This post was originally written in 2012Since I am currently in Rio and just had my "How to do Rio on a Budget" article published on hihostels.com, I decided to write a follow up post with some more generic tips. I considered doing a "What to do in Rio in the Rain" post, as it has been pretty much non-stop this week, but I don't think that going to the cinema and getting a pedicure would have made for an interesting read. I'm sure there are more things I could still learn about this amazing city, but here are some things I picked up from my second visit.
Getting around by public bus
Taking public buses in South America can be a confusing, intimidating and sometimes unsuccessful experience. Often a crowded bus will stop at unmarked place on the road with people yelling destinations you have never heard of. Some buses will only accept coins. Some will tell you the bus goes to your destination when it actually only goes "close" to your destination.
When I used Rio's public bus system to visit Cristo Redentor earlier this year, I thought it was fairly easy to use. I remember now that a friend staying in my hostel told me the number of the bus to take, which took out the step of working that out, but it was still pretty straightforward. Buses display a number and destination with rotating digital screens. Bus stops have maps showing your locations, a list of buses that stop there and their destination.
When I was trying to figure out which bus to take to Pão de Açúcar from Copacabana yesterday, all I knew was that I was positive I had seen a bus that displayed it as a destination last time I was here, but couldn't remember the number. There were countless buses going downtown, but since that didn't help me I had to look a bit closer at the bus stops, and noticed this incredibly helpful system on the back of each one.
The main attractions in Rio are shown with a symbol and their location. Each bus stop also has a list of all the bus numbers, and next to them the symbol of any attractions it will take you to. All you need to do is match a symbol to a bus number to find out which one to take. For me, it was number 511 to Pão de Açúcar. FOr Cristo Redentor, you are looking for bus 583. It didn't take long to for my opinion of the bus system in Rio to go from "fairly easy to use" to "this is the smartest thing ever!".
One thing to note is that not all buses stop at each stop. Bus 511 was listed as part of the group "BRS2". I had to find a stop where these buses stop, but it was just a case of being every 3rd stop on the main street in Copacabana. The price is listed on the front and inside the bus. You don't pay the driver, there is another person who sits at the front of the bus that you pay when you get on (coins or notes are fine, bus 511 to Pão de Açúcar was R$2.85). When I got on the bus today and earlier this year when I visited Cristo Redentor I checked with the driver I had the right bus, and they also announced when we arrived at the stop to get off at.
To get back from Cristo Redentor, I went to the stop on the opposite side of the road and caught the same bus going in the other direction. To get back from Pão de Açúcar I caught one of the mini buses that also run in Rio (and many other South American cities). They are operated by a driver and someone who collects the money. It arrived to the bus stop, and dropped me off at the street of my choice near my hostel for R$2.50.
Getting to and from the airport
My flight into Rio on Sunday night (Monday morning) landed at 1 am, so I took a taxi from the airport. When I left last time, my flight was at 6 am, so I booked a transfer through my hostel. Each of these options cost about R$70.00 each.
When I leave on Sunday, my flight is at about 5 pm, so I will finally get to make use of the bus I have seen running along Avenida Atlantica. Real Auto Ônibus runs bus number 2018 (a blue, premium bus that will display Aeroporto at the front) to and from the airport between 5:30 am and 10:30 pm. The cost is R$12.00 each way.
I mentioned this briefly in my "How to do Rio on a Budget" post, I have tried some interesting street food in this city. The street food vendors tend to arrive at the beaches around sunset, but you can find others throughout the day. Popcorn is a popular one I have seen at varying times, and today I tried an interesting (in a good way) hot dog at Praia Vermelha. But if you only try one thing from a street vendor, make sure it's the corn! It's amazing.
Best views of the city
Earlier this year, I thought it would be hard to top Cristo Redentor for the best views of Rio. After visiting Pão de Açúcar today I can say I was definitely wrong. With its stunning location next to the beach, Pão de Açúcar looks back over the city for stunning views of Cristo Redentor, downtown Rio and Copacabana beach. The entry and two cable cars to the top of the mountain cost R$53.00 for an adult.
Until Rio 3.0!