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Arriving & Departing
Arriving from São Paulo (429 km/266 mi on BR 116) or Brasília (1,150 km/714 mi on BR 040), you enter Rio via Avenida Brasil, which runs into Centro's beachside drive, the Avenida Infante Dom Henrique. This runs along Rio's Baía de Guanabara and passes through the Copacabana Tunnel to Copacabana Beach. The beachside Avenida Atlântica continues into Ipanema and Leblon along Avenidas Antônio Carlos Jobim (Ipanema) and Delfim Moreira (Leblon). From Galeão take the Airport Expressway (known as the Linha Vermelha, or Red Line) to the beach area. This expressway takes you through two tunnels and into Lagoa. Exit on Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, the winding street encircling the lagoon. To reach Copacabana, exit at Avenida Henrique Dodsworth (known as the Corte do Cantagalo). For Ipanema and Leblon there are several exits, beginning with Rua Maria Quitéria.
The carioca style of driving is passionate to the point of abandon: traffic jams are common, the streets aren't well marked, and red lights are often more decorative than functional. Although there are parking areas along the beachfront boulevards, finding a spot can still be a problem. If you do choose to drive, exercise extreme caution, wear seat belts at all times, and keep the doors locked.
There's a gas station on every main street in Rio: for example, on Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana, around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, and at Avenida Vieira Souto in Ipanema. International companies, such as Shell and Esso, are represented. The gas stations run by Brazilian oil company Petrobras are called BR. Ipiranga is another local option. Half the gas stations are open from 6 am until 10 pm, and half are open 24 hours and have convenience stores. Gas stations don't have emergency service, so ask when you rent whether your car-rental insurance includes it.
Car rentals can be arranged through hotels or agencies and at this writing cost about R$110-R$250 a day for standard models. Major agencies include Avis, Hertz, and Unidas. Localiza is a local agency. Hertz and Unidas have desks at the international and domestic airports.
Turismo Clássico Travel, one of the country's most reliable travel and transport agencies, can arrange for a driver to get you around within the city, with or without an English-speaking guide (US$30 per hour). Classico's owners, Liliana and Vera, speak English, and each has 20 years of experience in organizing transportation. They also lead sightseeing tours.
Hertz (Av. Princesa Isabel 500, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, 22011-010. 21/2275-7440 or 0800/701-7300. Aeroporto Internacional Antônio Carlos Jobim, Av. 20 de Janeiro s/n, Ilha do Governador, 21941-570. 0800-701-7300. www.hertz.com.br. Aeroporto Santos Dumont, Centro, :20021-340. 21/3814-7337. www.hertz.com.)
Unidas (21/4001-2222 for main reservations line. www.unidas.com.br/. Aeroporto Santos Dumon, Av. Senador Salgado Filho s/n, Centro, Rio de Janeiro, 20021-340. 21/2240-9181. Av. Princesa Isabel 166, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, 22011-010. 0800-121 121. Aeroporto Internacional do Galeão, Av. 20 de janeiro s/n, Ilha do Governador, Rio de Janeiro, 21941-570. 21/3398-2286.)
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