We were in Brazil between October 2016 and January 2017.
For that period, we knew we’d need a car since public transport isn’t cheap nor reliable there. Plus, we were going to travel quite a bit. We didn’t know whether to buy an old car or rent one. We decided to rent one for a month while car hunting and, well, we ended up staying in the rental throughout our stay.
We rented it from Hertz Brazil. We asked for a monthly deal (they don’t have it on their website) and we were offered a nice deal.
At first, we had to exchange cars about 3 times during the first week because it wasn’t working properly or had some minor problem we couldn’t deal with. We weren’t really happy about it – plus, the cars were kind of dirty and very badly kept. But they exchanged the cars every time.
Once, the last time we had a problem, the car just decided it wasn’t going to start and well, they sent a taxi for us to go choose another car and sent a tow truck to get the broken car. We did spend around half an hour on the phone with them to get it fixed, though.
But other than those 4 times, it was a breeze.
All in all, we do recommend Hertz rent-a-car, as they were the rental company that was most responsive of all the companies we contacted and they did not fail on us.
There aren’t many automatic gear cars in Brazil, so…
Now to the roads…
The roads in Brazil aren’t really the best, but they’ve improved a lot in the last years. The big roads are pretty well kept (but the toll prices are pretty expensive there, varying from R$ 2,50 to over R$ 20.). Small roads and streets aren’t really that good, and we found some pretty dangerous ones, with holes in the middle of it, and when it’s dark, not all streets have lights, so… You do need to be extra careful.
There are trucks and buses and taxis and motorbikes and cars and bikes and horses and cows – and some of them are crazy.
It’s still not very safe. We hear every day of people being mugged or assaulted in their cars, like when their tires are flat when traffic is heavy and slow. When they pull off for some reason or at the traffic light.
Luckily, it didn’t happen to us this time, and we had pretty nice moments driving around.
In 2014, though, we were driving and Coral started crying desperately in her car seat. She was 2, didn’t talk very well and well, we had to stop the car. As we stopped, I went to see what had happened to her and saw 3 men running toward us from the bush. I told Angelo to get in the car and start driving. I just entered the car with Coral on my lap and we drove to the next gas station like that. It was close, around 10 minutes away. As we entered the car and started driving, I saw the dudes stopping and going back to the bushes. They were coming to us, and I’m glad we don’t know what they wanted.
If you’re aware, chances of anything happening are low, but you must be alert all the time.
A few tips for those planning on driving in Brazil would be:
- BE AWARE at all times;
- When the light is red, stop a few meters away from the car before you (or the pedestrian line). That way, if you see someone approaching your car, you can start moving slowly and lower the chances of being approached;
- Only stop your car when you need to, or in parking lots, gas stations, or places with lots of people;
- When stuck in a traffic jam, close your windows and lock the doors. If you can’t close the windows, leave the opening to a minimum;
- Make sure your kids know how to react in case something happens: move fast, do whatever they’re told and stay close;
- Keep valuables out of sight: no phones out there, no fancy jewelry, and keep bags on the floor.
- Sometimes, having a ‘fake’ wallet is a good thing: keep money (not too little, but not too much), a low limit credit card (or a prepaid one) and as little identification as possible and, when asked, give out this one.
- Avoid at all costs rush hours. From 7~9 am and from 4:30~7 pm. It’ll save you hours. Also, avoid road trips right before or after holidays.
We found that GPS doesn’t work properly a lot of the times, but Waze works out great (most of the times). To use Waze, though, you’ll need mobile internet and that’s one expensive thing in Brazil.
Street signs are there, but sometimes they’re not very helpful. And sometimes, they’re missing. BUT we do believe that getting lost is all part of the process. It’s also a good way to find places you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s just not very fun when it’s dark and raining.
So there you have it.
Driving in Brazil isn’t too much more difficult than other places, you just need to be careful and aware at all times.
Oh, and do get a car seat, they are mandatory for kids under 7. You can rent it at the car rental offices (just always make sure you ask for them first).