The international airport in Rio de Janeiro is Galeão (GIG) (or Tom Jobim). The smaller Santos Dumont (SDU) only operates some domestic flights. Getting to and from the airports in Rio is easy, there are two good ways. One is The REAL-bus and the other is taxi.
Going To and From the Airports in Rio With the REAL Premium Bus
They are blue and have AirCo; Comfortable, safe and cheap. The only potential hassle is getting to and from the bus in the city itself, if it’s too late (ie. after 8 PM because of the risk of getting robbed) the taxi option is probably better. These buses run from 5.30 AM until midnight everyday every 30 min. and cost 16 R$. It takes a long time (1 1/2 h – 2 1/2 h depending on traffic).
It goes all the way from Galeao (GIG) through the city center past the airport Santos Dumont (SDU) through Zona Sul all the way to Barra de Tijuca.
Going to the airports it’s more or less the reverse, click at REAL Premium bus to get detailed information about the route. Catching it is real easy, just stand at a bus stop (when it is differentiated it should be BRS 3) and when it passes wave frantically, if you are at any of the beach avenues just position your self close to any redlight and make yourself visible.
This sounds almost a bit too easy for being Rio… and it is. Public holidays and Sundays they shut off one direction of the traffic on the beach avenues in Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. This means that on Sundays and holidays between 7h and 18h (during Daylight Saving Summer Time until 19h) in Leblon and Ipanema to the airports the bus runs on Rua Visconde de Pirajá (this day it’s easy to confuse the REAL Premium bus to the airport with the identical one that goes to the bus station, make sure you catch the right one!), in Copacabana they run as normal. From the airports; In Copacabana the bus changes to Rua Barata Ribeiro and run as normal on the beach avenue in Ipanema and Leblon. It’s not over: Every weekday between 7h and 10h the traffic on the beach avenues only goes in one direction towards the city center, then the bus from the airports run on Rua Barata Ribeiro and Rua Prudente de Moraes, to the airports as normal on the beach avenue (the beach side). During bigger events they also redirect the traffic in the whole of Zona Sul, then it might be a good idea to get a taxi to avoid possible confusions.
Going To and From Airport in Rio With Taxis
Aside from the special taxis going from the airport taxis are quite cheap.
Going from Galeao (GIG). The best taxis to catch are with the Aerocoop or Aerotaxi companies. In order to get these you have to go outside the airport building and find one there, they are yellow and should go on the meter which means 70-90 R$ to Ipanema. Grabbing a Radiotaxi from inside the building is almost double the price (go to my Taxis in Rio page to find out more about taxis). From the Santos Dumont (SDU) airport there is also an organized line.
There are a few options to going to the airports in Rio with taxis. If you speak a bit of Portuguese, you can order a normal yellow cab from a company by phone, they will go on the meter (if they don’t, tell them to turn it on). Another option is to flag one down on the street; it’s easy to make them go on the meter. Uber also works in Rio and is growing fast in popularity, prices are about the same as for yellow cabs, but the standard of the cars are better and the drivers more reliable.