Rio de Janiero is a huge city that can, at first glimpse, seem confusing. It is made up of separate districts connected by urban highways and tunnels heavy with traffic, so it’s best to use public transport or taxis to get around.
Rio is served by two airports: Aeroporto Internacional Tom Jobim is 15 km north of the city center and receives international and domestic flights. It was formerly known as Galeão and often still called by this name. (Av Vinte de Janeiro, Ilha do Governador; www.aeroportogaleao.net)
There are câmbios (change offices), a Banco do Brasil (open 24 hours) and ATMs (several of which accept Visa and MasterCard).
Riotur information booths, in Terminal 1 and the international arrivals hall in Terminal 2, provide maps and can book accommodation.
Santos Dumont Airport, in the city center on Guanabara Bay, is used for Rio–São Paulo shuttle flights and some other domestic routes. (www.aeroportosantosdumont.net)
Taxis can be booked from within the airports or picked up at the stands outside the terminals. Fixed-rate taxis charge around $32 U.S. from Jobim to Copacabana or Ipanema and $30 to the city center or Santa Teresa (about half as much from Santos Dumont); buy a ticket at the counter.
Aerotaxi cabs (021.2467.1500, available outside both terminals at Tom Jobim Airport) cost $25 (plus $0.75 per item of luggage). Metered taxis cost around $30 from Jobim to Copacabana, but beware of unlicensed taxis. Fixed-price taxis leave from both terminals with booths selling tickets.
There are frequent buses between the two airports, the rodoviária (interstate bus station) and the city; the best are the air-conditioned Real Auto (0800.240.850, www.realautoonibus.com.br), which leave from outside arrivals on the first floor of terminals 1 and 2 at Tom Jobim.
Buses can be flagged down anywhere along their route and passengers can request to jump off at any time. Ordinary city buses also run from the airport to various locations in Rio, from the first floor of both terminals. These are far less secure and are not recommended.
Arriving by Bus
International and interstate buses arrive at the newly renovated Rodoviária Novo Rio (Av Francisco Bicalho 01 at Rodrigues Alves, Santo Cristo, 021.3213.1800, www.novorio.com.br). The Riotur information center, open 7 am-7 pm, can help with orientation and accommodation. Left luggage costs $5. There are câmbios (change offices; cash only) and ATMs.
From the rodoviária take a taxi, which can be booked on the ground floor, to your hotel or to the nearest metrô station (Metrô Estácio). The metrô runs south as far as Copacabana (Metrô Cantagalo); for Ipanema and Leblon head to Metrô Siqueira Campos and take a taxi from there, or take bus marked Metrô-Gávea.
The local bus terminal is just outside the rodoviária – so exercise caution. The air-conditioned Real bus (opposite the exit) goes along the beach to São Conrado and will secure luggage. If you need a taxi, collect a ticket from the office inside the entrance, as this protects against over-charging; a taxi to Flamengo costs approximately $15.
An underground railway, the metrô; Mon-Sat 5 am-midnight, Sun and holidays 7 am-11 pm; 24 hrs during Carnaval, tickets R$3.50/US$1.75), runs from the outer suburbs of the Zona Norte, through the city centre.
The metrô is currently undergoing expansion with sporadic station closures. By the 2016 Olympics, the service will extend to Rocinha, São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca. Buses (R$2.70/US$1.35 per journey, www.rioonibus.com) run to all parts, but should be treated with caution at night, when taxis or minivans are a better bet.
Buses are usually marked with the destination and any going south of the center will call at Copacabana and generally Ipanema/Leblon. Minivans (R$2.50/US$1.25 per journey) run from Avenida Rio Branco in the center as far south as Barra da Tijuca and have the destination written on the window. They are fast, frequent and by far the cheapest way of getting along the beaches. These vans also run along the sea front from Leme to Rocinha and can be hailed from the curb.
Taxis should always be booked through a hostel or hotel or caught from a designated taxi posto; the name of the posto should be written in navy blue on the side of the taxi. Be wary of non-authorised taxis hailed in the street or those without a taxi rank inscription. Taxis from Glória metrô to Santa Teresa cost around $5.
The famous yellow Santa Teresa bonde trams reopened in 2015 after a serious accident in 2011. The route runs from the Largo da Carioca, near the metrô station and the cathedral, passing over the Lapa viaduct and running along all the main streets in Santa Teresa (via the Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves), and eventually reaching either Dois Irmãos or Paula Mattos at the far end of Santa Teresa. It’s an attraction in its own right, in addition to a useful mode of transport.