How to do an overnight bus properly

If you’re travelling around South America on a budget, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself on a 15 hour (or more). However, there is no need to dread them! I’m a few long bus journeys down and I’ve cracked the code. Here are my best tips.
Booking

A simple A to B google search will bring up the right page to book online. However if you’re booking a bus from Brazil you will need a CPF number (a Brazilian identification number). So if you haven’t already made friends with the hostel staff, do! You can use a local’s CPF (with their permission) and then book your ticket in your name. Failing this, booking your bus from the terminal on the day is no issue. I have yet to be on a full bus, even on a Friday/ Sunday evening. 
A word about TIMING. If you’ve got a 15 hour bus, don’t waste a day, choose over night. You can get a very decent night’s sleep if you choose the right seat.


There are various seat options online. From cheapest to most expensive the choices are: executivo individual, semi-cama, coche cama and promo cama ejecutivo. You’ll always want to choose promo cama ejecutivo “promo executive bed” where possible. This option is the most expensive but if you check the currency conversion, it is often only £5-10 more then economy “executive individual. Just think that you’re saving on a whole night’s accommodation!
If you are booking in advance, I have found it best to get to the bus terminal about 40 minutes before departure so you have time to brush your teeth in an actual toilet and change into some warmer clothes as the buses are often very cold, especially at night. 


Essential items to bring
 

Pack for the artic. It is advisable that you have a couple of warm layers in your hand luggage. I get really cold so normally wear a thermal, t-shirt, jumper and a light jacket. I would also advise a blanket (I use my towel or beach sarong) and if you’re carrying a sleeping bag/ or sleeping bag liner keep that in your hand luggage too!
I have no shame in admitting that I sleep for about 9 hours on these buses! Most of the credit must go to my faithful neck pillow. I would recommend an inflatable one and always pick the softest! I also love an eye mask. The bus gets pretty light from 6am, even with the curtains drawn. Earplugs/ headphones are essential for drowning out the odd unhappy baby and general noise.
In terms of theft, i’ve personally never had a problem on any bus in South America. However, I do know people that have! To be on the safe side, I always keep all my money, cards and phone in my money belt which I wear the whole journey. I also padlock my rucksack shut and keep it by my feet.

Entertainment 

I am confident to say I have officially aced overnight bus entertainment. It’s all about the pre download. Spotify, BBC iplayer and Sky app’s have become sacred for these journeys. Although technically speaking you cannot get access UK TV apps abroad, I have heard that you can download Tunnel Bear app, pay a monthly fee of £3 and get unlimited VPN (i.e hiding your location). You can download endless films and episodes before you leave. Before I started travelling, I was not a TV person. However I have come to realise that it is a successful way of escaping the reality of a long bus! 
I also always bring a book but its often too dark to read and turning your light on tends to light up the entire bus of sleeping people. It just depends how many evil stares you can stand..

Food

Last, but certainly not least, food for the journey. Long buses often make stops every few hours. However the food available in the service station is often wheat based, fairly unhealthy and very expensive. 

Whenever I can, I prepare some food ahead. Most hostels have kitchen facilities and tupperwares are easy to find in any supermarket. I normally prepare some dinner, snacks and maybe breakfast. Not all food travels well. Including bananas. Which i found out the hard way. Here are some of my healthy faves to take on the bus.
Dinner:

Quinoa

Cooked veg (peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots)

Salad (make sure it has been cleaned with filtered water as drinking the tap water can make you ill so washing lettuce leaves in it is not to be advised)

Sweet potato fries

Snacks/ breakfast:

Unsalted nuts

Popcorn 

Apples

Tangerines

Quinoa with peanut butter, dark chocolate (absolute FAVE)

I’ve grown to love a good overnight bus. A couple of hours of relaxation, often no wifi and sleep.
Feet up, belly full, David Attenboroughed out, I wish you a beautiful night’s sleep!

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Restaurant Shout Out, Rio de Janiero

Flavoursome organic and gluten-free food in Rio.

In my previous post I recommended some great eateries I had visited during my time in Rio. However, Celeiro deserves a post of it´s own.
You can find Celeiro (and I recommend that you do!) in Leblon. Leblon is the wealthiest area of Rio. There are plenty of restaurants on the same street offering anything from fillet mignon to ceviche.

Celeiro is a little special. For starters, everything is organic. My lunch at Celeiro has to be one of the most flavoursome I’ve had. The pesto pasta has so much TASTE. The chefs pimped the traditional basil flavour with some extra garden herbs (and nailed it). Flavours aside, no pesticides means no consumption of extra chemicals. Happy taste buds, happy tummy!

The menu offers zingy fresh juices to homemade soup. I particularly recommend the salad bar which costs around 15 brl (£4) / 100g. My favourite part was the variety of the hot gluten free options. The gluten-free quiche, croquettes and pesto pasta which I tried were phenomenal. Celeiro separates all sem gluten options from gluten containing foods so it’s safe for Celiacs. For cold options, feast upon quinoa salads, roasted pepper and homemade guacamole. If you’re looking for quality ingredients, you’ve come to the right place.

Celeiro is also diary-free and vegan friendly. You’ll be spoilt for choice. I highly recommended treating yourself at Celeiro! It has been my favourite lunch in Rio so far.

Celeiro, Rua Dias Ferreira, 199

Eating in Rio

 Food in Rio, restaurant recommendations, food tips, fitness suggestions..

Wheat, meat and acai is a good three word summary of my experience of food in Rio!

 

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I’ve been staying in hostels and the free breakfast consists of cake, toast, paquet cheese and ham BUT also fresh watermelon, papaya and melon. In the main areas like Copacabana and Lapa there are cafes on every corner where you can get a traditional chicken, rice and beans for about 20 reales (£5). Acai and coconut water are in abundance in Rio! When I stayed in Copacabana I genuinely couldn’t go more than 3 minutes without walking past a cafe that sold them.

 

Recommendations

Feijoada- one of Brazil’s most famous dishes. A hearty stew made with black beans, sausages, cuts of pork, a side portion of crackling and some orange pieces to finish it off. Really tasty!

Delirio Tropical- came recommended from a friend who used to live in Rio. It’s a small Brazilian chain with a salad buffet and gluten free options! (Maize pasta, quinoa..) Also the best chocolate cake I think I have ever had in my life. (£6) for plateful of three different salads. They also do takeaway! 36 Ria da Assembleia, Centro

Carretao- a local recommended this restaurant in Copacabana for Brazilian BBQ- all you can eat meat and salad! Fill your plate with a variation of roasted vegetables, Israeli salad, beetroot and all other kinds of greenery. Waiters come round with all different kinds of tender meats. My favourite meal in Rio so far. (£25) with wine. 23 Ria Siquiera Campos, Copacabana

Acai and coconut water on every corner. Make the most of the (£2) acai and (£1 )coconut water fresh out of a coconut! ** Watch out for the sugary granola toppings and that the Acai doesn’t come with “xarope” syrup as it will be overly sweet.

O Quintal Zen- EVERYTHING wheat and dairy free. It’s a five minute walk from Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and the food is delicious. I had a wheat dairy free pesto pasta with complementary lavender water and a brigadeiro (typical Brazialian dessert). The dessert is normally made with dolce de leche and cocoa but this one was refined sugar free made from the banana root and raw cacao.

A refined sugar free, gluten free and dairy free brigadeiro

 

Food tips

Nutrition? Pimp your meals! Mix up a container of superfoods before you come. You can add extra nutritents to all your meals. Mine is made up of chia seeds, almonds, cocoa nibs (interesting on savoury food), linseeds and sunflower seeds. I sprinkle it on everything, sweet potato omelettes to peanut butter covered bananas!

Avoid refined? White rice comes with most dishes but “arroz integral” (brown rice) is easy to come by in the supermarkets.

No sugar? Watch out for the Caipirinha’s. As delicious (and alcoholic) as they may be, about 5 tablespoons of white sugar goes into them. Vodka and soda is available in most bars but you will pay extra (£7 instead of £4)

Budget? Snack on bananas (20p) with some peanut butter to balance the sugar . I brought Pip and Nut sachets with me but there are plenty of health food shops around which sell a good quality nut butter. Failing this peanuts are (£1) for a bag in the supermarket.

A peanut butter covered banana with my own nutritious toppings

 

Fitness suggestions

1. Hike up to Christ the Redeemer. Expect a tough 2 hour hike up to the top including parts where you climb up using metal handles built into the rock. I felt like I’d done an hours spin class under hot yoga conditions. Incredibly rewarding when you get to the top.

2. Hire bikes to explore the city. We biked down Copacabana beach, to Ipanema beach, then around  Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas stopping off at Parque Lage and the Botanical Garden, back through Leblon (wealthy area of Rio) to Copabacabana. Great work out.

3. There are outdoor gyms at every 50m of Copacabana. Test your press ups, chin ups and sit ups! Most parks around the Copacabana area also have outdoor cross-trainer style machines and arm presses.

My travelling companion Lydia getting in some pull ups on Ipanema beach

***Not all supermarkets take credit card (Revolut/ STA travel card). We found this out the hard way.. Pão de Açúcar takes credit card but others do not!


Backpacking with intolerances and allergies

Daunting. To leave local shop shelves stacked plentifully with wheat and dairy alternatives was no easy decision. Neither was saying goodbye to my nutribullet, juicer, steamer and cupboard full of ingredients.

I get a lot of enjoyment from cooking. Whether it’s whipping up a gluten and dairy freequiche or some raw brownies. I appreciate great tasting food (which is always that little bit more delicious if you’ve made it yourself). Even more important still, is the satisfaction of filling my body with maximum nutrition and avoiding those foods which do not agree with me (wheat, dairy, onions, apples..). The last few years I have relied on my diet to keep me in good mental and physical health following personal illness. Although my diet is important to maintain, it shouldn’t stop me from travelling around South America!
In fact many packaged “superfoods” we see on our shelves are from in South America. First stop Rio, home of coconut water and açai!! Looking forward to trying some Yucca and cupuaçu.

Stay tuned!

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