Getting Around Rio De Janeiro

Every time I travel to a new country or city one of the things that makes me the most nervous is figuring out how the hell to get around the place. When you give up your cushy, big salary job to travel the world, training Jiu-Jitsu it means you have got to keep a close eye on your budget. With lodging costs and gym fees I just don’t have room in my budget to be renting a car everywhere I go! Besides, in most larger cities there is some sort of mass-transportation available and Rio has a plethora of options!

Bike Rio: Bike Rio is a system and network of bicycles sponsored by Itau Bank and available to anyone with a smartphone. Here is how it works:

Using your smart phone, go to and download the app to your Iphone, Android, or Windows phone. Next: Navigate to and set-up an account. You can choose to pay by the hour or by the month. At R10 / mth. (about $3 US at the time of writing) it was a no brainer for me to sign up for the month.

A typical Bike Rio coral, this one was just a block from my apt.

A typical Bike Rio corral, this one was just a block from my apt.

Once you’ve hooked up your phone, all you need to do is find one of the hundreds of bike stations, fire up the app, tell the app which station and which bike you want, and pull it loose from the corral. If you paid by the hour well, they say you get the first hour free. If you paid by the month well, they say you still get the first hour free. As long as you lock the bike back up to a Bike Rio corral within an hour from withdrawing it it won’t cost you anything! (After 1 hr, you can return the bike, wait 15 minutes, then get another free hour!) for time over an hour the charge is R5 / hr. (about $1.50).

Bike Corrals are all over the city of Rio De Janeiro

Bike Corrals are all over the city of Rio De Janeiro

I know this all sounds too good to be true, so I will let you in on the dirty little secrets!

First, be super sure to check the tires, chain, brakes, and pedals BEFORE you pull up your app. They have service techs come around weekly to fix bikes but still, some get broken. Be doubly sure to check if there are a bunch of people with bikes, hanging around  by a corral that is full. Because….

Sometimes, you will walk to the corral and find that there are no bikes left and ther times you will be ready to lock your bike back to a corral but it will be full. If you pull a broken bike and someone who has been waiting plugs back in, you will be stuck with that broken bike until who-knows-when.

All-in-all, it’s a great system and allows for free travel around most all of Rio De Janeiro!

If you’re not into pedaling, you still have options:

The Onibus: Don’t be scared, it’s just the Rio metropolitan bus system 🙂 And it goes EVERYWHERE! This was probably the hardest thing to figure out about getting around Rio. There are 5 distinct bus lines that I know of (BRS 1 – BRS 5). Each of these lines have there own unique route, but a lot of them overlap, a lot!To make it more complicated, each of the BRS lines has anywhere from 5-20 different Bus numbers (the 475, 474, 472, etc…) each with their own “sub-route”. All together, there is just nowhere you can’t get in Rio on a bus.

Buses are a great choice for longer trips off the Metro path.

Buses are a great choice for longer trips off the Metro path.

Here is how it works:

Go here to find the map of Rio De Janeiro and follow the directions (click your start point, click your end point and the list of buses you can take will come up). Walk down to your nearest bus stop. Look on the list of buses and find the bus number you need and look for which “BRS” line it is. Each bus stop will have numbers on it indicating which lines will stop there. If you need a BRS 2 bus and you are at a BRS 1, 3 stop, you will need to walk down to the next stop and check that one. Don’t worry though, they are usually not more than a quarter mile apart. If you want to invest the time online, you can go to Google maps and zoom in on the stops in your area and they will have the BRS numbers on them.

You can often but not always, determine where to go by looking at Google maps.

You can often, but not always, determine where to go by looking at Google maps.

Once you have done all this, just wait until you see your bus coming, stick out your arm and wave it a bit. The driver will pull over and you can hop on. *Pro-tip: The fare is written on the front window, try to have it ready to hand to the driver and TRY to keep it very close to the fare. The driver has to make change while he is driving and it can get a bit hairy if he has to count out a lot of change.

Don’t care for the hairy, scary, bus ride? How about…

The Metro: Rio doesn’t have the most extensive subway system in the world, but it’s a lot simpler than the bus system and relatively cheaper too.

The Metro Station closest to our apartment.

The Metro Station closest to our apartment.

Here is how it works.

There are only two metro lines and, like most subways, they each go “out and back” which makes it pretty easy to not get lost. Line 1 (Orange line) runs from Ipanema, along the cost up to Botafogo and then turns inland and runs all the way to Tijuca (not a loop down to Barra De Tijuca). Line 2 (Green Line) starts at Botafogo (overlapping with line 1 until line 1 turns inland) and runs all the way up to Pavuna.


Map of the two metro lines in Rio (courtesy of Metro Rio)

To ride the metro, simply go to the nearest metro station, either stand in line for a ticket or buy a “Metro Card” from one of the automated machines. These are like credit cards. You charge them up with Reais and then wave them at the turnstile to gain access. One metro ride will run you R3.70 (Just about $1.00 US at time of writing). Once on the metro, simply watch the lights on the map and get off at your stop. It’s really just that simple.

*Pro-Tip: Certain cars are designated “Women Only” and will be painted pink or red in front of the doors that enter into them. I always avoid these but during heavy traffic times (rush hour commutes) it doesn’t appear that anybody cares about the designation. I am told that, at night, it is considered polite to follow the rule to avoid intimidating little old ladies.

Too scared (it’s not as scary as it seems really) or in too much of a hurry to be hoofing it around looking for metro stations, bus stops and bike corrals? No problem! Just like every other big city, Rio is FULL of taxi cabs. Sometimes, when I am walking around the city I look at the street and think that the only things allowed to drive here are buses and taxis…there are thousands of them!

Rio Taxis: Taking a taxi is both the easiest, fastest and the most expensive way to get around Rio. I almost NEVER take a taxi, the only exception is when I am moving around with my luggage (airport to apartment, for example). But, if you are not worried about the money, then a taxi is a solid options. Here is what you need to know.

  1. On the street, stick out your arm and yell at any one of the hundred taxis that will be flying by.
  2. ONLY use the YELLOW taxis with the BLUE STRIPE on the side!
  3. Tell the driver where you want to go.
  4. Before he starts driving, be sure he turns on the meter. If he doesn’t you are likely going to get charged a ridiculous rate.

*Pro Tips: The fare is per route so sharing a cab is a good thing! Also, don’t slam the door! They hate that and will even get short with you about it (only sometimes – but it is considered rude to slam the door). Lastly, visit the Rio Taxi website (here) for all sorts of great info on the taxis!

One of the thousands of "Blue Stripe" taxis all over Rio

One of the thousands of “Blue Stripe” taxis all over Rio

Between walking (I do a lot of that too…and why not, when the beautiful Copacabana Beach is your backdrop!), Bike Rio, the Bus System, The Metro, and the taxis you just NEVER need to feel intimidated about getting around; from Barra to Central Rio and everywhere in between. Enjoy seeing Rio!

One thought on “Getting Around Rio De Janeiro

  1. Pingback: Eating in Rio De Janeiro: A meat-lover’s paradise! | YoloBJJ blog

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