River boats are the buses of the Amazon and serve an extensive network, connecting both major and minor settlements. You won’t see a great deal from the deck, especially if travelling downstream, as the boats stay in the middle of the river to catch the current. Going upstream, you will see an endless line of trees broken by the occasional village. However, the atmosphere on board is lively. Food is served, usually consisting of meat, beans and rice (which is brown as it is cooked in river water) and there is often a bar serving drinks and snacks. The size and quality of the boats varies greatly. The best boats ply the busiest routes: Manaus–Santarém–Belém and Manaus–Tabatinga. Overcrowding can be a problem. The cheapest way to travel is hammock class, out in the open on the deck. Be sure to take water, a cable and padlock for your bags, a jumper (nights on the water can be cool) a good book and, most importantly, a rede (hammock) with two pieces of rope (each about 1 m long) to string it up across the beams. The boats that travel on the Amazon itself are largely mosquito free – except when they moor; it’s a good idea to bring a mosquiteiro para rede (mosquito net) for your hammock. Hammocks and nets can be bought easily in any of the larger Amazon towns, usually in the downtown area near the river. Arrive early to get a good spot. Some boats also have air-conditioned berths and cabins and, for a higher price, suites with attached bathroom. Many boats ply the following routes: Manaus–Belém via Parintins, Óbidos and Santarém (four days); Manaus–São Gabriel da Cachoeira via Barcelos and Santa Isabel (six days); Manaus– Porto Velho via Manicoré and Humaitá (four days); Manaus–Tefé (36 hours); Manaus– Parintins (20 hours); Manaus–Tabatinga (six days); Belém–Santarém (two to three days); Belém–Macapá (36 hours); Macapá–Manaus (seven to 10 days)
Aside from routes to Belém from the Atlantic Coast and from Tocantins, bus routes are limited to the following: Amazonas/Roraima: Manaus–Boa Vista (via Presidente Figuieredo), paved. Roraima: Boa Vista–Venezuela, paved. Boa Vista– Guyana, paved. Amazonas: São Gabriel da Cachoeira–Cucuí, paved and dirt. Amapá: Macapá–Oiapoque (from where there is boat and road access to French Guiana), dirt. Pará: Santarém–Cuiabá (in the Pantanal) is being improved and buses now run intermittently along the route through Pará into Mato Grosso with changes at Itauba for Alta Floresta and the Rio Cristalino; enquire at the rodoviára in Cuiabá or Santarém for the latest details. Amazonas/ Rondônia: Humaitá–Porto Velho. Rondônia/Acre: Porto Velho–Rio Branco with onward buses to Cruzeiro do Sul and Peru, weather permitting. There are services to Guajará-Mirim along a small branch road, paved and dirt. Rodônia/Mato Grosso: Porto Velho–Cuiabá and onwards to the rest of Brazil, paved. There are dirt roads Manaus–Porto Velho, and Santarém–Porto Velho, but these are currently overgrown and impassable.
Flight networks within the Amazon are extensive. Rico, http://www.voerico.com.br, flies Manaus–Belém with stops at Santarém and Parintins and to a number of smaller towns. Trip, http://www.voetrip.com.br, flies Manaus–São Gabriel da Cachoeira via Barcelos, and Manaus– Tabatinga via Tefé; it also links Manaus with Brasília, Cuiabá and Campo Grande and Alta Floresta with Brasília, Cuiabá and the rest of Brazil. META, http://www.voemeta.com, flies Belém– Boa Vista, Belém–Georgetown (Guyana) via Paramaribo (Suriname), Belém–Santarém, Boa Vista–Georgetown and Boa Vista–Paramaribo. TAM, http://www.tam.com.br, links Alta Floresta, Altamira, Santarém and all the Amazon state capitals with the rest of Brazil and with Cuzco (Peru). GOL, http://www.voegol.com.br, connects all of the state capitals with the rest of Brazil. Oceanair, http://www.oceanair.com.br, flies to Manaus, Porto Velho and Alta Floresta. Flight schedules are constantly changing and routes frequently close and re-open. Check the airline websites for the latest details and for prices