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Favela Experience, For A Taste Of Authentic Brazilian Slum Living


If you're planning to go to Brazil for the World Cup, and you don't have your hotel yet, you're probably out of luck unless you're willing to stay off the beaten path in a favela, which is the Portuguese word for slum.

American Elliot Rosenberg is hoping his clients will see it more as an authentic Brazilian experience. His company is offering inexpensive homestays with families in one of Brazil's sprawling slum neighborhoods. Rosenberg says his guests do have access to modern amenities like heat, running water, even wireless Internet. Still, the favela experience is not without its challenges.

ELLIOT ROSENBERG: Even though there is water, electricity, Internet, public transportation, unfortunately, in the favela, probably the biggest and most pressing social problem is basic sanitation and that has to do with open trash heaps that are generally scooped up by trash trucks every night or so. But they're unsightly. The sewage system here basically just runs through open ditches, and people say quality of life and an actual public health issue.

MARTIN: What about safety, Elliott? Do you and your clients have legitimate concerns about public safety?

ROSENBERG: So that is probably the top worry for guests before they get here. But what's really interesting is that many of our guests remarked they actually feel safer inside the favela than they do outside. That's not to say that there aren't still concerns about safety here, but, frankly, any kind of issues are between the police and criminals.

MARTIN: And, Elliott, how do the folks living in these favelas - how do the Brazilians there feel about this new influx of tourism?

ROSENBERG: I'm actually overwhelmed with requests from locals who want to rent out their homes. But, frankly, we just don't have the organizational capacity or the last-minute ability to get them all online. So in that sense, people are very supportive.

MARTIN: Elliott Rosenberg - he's the founder of Favela Experience. He spoke to us from Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, which is one of the largest settlements in Rio. Thanks so much for talking with us, Elliott. Have fun this summer.

ROSENBERG: We appreciate it. Go U.S.A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.