Everybody takes the bus here (ok…the rich don’t) and I like that fact. Your friends won’t mind if you tell them you might be late because you’re taking the bus. Your significant other won’t think less of you (and you won’t think less of yourself) if you have to take the bus to get to her/him.
The problems with the bus system are the following, though. There’s no number to call, as far as I know, where you can talk to someone from the bus company to consult on the bus line times and locations. The bus stops don’t have maps and times listed so you are left to asking any bus driver to see if they know the other bus lines and destinations. Sometimes there’s an employee at certain stops who writes down info which the driver gives him/her. You can consult this person but it’s likely they won’t have the info you need either. On top of all of this, the lines change numbers and destinations with a certain frequency that trying to remember it all gets really confusing. There are a few sites one can use to find out which bus is the one for you but they are often working with no-longer-relevant information. The other day, I consulted directions on Google Maps, which indicated a bus line for my trip. I went to the stop in Ipanema, a block away from the metro station where many buses pass by. I waited over an hour for the bus in question but it never came. At that point I went to the plaza where the metro is and asked other bus drivers who each told me 2-3 other bus lines and where to catch them. I also asked a bus company employee and he told me yet of another 2 buses. That’s about a total of 8-9 bus lines. I waited for each or any and none of them were right. In the end, I just took more than one bus to get where I was going.
In general, I half joke that I get on any particular bus and just start praying, hoping it goes in the general direction I want or, just maybe, down the street I want.
I have experience with the buses in the US but most of the time I just drove my car or rode my motorcycle. All bus stops I’ve ever encountered have a little map of the route and times. There is also a number posted at each stop where you can consult with an operator about which bus you need to take to get where you are going. Online, there are maps and schedules which are up-to-date (and inside the buses are pamphlets with schedules). We also don’t employ a fare-taker since all buses have a little money-taking machine which gives no change, therefore you need to have the correct fare if you are thinking of taking the bus. At worst, you pay a tiny bit more because of not being able to get change.
If you’d like to read a satirical account of taking the bus (in Recife), go here.