Getting around Rio de Janeiro is easily accomplished by walking, using taxi cabs, and relying on Tour Guides. This is especially true if you are just vacationing here for a few days, and staying in Ipanema or Copacabana.
If you are planning a longer vacation in the city, then getting around Rio by other means, such as using the Metro, renting a car, or riding the city buses, can be inexpensive and/or afford greater flexibility.
It's also a lot of fun to rent a bicycle for a few hours or for the entire day. You can safely ride on paved bike paths next to the beaches from Leme in the upper part of Copacabana Beach, down the entire way to Leblon at the lower end of Ipanema Beach.
On this page of our travel guide, we provide detailed information for safely and conveniently getting around Rio de Janeiro. Click on one or more of the table of contents links below, or simply scroll further down the page to locate the details of each topic. Also, watch the short video at bottom of the page.
There are essentially four ways to get to your hotel or apartment in Ipanema and Copacabana from the airport. You can arrange a shuttle van transfer, travel by Taxi, rent a a car, or use a City Bus.
The most method most preferred by first time visitors is to use a shuttle service, arranged in advance by a travel agent or tour operator.
Most repeat visitors to Rio de Janeiro Brazil, hire a taxi cab to get to the hotels on Ipanema or Copacabana beach. This is certainly the most common form of airport transport used by residents of the beach neighborhoods.
Tourists who rent a car for getting around Rio from the airport, usually first head outside the city to such destinations as Buzios, Paraty, or Ilha Grande. Upon returning to Rio de Janeiro, they drop off the car at a rental agency in the airport or in Copacabana.
Riding the city bus from the airport to the beaches is the least common method, and is used by the budget traveler.
To determine the best method to get to and from the airport, please visit our Rio de Janeiro Airport Transfer page. On this page we provide all of the information you will need to make the decision that best fits your travel needs and budget.
Using Taxis in Rio
Using taxis for getting around Rio is the most common means of transportation for tourists and more affluent Cariocas. The cost is relatively inexpensive when compared to other major world cities. This may be due to the fact that all taxis in Rio run on LPG (liquefied propane gas) which is far less expensive than gasoline or diesel fuel. It also burns much cleaner than gas and is far less polluting.
If you will vacation here for less than a week and are a first time visitor, then using taxis and tour guides will be all the transportation you'll need for getting around Rio de Janeiro.
Tour companies will take you to the most popular sights of Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer Statue, as well as to Soccer matches at Maracana Stadium, or out to a Churrascaria steak dinner and a Samba show.
There are many tour guide companies located in the areas of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and most all have English speaking guides. Spanish and French speaking tour guides are also commonly available.
During the day, getting around Rio de Janeiro by walking is one of the best ways to see the neighborhoods of Ipanema and Copacabana. During the day you can safely walk around these neighborhoods.
Most tourists stay within a few blocks of the beach, as this is where all the action is, including the hotels, bars, botequins, restaurants, and shopping. Try to you stay within 4 blocks of the beach in Copacabana. In Ipanema you can walk several blocks back from the beach, the entire way up to and around the Lagoa.
One of the best things to do in Rio on a sunny day, is to walk the length of Ipanema and/or Copacabana Beach. The early morning or late afternoon is the best time as it's cooler. The sidewalks along these beaches are very wide, and there are jogging and bike riding lanes as well.
On Sundays, the side of the street next to the ocean in both Copacabana and Ipanema is closed to traffic. A constant stream of hundreds of people moves up and down the ocean boulevards from dawn to dark. Young and old, athletes and couch-potatoes, walkers, bike riders, skaters, dog walkers, bikini clad women, you name it... hits the streets all day.
The Ipanema Hippie Fair is held every Sunday at the General Osorio Park in Ipanema, and is a tremendously popular place to buy Brazilian arts and crafts. Many people walk up along the ocean boulevard to the Hippie Fair and then back to their hotels in the opposite direction.
Insider's Tip -In Ipanema, in the late afternoon walk the length of the beach up to Arpoador Beach. Once there, cross the narrow beach and walk out onto the large rocks to watch the sunset over Leblon Beach and Sao Conrado.
Riding the Bus
Using the city bus system is the most common method of transportation used by resident for getting around Rio de Janeiro. It's inexpensive (R$2 average price), buses are generally clean, and relatively safe (especially during the day). Over the years there have been some notorious incidents of robbery and violence on city buses, mostly occurring far away from the tourist areas of Ipanema and Copacabana. It's best to use the city buses only during the day or early evening, and avoid using them to travel to and from the airport.
City buses and taxis dominate the traffic on the larger streets in Copacabana and Ipanema that run parallel to the ocean. In Ipanema, to catch a bus to Copacabana or Centro, you'll need to be on Rua Visconde de Piraja, or Avenida Viera Souto which runs next to the ocean. In Copacabana, to get to Centro you'll need to catch the bus on the Avenida NS Copacabana, or on the ocean side of the Avenida Atlantica. From Copacabana to Ipanema, hail a bus on the hotel side of the Avenida Atlantica.
City buses have a placard on the front indicating it's destination. To catch a bus, you need to stand at a bus stop and flag down the driver by holding your arm out at a 45 degree angle. Buses will not stop unless you flag down the driver.
Enter the bus from the front, and have your fare ready. Pay the attendant and walk through the turnstile. To exit, walk to the rear of the bus as you near your destination, and pull on a cord so the driver stops.
If you avoid riding the bus at rush hour, you can usually get a seat, the ride will be faster, and you'll be less likely accosted by a pickpocket.
The long distance buses in Brazil are a pleasure to ride and are also inexpensive. These long distance buses are used by tourists to get out of the city and travel to Paraty, Ilha Grande, and Buzios. To leave the city you'll need to get to the main bus station, Novo Rio Rodoviario. At the station, find the RioTur desk for schedule and pricing information.
Renting a Car
You can rent a car for getting around Rio de Janeiro, and this can be easily done at the airport or in Copacabana. There are several rental agencies on Avenida Isabel in Copacabana, which is just a short walk from Posto 2 on Copacabana Beach. If you are staying in Ipanema Beach, you will need to get to the rental car office by bus or taxi. If you rent the car in Copacabana and want to drop it off at the airport (or vice versa), you will be charged an extra fee.
The Brazilian rental car company Localiza, rents cars at the airport and in Copacabana, as does Hertz and a few other companies. You can reserve a car over the internet prior to your arrival, or compare prices and book the rental once you arrive.
Note: Localiza and some of the other agencies require that they scan the photo page of your passport and enter it into their computer system, where it will remain for all eternity! Thrifty Car Rental in Copacabana is one outfit that does not scan passports. We found them to be professional, friendly, and have excellent rates. It's easy to book on line with Thrifty.
The daily rental rate will include liability insurance coverage but not physical damage coverage for the car itself. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) can be expensive in Brazil as it is in the USA, so it's a good idea to check with your one of your credit card companies to determine if using that credit card to rent a car will automatically provide you with the coverage. We recommend that one way or another, to make sure the rental is insured for physical damage coverage.
Most rental car companies charge the daily rate on a 24 hour clock, with 1 hour grace period. If you plan to rent a car for 5 days or longer, inquire into a weekly rate.
Getting around Rio in a rental car can be tricky, as the city is known for heavy traffic and fast moving buses and taxis. We recommend to rent a car only if your want to get out of the city to take excursions to beach such as Prainha or Grumari, or take overnight trips to such places as Buzios, Ilha Grande, or Paraty.
Biking Around Rio
Bicycle rental is an easy for tourists, as all you need is a credit card. You can rent by the hour or for the entire day. Most Rio de Janeiro bike rental stores will provide a lock, so you can chain it up while you stop somewhere along the beach for a snack or drink.
You can ride for miles in the designated bicycle lanes along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. It's easy to go from Ipanema to Copacabana beach, as you cut through Tom Jobim Park in the Arpoador beach area:
Here's a list of bike rental shops in Rio de Janeiro near the beaches:
Copacabana (near Posto 4); Rua Miguel Lemos, #51. Tel 2513-0159
Bike & Lazer; Rua Visconde de Pirajá, #135, Ipanema. Tel 2531-2686
Consuelo Rent a Bike; Copacabana. Tel 2513-0159
Special Bike; Rua Barata Ribeiro #458, Copacabana. Tel: 2547-9551
Taking the Metro
The Metro is an excellent, inexpensive, and safe way for getting around Rio. This is especially true if you are going from Ipanema or Copacabana, to Centro or perhaps to Maracana to see a soccer match.
After many years of planning and delays, in November 2009, a Metro station has finally opened in Ipanema at Praca General Osorio. Previously, tourists and locals in Copacabana Beach had access to the Metro, but not so for Ipanema beach dwellers and visitors.
The Metro is open until midnight Monday - Saturday, and to 11pm on Sundays. During carnival, the Rio Metro runs all night, carrying thousands of people to and from the Sambadrome.
You purchase either one-way or round trip tickets at the counter at the bottom of the escalator. A one way ticket costs about US $1.