Traveling between cities by bus in Brazil?
I’ve created these 10 commandments of traveling by bus in Brazil after making dozens of bus trips around the country. Depending on the preparations you make before you travel, your journey can either be a lot of fun or a complete nightmare. If you’re planning on traveling by bus soon, a quick glance over this list will ensure that your trip doesn’t suck.
1. Thou shalt buy your ticket online using busbud.com
In the old days you used to need a CPF number in order to buy a bus ticket online. Then along came the Canadian startup busbud.com which has simplified the process of buying bus tickets in Brazil. Now all you need is a credit card.
The other option is BuscaOnibus.com.br. You need a CPF number to buy from this site. If you don’t have one, ask a friend or travel agent to buy the ticket for you.
Its not always necessary to buy a ticket before you arrive at the bus station, but you should at least be aware of the bus times. Know which companies leave and with what frequency. Common routes, such as ones between major cities leave at least every hour. Check before to see if you can just show up and catch the next one.
2. Thou shalt arrive half an hour early
This is actually way more time than you need, but its better to err on the safe side. There is probably going to be a long line if you need to print out your ticket and you don’t want to count on the bus being late, which they often are.
3. Thou shalt bring a pen to fill out your ticket
You need to fill out your name, ID number and address on your bus ticket before they will let you on the bus. You can save time by having a pen to fill out this information.
4. Thou shalt bring a jacket, and a blanket if you plan on sleeping
Every single overnight bus in South America seems to have this inexplicable policy of maintaining the temperate on board just above freezing. This makes no sense at all because its already cold as hell outside. The bus driver can’t do anything about the cold so you just have to come prepared. Bring a jacket at the bare minimum, and a blanket too if you plan on sleeping.
5. Thou shalt buy a Leito or Executivo ticket on overnight trips
You’re already going to sleep poorly on the bus. Its worth paying an extra 20 or 50 Reais to have a bigger seat that actually reclines. With practice you can sleep the entire 8 hour trip without waking up once.
6. Thou shalt eliminate the word ‘line’ from your vocabulary
Is your bus leaving in the next 15 minutes? Go to the ticket booth and you’ll see a mass of people all trying to get their tickets. To the foreign observer this may seem like a line, but this is not the case in Brazil. If you want to make your bus on time you have to push to the very front of the line and loudly tell the attendant that your bus is leaving right now. Don’t worry about other people. If they are also similarly pressed for time they will let you know, and if not they wont mind you cutting in front of them. You’re not getting on that bus unless you speak up.
When its time to actually get on the bus, you will see another mass of people that you will also mistake for being a line. If you approach this situation believing that people are let on in order of when they get there then you will be the last one to get on. People are going to push in front of you to get on unless you push first.
7. Thou shalt not sit in the back by the bathrooms
People are going to constantly be opening and closing the door, releasing a wave of chemicals and other unpleasant odors to assault your nose. The slamming door is loud and will disturb your precious sleep.
7.1 Thou shalt bring your own toilet paper if you ate food at the bus station.
8. Thou shalt not sit in the front row where its cold as hell
The front is the coldest place on the bus. Some people like being here because you get a panoramic view, but the downside is that its really cold.
9. Thou shalt bring food to eat at the rest stop
If your trip is longer than 6 hours the bus is going to make a rest stop at a restaurant. The prices will be higher than the quality deserves, though the selection is often more than satisfactory. If you’re on a speciality diet you’ll be challenged to find adequate food.
10. Thou shalt fly whenever possible
Riding a bus is recommended when going to a new city so that you can get a appreciation for the size and layout of the city. After that you should fly. At the end of the day your time and good health are worth more than R$40 or R$100 or whatever the additional cost of flying is. Use Mundi to book cheap flights in Brazil.