Getting Around Rio de Janeiro
The best way to get around Rio is by foot or taxi. Major attractions, such as Lapa and Santa Teresa, can easily be reached on foot. Other popular sites and beaches are easy to reach by taxi, which are not difficult to hail on the city's main streets. For a hassle-free means of transportation from Rio de Janeiro International Airport (GIG), you'll want to catch a taxi. The subway is another affordable and safe way to get around to main attractions. City buses are also convenient, but unfamiliar riders can be thrown off by the non-English-speaking bus drivers. Keep in mind many bus routes branch into Brazil's unsafe favelas, which you'll want to avoid. Renting a car probably isn't the best mode of transportation, as traffic is heavy and the roads are packed with disorienting street signs and pedestrians.
You'll find walking is easy and pleasant in the Santa Teresa , Centro, Lapa and Zona Sul neighborhoods. You'll have to rely on a taxi, a bus or a subway train to reach Santa Teresa and Centro, but once there, definitely peruse the art galleries, shops and museums on foot. Other areas, unfortunately, are less dense. For more adventurous expeditions to difficult to reach places like Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain , plan on taking a cab.
The Rio subway system is cheap, clean and easy to navigate. Single train tickets are priced at $3.70 reals and expire two days after purchase. A variety of metro-bus combination ticket options are also available. Combination tickets are particularly useful when visiting far away attractions like the Jardim Botânico that require a bus-metro transfer. Subway stations also offer rechargeable prepaid fare cards instead of tickets. If you prefer public transportation, you may want to consider this option, which costs an initial $10 reais ($5 reais for the card with $5 reais loaded) and will help save you time. Trains operate from 5 a.m. until midnight Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Overall, the subway is an affordable transportation option; however, it has a limited reach throughout the city.
At night, it's best to travel by taxi. Taxis are abundant, easy to flag down and have a standard meter rate regulated by the city. The meter should read "1" Monday through Saturday between the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and "2," after 9 p.m. and all day on Sundays. Depending on the destination and route, rates can range from $10 reais to $50 reais. Keep in mind most Brazilian taxi drivers do not speak English. We recommend that you write down your destination's address to prevent confusion.
Riding Rio's city buses can be dangerous, particularly at night. Apart from serving as a hot spot for pickpockets, city buses run throughout the city, including favelas (shanty towns). So, stay alert and only take the bus if you know the exact route to your destination. Some routes are frequented by tourists and are safe to use during the day. These include Routes Nos. 583 and 584 that run from Copacabana to Corcovado train station. Or Routes Nos. 512 and 511 that run up Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Since Rio is hosting the 2016 Olympic Games, a Bus Rapid Service has recently been implemented in the southern part of the city with designated bus lanes and express service. Fares start at $2.40 reais and must be paid in cash. Note that when catching the bus, you must indicate for the bus to stop even if you are standing at a designated stop. Premium coach buses are also available for certain routes and airport transportation for $9 reais.
In addition to buses, public minivans operate along Av Rio Branco to as far as Barra da Tijuca, past Ipanema Beach and Copacabana Beach daily. Ideal for travelers residing in the Zona Sul district, these public vans are affordable, quick and easy to identify from the beach. Van fares start at approximately $2 reais.
Rental cars are easy to reserve, but driving throughout the city is not recommended. The main roads have confusing street signs, weaving cars and traffic jams. Popular rental car companies are located in the city and daily rates can start at $20 to $30, but you'll also have to pay for parking throughout the city.
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