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Tips for Expats Driving in Sao Paulo

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Sao Paulo.
Tips for Expats Driving in Sao Paulo

1. Traffic Conditions

Sao Paulo is known for its heavy traffic, especially during peak hours. It’s not uncommon to spend hours in traffic, so patience is key. The city also has a high rate of accidents, so defensive driving is a must. Be prepared for aggressive drivers and unpredictable driving behaviors.

2. Car Recommendation

Compact cars are recommended for driving in Sao Paulo due to the heavy traffic and narrow streets. They are easier to maneuver and park. However, if you plan to travel outside the city, a car with a more powerful engine might be more suitable.

3. Parking

Finding parking in Sao Paulo can be challenging, especially in the downtown area. Many people opt for paid parking lots for convenience. The cost of parking can vary greatly depending on the area, but it’s generally considered expensive.

4. Driving License

Foreigners can drive in Brazil with an international driving permit (IDP) for up to 180 days. After that, you will need to obtain a Brazilian driver’s license. To do this, you will need to pass a written test and a driving test. It’s recommended to take a driving course to familiarize yourself with Brazilian driving laws and practices.

5. Road Rules

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the local road rules. For example, in Brazil, you drive on the right-hand side of the road, and it’s mandatory to wear seat belts. Also, using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited unless it’s hands-free.

6. Car Insurance

Car insurance is not mandatory in Brazil, but it’s highly recommended due to the high rate of car theft and accidents. Make sure to get comprehensive coverage that includes theft, damage, and third-party liability.

7. Car Maintenance

Regular car maintenance is important due to the city’s rough road conditions. Potholes are common, and they can cause significant damage to your car if not avoided. Also, make sure to keep your car clean as the city is known for its high levels of air pollution.

8. Public Transportation

Consider using public transportation whenever possible. Sao Paulo has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, trains, and a metro system. It’s often faster and more convenient than driving, especially during peak hours.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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