Guide to Driving In Brazil - Drive Safe in Brazil

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Brazil?

In Brazil you drive on the right with overtaking on the left.

Brazil is not the safest place in the world to drive with unpredictable drivers, roads and relatively high rates of accidents and theft. Fire extinguishers and first aid kits should be carried in cars in Brazil.

You should always keep your doors locked at night to prevent car jackings and watch out that cars do not box you in at red lights.

Although most of the main state roads are in good condition, elsewhere in the country pot holes and animals are a major cause of road accidents and so driving at night should be avoided where possible. Driving during or after the rainy season can also be hazardous. Watch out for unmarked speed bumps in places. 

Anteater Road Sign in Brazil

In Brazil drivers warn cars behind them not to pass with a flashing left signal. This could be for a number of reasons but generally indicates that it is not safe to overtake. Cars that come towards you flashing their headlights are warning you of impending obstacles such as animals or the presence of the police. Trucks should always be viewed with caution as there is no law which requires truck drivers to stop regularly and rest. Brazilian drivers may well stop suddenly if they see a speed camera.

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

It's a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt in Brazil whilst the car is moving. With dangerous driving all around you it would have been recommended in any case!

Drinking and Driving

In Brazil if you are caught driving with up to 60mg per 100ml of blood, you will be fined and receive a twelve month suspension from driving. Above 60mg and it's considered a criminal offence leading to a court case and a possible jail sentence. As the roads are so dangerous our advice is do not drink any alcohol and then drive in Brazil.

Must Have Documents

You only need your driving licence (both parts) and it will be valid in Brazil for up to six months. You don't need an official translation but if you have one, it often comes in useful.

Speed Limits

In town – 40 km/h
Open Road – 80 – 100 km/h
Motorways – 110 km/h

Minimum Driving Age

Brazil sets the minimum age for drivers at 18 but if you intend to hire a car, the car rental company will often insist you are 21 or sometimes 23 years old.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Devices warning you of speed cameras are not illegal and are openly on sale on the internet. Be aware that the cameras are there for a reason and not a challenge!

On the Spot Fines

On the spot fines are very common in Brazil but are not legitimate. You can choose to pay them or face the extra hassle of a potentially larger fine and some time at the police station. Despite their illegality, it's often easier and cheaper to simply pay up and go. Road fines can be paid at the Banco Do Brazil.

Child Safety Rules

Children under ten cannot travel in the front seat of a car. Children under one must travel in a rear facing safety seat and between one and four they must use a forward facing seat. Between four and seven and a half they must use an appropriate booster cushion. The fine for not doing so is around £70 and additionally you'll get 7 points on your licence.

Insurance

A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in Brazil

Rules of the Road

Standard driving laws apply with one or two exceptions:
 
You must park in the direction of traffic flow and not facing it
 
Running out of gas is an offence even if you are not obstructing traffic
 
It is illegal to drive wearing flip flops and also to drive with your arm out of   
or resting on the window ledge
 
In Sao Paulo, traffic is restricted in the city center based on number plate

Towing Regulations

Other than using common sense all cars must carry a tow rope or There are no regulations for towing but, bearing in mind the dangers of driving in the country, let alone the thought of towing, make sure your actions are obvious. 

Speed Cameras

There are hundred of speed cameras located around Brazil. The country relies on them outside of cities but inside built up areas they will be combined with huge road bumps that force you to slow down. You can find the location of the speed cameras online but they are there to reduce the high death rate on Brazil's roads. Mobile radar traps are illegal in Brazil so you won't encounter them.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

You cannot use a mobile phone without a hands free kit in Brazil.

Parking

Parking regulations
 
Places where you cannot park are clearly indicated in the cities, not so in smaller towns. Brazil is a dangerous country and it is better to park in a manned public car park covered by CCTV where possible for your protection and that of your car.
 
Paid parking
 
There is paid roadside parking in many areas of the big cities. Most parking spaces are either metered or have arrows directing you to the ticket machine. It is much safer to park in municipal staffed car parks. 
 
Enforcement
 
Enforcement of parking is down to the police and they are quite hot on illegal parking, resorting to the 'on the spot' fine where they can. If asked for a fine, ask to pay it at the local police station if you can. 
 
Disabled parking
 
There is little in the way of help for disabled drivers although you will find people to be helpful if you ask for assistance. Make sure you only ask officials as you can put yourself and your car at risk otherwise. 
 

Motor Way Signs

Motorway signs have a green background. Some of the signs in the municipalities can be confusing.

Brazil Road Sign

Phrases

  • Driving licence - Carteira de Habilitacao
  • Speed humps - Lombadas
  • Useful road map which has current information on road conditions- Guia de Estradas
  • Seat Belt - Cinto de seguranca
  • Vehicle licence papers - Certificado de Registro e Licenciamento do Veiculo (CLVR)
  • Turning permitted at red light sign - Livre a direita
  • I have broken down - Tenho dividido
  • Where is the police station? - Onde é a estação de polícia? 
  • I have a flat tyre - Eu tenho um pneu furado
  • I have been in an accident - Eu estive em um acidente
  • Where is? - Onde está? 
  • Where can I buy petrol? - Onde posso comprar a gasolina?

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are fairly standard in Brazil but the rules of using them are quite different. Technically you shouldn't turn right on a red light but all local drivers do. Technically you should stop for pedestrians but few do. Despite this, pedestrians try to cross at all times, expecting you to stop. Creeping through a red light is common as is blatant ignoring of the signal. Exercise extreme caution at traffic lights!
 

Toll Roads

There are many toll roads in Brazil, mainly the interstate highways and several major roads in and around Sao Paulo. The usual system has been to queue up and pay at the toll booths but more of the motorways are now using an electronic payment system which you can access by buying the vignette at a service station.

Emergency

The emergency number in Brazil is 190 for the police, 192 for fire and 193 for ambulance. To contact the American Embassy in Brazil visit http://brasilia.usembassy.gov/index.php?action=materia&id=4862&submenu=2&itemmenu=10.

What to do in an emergency

Unless someone is hurt or there is serious damage, few people involve the police as it complicates the resolution of the difficulty. If an emergency can be sorted out amicably, try not to involve the police. If you cannot reach a conclusion then it is sometimes better to call them on 190. Whilst waiting for them, take photographs of the scene and get witness statements where possible.You should give a copy of the police report to your insurance company. Do not give a lift to anyone who is hurt – this can make you liable for the accident.

Fuel Costs

As of March 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Brazil is 76p a litre whilst diesel is 73p.
 

Comments

  Rafael LuizTechnically you shouldn't turn right on a red light but all local drivers do. " "Creeping through a red light is common as is blatant ignoring of the signal. Exercise extreme caution at traffic lights!" Are you kidding, right!? I live in Brazil and I know this is not true.
4/25/2017 2:19:19 PM

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Brazil and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.