Transport in Rio de Janeiro


Rio offers many different ways to travel for all budgets. Whether it be cable cars, bike paths, roadways, buses or trams, you can get there through Rio's transportation.

For student fares, try the Student Travel Bureau (21-2512 8577) which has some 30 branches around the country.


The Metro Rio subway system is one of the cheapest and safest ways of getting around Rio. It is also air-conditioned with bilingual Portuguese-English signs, maps, and a loudspeaker system. It is open seven days a week, from 5:00 to 24:00 Monday to Saturday, and 7:00 to 11:00 on Sunday (except during Carnaval where all lines are open 24 hours). Free subway maps are available at most ticket booths.

A change to the system was made so that the last wagon of each train is marked by a pink window sticker at rush hour- this means women only. The measure was taken so women could avoid potential sexual harassment. However, some women see the move as frivolous and it is still recent enough that occasionally men forget and enter the car.


There are two main lines:
Line 1 (Orange)- Runs from General Osório in Ipanema to Saens Peña in Tijuca.
Line 2 (Green)- Stops at attractions such as the zoo, Maracanã stadium, and Rio State University.
The lines intersect at Estácio station. The best connected areas are from Copacabana to Downtown with the rest of the Zona Sul not as well connected. Runs from Botafogo, sharing ten stations with the first line, terminating at Pavuna in northern Rio. Connections are often facilitated by the bus system.

There are plans to build a third subway line to Niterói and São Gonçalo, including an underwater tunnel beneath Guanabara Bay, in the future.


Tickets can be purchased either as a single tickets or a book of ten or rechargeable cards. A basic single costs R$2.30. An integrated Metro and bus ticket (bilhete integracaois available. There is no discount for round-trip or multiple-ride tickets.



Buses are the primary means of mass transportation. There are nearly 440 municipal bus lines serving over four million passengers each day.

Long Distance

The long-distance bus depot, Rodoviária Novo Rio, is located about 2km northwest of the center.

Websites are usually in Portuguese, but there are terms that can help you decipher your route:

  • Horário - Timetable
  • Linha - Lines
  • Saida - Departure
  • Chegada - Arrival
  • Commun - the cheapest bus
  • Executivo - next level up
  • Cama - 1st class bus travel
  • Origem - Origin
  • Destino - Destination
  • Terminal de origem - Bus terminal origin
  • Vagas - Spaces
  • Paltrona - Seat
  • Tempo estimado - Estimated time
  • Chegada prevista - Estimated arrival time


Rio buses are an excellent way to travel the city because they are fast and frequent. In the South Zone, stops are easy to spot as most have a shelter and a bench, but they can be harder to find further from the city center. To catch the bus, hail the bus driver by extending the arm. If you don't hail and there are no passengers waiting to get off, the bus won't stop.

Be Aware- Packed buses are perfect for pickpockets. Buses are less frequent after nightfall and most lines will be shutting down when the nightlife is getting started. Drivers know of the dangers of driving at night and may drive faster and brake suddenly.

There is a very helpful book called Ruas de Rio de Janeiro (The streets of Rio de Janeiro) that has maps of Rio and lists bus routes by bus line and bus stops. It can be found at small shops and bookstores.

Types of Buses

Minibuses- (or vans) provide alternative transit between Av Rio Branco in Centro and the Zona Sul. The destination is written in the front window. The flat fare costs around R$4.

City bus- very inexpensive bus comes in both non-air conditioned (R$2.20) and air conditioned versions (R$2.25 - R$2.40). These buses are not as safe at night.

Frescao- This bus runs from Centro through Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema and to Leblon. This is a more expensive option offering air conditioning and cost R$3.50 (depending on distance). This bus only runs during the week, and more frequently during rush hour.

Except for minibuses, all buses have two doors. On most buses, passengers board at the bus at the front and pay the fare. Passengers exit through the back door.


There are 831 bus lines in Rio.

    Lines are numbered according to the general route they serve:
  • beginning with 1 - South Zone/Downtown
  • beginning with 2 - North Zone/Downtown
  • beginning with 3 - West Zone/Downtown
  • beginning with 5 - within South Zone
  • beginning with 6 - North Zone/West Zone
  • beginning with 7 and 9 - from Rio to neighboring cities
  • beginning with 8 - within West Zone

Most popular lines for tourists are 583 and 584 (from Copacabana and Ipanema to Corcovado railway station) and 464 and 435 (from Copacabana to Maracana).


Price should be clearly advertised on a sign on the front or side of the bus and start at R$2.25. Higher priced buses offer additional luxuries like air conditioning (Ar Condicionado).

Fare is paid in cash to a controller/driver within the bus. Some residents and students have a digital card for free pass.


The beautiful Central Station (Central do Brasil) is the site and namesake of a famous movie, and the heart of Rio's train system. Unfortunately trains are often slower then buses and there are few passenger lines left. SuperVia (21 2588 9494) is the main company in which to book train rides.

Remaining lines include:
Serra Verde Express- from Curitiba to Paranaguá. This is a scenic route from the coastal city of Morretes and Paranaguá through the beautiful Serra do Mar mountains. Trains leave daily at 08:15 and prices start from about R$ 50 (round-trip).
São João del Rei to Tiradentes- This lovely trip is about 35-minute on a steam train. The train operates Friday through Sunday, with departures from São João at 10:00 and 15:00 and 13:00 and 17:00 from Tiradentes. The round trip costs R$ 16.
Belo Horizonte to Vitória- Runs daily from Belo Horizonte at 07:30 and Vitória at 07:00. Travel time is about twelve and a half hours. Tickets start at R$ 25.



The low season (after Carnaval in February to May and August to November) offer considerably less traffic and lower prices.

Galeão - Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport: This is the major international airport. Nearly 40 percent of foreign tourists enter Rio from here. This airport also connects to more than 18 countries and can handle up to 15 million users a year.
Galeao is located 20 km (12 mi) from downtown Rio. Transportation from the airport includes the Red Line (Linha Vermelha) and the Yellow Line freeways(Linha Amarela). Brazil Avenue (Avenida Brasil) also offers a quick route for residents of the city's southern, northern and western zones.

Santos Dumont Airport: Just blocks from downtown, this airport is hemmed in by the city around it and operates domestic flights. In 2009 it was ranked as the 9th busiest airport in Brazil in terms of passengers and 7th in terms of aircraft operations, placing it amongst the busiest airports in the country.

Jacarepaguá Airport: This airport is located in the district of Baixada de Jacarepaguá approximately 30 km (18 mi) from the city center.


A cab is one of the best ways to move around Rio. This is a cheap, speedy option. Cabs aren't limited to just transportation, they can also be used for a city tour which can be arranged at fixed price. Most drivers do not speak English, but if you can show them the name of your destination in writing, they should be able to get you there.

Legal cabs are golden-yellow with a blue stripe painted on the sides. Taxis not designed like this may be offering a special service (like to the airport or bus stations), are a radio cab, or they are illegal.


Prices are determined by the flag (bandeira) which, once pushed down, starts the meter plus a charge per kilometer (usually R$3 per km). Make sure that the driver starts the meter upon entry. The minimum fare (bandeirada) is R$4.30.

Additional fees may be charged between 21:00 and 6:00 and on Sundays. At these times, expect to pay about 20 percent more. This rate is called Bandeira 2, or Flag 2. Besides charging additional fees at night, drivers may speed up and cruise thorough red lights. This is a common tactic to avoid carjacking and nighttime robbery.

Taking a taxis during rush hour can significantly increase your fare. At these times it may be worth it to negotiate a flat fare.

Specialty Cabs

Radio taxis are more expensive (about 30 percent), but can be much safer. They are usually blue, green, or white taxis. The other advantage is that you pay a fixed rate regardless of the time of day or if there's heavy traffic. Some radio taxi companies include:
Centraltáxi (2593 2598)
Coopatáxi (3899 4343)
JB (2501 3026)
Transcoopass (2560 4888)

Cabs vouchers can be purchased at kiosks within the airport. Fare from the airport is usually a flat rate. Airport Rio Airport Transfer is unusual in that it has a website in English and lists rates.

Ferry and Port

Boating in Rio can be recreational, business, or simply for transit purposes. Cruises often dock here, and the city has Brazil's 3rd busiest port. Rio also has several islands that can be reached by boat.

Ilha de Paqueta
Ferries (4004 3113): The regular ferry runs weekdays and weekends with prices ranging from R$7.20-$R12. Rides are 70 minutes and take place between the hours of 7:10 to 23:00.
Hydrofoils (2533 4343): The hydrofoil costs R$16 and is a 30 minute ride. It departs between 14:00 to 16:00 daily.

Niteroi Ferry
Niteroi is Rio's sister city and lies on the other side of Guanabara Bay. Many people live in Niterói and commute to Rio de Janeiro to work.
This ferry costs R$4.60 for a 20 minutes journey. It leaves every 20 minutes from Praça XV de Novembro in Centro. Faster and more comfortable catamarans (R$11, 10 minutes) run every 15 minutes from 7:00 to 16:00.


Rio is a popular cruise destination with many different companies serving the area. Swann Hellenic, P&O, and Costa Cruzeiros operates cruises to and from Rio.



Driving in Rio can be the perfect way to explore the city, but has its own unique sets of challenges.

Basic Rules of the Road include:
Yielding the Right of Way: Drivers must yield the right of way to cars on their right. Compliance with stop signs is rarely enforced; so many motorists treat them as yield signs.
Driving Under the Influence: Drivers with any measurable content of alcohol in their blood are in violation of the law. Checkpoints are often set up in urban areas where randomly-chosen drivers are required to exit their vehicles and perform a breathalizer test.
Turns at Red Lights: Not permitted, except for right turns where there is a sign with an arrow pointing right and the words "Livre a Direita."

Local Driving Customs: Drivers often use flashes or wave a hand out of the window to signal other drivers to slow down.
Pedestrian Crossing: "Zebra" crossings are strictly observed in some places (Brasilia) and ignored elsewhere.
    Helpful Terminology:
  • Driving licence - Carteira de Habilitacao
  • Speed humps - Lombadas
  • Useful road map which has current information on road conditions- Guia de Estradas
  • Seat Belt - Cinto de seguranca
  • Vehicle licence papers - Certificado de Registro e Licenciamento do Veiculo (CLVR)
  • Turning permitted at red light sign - Livre a direita

Necessary Documents

Travelers should obtain an international driving licence to drive in Brazil. Americans have the option to get an Inter-American Driving Permit to carry along with their valid license. You should also bring your home licence.

To drive in Brazil you need to be 18 years old.

It is also useful to have your passport, some proof of insurance, and vehicle ownership papers (rental contract if rented). Only show these to authorized officials if requested.

Speed Limits

60 kilometres per hour on urban roads.

120 kilometres per hour on divided roads and highways.

Speed limits are widely ignored. Marked electronic/photographic devices (Fiscalisacao Electronica) are the main means of enforcement and drivers may brake suddenly when encountering these devices. Road fines can be paid at the Banco Do Brazil. In smaller towns, it is common to use speed bumps to monitor speed rather then hiring enforcement officers.


Some of the worst rush-hour traffic occurs in neighborhoods such as Copacabana, Botafogo, Laranjeiras, and Tijuca.

Beware driving at night. Local drivers will often cruise through red lights to avoid the chance of robberies and carjacking. You should also be wary of people approaching your car. Parking on the street can also open your property to theft. Never leave valuables within the car. It is also common to pay a flanelinha (parking attendant) R$2 for watching your vehicle. They may work for the city or be freelance.


Seat belts are mandatory, but enforcement varies from state to state.

Child Car Seats are required by some states, but enforcement is lax here as well. Many children ride unsecured.


Road conditions vary widely from city to city, state to state. State roads (especially in the south) are some of the best, with federal/ interstate roads (designated by "BR") in much worse condition. Travel after dark outside city centers is not recommended because of animals and disabled vehicles. Rainy weather can also lay waste to some of the roadways, especially those that are only dirt.

Roadside assistance is not widely available. If there is an emergency, dial 193 to contact the local fire departments. This service is in Portuguese only.

For an up to date report on road conditions and driving issues, The Brazilian Federal Government maintains a website (Portuguese language).

    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.


Open street parking in Brazil is very dangerous as there are frequent break-ins and theft. When finding parking on the street, it is a common practice to hire someone to watch the space guard the car. This practice is usually unofficial and trustworthy. Note that rudeness or indicating no intention to pay could result in damage occurring to the vehicle. If you value your vehicle and its contents, park it in a secure lot. Private parking is an expensive, and costly, option.


To rent a car in Brazil you must be 21 years old and have proof of a license. Major rental car agencies can be located at the airport or along Av Princesa Isabel in Copacabana.

    Several large agencies include:
  • Hertz (3398 4377; airport and at Av Princesa Isabel 500, Copacabana)
  • Localiza (3398 5445; airport)
  • Unidas (3398 3452; airport)
  • Avis (2543 8481; Av Princesa Isabel 350, Copacabana)
  • Localiza (2275 3340; Av Princesa Isabel 150, Copacabana)
  • Actual (2541 3444; Av Princesa Isabel 181, Copacabana)


The city can be explored and enjoyed by over 74 km (46 miles) of cycle paths. Along with avoiding the grid lock that can stall motorways, this is a wonderful way to experience the city. Most paths run along beaches and over 6 km (4 miles) run through the Tijuca National Park.

Renting Bikes

Renting a bike is easy to do as there are usually people renting on the beach in Copacabana and also bicycle stores along the main streets. Hostels are another excellent place to rent a bike from and tend to be inexpensive. If you decide to buy a bike, opt for inexpensive as the chances of a really nice bike being stolen go up considerably.


Rio de Janeiro has the oldest operating electric tramway. Known as the Santa Teresa Historic Tramway or the bondinho, it is no longer as functional as it is a tourist attraction. The station is near Cinelândia and the Municipal Theatre. Trams leave every half an hour between 6am and 11pm. A ticket is R$0.60 one way. Payment is received upon entry through the barrier.

Cable Car

Sugar Loaf Cable Car
The Sugar Loaf Cable Car is one of oldest cable cars in world and the first in Brazil. Augusto Ferreira created the cable car in 1912. The car travels through three stations: Praia Vermelha, Morro da Urca and Pão de Açucar which is interconnected together by four cable cars. Tickets cost about R$45.

City Map:
Road Map:

Update 29/05/2010


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