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Brazil Driving Guide 2020

Driving in Brazil is not so different to driving in the USA, as long as you have an International Driving Permit and an understanding of the basic rules.

Lisa Brown

February 12, 2020

INTRODUCTION

Brazil is a beautiful country, featuring some of the most jaw-dropping sights in the world. For example, you will be able to see the stunning monument of Christ the Redeemer. This awe-inspiring statue is 98 feet (38 meters) high and has become a major tourist attraction. Brazil also has plenty of natural wonders to explore. For example, you can hike through canyons, seeing the natural formations that have formed. Alternatively, you can fly to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and get a birds-eye view of the country. Or, you can choose to simply relax on the picturesque white sandy beaches. You might also want to visit some of the cultural landmarks, like the Centro Historico. This features stunning historical buildings and cobblestoned streets. Or you can see the beautiful Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Lourdes. This famous church towers the landscape, with a stunning stone façade and incredible interior.

With so many beautiful sights, it’s no wonder that Brazil has been a popular setting in a range of movies and television shows. Its rich culture and friendly people also help it attract thousands of people each year. To make sure that you experience everything that this country has to offer, you will need to drive a car. This will give you more scope to explore, stopping whenever you see something interesting. To help you do this, let’s look at some of the things you need to know when driving in Brazil.
Places to Stay In Brazil
Brazil offers some of the best hotels in the world. You can choose between five-star hotels, with luxury accommodations. This includes amenities like pools and spacious bedrooms. This is the perfect place to relax, taking in the night-time views of the lights over the city. Alternatively, you might want to choose more affordable accommodations. Though there might not have the same amenities, they will allow you to immerse yourself deeper with the local culture.

Brazil is a city that offers an abundance of entertainment. You can travel during the day to cultural attractions, like the stunning churches and historical buildings. Or you can just relax on the clear white sands. At night, you will be able to engage in the exciting nightclubs that adorn the city. These encourage a party atmosphere, where you will be able to have fun with your friends.
Getting Around Brazil
There are multiple ways that you will be able to get around Brazil. This will allow you to select the method that works best for your needs.

First, you might want to choose a taxi. There are plenty of registered taxis around the city, with highly knowledgeable local drivers. This is perfect for a night out, as you won’t need to worry about the strict drink driving laws. Before you get into a taxi, you might want to clarify the fee with the driver, pointing out the route on a map. This will ensure that you get a fair price for his services.

Another popular form of transport is the bus. This is most popular for a longer journey, due to the high domestic airfares. However, this can be unreliable, with buses breaking down frequently. For this reason, it’s recommended that you choose one of the bigger bus services, which will be able to get replacement buses quickly. In addition, some of the journeys can be long. It’s not uncommon for a bus trip to take 4 hours.

You might also want to consider taking the metro and subway. This offers good coverage of the city, with reasonable fares. To make sure that you get a good deal, you will need to make sure that you purchase tickets from the train station. In addition, you will need to make sure that you keep a close eye on your belongings, to make sure that you don’t get robbed. You should also be aware that these services don’t run at night, so you might need to rely on an alternative form of transport, like taxis.

While driving in a foreign country like Brazil can be a daunting experience, it might be one of the best ways to get around. This ensures that you will be able to go wherever you want, sticking to your own schedule. It will also provide a unique perspective on the culture, and make it easier for you to meet the friendly locals.

Renting a car will allow you to explore not just the big cities but also those all-important towns, villages and landmarks in Brazil.

Driving in Brazil with US License

When driving in Brazil, it’s essential that you have a valid driving permit. If you don’t, you might face legal penalties. There are a few regulations that you need to follow in this country. First, you are allowed to be driving in Brazil with U.S. License. However, you will need to have your U.S. license and passport with you at all times. You will also need to make sure that you are carrying a translation of the license in Portuguese so that the local authorities will be able to understand it. For this reason, you might want to consider getting an International Driving Permit.

What Is an International Driving Permit?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a translation of your license. This will help the local authorities verify that you are certified to drive. For this reason, you will find it much easier to be driving in Brazil with IDP. The IDP can be generated in 12 languages, this makes it a vital tool for travelers.

Applying for an IDP

As an American driving in brazil with an international driving permit, you will need to present this to the police if they request to see a copy. To do this, you will need to apply for an IDP. Thankfully, this is a fairly easy process that you can complete online in a few minutes. There are also some conditions that you will need to meet. For example, you will need to show that you have had a valid driver’s license in your home country for at least six months. You will also need to be over 18 years old. Once this has been done, your application will be processed, and you will be able to get the documents sent to you. In most cases, the IDP will be valid for one year. However, if you are a frequent traveler, or plan on a longer stay, there are options that will be valid for two or three years. If you’ve already arrived in Brazil, and been asked to provide an IDP, you will be able to expedite the process. This can take place online, and you will be able to get an electronic copy of your documents.

Longer Stays

In most cases, you can be driving in Brazil with a U.S license, passport, and IDP. However, if you want to take an extended holiday you might run into some problems. If you want to vacation in Brazil for over 180 days, you will need to apply for a Brazilian driver’s license. You can do this at one of the many driving schools in Brazil. When going for the test, you will need to present a range of documents. They will need to see your proof of identity, proof of identity and your CPF number. They will then be able to test whether or not you are a safe driver. Assuming that you pass, you will be able to qualify for a Brazilian license.

Driving in US with a Brazilian License

If you are a Brazilian citizen driving in the U.S. you will also need to make sure that you have the correct documents. If you intend on staying for under three months, you should be able to use your valid Brazilian driver’s license. This will be accepted in every state, except for Georgia, where you will need to have an IDP. However, if you plan to rent a car, you might need to show an IDP. You might also need to be older than 21 years of age in order to secure a rental car.

If you forget or make a last minute decision that you want to rent a car while you are in Italy, it is possible to get an IDP through a premium fast track service, and it will be sent to you electronically in just a few hours.

How to Rent a Car in Brazil?

When traveling around Brazil, you might want to rent a car. This will give you more flexibility, as you will be able to choose which landmarks you visit and what schedule you keep. Let’s look at the process that you will need to go through to obtain a rental car.

Where to Rent a Car

There are multiple places where you might be able to rent a car. However, the most convenient location might be going to the airport. They will have a wide range of car rental companies for you to choose from. Most people will be familiar with the car rental names available. For example, you will be able to find Hertz and Budget Rentals. However, the largest rental car company in Brazil is Localiza. You will also find a wide range of cars to choose from. In most cases, the vehicle will be able to run on both gas and ethanol. This will give you more choices at the gas station. However, you should check this with the rental company.

What Are the Documents I Need to Rent a Car?

In order to rent a car, you will need to show a range of documents. First, you will need to show that you have a valid license and passport. In addition, you will need to present a valid way of paying for the car, such as a credit card. When you apply to rent a car, you will need to fill out multiple documents. This can include things like signing a rental agreement and insurance papers. It’s essential that you remember to keep a copy of these documents. These might come in important later, as you can prove that you are allowed to drive the vehicle.

The Legal Age When Renting a Car

The driving age in Brazil can be a bit complex. Brazilian, citizens will need to be at least 18 years old when they apply for a license. However, there are some areas, like San Paulo, where the driving age is 21. For this reason, most car rental companies will only lend their vehicles to those who are over 21 years of age.

Choose Your Vehicle Carefully

You might want to make sure that you are selective about the type of vehicle that you choose. Often, the type of car that you choose will depend on the type of area that you intend to travel through. For example, if you intend to stay in the city, you might be better off choosing a smaller car. Alternatively, if you want to go off-roading, it might be better for you to choose an SUV. This will give you more stability. In order to make sure that you get the type of car that you want, you will need to make sure that you book ahead.

What are the costs of Renting A Car?

The costs will vary significantly depending on the type of car that you choose to rent. In general, though, you will be able to get a smaller car for around R$100 and an SUV for R$200. These costs will also include the insurance policy, in case you damage the vehicle. There are a few ways that you can further decrease these costs. For example, you might want to read the policy carefully. This will often contain important information, like whether you need to return the vehicle with a full tank of gas. By understanding this, you will be able to reduce the number of rental fees that you will need to pay. In addition, you should make sure that any pre-existing damage is recorded before you leave. This will ensure that you aren’t left paying for someone else’s accident.

What Equipment to Have in the Car?

In Brazil, you will need to make sure that you have certain pieces of equipment in the vehicle. This will ensure that you will be kept safe if you have a breakdown or accident. You will need to make sure that you have a first-aid kit and a fire extinguisher. You might want to make sure that the car rental company has provided this equipment before you leave the grounds. You will also need to make sure that you understand how to access them.

Make Sure You Have Insurance

When driving in Brazil, it’s possible that you might have your car broken into and valuable items were stolen. For this reason, you will need to read the insurance policy on the car carefully. This will tell you whether or not you will be liable for this kind of damage. We’ll talk more about what to do if you are robbed later.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

What Direction Do Brazilians Drive in?

When driving in a new country, it’s essential that you are traveling on the correct side of the road. The driving directions in Brazil are on the right side of the road. This should make it easier for Americans to get used to navigating through the busy streets of Brazil. However, if you need to overtake, you will be able to use the left-hand side. In addition, you should be aware that the steering wheel will usually be on the left side of the car.

Differences Between Driving in Brazil and Driving in the U.S.

As you can imagine, there are multiple differences between driving in Brazil and driving in the U.S. To make sure that you don’t get into trouble because of these errors, it’s important that you remain vigilant. Let’s look at some of the most important driving in Brazil tips.

Animals on The Road

In Brazil, there are multiple stray animals that can wander onto the road. These can be a serious distraction for drivers. In some cases, you might need to be prepared to take evasive action to avoid them. This is a particularly big problem if you are driving on some highways. For example, on BR-262, there were around 1,000 animal deaths in 2017. This makes it one of the most dangerous highways in Brazil.

Avoid Parking on the Street

In Brazil, it’s best to park in a secure location. This can mean leaving your car at malls or parking garages. It can be dangerous to leave your car unattended on the street, with the risk that it will get stolen. Also, if you do park on the street, you might find someone who will guard the spot for you. In exchange for protecting your vehicle, they’ll want a tip of R$5 to R$20. In some cases, they might act aggressively if you don’t agree to this price, damaging the vehicle.

Be Prepared for Traffic Jams

Brazil can have very large traffic jams. In some cases, these can stretch for around 111 miles (180 kilometers) and take hours to clear. The worst times for traffic jams are often during holidays or big events when more people tend to be using the road. Alternatively, they might have been a storm, which blocked off other roads in the area. For this reason, you should make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. You might also want to have a good book with you, as using your phone while behind the wheel is strictly prohibited. However, the best strategy might be to get comfortable. For example, you might want to wear moccasins made in Brazil. This will make it easier to relax when stuck in traffic.

Watch Out for Pedestrians

You might also want to make sure that you are watching out for pedestrians when driving in Brazil. The schools tend to let out in the afternoon, this means that it’s common for groups of children to be on the road. In some cases, they might move between the cars in a traffic jam. In others, they might stop in the middle of a road and wait for a break in traffic. To prevent an accident, you will need to slow down and stay vigilant. However, unless necessary, avoid braking suddenly as this can cause a collision with the car behind you. For some busier schools, police might act as crossing guards. If this is the case, you should comply with their directions.

Stay Vigilant for Thieves

Sadly, thievery is a real threat to Brazil. Often, the bigger your car is, the more you will be targeted. In order to reduce the risks, you will need to remain alert. You might have to keep your windows wound up, and make sure that the car is kept parked securely. Also, you will need to take any valuable items with you when you leave the vehicle. The biggest threat will occur at night. For this reason, you should try to avoid using the roads at this time. Also, you are allowed to drive through a red light after 8 pm, to make sure that you aren’t targeted by thieves. However, when doing this, you will need to move slowly and cautiously.

Variable Road Conditions

You should also be aware that there the road conditions in Brazil can be highly variable. For example, some roads will be very well-maintained, featuring asphalting and clear markings. However, in other cases, there might be significant potholes, which can seriously damage your car. You might also encounter some roads that feature a lot of mud and debris and will need an SUV to access safely. The best way to travel around the country is sticking to toll roads. We’ll talk more about these roads later.

Restricted Cars

Finally, in order to combat overcrowding on the road, the Brazilian government has tried to limit access. On certain days, at certain times, you might not be allowed to drive your car. In most cases, this will be determined by the last number of your license plate. For example, if your car license plate ends with the number 5, you might not be able to drive Wednesdays. These restrictions will vary from city to city and will only last for certain hours. For this reason, you will need to make sure that you check the local laws before you leave.

The Most Important Brazilian Road Rules

When you are driving in Brazil, there are multiple road rules that you will be expected to follow. To ensure that you are safe, it’s essential that you follow these rules. If you don’t, you could get into trouble with the police. Even if you don’t get pulled over, there’s a good chance that you will get fined. This is because Brazil maintains an extensive camera network, to catch anyone doing the wrong thing. To prevent having to pay a fine, let’s look at some of the most important driving laws in Brazil.

Don’t Use Phone While Driving

There are very strict laws regarding texting and driving in Brazil. You are only allowed to take calls if your phone is hands-free. Touching or holding the phone is considered a very serious offense. If you need to use your phone, you need to pull over to the side and turn off the engine. You should also be aware that you can still get fined for using the phone, even if you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Another area that Brazil takes very seriously is drinking and driving. They have blood alcohol (BAC) limit of 0.02. This is very low, often equivalent to a single can of beer or a glass of wine. To avoid getting into trouble, it’s recommended that you call a taxi if you are planning on drinking. If you get caught driving drunk, you may have to pay a fine of R$650. You will also have your license suspended for up to six months. You might also want to stay aware of other drunk drivers, especially when driving in San Paulo, Brazil. This is the city with the highest mortality rate for transit accidents for drunk driving in Brazil. It’s believed that alcohol has been a factor in half of the accidents that occur in this city.

Seat belts

It’s mandatory for everyone in the vehicle to be wearing a seatbelt, this includes the driver. In addition, if you have children, there are special regulations that you will need to follow. First, a child needs to be over 10 years old to sit in the front seat. If the back seats are full, the tallest child needs to sit in the front. In addition, if your child is under 1, they must ride in a rear-facing seat. Finally, children between the ages of 4 to 7 must use booster seats. If you don’t follow these regulations, you could face a significant penalty.

Keep Your Shirt on

When driving, there are some dress and behavior codes that you will need to abide by. For example, you can’t be driving topless in Brazil. This might be considered offensive and considered an act of indecent exposure. For this reason, you might get into a lot of trouble with the police. In addition, you aren’t allowed to drive while wearing flip-flops. This might not allow you to have sufficient control of the vehicle. You also aren’t allowed to stick your elbow out of the window of the car, as this could be a potential safety issue.

Headlights Can Be Used to Communicate

In some cases, you might notice that the driver in front of you is flashing their headlights. This is a common sign in Brazil. It often indicates that there is a hazard on the road ahead. When you spot this, you should lower your speed and stay alert. Alternatively, if you are on the highway and the car behind you flashes their headlights, it may signal that they are ready to overtake. If this is the case, it’s best to let them pass. Finally, the hazard lights can be used to warn other drivers that you have to slow down suddenly. Often, this signal occurs if you are approaching a crash or traffic jam.

Speed Bumps

Finally, you might want to make sure that you watch out for speed bumps, which many smaller towns use to regulate driver speed. If you go over these too quickly, you could damage the suspension on your vehicle. In some cases, they will be highlighted with yellow road paint or signage. However, in smaller towns, there might not be clear warning signs.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Will I Understand the Road Signs in Brazil?

When driving in a foreign country, it’s important to understand the road signs. This will ensure that you are kept safe and that you don’t break any laws. Thankfully, the signs in Brazil will be fairly familiar to those traveling from the United States. For example, the speed limits will be marked with black numbers surrounded by a red circle. The only thing that you might need to be wary of is that the signs will be written in Portuguese. For this reason, you might want to brush up on a few basic phrases, like stop or caution, before you leave on your vacation.

What Are the Speed Limits in Brazil?

When driving in Brazil, it’s important that you stick to the marked limits. This will ensure that you don’t get into any trouble with the police. The Brazilian government uses speed traps, which are designed to find and catch speeding drivers. Often, you will receive a hefty fine if you are caught.

Standard Speed Limits

The normal speed limit will vary depending on where you are driving. In residential areas, you will often need to drive at 30 km/hr (18 mph). On bigger avenues, you will be able to travel at 60 km/hr (31 mph). Finally, when you are traveling on the highway, you will often be able to drive between 80 km/hr to 100 km/hr (50 to 60 mph). However, the local area will have signposts, which will clearly tell you the speeds that you are expected to travel at. Also, some areas might have different speed limits to reflect the road conditions ahead.

Listed in Km/hr Not Miles

If you are planning on driving your own car in Brazil, you will need to be aware that the posted speed limits will be in km/hr, not mph. Most rental cars should be set-up with this in mind, displaying km/hr on the instruments. If you are bringing in your own car, you might want to use a speedometer. This will convert your current speed into km/hr, making sure that you can follow the correct speed limits.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Using the Toll Roads in Brazil

Often, some of the best roads in Brazil will be toll roads. These are owned and run by private companies. Because of this, they are dedicated to providing the best possible experience. They also tend to be very safe. In some cases, you will even be able to call for assistance if your car breaks down. When using these roads, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Paying the Toll

When you join the toll road, you will need to pay a fee. This will vary depending on which toll road you are using. You can pay this at the toll booth. In most cases, you will be able to choose whether you pay in cash or by using credit cards. In most cases, it’s recommended that you pay in cash.

Trucks on The Road

In Brazil, trucks play an essential role in the distribution of goods and services. In fact, truck driving jobs in Brazil are fairly common. There are around 2 million truck drivers, keeping goods moving around the country. Despite this, it’s believed that there is an extra 100,000 truck driving jobs in Brazil, South America that still need to be filled. For this reason, it’s common for you to encounter plenty of trucks, especially on the toll roads. Thankfully, most drivers are very talented, and you shouldn’t have any problems navigating past them.

Are Brazilians Dangerous Drivers?

As we’ve seen, driving in Brazil can be a very different experience to the one that you would expect to get traveling through the United States. Often, there will be a range of new challenges for you to explore. Thankfully, most Brazilians are good drivers. However, there are still some tips that you might need to use to make sure that you are kept safe on the road.

Prepare for Traffic Jams

As we mentioned, there will often be significant traffic problems that you will encounter. The size of the traffic jam will often depend on how big the population center is. For example, if you are driving in San Paulo, Brazil you will need to expect significant delays. This is one of the biggest population centers. When stopped, you should make sure to keep your windows rolled up, and stay alert. Carjacking and robberies are common occurrences. If this happens, you will need to make sure that you are able to defend yourself or de-escalate the situation.

Call 190 if You’re In Trouble

If you get into trouble, you will be able to contact the authorities and alert them to the situation. In this case, the emergency number to call will be 190. This should only be called if someone is in immediate danger. If you simply want to report a crime or get in contact with the police, call 197. You should also be aware that the people who answer these calls will be speaking Portuguese. For this reason, you might want to purchase a phrasebook or take some lessons before you leave on your trip.

Plan Your Route

You should also make sure to plan your route before you leave. This will ensure that you can stick to safer areas. Wherever possible, you should take a toll road. These will be well-maintained and will offer a safer experience. You will also be able to make sure that you avoid some of the bigger events. For example, there are plenty of parades and carnivals that occur in Brazil. While these can be great tourist attractions to check out, they can often cause headaches for drivers, causing disruptions to traffic. Planning for these events ahead of time is essential, especially if you are going to be driving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Look Out for Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists are a common hazard. They will often weave their vehicles between the cars, especially if stopped at a traffic jam. This can make their movements unpredictable. The motorcycle messengers locally referred to as “moto boys”, can pose the biggest threat. This can lead to them taking unnecessary risks in traffic.

Learn Defensive Driving

Finally, you might want to practice your defensive driving skills before you leave for your holiday. While illegal, many Brazilians still drive under the influence. If you have some of these techniques, you will be able to safely deal with a drunken driver and navigate through the busy city. Defensive driving will also come in useful if you are on an uneven surface, making sure that you don’t damage the vehicle.

What to Do When Pulled Over by the Police?

As we’ve seen, there are multiple laws that you will need to abide by. While they tend to use a sophisticated monitoring system to ensure compliance, there is still a chance that you will be pulled over by Brazilian authorities. This can be a very stressful experience. However, as long as you drive safely, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Pull Over When Safe

Like in America, it’s important that you pull over to the side on the road when it’s safe to do so. After this, roll down your window. The policeman will then walk over and tell you the issue. It’s unlikely that they will speak English. If this is the case, you might need to use a translation app on your phone. Before commencing in further discussions, you might want to politely ask for some form of ID. This will ensure that you are dealing with a real police officer, rather than an impersonator. You might also need to show your driver’s license. If you need to pay fine, it’s recommended that you do so in cash, rather than using a credit card.

What to Do if Arrested?

Getting arrested in a foreign country can be a highly nerve-racking experience. If this occurs, it’s recommended that American citizens get in contact with the U.S. consulate as quickly as possible. They will then be able to provide assistance. This can include things like making sure that you have effective legal counsel. They will also be able to help make sure that you are eating properly and aren’t being mistreated. It’s also important to stay calm. If possible, answer any questions honestly. However, if you feel that the question could be potentially incriminating, you can exercise your right to stay silent. Thankfully, the odds that you will be arrested are fairly low.

Contact the Consulate if Robbed

If you get robbed, you will want to get your possessions back. However, this can be a lengthy process. In some cases, reporting a crime to the police can take a long time, as you will need to converse in Portuguese. For this reason, you might want to consider going to the consulate first. They will be able to provide advice. You might also want to consider how valuable the item is. In some cases, it might be better to let the insurance companies deal with low-value theft.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Enjoy Driving in Brazil

Brazil is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, offering a range of stunning places for tourists to visit. The locals are very welcoming, ready to show their vibrant culture. It also features some of the most stunning places. From hiking to the top of mountains to get a panoramic view of the country, to spending the day relaxing on the white sandy beaches, there’s something to thrill any type of holidaymaker. You can also experience the culture of the city during the day, visiting some of the stunning churches and historical buildings. At night, you can party at some of the nightclubs, or take part in one of Brazil’s famous street parades.

To make sure that you experience everything that Brazil has to offer, you will need to be able to rent a car. This will allow you to control your holiday, stopping at any destination that grabs your attention. We’ve looked at the most important considerations to remember when doing this. By taking some of these measures you can ensure that you will be safe when behind the wheel. So, start planning for your Brazilian holiday today, to see all the attractions that this country can provide.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Brazilian drivers might have a few bad habits, but aggression is definitely not one of them, so drive with a smile on your face and enjoy the open road.

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