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Getting around Rio de Janeiro

Public transport

The underground service provided by Metrô Rio (tel: 0800 595 1111, in Brazil only; is efficient, safe and clean, though limited in scope. Its four lines cover Centro (downtown), Zona Sul (the coastal strip) and the Barra da Tijuca region to the west of the city.

Trains run Monday to Saturday 0500-midnight, and on Sundays and bank holidays between 0700-2300. During Rio Carnival the subway operates 24 hours a day. Metrô tickets are only available at the stations. You can buy single tickets or use a pre-paid MetrôRio Card.

Buses are cheap, regular and run to all parts of the city. However, they are not safe after dark, particularly in Centro. They are also very crowded during the rush hours (0700-0900 and 1600-1900) and not suitable for those carrying large luggage. Many different companies operate under the management of Rio Onibus (tel: 0800 886 1000;

You can buy tickets on the bus, just make sure you have the correct change ready to pay at the turnstile when you board. Tickets for integrated Metrô and bus journeys are available at Metrô stations, though these mostly link downtown with the suburbs rather than the beachside Zona Sul area.


Yellow and blue striped taxis are plentiful and reliable. They operate with a meter and can be hailed on the street. Check that the meter on the dashboard is reset and indicates the correct tariff (tarifa) which is shown by a little flag on top. Tariff 1 runs Monday to Saturday 0600-2100; tariff 2 runs Monday to Saturday 2100-0600 and all day Sunday. There is a minimum fare, plus a charge per kilometre. Tipping is not necessary, but is welcomed.

Radio taxis are also safe and reliable but more expensive than the yellow and blue taxis. Recommended operators include Central Táxi (tel: 21 2195 1000), Coopertramo (tel: 21 2209 9292) and Transcoopass (tel: 21 2209 1555).


Driving in Rio is chaotic. The road system and signage are confusing and locals drive at breakneck speed with scant regard to other road users. Efficient public buses and underground trains are far cheaper and much better ways to enjoy the city.

That said, driving may be a worthwhile option for excursions beyond the city, including Niterói and Petrópolis, and for reaching some of the further beaches. Visitors making a day trip to Rio by car, try to park in a secure car park and leaving the car with an attendant. Street parking is hard to find and is not considered safe.

Car hire

The minimum age to hire a car in Rio de Janeiro is 21 years. A credit card is usually required as security and for payment. An International Driving Permit is not normally required but if you're hiring a car, you normally need to show you've held your driving licence for at least two years. Rates include basic, third-party cover but collision waiver and personal accident insurance are extra.

Some major companies with car hire offices in the city include Avis (tel: 0800 725 2847, in Brazil only;, Hertz (tel: +55 21 2275 7440; and Alamo (tel: +55 21 2493 2006;

Bicycle hire

Cycling in Rio is considered a sport rather than an alternative form of transport as most roads are too dangerous. However, cycling along ciclovias (cycle paths) comes recommended as they are a fun and safe way to get around. These are dedicated paths shared by cyclists and joggers, which run along the seafront of Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra, and around the Lagoa.

Bicycle hire is available from Bike & Lazer, Rua Visconde de Pirajá, 135B, Ipanema (tel: +55 21 2251 2686;

Rio's bikeshare system, Mobilicidade (tel: +55 81 3224 2745; has bikes at Metrô stations, plus many other pick-up points around the city.

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Featured Hotels


San Marco Hotel

Located right in the heart of Ipanema, San Marco Hotel is the perfect choice for holidaymakers on a budget who want to take full advantage of the nearby beach – two blocks away - without missing out on Rio’s exciting nightlife. The small modern hotel has 56 tidy and functional rooms, all en-suite with TVs and air conditioning, and is in the thick of Ipanema’s trendy bars, shops, restaurants and clubs (ask for a room on an upper floor if on the street side). Its friendly bilingual staff, wireless internet connection, and competitive rates make this one of the few good-value budget hotels in Ipanema.

Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon

Located in the heart of Leblon, Rio's most expensive square metre, Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon offers quality services at affordable prices. Its rooms are well furnished if not huge, with modern décor. A generous buffet breakfast is included and the hotel has up-to-date facilities, including spa and a small pool. It's a couple of blocks in from the beach and close to cinemas, theatres, shops, restaurants and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.


This no-frills but clean and well-run hotel is highly rated among regular visitors to Rio. It's in a handy location between downtown and the Zona Sul, in an historic, up-and-coming district. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the buffet breakfast is excellent, and facilities include a spa, gym and small roof terrace. In all, the Regina is one of the best budget hotels in the city.

Rio Hostel

This hostel in an old colonial building in Santa Teresa has basic dorms as well as three- and four-bed rooms, which are ideal for families. With its hillside location, Rio Hostel offers great city views and it also has a tiny swimming pool. Facilities include laundry service, tour information, Wi-Fi connectivity and air conditioning in some rooms. The staff are friendly, some are multilingual, and they serve a decent buffet breakfast.

Copacabana Palace

This elegant establishment is almost as famous as its beachfront location. Since it was built in 1923, famous guests have included Robert De Niro, Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles and Princess Diana. The Copacabana Palace is one of the grandest classical buildings in Rio de Janeiro; its creamy pillared façade dominates Avenida Atlântica, and is protected by a preservation order. The plush interior is even more impressive with marble floors, chandeliers, grand ballroom and elegantly decorated rooms. Facilities include a rooftop tennis court, a majestic swimming pool, a well-equipped fitness suite and a business centre. The two restaurants, Cipriani and Pergula, offer fine dining.

Hotel Mama Ruisa

This tasteful boutique hotel lies in the heart of Santa Teresa in a converted late 19th-century mansion. Laidback French proprietor Jean Michel Ruiz has had each of the seven rooms individually decorated in tribute to icons of stage and screen, including Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda and Maria Callas. The spacious lounge is filled with modern designer furniture and its walls are hung with original works of art and ethnic artefacts. The private walled garden has a small pool, with a terrace and veranda where meals and cocktails are served.