Transportation in Rio de Janeiro: A Guide

Transportation in Rio de Janeiro: A Guide

ViaHero · September 13, 2019

Rio de Janeiro is not the most difficult city in South America to navigate—but getting around any big city you’re not used to still takes some know-how. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about transportation in Rio: how to get around using public transit, catching a taxi or Uber, or just hoofing it.

For even more transit tips connect with a Rio local. Not only can they suggest the best ways to get around Rio, but they’ll design an entire itinerary based on your interests and travel style—which means you’ll see the city like a local, not a tourist. Learn more.

Rio has a variety of transportation options

You’ll find that getting around Rio is a breeze! All you have to do is plan your route and choose the best type of transit based on where you’re going. Overall, you have a few options:

Much of Rio can be explored on foot

One form of transportation in Rio de Janeiro is walking
Pedestrian in Rio | Rafael_Neddermeyer/Pixabay

You'll find walking is easy and pleasant in the Santa Teresa, Centro, Lapa, and Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhoods—which also happen to be home to beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. Aside from beaches, this area is packed with great art galleries, shops, restaurants, and museums. So basically, lots of cool stuff you can see on foot. 

Pro tip: If you’re staying elsewhere, you’ll have to hop on a taxi, bus, or subway to reach this area—but the trip is worth it. 

City cabs are a cheap and easy way to get around Rio

City taxis, or amarelinhos (yellow with a blue stripe), are abundant, easy to flag down, and have a standard meter rate regulated by the city. You can also order a taxi using apps like 99Taxis or EasyTaxi. Make sure you check the route and fare before you agree to the ride. Depending on the time of day, destination, and route, rates can range from R$10 ($2.50 USD) to R$50 ($12 USD).

Pro tip: Most Brazilian taxi drivers do not speak English, so make sure to write down your destination's address to prevent confusion. Better yet, have a Rio local help you navigate the city like a pro. 

Private taxis are really easy to snag

There are also several private hire taxi services (called radio taxis) in Rio. You can use your phone to order these too, using services like Coopertramo or Cootramo. They are pricier than city cabs—but also more comfortable and convenient.

Uber is alive and well in Rio

Yes, Uber exists in Rio! An Uber will cost you a bit more than a taxi, but Uber cars and drivers have higher standards and are generally more reliable than yellow cabs.  

The Rio Metro is cheap, clean, safe, and easy to navigate

Rio’s subway system, MetroRio, is the most reliable public transportation method in Rio de Janeiro—especially during rush hour. Even though the metro gets crowded, it can be much faster than taking regular buses or even a taxi at certain times (ask a Rio local about the worst times for traffic!). Single train tickets cost R$3.70 ($1 USD) and expire two days after purchase. Get a prepaid fare card (at the station or online) if you plan to get around using the metro.

Pro tip: If you are traveling to spots like Jardim Botânico, you’ll need a combo ticket with a bus-metro transfer, as the metro lines are limited.

City buses are really cheap, but don’t use them at night

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Bus stop in Rio | moovitapp/Flickr

There are two types of city buses that run in Rio: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and city buses.

BRT 

These are buses that travel along dedicated corridors (for traffic purposes) and are an excellent alternative to other forms of public transit. The BRT system has limited route options, though, so you may have to transfer to the metro or take a taxi/Uber to get to popular spots in Zona Sul. The BRT runs 24/7, and the cost is R$3.40 ($.80 USD) for a ticket.

City Bus

Rio's city buses are cheap, with fares starting at R$2.40 ($.59 USD). Because of crime risks, though, you shouldn’t take a city bus at night. Here are the basics:

  • Troncal 1, which you will see at the top of the buses, will take you around Copacabana, Ipanema, and up to Centro.
  • Troncal 3 operates between Leblon and Centro and makes stops in Flamengo.
  • The other buses run to the North Zone of the city, so it’s best not to use them.

The SuperVia is Rio’s train system. It connects downtown (Centro) with neighborhoods in the north, east, and west of the city. The train has limited routes so you’ll have to get a taxi/Uber to Zona Sul. Fares are R$4.6 ($1.50 USD) for a train ticket and R$8.55 ($2.10 USD) for a combo ticket that’s good for the train, metro, or city bus.

You could rent a car… but we wouldn’t recommend it

Rental cars are easy to reserve, but beware—driving in Rio is not for the faint of heart. Road signs are sparse, traffic is congested, and drivers (especially taxi cab drivers) are quite aggressive. Parking may also be challenging—tough to find and costly. The Brazilian rental car company Localiza, rents cars at the airport as does Hertz and Thrifty. Daily rates run from R$80 ($20 USD) to R$120 ($30 USD). 

Pro tip: Here’s another reason to avoid renting a car: motorcycle-driving bandits have been known to rob drivers stuck in Rio’s infamous traffic jams.

Getting into town from Rio de Janeiro International Airport (GIG) is a breeze

Transportation in Rio de Janeiro from the airport is easy
Flying past Christ the Redeemer | Cláudio Luiz Castro/Unsplash
  • Radio Taxi: Book a “radio taxi” at the booth inside the terminal. They take credit cards, and the trip takes 10 to 50 minutes, depending on traffic. The cost is a flat R$30 ($32 USD) to get to popular areas like Ipanema and Copacabana. 
  • City taxi: The yellow taxis are cheaper than the radio taxi and will take about the same time to get to your hotel—but the cost is only R$70 ($17 USD). There are taxi stands at the arrivals gate, or you can order a cab from 99Taxis or EasyTaxi.  
  • Uber: Uber is a safe way to get to the city hassle-free. (Like using taxis, the trip will take between 10 and 50 minutes depending on traffic.) The cost is R$60 ($15 USD) for UberX to get to Ipanema and R$100 ($25 USD) for Uber Black. There's a dedicated place in the airport now to meet your Uber driver—just follow the directions in the Uber app.
  • BRT: This option is dirt cheap (R$3.6 or $.80 USD), but the buses are very crowded (and not always safe). If you’re staying in a major area like Ipanema or Copacabana, you’ll have to transfer to the metro.
  • Shuttle Van Transfer: You can get a shuttle van through your travel agent, hotel, online, or arrange it at the airport when you land. It’s less expensive than a cab, but you’ll need to plan ahead. You can book on-line with Green Path TransfersShuttle Rio, or Gray Line Tours. The average cost is R$81 ($20 USD) one-way to most hotels in Rio. 
  • Coach Bus: Taking a bus is the cheapest way to get to your destination from the Rio de Janeiro airport. The Real Auto Bus or Empresa Real counters are on the second floor of each terminal. The ride is about an hour, and a trip to the beaches or the main bus station will cost about R$12 ($3 USD). 

Pro tip: Use Bus #2018 because it picks up and drops off passengers at various hotels in the Zona Sul, including Ipanema and Copacabana—just write the address down ahead of time for the driver.  

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Now that you know a thing or two transportation in Rio de Janeiro, you’re all set to take on the “Marvelous City.” But to navigate Rio like a pro, connect with a local to design an immersive itinerary that caters to *your* interests—they’ll even throw in their best transportation tips! With their help, you’ll journey around Rio like a local—not a tourist. Why travel any other way? Learn more.

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