Planning a road trip around Brazil can be a daunting experience. Despite having the most famous football team in history, an internationally renowned yearly Carnival and a reputation for knowing how to party all night long… Brazil is still a ‘developing country’.
Christ the Redeemer, caipirinhas and crime… Brazil has it all in giant spoonfuls!
Is Brazil scary at times?
Should you travel around Brazil?
Without a shadow of a doubt HELL YEAH!!!
I previously spent 14 months travelling around Central/South America, exploring Venezuela, Costa Rica and Argentina to name a few. I got a good feel for how the local transport systems worked and became pretty proficient at moving myself around.
The experience of planning a road trip around Brazil was certainly different. We’re not talking an alien planet kind of different, but there are certain things you need to know before planning a road trip around Brazil.
The first big big big thing is the mighty CPF. Respect the CPF.
What is a CPF?
A CPF is an 11 digit number that you’ll need to have before you can make any substantial purchases – flights, SIM card, mobile phone etc. It’s roughly equivalent to a Social Security number for Americans or National Insurance number for the British, but unlike the NI number which is only really required when starting a new job/bank account, the CPF plays a much bigger role in daily Brazilian life.
Without one, you’ll be pretty much unable to buy anything online. If you want to book your transportation in advance (which you’ll definitely want to do to get real bargains) you’ll either need an amazing Brazilian girlfriend (tick!), or you’ll need to get your own CPF.
Check out www.visahunter.com for a breakdown for how to get a CPF, even on a 3-month tourist visa.
FYI There is one company that will allow you to book flights online without a CPF – (Voegol.com.br) but the prices were MUCH more expensive.
The next thing to keep in mind when planning a road trip around Brazil is that there is no one bus company that covers the entire country. Due to the size of the country, there are lots of individual companies that operate routes between certain states.
Which companies service which states?
From the state of São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro – Viação 1001 (this also goes to the states of Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Paraná and Santa Catarina)
From the state of Minas Gerais to Goiás – Util (this also goes to the states of Rio and São Paulo)
From the state of Bahia to Sergipe – Viacao Aguia Branca
From the state of Sergipe to Alagoas – Rota Transportes or Real Alagoas (this one goes to the states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Recife, and Sergipe)
From the state of Rio Grande do Norte to Ceara and Paraiba – Viacao Nordeste
From the state of Maranhao to Pará: Viacao Boa Esperanca
This list is by no means exhaustive. Hopefully it will act as a good starting point for you. Also, keep in mind that Brazilian websites are not very reliable. Not all bus services are listed on their websites, and if they are listed they’re not always correct. As an example, we were looking for a bus between Ilheus to Itacare. The website indicated that the route didn’t exist. Not one single bus going between them. Yet when we went to the bus station… regular buses leaving every 15 minutes. Comedy gold.
So how do you get around that? If your Portuguese is good enough you can call the Rodoviária (the main bus station), but don’t expect to get solid, reliable advice. (My apologies in advance for the sweeping statement, but Brazilian customer service generally sucks!) Your best bet would be to head to the bus station days or weeks in advance and book your ticket then and there.
Other things to keep in mind.
There are different classes of bus (the below descriptions are taken from Brasilbybus.com)
• Conventional (Conv, Conv c/ Ar, Convencional): The Conventional bus class is the simplest and the cheapest one. Usually the seats are reclined and quilted, and they offer air-conditioning and a toilet. This kind of bus is recommended for short distance trips.
• Executive (Exe, Executivo): The Executive bus class is one step forward from the Conventional bus. Usually, besides the air-conditioning, padded and reclined seats, pressured bathroom, some companies offer mineral water and even better seats in terms of comfort.
• Half Sleeper (Semi-leito): The half sleeper bus class is a big comfort revolution when compared with the ones we referred to before. The seats recline (almost fully) and are more comfortable. Air conditioning, mineral water and extra services like blankets and pillows are included in the bus ticket price. In some companies, the Executive buses are equivalent to the Half Sleeper buses.
• Sleeper (Leito): The Sleeper Bus Class is the most comfortable bus available for your trip; an option to really feel at home. It’s ideal for long, tiring or night trips, when you don’t want to lose your precious sleep time. With a slightly higher price than the other options, the Sleeper Bus has air-conditioning, wider and fully reclining seats with leg rests, TV and DVD player, and the blanket, pillow and mineral water service.
Another nugget of information to store in your knowledge bank: All bus stations charge an exit tax!
This may only be R$10 or R$20, but they don’t add this to the actual ticket price. They will only charge you this tax when printing out your tickets at the Rodoviária. Also… you can only pay this in cash! Keep this in mind if you are in a hurry and you are collecting your tickets. Even better… don’t be in a hurry as it takes forever and a day for them to even print your bus tickets. Get there nice and early to avoid any drama.
Planning a road trip around Brazil can be a pain in the bum, but once you arrive at your destination, you’ll quickly forget about the planning and get straight into the enjoying. The culture, the sights, the experience… you will not be disappointed.
Have you planned a road trip around Brazil? Has this information inspired or terrified you? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss another post.