Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Bus Traveling In Brazilian Cities

Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


As the subway network in Brazil is not yet fully developed, even in major cities, travelling by bus is the main option people have to reach other places inside the city or in neighbouring cities. In this article, we will take a look at the particularities of travelling by in Brazil.


According to an yearly report made by the Associação Nacional das Empresas de Transportes Urbanos, which is Portuguese for National Association of Urban Transportation Companies, buses transported more than 40 million people a day in Brazil during 2013 with a fleet of 107.000 buses. This only included the 9 largest capital cities of Brazil - Curitiba, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sao Paulo - an average of 330 million passengers are transported by bus every month.

Buses are the most commonly used public transport, being responsible for more than 86% of the share of public transport in Brazil. This high number is due especially thanks to the increase in the number of buses, along with the increased quality in the type of service that is offered. Buses in the largest cities of Brazil are required to be made available for handicap people, especially those using wheelchairs. Furthermore, together with the increase in the number of buses in the national fleet, there has been a process of re-thinking over the bus routes. They are now made to meet the demands of the population that uses them the most, who are generally located in the outskirts of town.

The efforts of municipalities regarding public transportation also contribute to a great number of people using them. Among these efforts, construction of exclusive bus lanes, development of electronic ticketing and general renovation of the fleet can be cited as incentives for using buses in Brazil. This change of policy in the municipalities regarding urban mobility is greatly influenced by the rising traffic jams in most large Brazilian cities.

Bus models used in Brazil allow for the identification of their final destination and of the major traffic routes on an electronic display at the front top of the bus. On the side of the bus, a more detailed bus route is displayed on a metal sign, with six or seven of the major traffic routes the bus passes through. Passengers board buses through the front door and then proceed to paying the fare to a ticket collector. Above the ticket collector, a more detailed route of all the streets and avenues the bus covers is displayed on a metal sign. Passengers exit the bus through the back doors.

Electronic ticketing

In most of Brazil’s largest cities - 85% of cities with a population larger than 100.000 - there is a unified electronic transport ticketing system. This measure makes it a lot easier to use public transport, since they may function on a credit basis, with the passenger topping the card up and being able to use it multiple times until it is out of credits.

While payment for transport fares with money is still used - although in São paulo it has dropped to 4% of the fares in 2013 - using electronic ticketing is much more beneficial to passengers. Among its many advantages, the most important are:

  • Topping up the passenger’s card prior to travel
  • When changing from a bus to a subway or vice versa, the price of the second fare is roughly 50% of the price of the regular fare if this occurs within a time period, different from city to city

There are generally no zone divisions inside of towns that is expressed through means of different bus fares. In case there are bus zones, the electronic ticketing system is valid for all zones. The only exception to zone division in bus coverage are the biggest cities of Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where some bus lines extend all the way to neighbouring cities and thus are part of a different electronic ticketing system.

Cities with electronic ticketing systems

The following cities implemented the electronic ticketing systems on their public transport system:

  • Aracaju - Mais Aracaju
  • Belém - Passe Fácil
  • Belo Horizonte - BHBus
  • Brasília - Fácil DF
  • Campinas - Bilhete Único
  • Campo Grande - PegFacil
  • Curitiba - Cartão Qualidade
  • Florianópolis - Passe Rápido
  • Fortaleza - Vale Transporte Eletrônico
  • Goiânia - SITPASS
  • João Pessoa - Passe Legal
  • Maceió - Vale Eletrônico
  • Manaus - Passa Fácil
  • Natal - NatalCard
  • Porto Alegre - TRI
  • Recife - Vale Eletrônico Metropolitano
  • Rio Branco - MEU Cartão
  • Rio de Janeiro - Riocard
  • Salvador - Salvadorcard
  • São Paulo - Bilhete Único/BOM

It is possible to obtain a card valid for the city’s electronic ticketing system at all bus terminals, in subway stations - if the city has any - and in several service points spread throughout the capital cities. Topping up a card can be made several ways:

  • At a service or self-service point
  • In some other facilities, such as newsstands, lottery houses and botecos
  • Online, on each system’s website


Bus fares vary from city to city, depending on regulation by the Prefecture. Altogether there is usually only one bus fare for all buses in the public transportation system of a given city, but there are some buses that cover longer routes, reaching neighbouring cities and therefore the fare for riding the bus may be 50% more expensive than that of the regular buses. There are also some bus companies - all within the public transportation system - that offer special buses that are more comfortable, but are also three or four times more expensive than the regular bus fare.

The following groups of people are exempt from paying bus fares:

  • Children under the age five, provided they share the seat with their parents or guardian
  • Some professional categories, such as mailmen, firefighters, army and police officers, upon showing documentation proof of the profession of the passenger
  • Men and women older than 65 upon showing a document proving the passenger’s age

Also, for those who pay the regular bus fare by means of electronic ticketing, in most cities it is possible to use more than one different bus within a set period of time after the payment of the first bus fare - generally around two or three hours. For students the same benefits apply, but to a smaller extent, since they only pay half the price of the regular fare.

Benefits to special groups of people

In Brazil there is a very strong policy of supporting certain special groups of people, especially in public transport. The following groups of people receive priority treatment in Brazil - have priority to sit - but not only when taking a bus:

  • Men and women older than 65 upon showing a document proving the passenger’s age
  • Overweight people
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women or those carrying a baby
  • People with physical handicaps

As a rule, the front half of buses, before the ticket gate, is left for these special groups of people, these specially reserved seats are painted in a different colour than that of the normal seat. When there are no passengers of these special groups of people, the use of those reserved seats is free to anyone.

Lack of punctuality

Mainly due to traffic, buses in Brazil do not necessarily follow any given schedule and thus do not pass regularly at bus stops. It is not uncommon to see even two buses that run the same route following one another, and then no bus running the same route passing at a bus point within a 30 minutes time period.

Shuttle vans

There is also a precarious system of shuttle vans that, depending on the legislation of the city, operate legally or illegally. Generally the ticket collector of these vans accepts only cash payments, but it may be a good alternative for reaching other parts of town. The itinerary of the van is generally shouted by the ticket collector or by the conductor once the van stops at a bus terminal. In order to exit the shuttle van, the passenger must tell the conductor where he wants to go. It is worth mentioning that these shuttle vans were born initially in order to meet the lack of buses in Brazilian cities, operating in routes that are either not covered by buses or out of town.