Bus services in Brazil are generally excellent. Departure times are usually strictly adhered to, and most of the buses are clean, comfortable and well-serviced Mercedes, Volvo and Scania vehicles.
All major cities are linked by frequent buses – one leaves every 15 minutes from Rio to São Paulo during peak hours – and there is a surprising number of long-distance buses. Every big city, and most small ones, has at least one main long-distance bus station, known as a rodoviária (ho-do-vi-ah-ree-ya).
Brazil has numerous bus companies and the larger cities have several dozen rival agencies. ClickBus (www.clickbus.com.br) is a good app for consulting departures times, fares (which can be expensive) and purchases. Another good resource for searching national bus routes is Busca Ônibus (www.buscaonibus.com.br).
There are three main classes of long-distance bus. The ordinary convencional or comum is indeed the most common. It’s fairly comfortable and usually has a toilet on board. An executivo or semi-leito is more comfortable (with reclining seats), costs about 25% more and stops less often. A leito (overnight sleeper) can cost twice as much as a comum and has fully reclining seats with blankets and pillows, air-con and sometimes an attendant serving sandwiches, coffee, soda and água mineral (mineral water).
With or without toilets, buses generally make pit stops for food and bathroom breaks every three or four hours.
Air-con on buses is sometimes strong; carry a light sweater or jacket to keep warm.
Usually you can go down to the bus station and buy a ticket for the next departing bus. In general, though, it’s a good idea to buy the day before departure. On weekends, holidays and from December to February, advance purchase is always a good idea. If you have a PayPal account, you can buy tickets online at ClickBus (www.clickbus.com.br)