Transport in Brazil

Public transport in Brazil is very efficient, but distances are huge. Most visitors will find themselves travelling by buses and planes, except in the Amazon when a boat is often the only way to get around. Train routes are practically non-existent, car hire is expensive and hitchhiking not advisable. Taxis vary widely in quality and price but are easy to come by and safe when taken from aposto de taxis (taxi rank).

Transport in Brazil: Air

Because of the size of the country, flying is often the most practical form of transport in Brazil and internal air services are highly developed. All state capitals and larger cities are linked with each other with services several times a day and all national airlines offer excellent service. Recent deregulation of the airlines has greatly reduced prices on some routes and low-cost airlines offer fares that can often be as cheap as travelling by bus (when booked through the internet). Paying with an international credit card is not always possible online; but it is usually possible to buy an online ticket through a hotel, agency or willing friend without surcharge. Many of the smaller airlines go in and out of business sporadically.

, and
operate the most extensive routes. Most of their websites provide full information, including a booking service, although not all are in English.

Transport in Brazil: Rail

There are 30,379 km of railways, which are not combined into a unified system. Brazil has two gauges and there is little transfer between them. Two more gauges exist for the isolated
railway and the tourist-only
São João del Rei
. Most passenger services have been withdrawn though there are plans to re-introduce train services in the Pantanal, and onward into Bolivia.

Transport in Brazil: River

The main areas where travel by boat is practical (and often necessary) are the Amazon region, along the São Francisco River and along the Atlantic coast. There are also some limited transport services through the Pantanal.

Transport in Brazil: Bus

There are three standards of bus:
, or
, are quite slow, not very comfortable and fill up quickly;
are more expensive, comfortable (many have reclining seats), and don't stop en route to pick up passengers so are safer;
(literally 'bed') run at night between the main centres, offering reclining seats with leg rests, toilets, and sometimes refreshments, at double the normal fare. For journeys over 100 km, most buses have chemical toilets (bring toilet paper). Air conditioning can make buses cold at night, so take a jumper; on some services blankets are supplied.

Buses stop fairly frequently (every two to four hours) at
for snacks. Bus stations for interstate services and other long distance routes are usually called
. They are frequently outside the city centres and offer snack bars, lavatories,
guarda volume
(left-luggage stores), local bus services and information centres. Buy bus tickets at
(most now take credit cards), not from travel agents who add on surcharges. Reliable transport information is hard to come by, other than from bus companies themselves. Buses usually arrive and depart in very good time. Many town buses have turnstiles, which can be inconvenient if you are carrying a large pack. Urban buses normally serve local airports.

Transport in Brazil: Car hire

Renting a car in Brazil is expensive. Minimum age for renting a car is 21 and it's essential to have a credit card. Companies operate under the terms
aluguel de automóveis
. Check exactly what the company's insurance policy covers. In many cases it will not apply to major accidents, or 'natural' damage (eg flooding). Ask if extra cover is available. Sometimes using a credit card automatically includes insurance. Beware of being billed for scratches that were on the vehicle before you hired it.
To drive in Brazil you need an international licence. A national driving licence is
acceptable as long as your home country is a signatory to the Vienna and Geneva conventions.


Fuel prices vary weekly and between regions.
Gasolina común
is is a mid-range fuel, while
gasolina maxi
are a little more.
Alcool común
alcool maxi
costs less. Diesel is cheap. There is no unleaded fuel. Fuel is only 85 octane, so be prepared for bad consumption and poor performance and starting difficulties in non-Brazilian cars in winter. It is virtually impossible to buy premium grades of petrol anywhere. With alcohol fuel you need about 50% more than regular gasoline. Larger cars have a small extra tank for 'gasolina' to get the engine started; remember to keep this topped up.


Insurance against accident and theft is very expensive. If the car is stolen or written off you will be required to pay very high import duty on its value. The legally required minimum cover for third party insurance is not expensive.

Transport in Brazil: Buying a car

Any foreigner with a passport can purchase a Brazilian car and travel outside Brazil. A letter in Spanish from your consul explaining your aims and that you will return the
vehicle to Brazil can make life much easier at borders and check points. Foreigners do not need the CPF tax document (needed by Brazilians), and the official purchase receipt is accepted
as proof of ownership. Don't buy an alcohol-driven car if you propose to drive outside Brazil. It is essential to have an external-intake filter fitted, or dust can rapidly destroy an engine. VW combi vans are cheapest in Brazil where they are made, they are equivalent to the pre-1979 model in Europe. Most other cars are more expensive than their US and European equivalents. If a lot of time is to be spent on dirt roads a 4WD or pick-up is
more robust

Transport in Brazil: Motorcycling

The machine you use should be off-road capable, eg the BMW R80/100/GS for its rugged and simple design and reliable shaft drive. A road bike can go most places an off-road bike can go, at the cost of greater effort. Japanese bikes are easiest to get serviced in Brazil.

Try not to leave a fully laden bike on its own. An Abus D or chain will keep the bike secure. A cheap alarm can give you peace of mind. Look for hotels with a courtyard or secure parking and never leave luggage on the bike whilst unattended.

Transport in Brazil: Taxi

Travel by taxi is a reliable form of transport in Brazil, provided you understand how the rates work. Rates vary from city to city, but are consistent within each city. At the outset, make sure the meter is cleared and shows 'tariff 1', except (usually) from 2300-0600, Sunday, and in December when '2' is permitted. Check that the meter is working; if not, fix the price in advance. The
radio taxi
service costs about 50% more but cheating is less likely. Taxis outside larger hotels usually cost more. If you are seriously cheated, note the number of the taxi and insist on a signed bill; threatening to take it to the police can work.
are much more economical, but many are unlicensed and there have been a number of robberies of passengers.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
Products in this Region

Western Brazil Handbook: Iguacu - Amazon - Pantanal

Home to the world's grandest waterfall, the finest wildlife-viewing area in the Americas, and the...

Rio de Janeiro & Minas Gerais Handbook

Photographs cannot prepare you for Rio. Against a magical backdrop of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar...

South American Handbook 2016

South America is epic. Home to the world's highest waterfall, the longest mountain range and the...
PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!