Rio is the city with it all: mountains, beaches, iconic landmarks and lots of very beautiful people. For the average backpacker, Rio will be a haze of samba, sightseeing and sunbathing on the city’s world famous beaches.

First-timers to the city take note: Rio is a huge city. We’re talking BIG here. Rio de Janeiro hotels tend to cater for the mid-range to top end side of things, so budget backpackers tend to seek out accommodation near Ipanema or Copacabana where there are options to suit tighter budgets. However, this leaves some travellers to fall into the trap of not finding the motivation to leave their sun loungers.

Take my advice and get involved with the local transport (an adventure in itself squeezing through those tiny turnstiles) and explore the city.

Even better, try basing yourself a bit further from the shoreline to get a proper feel for the city.

There are loads of budget-friendly hotels in Botafogo, a neighborhood located between downtown and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Despite the fantastic views of Christ the Redeemer from its streets, this barrio is totally off the tourist trail. There are a couple of big shopping malls and plenty of bookshops, bars and restaurants along the tree-lined avenues where locals like to hang out.

If you want to sample a slice of authentic Rio life, walk the streets and have lunch with workers at the pay-by-the-kilo restaurants. There are stunning views of Guanabara Bay from the Pasmade Overlook, reached via Portela Street.

Santa Teresa is another popular neighborhood – it’s a leafy, artsy district in the hilltops of the city, home to the student population and bohemian café culture. There are amazing views over the city at every turn, including from the Parque das Ruinas. Known locally as bondinho, the ‘little tram’ that links Santa Teresa with the nearby district of Lapa is a tourist attraction in itself as well as a great way to get to the city’s most vibrant street samba parties every weekend on Lapa’s main streets.

Get exploring and scratch beneath the surface of this stunning city – you’ll soon see why Rio is the southern hemisphere’s most visited city.