The process is always the same. Go to the rodoviária, walk around the terminal to find a bus company that goes to the chosen destination and compare schedules. At the ticket booth, pick your travel date and time (don’t forget the week starts on Sunday, Monday is “segunda-feira”). Always ask when the bus arrives and don’t pick the one that leaves in the evening and drops you off in the middle of the night. For interstate travel, show ID (or swear you’ll bring your passport on the day of the trip if you forgot it…). Watch the employee misspell your name. Pick a seat. Pay. Get ticket. Job done.
On said travel date, go to the rodoviária early. Grab coffee, wait around, use the bathroom and somehow manage to pee with your backpack on (takes balancing skills, I’m telling you).
Your ticket will be scanned or checked at the área de embarque. Find your bus. Hand over your backpack that will be stored in the luggage compartment under the bus. Don’t be too paranoid, you’ll get a receipt for it—keep it, you’ll need it to get your luggage back once at destination.
Show your ticket and ID. Climb on board. Find your poltrona and meet your seat mate.
Listen to the driver introducing himself—” Meu nome é…. I’ll be your driver today, we’ll get there around whatever time, use your seat belt, obrigado.”
Make yourself comfortable—you’re in for a long ride, most of the time. Brazil is a big country.
Travelling by bus in Brazil isn’t for masochists only. Tickets are cheap, buses are super comfortable—no Central America chicken buses here but air con, reclinable seats, toilets and maybe Wi-Fi and movies.
I love taking the bus. Once I’m sitting in my seat, I don’t have to make decisions, watch out or find my way. I can close my eyes and catch up on sleep, which is what I do most of the time.
I was early at the rodoviária. My ticket gave me access to the “sala VIP,” i.e. a waiting room with air-con and free bathroom.
We started to line up for boarding, and I watched a stray cat and her kittens playing around behind the bus platform. “Are they yours?” the passenger behind me enquired.
Yes, of course. I’m backpacking with my five cats—oh, no, wait… six cats.
This was the last “WTF” Aracaju moment, I thought, taking my seat and getting ready for the 5.5-hour trip.
The bus stopped around 1 p.m. “Half-an-hour pit stop!” the driver announced.
I got off.
The bus was parked behind a Petrobras gas station, close to the typical Brazilian rest stop that includes a comida por kilo restaurant, a convenience store and toilets.
This one also came with dogs, a rooster, chickens and exotic fruits.
It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, but according to the sign, “nowhere” was 100 km from Salvador and 220 km from Aracaju.
I sat outside, sipping coffee, watching the rooster running after the chickens and the dog running after the rooster.
I love travelling.