Things I get myself into: Wrong Airport Rio De Janeiro

During the world cup in order to get to the main beach of Copacabana I would hop on the BRT from the main international airport of Rio to the station “Cavalo” and from here I would connect to the metro and proceed to take 20 stops to Ipanema beach.

This was a tried and tested way to get back and forth between the beach and airport. I did it many countless times while in Rio so obviously this time around it should work. No? I could spend a few extra minutes meeting up with Anahi, a friend I had met online and wanted to meet in person for a few minutes while still make having enough time to make it to my flight on time. Or so I thought…

I had to head over to the airport for a flight the left Rio at 6:19 pm so this time around I decided that it would be smart to leave at least 3 hours before hand. I was learning and getting better about traveling.

But first I wanted to meet Anahi. I had met her online in Facebook a few months back. I first noticed her when she posted a question on the Mexicanos in Buenos Aires Facebook page. She was in Buenos Aires, traveling and wanted to know the best way to get to the airport from downtown. To tell you the truth I really did not know the best way to accomplish this at the time, but she was very cute I was not going to pass up the opportunity to say hi to her.

I responded to her post and asked her if she still needed help through private message and after a few hours she responded back that she had figured it out and was successfully at the airport. We proceeded to get to know each other and converse about each others travels. This continued for a throughout the month and the friendship grew. We would exchange a few messages and pleasantries nothing crazy just small talk. Throughout these conversations, I found out she lived in Rio de Janeiro and was planning on being there until December which was when her visa expired. So naturally this time around that I was in the area visit, I wanted to really meet up with this Anahi in person and meet her.

The whole weekend while in Rio we could not agree on time and place to meet. I was either out with Ashley, my friend from Chicago who I was visiting, or she was at work. So by the time it was 3 pm on Sunday and I had to leave to go back to Buenos Aires I was a bit bummed. I decided to message her one more time and see if she would respond. Around 3:15 she responded and asked if I was still around, luckily I was actually staying pretty close to where she lived. Since she was close to the metro, I decided that I could spare a few minutes before leaving and we agreed to meet up outside the metro station.

Five minutes she finally made it to the metro station and we finally got to meet in person. We had a really good short conversation, talking about her work, her travels, how long she planned on staying in Rio and her next moves. She had just quit her job in Mexico moved to Vancouver Canada for 6 months and then flew to Rio to live there for 3 months. Her plans were to stay in Rio de Janeiro until December then go back to Canada to work and save up some money to make her next move which was going to be Australia.

We spent about 10 minutes talking and as much as I really enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her I really needed to make my way to the airport. Onc more I was getting delayed because of a girl and could not miss this flight. I told her I had to go, gave her a kiss on the cheek and we said our goodbyes.

And so begins my adventure to get to the airport.

3:30 now and still plenty of time to make it to the airport. I get my metro ticket, jump on the train after a few minutes waiting and happily make my way towards the Cavallo station to make my transfer to the BRT. The Rio train system has two main lines. Line 1 the orange line and line 2 the green line. I would have to take the Orange line to the station Central and then transfer in the direction of Parevuan or something like that for another 10 stations.

Once at station “Central” I get out of the orange line and find a seat to wait for the transfer and wait I did.

Two trains came by both still on the orange line and I did not see a green line in sight. I started to get very nervous and wondering if I had somehow messed up where I needed to get out. I went upstairs to the main landing, looked around and saw that I was needed in the right station and then went back down to wait for the train again. After a few minutes of analyzing the system I realized that they actually had a little screen on the side where you could see the upcoming trains and which stations they were in. I could see that the next train coming was also an orange line train and it was about 4-5 stations away. After it got to be 2 stations away I still did not see a green line station on the screen and decided that I need to take action.

I was now 4:40 and I was still very far from the airport. Another thing I forgot to mention was that all I had with me was 15 Reals in cash that should have been plenty of money if all I did was take the trains.

After running through the options in my head for a few seconds, I took action. I decided that it was going to take too long to get to the airport if I waited for the green line train. I knew I was about a 5-10 minute taxi drive from the main bus terminal, where I had known the airport transfer to pass. If I could make it there with my 15 Reals, I would somehow have to get on that bus transfer and make my way to the airport.

I exited the “Central’ station and immediately found myself in the middle of Rio in a totally foreign area that I never been to in my life with only 15 reals and one and a half hours to get to the airport.

My mind was on problem-solving mode. I was running the options and scenarios in my head. The metro station “Central” was also a main micro bus station so when I excited I saw 20-30 city buses outside. All of which went to different destinations in the city. I knew for a fact that one of them could be heading in the direction of the airport. Could I get lucky and find a bus line that would go there and I could make it on time? This quickly turned to option number one. I went up to a driver that was sitting on the side to ask him which line went to the Airport.

He did not know the number but asked his coworker behind him. After a few words, he tells me, go towards the front of the station and there should be a bus that says “Airport” in the front.

I thought to myself, “Ok this does not help but maybe ill get lucky”. I headed in the direction of the front of the terminal with hundreds of people looking for their own bus to take them somewhere in this massive city of Rio de Janeiro. I quickly glanced around making sure to not seem desperate and stick out, all while looking for a bus that said “Airport”. I knew that I had very little time to get to the airport and did not have much time to wait to ask around or wait to see if this “Airport” bus would even show up. As I continued to talk all while glancing around and looking for my bus, my mind switched to plan C and I immediately knew that this was not going to be my best option.

I walked to the corner intersection and headed in the direction of the main street hoping to quickly find a taxi to head once more to Rodoviaria Novo Rio (the main bus terminal where I had seen the airport transfer). To my luck, a taxi pulled up that was free 2 lanes into the intersection. I flagged him down and asked if I could jump on, especially since he was in the middle of the street. He said yes and I jumped on not waiting a second and telling him I needed to go to Novo Rio. The light turned green and he made his way there. I knew, from looking at my map, that the Novo Rio station was not far from where I was and I might be able to make it there with only the 15 Reals I had on my pocket, but just in case I asked the driver “how much to Novo Rio?” He said 15-20 reals.

Shit! I thought to myself.

I tell the driver,

“I only have 15 Reals”

He signals the taxi meter and seems to say “I cant really tell you, the meter cost is what it will be”, but at the same time he kind of nods his head and kind of hints as to say “maybe it will be around 15, we’ll see”

At this point all I do is  sit back and relax and wait till we get to Novo Rio, there is not much I can do but wait to see how much it cost me, what time it is when I finally get there and then plan my next move. So I sit back and enjoy the next few minutes of the ride taking in the scenery.

When we arrive a Rodoviaria Novo Rio, the meter says 13 Reals. For which I let out a small sigh. I had made it to the next point with enough money and 2 reals in change, but that was it. Only 2 reals left and still half a city to go till I get to the airport.

It was now 4:40 and I could not find the transfer point for the Airport transfer. I quickly run through my options and decide that it’s probably best if I get a taxi straight to the airport but one that takes credit card since I was all out of cash, I ask one in the station, he says no, I ask another, he also says no.

My mind thinks and thinks and gets me to go inside the main bus terminal. I had been here before one year ago for the world cup, and two years ago for carnival. I had a sense of calm as I entered because this place was familiar yet I knew I had to hurry and figure something out. As I made myself through the station not knowing exactly what I was going to do I see an ATM.


I had my debit card. I could take out money and jump on a cab and go to the Airport!

Or so I thought.

I quickly remembered that in Brazil I had the hardest time finding an ATM machine that would actually accept my card. This is strange because I have Chase. One of the biggest banks in the US and it’s a Visa card. I tried one ATM, fail. I try another ATM fail again. I did not get discouraged, I had been in this situation before. I just needed to keep trying. After a few more failed attempts I leave those ATMs and get further into this huge bus station.

I arrived towards the end of the station and follow some stairs to the ground floor. As I walked down the stairs, my mind is just thinking

“Ok 4:45, If I miss the flight, maybe they will give me another flight. I don’t have to work tomorrow. Maybe I can stay in Rio, meet up with Anahi, get to know her better and head home tomorrow? Those are not bad options right?”

As I land on the main ground floor and turn the corner I get bombarded by two girls in some booths, yelling out “Taxi”, “Taxi”! My mind jumps back to reality and immediately thinks of the next plan. I ask them “Acceita Cartao”, which stands for do you take credit card in Portuguese. The one girl says “Yes”.

I think to myself “fuck it, I need this ride”.

I hand over my credit card, get charged 85 reals and proceed to meet up with this old brazilian guy who will be my taxi driver to the airport.

He asks to follow him to the cab, so I do and as we walk out to his car, we pass the main bus transfer station that goes to the Airport. I could not help but laugh inside myself thinking “Oh here it is”.

We get in his car and start to leave the station as the Airport transfer pulls up with a big sign in front “Airport 14.5 Reals” Again I laugh internally and think to myself “Well that would been nice I could have saved so much money”, but since I was already in the cab I just relax and decide to again enjoy the scenery as we make our way to the airport.

The ride to the airport was another 10-15 minutes and once we get there it is now about 5:10-515, plenty of time to get through security and get to my gate. I take a quick look around find the Gol area and proceed to get my ticket. After about a minute, the lady calls me up and ask for my information and I give her my passport. While she was doing this, I remember clearly thinking “Franny, you did it again, you crazy kid” and I had this sense of pride that I had made it to the airport and might have seemed like I had a big smile on my face. This was a short-lived feeling…

The attendant, ask me where are you going for which I respond “Buenos Aires”. She looks confused, looks at her screen again and says are you sure? I  say, “Yes”, she says I don’t see a flight for Buenos Aires from here.

I say to myself, “what a fuck” and so I turn on my phone so that I can look at the exact flight information to show her. I lifed up the phone saw that it was the right date and time and proceed to show her proof that I was ineed flying to Buenos Aires.

She takes one look at my phone, looks up and tells me, “You are in the wrong airport, you are supposed to be at, Santos Dumont”.

Santos Dumont is the other airport in Rio, It is located half way back the direction I came from and maybe about 5-minute drive from Novo Rio.

It must have been karma for my small grin of “You did it again franny” that this happened. Again I had to jump to problem solve mode. It was about 5:15 maybe 5:20. I had about 40 minutes to get back the other way and make it to the other airport. I run to the outside and ask the taxi drivers again. “Acceita Cartao” He says no. I tell him that I’m in the wrong airport and all I have is cartao. He thinks for a second, yells out to a taxi driver a few hundred meters behind and ask if he accepts Cartao. This taxi driver was hanging out having a good laugh with his friend, think about it for a second then responds that he does take cards.

I run to him, tell him I need to get to Santos Dumont and we get on our way to the correct airport.

I had taken this same route two nights before on the airport transfer I mentioned earlier. It took about an hour to get there with traffic, so I was hoping we could get there before it was too late.

Once again I was on a cab, powerless on what to do so all I could do again was just sit, and wait.

I watched the clock and location we were at in the cab, after each minute that passed I went back and forth between thinking “hey ill make it” to “hrm… it might be close”. I would run through my head how many minutes I would need to get my boarding pass, pass through security and get to the gate. I calculated that I would need to get to the airport at about 5:45 the latest which seemed like a very close call.

5:47 and Im at the front entrance to the Airport. I pay the guy with my credit card, say “obrigado” and run to the attendant to get my ticket.

This time, I was sure I was at the right airport but then the next problem. She tells me my carry on is “too heavy”. I was like what the fuck?

I came with this same backpack on the way here and did not have an issue, but she insist that I can not carry it on I have to check it.

I really wanted to argue and fight it, but at this point I was just defeated and did not really care. As long as the bag made it to Buenos Aires I did not mind checking in the bag. My only issue was that I did not trust the laptop being in the backpack by itself and did not want it stolen.

I take the laptop out, check the bag in and run to my gate, laptop in tow, making it to the gate with about 5 minutes to spare.

One thought on “Things I get myself into: Wrong Airport Rio De Janeiro

  1. Something similar happened to Martin and I in Chicago the first time that Volaris decided to start offering flight in BOTH airports…we actually lost our flight and were frustrated, but we learn never to fully trust the time or airport Volaris says, we always double check with them. ALWAYS!

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