Thursday, February 24, 2011

When in Rio de Janeiro, Ride the Bus

It's been a while since I've cruised the bus scene in Rio de Janeiro. I'm lucky enough to be able fulfill most of my needs in my neighborhood and get basically everywhere else by metro.  But sometimes I need to go elsewhere so I've decided to get back to my roots (and try to keep some change in my pocket).  Back to the bus it is.  

You've got to love the process of riding the bus. You stand on the edge of the curb and watch the buses hurl themselves down the street. The speed these buses get driving on cramped city streets is a sight to see.  And then there comes the part of catching yours.

It's kind of like picking out one wild horse in the middle of a stampede.  You wave for it, call it, and then run to it while trying not to get run over by the other ones.

Once aboard, you must hold on for dear life because that bad boy is not slowing down just to accommodate you. It doesn't matter how much you kick or scream, the other riders will just think you're nuts.  Have your money in your hand, hold onto one of the bars, and be ready to hold yourself up. The bus will be moving as soon as the driver can manage to close the door on the last passenger.

So once you catch your wild pony, you have to be ready to dive off at your stop.  The money collectors are great sports about pointing out where you need to go so don't be afraid ask. Use charades if necessary, and pay attention. The person screaming "MOÇA, Agora" is talking to you, that is unless you're a man.

At the stop before yours, it's wise to move from your place and get to the back of the horse. These buses kick just the same so be ready. And mind the last step. There's nothing more embarrassing than falling out of a bus.

And enjoy the ride! I love the bus! It's like your own cheap tour of the city, with locals included. Let's not forget the people watching aspect.

Buses in Rio can take you anywhere you want to go and even more places you don't! They are convenient, easy to find, fun to hail like a cab, and economical. Be sure you know the number of the bus or location you want to go to. If you are in doubt, ask the bus driver from the door. He'll tell you if you should take that bus or which one is best.  Last thing you want to do is end up lost in Tijuca when you were really headed to Jardim Botanicos.

So ride the bus, hold on, and take a look around. This is Rio baby! 


  1. I've found over the last ten years that the busses have slowed down a bit (they used to drive faster!)

    Also, in Rio they have switched from entering in the rear and exiting in front - now it is reverse. Here in Niterói we still enter in the back.

    Things could not be more dramatically different in bus land between Brazil and when I lived in San Francisco, CA. The busses there lumber along like an overweight cow. They NEVER pick people up outside of designated stops or wait an additional moment for people running to catch the coach. UUUURRRRGGHHHHHH!

    In all its wild-ride reality, the buses here are so much better than my previous bus experience.

  2. Thank you for posting this! Riding busses in other countries can be stressfull, uncertain and daunting. I rode it a couple of times while on vacation in Rio, but I honestly don't remember the 'process', so was trying to figure out how I did it (where to board, how to pay, how to get off, how did I even know my stop? I guess the driver told me.)

  3. Jim,

    It sounds like the bus drivers are nicer in Rio, in Sao Paulo they are mean as hell, they will not wait for anyone and will only stop at the bus stop, no exceptions... :(


  4. Ah the bus!

    I ride it 4 times per day, minimum!

    With my almost 3 year old. I take her to and from school daily, and by now I've mastered the formula and science (aka hold onto my daughter with dear life).

    And I just bought the RioCard today, so I don't have to fumble around for change four times per day!

    Somehow I manage to carry 2 bags and a 40 pound toddler in my arms, hail the *correct* bus from almost the middle of the street, climb aboard, hoist child above the stubborn turnstile and sit our bottoms down immediately lest we end up on the floor.

    The money collector is pretty good about telling the driver that a "crianca" is getting off, so I get a few extra nanoseconds to scurry to the back of the bus and hop off.

    I was terrified about riding the bus in Rio at first, but I quickly learned how the buses work, while carrying a toddler and bags!

  5. I don't think I could ride this pony. Sounds like I would need some serious exercise and training before trying to catch a bus in Rio.

    Fun post!

  6. Buses are a blast here in Rio! Clinging to a psychotic street leviathan hurtling through Rio traffic...what a rush!

    I personally prefer using the Kombi's here in Rio.
    Riding in a Kombi is like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride on crack. Who needs Disneyland or Six Flags when we have public transportation here in Rio...

  7. OMG Jean, you are amazing. I think about carrying a toddler on the bus, and how much more difficult it would be than my three kiddos. On Wednesday I had the pleasure of riding the bus home from work with a guitar, a HUGE backpack, and a bag of empty yogurt containers (random, but I'm a teacher...). And of course it was sweltering, and the bus was so full that it was turning people away (I'd never seen that before). I had armpits in my face, boobs in my eyes. It was marvelous. I love the buses in BH.