When you are arriving in Rio after a long flight, the last thing you want to deal with are touts at the airport trying to get you to take a very expensive cab ride in one of their ‘special’ cabs. In fact, there is nothing any more special about these ‘air conditioned’ white cabs than the regular yellow ones in the taxi queue line, except the price.
In fact, these special cabs that they try to herd you in are about double the cost, upwards of $R100 at times. Honestly, the price you will be quoted by one of these scoundrels depends on how stupid he thinks you look.
It is not just the white cab scams you have to be aware of either. The touts will direct you to some of their yellow cab partners sometimes too that try to get you to pay a set price. The price of course is about double what a normal metered ride to your destination would cost.
I have only had this happen to me once in about 40 trips. I got into what I thought was a metered yellow taxi only to have them try that one price nonsense on me. It was double of course, so I got out at the curb and had them remove my luggage from the trunk. They proceeded to call me a cheap skate and started laughing. I had some choice words for them too in Portuguese of course. Make no mistake about it, there are people in Brazil that will try to take advantage of you if they think they can get away with it.
So what are the best options to get to and from the airport in Rio de Janeiro?
Taxi from the International Airport in Rio (GIG)
Pretty obvious right? Well taking a taxi in a developing country is much more complicated that taking one from JFK in New York City. Here is what you need to know.
First, if you are like me, you are probably tired after a long night on an airplane and just want to get to the place you are staying as fast as possible. Therefore, I tend to take taxis from the airport most of the time but that has a lot to do with other factors as well.
However, you have to get in the taxi line and ignore all of the noise that is coming at you as you leave customs with your bags. Just walk right past them and don’t even acknowledge them or they will keep talking to you.
Once outside in the taxi line, you normally only have to wait a few minutes and I’ve never had a problem with the driver that I ended up with in this situation. Just make sure he is using the meter when you get in and don’t fall for any of the “one price” nonsense if they offer. Always go with the meter. A typical ride to Copacabana Beach or Ipanema is typically less than $R60.
Scheduled Van Pickup at Airport in Rio (GIG)
Another option is to take one of the vans that pick people up at the airport at a specified time and deliver you to your hotel or apartment.There are several of things types of services but the one I have used in the past is called Rio Shuttle.
However, you have to prearrange this, but you can do it on their website the night before you leave for your trip. You tell them the time you will be waiting at the designated area and they will send you a confirmation email if there is space in the van.
The earlier you make the reservation the better because all of the international flights get in around the same time in the morning so the seats will be gone fast.
The cost is only $R20, however, the main disadvantage to this method is that you never really know when you will be able to get your bags and get through customs. Sometimes you breeze right through and other times it can take more than an hour.
So then you have to hope that the van waits for you, else you will be taking a taxi anyway. It can work though if you are traveling lite, but my issue is that I usually have maximum baggage with me which include 2 checked bags a carry-on and a large backpack, so I never utilize this method.
Coach Liner Buses from the Airport
The last option is one of the coach liner type buses that seats around 50 people. It costs $R13 and is very comfortable, but it takes a very indirect route to the main beach areas, plus it stops by the domestic airport (Santos Dumont) on the way, so it typically takes 1 ½ hours at least to get to the Copacabana area.
The other issue for me with this method is once again, the baggage. The bus will stop along Atlantica Avenue and let you out wherever you want, however, if you have a bunch of luggage, it’s not possible to push, pull or carry all of it to your apartment or hotel by yourself. So unless you are staying at one of the hotels along Atlantica, this will not work for you with a lot of luggage.
Amazon Price: $49.99 $27.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 3, 2015)
Obviously there is one other option: have someone local pick you up in their car. However, the chances of you as a tourist knowing someone that lives in Rio, much less owning a car, is slim to none. I only know one female that has a car and she is not about to drive 45 minutes to the airport and wait to pick me up.
I have used two of the three options for pickup arrival from the International airport in Rio. Again, the reason why I have not scheduled an appointment for the van to pick me up is because of the luggage issue. I bring boatloads of stuff from the USA.
However, I have used it many times to go to the airport when I am leaving for the United States so do not shy away from that option. Taxis are very expensive in Rio and all of Brazil and some of the drivers are not what I would call safe drivers.