Buses are the easiest and least expensive way to get around Rio. Keep in mind that they are harder to find at night as many of the bus routes shut down. The fares as of December 2015 are R$3.40 and must be paid in cash to the driver. Pickpockets in Rio aren't as big a problem as in other big cities, however of course always be aware of people around you and your pockets/bags, they are known to ride the bus looking for easy marks. You need to board the bus through the front door and leave the bus by the back door. Keep in mind the bus will only stop if you wave them down. Even if you are standing at a bus stop you must indicate that you want the bus to stop otherwise there is no chance they'll stop for you. One other important thing, when getting on and off the bus, and if standing - HOLD ON TIGHT! The bus drivers seem to think they're race car drivers and fly round the streets at speed... when not in traffic!
The buses numbered 583 and 584 are most common for visitors to ride. These routes run from Copacabana and Ipanema to the Corcovado train station. Another popular route is 464 and 435 that run from Maracana to Copacabana. Buses 512 & 511 take visitors to the cable cars that run up Sugar Loaf Mountain. To reach Lapa from south zone by bus you can get 409 (Jardim Botânico – Tijuca), 433 (Leblon – Vila Isabel) and a few others. You can get information of routes at Rio Ônibus Website, the governmental company that administrate the buses in Rio, for example here they show you how to get to various tourists points.
In preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games the city of Rio started to implement the BRS (Bus Rapid Service) in the South Zone of Rio. The exclusive line for buses started in Copacabana and now is in operation in Leblon and Ipanema as well. The buses now do have a station where they stop, not like before when they stop wherever a passenger were. Don’t worry, you will be able to find out which station is closest to either your local of departure or final destination on the Rio Ônibus site mentioned above or at the bus stops, or you can ask where you're staying.
When taking public buses, always be alert of your things. Don't carry large amounts of cash - but that's the same in all of Rio. The buses usually run 15 minutes apart on busy routes and up to an hour apart at night or in suburban areas although there are no guarantees. Find out about the timings of the bus and the route you need to catch before your trip. Most buses are fine to get but we highly advise NOT to get a bus back from party destination Lapa at night time.
Rio de Janeiro has a very efficient subway system called Metro Rio, with stations connecting virtually every part of the city. It's easy enough to find your way, as it really only goes in two directions.
As of December 2015, the price of a journey is 3.70R (usable again within 2 hours), or if using the official Metro bus beofre or after your metro journey, you can get the great value ticket of Subway + MetrôRio bus service (Metrô na Superfície), which is also 3.70R, bargain if you ask us! For full tarrifs, have a look on the official Metro Rio price list here
For full information on how to get anywhere in Rio by metro, please check the Metro Rio site. It now even has a handy route planner to get you started.
The metro is safe to use and works from Mondays to Saturdays, 5 am to midnight, and on Sundays and holidays, from 7 am to 11 pm. just be aware of your surroundings as always.
The new metro line is being built (hopefully) in time for the Olympics, all sign are positive that it will be ready to go in time. This new line will take you from Zona Sul (Ipanema, Copacabana etc) all the way through to the start of Barra. (Where lots of the Olympic games events will be held).
At a cost of over US $4 billion dollars, a huge project to extend the metro from Zona Sul (South Zone), into Barra de Tijuca - where most of the Olympic games will occur - has been underway since 2010, to be ready in time for the games. A route that regularly has huge amounts of traffic, it is hoped the metro will ease the burden on the cities roads.
Taxi's are relatively cheap in Rio. Way cheaper than many other big cities. For a 6km journey you'll pay around 15-20R. It makes it easy to quickly get around Rio - unless it's rush hour! If you're in a group of 3 or 4, it's often cheaper to get a taxi than all pay for the bus if you're not going too far. One thing to remember about taxis in Rio is, 99% of the time, you can't pay by card and they don't always have much change, if this is a problem, use Uber!
To get a guide to the price of any journey in Rio, check out this excellent site, it's called Tarifa do Táxi - Price of taxis in Rio de Janeiro Just put in your start and finish destination and it'll give you the rough price you should be paying.
Taxis are yellow and can be hailed down as you normally would. Most taxi drivers don't speak any English, but either say or show them where you're going and you'll be on your way.
Rio now has the popular driver service Uber! Download the app on your phone and get started. A big bonus is that it's all paid for by card so no fiddling about with change or worrying about carrying too much cash. From our experience it's very reliable and the drivers are smartly dress, polite and drive well. It's not much more than a regular taxi, and definitely way cheaper than in the US or England.