Posted: 12/15/2011


        If you get the chance don't fly into GIG-Rio Galeao- Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport but into SDU- Santos Dumont downtown in the heart of the business district, probably not possible for trans Atlantic connections though. News recently that TAM, the largest airline, will join forces with LAN, based in Chile and both already very successful and international. Both governments have approved, with small conditions. The new company will be called LATAM, but as with KLM and AIR FRANCE, will maintain their separate identities and logos. Since LAN is in the OneWorld airline alliance and TAM is in Star Alliance, they have to choose one over the other.

        It's the fourth busiest in the nation and has been renovated for FIFA World Cup 2014 and the Olympics of 2016.  I usually fly to Sao Paulo from here and as you take off for the trip south you have a fantastic view of Copacabana, Ipanema and the coastline, plus Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. AVIANCA, GOL, TAM, TRIP, WEBJET, AZUL and other airlines that you might not have heard of fly all over, from Porto Alegre, Florianopolis, Foz do Iguaca down south, to Recife, Salvador, Vitoria, Fortaleza, Belem up in the north-east and to Manaus, Belo Horizonte, Brazilia, Campo Grande, Curitiba, and more all over this vast country. 

       I stayed with friends near GIG and there are frequent air conditioned buses to Copacabana where most of the hotels are, but its 75 minutes on a fast run and 2 1/2 hours on Friday afternoon-I KNOW !  Less than $5.00 US compared with $25.00 plus for a taxi though. SDU is a few minutes from most places and dozens of local buses for less than $1.00.  There is a huge train station-Central, which I visited but it only has local commuter lines around the city, but serves the Stadio Olimpico, and I also looked round the vast long distance bus station Rodoviaria-Novo Rio. Different standards, from cheap to overnight - lie back and relax with food and drinks and video screens.

       Frequent luxury buses to Belo Horizonte 5 hours, Sao Paulo 6 hours, but you are looking at days rather than hours to get to other World Cup cities.  the northern resorts of Buzios and Arraial do Cabo are about 2-3 hours away. I have been there and they are tranquil and glorious. The local ferry across to Niteroi is very pleasant Cheap and slow (Barca) and fast (Catamara)-Catamaran. Also Paqueta, a  nearby car free island and more islands near and far are places for sea, sun, food and relaxation.

       In the city is a superb, cheap, air conditioned and clean Metro system with 2 lines, Line 1 Orange and Line 2 Green. They meet at Central and Botofogo and very useful for Maracana- three stops,  and there are four stations in the Copacabana area. Unfortunately plans to take you to GIG International Airport will not be ready soon. You can get an Intergracao(connection) mini bus to nearby areas included in a ticket option. On some Metro trains, particularly at rush hour, the last carriage has a pink sticker-women only.

       At the entrance to each station are huge maps with local streets and places of interest. So, in Rio de Janeiro you can get around and about with ease. No need for tour buses in my opinion.  Copacabana is 4km long with a six lane highway, Avenida Atlantica, a central strip about 20 metres wide, then a narrow two lane jogging, cycling and skate boarding track and then 20 metres of the iconic, zig zag, swirling Portuguese mosaic black and white promenade. Then we have about 100 metres of white sand with futebol goals, futevolley and volleyball nets and lots of hawkers. Take a roll of matting to lie on since tiny fleas are common, as the tide does not wash it. and KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR BELONGIINGS !

      Every few metres there are little cafes with chairs and snacks, drinks-hot and cold- alcoholic and fizzy drinks and juices. My favourite is the coco frio. Whole green coconuts that are chilled. Then they lop the top off with a machete and you drink the cool milk through a straw. Hand the coconut back and they will chop it into pieces  so you can eat the 'meat'. About $1.50 at most.

      Also many clean below ground toilets, free cold mist sprays and showers at ground level, work out metal bars and stations, and racks to pick up and deposit bicycles. In the tropics the sun goes down about 6.00pm and the air cools and the beach fills up with ball players.