The Rio Olympics has suffered A LOT of bad press this year.
With all the bad news being reported, it's hard not to imagine Rio as basically Mad Max, but on the beach.
So, we decided to try a little experiment.
We wanted to see if taxis in Rio de Janeiro were taking advantage of the fact that their city is currently completely overrun with clueless gringos. Alexandre Aragão, a reporter for BuzzFeed Brazil and Carioca (someone born in Rio), and I, one of the aforementioned clueless gringos, decided to see how bad the fare differences would be if we each cabbed it across the city.
The Olympic zones in Rio are spread out all across the city, and traveling between them can be a real pain. There's massive traffic occurring on most major roadways, and while the city has tried to manage things by adding a bus lane, taking a cab is pretty much just as fast.
Round #1: We headed from Barra de Tijuca in the southwest toward Praça Mauá, which is on the city's eastern coast.
Traffic getting out of Barra was seriously a nightmare.
And the fare wasn't looking good for me as we left Barra, heading toward the city center.
Things got even crazier as we hit the beach.
Alexandre's cab driver was a lot different than mine.
Another fun driving-through-Rio fact: It's full of tunnels that go under the mountains that cut the city up. But those are also full of traffic.
As we both hit our last tunnel, though, things were looking like I might actually get the better fare. #GodBlessAmerica
My theory was that the cab driver could tell Alexandre now lives in São Paulo so decided to take him the long way to punish him for abandoning his city. (São Paulo and Rio have a real Boston–New York rivalry.)
But there was an unexpected development as we hit the port area! My guy got stuck in traffic so decided to honk his horn at a street vendor and buy snacks from the window of his car. He offered me one! I don't know what it was, but I ate it and it was delicious.
Worryingly, though, Alexandre couldn't figure out what it was that I ate, so that's something...
And then I got to my destination. The whole thing cost R$100, which is about $30. Not bad! What about Alexandre? Did I get totally fleeced? Turns out, I beat him by R$2!
Ok, so in order to get a really good idea of just how vulnerable Olympic tourists are, we decided to try one more trip, this time heading from Praça Mauá to the Copacabana Palace.
Round #2: I was feeling pretty good about my cab until I found out that Alexandre's had Wi-Fi. Although, my driver was super nice and wanted to know if I was enjoying Rio.
And the routes our cabs took were pretty much the same for a while.
Then things got a little nuts when we hit the highway. Alexandre thought my cab driver was either a) inexperienced or b) trying to rip me off. Could this be the dreaded taxi scam that tourists heading to Brazil hear so much about???
I got to Copacabana with a total fare of R$38. I was worried. It was a pretty quick ride. And it turns out it was higher than Alexandre's...by R$1! His was R$37. So, a 20-minute cab ride ended up costing each us both around $10.
VERDICT: Getting a cab in Rio is pretty much like getting a cab in any other city.
The Olympics this year have had some pretty bad press.
With the zika virus, the water toxicity, the traffic jams, the kidnappings, the living conditions for athletes, the algae in the pool, things sound pretty bad.
But as the games have gone on, it's becoming pretty clear that, yes, Rio can be a dangerous place, but it's also for the most part like any other massive city.
Also, every Carioca I've spoken to is mainly just proud to have so many people from all over the world checking out their gorgeous home.