Brazil 101 – Driving + Tolls

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Get your change ready! If you’re planning to rent a car in Brazil and drive outside of whatever major city you’re arriving at, then it’s a good idea to have money on you. And I know I said change, but depending on how far away you’re going and if you’re coming back the same way, you might actually need some serious cash. When we go into the interior of São Paulo to visit my grandparents (about 564.7 km) we spend about R$212 (~US$56) round trip in tolls.

However, if you’re just going from the airport in São Paulo to Sumaré it’s not that bad. You will pay ~R$20 (US$5) and then the same on the way back. So just make sure you’ve got cash on you, don’t be surprised when you see the toll booths and stick to the middle lanes (usually, the far right, sometimes the far left, lanes are reserved for people with automatic toll payments. I checked. Not worth it if you’re just visiting.)

Signs saying toll booth is 1km away. The lane on the right is for electronic toll collection (not you).

Another thing to keep in mind about driving in Brazil is your speed. You, of course, would never speed, right? But just in case you sometimes do, be aware that there are three types of speed limit enforcements to watch for: fixed radars, mobile radars, and handheld radars.

All of these are common on highways. You will normally be able to spot a fixed radar, and know they will be there every time. Mobile ones are sometimes more tricky to spot, mounted on a tripod, and handheld radars involve actual police waiting in their cars.

A fixed radar will normally look like this:

But it can also be on one of these:

These are just friendly reminders. What will happen if you get caught speeding is….well, you’ll get a speeding ticket.

A few useful reminders:

  • You cannot turn right at a red stoplight.
  • Speed signs are in kilometers.
  • Should you ever need it, there are emergency phones on the side of just about every private (tolled) highway. They’re located every 1km.
  • In big cities, watch out for motorcycles. Pay attention. They drive through, around, and weave in between traffic. Just be aware of them.
  • Let’s say you’re driving past 10pm and a stoplight turns red. If you see it while a ways away and it’s possible, slow down. Even if you’re going just 20km/hr. Slow down so by the time you reach the stoplight, it’s turned green and you can avoid stopping.
  • Gas stations/convenience stations off the highway are often a little town of their own. There are restaurants and boutiques within the main buildings. The actual station store will often boast local and artisan sweets, leather goods, just an eclectic array of goods in general. Take the chance to visit one. Common ones in São Paulo are Graal, and Frango Assado.

I hope these have been helpful and that you have a safe and enjoyable drive in Brazil. Any questions I didn’t address? Drop a comment below!

2 thoughts on “Brazil 101 – Driving + Tolls”

  1. Avatar

    Can you please share about shopping and a rough estimate of the prices and what nice shopping items from clothes to souveniers one can get.

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