There are no car rental companies on the island, but several in Recife, at the airport, and also one that will deliver cars to the island or meet you anywhere else. Always book one with A/C – you never know when you will be stuck in traffic or caught in rain when open windows will not suffice. It is possible to stay on the island without a car, but you will get so much more from your experience if you do have one.
There are licensed taxis easily available at the airport, and they all charge a set fee to the island (ask the girl with a clipboard marked ‘Taxi’ in the arrivals hall, if in doubt). They are all white with the city logo (eg Recife or Olinda) on the door to say where they are usually based, and taxis in the city have meters. Although there are some licensed taxis on the island, there are many others that are not – negotiate the price first… The island ‘taxi rank’ is located next to the roundabout. It is also possible to organise private airport transfers with your accommodation.
Trains are pretty much non-existent in this part of NE Brazil, however there are many and frequent bus services between the island, the mainland and Recife. The yellow ‘Itamaracá’ bus company is the best and runs between the Fort, the town of Pilar and Itapissuma/Igarassu on the mainland. In Igarassu change to a different bus at the terminal to go to Recife, but this is not a good option for the airport – use a taxi.
Island Transport – Kombis and Tourist Trains
A Kombi is a (usually) white VW minibus that stops and picks up or delivers passengers along a set route. They can be busy and have no A/C. but they are cheap and dry in the rain. Wave your hand to flag one down, and knock on the roof when you want to get out! As they approach you they will often point repeatedly to the left or right, indicating which direction they will take when they reach the island’s only roundabout – left or right (depending on whether you want to go off the island or not).
The two tourist’s trains (actually little buses but look like trains) operate the same, but only between the Fort and Pilar/Jaguaribe, so do not go off the island. Same price, but are open air (ie free AC), and have a bell cord for when you want to get off – and they do afford a great view.
Buggies, Motorbikes and Bicycles
There are no formal hire companies available on the island, although it may be possible to arrange to hire one of these from a local. These should not be used off the island, as there may be safety and legal issues – it is much more preferable to hire a car.