Brazil's national transport system

Travelling long distances in Brazil

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. If you want to experience its scenic and cultural variety, then you must be prepared to travel long distances. The most common ways to travel from city to city are by plane, coach, or car.

Brazil's national transport system

Plane

If tickets are bought in advance, flying from one major city to another within Brazil can end up being more feasible and much less time-consuming than road travel. So if your holiday is brief, you will probably want to fly rather than drive. The price of tickets can vary greatly depending on where and when you are traveling. For example, a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo takes approximately 45 minutes, whilst driving takes about 6 hours. For longer distances such as Sao Paulo to Belem, a flight takes about 4 hours whilst the coach takes about 2- 3 days. However, if the journey is decided upon last minute, flights could end up costing a fortune.

The typical airlines flying domestically within Brazil are Gol, Azul Linhas Aereas, Avianca and TAM. Tickets can be purchased online via the airline websites. If you are planning on using TAM, be sure to use the non-Brazilian website, since the Brazilian one will not let you purchase flights with a foreign credit card.

Always arrive at the airport at least one hour before your flight and make sure you have your passport.

Coach

Although distances may seem too long to even consider coach travel, it’s worth noting that Brazil has a well-developed coach network that can benefit many of those traveling within its vast territories. Bus travel not only suits a lower budget, but you are given a range of comfort options. The more luxurious, Leito, buses have more resemblance to business class airline seating than they do to the standard economy seats, offering refreshments, entertainment options and fully-reclining seats.

Every large city, and most smaller ones, have one or more bus stations devoted to long-distance journeys which are commonly referred to, in Portuguese, as rodoviarias (pronounced ho-do-vi-ah-ri-ya). There may be a variety of companies managing the same routes, so be sure to check each company’s official website to find the best deals. A few of the major coach companies are : Expresso Brasileiro, Expressao do Sul, Itapemirim, and Autoviaçao 1001. Reservations can be made online and via telephone, but during the off-season and on weekdays you can usually just go down to the bus station and buy a ticket for the next departing bus.

When traveling in Brazil be aware that it is a safe country for bus travel, but you should always be alert, especially in larger cities.

Car

If you would like to visit remote areas and don’t want to be confined to airline or bus schedules, traveling by car is a viable option. You will find the usual car rental companies upon arrival at the airport, or if you are bringing a car in from abroad you should make sure you have all the required documentation.

Depending on where in Brazil you are driving, the quality of the roads vary immensely. In the southern regions, the roads tend to be in great condition while in the north, you are more likely to encounter dirt roads full of potholes. Either way, you should prepare for the worst and make sure the car is up to maintenance standards (i.e. tires, brakes, suspension, etc.) before departing on your journey. In more remote areas, a lack of road signs plus the language barrier can pose a challenge for expats, so it is advised you plan your itinerary beforehand - some websites offer pre-planned itineraries (see: viajeaqui's roteiros rodoviários ). Also, if you do not wish to draw attention to yourself, its would be wise to choose a simple car that is safe to drive. Drive under the speed limit (120 km/hr on highways and 60 km/hr on urban roads), check road signs and be particularly alert when stopping at red lights since they tend to be popular spots for carjackers or robbers. Also, if you need to leave the vehicle parked, do not leave any valuables inside. For more information on driving in Brazil see: Driving in Brazil.

Train

Long-distance travel by train in Brazil is uncommon due to the fact that most of the railways were dismantled during the military regime. Nevertheless, rail enthusiasts need not fret since there are a few routes still in service. The route between Curitiba to Paranagua is a common journey amongst eco-tourists. Descending the coastal mountain ranges along the south-east coast, the views from the passenger windows are breathtaking. This and other journeys are offered by Serra Verde Express .  Another route transports passengers from Vitoria to Belo Horizonte, which takes just over 12 hours and is cheaper than taking a bus. Also, a high-speed train connecting Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is currently under construction

Boat

Although a rare form of long-distance transport, boat travel is prominent within the Amazon region as well as on the coast of Sao Luis. You can also take boat rides to the beautiful islands of Ilhabela, Ilha Grande and Ilha de Santa Catarina.

Plane

If tickets are bought in advance, flying from one major city to another within Brazil can end up being more feasible and much less time-consuming than road travel. So if your holiday is brief, you will probably want to fly rather than drive. The price of tickets can vary greatly depending on where and when you are traveling. For example, a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo takes approximately 45 minutes, whilst driving takes about 6 hours. For longer distances such as Sao Paulo to Belem, a flight takes about 4 hours whilst the coach takes about 2- 3 days. However, if the journey is decided upon last minute, flights could end up costing a fortune.

The typical airlines flying domestically within Brazil are Gol, Azul Linhas Aereas, Avianca and TAM. Tickets can be purchased online via the airline websites. If you are planning on using TAM, be sure to use the non-Brazilian website, since the Brazilian one will not let you purchase flights with a foreign credit card.

Always arrive at the airport at least one hour before your flight and make sure you have your passport.

Coach

Although distances may seem too long to even consider coach travel, it’s worth noting that Brazil has a well-developed coach network that can benefit many of those traveling within its vast territories. Bus travel not only suits a lower budget, but you are given a range of comfort options. The more luxurious, Leito, buses have more resemblance to business class airline seating than they do to the standard economy seats, offering refreshments, entertainment options and fully-reclining seats.

Every large city, and most smaller ones, have one or more bus stations devoted to long-distance journeys which are commonly referred to, in Portuguese, as rodoviarias (pronounced ho-do-vi-ah-ri-ya). There may be a variety of companies managing the same routes, so be sure to check each company’s official website to find the best deals. A few of the major coach companies are : Expresso Brasileiro, Expressao do Sul, Itapemirim, and Autoviaçao 1001. Reservations can be made online and via telephone, but during the off-season and on weekdays you can usually just go down to the bus station and buy a ticket for the next departing bus.

When traveling in Brazil be aware that it is a safe country for bus travel, but you should always be alert, especially in larger cities.

Car

If you would like to visit remote areas and don’t want to be confined to airline or bus schedules, traveling by car is a viable option. You will find the usual car rental companies upon arrival at the airport, or if you are bringing a car in from abroad you should make sure you have all the required documentation.

Depending on where in Brazil you are driving, the quality of the roads vary immensely. In the southern regions, the roads tend to be in great condition while in the north, you are more likely to encounter dirt roads full of potholes. Either way, you should prepare for the worst and make sure the car is up to maintenance standards (i.e. tires, brakes, suspension, etc.) before departing on your journey. In more remote areas, a lack of road signs plus the language barrier can pose a challenge for expats, so it is advised you plan your itinerary beforehand - some websites offer pre-planned itineraries (see: viajeaqui's roteiros rodoviários ). Also, if you do not wish to draw attention to yourself, its would be wise to choose a simple car that is safe to drive. Drive under the speed limit (120 km/hr on highways and 60 km/hr on urban roads), check road signs and be particularly alert when stopping at red lights since they tend to be popular spots for carjackers or robbers. Also, if you need to leave the vehicle parked, do not leave any valuables inside. For more information on driving in Brazil see: Driving in Brazil.

Train

Long-distance travel by train in Brazil is uncommon due to the fact that most of the railways were dismantled during the military regime. Nevertheless, rail enthusiasts need not fret since there are a few routes still in service. The route between Curitiba to Paranagua is a common journey amongst eco-tourists. Descending the coastal mountain ranges along the south-east coast, the views from the passenger windows are breathtaking. This and other journeys are offered by Serra Verde Express .  Another route transports passengers from Vitoria to Belo Horizonte, which takes just over 12 hours and is cheaper than taking a bus. Also, a high-speed train connecting Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is currently under construction

Boat

Although a rare form of long-distance transport, boat travel is prominent within the Amazon region as well as on the coast of Sao Luis. You can also take boat rides to the beautiful islands of Ilhabela, Ilha Grande and Ilha de Santa Catarina.

Further reading

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