Is there any alternative to taking a plane between Rio and Salvador? Is there a way to go by land? I don't want to drive myself.
Of course there's a way to go by land ---if you have the time--and it passes some of the nicest beaches in Brazil. You can go up the coast stopping at Buzios, the beaches near Campos and Vitoria, the Abrolhos marine park, Porto Seguro/Arraial D'Ajuda/Trancoso, Ilheus/Itacare, Boipeda, Morro do Sao Paulo...until you reach Salvador.
Choose Porto Seguro area and Ilheus area, at minimum, to break up the trip. They both have great beaches and nightlife.
You can take comfortable overnight (leito or semi-leito, fully reclining seats) buses for the longer distances.
However, at some times of the year, the difference between bus fare and a flight is very small for the time involved.
The grueling alternative straight bus trip of about 24-28 hours is not recommended.
And yes, you would, IMO, be foolish to drive.
Have a great trip.
On the bus, is the scenery nice to see, or are you just driving on a big highway full of cars? Also, do you have any idea how to find out the cost of the bus?
It's a Brazilian highway (1 lane each way, usually) and Brazilian scenery (miles of palmeiras, cana, cows). If you haven't seen the countryside and you want to spend your time that way instead of at and around destination cities you can fly into, that's a decision only you can make (if indeed it isn't just a case of spending less money, which may not actually be true). There are also the overnight buses, as mentioned.
Here is a link to the ANTT site, the main bus site for Brazil, and instructions for using it.
Let me answer part A of the question - between Rio and Salvador, except for part of the way around the city of Vitória, which is a state capital north of Rio, the road is not like an interstate highway like the ones in the US - those are located more around large cities and in the state of São Paulo.
So, it's mostly a two-lane highway with opposing traffic (one of the reasons it's best not to drive yourself) and there are often points where many trucks will also be on the road. Also, you will not necessarily be driving right by the sea - in many stretches the areas closer to the beaches have some level of environmental protection that doesn't allow the roads to get there. That's why it's interesting to consider taking the bus if you take one directly to some of the towns which can be accessed on even smaller roads branching out from the highway on which the bus will travel.
Often the more comfortable buses are actually the ones travelling over-night, when you can't see anything of the scenery. During the day it's common for the buses to stop at many towns closest to the roads, which is great to get a feel for all these different locations, definitely off the beaten track for foreign or even Brazilian tourists.
Although I have never travelled the whole extension of it and it has been a few years since I've last been there, I think this description is fairly accurate.
Hope this helps.
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