In February 2009, to facilitate our travel around Brazil, we took three journeys on buses. The company we used was called Auto Viacao 1001.
Our first test was to book the tickets. We made our way to Rios main bus station, Novo Rio Bus Terminal. Looking around, we spied the counters that listed our desired destinations and waited for our turn. Karl, armed his guidebook Portuguese, did an absolutely fantastic job and we walked away with tickets in hand.. I think he was buoyed up by the queue next to us. It had five people in a row wearing yellow…FIVE! That would never happen in the UK.
You can now book your tickets on the website so you don’t need to worry about negotiating the queues at the bus station. Feeling very accomplished, we grabbed a quick bite of Pao de Queijo (cheesey, yummy bread thingies) and made our way downstairs to the bus stops. We only had to wait twenty minutes, and the bus was ready.
RIO TO BUZIOS
The bus conductor checked our tickets against our passports and let us board. We climbed the stairs to the first floor. As we pulled away from the bus station, somebody appeared bearing snack trays. They reminded me of a child’s lunchbox in its contents, biscuits, a little juice carton etc. The weirdest component was the ham biscuit. There were two crackers with a meat-flavoured paste in the middle; a savoury custard cream of sorts.
(NB American readers, a custard cream is a classic British cookie, designed to be combined with a lovely cup of tea…or just several more cookies)
The coach left Rio de Janeiro via an amazingly long bridge that ran past the giant Lego-like structures of a shipping yard.
The bridge stretched on for over ten minutes (I know this because I spent a VERY costly seven of them on the phone to my bank trying to get my card unblocked).
When the surroundings changed from grey to green, we relaxed into the journey.
The journey time from Rio to Buzios is only just over two and a half hours and despite providing snacks, and the on board toilet, the coach stopped at a rest stop about an hour into the journey. I thought it was spotlessly clean, well designed and with plenty of toilets. The building was quite pleasing architecturally and had nice grass verges so it blended into the scenery. As we walked around, there was a restaurant that served delicious looking food and was reasonably priced (unlike the money sucking sadness centres in the UK and US).
Brazil has almost no rail network and so a great deal of money has been invested in the road infrastructure. The road was smooth and well maintained with clear markings and wonderful roadside facilities. The coaches are air-conditioned and the seats have an impressive recline as well a foot rest. If you are travelling overnight, you get a blanket and pillow. It’s all very civilised.
Want to read about our time in Buzios, click here.
BUZIOS TO SAO PAULO
Our second journey took us back past Rio, and onto São Paulo. The first coach was a single-decker but the seats were still fantastically spacious. It was a long day with around nine hours of travelling and a stop in Rio to change back onto a double-decker coach. Somewhere on our second leg, between Rio and São Paulo, the coach stopped and we looked around in bemusement, there was no rest stop here!? We disembarked to stretch our legs and realised that the bus was leaking fluid.
Waiting in the sun, we got chatting to a group of remarkably tall young men. Turns out, we were sharing the bus with the Brazilian Under 21’s basketball team!
After an hour in the sun, another coach stopped to pick us up. This was from a different company and didn’t have the same level of comfort. It was quite old and dusty and had no air conditioning so it was stifling. It stopped at a services with McDonald’s and we gratefully dived in. Salt and sugar were exactly what we needed after an hour sweating it out on the side of the road.
SAO PAULO TO RIO
Our final journey went off without a hitch, but we did get stuck in an almighty traffic jam on our way back into Rio. We moved at a snails pace for about an hour.
We watched people moving through the lanes of traffic holding items for sale. Plastic toys, bananas and bottles of shampoo were all on offer. Some of these guys were barefoot and had been out all day in the sun and heat, breathing the fumes from the cars and buses. A very tough way to earn a living.