Most scholars divide the different types of Buddhism into three sections. The first of these is Southern Buddhism, or Theraveda Buddhism. The word Theraveda is a word in the Pali language (thought to be spoken by the Buddha) that means "the Doctrine of the Elders". The biggest aim in the Theraveda practice is to use meditation to train the mind, and to encourage freedom of the mind from suffering. This freedom from suffering will allow you to reach the greatest spiritual goal - Nirvana. Theraveda Buddhism is the only surviving school from the earliest years of Buddhism, and it is mostly practiced today in Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia.
The second type of Buddhism that is mentioned is Eastern Buddhism, also known as Mahayana Buddhism. This sect not only teaches the Pali Canon (which is the religious text of Theraveda Buddhism) but also includes additional texts and beliefs. In order to reach Nirvana, Mahayana Buddhists believe that a person must practice universal compassion, which is the altruistic quest of the Bodhisattva to attain the "Awakened Mind" of Buddhahood. Mahayana Buddhism also has a level of mysticism involved. This type of Buddhism is practiced in China, Korea and Japan, as well as parts of other Asian countries.
The third of the different types of Buddhism is Northern or Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is also considered to be a type of Mahayana Buddhism, but it also embraces other teachings, texts and practices that are not seen in the Eastern type of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is also sometimes called Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana. This type of Buddhism uses both the Mahayana and Theraveda scriptures, as well as a number of Buddhist Tantras - all of which are aimed at attaining Buddhahood in just one lifetime instead of requiring many reincarnations.
While all of the different types of Buddhism have the same goal and same basis for their beliefs, the way that Buddhahood is obtained varies from sect to sect. It is important to understand the way that each sect works before choosing to practice a type of Buddhism.
An old Brahman priest asked Buddha: "What should we do [to be saved]?
The Buddha answered, "....look for another Holy One who will come and help the world and all of you in the future."
Then the Brahman priest asked, "What will the characteristics of the Holy One be like?"
The Buddha answered him, "The Holy one who will keep the world in the future will be like this: In the palm of his hands and in the flat of his feet will be the design of a disk, in his side will be a stab wound; and his forehead will have many marks like scars. The Holy One will be the golden boat who will carry you over the cycle of rebirths all the way to the highest heaven [Nirvana]. Do not look for salvation in the old way [trying to merit salvation]; there is no salvation in it for sure. Quit the old way, and there will be a new spirit like the light of a lightening bug which will come down from the sky above to live in all of your hearts, and you will be victorious over all of your enemies. Nobody will be able to destroy you. If you die, you will not come back to be born in this world again. You will go to the highest heaven [Nirvana].
There is Theravada (the conservative, atheistic school who believe wisdom is the highest goal), Mahayana (the liberal, more theistic school, that teaches compassion as the highest ideal), and Vajrayana (the esoteric, occults school that deals more in magic than philosophy)
The latest believe in an afterlife sounds silly for a Buddhist eh? Considering it's a philosophy and not even supposed to be a religion as they originally did NOT believe in an after-life, some delusional control freak came along and added that one.
EDIT Ha! didn't I mention not all of them are so silly though