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Rio favela of Vidigal is World Cup draw for Brazil tourists

Rio favela of Vidigal is World Cup draw for Brazil tourists
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Not all World Cup visitors to Brazil head straight for the beach or stay in expensive hotels.

A short drive from Ipanema, up the Morro Dos Irmãos – Two Brothers mountain – the views are among the most spectacular in Rio.

Vidigal, a shanty town once off-limits to outsiders, is now increasingly popular with tourists.

It is described as the most foreigner-friendly of all Rio’s favelas.

“Tourists are still a little scared when they arrive in the favela. Many admit they’re a little afraid. It is a different life here. But after just one night they feel at home,” said Fernanda, a hotel owner.

Police have retaken control of the streets from drugs gangs.

It has enabled visitors to see Brazil’s poorer neighbourhoods – although some admit they have come mainly for the World Cup.

“Primarily, yeah. But also I came to Vidigal to experience favela life,” said British tourist Steven Radford.

Thugs armed with machine guns have gone; more and more hotels, restaurants, bars and restaurants are springing up.

But the transformation has its downside. Many outsiders are also buying properties here. House prices and rents have shot up.

“If we don’t act now, I think in twenty to thirty years there will only be luxury homes here,” said local community leader André Mauricio Gosi.

Just five years ago the police were afraid to set foot in Vidigal. Now, come nightfall, tourists sip beers peacefully outside bars.

But with some house prices having increased tenfold, many locals fear they may be forced to leave the area altogether.

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