While there are a lot of places you can stay while training in Rio I thought I would do a write-up on one that I recently discovered. If you are staying in Rio long-term like myself (3 months or more) it is probably best to check out www.airbnb.com to find an apartment. For those staying 1 week to a month or so it might be better (and cheaper) to stay at a hostel.
While there are a lot of hostels in Rio, including the very well known Connection Rio Hostel, the BJJ Traveler’s Hostel is the only one that I am aware of that focuses on the Vida Luta right in the heart of the Copacabana.
I first met the owners of the BJJ Traveler’s Hostel at Academia Uno, home gym of team Ricardo De La Riva, where Paulo Roberto (hostel owner) trains and Gilza (hostel co-owner) works. I’ll admit, I had not heard of this particular hostel until a French guy visiting the gym mentioned it. Once I discovered that the operator of the hostel was training at DLR ( where I have been training during my stay) I figured I had better check it out and give everybody out there in BJJ land an opportunity to learn about how to stay and train in Rio for cheap!
I met up with Paulo Roberto on one of the very few rainy days I had experienced since arriving in Rio three months prior. We met outside of Academia Uno and walked to the hostel. It was a bout a fifteen minute walk so we had a good chance to talk about how it all got started for the Hostel.
A while back Gilza, who works the registration desk at the Academy, found out that some visitors to the academy had some sort of problem with their accommodations and that they needed to find a new place to stay. Gilza, having the heart of gold that she does, invited them to come and stay at her place. Not wanting to free-load off of her kindness, the guys paid her and Paulo Roberto for the time they spent there. It was this event that got the idea of opening a BJJ hostel started.
Paulo Roberto and Gilza immediately started setting up their two-bedroom home in order to accommodate multiple guests. Since then the hostel has been doing very well and they are even building a second floor dorm and covered patio / training area.
Let’s start with the basics.
The hostel is a two bedroom home in the pacified favela Tabajaras: about ten minutes walk from Copacabana beach (around posto 4). Tabajaras favela is a typical, medium-sized favela with a lot of stairs :-). It is very authentic and Paulo Roberto assures me it is a very safe neighborhood. When I went to visit it was rainy and so there weren’t a lot of people out and about although we did manage to run into a black belt from team Manimal who has opened a bar about half-way between the street and the hostel: which makes it a great place to stop for a cold beer on the way home from training.
Inside, the hostel has two bedrooms, one with two bunks (sleeps four) and one that currently has a double and a single (sleeps 3), however, Paulo Roberto told me that they were changing that room into another two bunk (sleeps four) room. There is a shared kitchen (though you won’t need to do much – more on that in a bit) and a small living area with flat screen TV. There is free Wi-fi throughout the house. The TV features Canal Combate (fight channel) with English language option so “fight night”, “TUFF” and even the UFC Pay-per-Views are included in your stay.
As for the kitchen, well, you might use the fridge to keep your personal beverages cold but other than that all meals are included in the price of your stay. Gilza is a great cook and cooks in “family style” so there is always plenty for everyone. When we visited Gilza had cooked up oven roasted chicken, Brazilian rice, beans, farofa, and salad for everyone. Even though I had already eaten before the visit, Gilza insisted so who am I to argue 🙂 I won’t lie: I had seconds on the chicken, it was delicious!
Also, there is a small laundry area just outside the front door. Free use of the laundry is also included in your stay – including detergents, etc. Another handy cost savings as well as a convenience. Nobody uses dryers in Rio (or most anyplace in the tropics) so it’s hang dry for your kimonos.
After checking out the rooms, laundry and lunch Paulo Roberto took me up-stairs to show me the construction project. The second floor is not finished at this time, but I could see how they were laying it out. There will be a large room with five bunks (sleeps ten) and an open, covered patio with bar-b-que grill and training space with mats. I could tell Paulo Roberto was really stoked about the addition. It’s a lot of work to haul all of the materials up the hill to the house. Paulo mentioned that it cost more to hire guys to haul it up the steps than the materials themselves (Yikes!).
According to Paulo Roberto, they are hoping to have the addition completed by July of 2016.
I asked Paulo what his favorite part of running the hostel was and his response was exactly what I would have hoped for. “I have met so many people from all over the world and they have all been so kind. It is amazing to meet so many good people from all over the world and share my beautiful city with them.”
In addition to all meals and laundry services Paulo Roberto will also act as your personal tour guide. While Paulo Roberto trains under Mestre De La Riva, he has contacts in most of the gyms in the Copacabana and will take you there and train there with you if you like. (He made sure to mention that he asked Mestre De la Riva’s permission before beginning this practice – and that he continues to ask each time he is going to a different gym with guests: Nao Creonte!).
Beyond that, Paulo says that if guests have a certain sight or attraction they would like to visit (like Pao do acucar, Christo Redentor, Escalera de Celaron, etc.) he will be happy to take them and show them around. What does he charge? Nothing if the sight / event is free, just the admission price if there is one.
If you like to sight-see this is a great deal because most sights here will run you between $80-$140 Reais ($20-$40 U.S.) for an organized tour.
Remember, this is a basic lodging style hostel focused on providing a place to stay and train BJJ in the Copacabana. It is not a fancy place but it packs a lot of value into the daily rate of $50.00 U.S. Probably the biggest advantage over staying at a “non-BJJ” hostel is the access you get to training at different academies. While you will pay mat fees regardless of where you stay, with the BJJ Traveler’s Hostel you know you are already welcome to come train and it takes all the difficulty and awkwardness out of walking into a competitive, Brazilian BJJ academy where nobody knows you.
Also, having a bi-lingual translator to help you out is practically priceless!
Something I always notice when I am living in bigger cities is the degree to which people seem to be disconnected, even defensive at times, as if every other person in the city is a threat to their own personal satisfaction. After living in the small city (large town?) of Cozumel, MX for five months I was definitely noticing it here in Rio.
This just isn’t the case with Paulo and Gilza. Remember, before it was a hostel, this was their HOME and they really do continue to treat people with the kind of hospitality that I haven’t seen in a long time.
The BJJ Traveler’s Hostel is definitely worth checking out if you are staying less than one month, prefer the “all-inclusive” meals, and want to train at multiple gyms…oh, being 15 minutes walk to the Copacabana beach is a big plus too!
Check it out.