I went down to the Marvellous City on the 11:10 pm Itapemirim bus (number 49017) from São Paulo's Tietê bus station, a grey monster with poor bus links but easy access to the Underground which handles about 80% of São Paulo's coach traffic. It has ATMs and a good variety of shops. The platforms are well signposted, as are the booking offices (each showing the main destinations as well as the company name). On the lower floor, numbered platforms (1 to 70 for departures, 71 to 90 for arrivals) and, if you are travelling with Cometa, 1001 or Catarinense, you can use a VIP room with newspapers, comfortable seats and nice warm coffee.
The bus left Platform 25 with British punctuality. A pleasant surprise, although the trip was billed as Convencional we were served by a better-class Golden Bus. The trip went smoothly, I had no-one sitting beside me so managed to sleep. One stop with an excellent restaurant, bathrooms and showers.
Got to Rio on time. Rio's bus station is a shambles, another grey monster but this time poorly signposted and divided into five independent terminals (A to E) far from each other. There are a few shops and a very expensive cybercafé (R$ 9 for an hour, which is about 3 Euros).
Then went to the city bus station, a run-down shed without walls, and got bus 133 to Largo do Machado, an interesting trip through Estácio and Catumbi to Largo do Machado, connecting with the Underground at Estácio and also Largo do Machado.
I went too early for checkin, so went to my event (a translators' conference in Humaitá) using buses 409 and 410, good service. The Sugar Loaf can be seen from Botafogo Beach. Had lunch at the Al Capone Pizzaria (Rua Humaitá 140), excellent service, although portion on the small size, especially meatwise. Had dinner at the Big Nectar (Rua do Catete 148), also good service.
The worst thing was the hostel which had actually been recommended! My advice: NEVER stay at the Art Hostel! It's terrible: a) no soap in room, b) no water in shower, c) door knob broken, d) poor breakfast, e) queues snaking through the room at breakfast time, f) only one coathanger, g) rude staff, h) bad counter service (woman cackling on phone more than 20 minutes while people waiting for assistance), i) no carpet on floor, j) tiny room.
Catete itself was OK, I felt perfectly safe except when a woman's pitbull came a bit too close! You can visit Catete Palace where President Vargas shot himself in 1954. Catete has easy access by bus to Corcovado Train Station (422), Sugar Loaf (107) and the beaches as far as Leblon (464).
The event itself was held in Humaitá, also in the South Zone and 15 minutes from Catete by bus. Humaitá has poor infrastructure, could not find a shop to buy a film, for example, and no cybercafé either.
Returning, picked up bus 170 to bus station, this line goes through town (which has also improved tremendously, Lapa is much better lit than what I remembered from before). This was the only time the bus was full - in general, Rio's bus service is excellent.
Got to bus station, checked e-mails and boarded the 10:15 pm bus of 23 September, bus 8537, driver Carlos. Pleasant trip except we were stopped twice along the way by the cargo weighing system. Got in to São Paulo 40 minutes late but didn't really mind as I would have had to wait about that time for the Underground to start working.
Assessment (from zero to 10): Coach (8), Bus Station SP (8), Bus Station RJ (5), City Bus Station RJ (6), Trip 133 (8), Other bus trips (9), Meals (7), Hostel (0), Transport System (9).