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Ipanema is certainly a much nicer beach and location, overall. Copacabana beach faces Guanabara Bay and gets a lot of pollution, which Ipanema/Leblon miraculously avoids. The Barao de Torre hostels are all good locations, albeit a bit more costly, but worth it in the end. * We did a bit of drinking at the "Ipanema Beach House" which is a bit further down Barao de Torre, and has a really nice pool and a good little poolside bar. Because it's enclosed in apartments, you'll need to stay quiet/move on elsewhere by 10pm. * "Che Legarto" on Rua Paul Redfern, towards the southern end of Ipanema is a big hostel complex surrounding by good backpacker and local bars/clubs, too. about 10 years ago
To clarify @caffiend73 excellent addition: you need a prepaid single-journey or "TravelTen" ticket, which are available at ever Newsagent or Convenience store, which usually have yellow bus flags hanging outside them. about 10 years ago