Due to long distances and falling prices in air travel, flying has become a practical way of getting to Brasilia. The city is a national air travel hub, and there should be plenty of flights. In fact you may find your plane touching down at Brasilia airport even if you're not starting or ending anywhere near, such as Salvador to Belém.
Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (IATA: BSB) (ICAO: SBBR), Brasília's airport (phone:(61) 3364-9000, fax: (61) 3364-9251), is situated 11 km (7 mi) from the city center and has one of the few tourist information services in town (phone (61) 3033.9488, from 7.30 am to 10.30 pm). It also has an exchange office at the arrivals area, another one at Banco do Brasil (open Mo-Fri 11:00-16:00, departures area) and several ATMs.
Taxis are the most convenient means of getting from the airport into the city. They are relatively expensive for Brazilian standards and the 20-minute drive to the hotel zone should cost about R$ 30-40. Buses number 102 and 102.1 are frequent and significantly cheaper. They link the airport to the main bus terminal at Rodoviária, from where you can catch buses or the subway to other parts of the city.
Due to its central location, Brasilia is well served by a bus network that connects it with the rest of Brazil. Travel times are about 15 hours to São Paulo, 18 hours to Rio, 10 hours to Belo Horizonte and 3 hours to Goiania. Buses from other States arrive at a dedicated bus station called rodoferroviaria (phone:(61) 3363-4045), that is located at the west end of the axis and is connected to the city centre by bus (number 131, frequency each 10-20 minutes, from 5 am to midnight) and taxis.
Drivers coming from southern and Center-west states will arrive by the Saída Sul entrance. From other states, you'll enter Brasilia by Saída Norte. After you're inside the Federal District, keep following the Brasília signs and Zona Central if you're staying at the hotels sector.
Ride the buses, take a cab, hitchhike, but whatever you do, don't plan on getting around Brasilia on foot. The city was designed under the assumption that every resident would own an automobile. Obviously things didn't turn out that way, and the city's public transport is a solution to an almost deliberately designed problem. Fortunately it works fairly well. Note that the roads have few crosswalks or traffic lights, so being a pedestrian also requires some caution.
Most local buses start from or go through the rodoviária, at the precise center of the city, and run along the "wings" - serving the residential zones - or through the Monumental Axis. Red minibuses, called Zebrinha or Transporte de Vizinhança are very useful for moving around, as they link the central area of Brasilia (Setor Comercial, Setor de Diversões etc.) to Esplanada dos Ministérios, the airport and some of the main avenues (L2 and W3).
Unlike many other Brazilian cities, passengers in Brasilia board buses by the front door. Buses must be flagged, otherwise they will only stop when a passenger requests to hop off. Single fares are R$ 2,00 for travel within Plano Piloto. There is no advance sale of tickets, pay as you board.
Taxis are relatively expensive in Brasilia and usually cannot be hailed on the streets. Taxi stands, however, are close to all tourist attractions and any hotel will be able to call a cab or provide the phone number of the best known dispatch offices. All taxis must have taximeters and can start charging only after the passenger has boarded.
The Metrô-DF subway system started operating in 2001. Its Y-shaped line starts in the main bus station (Rodoviária do Plano Piloto - "Central" station) and makes its first stop at Setor Comercial Sul ("Galeria" station), which is fairly near some hotels South of Monumental Axis. It runs along the south wing, but stops only at block 114 (other stations seem to be forever under construction). The subway is open only Monday to Friday, 6 AM to 8 PM (!) and is not quite useful for moving around. There are, however, three points of interest along the line: the Buddhist Temple (EQS 115/116, access by "114 Sul" Station); Parkshopping mall (next to "Shopping" station) and a typical fair in the satellite city of Guará (access by "Feira" Station). Single fare: R$ 2,00.
If you arrive by car or decide to rent one there, note that drivers behave differently than in other places in Brazil:
- Stop at pedestrian crossings - pedestrians will wave a hand before crossing or usually simply start walking. Keep an eye on the sidewalks at all times. Policemen enforce this rule and you can get fined if you disrespect it.
- Use of horns - do not honk unless you really need to. Brasilienses hate it and really appreciate their driving to be as silent as possible.