7 Reasons to Live in a Favela

Ever consider living in a favela (slum)? Most people haven’t due to the stereotypes of lacking safety etc given by national media.

Allow me to present you to someone who thinks otherwise and is here to convince you of the same. Elliot Rosenberg is a man who has decided to go against stereotypes and look at a favela for what it really is, he has gone to the extent of deciding to live in one and is here to give you 7 reasons why you should considering doing the same.  

Take it away Elliot!

If you believe everything you see in the news and movies, then you’d never want to set foot in a favela, let alone live in a favela. However, the reality is unlike what you’d imagine, to the point that hundreds of gringos are touring favelas every day and hundreds more are living in them right now. I’ve lived in Rio and Latin America’s largest favela, Rocinha, for three months now and know many foreigners who happily call the favelas their home. Definitely, there are challenges for both locals and gringos who live in these communities. Nonetheless, the favelas’ welcoming culture, inexpensive prices, good locations, and more make them excellent options whether you’re teaching English, studying on exchange, volunteering in non-profits, or starting a business. So, before you sign that year-long, R$2,000 monthly lease for a closet-sized cell in Copacabana, consider these reasons to live in a favela.

1. Vibrant Culture

Foreigners who come to the favela always try to articulate the amazing “vibe” or energy they feel here. You truly can’t understand it without being here, but you’ll sense it in the energetic funk carioca beats blasting from windows, the gusts of moto-taxis zipping past you, and the scent of churrasco smoke wafting from rooftop barbecues. The unique culture here pervades the music, food, dance, sports, and nightlife, and you’ll come to realize the roots of so much of Brazilian national culture is in the favelas. If you come without any pretensions, you’ll deeply appreciate the vibrancy of favela culture.

2. Affordable Prices

Compared with the exorbitant rents in the asfalto (formal city), the low cost to live in a favela might be the single greatest attraction for gringos. A small, unfurnished studio in the favela of Rocinha can rent for only R$350 Brazilian reals ($150 US dollars), and electricity and water might even be free! Even better, many owners in favelas don’t require that tenants sign leases, and some don’t even require deposits, so you’re free to pay on a monthly basis if you’re unsure of how long you’re staying. The affordability doesn’t stop at rents—delicious, favela food is at most half of what it costs in the cheapest restaurants everywhere else. My favorite lunch spot in Rocinha, Pensão do Vicente, has a variety of hearty meals for R$6.00 ($2.50 USD) prepared by Vicente, the friendliest grandpa and cook you’ll ever meet. I can even feed my destructive açaí addiction for only R$3.75 ($1.50 USD) per 400 mL injection of purple, Amazonian bliss. Even then, if you’re looking for more gourmet fare in favelas, visit some of the restaurants in the

3. Ample Business Opportunities

Because favelas have a long history of government and businesses neglecting them, there are many basic unmet needs here. And where there are problems, there are business opportunities, especially in a market so many corporations and entrepreneurs are scared to enter. Issues such as sanitation, recycling, technology proficiency, mobility, language instruction, and healthcare access are just some of the few begging for solutions. There are many examples of successful, favela businesses and even new ones that have disruptive potential. One such company is a tech startup called , which is developing a Linux-based smartphone operating system for the developing world, starting in Rio’s favelas. Another is , a holding company for favela-based businesses founded by Celso Athayde, who also founded renowned non-profit . One of FHolding’s first projects is , which will soon open in Complexo do Alemão and employ mostly community residents. Last, my business is seizing growing tourism interest in favelas to offer authentic room and apartment rentals for travelers in Rio’s favelas while increasing the incomes of favela families.

4. Safety

This might be the most controversial reason of all. Though all favelas are different, I genuinely feel safer in Rocinha, particularly at night, than in Ipanema, Botafogo, and especially Lapa. Since Rocinha has non-stop activity in its main public spaces, such as along the main thoroughfare Estrada da Gávea, nothing bad will happen to you if you’re respectful and have common sense. You’ll feel a true sense of community here where everyone looks out for each other. Countless times even strangers have given me back money I overpaid, told me when I dropped something, or let me know when my backpack was open. In addition, many prominent favelas mostly in the South Zone now have new, 24/7 police called UPPs in advance of the World Cup and Olympics in Rio. While residents are divided over their opinion of the “pacifying” police, you won’t see armed drug traffickers in the main areas of these favelas. Still, consider that most favelas aren’t under police control, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dangerous for foreigners.

5. Central Locations

Unlike other parts of the developing world where the poor are pushed to cities’ geographic peripheries, Rio’s 700-something favelas are physically intertwined into the urban fabric. That means that pretty much whatever area of the city you want to live in, you can almost definitely live in a favela there. And, yes, some favelas are only a few blocks from the beach! Even the exclusive South Zone neighborhoods of Copacabana, Leblon, São Conrado, and Botafogo have the favelas of Tabajaras, Vidigal, Rocinha, and Santa Marta, respectively. (Use this handy to locate which favelas are closest to where you want to be.) For example, the favela of Cantagalo is so close to the pricey apartments of Copacabana that you could even toss a paper airplane from the favela into your wealthy neighbors’ open window and land it right in their bowl of caviar. (You’re smart enough not to try that, though.)

6. Easy Transportation

Even if the favelas are on hillsides, they’re not necessarily hard to get to. In Rocinha I can hop on a handful of bus lines passing through the middle of the community between Gávea and São Conrado. The complex of Cantagalo/Pavão/Pavãozinho has elevators that take you to the favelas from within the metro station. At the least, lots of favelas have public buses and vans that pass right by them. Moreover, favelas frequently depend on moto-taxis for intra-favela transport as these are by far the fastest and most convenient option. (Pro gringo tip: Your moto-taxi ride will be socially awkward if you hold onto your driver around the waist. There are little handle bars attached to the sides of the back seat for your gripping pleasure.)

7. Jaw-Dropping Views

There’s a good reason favelas are colloquially referred to as morros. Many favelas are located on steep hillsides, where poor migrants began to settle over a century ago because of a lack of land and housing. Now, Rio is one of the only major cities in the world where the lower class has the best views. Oh, the irony! Developers and real estate speculators are just beginning to figure this out, and with government support they’re and favelas. If you don’t believe me about the views, check out what you’ll peer out upon from that we rent to our guests.

 

Rocinha

Elliot Rosenberg is the founder of Favela Experience, which offers authentic room and apartment rentals for travelers in Rio de Janeiro’s safe and fascinating favelas. Favela Experience’s affordable Rio de Janeiro World Cup apartments are taking advantage of the World Cup to generate sustainable income for favela families while promoting the vibrancy of favela culture. Elliot lives in Rio de Janeiro but is originally from Los Angeles. You can follow his journey as a social entrepreneur in the favelas on his .

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  • As a Brazilian, I can’t help but finding this hysterical. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side right? Anyway, I ended up in here because of one of your videos on Youtube on how to find a job through Maersk or something. It made me tingle just to think of all those blondes over there, I guess I should try that. Anyway, I hope you’re having fun in here, it’s a beautiful city. Cheers!

  • Hi!
    I live in rio de janeiro and i can really tell you all that this is a big fat lie!
    Nobody here in rio de janeiro wants to live in a favela , and yes , there is a lot of criminals , the water quality is awfull and dirty, the sewer sisten in inexistent in favelas , and everybody who lives in a favela want to go away from there the fast as possible!
    Dont believe this post about 7 reasons to live in a favela becouse i could give you all a tousand reasonsto dont live in a favela , ok?

    • It’s not the best place to live on Brazilian standards because our standards are delusional. People actually want to move to places like Leblon and São Conrado, which are far from Downtown, ridiculously expensive and overall just plain inconvenient because of the neighborhoods’ status. In any other place on Earth, people would be looking for places with good views, easy ways to get to work/school and affordable pricing/housing. Favelas excel when it comes to that.

      There’s also the fact that yes, electrical, sewage, water and other services such as garbage collection and postal deliveries don’t work in every favela, but a bunch of them are actually becoming well integrated into the city services and if YOU build your house to be legal and with those services well set up, you’ll have no problem.

      I have a British friend living in Vidigal and he has one of the most breath-taking views of Zona Sul I have ever seen. He’s never been mugged or bothered where he lives and a lot of the youth look up to him. His house is completely regulated and he gets mail, water and electrical from the city. Garbage collections happen in the bottom of the favela and cable/internet services are provided.

      Of course, Vidigal is one of the most “developed” favelas so to speak, but it’s possible to live there and well. The way you commented just makes it seem like you’ve never actually been to one. You really should if you want to make an educated comment.

      • If living in slums were as good, the houses’ price would be as expensive as “south zone”.
        Furthermore, I suggest that advocates of “favela way of life” appear there in days of policemen raid, when they go there looking for some terrible villain. Some people like the thrill of rifle bullets from glancing in your body … go ahead!

        • You’re ignoring the fact that propaganda always speaks louder than actual experience. The market works based on what it sees and what it hears, not on what actually is. So even if a favela magically becomes a Brazilian utopian paradise, the stigma linked to that concept will prevent it from getting more expensive or looked into. However, are you aware that some properties in Vidigal already cost up to R$ 500,000 solely because the region is so well esteemed? You aren’t, are you?

          You seemed to look past every point I made that reaffirmed favelas aren’t the best place to live. I am aware of that. I don’t live in one and I wouldn’t go there if the opportunity presented itself to me. The only important point I was trying to make on my previous comment was that it’s not all bad, that it’s possible to live well in a favela, and that they aren’t all the same. You can’t deny that.

          I don’t advocate the “favela way of life”, whatever the fuck that is. You’re delusional and very aggressive in your comments, so don’t expect me to reply any further. Your discourse and your point of view almost remind me of the republicans in the United States; narrow-minded individuals who shut themselves off from the rest of the world and won’t accept that their life isn’t what’s normal. And you’re Brazilian, for God’s sake. You know you’re privileged. Put that nariz empinado down a notch.

          • Well I love to exchange ideas and opinions. If you do not deal well with divergent ideas, I’m really sorry.

          • It would seem that way, wouldn’t it? Well, I wasn’t the one who started this “discussion” being passive aggressive and using “Some people like the thrill of rifle bullets from glancing in your body … go ahead!” as a valid argument. I deal fabulously with divergent ideas, but I do not fare well with people who act like the cherry on top. Have a nice life!

  • what a idiot…. favela is great if you like to live in poop.i’m sure.this guy’s real motivation is something that would land him in jail in the USA

  • As a Brazilian myself I agree with the other Brazilians in this post. If you did not grow up in a favela, don’t just go trying to survive in one. It’s their business and not yours to think you belong there. And what you see in movies is absolutely the REALITY. You might be lucky for not being part of all that violence on a certain degree, but it is there and it is present on everyone’s life, way more than you might think. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, I love where I grew up and I know how threatened I used to feel every single minute I lived there. DON’T BE SILLY. Of course you have got to live your life and get out and be happy, but in Brazil, the reality is that we live inside “jails”: fencing up our entire houses, choosing to live in high rises because isn’t safe to live in houses, making sure you lock up the car when driving, and so on…. meanwhile the “bad”people is living free outside, taking advantage of our weaknesses. Do go live in Brazil, but do it as a Brazilian would do, stop thinking as a foreigner, blend in and stay away from trouble.

  • I just read this and i get his point a little. I now live in Rio de Janiero and although i like Favelas, i would not live there. But honestly, i still dont understand some gringos from middle and upper class Americans leave their posh homes compared to Brazilians standards and decide to live in a favela. These are the same people that would not set foot in a “GHETTO” or HOOD area in America but happily live in a Favela in Brazil. I promise you that the brasilians living in the Favela would gladly trade with you for your life in America.

  • Is there any way I can contact you. An email probably. I would lik to get a bit more thorough info. Im planning on moving and what you have described here, its exactly what Im looking for. Just asking here. Thank you.

  • Ridiculous. This thing of living in favela must be only for people that had everything in life and must try something “different”. Nobody would want to live in such a place. The world would be a better place if we did not have such things. Want culture? Go to a museum or art expo, for christ sakes.

    • I can certainly see your point of view, but not everyone has the same idea of culture and experience. Each to their own!

  • As a North American, from Chicago, I lived for a few months, in Rocinha. It was an exciting vacation! Filled the senses. The smells and flavors. The view, the Ocean. The people were very friendly. They were amazed by my struggling childish Portuguese vocabulary. The people there, at that time were free. No mortgage payments! Street Drugs sold openly. It’s a great civilization. Everyone worked! Everyone did something, sold or provided something, Problem became that the ‘word on the street’ was some people wanted to kill The American, for fun. I guess it would have been for bragging rights. Well.. that sort of got me out of there quick. Brazil is a great capitalist country. The tax base there is so small, that they use inflation to pay for government services. It’s a great way to tax all peoples equally. No IRS! No tax cheats! No lairs.

  • I am not from brazil but I have read both sides of these comments and personally I think if you can afford to live in the ‘upper class’ do it ! But living in a favela doesn’t sound like hell to me and if I had to live there I know I would be fine

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