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Despite the sprawling and chaotic nature of the city, getting around in Rio de Janeiro is relatively easy. There are several transport options, including buses, ferries and the metro, which are all part of an integrated transit system. Taxis are also prevalent in the city.
Public transport in Rio de Janeiro
Rio has an established metro system, known as the Metro Rio. This is the easiest and safest way of getting around the city. The metro is generally safe and clean, although care should be taken if using it at night. Like in any other city, it can be crowded during rush hours. Tickets can be purchased at a metro station, and there is a rechargeable travel card available for frequent commuters.
The Metro offers buses called Metronibus or Metro na Superficie in the areas that isn't covered by its network. A special subway ticket needs to be used for these buses.
Buses connect most of the city and are an inexpensive and convenient means of getting around. Buses are privately operated, so services and costs will vary. Buses travel along set routes around the city, usually sticking to the main roads, with the destination displayed on the front of the bus. If wanting to board a bus, passengers must wave it down. Buses will only stop if there are people wanting to get on.
Despite their convenience, buses are often overcrowded. Robberies and muggings are common. Expats should keep an eye on their belongings at all times. Travelling on buses at night is not recommended.
Regular ferry services run between Rio and Niterói on the other side of Guanabara Bay. It’s not uncommon for people to live in Niterói and commute to work in Rio by ferry on a daily basis. Most ferries operate during the week, with reduced services on weekends.
Taxis and ride-sharing services in Rio de Janeiro
Taxis are the safest mode of transportation in Rio at night. They're plentiful in Rio and can easily be hailed off the street. They are often congregated around major hotels and at taxi stands in the city. Most taxi drivers are likely to only speak Portuguese. Expats should have their destination written down on paper.
Most taxis are metered, but drivers may quote a fixed price for certain destinations. Expats should clarify the fare before getting in the vehicle. Licensed taxis are usually painted yellow. There are also some independent, unlicensed taxi operators. Expats should be cautious of illegitimate operators.
The popular ride-sharing service Uber is available in Rio de Janeiro. It is generally considered safer than regular taxis and the fares may be cheaper. Taxis can be hailed via the Uber application for smartphones.
Driving in Rio de Janeiro
Owing to Rio’s extensive public transport network, expats don't need to have a car. However, many expats do choose to purchase or rent a vehicle for the sake of convenience, especially if wanting to explore areas outside the metropolitan region.
Expats wanting to drive in Rio will need to have a Brazilian drivers' licence. Initially, a national drivers' licence from their own country or an international drivers' licence should suffice.
Traffic can be nightmarish in Rio, particularly during peak times. Cariocas are also known for their aggressive driving. Parking can be a major frustration for those driving in Rio. There is also a risk of robbery and carjacking. Expats should take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.
Cycling in Rio de Janeiro
Cycling is a popular means of getting around Rio. The city has worked to encourage cyclists by building an extensive network of dedicated cycle lanes, particularly around the many beaches and popular tourist areas.
Bicycle racks can be found across Rio. The government has also made a shared bike rental programme, Bike Rio, available. Daily or monthly passes can be bought online or through an application that can be downloaded to any smartphone.
Walking in Rio de Janeiro
Although many of Rio’s tourist areas are easily navigated on foot, expats should be cautious due to the risk of mugging. Walking in any area late at night is not recommended.
Are you an expat living in Rio de Janeiro?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Rio de Janeiro. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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