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In the Face of Airbnb, Rio Hostels Thrive


The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have attracted more than half a million international and domestic tourists to the city, and while the focus is on athletes, sports, venues and parties, tourists still need a place to unwind and relax.

Immediately following the 2009 announcement that the Olympics would take place in Rio de Janeiro, hotel prices rose and reservations began to stack up. But with a little research and an open mind, many tourists were able to find an economical way to stay in Rio.

In addition to new options like Airbnb, tourists on a budget are returning to hostels, a budget option that students have relied on for decades. In Rio, many are former houses and homes transformed into small inns. One is set in a former Polish embassy. Although Rio hostel owners have increased their prices by four or five times since 2009, they remain an affordable housing option. Breakfast, laundry, and kitchen are usually included, and trained staff can break language barriers and provide helpful resources for exploration.

Lucas Leite, owner of 021 Hostel, opened his business after Rio was selected to host the Olympics. He compares the current influx to one of the biggest celebrations in the world, the Brazilian New Year, or Carnival. During those four days, hostels are booked and demand is high. Imagine that type of business and revenue, but instead of four days, the interest lasts for more than a month. Leite says that’s what the Olympics have meant for him.

“Since the Olympic Games started to get closer, we received many more requests,” says Leite. “The hostel has been open for three years now and since one year ago we are full.”

Guests arrive from all over the world, as individuals or groups. With rooms of eight or more beds, few bathrooms, and one common area, hostels promote interaction and inclusion of people from many different backgrounds. Some hostels offer full-service restaurants. The Meiai hostel in the Botafogo neighborhood, for example, offers the Guilhermina restaurant.

Daniel Amgarten of São Paulo leads a university study-abroad group, Campus Brasil, and often communicates with hostel owners to find the best options for the universities and programs he works with. “When you are traveling and going to a hostel, I think everybody is in the same situation,” explains Amgarten. “You want to know the city and hang out. People have this common goal together, so when they are forced to know each other I think it maximizes their experiences.”

Katie Faller, a student from Arizona State University staying at the Pura Vida hostel in Rio – located in the former Polish embassy — says, “You are immersed in the culture whether you think you are or not. The employees are there and there is Portuguese everywhere. But what I have learned the most is regardless of where you go in the world, we all kind of live the same.”

Paula Del Trejo Paiane, a journalism major at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, served as field producer and Portuguese translator on this story.


About Alex Bruder, Ashley Osiecki & Kelsey McCormick

The 3BC production team in the Queens in Rio project is composed of Alex Bruder, a communication major from Ocean City, Md.; Ashley Osiecki, a communication major from New Bern, N.C.; and Kelsey McCormick, a sport management major from Orlando, Fla.

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