A solution for Santa Teresa while we wait for the Bondinho


Anyone who has visited Rio’s Santa Teresa neighbourhood over the last 3 years may have been a little confused. The picturesque streets that trace the area’s steep hills and hairpin bends are covered in tracks, yet the Santa Teresa tram has not been seen here since August 2011. Instead you see posters on walls and stickers in car windows showing the image above.

Back when I first moved to Rio, the tram of Santa Teresa, better known as the Bonde or Bondinho, was a major tourist attraction. The bright yellow wooden tram cars were rickety but pretty and made for an utterly charming way to get around Santa Teresa. However, although tourists and locals flocked to the trams, all was not well.

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The Metro Barata Rush

The Rio metro


Today will be the last in a trio of posts about public transport in Rio. In the Beginner’s guide to taking the Rio Metro, I mentioned that there can be a bit of a scramble to get a seat during rush-hour – the Barata Rush. Well today I thought I’d show you the footage as it makes me chuckle.


Kind of sweet at the end – the couple who missed out have a little hug to console each other.


“Barata” means cockroach in Portuguese, but I’m not calling these people cockroaches! The first time I saw this, I heard a couple of guys laughing at the way that people ran into the empty carriage to get a seat. One said “They move like cockroaches in the kitchen when you turn on the light”. Kind of stuck in my head. If anything, as a bus user, I see myself as one rung down on the public transport ladder…

The only time and place I’ve ever see this is at Botafogo during rush hour – that’s because it’s the beginning of one of the metro lines, so the train is empty and many of the people are at the beginning of a long journey. Therefore the difference between getting that seat or not is whether you stand or sit for an hour.
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Look what just rolled into Rio

One of my first ever posts was related to the buses of Rio. Back then I used to churn out a post a week and each one was a lot longer than the ones I write now. That particular post contains illustrated advice on how to hail a bus, an assortment of anecdotes and even a film recommendation (you lucky people!). 


Taken from one of my first ever posts, this illustration (done by my own fair hand) demonstrates how to catch that tricky bus in the outside lane…

Little did I know it at the time, but I would go on to become something of a bus nerd. I guess it is the same everywhere, when you use a transport system every day then you take an interest (I remember having in-depth discussions back in London over what was the best underground route for getting from Baker St to South Kensington during rush hour).

So I admit it, I’m kind of into the buses here in Rio. And something cool is roving the streets right now. Something hi-tech, something luxurious, something (dare I say it?) space-age in appearance.

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How to use the Rio Metro (Beginners Guide)

A few weeks ago my wife and I were accosted as we entered our local metro station in Glória. But before you start thinking this is going to be another tale of Rio’s notorious violence, I should make it clear that the only law enforcement team we needed were the Manners Police

A middle aged South African guy came up to us and frantically shouted “Finally! Someone who speaks English”. He went on to demand that we tell him how to get to Ipanema, going on to mention that he and his wife (who had wordlessly appeared at his side) were completely lost and no one could explain anything to him. We were happy to help, but were both quite taken aback by his slightly rude, aggressive stance through all this. Like what had taken us so long to get there to help him?

Metro Rio – nothing here to be scared of (but don’t expect the staff to speak English).

Not that I particularly want to help him again, but I thought it might be nice to put together some simple guidelines for someone coming to Rio who wanted to save some cash on taxis. 

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Big Fresh – frescão!

The words “Big Fresh” mean a lot of different things around the world. 

Big and Fresh


Supermarkets, logistics companies, burgers, soft drinks and air fresheners – there are a lot of things claiming to be both big and fresh. There is even a terrible Danish rapper whose one track is so bad that I can’t bring myself to post it.

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On your feet – I’m obese!

The transport system in London is not renowned for being spacious, airy or comfortable. Neither is it known for being efficient, punctual or good value for money. It’s not all bad – I wish Rio’s subway network was as extensive as London’s – but it’s a constant source of complaint and discussion for Londoners.

London buses can get a little crowded

One perennial discussion centres on giving up your seat. If you travel between 8-10 in the morning or 5-7 in the evening you will have to stand most days. So when you manage to grab yourself a seat it can feel pretty good! Then you see a frail old guy, or a mother holding a child and you hop up to offer your seat right? …Right?!

Well yes, I think most of us do and (let’s be honest) we give ourselves a little mental pat on the back for being ‘a good person’ when we do it. In fact I find that it rather brightens my day, feeling that I’ve done something amazing for a helpless stranger in distress (keeping this little scene in my head allows me to really go to town on transforming myself into an urban transport hero).

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Ônibus – the buses of Rio

I have been using buses to get around Rio since I moved here. I discovered early on that as well as being a good way to get to know the layout of Rio, they also provide a great way to get a feel for the inhabitants.

A typical Rio bus – you can see that this is an old photo as tickets are now R$2.75 (95p or $1.50ish)

Initially I was daunted by the fact that absolutely none of the drivers or ticket inspectors speak any English (at the time I had not started my Portuguese lessons). But it was simple enough to master – you simply stick your arm out when you see your bus coming, hop on and say hello to the driver, then give your money to the ticket inspector and find a seat. When you want to get off you pull the cord that runs along the ceiling and the driver will pull in at the next stop – not rocket science.