Transportation – Part II
Travel By Bus
Catching the bus was always an interesting experience. Using online maps such as Goggle Maps helped tremendously to determine where I was going, how long the ride would take and exactly what bus number I needed to catch to get from point A to point B. Sometimes I had to take a couple of buses or so and even a train. Using the online maps takes the guesswork out of travel since the maps tell you exactly where to catch the bus, how many stops before you get off and the cost. (Note: The maps will also give you a choice, travel by bus, cab or walk). Don’t forget to take your metro card because it can be used for both forms of transportation.
When you get on the bus, get on at the front of the bus because in the middle of the bus, you have to pay cash to the bus attendant or you can use a metro card (‘Bilhete Unico’ is one type of card – see Transportation l). The cash price is usually a few Reals and the attendant does give change. Remember if you transfer from one bus to another or if you take the train, it is advantageous to use the travel card rather than cash since there are NO transfers. When using cash, you will always pay full price, but using the card more than once during a single trip will usually entitle you to a FREE pass or at least a discount. Once on the bus, go to the middle of the bus, swipe your card and then go through the turnstile towards the back of the bus. The front of the bus is for the elderly and the disabled. There are also seats usually located in the middle of the bus (some are yellow or a different color than the other seats) labelled for the disabled, pregnant women or women/men with children. Normally one will exit out of the rear doors of the bus unless you are sitting or standing in the front area. Exit quickly as the drivers do not wait. They presume that you are moving towards the door to exit at the next stop.
If someone offers to hold your bag, it is generally safe. They just want to take the strain off you as you hang on ‘for dear life.’ This is a normal courtesy but of course keep an eye on your bag. One should be careful about the items that you carry any way, especially in the larger cities. Leave your passport at the hotel. Carry a copy instead. Keep your cash on your body. Take all of the precautions you would take in any other large city or foreign place. Exercise common sense at all times. If your gut says, ‘something isn’t right,’ then be smart and follow your gut.
Be sure to hang on wherever you can since the drivers seem not to care about the safety of their passengers as they barrel down the narrow streets and around the winding roads and hills. Even in the inner city, they travel at seemingly unreasonable speeds. Hang on with 2 hands if you can or you can end up in a most embarrassing position. Also make sure that you have a couple of markers (restaurants, places of interest, names of a block or two) that you are looking for along the way, so you know when to push the buzzer to get off the bus. A couple of times, I missed the marker I was looking for and was not certain if I had passed my stop or not. I had passed my stop and ended up walking back 11 blocks to get to my client.
Solution: Purchase a metro/bus card at a train station or lottery store located near you. You can also purchase tickets for the metro/bus in the subway stations. The price is generally R$2.40 – R$3.00 per ride (approximately U.S. $1 – $1.25). Keep your purse in front of you and look for markers or landmarks well ahead of time if you do not speak the language. Remember, English is only spoken by less than 2% of the population.