This is our Rio de Janeiro shopping list, the latest in our Price Check* series. Rio de Janeiro is on par with Europe when it comes to shopping and is no longer the budget destination it once was when I visited (cough) a long time ago – at a time when Brazil’s famously fashionable Havaiana flip flops cost the equivalent of just US$1 a pair.

Now they sell Havaianas for between US$15-25 a pair (seriously), depending on how fancy you like your rubber ‘thongs’ (that’s Aussie for flip-flop, not string bikini) or ‘jandals’ (and that’s what the Kiwis call them, and let’s not give them too hard a time seeing they apparently invented them).

Shopping for groceries in Rio has been like shopping in Costa Rica all over again (see this post) – minus the mould in the fridges of the local supermarkets. On that note, one Costa Rica reader gave us a hard time, claiming we’d only shopped in the one supermarket and that it was the most expensive supermarket in Costa Rica. In fact, we had shopped in a handful of supermarkets, we researched more supermarkets than we shopped at, and the supermarket the person claimed was the most expensive wasn’t at all, it was actually the cheapest. They could re-post that comment at the end of this post, however, and they’d actually be correct.

We’re staying in Ipanema and, as fabulous as this middle- to upper-middle class neighbourhood is (we absolutely love it), prices are higher than we expected and our grocery bills are expensive and there’s no getting around it – except to go shop in a more working class ’hood, but then we have the expense of the time and cost to lug our groceries home.

To give you an idea: supermarket prices here are more expensive than Mexico City (where the same grocery shop cost us US$42), and while not as expensive as Costa Rica (US$92), New York ($88), Austin (US$83), and Tokyo (US$94), are on par with Barcelona (US$63), Venice (US$64) and Paris (US$63).

The local supermarket chain Zona Sul appears to have a monopoly on the market (no pun intended), with a branch on almost every corner, and no other independent grocery stores or mini-marts to speak of as far as we could see. And while the Zona Sul supermarkets are very good (the one in Leblon seems to be the best), with fresh seafood counters and an in-store café and pizzeria (with wood fire oven!) – they are super expensive.

Fortunately, Ipanema and Leblon are blessed with farmer’s markets or feiras, so our advice is, if you’re staying in Ipanema, to buy your basics at Zona Sul – such as deli snacks (cheeses, sausages, etc), staples like sugar, milk and coffee, and beers and wines (they even have a limited selection of Brazilian wine) – and buy your bread at the panificadora, cakes and pastries at the pastelaria, and fruit and veg at the feira.

The farmer’s markets are held several days a week in Ipanema and neighbouring Copacabana, and there is a permanent market in nearby Leblon that is home to specialised shops (delis, wine shops, etc), bars and eateries, that makes a great spot for a casual drink with the locals in the evening. The list of markets below is by no means exhaustive – as with everything else we do with Grantourismo, we’re just focusing on our own local neighbourhoods.

These excellent covered markets are home to specialised stores, including wine shops and delicatessens, and an array of affordable eateries, fast food places, casual restaurants, bars, and pubs. We love them (our favourite is Cobal do Humaitá), for their local atmosphere and down-to-earth vibe, especially in the evenings when the alfresco bars are packed with locals downing beers. Most shops tend to open from around 7am until 4-5pm from Monday to Saturday, although a few stay open in the evenings when the restaurants and bars are packed.

Cobal de Leblon – Rua Gilberto Cardoso, Leblon
Cobal do Humaitá – Voluntários da Pátria, Botafogo

These set up in the main squares (praças) or pedestrian streets from early in the morning until around 1-2pm or whenever stock sells out, so it’s always best to shop early. Expect lots of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, with the occasional specialty stall stocking cheeses, preserves, spices, breads etc, but the emphasis is definitely on the fresh produce.

Monday – Rua Henrique Dumont
Tuesday – Praça General Osório
Friday – Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz

Wednesday – Rua Domingos Ferreira
Thursday – Rua Ronald de Carvalho & Rua Belford Rozo

Thursday – Rua General Urquiza

In the table below you’ll find prices in the local currency, the Brazilian Real, in the first column, and the conversions in the UK Pound and US Dollar in the second and third columns.

2 litre waterR$1.29£0.48US$0.76
1 litre milkR$2.00£0.74US$1.17
Bottle of local wineR$19.50£7.23US$11.44
355ml beerR$1.80£0.67US$1.06
100g NescafeR$5.40£2.00US$3.17
250g local coffee beansR$8.90£3.30US$5.22
50 tea bagsR$5.60£2.08US$3.29
1 kg sugarR$4.20£1.56US$2.46
Jar of jamR$4.90£1.82US$2.88
1 loaf of breadR$4.80£1.78US$2.82
250g quality butterR$5.00£1.85US$2.93
200g cheeseR$4.20£1.56US$2.46
500 ml oilR$12.90£4.78US$7.57
1 doz organic eggsR$3.00£1.11US$1.76
1 kilo tomatoesR$2.00£0.74US$1.17
1 kilo onionsR$1.60£0.59US$0.94
1 kilo applesR$9.20£3.41US$5.40
250 g pistachiosR$7.00£2.60US$4.11
1 bottle Pimienta ComariR$3.60£1.33US$2.11

Do you live in Rio or have you stayed in a holiday rental here and shopped in the local supermarkets and markets? If you have any shopping tips to share, we’d love to hear about them in the Comments below.

  • Price Check is a series of posts from every destination we visit that could serve as a shopping list to stock the kitchen at the start of your stay, as well as a cost of living index in a way. We’re including some basic items to get you started plus a local specialty or two from the place.
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