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How to move around Brazil in public transport

How to move around Brazil in public transport

If we hear samba, football and carnival we can’t help but think of Brazil. Planning to get there? Then you’ll need to know how to move around.

When travelling between cities, the major problem comes from the fact that Brazil is a huge country: covering a total area of 8.5 km2 it is the fifth largest country in the world. Being almost as large as the whole European continent, you would expect to find a railway network connecting the country. In fact, Brazilian railways were started off enthusiastically in the XIX century, but shortly after they were abandoned in favour of roads as the preferred method of ground transport.

Can you travel by train in Brazil?

Nowadays there are a few railway lines here and there that you can use for specific purposes. Getting from a city to another by train is a difficult task most of the times, though, as there are almost no trains to run the service. Most of the existing routes are leisure journeys that are worth a ride not for transporting purposes but for leisure.

Serra Verde Express, tren en Brasil.

An example of this is the all luxurious train joining the cities of Curitiba, Morretes and Paranaguá, commonly known as Serra Verde Express, that goes through the breath-taking natural landscapes of the state of Paraná. This company used to operate other railway routes in the area, such as the Pantanal Express or the Montañas Capixabas Train. In the same state, the Great Brazil Express makes the journey from Curitiba to Iguazú, a world-class train that makes a seven-day route to get to the Iguazú Falls.

Travelling by train in Brazil is something you cannot miss, and we specially recommend you two routes operated by the company VALE. One of them joins the cities of Belo Horizonte and Vitoria in a comfortable train during a 12-hour trip (664 km) and the other one makes the journey between São Luís and Paraupebas (892 km).

Tren Great Brazil Express.

Getting around by bus in Brazil: a safe bet or a gamble?

While trains are scarce in the country, bus services are generally of good quality, efficient and good value for money. Buses are definitively the best way to move between cities in Brazil, though some journeys can get a little bit long. If you are patient enough, you can get by bus to the main cities of Brazil, without needing to spend a lot and quite comfortably.

The main companies in Brazil are Expresso do Sul, Itapemirim and 1001. All of them offer a wide range of coaches full of amenities that will compensate for the long hours spent on-board: air conditioning, reclining seats and sometimes –depending on the coach model and type of journey- also TV screens, DVD, sleeper seats, toilet, blankets, pillows and even snacks. The trip may be long, but these features will ensure you have a very pleasant trip.

To give you a rough idea of the distances, the trip between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo takes 6 hours and can cost up to 33 euros. This is more or less the same time it will take you to get from São Paulo to Curitiba, but there are other longer journeys such as Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, made in around 17 hours and 45 minutes with fares starting at 37 euros. But don’t worry! This road trip makes enough stops to hop off and have a little walk or eat something.

And if you are brave enough you can venture into a trip from Río to Salvador de Bahía (25 hours and from 115 euros per trip). A small tip – travel by night and you’ll save one night’s accommodation. Quieroautobus.com is one good Brazilian bus ticket comparator -available in Spanish- where you can even buy your tickets.

Inter-city buses can get you pretty much anywhere

Generally buses are the easiest way to move around and all major cities have an extensive network. In Río de Janeiro, for instance, there 270 companies operating and the bus network covers the entire city. Nevertheless, as there are different companies operating, it doesn’t exist an official map with all the routes available.

Rio Ônibus is one of the bus networks operating in Río, with single-price tickets for municipal journeys (2.75 reales/0.88 euros) and tickets combined with the rail network Super Vía (3.95 reales/1.26 euros). Though it is the easiest way to move in Río, it isn’t the safest or the most comfortable.

Another bus option are the frescãos, a first-class bus system that was born to suit the needs of the middle class and travellers. Equipped with air conditioning, they are much more comfortable and safe, but they cost a little bit more than the regular bus: 9 reales/2.88 euros.

Buses in São Paulo are operated by SPTrans and are much better organised than in Río de Janeiro, offering special fares to students and monthly tickets. There is a single fare of 3 reals (0.96 euros). Smaller cities such as Natal are less expensive, and ticket can cost about 1.5 reales (0.48).

The most extensive underground network of South America

Brazil is the country with underground in most cities of South America. São Paulo, Río de Janeiro, Recife, Puerto Alegre, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Teresina, Fortaleza and Salvador have underground systems. Along with intercity buses, this is the perfect resource to get virtually anywhere within the city you are in.

Metro de Sao Paulo.

Though they don’t cover the whole city, the two underground lines of the Río de Janeiro subway work perfectly and are the fastest, most comfortable and cheapest option to move between touristic places such as Ipanema and Copacabana and the city centre.

A ticket costs around 3.5 reales (1.12 euros, much less expensive than the frescãos) and combined tickets are available to use in conjunction with buses and the Super Via, another good option to move around Río. This urban train ticket has 98 stations across 12 towns of the metropolitan area for around 2.9 reales a ride (0.93 euros).

São Paulo’s underground is even older. Inaugurated in 19474 it has five lines and more than 70km of railways, transporting 4.6 passengers a day. The ticket costs 3 reales (0.96 euros) and the combined ticket 4.65 reales (1.50 euros). As you can see, moving around in public transport in Brazil is a little bit less expensive than the average of European cities and it is relatively easy to use.

The real is the strongest currency in Latin America and is legal tender since 1994. If you are planning to travel to Brazil and want to know everything related to currency exchange, visit Global Exchange website to find all relevant information for your trip and get your travel money.

Images from: miguelangelpulidoj, ToraSimon Pielow y Milton Jung.

Miriam Gómez Blanes

Periodista inquieta y adicta a la escritura sin solución, actualmente coordino los contenidos del blog de viajes de Global Exchange, «Travel and Exchange». También cuento otras historias y realidades en mi blog: www.overthewhitemoon.com. Y lo hago mientras recorro el mundo. Si un viaje me dice ven, lo dejo todo.

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