Driving in Brazil can be the best way to access some of the more remote areas of the country and also reaching parts of cities that are not well
connected by train or bus services. Hire cars are readily available from major airports and in cities.
There are however, many important considerations before driving in Brazil.
Rules and Regulations
Driving legislation in Brazil is federal and therefore applies to the whole territory. There are not regional differences.
Drive on the right side of the road, overtake on the left
The legal minimum age for driving cars and motorcycles is 18 years
Mobile cellular telephones may only be used with a “hands-free” system
In the event of an accident contact the national emergency number Tel: 193
It’s compulsory to wear a seat belt (cinto de segurança) including in the back seats if belts are fitted. If a child is too small to use a
seatbelt, a child seat must be fitted
At traffic islands/roundabouts the vehicle on the roundabout gives way to vehicles entering the roundabout system (this is not the case at
Park in the direction of traffic flow and not facing it
Right turns at red lights are prohibited unless indicated by a livre a direita sign
It is an offence for a person to drive wearing flip flops or with their elbow resting on the window sill and protruding from the vehicle
Basic third party insurance is included in the road tax, no other insurance is required by law.
Other things to take into account when driving in Brazil:
The use of indicators other than for signaling intention to change direction can mean: left- it’s unsafe to pass, right- it’s safe to pass
Headlights flashed at oncoming traffic can indicate danger ahead such as an accident or perhaps the presence of police
Due to the high incidence of car-jacking and robbery at traffic lights, it is tolerated for drivers to not stop at red lights at night in major
cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro
Drivers in Brazil may be spontaneous and indicators and mirrors may not always be used. Do not expect prior indication of a turn or other
Drivers should keep doors locked and windows closed, particularly at junctions and especially at night
Roads in Brazil
Many intercity roads in Brazil are toll roads. Drivers queue and pay at booths before proceeding along these routes.
Statistically, Brazil has some of the worst accident rates in the world. The São Paulo to Santos road along with many stretches of the coastal 101
Highway are especially dangerous routes. There are approximately 40,000 fatalities per year on Brazilian roads.
While some roads may be of very high standard, particularly state roads and toll roads, others, for example inter-city federal roads, may be in poor
condition with uneven surfaces, potholes and inadequate signage.
Roads in cities can be in extremely bad condition. Steep hills and the troughs designed to carry the heavy rains in São Paulo as well as speed
humps (lombadas) often cause ground clearance issues and can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s lower bodywork.
Animals or fallen trees in the road (due to heavy rain or lightning strikes), broken-down vehicles and accidents on the road can be additional
Petrol/gas stations are generally not difficult to find in cities or on main connecting roads but may be much less common in remote and sparsely
populated areas. Poor quality fuel can be an issue, and it is suggested to purchase fuel from a reliable source.
Traffic volume is a major issue in the larger cities and jams or tailbacks can occur outside of rush-hour without warning in many locations.
In an attempt to reduce traffic volume, São Paulo introduced a Rõdizio or rotation system which prohibits certain vehicles (except taxis and public
buses) from using public roads on one weekday from 07:00-10:00 and 17:00-20:00. The day is determined by the last digit of the licence plate:
Last digit 1 or 2: Monday
Last digit 3 or 4: Tuesday
Last digit 5 or 6: Wednesday
Last digit 7 or 8: Thursday
Last digit 9 or 0: Friday
Government transport officials police the scheme effectively and send fines by post to offenders. This is considered a serious case and will result in
points being deducted from the offender’s licence. The fine can be paid immediately or when renewing road tax.
Drinking and Driving
On 19 June 2008, Brazil introduced a “dry law” indicating a nearly zero alcohol tolerance law regarding driving. The tolerated blood alcohol limit is
0.2g/l to allow for alcoholic mouthwashes or certain medicines.
This means that consuming a beer or small glass of wine before driving is now a serious offence. A driver found to have more than the legal limit of
alcohol is fined based on the blood alcohol level – the higher the level, the larger the fine. In some cases the driver faces suspension, and a driver
that causes an accident, injury or death may also face jail.
Since it’s introduction, the law has reduced alcohol related driving incidents considerably in a short period of time. Previously, an estimated 20,000
deaths per year on Brazil’s roads were alcohol related.