42 comments on “Lesson No.2: How to catch a bus in São Paulo (in 5 simple steps)

  1. Hi, have been laughting loats with your posts. All right, I am Brazilian…am I really!? Whatever. After 4 years in London, have been very difficult to get used to all those things you’re posting. Rain, swim clothes and so on….
    Another day a friend of mine found a ‘gringo’ at the bus stop trying to ready the bus informations – some bus stops have signs with the bus’ names that stops there, even though I’ve never found it really usefull – and that one was filled with graffities and posters of call girls. She pictured it, and by look at the picture you feel so sorry for the poor guy…it could be you…
    Thanks to share your views, it’s nice even for us to know your perspectives…specially now, hosting the biggest world event and thinking that it will be a party….
    I don’t know if any one told you that, but your wife can explain: No Brasil tudo acaba em pizza!!!

    • You know, it doesn’t actually bother me that much. Sometimes I think stuff in London is a little bit too easy. Stuff like the buses just makes life here a little bit more interesting!

      Where did you live in London?

      I will check that phrase with her later. Haven’t heard that one before!

  2. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH “see how long you can make the conversation last before the other person realises you cannot speak Portuguese – Brazilians like to talk so you’ll be surprised how long you can make this stretch out”

  3. Very amusing indeed! Glad to hear other cities have similar problems to London!

    • Man, I will never complain about anything to do with Public Transport in London again. Well, at least not until I return and my train to work is cancelled at 7am on a brisk January morning.

  4. My wife wrote a post talking about the stupid layout of some bus here, I think you’ll like as well as find out about the different types of users around here (which may give rise to part 2, talking about people standing in front of the door, ladies counting a lifetime talking loudly on the phone and people listening to your playlists without headphones

    Here’s the link to the post http://bit.ly/zlQjyZ

    • Yes, there is definitely potential to expand this and make a sequel?!My Portuguese is not too great yet but I get the idea of what your wife is talking about. I’ll just expand upon it 😉

  5. Yes, the buses in Sao Paulo have a lot to improve compared to London but, at least, it forces people to use common sense. If you’re in a moving vehicle, maybe it would be a good idea to grab on to something. It’s not OK to lean against (or fly into) fellow passengers because you were reading your newspaper and fiddling with your iPhone instead of holding the handrail. 🙂

  6. Some interesting observations, Sao Paulo buses sound a lot like Recife buses. I heard that as well as creating employment, the turnstile operator on the bus is there for protection – though a fat lot of good they’d do. Strength in numbers.

    I detest having to get the bus, especially at peak times. Nothing worse. One thing I find really strange when I take the buses back home is the silence. Nobody does be talking to anybody.

    Sometimes during the buildup to Sao Joao, you get forro groups playing on the buses which is pretty cool.

    • Protection? Half those guys are half asleep on the buses here! And I definitely wouldn’t count on many of them to back me up in a spot of bother either! Employment is all it is about I think.

      I know how you feel about the buses & I didn’t like them at first but they’re kinda growing on me. Besides, it makes life just a little bit more interesting. Everything is so easy and sanitised in London yet no-one appreciates it – kids leaving chicken and chip boxes on the floor, etc. The system may not be great here but at least people tend to respect it. The people in South London where I lived could learn a lot from that for sure.

      Buses here also dead quiet which I also find unusual given how talkative people in general are anywhere than other than a bus. Perhaps it’s the resignation of the journey ahead!

      Never seen any entertainment on any buses here but that would definitely make things a bit more entertaining!

  7. The turnstile guy is just a leftover from the days before the Bilhete Unico, very much like the fare collector on the old Routemasters. In theory it’s more efficient because the bus doesn’t have to wait at the stop while people search their pockets for coins or their Oyster Card. In practice those guys are obsolete but the bus companies couldn’t just fire half their staff when the new system was introduced. I hope that’s something they can fix in the long run by not hiring new people for the job and letting the existing ones work till they retire.

    • Sure. There are going to be plenty of challenges like that as the country ‘modernises’. Is going to be interesting to see how stuff like that develops over the next few years.

  8. Bad post. You try to be funny, bending and stretching the reality. The fact is São Paulo subway is many times cleaner, faster and more reliable than their european counterparts. São Paulo’s subway and urban train network comprises more than 150 stations. It’s crowded because of its success in a metropolitan area of 20 million people. See the stations map at this link http://www.cptm.sp.gov.br/e_images/geral/mapa_popup.asp.
    Regarding the bus system, you portray the exception as the norm. And the second bus stop picture was not taken in Brazil.
    Bad post. Misleading, deceptive.

    • Hi Jennifer, are you from Sao Paulo? If you are Brazilian and I have offended you then I’m sorry but perhaps I should explain a little and respond to some of your comments.

      Bad post. You try to be funny, bending and stretching the reality.

      Yes, I confess, I was trying to be funny. That is the point of the post and the blog though it’s not meant to be done in an offensive manner. A sarcastic British tone perhaps but not offensive.

      Being humorous tends to involve stretching the reality a little bit. I’m sorry if the dry tone of the post suggests that I’m being 100% serious. I wasn’t.

      The fact is São Paulo subway is many times cleaner, faster and more reliable than their european counterparts. São Paulo’s subway and urban train network comprises more than 150 stations. It’s crowded because of its success in a metropolitan area of 20 million people. See the stations map at this link http://www.cptm.sp.gov.br/e_images/geral/mapa_popup.asp.

      Thank you for the picture of the Metro map. I live here and have seen it before many times but thanks for reminding me.

      I’d also refer you what I said in the post about the Metro system, though I did only wrote paragraph about it so I didn’t think there was too much to get offended by to be honest:

      “The Metro system is deceptive. Aesthetically, it is clean, runs pretty smoothly and some carriages even have TVs and air-conditioning. What lets it down is that it cannot cope with the number of people in the city.”

      That’s effectively the same thing you are saying isn’t it? I’m actually praising it but at the same time saying it is running over-capacity. I would say that is a fair criticism no?

      Nevertheless, I take issue when you say Sao Paulo’s metro system is faster and more reliable than many European counterparts. Yes, it is cleaner but faster and more reliable? What are you basing this on and in comparison to where?

      Also, in London we complain about our Underground system for exactly the same reason (i.e. that it gets overcrowded during rush-hour and the summer). We don’t say that this is because it is successful. We say that it needs to be better so that it can cope. Ditto Sao Paulo.

      Regarding the bus system, you portray the exception as the norm. And the second bus stop picture was not taken in Brazil.
      Bad post. Misleading, deceptive.

      Yes, I know the second picture is not a bus stop in Sao Paulo. It was done for comic effect and I thought this would be fairly obvious (given that there are two references to ‘Anderson shelters’). Again, sorry you misunderstood that.

      Also, I would say that you are slightly exaggerating the point yourself to say this is the exception. Really? This post was not only based upon my observations but what other Paulistanos have told me in the three times I have been here. There are also the other 800 people who have so far read the post who have (I’m assuming since yours is the only negative comment) generally agreed.

      If you look below the post there are comments where the issues are discussed in a bit more of a serious manner. Also, perhaps you should note the first paragraph where I note that we in London criticise and moan about our public transport. Irony? Maybe, but perhaps what is being said in Sao Paulo is relative at the end of day no?

      Again, sorry if you were offended. That really was not the intention.

      • Man, I really hope that your blog has a world wide repercussion cause it’s the reality I see everyday since I took my first bus 20 years ago.
        And I hope that changes something here.

      • Very kind, thank you!

        Most of the reaction seems to suggest Brazilians want things to change so that’s only positive.

        Given Brazil’s economy is booming right now I think the most interesting thing to see in the coming years will be how it uses the money it makes.

        Will it reinvest it in stuff like public transport or will rich people just richer and poor people just get poorer?

      • Will it be reinvested in public transport? That’s a good question. As for poor people, by and large, they are becoming less poor right now. As a friend of mine put it, in the last years, the poor have improved considerably, the rich have become even more rich and the middle class is more or less in the same place (although admittedly comprising a larger slice of the population).

      • Yes I think that is probably a good summation of where Brazil is right now though the gulf between rich and poor is still huge.

        I think it will be interesting if this government and future ones continue to try and implement programs that try and redistribute money. We’ll see!

    • I disagree Jenny. Andy’s post accurately describes my experience of Sao Paulo public transport. Add to his description the apparent inability of paulistas to move out of the way to allow you to enter/exit/move along the bus/metro/cptm and you have a recipes to guarantee fond dreams of a regular, relatively comfortable public transport

    • Bad comment! This short article is great, and TRUE. That’s what is great about it (it’s actually the norm). Your comment is a good example of acceptance of mediocre services, one of many reasons Brazil is slow in moving forward. More recently, the demonstrations to keep the fee low, but not to rise the quality of the servie (2013) is another good example. In any case, very intertwining piece.

  9. interesting read… of course Brazilians want things to change and improve.. people all over the world want this. Moving countries, finding things that are different and writing a blog now seems like a trendy thing to do. Just remember the majority of Brazilians get the bus because they have to – their salary and lifestyle is differen to the UK. For most the car is an unattainable dream… and just remember the guy taking your cash is on the minimum wage and imagine what the bus would be llike without him or her and respect that… The idea that when Brazil ”modernises'” is a bizzare colonial statement as well…

    • I’m not actually sure what your point is? Yes, this is a blog about someone living abroad so I guess don’t read ’em if you don’t like them.

      Not sure I understand what you mean by people’s lifestyles being different in the UK. In proportion to population a relatively similar amount of people use public transport in London every day.

      People also do jobs for a minimum wage in the UK. Your point?

      And had you not noticed I had put modernises in inverted commas?

  10. I think the majority of working londoners could easily afford a car, but given the logistics of parking, london road charges and probably living in areas where there is no parking with their accomodation they choose not to. So in London its more a practical choice than one forced on them by poverty and low income like Brazil. And do you even know what the minimum wage is in Brazil? You must be joking if you think its comparable to London or any part of the UK! Brazil is the third world, it may have a deluded notion that its a world leader but if you live here then it should be very clear it remains third world. I used to have similar sentiments when I arrived here about the “difference”, but when you think about it Brazilians have survived this way long before any ex pats arrived, and chaos is their culture. Oh yeah, they want Brazil to be better, but nobody really does anything or speaks up about it, again, thats the culture here. The only protests you will see in Brazil are for more wages, nothing else really matters. To try and trivialise that culture is a little disrespectful in my opinion, especially if you are a resident of the country. Your big mistake in this is trying to compare london with Brazil!

    • Not really sure how I’m trivialising it? And I didn’t really compare London to Sao Paulo, people who commented did. All I did was make some observations of what I have experienced. Maybe not original but hopefully you also realised I wasn’t actually being serious for the most part?

  11. There are 6 million cars in the city of São Paulo alone. It’s more then the number of cars in the wonderful, majestic and perfect London. So, maybe i should ask the John guy above: who are the poor third worlders again? And about Andy,, i saw you complaining in Twitter about the brazilians calling your texts “collonialistic”. The’re deadly right. You do sound like that, buddy boy. You clearly wants to sound like a open-minded-liberal from the developed world. but when i, born and raised in Sao Paulo, readed the pieces in your blog, it gaves me the impression that all you do is laugh at the exotic, underdeveloped and unfunctional ways of Brazil, while at the same reminding in subtle or not-so-subtle ways how perfect and immaculate is your country. But you know, i dont want to sound like an asshole or anything, but i do feel obligated to remind you that this monkey-and-bananas country have, as of today, more money then yours. And even acknowledging and admitting the obvious fawls and upsets that exists around here, it’s good to remember that we don’t built this economy, in a time of crisis and coming from centuries of robberies and isolation comitted by your european peers, sitting on our asses listening to samba and watching football on the tv. I always say one thing to the so-called “first worlders” who insists to desmoralize and diminish Brazil: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. And men, there’s always a great exit for funny gringos like you. Its called Aeroporto Internacional Franco Motoro, in the city of Guarulhos. Do you need money to buy a ticket?

    • Hello Marina. I am a fellow Brazilian and I am afraid you misunderstood this post and used it to show how bitter you are about what became of our beloved Brazil. I was going to write this reply in Portuguese to avoid more misunderstandings but since you tried so hard to comment in English I will show my appreciation for your, let’s say, somewhat debatable efforts. Not sure how to start but it surprises me that you didn’t mention the quality of our public transport in your comment, given that is the main subject of the post. Perhaps you know how bad it is..or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re the owner of one of those 6 million cars you mentioned and you get to go to work everyday in your nice and comfortable little car. As for me, I face bus-metro-metro-bus journey everyday and waste nearly 2h to cover just over 12km. You said that that are over 6 million cars in São Paulo and that meant we are not ‘third-worlders’…I just want to understand how that works, as I know that most people in SP have cars because they cannot rely on public transport, not because they are all rich and can afford it. No wonder you can purchase a car and spend the next 5 years paying all the instalments off. A lot of people in Andy’s ‘wonderful, majestic and perfect London’ don’t really need a car because they can get around easily using one of the 11 underground lines, plus a huge suburban rail system, light rail, trams and a massive number of bus routes. They didn’t need a major sporting event to realise the importance of public transport and rush to build everything in the last minute. But let’s not talk about that or you’ll get touchy again and ask Andy to move back to London. Yet I wonder: if this post had been written by a Brazilian, would you be so upset? Or what really upsets you is the fact that a foreigner said what most Brazilians know to be true? You said we’re richer than the UK…and I am afraid you’re wrong again. Brazil overtook the UK in the list of large economies, but being 40x bigger than the UK, with 3x its population and with more natural resources, I don’t think that is such an amazing achievement after all. But the quality of life is nowhere near as good and people are still living off a per capita income that is a third of the UK’s. Unfortunately you’ve been fooled by the pretty percentages and perhaps you should be the one waking up and smelling the coffee. How can you say we’re better off while we have the some of the higher taxes in the world and there are millions who are starving and living in poverty? It’s very easy to blame the colonialists and the Portuguese heritage for our problems, but c’mon, we’ve been an independent country for nearly 200 years. Maybe it’s time roll up our sleeves and start blaming ourselves….

    • Hi Marina, thanks for your comment.

      I’m certainly not trying to make out that London or the UK is perfect or immaculate. We have plenty enough problems of our own and I moan about all of them as well. I moan about everything. I’m British. We just try to do it in a humorous way so please try not to take it too personally.

      One problem I do have is that you criticise me personally but without referring to anything in the post. In that case I assume that you just want to have a go at me because I’m a foreigner. Fair enough.

      For example, you mention that there are 6 million cars in São Paulo. Had you ever wondered why? Of course, apart from there being a lot of people in SP I would suggest that a lot of people prefer to drive than use public transport (and many Paulistanos have told me that). Personally, I prefer to walk but I have to cross a bridge to get to university and there is no walkway so it’s not very practical or safe.

      You’re right, Brazil is a great place to live at the moment. When I left the UK it was all doom and gloom due the economy and it’s not a particuarly fun place to be at the moment. However, I must correct you factually. According to this article (written by a Brazilian so you cannot accuse it of being colonialistic) Brazil may actually fall behind the UK. Not that matters really does it?

      PS. I do actually miss my friends and family in the UK so would love to go back to visit. Perhaps I can send you my bank details so you can deposit me some money.

      PPS. Being British I prefer to take tea in the morning.

    • Haha most Brazilians tend to get very sensitive when they’ve got to face the reality of this country – all they want to hear is how wonderful Brazil is – I’m Brazilian and ride buses on a daily basis – everything stated in the text by andyhpmartin is absolutely true –

  12. Tough crowd! Loved this post. Buses are an adventure here, even more so now that I’m armed with wireless internet and my Maps app. Why? Because it’s rarely right on buses, have you ever noticed that? Some of the buses they list flat out don’t exist. I’ll take the metro over a bus every time, but sometimes it’s the straightest line, albeit a crazier, bumpier and more dangerous one.

    • I think my mistake was to post a link to it on the gringoes site. As you may have noticed, most of the comments are from expats rather than Brazilians – which is interesting in itself.

      I haven’t actually used the website, I kind of just wait for a bus and then get it if it seems to be going in the direction I want. What you said doesn’t surprise me though!

  13. I read this before my move to Brazil and had trouble quite envisioning the careful dance of navigating public transit…until today. [Don’t worry, I didn’t interpret the entry as a gospel truth and as a writer who has also endured lots of public transit systems, did not read it as an attack on an entire culture/system. ]

    At any rate, I almost ate it hard after getting past the turnstile and couldn’t help but chuckle because…well…I DID have a warning. :o) Cheers.

    • Haha, yes it’s an experience although one that has actually quite grown on me now. I’m glad you saw that it was all a bit tongue-in-cheek, I’ve been a bit more careful since then to make that more obvious in my posts!

  14. Yes I recognise all this…BUT I must add that Paulistanas DO offer to give up their seat if you look over 60, like me. I find the hardest thing is anticipating where to get off in time to fight your way to the exit. If the buses do not run at set times they are pretty plentiful and they run from about 4 in the morning.

  15. Having to rely on buses in Sao Paulo is disgraceful – speaking from experience –

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