Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: What to wear and what to do on a Brazilian beach

Want to hit Rio's fabled beaches? You'll need a good dose of derring-do to join Brazilian beachgoers with their mahogany tans and liking for microscopic swimwear. Never mind, though. Buy your fil dental ("dental floss") at a beach-side stall and, after trussing your wobbly bits in a few lengths of string, simply sashay onto the sand as if you own it.

Don't do anything except remain upright. The only time anyone looks good in skimpy swimwear – even Brazilians – is standing up. Loiter on the ocean's edge and stare out to sea like a lonely mermaid, or pose at a drinks stand as you slurp coconut water. If you sit down, you'll be excavating sand from your crevices for days. If you bend over to roll out your beach towel, horrors will ensue.

Not that Brazilians require a towel. Locals rent loungers and parasols on the sand, and bring with them only sunscreen, soccer balls and mobile phones on which to play music, so follow suit. A canga (sarong) doubles as a towel. You should also wear bold, inexpensive beach jewellery. If you're clanking like a windblown chandelier and scintillating like a rap artist, you'll blend right in.

Jewellery and cangas are for men, too. Don't think men can avoid revealing swimwear, either. Only tourists wear board shorts. Local men wear sungas, Brazil's tight, short, retro-style cossies. Both men and women sport Havaianas, although the famous Brazilian thong (as in footwear) brand was created by a Scotsman and named after Hawaiians.

The art of Brazilian beach-going isn't just about the beach. Cavort along the sands and, even if you don't have it, flaunt it. Join a game of volleyball or futevolei, a soccer-volleyball hybrid. Rollerblade or jog along the promenade. Hit the ubiquitous seaside stalls for barbecued prawns or melted cheese on a stick.

Go to the beach not to swim but to socialise. Watch buskers and impromptu dance groups showing off their hip-hop or samba. Chat to your neighbours, play cards, enjoy chilled caipirinhas floating with ice cubes and chunks of lime. Some beaches even have evening DJs.

Brazilian beaches are a backyard for the rich and favela-dwelling alike, for people of every shade and every shape, and without a shred of self-consciousness. "Does my bum look big in this?" isn't a question a Brazilian would ever consider, let alone ask. Go on, let it all hang loose, and be Brazilian for the day.

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See also: Tourists flock to Rio's seedy underbelly