By Georgia Grimond, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Making use of Brazil’s extensive coach network has always been a good way to get around the country. Without a train system, buses provide a safe, comfy and affordable way to cover vast distances, as well as shorter ones, and enjoy the scenery at the same time.
A number of different companies operate the bus routes and so working out which one you need to take and how to buy the ticket can be remarkably complicated, particularly for tourists. Some firms require a CPF (a Brazilian tax number) or only accept Brazilian credit cards (and not debit cards). The rodaovária (bus station) is often packed at peak times and getting to the front of the queue at the right ticket office can be difficult.
A couple of companies are helping travelers get around these problems by centralizing bus routes across the country and allowing passengers to buy tickets online or via an app.
Busbud, a Canadian company, compares international bus departures from big Brazilian operators like 1001, Itapemirim, Cometa and Penha, as well interstate routes. It is possible to book online or to download the app. There is a choice of nine languages, it lets you pay in a variety of currencies and sends you an email and PDF of your ticket as well.
“Since building the Brazil Bus Finder last year for the World Cup, we’ve seen an increase in interest in Brazil for our bus travel ticket booking app,” explains LP Maurice, CEO and co-founder of Busbud. “Initial growth came from international tourists, but we are seeing more and more local Brazilians using it too.”
Brazil Bus Travel also offers a similar service. It aggregates the routes offered by different companies and simplifies the ticket-buying process giving detailed instructions about getting to the bus station, picking up your ticket and even provides some Portuguese phrases to try out.
Different levels of comfort come at different prices on Brazil’s buses. A regular bus, probably without air conditioning, is called convencial and may be all that is on offer on more rural routes. However, for long and overnight journeys it is usually possibly to book leito or a luxury bus, which will have air con, a reclining seat and a toilet. All buses stop regularly.
From Rio a number of weekend getaways are easily accessible by bus. Leaving from the Novo Rio terminal in Centro, Búzios, Angra Dos Reis, Ilha Grande and Paraty are only a few hours away (traffic permitting). It takes about seven hours to reach both São Paulo and Belo Horizonte and so it is worth traveling on an overnight bus and saving on a hotel.
It is always necessary to travel with ID, usually a passport for tourists. Buses in Brazil tend to leave on time so arrive at the terminal at least half an hour before the departure time. And take something warm; freezing air conditioning can ruin your journey.