Worldwide Bus Travel Tips

What You Need to Know About Bus Traveling in Brazil

By hosting some high-profile events (think the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics), Brazil has catapulted itself to the top of many people’s must-visit lists. It’s easy to see why: with it’s electric culture, diverse geography and world class beaches, it has a ton to offer no matter what your budget is.

Although it’s more expensive than many of the surrounding parts of South America, there are a lot of ways to cut down on your travel costs. One of the biggest is by using the bus as your primary means of transportation.

RiodeJaneiro, RiodeJaneiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Here is what you need to know about bus traveling in Brazil:

Where to Go

Brazil is an enormous country – the fifth largest in the world in fact. It can be hard to envision, but most of that space is taken up by wetlands and thick Amazon jungle. The areas you will most likely want to visit are in the Eastern part of the country. Even with that limitation, it can be time consuming to travel across the entire country by bus as cities can be far apart.

If you want to travel by bus, it’s best to travel within one region of the country. For example, in the South East, you can visit Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais. In the far South, you can explore Florianapolis, Porto Allegre and Igaucu Falls. As for the Northeast, travel around Recife, Natal and Fortaleza. Traveling within a single region typically takes 5-7 hours whereas inter-regional traveling can take 24 hours or more.

SaoPaulo, SaoPaulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Buying Tickets

You can buy bus tickets at the station on your day of travel, but there is no guarantee that your desired bus or time will be available. Many local Brazilians travel via bus and popular routes often sell out ahead of time.

An easy workaround is to buy tickets online ahead of time. While many Brazilian resellers require you to have a local credit card and a CPF (Brazilian identification number), websites like Busbud help you purchase tickets easily.

Buses in Brazil come in different classes that vary in quality and price. There are hundreds of different bus lines connecting various routes, which can be confusing for first time buyers. As most bus journeys in Brazil are long, it’s worth spending more for a bigger, more comfortable seat, especially if you are taking an overnight bus.

Compared to the buses in neighboring countries, the ones in Brazil are fairly luxurious. While there are certainly basement priced buses with zero amenities, there are also very comfortable options for those willing to pay. The most popular class for backpackers is Semi-Cama or  Convencional Class. They typically include a comfortable, reclinable seat (hence the “half-bed” name), air conditioning, bathrooms and sometimes snacks.

Angrados Reis, RiodeJaneiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What to Expect

All buses in Brazil that travel more than 4 hours should have bathrooms on board. It’s common to stop every 4 hours or so at a rest station. If you get off the bus be sure to take your valuables with you, and check with the driver how long the break is so as not to get left behind.

Brazilian buses are notorious for their air conditioning, so bring a blanket or sweater for your own comfort, even if you are literally traveling through the jungle in summer. Try to avoid the front seat, which is usually right under the cooling vents.

Santa Catarina, Brazil

Bus Safety

To avoid any mishaps, be sure to insure all your belongings and to leave as many valuables as possible at home.

Bus stations in Brazil tend to be located on the outskirts of town and are called rodoviárias. Pickpocketing and bag snatching might occur in these areas so you will want to be extra careful. Do not flash your expensive equipment and keep your valuables on your body at all times.

The second wave of theft prevention happens when you board the bus. Your large luggage will go underneath the bus but keep all of your valuables up front with you. You may want to tip the porter a couple of coins as they store your bag – this may help ensure its safety. Keep your daypack in your lap and avoid putting it in an overhead compartment.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Bahia, Brazil

This post was written by Stephanie Yoder from Twenty-Something Travel. In 2010, Stephanie quit her office job, trading in corporate life for worldwide adventures and globetrotting across Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. Since then, she has climbed the Great Wall of China, been underground in the Colosseum, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and even found love with another travel blogger along the way.

You can follow Stephanie’s adventures on her blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Stephanie Yoder at Twenty-Something Travel

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Have you taken the bus throughout Brazil and have some tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!