Brazil Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Brazil Road Rules

Brazil drives on the right and you can use the photo licence of any country to drive here for up to 180 days, providing it’s written in Roman alphabet. Drivers from other countries need their own licence plus an international driving permit. Speed limits are 110/120kmh on highways, 80km on rural roads and 60-30kmh in urban areas.

Roads in Brazil

Brazil has over 2 million kilometres of roads, though less than 15% are paved. National Roads are prefixed BR, and State roads have a prefix denoting the state. Eg SP XXX are state roads in Sao Paulo. There is also a complex road numbering system in addition to the letter prefixes.

100-199 – Road runs directionally South-North

200-299 – Runs directionally West-East

300-399 – Runs diagonally.Odd numbers run North East-South West, even numbers run North West-South East.

400-499 – Runs between two major highways.

Major National roads in Brazil include –

BR 010-  The Belém-Brasília Highway or as Transbrasiliana Highway

BR 040 -links Brasilia -Belo Horizonte-Rio de Janeiro.

BR-101 the longest in the country at 4800 km – running between Natal, Olinda, Recife, Feira de Santana, Vitória,  Rio de Janeiro,  Curitiba, Joinville, Florianópolis.

BR-116 the main North-South interior route linking Fortaleza, Feira de Santana, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre.

24 of Brazil’s national roads are toll roads. The word for toll in Portuguese is Pedágio and payment can be made at a toll booth in cash or by credit card.

Road standards vary, from modern well maintained highways to those in need of repair with unexpected pot holes and cracks. In remote locations even some main roads will be unsealed and may be in a poor state of repair, particularly after rain. In many rural areas the quality of roads away from the main highways, and the poor standard of driving especially of trucks and buses, requires particular vigilance from driver.

Driving in Brazil

Drivers in urban areas tend to drive fast on main roads and driving standards aren’t always good. Brazil has a high road accident and fatality rate. The increasing number of vehicles on the roads, and the fact that highways are being improved leads to faster driving by often inexperienced drivers. In my experience though, it can be the more experienced drivers , such as those of taxis who display the worst driving skills.

Brazil has a zero tolerance policy on drink driving. Even a small alcoholic drink will put you over the legal driving limit. If you are caught driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, it is likely that you will be prosecuted. The penalties range from being fined and also suspended from driving for 12 months, to imprisonment for up to three years.

Driving in City Centres is likely to be a stressful experience -due to traffic congestion, poor signposting and confusing traffic systems. Satnavs don’t always help on fast roads with multiple turn offs within a short distance. If you don’t need a rental car whilst staying in a city centre try and arrange to collect it on the outskirts or at the airport. Some rental companies will drive you out of the centre for a fee. If not, try booking a taxi and asking him to guide you out to the highway or major route you’re aiming for.

A main concern whilst self driving in Brazil is crime. Favellas or shanty towns are often close to seemingly affluent areas and one wrong turn can put you in a very dangerous place. Avoid driving in urban areas where you could get lost and find yourself in an area you shouldn’t be in. Thefts from cars are common, and cases of car jacking occur, sometimes with the occupants being taken and forced to withdraw money from their accounts at cash machines. When in a car you should keep the doors locked and the windows closed, and take particular care at traffic lights. In three or more lanes of traffic, consider using the middle lane(s), where safety may be higher. Also when at traffic signals, leave enough space between yourself and the car in front to be able to pull out and drive away if you feel under threat. I’d advise avoid driving at night anywhere in Brazil.

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Brazil Car Rental –

Sixt, Hertz, National, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, and South American company Localiza have outlets here. Also usually features on Car rental broker sites.

We currently have no local car rental partners in Brazil. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on



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