Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (II)
Rio is a modern and well-serviced city divided into four main zones (the Northern Zone, Downtown, the Southern Zone, and the Western Zone). Public transport requires patience. Most of the better restaurants and virtually all hotels take credit cards. Locals may not speak English, though in general they are helpful.
3. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Buses
Common buses are not recommended to foreigners. Though cheap, they are uncomfortable, hard to figure out, and are not safe. If you decide to take your chances anyway, the city bus lines all follow the same numbered routes with great frequency. No one is likely to speak English but the conductor is supposed to indicate your stop if you ask. Buses move through stops at a dangerous speed, and pickpockets are common.
Larger executive buses (called frescão), with air-conditioning, are a different story. These are recommended if you know your surroundings and can speak a little Portuguese. They cost only a few dollars. When you board, tell the driver your stop. These buses run from the Centro (at Avenida Rio Branco) to the Southern Zone (Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon) and back.
4. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Vans
Privately owned vans follow the bus routes and are not recommended unless you speak a little Portuguese. They move fast and you need to know where you are going, plus there is little room for luggage. The vans marked “Castello” and “Assembleia” follow the beach through Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana, stopping in the Centro downtown (and vice versa). They cost about a dollar; pay when you get out. To hail the driver pinch your fingers together rapidly when he approaches – if he sees you he will flash his headlights.
Note: though very rare, there have been incidents in the past of “fake” vans kidnapping and robbing tourists. Verify that there is a clearly printed card in the front windshield. These criminals are typically young men. Legitimate vans should have both women and executive passengers and, while far from a foolproof sign, 90% of the drivers ride with their girlfriend or a kid beside them to open the door and handle the money. If in doubt, just wag your finger side to side and don’t board.
5. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Driving
Driving in town is not advised. Rio’s drivers are insane, the routes are confusing, and parking is hectic. Worse, flanelinhas, or roadside extortionists, appear when you park and demand cash to “protect” it. Look for the municipal parking attendants in green and white vests, which will give you a slip of paper to display on your dashboard. A car can be useful for travel outside the city. At Tom Jobim International Airport, try Avis, Hertz, Localiza, or Unidas. At Santos Dumont Airport, try Avis, or Localiza.