As one of the most-visited sites in Rio, it should be reasonably straightforward. However, you can avoid a lot of confusion and a lot of standing in line by knowing a couple of key things about visiting Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain in Rio.
First of all, I know you are going to see the statue, not the mountain, but most tours, transport, and shuttles will list Corcovado, so if you see that, that is where you want to go. Second of all, make sure you keep an eye on the weather. There is no point in visiting the statue on a cloudy day, and the weather in Rio can be quite volatile. The transport companies will not inform you (until you are already halfway up, and have already paid) if the visibility is good or not, so it is your responsibility to judge it.
Here are your options:
1. Train. The official Corcovado train leaves from Cosme Velho. You can take several buses (or a taxi) to get to this point. The 583 from Copacabana or Ipanema, the 422, 498, 569 or 583 from Largo do Machado. The train costs R$50 round trip and includes admission to the monument. It is possible to buy your tickets online ahead of time here for R$55 which allows you to pick a train time and skip the queues. When we attempted the train option, we arrived at around 7:30 a.m., stood in line for an hour, and were informed the next available train wouldn’t be departing until 11 a.m. Granted, we were there in the midst of the World Cup, but the monument is almost always busy, and $2.50 is worth a few hours of free time in Rio, in my opinion. If you don’t buy ahead, just go early.
2. Direct Van. This was the option we ended up taking after we gave up on the train option. You can take a van directly from either Copacabana or Largo do Machado to the top of Corcovado. The cost is R$49 round trip during high season (and you save the bus fare as well). It is also possible to book tickets and a time slot online, giving you the ability to skip the queue (they won’t make this obvious, you kind of just have to butt the line and show your voucher. Website here.
3. Van From Cosme Velho. While waiting in line for the train at Cosme Velho, you will likely be approached by private van drivers offering to take you up, and telling you the wait for the train will be hours. They may not actually be feeding you lines, as in our case it was perfectly true. This van ends up costing about the same as the other options, but you do have to wait in a second queue at Paineiras, about halfway up, which could (or could not) negate any time savings.
5. Hike. This Trip Advisor entry gives great details on the hike up to entry of Corcovado. There is still an entry fee at the top. I have heard that there are relatively frequent robberies on this trail, but that weekends do have stationed guards. Do some research on the current situation before you choose this option.
All in all, despite the hordes of tourists you will be doing it with, Christ the Redeemer is an iconic site, offering unparalleled views of the city, and I’m happy we took the time out of our day and the money our of our pockets to make the trip up Corcovado.