Although the subway, or MetroRio as it is called there, is relatively new (it was opened in 1979) you should definitely utilize it to get around the city. The two lines service 35 stations and will zip you around the sprawling city in a flash for only a couple dollars.
When does the MetroRio Subway Run?
The subway runs from 5 AM to midnight Monday through Saturday and 7 AM to 11 PM on Sundays and during holidays. MetroRio is best used when traveling in areas from Copacabana through Downtown Rio.
By the way, during Rio Carnival, the subway is open and running 24 hours a day.
Is the Rio Subway safe?
YES! MetroRio is actually one of the safest subway systems in the world.
Safety was one of my biggest concerns when traveling Rio and I was skeptical of the subway at first. But, I can tell you that it honestly was one of the safest subway rides (and experiences) I've had - and I've ridden a lot of subways around the world. In Rio, it is actually considered the safest way to travel and underground you'll find very clean and air-conditioned stations with clean spacious subway cars ready to efficiently zip you underground. The stations had clear signage everywhere and the corridors and platforms were remarkably well lit. You can expect it to be crowded during rush hours - similar to any other big city.
Protip: If you are a women traveling in Rio and want to be extra safe the last train is marked in with a pink window sticker which denotes it as a women-only car during rush hour times. No men are allowed inside. Many locals (women included) actually think this precaution is completely unnecessary as they have been using Rio's subway hassle-free for everyday travel since the lines opened.
Should you get a MetroRio card?
If you are planning to ride the subway more than once, or you have multiple people in your group, your best bet is getting a MetroRio card. These rechargeable IC cards can be loaded up with money and used at every entrance. If you have used Oyster cards in London they are a similar system.
There are machines in every station that dispense the cards and thankfully, they have an English option. The cards themselves do not cost money to buy but the minimum amount you can load onto the card is $5. The machines only take Brazilian reals so make sure you carry some cash on you. Also, the machines do not give change.
Finding your way through the subway
MetroRio has detailed maps all throughout the subway stations to help you navigate the system. In 2006, all the signs were updated to include English alongside the Portuguese. Be aware that the speaker system on the platforms and in the train are sometimes hard to hear and not in English. Looking for written signs as you travel is your best bet.
We used a combination of Google maps and signage underground to help us find our way around.
Best MetroRio lines for tourists
Line 1 (orange) is by far the most popular subway line in Rio for tourists. It has access to the main tourist attractions around the city.
Line 2 (green) will connect you as well to many sights. Mostly you will you use it to visit the Maracana stadium.
Line 4 (yellow) is best if you are staying in Ipanema.
Be careful, many of the lines share a station and stop on the same platform. Keep an eye out for color-coordinated signs to be sure you are boarding the right train.
So, should you use MetroRio in Rio De Janeiro?
Obviously, I think the answer is yes. The rides are cheap, the stations are easy to navigate, and it's a great way to get around the huge city.
Final Thoughts about Rio
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Brazil along with you. Here are some of the best travel guides I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).