Rio de Janeiro
International flights arrive at Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport also known as Galeão International Airport. It is 20 km from the city and will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 reais (pronounced hey-ice) to take a taxi into town. Before you exit the airport, there will be several taxi booking booths to choose from. There is no train connecting it to town, and I am not aware of any wheelchair accessible airport shuttle busses. There is another smaller airport called Santos Dumont Regional Airport that is closer to town and handles flights to destinations within Brazil.
The terrain in Rio consists of many mountains next to the ocean with the various neighborhoods in the valleys between the mountains. Don’t worry though, the neighborhoods are essentially flat and you will not need to push up hills in any of the tourist areas. Areas along the beach that are flat include Copacobana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Barra da Tijuca. Centro is also flat but some streets have cobblestones. The city is very spread out so you will need transportation between the various neighborhoods. Your best option will be to use taxis to get around. There is a single tram line called the Bonde (pronounced bohN-jee)
Especial Coop Táxi
Phones: +55 (21) 2585-5577 +55 (21) 2585-5577 / (21) 3295-9606
Subway description (in Portuguese):
Map of wheelchair accessible subway stations: http://www.metrorio.com.br/tempo_cantagalo.asp
As for the music, maybe you’ll enjoy the nightclubs in Lapa, next to downtown. Lapa 40 graus (http://www.lapa40graus.com.br) and Rio Scenarium (http://www.rioscenarium.com.br/) are two wheelchair accessible nightclubs (have lifts and wheelchair accessible toilets, so it should be ok to you) and, depending on the day, have good music. But they’re very crowded on weekends and you should get there early (around 9 p.m.).
Pão de Açucar – There is a vertical wheelchair lift up to ticket window. There is also a elevator up to cable car – it was broken so they put me on a stair climber that looked like a dolly with tank treads. Platform to cable car slants a little left to right with a half-step up….a little awkward but definitely doable by yourself or with the help of 2 of the many people that will be on the cable car. Employees will take you behind buildings to avoid stairs to get to next cable car. Same slightly uneven step to get onto cable car. (Out of 4 on and 4 off, I needed help for 1 on). At top, ring door bell looking button at vertical wheelchair lift and employee will appear to turn it on to take you down 1 level for good views. 1 other vertical lift to go down 1 level but I didn’t take it. Bathrooms?
Cristo Redentodor – There are a few ways to get up the mountain. The first is a train that takes about 20 minutes. The sole review that I found online said that it is not wheelchair accessible. When I was there, they told us that it did not run on weekends. The second option is to take a van up the mountain. This is a full size van and is not impossible to transfer into without assistance but it is very high up. You can find these vans at the train station. I also saw taxis at the top of the mountain so taking a taxi might be a third option. Driving your own car and convincing them to let you through because you are in a wheelchair might be a fourth option, but the parking lot is quite small up there and the vans go very fast around those curves so I wouldn’t bet on it. Once you get to the upper train station, you will need to take a big van up to the drop-off area at the statue. These vans are also the tall type that are difficult to transfer into. You could try to convince them to allow the taxi to take you up there because of the wheelchair, but there is not a place to park up there so the taxi would have to wait at the upper train station. Once you get up to the statue drop-off area, you will need to take an elevator and then two escalators to get to the base of the statue. Riding an escalator in a manual chair is actually pretty easy and does not require much strength, but if you have never done it before practice before you go or get an employee there to assist you.
To summarize, it took two van rides, an elevator ride, and two escalator rides to get to Cristo Redentodor. And it was well worth it.
Favela Tour – Marcelo Armstrong organizes an interesting, safe tour of the favelas (poor neighborhoods). They use large vans that require you to make a very high transfer up into the van. If you need assistance, the tour guide, driver, and other tourists can help you. In addition to driving through the favelas, the tour consists of souvenir shopping in the favela (accessible but on a sloped sidewalk), touring a home in the favela (not accessible – narrow, steep stairs), tour of a school (not accessible – stairs), walk through a narrow alley (not accessible), and drink at a bar (accessible). Although parts of the tour are not accessible, the tour is still a worthwhile experience. www.favelatour.com.br
Historical Tour of Centro (downtown) – Carlos Roquette organizes 4-hour group and private walking tours of downtown Rio de Janeiro. On these tours you will encounter a little bit of level 2 and level 3 cobblestones and will see many sights that are within a ½ mile of each other. www.culturalrio.com.br
Church of São José – This rococo Church is located a couple of blocks south of Praça XV. There is a single step up at the entrance.
Imperial Palace – The former Imperial Palace is free and has some artwork. The entrance is from the Praça XV and there is a single step to get up into it.
The Old Cathedral – The Old Cathedral was the site of the coronations of Dom Pedro I and Dom Pedro II, and it contains the remains of Pedro Cabral, the discoverer of Brazil. There is a ramp on the side of the building to enter. There is a fully accessible bathroom inside.
Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil – The Banco do Brazil in downtown Rio has temporary modern art exhibitions. It is located across from the large Candelária church. There is a ramp at the entrance and an elevator to get upstairs to the exhibits.
Discoteca Help – The Help discotheque is located on Copacabana beach and is filled with beautiful women just like its website advertises. What the website doesn’t mention is that virtually every woman in there is a prostitute. There is a flight of stairs to get to the club on the second floor. There are also many prostitutes at the patio café on the sidewalk outside.
Sheraton Leblon – The Sheraton in Leblon has a private beach and is wheelchair accessible. For other wheelchair accessible hotels, check www.booking.com.
Buzios is within driving distance of Rio de Janeiro. It has some of the best beaches and scuba diving in the region. The peninsula that it is located on has some large hills that separate the hotels and the 20+ beaches. Downtown Buzios is flat but has some moderate to severe cobblestones.
Buzios is a 3.5 hr drive east of Rio. I am not aware of any wheelchair accessible van, bus, or taxi to get there.
Unless you are staying in the small Buzios downtown, you will need a car to get to the various beaches. The downtown area is flat but has level 4 cobblestones on the main street and level 3 cobblestones in other parts of town. There are large hills you will need to drive over to get to the various beaches. I am not aware of any beaches with paved paths to get over the sand, but you can ask at the hotel.
Buzios has better scuba diving spots because the water is calmer and therefore there is more sea life. You may be able to arrange for a wheelchair accessible scuba diving trip. The dive shop on the main street said they were not available.
Snorkeling could also be an option. Ask at the hotel.
Colonna Beach Othon Travel Hotel – This hotel has a few rooms on the ground floor that are accessed by porches next to the pool. There are no stairs to get into the rooms. The rooms have roll-in showers but there are no grab bars by the toilets. You can bring in one of the plastic chairs by the pool to use in the shower. There are 3 steps to get from the street up to the front desk. An easier way to get there is from the parking lot. The parking lot has a ramp that leads down the pool. From there, you can take a single step up to the front desk or a single step up to the breakfast room.
Sage experience – Although the guidebook says that Buzios has over 300 days of sunshine a year, it rained the entire 2 days we were there L
Petropólis is a beautiful, laid back, mountain town with streams running through it that seems like it’s a world away from Rio de Janeiro. The king of the Portuguese Empire built his summer palace here to escape the heat of Rio de Janeiro. The palace now serves as the Imperial Museum.
Van tours depart from Rio de Janeiro or you can rent a car and drive.
The primary sights are less than a mile from each other. Most of the city is level 1 no cobblestones. There’s lots of auto traffic through downtown, and there are accessible pedestrian crosswalks at most intersections. The streams that run through town can be crossed by pedestrian bridges that looked to be wheelchair friendly.
Imperial museum – We did not find any accessible parking however there was parallel parking spots available on the street. There is a 50 meter driveway going up a small hill to get to the palace. At the top of the driveway, there are some level 3 cobblestones on the ramp up to building entrance. There is a metal ramp slightly steeper than ADA standards to get up last 2 steps. After touring the ground floor, a museum worker will take you up a wheelchair lift to the second floor. There are about 30 m of level 3 cobblestones through the gardens to get to wheelchair designed bathroom. The bottom part of the gardens can be visited from a path near the ticket window.
São Pedro de Alcântara Cathedral – The cathedral houses the tombs of Brazil’s last emperor and is about 500 m away from the Imperial Museum. I do not know about its accessibility.
Riverside Park Hotel – The hotel is located about 3 miles outside of Petrópolis. The person working the front desk can lead you to the back of the building where there is a ramp. At least one room has a roll-in shower and grab bars by the toilet. They can bring out a ramp to get you up the 3 steps to the breakfast room.
Additional Rio de Janeiro Accessibility Resources