Will I need to drive my own vehicle to conduct my everyday life (work/school/shopping) at my destination?
You can use public transport; however, keep in mind that it is not 100% secure and sometimes does not run on time.
How can I legally drive a vehicle in this city?
When moving to Brazil, a home country driver's license will suffice for the first six months of an expatriate's stay. It is recommended that you bring your license (and, if possible, an international license) as the procedure to obtain a Brazilian driver’s license can take some time. To convert to a non-Brazilian license, a driver will need to pass both a written and a practical test.
In addition, when converting to a Brazilian license, the expatriate will need to present his or her home driver's license as well as a sworn translation of it. Additionally, he or she will need to furnish the following documents:
- Passport - including number, personal information, visa and legible immigration stamp citing the date of entrance to Brazil
- Immigration card OR authenticated copy of the Foreigner National Register (RNE)'s protocol OR authenticated copy of RNE
- Signed Department of Transportation (DETRAN) declaration (original)
These documents will allow the expatriate to obtain a six-month provisional license that is available for renewal.
What side of the road do people drive on?
On the right side of the road.
Describe typical public transportation an expat might use to get around the city.
Taxis are frequently the expat's choice for transportation. There are two primary kinds of taxis you can use: yellow taxis and radio taxis.
- Yellow taxis: You don't have to go far to find a yellow taxi in Rio; they are everywhere. Yellow taxis are a bright yellow with blue stripes on the sides. They run by the meter. The initial fare is R$4.85, and the meter starts ticking as soon as you get in. After 9 p.m. and on weekends, fares are a little higher (the meter is set to bandeira 2). You do not need to give large tips. R$1 is plenty. Some yellow taxis are air-conditioned at no extra charge. It is advised that you avoid settling on a pre-paid deal with a yellow taxi. It's illegal and usually means that the driver is trying to take advantage of you.
- Radio taxis: A more sophisticated alternative are radio taxis, which are usually white, blue or red. Cars are bigger and usually air-conditioned. Call one of the companies providing this kind of service and tell them where to pick you up, where to drop you off, and at what time. Some radio taxis charge by the meter, others charge flat rates. Ask for all details first. When you call for a radio taxi, they will need from you a contact phone to call you back and confirm the ride.
Taxis are not the only option for getting around, however. There's also the local subway. Rio's subway is still relatively small, but it is very safe, comfortable and reliable. It is especially useful if you wish to go from Copacabana to Botafogo, Flamengo, Gloria and downtown. You can use the subway as a reference if you decide to explore downtown on your own. The subway does not yet reach Barra. The trains stop running at 11 p.m. and on weekends. One-way tickets are about R$3.20.
If you have a chance, stop at the Cardeal Arcoverde Station in Copacabana. The color scheme on the walls is supposed to relax you and includes a rainbow of exquisite shades of Brazilian granite. Before you make your way down the escalators, keep looking up until you discover "Batman's vent." There is one huge air vent where they actually put a giant black metal bat symbol (as in Gotham City); an example of the unique Carioca sense of humor.
Other forms of transportation include the buses, both air-conditioned and not. Locally known as frescão (fresh-caun: the fresh guys), air-conditioned buses can be hailed just like taxis. They run along the beach and connect South Side neighborhoods to each other, downtown, the airport and Barra. They do not have a fixed schedule posted on the street, though. Since they are not as frequent as regular buses, you may have to wait for a few minutes.
Beach corners and in front of lifeguard stations are the informal stops. You may ask the driver to drop you off anywhere along the way. This service is available only during the day. Standard buses now also offer an air-conditioned version that is cheaper than the frescão. You pay as you pass the turnstile and they stop at the regular bus stops.
Regular buses are Rio's most popular means of transportation, yet they are the trickiest to master. A ride on a circular line bus is R$3. There are bus lines connecting the whole city, and you do not need exact change. A professional, known as a cobrador, sits behind a turnstile to collect your money and give you change.
Most buses are not air-conditioned and during rush hours they may look more like sardine cans. Safety is an issue to consider. Sometimes pickpockets and petty thieves take advantage of crowded buses to prey upon commuters, so please be very careful.
Also available, though not officially sanctioned, are vans. While you are waiting for a bus or taxi, chances are a van will stop and offer to take you to your destination. These vans are not completely regulated, yet they are tolerated by authorities. This means if anything goes wrong, you do not have anywhere to complain. For that reason, this service cannot be recommended until it is legalized. This does not apply to licensed vans that work together with travel agencies to take you on tours, theaters and other events.
With a new driving code and heavier fines and penalties, drivers of vehicles in Rio de Janeiro are starting to act more civilized. Now, many cars regularly stop at red lights (at least during the day) and drivers and passengers wear seatbelts. Hidden cameras have also forced speedsters to slow down in roads like the Red Line (connecting to the airport) and at other problem areas.
Could an expat also use public transportation to get out of the city—to surrounding towns, recreation areas or suburbs? If so, list options.
You do not need a car to get around the South Side, but it makes sense to rent one if you choose to stay in Barra, São Conrado, or take short trips out of Rio. As parking is not very easy in Rio, consider staying in an all-suite hotel, as a parking spot is often part of the package. To secure the best rates available, rent your car online and pick it up at the international airport or in Copacabana.
In regards to transportation, are there any safety issues I should be aware of?
Just keep your eyes open and watch out for pickpockets.
Where do I buy tickets/tokens/etc. for the major public transportation?
You can buy tickets for buses and subways at their respective stations.
Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.