Transportation in Rio de Janeiro is relatively well developed. Compared to other cities in South America, Rio de Janeiro offers a decent transportation system. However, you might need to take a taxi or an Uber from time to time anyway.
Public transportation in South America is usually rather problematic. That’s also true for most cities in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro instead has a decent network, partly due to the Olympic Games 2016. There’s not only a metro, but also a tram and commuter rail. In addition, there are bus lines and taxis. While there are no long distance trains in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro at least has a decent commuter network named SuperVia.
If you are thinking about visiting areas outside the city center of Rio de Janeiro, you might take one of these frequently running trains. All trains terminate at Estação Central do Brasil in the city center of Rio de Janeiro, where you can also find a metro and several bus stops. There are also a few other interchange stations like the Maracana Stadium.
The metro in Rio de Janeiro consists of three lines since Summer 2016. Line 2 goes from the North of Rio de Janeiro through the city center to the beach areas in the South. Line 1 connects Botafogo (also served by Line 2) with Pavuna, an area in the West of the city center. The new line 4 doesn’t have any stops in the city center, but rather connects Ipanema (it shares the General Osorio terminus station with Line 2) with the business area Barra da Tijuca in the South-West of Rio de Janeiro.
Three more lines are supposed to open in the next years. Two of those lines are supposed to connect the two airports of Rio de Janeiro with the existing metro network, thus allowing either public transportation connections from the transportation hubs into the city center. More information is available on the official city page. Single tickets are currently available for 3.50 BRL (~ 1 Euro / US-Dollar).
Existing metro lines in Rio de Janeiro:
In addition to the metro and the SuperVia, Rio de Janeiro also has a modern light-rail system. There are supposed to be three tram lines in the city, which operate on relatively short routes. Two of the lines (1 & 3) shall connect the city center with the smaller Santos Dumont airport in the East of the city. Lines 2 & 3 also have stops at the Central Station of Rio de Janeiro and thus allow easy connections to the SuperVia and the metro. In contrast to the metro, the trams are stopping quite frequently and thus allow easy transportation in the city center of Rio de Janeiro.
The network is supposed to start full regular operations by the end of 2017. As of now, only one of the three lines already operates. Rio de Janeiro also has the so-called Santa Teresa Tram, a heritage tram system between the city center and the Santa Teresa neighboorhood. Service was suspened after a horrible accident in 2011, but limited services started again in 2016. The line is supposed to be fully reinstated by the end of 2017.
Existing & future tram lines in Rio de Janeiro:
Rio de Janeiro has an extensive bus network, too. As of now, most of the public transportation is organized by buses. Yet, the new tram system is supposed to eliminate most of the buses in the city center. However, the hundreds of bus services in and around the city remains crucial as a backbone of the transportation network in Rio de Janeiro.
However, buses in Rio de Janeiro are not exactly easy to use for tourists as the timetables are quite flexible and only limited information on the routes is available. If you are thinking about using the buses, you should be fluent in Portuguese. There is also an easier to use executive bus system called Frescao. However, these buses only operate in a few areas of the city. Single tickets for buses and trams are available for 3.80 BRL (~ 1.10 Euro / US-Dollar).
To get around in Rio de Janeiro, you might also rely on taxis. However, you should be aware that there were several reported cases of fraud in the last years. Thus, always be aware that the meters are used and not “speedy”. Other than that, taxis in Rio de Janeiro are relatively safe.
The base fare for a normal taxi (there are also executive ones) is 5.40 BRL (~ 1.60 Euro / 1.70 US-Dollar) with a kilometer fare of 2.30 BRL (~ 0.70 Euro / US-Dollar). This makes taxis a lot more expensive than the public transportation in Rio de Janeiro. Thus, you might think twice before taking a taxi in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro has even more to offer when it comes to public transportation. Especially if you are visiting as a tourist, you might want to make use of the Sugarloaf Cable Car, which allows you to visit the Sugarloaf. However, be aware that the prices for usage are quite steep.
Another special means of transportation is the Corcovado Rack Railway, which allows you to visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer and enjoy stunning views of the city. You should also think about using Uber in Rio de Janeiro as the service is cheaper, safer and more comfortabel than taxis.