatively new product on the beach is the sun protection. Vendors with sleeves full of bottles also wander through the chairs pushing this category of wares. Just for the facts, I asked about prices. While expensive, I actually though it would be higher. The ones he showed me were R$25 for a level 15 sunscreen and R$40 for a protection of 25. But still… it is better to bring your own.
If you’ve forgotten to bring your suit, it is easy to just buy one on the beach. Plenty of vendors will be wandering around with umbrellas full of bikinis in all sizes and colors, but just one shape – the Brazilian style. No dressing room? No problem. I’ve watched women try these on by strategically switching out their tops and pulling the bottoms on over the ones they were wearing. You can learn too. If you want both a top and a bottom, it will cost you R$55, which is not bad for a price, but the quality might be.
Cangas and other Clothing:
A canga is a colorful cloth that serves as a beach towel, a cover-up and can even be fashioned into a dress. I’ve seen the larger ones utilized in interior design by throwing it over a bed, a couch or even hanging from a wall. You’ll find a wide variety of patterns and styles and it makes a great souvenir. The standard size was going for R$35 on this particular day. Other vendors may also be carrying dresses and bathing suit cover ups. Some I saw were super cute, others super tacky, but the range in price was R$25 to R$35.
Cocktails and other Beverages:
What’s a day on the beach without some beach beverages. The people who sell you the chairs and sun umbrellas also have a drink business going on. Some even have caipirinhas and caipivodkas for R$10-12. You will also be able to pick up a cerveja (beer) or a refrigerante (soda) from a roaming vendor for similar prices.
I’ve often found myself craving some food, especially after a beach caipirinha or two. But until what I believe is recently, you are stuck with simple snacks like ice cream and Globos. However, within the last year (maybe more – I might not have been paying attention) you will see men and women cloaked in Middle Eastern gear selling “Arabian” style food. What you will get is a triangle of bread filled with cheese, sausage or chicken for R$5 a piece. From first hand experience, I can tell you it is pretty delicious (especially when you get desperate). Some of these boxes of specialty cuisine could even be carrying a kibe – a kind of ground meat snack.
“Jewelry” and other Crap:
If you are really lazy about picking up some souvenirs for loved-ones back home, or if you are looking for something that will go with your recently purchased canga or beach dress, you can accessorize right from your cadeira. Like the cloth vendors, these guys will probably give you a better price for the product they have procured from China if you buy more than one.
Let it be known, the prices quoted in this post were taken from a regular week day. As Carnaval kicks in, I’m quite certain the numbers will rise a bit. When the Cup comes… well that will be interesting to calculate.