Updated 2 years ago

If you are moving to Brazil for a short time, you can use your national driving licence. However, if you plan to settle in Brazil, and especially, if you plan to own a car, you may want to obtain a Brazilian licence, which entails several steps.

Obtaining a Brazilian driving licence

As a practical matter, if you'll staying in Brazil for a short time, your valid driving licence from your home country should be sufficient. However, you may wish to obtain an Inter-American Driving Permit (IADP), which carries a Portuguese translation, in case you are stopped by the traffic police. This permit should cost about USD 15 and can be obtained before you leave home.

Important: The Inter-American Driving Permit is different to the International Driver's Licence issued in the US, which isn't officially recognised in Brazil.

If you plan to stay in Brazil, and especially if you'll own and regularly operate a car, you'll want to obtain a Brazilian driver's licence, which involves a fair amount of bureaucracy.

First, you must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a Brazilian driver's licence. You must register with the federal police and with the transport service (DETRAN) to obtain an application form, which you have to complete before your appointment. The documents required are your original registration as an expatriate or a police certificate and a copy, a copy of your Cadastro Pessoa Física (CPF) (which you can apply for at any post office in Brazil), proof of address, and passport-sized photographs.

Also, you will be required to pass a psychological and a medical examination. Next, you must attend at least 45 hours of theoretical classes, which will prepare you for the examination. The examination consists of 30 questions from which you must score at least 21 correct answers. Then ' and only if you have completed a minimum of 20 hours of driving practice ' you can take the driving test.

Good to know: Some driving schools may offer to handle the procedures for obtaining the licence on your behalf.

Renting a car in Brazil

In general, all you'll need to rent a car in Brazil is a valid driving licence from your home country, your passport, and a major credit card. Note, however, that you may also need to be at least 25 years of age. While an Inter-American Driving Permit or International Driver's Licence is nice to have in case you are stopped by police, you probably won't need one to rent a vehicle.

Good to know: Automatic transmissions are fairly rare in Brazil. If you cannot drive a manual transmission, you may encounter problems. Check the level of petrol when renting and be sure that it is documented. Often tanks are not full when you receive the car.

Important: You are not authorised to drive a motorcycle in Brazil if you do not have a Brazilian driver's licence.

To learn more about driving in Brazil, see https://www.expat.com's Transportation article featured in the Brazil Guide.

Traffic code

The speed limit in Brazil is 80 km/h on most roads, but you can drive up to 110 km/h on the highway. The speed limit in cities varies between 40 and 60 km/h.

Pay attention to the trucks which sometimes drive aggressively.

Under no circumstances, you should drive if you have been drinking. Brazil's Lei Seca (Dry Law) is extremely strict. If police detect any amount of alcohol on your breath, you could land in prison.

Watch for automated radar points and quickly reduce your speed when you see one to avoid a fine.

Useful links:

Department of Transportation Brazil

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