How to Get Around Rio de Janeiro during the OlympicsPhotos courtesy Getty Images Olympics Features Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the main tourist site and one of the main economical and cultural centers of Brazil. The country’s second major metropolis, the commonly known “cidade maravilhosa” (marvelous city) has many cultural icons scattered through its 1,759.6 square mile territory.
Prior to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics nomination, public commuting was done mainly by bus, train or subway, but, with two of the biggest sports events on the horizon, new modes of transportation became necessary. As such, two additional forms of locomotion were tested and implemented: BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and VLT (light vehicle on rails, in Portuguese). On top of the creation of these two new transport systems, improvements were made to the current ones.
As the distance between the two sporting hubs chosen to host competitions is extensive, integrated means of transportation are essential. The Parque Olímpico (Olympic Park), situated in Barra da Tijuca, in the west zone of the city, will host 16 Olympic and nine Paralympic sports, while the Complexo Esportivo de Deodoro will host nine Olympic and four Paralympic sports. To move between both those hubs—located in far points of the west zone—and touristic spots, the integrated subway, train, BRT and bus lines are meant to facilitate residents’ and tourists’ trips. Lastly, there’s VLT, which is meant to connect the redeveloped port zone and the city center.
The most important means of transportation in Rio de Janeiro, buses have been part of residents’ daily life for more than a century. With hundreds of bus stops scattered throughout the city, the simplest way of moving between Rio’s neighborhoods is via its approximately 200 bus lines.
The main bus terminals are in the downtown area and the west zone, but kiosks are scattered throughout the city’s main arteries. Be sure to ask friendly cariocas to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
The Bilhete Único Carioca card was created in 2010. It allows passengers to catch two buses, so long as they are taken within two and a half hours, for the price of one ticket—R$3.80 (US$1.20) currently.
In order to enhance the flow of traffic on the main streets of the city, the first “fast corridors” were opened in 2011, featuring exclusive lanes for buses (BRS), which reduced travel time by up to 40 percent—though some residents complain about an unnecessarily confusing change to their familiar routes.
For longer trips, trains are the best way to move in Rio de Janeiro. The 201-car fleet in operation connects not only many neighborhoods to 11 other municipalities. With 102 stations spread between a small part of the west zone, north zone, the city center (downtown) and Baixada Fluminense (suburbs to the north and west of the city), the train might be an easier option for those planning to attend competitions in the Deodoro hub.
Regarding trains, the main station for reference is Central do Brasil, therefore, times of travel are estimated from there. The estimated time of travel between Central do Brasil station and Deodoro terminal is approximately 41 minutes.
Using the Bilhete Único Carioca card, passengers may transfer from train to subway or from train to bus, but, in that case, an additional fee is charged (though at a discount).
While surely the most comfortable way to get around Rio, there are currently only three lines in operation.
Line 1, known as the orange line, connects the Ipanema and Tijuca neighborhoods; line 2, known as the green line, connects Botafogo to Pavuna and integrates part of the South Zone to the far north of the city.
Line 4, currently open only to Olympics ticket-holders and credentialed media, debuted just a few days before the Olympics began. The yellow line runs between Barra da Tijuca and Ipanema, connecting the West to the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro.
The cost for the subway one-trip ticket is R$4.10 (US$1.26). As with trains, one can make transfers using the Bilhete Único Carioca card. If needed, taking both the subway and a bus costs R$4.95 (US$1.53); a subway ride and a surface train ride cost R$6.50.
Created in 2012, the Bus Rapid Transport has 320 vehicles operating along 102 stations. Formed by three exclusive corridors: transoeste (transwest), transcarioca e transolímpica (transolympic); the main goal of BRT is to reduce the travel time of passengers in the west zone of the city.
The transoeste corridor was the first to be opened, in 2012; it has 57 stations and connects Barra da Tijuca to the far west of the city. The transcarioca corridor was opened in 2014, a few months before the Brazil World Cup, to connect the Alvorada Terminal, in Barra da Tijuca, and the Tom Jobim International Airport, in Ilha do Governador. The express corridor links 27 neighborhoods, reducing travel time by up to60 percent. The transolympic line, considered the biggest construction work of the city in 30 years, has yet to be opened to the public. That corridor’s goal is to connect Barra da Tijuca to Deodoro.
A ticket for one trip costs the same as the bus: R$3.80 (US$1.17).
In order to connect the port zone and downtown area to the Santos Dumont Domestic Airport, the city government planned the Light Vehicle on Rails (VLT, in Portuguese). The silent and modern vehicle is a fast, safe and sustainable new way to move through the cultural and financial center of the Marvelous City—though it wasn’t without some hiccups at the start.
There will be 32 stops on its course, connecting VLT to other means of transportation. Bus, train, subway, ferry, ships and even planes will be linked in the city’s new project for urban mobility.
The fare will be the same as the buses and BRT’s—R$3.80. There’ll be no turnstiles or ticket collectors, only automatic validation. As with other transports, there’s is a discount for transfers. With the Bilhete Único Carioca card, passengers will be able to transfer from VLT to city buses for the price of one ticket.
How to acquire a Bilhete Único Carioca card
To acquire the BUC, passengers should look for one of the RIOCard spots located at terminals or outlets throughout the city. The price is R$3.00 (US$0.93) and can be refunded if the card is returned without any damage.