Staying safe in Rio – Part III (Getting around in Rio)


I’m so sorry for not being able to do what I have promised before, publish once a week a dedicated post for my “Staying safe in Rio” series. But some decisions made us anticipate a family plan that was supposed to start only in some months and now we are in a rush to get everything accomplished in time.

But it is still time to share with you some tips of how getting around in Rio safely.

When talking about moving around in Rio, the first thing to do is understand a little bit about how the city is settled .  Taking a look at Rio de Janeiro city map in Google Maps can help you in this Google Maps.

Rio de Janeiro city is divided in sides or zones: downtown (centro), the south zone (zona Sul), the north zone (zona norte) and the west zone (zona oeste).

And once you know that most of the touristic attractions, accommodations and good restaurants are located in “Zona Sul” it is a good idea to book a room in one of the hotels or hostels there. Copacabana, Ipanema or even Botafogo are good options. From those places you can easily reach all the attractions in south zone and the ones in downtown.

Following this first tip turns moving around in the city much easier than you might have imagined.

So I will focus in this post how to get around in Zona Sul and Centro. But with you need more in information about how to get around in north zone or west zone just comment or send me an email that I will be pleased to answer you.

There are three options of public transportation in Rio: train, subway and buses.  The train service in Rio is very poor, they just serve from the Central station in downtown to the suburbs in north zone. So I will not talk about it here.


Buses can take you almost anywhere and are relatively cheap (R$ 3,00 ) and can be quite useful in your stay in Rio. For buses itineraries use Google maps. If you enter your location and your destination they will give you plenty of options of buses.

Unfortunately, there is a little risk of crimes like robberies in Rio buses, specially out of rush hours when the buses are empty and in late hours. But many Rio citizens use buses on a regular basis. From students to workers, lots of people use bus to get around in the city, so if you are considering taking the bus, be aware and take the tips bellow:

  • Avoid wearing jewelry, watches, don’t show off cameras or cellphones when inside them, and keep an eye of what is going on inside the bus.
  • If you perceive suspicious looking people, you’d better get off on the next stop and wait for the next bus.
  • Keep holding your purse or backpack in front of you
  • Avoid taking buses in the evening after the rush hours when they are frequently empty. (Criminals prefer empty buses to announce robberies)
  • Take the money out of your wallet to pay for the bus fare still in your hotel or inside a store and keep it in your pocket, or a place easy to reach in the moment of paying for the fare. Always avoid opening your wallet or purse inside the bus.
  • Most buses in Rio nowadays board at the front, and pay the fare to the money collector. So be prepared to pay for the fare as soon as you get into the bus
  •  To avoid pickpockets and muggers, try to sit near the front of the bus.
  • In late hours bus service is very poor, and you might wait for a long time for the next bus.
  • In case you get in a bad situation and your bus is robbed, remember that your life is more important. Give them the money, camera, cellphone or whatever the criminals are asking. Your life is more important!!!

When I was in College I used buses a lot, but I can’t tell you that it is a pleasant experience.  Nowadays I don’t use buses anymore. I usually take the subway, take a taxi or drive my own car. Sometimes I prefer to pay a little more for a taxi than get stressed with the way some bus drivers driving at crazy speeds over the city

2) Subway

Subway is definitely my favourite public transport in Rio. They are quite clean, the services are regular, and very easy to get them. Until now, Rio only has two lines, the Line 1(red line) that serves from Saens Pena (in the north zone) to General Osorio (in Ipanema, south zone)  and the Line 2 (green line) that serves from Botafogo(south zone) to Pavuna (north zone) .

If you are staying in the south zone, using the subway is very easy and can take you to most of the touristic attractions in downtown and south zone.

The Metro Rio website has many useful information in english. Maps, fares, options of tickets and even some touristic tips are available on their site.

In the subway, as cases of crimes and robberies inside the trains that runs from downtown to south zone are not common. you can relax a little bit. But don’t relax too much, you are in Rio!  Keep following the general safety tips and you will be alright.

Take an extra attention in the outside area of the subway stations. In some neighborhoods around the subway stations some homeless concentrate. So be aware and in case of anything suspicious, just change your way.

3) Taxi

Taxis in Rio are a very convenient way of getting around in the city, specially for small distances. You can find them easily in almost everywhere and they are relatively inexpensive.

The regular taxis is bright yellow with a blue stripe on the sides and they run by a taxi meter. Today the initial fare in Rio is R$ 4,80 and when you get inside the taxi the driver will turn on the meter and it will start ticking from this initial fare.

Some safety tips:

  • Always prefer to take taxis that are affiliated to a taxi company, they are more reliable. Those taxis will have the name of the taxi company printed on the car. Avoid the yellow taxis that doesn’t have any company name printed on them, some of them might be illegal.
  • Always observe if the taxi meter is on. If don’t, just remind the taxi driver to turn it on.
  • Do not agree on pre-paid deals with yellow taxis, the driver must be trying to take advantage of you. So, don’t hesitate to get off the taxi and catch the next one.
  • If you are leaving your hotel or a restaurant, ask in the reception for a reliable yellow taxi company to take you to your destination.
  • Write down the address of your destination to show to the taxi driver when entering the taxi. Few taxi drivers speak english, so this will prevent you from misunderstandings.
  • If you ever feel uncomfortable inside a taxi , for any reason, don’t hesitate to get off the taxi. Just say to the driver that you changed your mind.
  • When the government authorize the rise of the taxi fares, the taxi drivers have a time to adjust their taxi meter for the new fare. In this meanwhile they will convert the price  shown on the taxi meter with the help of an official table. The table will be on the car window behind the driver, so the passengers can check themselves the rate. All you have to do is look for the price the taximeter gave you  in the table and see the value on its right. This will be the price you will have to pay. (Well I hope I made myself clear)

4) By foot

A nice way to know the city, specially in downtown and south zone is combine subway + walking, or taxi + walking.

Tips for walking in Rio:

  • Avoid walking in the evening even for small distances. If you have to walk more than two blocks it is better take a taxi. (Just pay attention because in some neighborhoods like Ipanema and Copacabana a block can be quite a long walk)
  • Follow the general safety tips for walking in big cities
  • Don’t ever walk though tunnels, it is definitely not safe.
  • When asking for information, look for stores or newspapers kiosks, they are usually well-informed. Maybe not everyone will speak English, but there is always someone passing by that will be able to help you finding your way.

Well, I hope those information are useful. If you have any other doubt, don’t hesitate to ask me!!

For more tips about staying safe in Rio, take a look in the previous articles:

Have a nice weekend!!



  1. Muito bons estes posts. Acho que se um dia visitar o Rio de Janeiro a melhor opcao acho que e o taxi, ou alugar carro, o que achas de alugar carro no Brazil achas seguro? E claro nao levar nada de valor, uma das razoes que ainda nao visitei o Brazil foi por esta falta de seguranca, para mim como sou um pouco medricas hehehe ia andar sempre assustada. Trabalhei durante muitos anos para uma companhia aeria e nunca la fui pois sempre tive receio mas por outro lado tenho curiosidade pois deve ser um lugar lindo, um pais maravilho com muito para oferecer.

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