I love Brazil and I am very familiar with Rio de Janeiro in particular because I actually own an apartment on Copacabana beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world. If you ever get a chance to vacation in Rio de Janeiro, one of the things that I highly recommend you do is to take a bike ride around the city. It is one of the most bike friendly places I have ever been to in the world.
There are paths specifically designated for cycling all along Ipanema, Lagoa, Copacabana, Flamengo and Botafogo. You can literally ride from the beaches in Copa all the way to centro (downtown Rio) if you want, and I have done so many times.
You will pass some of the most breathtaking views along the way such as Guanabara Bay, the picturesque bay beneath Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar) that you see in all of the photos of Rio.
So where and how do you rent a bike in a city like Rio de Janeiro?
Well, there are several options all with pros and cons, some more expensive than others.
Rent a Bike in Rio de Janeiro
Option 1: Itau Bikeshare
The most economical way would be to "borrow" one of the bikes the city provides around the city at a minimal cost. These orange bikes are very recognizable and are sponsored by the Brasilian bank Itau.
These bicycles are free for the first hour, and can be rented by the day for R$5, or the month for R$10. However, they require that you have a cell phone and the ability to send an electronic payment, then the system unlocks one for you.
So if you are a tourist, you are probably thinking how am I going to do all of that if I do not have a cell phone in Brazil nor a Brazilian bank account or credit card.
Well, yes you are correct, if you are a tourist, this is probably going to be an issue since you will not be able to initiate payment via your bank account in the US even if you have a global world phone with a cell phone plan that works in other countries.
In fact, the only option you have here really is if you are with a local and they can initiate the transfer themselves. So if you have this option, take it because the rentals from these stations are very cheap, as little as $R10 for the entire month.
You can only keep them out 1 hour at a time though, but if you wait 15 minutes, then you can ‘liberate’ another one with another call or via the mobile app. So this is definitely the most economical way but obviously has its limitations for tourists. However if you are a tourist and are lucky enough to be "touring" Rio for months, look into this option. Make some new friends.
For tourists with a short amount of time in the country, the more realistic option will be to rent a bicycle from a local vendor or bicycle shop. On Sundays, there are several vendor locations in the middle of Aveneida Atlantica in Copacabana. It’s usually $R10 per hour, however sometimes they give you the ‘gringo discount’ and charge you R$15.
If you rent one from one of these vendors for 2 hours, you can get it for $R20. Just state that up front so there are no issues when you turn it back in.
The limitation to that option is that they are typically only out on the streets renting on Sundays, or the occasional holiday. So once again, you will run into an issue with this option.
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How Can Tourists Rent Bikes in Rio?
Option 2: Bike Rental Vendors
So if you are a tourist, where do you rent a bike during the work week in Rio?
There are several bike shops in the area that rent bikes every day for around $R10 an hour. And these bikes tend to be in much better shape than the vendors on the streets, because they perform maintenance on them much more often, so I recommend this option.
There is a bicycle shop near the Sofitel Hotel as you head toward Apaodor on Rua Franciso Otaviano called Ciclovia Zona Sul near the Mega Matte shown below. I recommend this shop because not only have I rented bikes from them, I also purchased one from that shop several years ago.
So take advantage of this option and get out and see the city on two wheels. It is one of my favorite things to do in Rio.
Biking in Rio de Janeiro is a great way to see many parts of the touristy areas of the city. It is one of the most relaxing things to do, and I personally do it often when I am in the country, usually every day.
Some of the most scenic rides are down the beach of Copacabana, Ipanema and around the lake in Lagoa.
Whatever you do, do not miss the opportunity to bike around Lagoa. I cannot stress that enough. As you take that ride, at some point, stop, take a rest, drink some water, and look around at the beautiful lake, the mountains in the background and the statute of Cristo up on the mountain and say to yourself, I cannot believe I am in Rio de Janeiro.
However, there will be challenges to renting a bike if your time in the country is short. But if you take my advice, there will be rental options every day so you can ride as much as you want, not just when the street vendors are present.
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