The Public Purpose
A National Journal Top Transport Internet Site: 2001 & 2003


Driving in Brazil
Not as Bad as Reputation, But Be Careful

Brazil has one of the world's highest highway death rates. This should not, however, deter the rental car oriented tourist from venturing onto Brazilian highways.

Motorways in Sao Paulo State Throughout the state of Sao Paulo (and elsewhere) are high quality four lane motorways that are as well designed as their counterparts in Japan, Western Europe or the United States. The one important caution is that because of Brazil's high poverty rates, these roadways are also, in effect, pedestrian routes. Pedestrians are frequently encountered along the roads, but worse, they cross high speed motorways at grade, sometimes at locations established for the purpose by the authorities. All of this means that extreme caution is in order, especially at night.

General Dutra: Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo

The General Dutra toll motorway from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo is one of the worlds great long distance drives. It includes spectacular mountain passes and impressive scenery. Only the most general precautions (above) need be taken on this roadway.

Reges Bettencourt: Sao Paulo to Curitiba

One particularly difficult route is the Reges Bettencourt, which leads from the western suburbs of Sao Paulo to Curitiba. Relatively soon after leaving the urban area, there is a mountain pass, where the motorway has not been completed. Instead, travel is on an old two and three lane highway for perhaps 40 miles. Southbound (toward Curitiba), passing is very difficult and travel is slow. But northbound, there are passing lanes most of the way and little speed is lost.

Luis Washington: Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte
Fernando Diaz: Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte

Similarly, the Luis Washington, from Belo Horizonte to Rio de Janiero shows up on maps as a two lane highway. In fact, however, along virtually its entire alignment from Belo Horizonte to the Minas Gerais/Rio de Janiero border, the highway has four lanes, but no shoulder (toward Rio de Janeiro, the road becomes a full standard toll motorway). Traffic is relatively light, which means that motorway speeds can be maintained virtually the entire distance (in fact I found average speeds to be higher than on the motorway Fernando Diaz from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte, which has many construction zones).

City Driving

Brazilian cities have generally very good roadway systems and it is no more challenging driving in them than in any large city.

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