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Taking a bus in Brazil. The wrong one…

Wrong bus - Luca travels Around

Everyone failed while traveling. Some once, some more, but it’s inevitable that sooner or later you can use #travelfail to hashtag one of your experiences. What happened to me was just taking a bus in Brazil, not the one I wanted, but I realized too late.

When I decided to go to South America backpacking, I landed with the girl who traveled with me in Maceiò, north of Brazil. We arrived late in the evening, and we just found a sort of taxi driver bred with Ayrton Senna who drove us to the hostel we were supposed to stay for the night. After seeing our accommodation, we decided to leave the day after, for another city.

Maceio - Luca Travels Around

Beach in Maceiò

It was mid-December, the weather was sublime, and after a rapid shot to the beach, we headed to an internet point to book our next stay for the following 3/4 days: Salvador de Bahia. We were dreaming about beaches, nature, history, a vibrant and historic city, and with that mindset, we took a local bus to the bus station. Soon we realized we were in the favelas, wrong bus, no station in sight.

You have to consider that none of us spoke Brazilian nor Portuguese, and the only thing that I could pronounce was cartão de crédito (credit card) because I liked the sound of it. Something really unuseful when you want someone to help you going on the right way.

Anyway, a local lady helped us taking the right bus to the station, and when we reached our destination, we started to fear about our resilience for the following months. We didn’t discourage, though, Salvador de Bahia was waiting for us, it would be impolite to let it wait!

Salvador de Bahia - Luca Travels Around

There were several ticket offices at the bus station, everyone displaying fares and routes in a very flashy way. Since we didn’t know how to communicate, we wandered around looking at signs and avoid asking info until we found the one selling tickets to Salvador de Bahia. At that point, we were obliged to speak, in a way or another, but in the end, the transaction was successful! We were happy, the seller was happy, everybody was happy! Taking a bus in Brazil was a piece of cake in the end!

We finally relaxed a bit, discovering the small station and attempting to get accustomed to the new place. Also, jetlag was trying to bother us, but in the end, we could have rested on the bus.

After a meager lunch because of our difficulties in the understanding the ingredients of local food, the bus finally arrived! When we departed it was half full, so finding two seats was not difficult. Stuck to the bus window, I started looking at the panorama that went by along the road, realizing how different it is from Europe.

Green, a lot of lush green. An Amazonian green, indeed. And then the contrast with the red soil. In the north of Brazil, the iron concentration in the ground is probably very high so every time the road cut trough a hill, it seemed like the sides were tennis courts at Roland Garros. An exciting show, if you also consider the blue of the sky.

Brasilian road - Luca Travels Around

Time was passing by, while I was distracted by the panorama. We stopped I-have-no-idea-where, and we soon left again, towards our destination. At dusk, we started noticing more and more houses, and after not so much time we finally reached the city, Salvador de Bahia!

The bus station was quite small, we took our backpacks and got off the bus. After all those hours spent on a seat, the first thing to do is some stretching, then looking for a proper toilet while the other one stays with the belongings.

Cleaned and stretched, with our map in hand, we headed to the ticket booth to ask where our hotel was. The guy, of course, spoke only Brazilian but when he saw the address he started smiling, making us understand that the hotel we booked in was not there, simply because that was the wrong city.

I gave him the map, and he made a big cross on the city we were: Vitória da Conquista, more than 500 km south of Salvador de Bahia!!!

Vitória da Conquista

Vitória da Conquista, no sea in sight

We didn’t want to believe it, but after asking several times and getting the same answer, we gave up. No bus was leaving the station before 4 am, for nowhere close or known to us. We analyzed the situation, and after a while, we decided to wait 6+ hours there for the first bus to leave in the morning.

The destination was São Paulo, more than 24 hours of travel south of there. An epic trip, I’d say. We were quite pissed off for everything that happened we both agree to ignore Brazil completely. Too big to appreciate it in a short time, too inexperienced the both of us to face a country so far from our habits. Argentina would have welcomed us in a better way, especially for the language!

Crossing Brazil from north to south by bus without almost stopping and seeing anything? Check.

And you, have you ever failed so hard you almost ruined your trip? Tell me in the comments section!

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Taking a bus in Brazil the wrong one - Luca Travels Around

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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Oh no, what a bus ride… But at least nothing bad happened in the favelas. Latin America is not always the safest place, and getting lost in the wrong place at the wrong time can go south quite quickly.
    With respect to bus rides, I took a bus from Cusco to La Paz (20h, stupid idea). It was a Bolivian bus and the most horrible bus I have even been in.. after three hours I felt so sick by this bus that I had to throw up occasionally for the rest of the journey. Then the bus driver almost lost some of the passengers at the Bolivian borders.. Awesome time!
    Nadine Cathleen | Karateandcaviar.com

    • Wow, I took a bus too in Bolivia, well, several to be honest, but fortunately nothing bad happened. I’m sorry for you, I know Bolivian roads so I can only imagine how bad it was to be there!
      And you’re right about the safety in Latin America, we learned that as well in Buenos Aires…

  • Now that is an epic fail, and I mean that in the most sympathetic way! I can’t imagine the sensation of realizing you were so far away from where you thought! Language barriers can be such a difficult part of travel….unless they know ‘vino’ I tend to be screwed 😉 It’s one of my biggest fears with my kids, getting THAT lost. Our biggest travel fail was a 30 hour delay to get home from Cuba, a long story not through fault of our own, but our most awful travel experience by far! Cheers to the learning curve and the experiences, they make us better travelers and make for a hell of a story 🙂

    • No doubts that this kind of situation, with kids, would have been a real problem, I perfectly understand your concerns. And no matter how hard you try, if something has to go the wrong way, it will anyway. 🙁
      We learned for sure some lessons because of that, but I guess that if something like this will happen to me again, at the beginning I’ll be in total confusion anyway. It takes a moment to realize that you can’t change what happened and you have only to focus on the next step and do your best without discouraging, so to do what you need to do! 😀

  • What an ordeal! So far I haven’t experienced anything like that, but I’m not much of a backpacker after all. Only thing that might come close was when we were traveling from Montreal to Tadoussac. I was supposed to rent a car but my card was declined. It looked like everything was lost, but we managed to find a bus just a few minutes before its scheduled departure. Since we were running late, the owner of the B&B where we were supposed to stay told us it would’ve been better for us to check-in the following day. We had nowhere else to go, though, so somehow we succeeded in convincing him to let us in anyway (he actually was very kind to pick us up at the bus stop). At 10:45 pm (after a 9h+ trip including two layovers) we were finally resting in our beds!

    • Wow, 9+ hours from Montreal to Tadoussac is a lot! I guess I did it half the time by car, for you, it must have been quite stressful! Luckily the host was a kind person, but under this aspect, I never found a rude Canadian 🙂

  • 500kms off track!!! OMG! I can imagine how huge that feeling must be. I too had similar experience but that was hardly a few kms in Bologna, Italy, and we recovered fast.

    • If you end off track by 500 kms in Italy, you maybe end up in France or into the sea! 😀
      In Brazil that distance it’s just a piece of cake, unfortunately. But well, it was a lesson we learned 🙂

  • auhauhahuauhha fantastica esperienza eh?!?! Scusa nessuno al controllo ti ha controllato il biglietto per dirti che stavi prendendo il bus sbagliato?! Sono stato in Brasile durante il mio viaggio di 6 mesi e ricordo anche una cosa interessante: Quanto cazzo erano cari! Anyway backpacking experience, I will keep folow you buddy, 😀

    • Un’esperienza che non ti dimentichi eheh. Ma sai, a dire il vero l’errore credo sia stato nostro in partenza, una volta preso il biglietto senza quasi capire quello che ci diceva il bigliettaio, mica abbiamo controllato la destinazione, eravamo certi ci avrebbe portato a Salvador. O almeno immagino sia questa la ragione perché mi pare di ricordare che il biglietto ce l’abbano sempre controllato. I bus erano cari, sì, anche in Argentina non proprio economicissimi, ma erano comodi!

    • With your “problem” I guess you wouldn’t have taken a long ride by bus, that’s for sure, considering also how they drive in Brazil! Worst case scenario, you maybe would have ended not so far from your destination! 😀

  • Wooow, what a story! These experiences make the trips most memorable though, and give a reason to laugh over, or may be roll your eye and sigh for years to come. Because this is what a real adventure travel should be 🙂

    • Now I can remember it and laugh about it, but at that time I wasn’t so glad about what happened. But in the end yes, I can call it adventure, and I’m happy with it 😀

    • For sure I saw something I was not planning to, and also the following stages changed due to that little setback. But in the end, I like to think the following months were a consequence of that and since the experience overall was awesome, that wrong bus takes all the credit 😀

  • It is so encouraging to see a blogger write about a bus journey. It is one of my favourite mode of transport. I can spend hours just lazily staring out of window. I would love to board a bus in Brazil. Yes, the wrong one!

    • I really love traveling by bus! It’s a relaxed way to move, you can easily stare out of the window to see and understand the place you’re traveling into and in most cases, it’s also comfortable 😀

  • Haha, I can’t believe that this happened to you twice in the same day. And it’s funny that they actually let you board the bus with the wrong ticket. I quite enjoy traveling by bus but I can understand your frustration when you ended up 500km away from your destination.

  • There are always a risk when traveling, but that is also part of the charm with being on the road. I usually prefer to travel by rail due to the fact that it really is hard to understand the system for buses in a lot of countries, even here in Europe. But sometimes in countries without a good rail network, the buses turn out to be the only option.

    Worst experience for us was luckily not even close to yours. It was in Tbilisi and we wanted to take a bus to a town close by. Walking around trying to find the correct bus turned out to be impossible without knowing the language. No bus had the names written in the Latin alphabet. In the end we took a taxi instead. 🙂

    • I like trains as well but you’re right, some countries have no rail network or they use it only for goods so, unless the distance requires a plane, the bus is the only other choice!

      Good for you that at least the distance you wanted to cover was possible to manage by taxi, I guess I would have been in the same situation considering the alphabet they use! 😀

  • Hilarious escapades as usual! I havn’t taken the wrong bus but in India even the right buses can go wrong. Nevertheless, the views seem to be good so I am sure you enjoyed them irrespective of other issues.

    • Hahaha, I like that point of view! Like when a huge rock stumbles in the middle of a road, isn’t it? 🙂
      Yes, I enjoyed the panorama for sure, it was incredible, but I would have enjoyed the sea as well, I can guarantee you ^^

  • I love all tales, but sometimes reading about mishaps are my most favorite. Its nice to know that everyone has travel mishaps regardless of experience. Adventure isn’t always easy but it is always worth it.

    • Probably the definition itself of adventure involves a certain quantity of mishaps. It would be a guided tour otherwise 😀

  • Aww no!!!! I am sorry to hear that, but sometimes great things and/or stories come from the unexpected. Like this one, I enjoyed reading it! I hope you visit Brazil again and see everything you want to see without any hiccups 🙂

  • How incredibly frustrating! Maybe next time join an organised tour so that the language barrier is not as much of a barrier. I’m glad that though you were rather lost, you weren’t harmed. Better luck next time!

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