Joe Harrison & Stef Hacking are on an eight-month trip to discover South America, and graciously share their bus travel stories with us along the way.
Rio de Janeiro and Carnival
After a tiring 23 hour journey we finally arrived at our first stop, Rio de janeiro, or ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (The Marvellous City). We took time at the beach, sightseeing around the city and getting a glimpse of the social contrast between Rio’s many favelas and the richer regions of the city.
The main observation from our two weeks in Rio was how inclusive Carnival was. Divides in wealth, gender, race and age seemed to totally diminish, bringing everyone in the city closer together; whether in small local blocos or full-blown lavish parades. We really felt that Carnival was the perfect way to end our trip in Rio, and begin our trip around South America.
Rio de Janeiro to Ilha grande
Company: Green Toad Bus
Type: Mini Van + Boat Transfer
Price: US$ 35 each plus US$ 6.30 booking fee
Duration: 3 hours + 30 minute boat
Route: Rio de Janeiro to Angra dos Reis
Details: As this was our first bus trip (and we’d just finished a rather crazy carnival!) we decided to take the easier yet more expensive option of a mini van door to door.
Unfortunately due to the busy season the Easy Transfer was ‘fully booked’ so we had to book through the even more expensive Green Toad. Annoyingly this happened to be the same mini van, just a more expensive booking process! Having said that the journey was very easy, and after arriving at a port not far from Angra dos Reis we got put on a boat directly to the popular holiday town of Abraão in Ilha Grande.
The whole thing was pretty seamless, which was needed after a wild and party-filled carnival, although we’d probably organise it ourselves next time.
Ilha Grande to Paraty
Company: Costa Verde
Type: Local Bus
Price: $R12 each
Duration: 2.5 hrs
Details: On our return from Ilha Grande we took the fast boat (30 mins) from Abraão back to the town of Angra dos Reis before jumping on the local bus to Paraty. The bus was very basic, bumpy and not particularly comfortable, and getting our backpacks past the turnstile must have made entertaining viewing.
Thankfully it wasn’t a long journey, and we were excited to experience a more rustic bus ride. However, an hour or so after arriving we realised that when grabbing our bags to get off the bus one of Joe’s (carefully selected) hiking shoes had been left on the bus! Not the thing you want to happen so early on in an 8-month trip. Luckily Havianas did the trick until we were able to pick up some trainers. Read more about our stay in Paraty.
Paraty to São Paulo
Details: Our first long distance (6 hour) coach ride departed from the colonial town of Paraty. As we settled into our pre-booked semi-leito seats we were immediately impressed by the premium feel and decent amount of leg room we had compared with British coaches. As it was a beautifully clear and hot day we had boarded the bus in our flip flops and shorts, but as we looked around we noticed that everyone else had extra layers and blankets – we’d totally overlooked how cold the air con gets on the coaches! Our warmer clothes were stowed deep in the belly of the bus, but thankfully with a bit of huddling and quick sunbathing during rest stops we managed to avoid frost bite!
The journey along the Rio—Santos highway, with picturesque views of the coast to our left and lush mountains on our right made for a lovely few hours travel. As we approached São Paulo we were met with torrential tropical rain, something we came to realise was not uncommon in the monstrous city. Despite the weather the bus arrived safely on time at Tietê, the largest terminal in South America, before jumping on the metro to our hostel. Read more about our 24 hours in São Paulo.
São Paulo to Florianópolis
Price: $R161 each
Duration: 12 hrs
Route: São Paulo to Florianópolis
Details: We were due to get our 12 hour bus from São Paulo at 11.30pm, so we had some time to visit a restaurant before our long journey. Once again we we’re met with rain – but not just any rain – buckets of water fell from the sky, leaving us totally soaked despite getting taxis door to door. Fortunately our hostel let us shower and change before we left to the station saving us from a very long and damp bus ride.
After that the evening went to plan and our comfy semi-leito seats allowed us a few disjointed hours of sleep. However, after passing our half way point of Curibita at around 6am, the bus driver decided it was time for everyone to wake up – not with a gentle fade of lights – but to full volume Brazilian power ballads! After bewildered looks and an angry call down to the driver by a passenger 4 songs later he finally turned it off.
The remaining journey went very smoothly, and with the exception of Stef mistaking the toilet flush button with the emergency stop button (a not-so-happy the driver) we settled back to a few hours sleep. After an eventful 12 hours with monsoons, Brazilian power ballads and technical mishaps we finally arrived in Florianópolis, a little sleepy but ready for some sunshine. Read about our stay in Florianópolis and our discovery of the relaxed surf and skate culture there.
Next up, Uruguay!