WELCOME TO RIO DE JANEIRO! 

Are you ready for the time of your life?

ARRIVING IN RIO DE JANEIRO

 

Nearly all international flights arrive at this airport, which is located 15km north of the city center. Once you arrive, you have a couple of options for leaving the airport depending on your budget.

From the airport, Premium Auto Ônibus (www.premiumautoonibus.com.br; R$14) buses run approximately every 30 to 40 minutes to Flamengo, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and other neighborhoods. It takes 75 minutes to two hours depending on traffic and where you will go. These buses are comfortable with reclining, spacious seats. Tip: make sure you have a jacket or a jumper with you. The air conditioning can leave the bus uncomfortably cold.

There are two BRT (fast bus transit system) stations located at the airport that will connect you to the metro station Vincente Carvalho (Linha 2) and also Zone Oeste, which includes Barra, Recreio and Jacarepaguá. The stations are located at Tom Jobim 1 exit H in Terminal 1 and Tom Jobim 2 exit D in Terminal 2. Price: R$4.30

Radio taxis charge a set fare of R$130 to Copacabana and Ipanema (45 to 90 minutes). Less-expensive metered yellow-and-blue comum (common) taxis cost between R$60 and R$90. Once you exit the terminal you’ll probably be bombarded by people screaming TAXI!!!! These are often incredibly overpriced; we recommend walking around and asking other taxi drivers around the terminal what they charge. UBER is NOT allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, however if you really prefer to use Uber and you can speak Portuguese (or have a trusty local with you), a quick trick that many Brazilians use is to place the pin just outside the airport and then call the driver to let them know exactly where you are. At the airport, get a cab from Aerotaxi or Aerocoop to be safe as they offer fixed prices. 

  • Novo Rio Bus Terminal. Rio’s bus terminal located in the Centro.

Taking a taxi is the quickest and easiest way to get to or from the Novo Rio bus terminal. If you wish to take a taxi from the terminal you can find booths on the bottom floor where you can pre-pay your fare for one of the official terminal taxis. The price to go to the GIG airport will be around R$35 – R$40 Brazilian Reals and to the South Zone it will be around  R$30 – R$35. You can usually get cheaper fares if you take one of the yellow local taxis outside of the terminal.

To calculate a local taxi fare from or to the Novo Rio Terminal you can use the following link. When inputting the terminal into the Origem (origin) or Destino (Destination) section, write it as Rodoviária Novo Rio and then put the address you are going to or coming from.  Use the website only as a basic guide because you have to account for traffic and the route the taxi takes, so always count on it being a bit more than stated. As a reference, if the fare is indicted by a 1 then it is the day fare which is cheaper. The night and public holiday fare is numbered as 2 and is 20% higher than that of the day fare. Taxis always use fare 2 during the month of December and Carnival during the day and the night.

  • Aeroporto Santos Dumont. The domestic airport which is located 2km from the centre of Rio de Janeiro.

The 2145 Premium Auto Ônibus line connects the Santos Dumont Airport to the International Airport, and it opens from 5:30 am to 10:30 pm. There is also a bus that connects the Santos Dumont Airport with Terminal Alvorado in Barra. You can also take the VLT-01 (the tram) to the nearest metro station.

Taxis are an option but unlike the international airport UBER is definitely allowed to come and pick you up.

VISAS

Brazil has a reciprocal visa system. This means if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to get a visa, then you need one too to enter Brazil. US, Canadian and Australian citizens need visas, but UK, New Zealand, French and German citizens (among others) do not. You can check your status with the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country.

Holders of passports from the following 76 countries do not need to apply for a tourist visa before entering Brazil. For most South American countries it is possible to enter Brazil up to 90 days with just an ID card. Citizens of all other countries: Andora, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cypress, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland. Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia. Malta, Macau, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Malta, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Saint Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Tunisia. Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican, Venezuela.

If you do need a visa, you must arrange it beforehand. Visas are not issued on arrival, and you won’t be permitted into the country without it no matter what you say. Tourist visas are issued by Brazilian diplomatic offices. They are valid upon arrival in Brazil for a 90-day stay and are renewable in Brazil for an additional 90 days. PLEASE BE AWARE that there are specific European countries that are not allowed to extend their 90 days stay; we recommend checking with the Brazilian consulate and/or embassy in your home country on whether it would be possible to extend the tourist visa once you are in Brazil.

In most Brazilian embassies and consulates, visas are processed in five to 10 days. You will need to present one passport photograph, a round-trip or onward ticket (or a photocopy of it) and a valid passport. The round-trip or onward ticket can be a flight, boat, or bus, as long as it leaves Brazil and goes to a different country. If you decide to return to Brazil, your visa is valid for anywhere from one year (for Australians) to 10 years (for Americans).

There’s are 2 important pieces of paper that are often referred to as ‘my tourist visa’.

1. Brazilian Travel Visa – A piece of paper that authorizes a passport holder from a non-visa exempt country to enter Brazil.

2. Arrival card – A piece of paper that you receive upon arrival authorizing your stay for a certain period. Never more than 90 days, but less can be given at the discretion of the Federal Police Agent.

Your tourist visa grants you a 90-day stay that begins the moment you arrive in Brazil. You are allowed multiple entries and exits into Brazil within this 90-day period. When the 90 days are coming to an end, you can go to the Federal Police and extend it by another 90 days. Usually, this happens, yet it is worth remembering that this is at the discretion of the Federal Police and they can refuse your application or give you fewer days without needing to give a reason why. You don’t need to leave Brazil to extend your visa. The maximum time you can stay in the country is a total of 180 days in the period of a year.

The year is calculated based on the first time you enter Brazil. From the moment you arrive, you have one year from that date to use your potential 180 days.

Applicants under 18 years of age wanting to travel to Brazil must also submit a notarized letter of authorization from a parent or legal guardian.

Entry & Exit Card

On entering Brazil, all tourists must fill out an entry/exit card (cartão de entrada/saida)(metioned above as the arrival card); immigration officials will keep half, you keep the other. Don’t lose this card! When you leave Brazil, the second half of the entry/exit card will be taken by immigration officials. They will also stamp your passport, and if for some reason they are not granting you the usual 90-day stay in Brazil, the number of days will be written beneath the word Prazo (Period) on the stamp in your passport.

Extending your VISA

All information presented below was taken from the Federal Police website (translate from Portuguese). The ONLY location where foreigners can extend their tourist visa is at the Galeão international airport.

1. Required documents:

  • The “Prorrogação de Prazo de Estada form downloaded and filled out. Get it here
  • Valid form of travel documentation: Passport, Identity Card (for citizens of Mercosur and the Associated States);
  • Entry and Exit Card received and completed upon arrival in the country;
  • Other documents and proofs that the immigration agent understands necessary (proof of place of lodging, proof of means of subsistence within the term in which intends to stay in the country, return passage, etc.)

2. Payment of the corresponding fee (collect the corresponding fee at any banking institution, lottery houses, post offices and bank correspondents), through GRU (Union Collection Guide), obtained here. If you are a foreigner, click “pessoas e entidades estrangeiras.” Then fill out your name, current address IN Rio de Janeiro, your mother’s and father’s name, for the Unidade Arrecadadora use RJ (105-8) and for the Código da Receita STN use code 140090 Fee REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF STAY DEADLINES – R $ 110,44. And you are done! 

GETTING AROUND IN RIO

Metro

The subway in Rio (Portuguese: Metrô) is a really safe way to travel. It runs 7 days a week. Monday-Saturday 5am/00am and Sunday and holidays 7am/23pm. It is limited to only two lines currently. The yellow line (Linha 4) used to be a seperate line that was created specifically for the Olympic Games. In 2017, Linha 4 became an extensive of Linha 1. 

The metro is R$4.30 for one way. Catching the Metroónibus (English: subway shuttle bus) is possible at only a few stops. If you are going to a destination that is on the route of the Metroónibus make sure that you get the right ticket, otherwise it won’t be valid on the bus. In the subway stations, you can buy subway passes that are easy to recharge with cash.

The MetrôRio Rechargable card can only be used in the metro; therefore if you exit the metro to catch the BRT or the regular bus, you need to pay another fare. If you want a card that works for all transportation systems, then you can get the Bilhete Único Carioca card, usually available at all BRT stations and also at the Jardim Oceânico metro station.

Bus

Ask anyone and they’ll tell that the bus systems can be very confusing. The fare start at R$3.80 and must be paid in cash to the driver. Tip: bring small bills as bus drivers often don’t have change for larger bills. Keep in mind that the bus will only stop if you wave them down; even if you are standing at the bus stop, you must indicate that you want the bus to stop by sticking out your arm.

Now here comes the tricky part. Bus Stations are numbered: BRS 1, BRS2, BRS3, BRS4, BRS5 which are often all located close together. The point of these different bus stations is that different buses stop at different bus points. It essential reduces the numbers of buses stopping at one single bus point. For example, you want to take bus 435 to Botafogo which departs from BRS2 on Rua Francisco Sá. Once you arrive on Rua Francisco Sá you notice that there are two bus points, literally steps from each other. What do you do? You must walk up to each one and check that you are at the BRS2 stop which will also list the specific buses that stop at that point. Confused yet? Below is an example of a BRS 1 station and the specific buses that stop there.

If you have a data plan while in Rio, we would highly recommend that you download the MOOVIT application. The application allows you to check what stations are nearby (for both bus and metro), the lines and maps out the best route to take to get to your destination. It also has Get Off Alerts.

When taking public buses, be sure to stay alert. It’s a smart idea to remove your money from your wallet BEFORE entering the bus so that pickpockets can’t see where you keep your wallet. The buses usually run 15 minutes apart on busy routes and up to an hour apart at night or in suburban areas – but in the end, there are no real guarantees.

If you are in Zona Sul, you’ll probably see mini-buses (minivans) zipping back and forth. They are an alternative form of transportation (much faster than buses) and run along Av. Rio Branco to the Zona Sul and all the way to Barra da Tijuca. These are unofficial buses, not run by the city of Rio de Janeiro. They run frequently and cost between R$2.50 to R$5. To find out the direction they go in, there is usually a man that hangs out from the passenger door and shouts the destination. Once on the bus, you need to call our your stop (para!) when you want to get off. It certainly is a different way to travel around Rio!

Taxis and UBER

Rio’s yellow taxis are prevalent throughout the city. They are generally a speedy way to zip around and are usually safe. The flat rate is around R$5.20, plus around R$2.05 per kilometer (and R$2.50 per kilometer at night and on Sunday). Radio taxis are 30% more expensive than regular taxis. No one tips taxi drivers, but it’s common to round up the fare. DO NOT take unlicensed taxis.

In Rocinha and some other favelas, moto-taxis (basically a lift on the back of a motorcycle) are a handy way to get around, with short rides (usually from the bottom of the favela to the top or vice versa) costing R$3.50 to go up and R$2 to go down (though they may ask R$5-R$10 of foreigners!).

If you have a smartphone, you can use a free app like 99Taxis or Easy Taxi to hail a cab. You can also use UBER, UBER Black, UBER Pool and UBER English – which are all available here in Rio.

MEDICAL INFORMATION

See your doctor before you travel. Rio de Janeiro counts several hospitals and medical institutions, as well as quality medical practitioners and health specialists. It is recommended that you get insurance covering health care expenses as well as medical evacuation or repatriation before you leave home. Rio health care, like anywhere else in the world, can get expensive in the unfortunate case of an accident or medical incident.

So you’re sick in Rio. Now what? Most foreign websites will recommend Galdino Campos Clinic. We personally do not recommend this clinic after an incredibly horrible experience where we were over-charged and woefully misdiagnosed. Most of the time, if the symptoms are not too severe (and you have a good understanding of what it is), you can go to a pharmacy and explain your symptoms. If you need to see a doctor, there are two options: public and private. If you are not covered by any health insurance, private health care can be incredibly expensive, so you will have to go to a public hospital or public health care provider. There are 24H free clinics in Rio de Janeiro that are provided by the government; they are called UPA and can be found in Copacabana, Botafogo, and Tijuca. If you go to a public hospital, expect to pay much less than a private hospital yet the quality is not always great and some are under-equipped.

If you have international health care insurance, there are a number of amazing hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. Below are some of the top-notch hospital in the city:

  • Hospital Copa D’or is internationally accredited and abides by international standards. With its new equipment, well-trained medical staff, and high-quality services in the field of surgery, post-operative care, and diagnostics, this hospital is popular among expats. Hospital Copa D’or is located on Rua Figueiredo Magalhães in Copacabana. We’ve personally been here (thankfully nothing too serious!) and can recommend it. The treatment was quick, effective, and the hospital was extremely clean and comfortable. Although it’s not really considered an ‘expat’ hospital, some of the staff do speak English.
  • Hospital Samaritano is another one of Rio’s private, modern hospitals which offer state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. While the hospital offers all kinds of medical services, it is well-known for its reputable cardiology department with its excellent coronary unit and cardiac surgery center. You can find the Hospital Samaritano on Rua Bambina in Botafogo.
  • Hospital Sao Jose was founded by the Santa Catarina Congregation and has been providing medical care ever since 1923. Located on Rua Macedo Sobrinho in Humaitá, the large hospital offers services in all medical branches. In addition, the hospital has a big emergency department with a cardiac ward. Many expats visit this hospital for its international patient section and its English speaking staff.

Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare

Don’t worry about stocking up on tampons, pads or birth control pills; Rio de Janeiro has got you covered. As long as you know the type of birth control you take, you can easily go to a pharmacy and buy it over the counter with no prescription. The same is true for the morning-after pill; just make sure to ask for “a pílula da manhã após.”

Abortion, however, is illegal in Brazil unless it puts the woman’s life in danger or if it is the result of a rape.

Vaccinations

Brazilian authorities now require proof of vaccination against yellow fever for travellers arriving from the following countries: French Guiana, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The original of the vaccination certificate must be presented. Obtaining a booster vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio is mandatory.

If you plan on traveling onwards to countries like Colombia, you will also need the yellow fever vaccine. There are a number of places in Rio de Janeiro where you can get the vaccination for FREE.

Water

The tap water in Rio de Janeiro is safe to drink. However, as a result of the treatment process, it still doesn’t taste great. To be on the safe side, drink bottled or filtered water. But don’t fret if your water comes with ice cubes, or if your salads were washed with tap water. All brands are reliable: ask for agua sem gas for still water and agua com gas for carbonated water.

TRAVel SAFETY

You know what? Rio is unsafe. So is Toronto. So is Paris. So is…. a million other places. You want to learn the secret? Be aware and follow these easy steps:

1. Leave all your jewelry and expensive clothing at home. The more flashy it is, the more you become a target. There have been stories of individuals having gold chains ripped off their necks and visitor being targetted because of flashy rings or expensive watches. You might think, hey! I’ll leave it in my hotel room, but even that won’t be 100% secure. You can also loose these items during transit – at airports, on buses, in taxis etc. etc. Just leave it at home.

2. Be aware. Be aware. Be aware. Do you know where your phone is? Is someone walking too closely to you? Do you know in which area you are in? Unfortunately, this is the reality in Rio. Make sure you are always aware of your surroundings and if you do plan on going hard one night (hey! who doesn’t party in Rio?!), then make sure not to walk too far away from the bar/nightclub before calling a taxi and/or UBER.

3. Blend In. Your chance of being robbed decreases if you blend in. Even if you stick out like a sore thumb (like I did inChile), there are certain steps that can be taken to enhance your safety. The ultimate goal is not to look/sound like a tourist. Stopping, glancing around with a confused gaze and/or pulling out a map does attract too much attention. If you are lost just keep walking with a purpose and enter into a café or shop to ask for directions or pull out a map. You know why Brazil is GREAT?  Unlike a lot of other South American countries, Brazil, due to its multiculturalism, allows individuals of any background to easily blend in. So when in doubt, look like you belong and don’t announce that you are foreign by speaking loudly in English.

4. Do not carry your valuables when sightseeing – Leave your passport, laptop and VISA card safely locked in a locker at the hostel and only bring the basics when you are out and about in the city. For example, if you are heading off to a nightclub leave your passport and credit card [if you only have one] locked up at the hostel. Bring only enough cash for the night, an ID card and your phone/camera

Adopt a minimalist mentality; the less you carry in your pocket, purse or backpack, the less amount of valuables you have to worry about, allowing you to relax and have fun

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty: what neighbourhoods are safe? The safest neighbourhoods are the ones in the south zone which are largely touristy and have a higher police control. Petty theft happens, yet it is more likely nothing will happen then something actually going wrong. It’s difficult to define exactly which places are the safest – Copacabana is usually perfectly fine during the day, yet we wouldn’t recommend walking on the beach at night there. Santa Teresa is a wonderful neighbourhood and popular for its bohemian spirit. Just take care not to wander into a favela – you may be treated as a suspicious trespasser which may not end well. Centro is a bustling hotspot during the day, yet as a commerical centre, at night everything closes there. Lapa is the place to be after hours and is largely safe – just make sure you get a taxi home late at night and don’t wander off by yourself down empty streets. These places you need to use common sense. The north zone of the city is rarely visited by tourists due to its lack of touristic landmarks and it being mostly residential. Tijuca and Maracana are exceptions – the first sports a lively nightlife hub and the latter has the country’s most famous football and sports stadium. If you venture to other parts of the north zone, it is better to go with a local as some areas have high crime rates.

A complete guide of travel safety PLUS an ebook about it Rio de Janeiro Travel Safety will be available shorty

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LAWS

Alcohol – Tobacco and alcohol can be purchased and consumed by people older than 18 (although this law is not strictly enforced – don’t expect to get IDed in Rio!). HOWEVER, Brazil has an incredibly strict NO DRINKING AND DRIVING law (known as Lei Seca). You are not allowed to have any alcohol in your body when you drive. The police often do blitzes on the road where they will stop random cars and ask you to take a breathalyzer test, which you can refuse by stating that it is your constitutional right not to incriminate yourself and therefore avoiding criminal sanctions. Either way, your license will be temporarily suspended on the spot until you sort out all the legalities.

Drugs – Marijuana, cocaine and heavier drugs are illegal; carrying for personal use is a minor demeanor, however carrying drugs with the intent of distribution (however small the amount) qualifies you as a trafficante (trafficker), which lands you straight in prison. Do not risk it. Prisons in Brazil are notoriously overcrowded, with extremely unpleasant living conditions, and a lengthy wait for trail. Along with the possibility of the police arresting you or asking for a bribe, dealers have been known to rip off tourists, selling incredibly low-quality drugs or drugs mixed with other ingredients like powdered milk or crushed pills.

Lixo Zero – smoking a cigarette? Your first impulse probably is to throw it on the ground. Don’t. Rio is cracking down on people who liter. If the Lixo Zero people see you throwing anything on the ground, they will give you a fine of up to R$150.