- Download our Moving to Rio de Janeiro Guide (PDF)
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 get crowded during rush hours. Tickets can be purchased at a metro station, and a rechargeable travel card, known as the Giro card, is available for frequent commuters.
The metro offers buses called Metro na Superfície in the areas that aren't covered by its network.
Buses connect most of the city and are an inexpensive and convenient means of getting around. The bus services are privately operated, so services and costs will vary. Buses travel along set routes around Rio, usually sticking to the main roads, with the destination displayed on the front of the bus.
Despite their convenience, buses are often overcrowded, and robberies and muggings can occur. 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 daily. Most ferries operate during the week, with reduced services on weekends.
Taxis in Rio de Janeiro
Taxis are the safest mode of transportation in Rio at night. They're plentiful and can easily be hailed off the street. They frequently congregate around major hotels and at taxi ranks in the city. Most taxi drivers are likely only to speak Portuguese, so 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-hailing 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. There are also local ride-hailing alternatives, which include 99Taxis and EasyTaxi.
Driving in Rio de Janeiro
Thanks to Rio's extensive public transport network, expats don't need to have a car. Many expats still choose to purchase or rent a vehicle for convenience, especially if wanting to explore areas outside the metropolitan region.
Initially, a national driving licence from their home country or an international driving permit should suffice, but expats who want to drive in Rio in the long term will need to have a Brazilian driving licence.
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 and their safety while in Rio.
See Transport and Driving in Brazil for more details on securing a Brazilian driving licence.
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 launched a shared bike rental programme, Bike Itaú. 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.
Domestic flights in Rio de Janeiro
As a major port and airport city, Rio de Janeiro is the perfect base for travelling to other parts of Brazil. Domestic flights from Rio can be fairly costly but can reduce travel time for expats significantly, as Brazil is a vast country. The most popular airlines in Rio include LATAM, GOL and Azul Airlines.
►Learn about Rio's education system in Education and Schools in Rio de Janeiro
"At least compared to my home city of Los Angeles, which has a very low standard, public transport here is reasonable, but most locals and foreigners complain about it. The transport situation is changing in advance of the mega events here with metro line and bus rapid transit extensions planned. The main options are the metro, which has limited reach, and buses. There used to be more private vans, but recently the government regulated them and restricted their routes. I still don’t think you need to own a car if you stay in the city." Read our interview with American expat Elliot to learn more about living in Rio de Janeiro.
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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