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Getting around Brazil

Driving

As intimidating as Brazil’s vast and varied landscapes can be to drivers, the size of the country makes driving an important mode of transport. Brazil has over one million miles (1.7million km) of roads, making it the fourth-largest network in the world. But with such a large network, many roads are in poor condition, especially in rural areas. Drivers in Brazil should be prepared for a number of hazards including motorcyclists moving between lanes, large numbers of freight vehicles, and potholes.

Expats and other foreign nationals can drive in Brazil on the licence issued in their home country for six months. It is worth having your licence translated into Portugese. During this period, they should travel with both their licence and passport. After that they are required to apply for a Brazilian licence and take a test. The test must be taken in Portuguese and may include a medical.

In order to apply for a Brazilian driver’s licence, you must be over 18 years old. You will need to register with the transport service before you can apply for a licence. This will require a number of documents to prove your identity and residence.

In addition to carrying your licence, insurance and identification documents, drivers in Brazil are also required to keep a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher in their vehicle.

Hiring a vehicle

To rent a car in Brazil, you must be at least 25, have a credit card in your name and a valid driving licence from your home country. While modest four-door cars are common and cost around R$100 ($26) per day, there may be additional charges for air-conditioning or enhanced insurance protection. Four-wheel drive vehicles and motorbikes are hard to find for rental and could prove to be expensive.

Traffic rules

  • Drive on the right, pass on the left
  • It is illegal to run out of petrol
  • Driving in flip-flops is not allowed
  • The drink-driving limit is set at a blood-alcohol count (BAC) of 0.02%, which is low compared with the US, UK and Canada (all 0.08% BAC,) and is heavily enforced
  • You must park in the direction of traffic.

(Source: JustLanded.)

Flights

Due to the size of the country, the most practical way to move around Brazil may be on domestic flights, although this can be expensive. To cut costs it is often worth purchasing tickets through travel agents rather than dealing with the airline directly.

For medium- and long-distance journeys, expats could consider making use of Brazil’s extensive internal air network which includes ‘shuttle’ services between all major cities, and connections with more remote smaller cities.

Trains

In general, trains in Brazil are mainly used for cargo rather than passenger services. The number of passenger train services varies greatly in smaller cities, but improvements should see the quality of service in cities such as Belo Horizonte and Salvador get better in the coming years. This is due to an increased number of tourist routes that are becoming available.

A good metro service is available in many of the larger cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Bus

For many locals, the bus is the most common mode of transportation. There are typically three levels of service:

  • Convencional or comum, is the cheapest. It is likely to stop regularly and is unlikely to have any creature comforts like air-conditioning or adjustable seating.
  • Executivo is mid-range and likely to be more comfortable.
  • Leito is the highest class or service and offers levels of comfort intended for long-haul journeys.

Many bus services are regional but Itapemirim and Cometa are both national companies.

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