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4 Days Travelling With Type 1 Diabetes In Rio De Janeiro

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
April 10, 2020
Rio de Janeiro was our first stop in South America, so it was the first test for my diabetes. I was a little bit nervous and here's how it went ...
Cazzy in Rio de Janeiro
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So, I completed RIO! YAY, and I am still alive to tell the tale, so all is good. First things first, Rio is a beautiful, diverse, and cultured city full of atmosphere, and I have to admit my preconceptions were things would be difficult due to crime etc, I never needed to worry, I had a safe and memorable time and the people of Rio were nothing but helpful...and I managed my blood sugars relatively well (at least in my opinion)

What things could have presented problems for my diabetes management & how I handled it.

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1) The HEAT! 

It is technically winter in Brazil, but little white old me still got burnt with the Rio sunshine. Winter still hits temperatures of 30 degrees...so I don’t think I could cope with summer. What did this mean for my diabetes?...yes you thought it..hypos. In the beginning I was struggling to get the balance of reducing my basal rate to what I thought I needed, and walking. 

But overall I reckon I had around 4-5 hypos which may seem like a lot, but they all actually had a reason, and I was prepared. I went through two big bags of skittles, and some dextrose! So overall, the heat and diabetes didn’t defeat me, and I set the balance for the rest of my time in Brazil.


Rio is a big city and despite metros and buses, walking in heat equates to exercise which equals lower blood sugars. My biggest issue was at the Tijuca national park. When we arrived here the guard suggested we walk to the top of the highest peak, but unfortunately I had to give this a miss, because I hadn’t planned for it.

It was a high altitude up an extremely steep hill, and I hadn’t reduced basal rates, the sun was soaring, and my body wouldn’t be able to cope with the hypos it would have led too...so I made a sensible decision to do a normal walk instead...but..add in a couple of wrong turns..I found myself on top of another (not so high) peak. It was beautiful, but I did hypo...because my body and insulin was not expecting it! WHOOPS. 

But with the view we had, I didn’t mind taking 10 minutes to eat skittles and relax. I’ve had hypos in worse places & it give time for photo opportunities. On a side note, our hostel was on the top of a steep hill with what felt like a million steps, so I actually had to consider this when I was taking insulin for dinner.

Tijuca National Park Rio de Janeiro
The result of a hypo


Rios national drink is the Caprinha..a gin (tasting) drink with lime and ice...I love it, but it is extremely strong! I only had a few in my time during Rio, and the balance of alcohol and sugar meant I didn’t need insulin for them which was great! But always be careful with mixing alcohol with sun and dancing/walking etc- PLAN ahead!

Sites like Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the redeemer won’t cause too much havoc to your bloods exercise wise because for both, you do very little walking to the actual locations- all by car or cable car! In Sugarloaf you will be expected to walk through a scanner as you would at an airport, but surprisingly my pump or sensor didn’t go off! Yay! If you are concerned about having to explain to your diabetes to an official, just carry a printed translated letter from your doctor explaining your condition etc!

Don’t be afraid of your diabetes and just go with the flow. If you mess up, learn from it, and carry on. No one is a “perfect” diabetic..and no one will ever be one!

Type 1 diabetes alcohol caprinha copacabana beach
Sipping Caprinha's on the Copacabana beach

What your biggest diabetic mess up? :P

Sonhar grande viagem longe

Here's a link to tips on what to do in Rio.

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