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Rio Branco

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Dec 15, 2021

Rio Branco is the capital and the biggest city of the state of Acre in Brazil.

Not to be confused with Río Branco (with an accent), a city in Uruguay.

In spite of its remote location, Rio Branco is a pleasant town with a good urban organization. Most modern public buldings are of interesting architecture, usually inspired by forest or native culture elements.

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Acre lives in Brazilian popular culture as “the state that doesn’t exist”, as in a conspiratory theory. Nothing could be more unfair, given this was the one state in the federation that went through an armed struggle to become part of the country.

Acre also is the greenest state of Brazil, with over 50% of its territory protected somehow. As such, important figures on the national environmentalist movement, such as Chico Mendes or Marina Silva, come from here.

Map of Rio Branco

A city bus line connects the airport to the city center. Service runs hourly from 6AM to 11PM. The bus passes in front of the airport building, but there’s no stop there. To reach the bus stop, on leaving the building turn left and follow the road. However, given said bus stop is a bit remote, at night the bus drivers are kind enough to pick you up from the airport door.

The taxis operate on a rip-off fixed price of R$ 100 to anywhere in town. The drivers themselves might help to pool people so they share the ride cost. An Uber ride to town will cost around R$ 35, but there are few drivers in Rio Branco and the service is often unavailable.

The airport building is open 24 hr and it’s not uncommon for people to overnight there waiting for the city bus service to resume.

Getting to Cuzco on the cheap

Leave Rio Branco on the 6AM service towards Assis Brasil. It calls at Brasileia at 11am and has a lunch stop at a roadside restaurant at midday (lunch dish/prato feito: R$ 15, greasy fried snacks: R$ 6). It calls at the Brazilian border post at 1:40pm, before continuing to Assis Brasil town. This leg takes 7½ hours and costs R$ 62,50.

At the border, do the necessary exit formalities (this border post is open only from 7AM to 7PM, reason why you have to take the 6AM service from Rio Branco) and wait for the Peruvian vans that come pickup passengers for onward travel. There’s roughly one every 15-30 min. This service starts at the Brazilian border, stops at Iñapari where it waits for all passengers to finish Peruvian border procedures and go all the way to Puerto Maldonado. In Iñapari, there are many money exchange business right across the road from the border post, and you should get rid of all reals you still have as the rate gets worse the further from the border you go. This leg takes 4 hr and costs 25 Peruvian soles (and in Peru you pay for transport only when you get to your destination, so it’s ok to board without soles, because you’ll have chance to exchange money in Iñapari).

(At the Brazilian border, beware of taxi drivers offering to cross you to Iñapari, this service is usually not needed because the van comes pick up passengers there. But should you wish to go from the Brazilian border to Iñapari, the going rate for the taxi ride is R$ 5 per person)

At the van arrival point, which you should reach at around 6PM, motocars (Peruvian tuk-tuks) come meet the passengers. To the bus terminal, the going rate is between 3 and 5 soles depending on your bargaining skills.

At the terminal, shop around for bus tickets, but the cheapest to date is a simple service for 25 soles, plus the 3 soles of boarding fee (to be paid separate at the counter inside the terminal).

Warning! Get pills against soroche (altitude sickness) before boarding the bus. After Quince Mil, in only 2 hr/100 km of road you’ll get from 500 m to 4.725 m of elevation, which is an extreme variation by all standards. Soroche symptoms include headache, stomach pain, vomiting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

In front of the bus terminal, some small inns sell dinner menus (soup + main + drink) for 6 soles. If you board a 7:30PM service to Cuzco, you should arrive 6PM the next morning (typical temperature at that time: +5°C), totaling 24 hr of transit.

Total: 62.50 reais + 58 soles (August 2018).

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