Beyond bed and breakfasts, favela hostels offer tourists a new experience as Rio prepares for huge waves of visitors during the Olympic Games - and are a chance for locals to earn a little extra cash against a tough economic backdrop. David Pollard reports.
Intriguing journeys, iconic landmarks - all within reach of the Copacabana. Rio is the full tourist package. But with the Olympics coming up, the package could be short of a bed for the night. Unless you stay here - in a favela. The shanty towns where decades of drugs wars have left an image problem that locals - and visitors like Sabrina from France - are keen to dismiss. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRENCH TOURIST, SABRINA NOBLANC, SAYING: "I didn't know what was really a favela ... For me it was very dangerous, with the gun and everything and actually it's not the case." Accommodation is simple - but clean. And with an accent on doing some of it yourself. Though most mod cons are there too. Hostel manager Solange has eight rooms - some private, some dormitories. (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) HOSTEL MANAGER, SOLANGE DOS SANTOS, SAYING: "It is difficult to establish a hostel inside a favela, with everything that people think goes on in favelas, but now that is changing, because people are coming here and living alongside the community." Rio's bracing for 380,000 visitors for the August games. New hotels built offering around 40,000 rooms. But against a struggling economy, others can still earn a little extra visitor cash. (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) ADMINISTRATOR OF FAVELA SCENE HOSTEL, GILSON FUMACA, SAYING: "For the Olympics we are working with the community, encouraging families to make a room in their houses available." And at between 14 and 28 dollars a night for a bed, you could call it a steal. Especially if you end up here .... Sugarloaf Mountain on the horizon - a five star view at one-star prices.