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Rio Travel Guide

Getting Rio de Janeiro



Get in


By plane
  • International and most domestic flights land at Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (better known as Galeão International Airport), Tel: 3398-5050 (fax 3393-2288). This airport is 20 km away from the city center and main hotels.
  • Santos Dumont Airport, Tel. +55-21-3814-7070 (fax. 2533-2218). Gets flights only from São Paulo and a few other domestic destinations. Located right in the city center, by the Guanabara bay. Airlines that service Santos Dumont are: GOL, Varig, TAM, OceanAir, and Team.
Taxis, though considerably more expensive (ex: Galeão - Copacaba R$ 70), are also a convenient way to reach the tourist areas.

Flying to Rio de Janeiro from the USA and in general from anywhere in the world is getting expensive. Airlines charge fuel surcharges between $25 and $85 each way.

From the US there are non stop flights to Rio de Janeiro only from Houston with Continental Airlines, Miami with American Airlines, and from Atlanta with Delta Airlines. From New York, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and most of the USA, you have to make a stop in Miami or in Sao Paulo to get to Rio.

The best seasons to travel to Rio de Janeiro with low airfares are from February (after Carnaval) to May and from August to November. Tickets from New York, for instance, can cost as low as U$699.00 including taxes. Buy your flights far in advance, do not wait till the last minute hoping to get a US$300 round trip ticket.

By train
Rio's glorious Central Station, or Central do Brasil, made famous by a movie of the same name, serves mostly local commuter lines (SuperVia [4]), so it's unlikely that you'll arrive through here. It's worth a visit just to see it, though, you can get there either by bus or subway (subway is better; get off on Central station, line 1).

By bus
The long-distance bus depot, Rodoviária Novo Rio, is located in the North Zone's Santo Cristo neighborhood. Taxis and coach buses can get you to the South Zone in about fifteen minutes; local buses take a bit longer. Frescão air-conditioned coaches can be caught just off the bus station. The coaches connect the station to the city center and main hotel areas of Copacabana and Ipanema. Bus companies include :
  • Itapemirim
  • Penha
  • Cometa
  • 1001
  • Expresso Brasileiro
By car
Rio is connected by many roads to neighboring cities and states, but access can be confusing as there are insufficient traffic signs or indications of how to get downtown.

The main interstate highways passing through Rio are:
  • BR-116, which connects the city to the southern region of Brazil.
  • BR-101, which leads to the north and northwest, and
  • BR-040, which will take you in the central and western areas.
By Ferries
The only ferry routes from Rio are local. Rio is an extremely popular destination for cruise ships and many thousands of passengers disembark at the city each year. Companies that include Rio in their itineraries include Swann Hellenic, telephone: (UK number) 02380 683606 and P&O, telephone: (UK number) 0845 3555 333. Costa Cruzeiros telephone: (21) 2220 0505, operates cruises to and from Rio.

Get Around


By taxi
A cab is one of the best ways to move around Rio. All legal cabs are golden-yellow with a blue stripe painted on the sides. Taxis not designed like this are special service cars (to the airport or bus stations) or illegal. Rio has some of the cheapest taxi systems in the world, so don't bother spending a little more in exchange of speed and safety. Most of the tours in the South Zone will cost around R$15, and the car can usually hold four people. You can ask a cab for a city tour, and arrange a fixed price (may be around US$20). Major taxi companies include Central de Taxi, Ouro Taxi and Yellow Taxi.

By bus
Buses are a cheap and nice way to get around by day, while not exactly safe. By night they are more scarce but you can ride them anyway. Buses usually cost R$ 2.00 (as of December 2006), but some buses with air conditioning charge higher fares. The fare is payed on cash to a controller or the driver only inside the bus, by passing through a roulette. There are no tickets. Some residents and students have a digital card for free pass. Keep an eye out for pickpockets when the bus is crowded, and don't be surprised if your driver goes a little faster than you'd like. Except for minibuses, all buses have two doors: passengers get in through the front door and get off through the back.

Most popular lines for tourists are 583 and 584 (from Copacabana and Ipanema to Corcovado railway station), as well as 464 and 435 (from Copacabana to Maracanã). Typically bus drivers and controllers won't understand any foreign language. If you can't speak Portuguese at all, use a map. Trying to speak Spanish could be a nice way to keep some conversation with some people. Portuguese and Spanish are similar languages.

By subway
The Metrô Rio subway system is very useful for reaching areas from Copacabana to Downtown, although the rest of Zona Sul is not particularly well-served and it closes after midnight (it opens 24x7 during Carnival). It is the only totally safe transport in Rio. The air-conditioned subway is clean, comfortable, and quick, and in 2006 it received bilingual Portuguese-English signs, maps, and a loudspeaker system to make the life of millions of foreign tourists easier (sometimes in a low volume and difficult to understand or they just forget to announce, so pay attention as if you rely only on the speaker you can miss you station). There are two main lines: Line 1 (Orange) has service to Copacabana, the Saara district, and much of Downtown, as well as Tijuca, where you can visit Corcovado. Line 2 (Green) stops at the zoo, Maracanã stadium, and Rio State University. The two lines intersect at Estácio station.


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