Last Updated on June 30, 2024 by Kristin

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As South America’s largest country, Brazil’s expanse covers biodiverse regions including rainforests, beaches and cosmopolitan cities such as São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. Renting a car is the best way to explore the country at your own pace. While renting a car in Brazil is straightforward, here are 10 things to know about car rentals in Brazil.

Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Brazil

Book from home

If you know you’ll need a car in Brazil, it’s best to book your reservation as soon as possible. Not only will it be cheaper to book your car from the United States, but by booking a “pay later” reservation, you might see a price drop before you arrive in South America. If a better price comes up, you can cancel and book at the better rate.

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Beware of holiday traffic

Traffic during long weekends and holidays can add several hours to your trip when leaving big cities such as São Paulo and Rio. It is very common for city dwellers to head to the beach on holiday weekends.

Pay in local currency, not US dollars

Even if you have the option to pay for your rental reservation in U.S. dollars, paying in Brazilian reais will save you money. Dynamic Currency Conversion essentially offers you the choice of being charged in the local currency or your home currency. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.

You need an International Driving Permit

It’s inexpensive and easy to get an International Driving Permit, but you need to apply before you leave on your trip.

Reconsider driving in remote areas and heavy rains

Be aware of the weather and road conditions when driving in remote areas. Brazil’s monsoon season, roughly between October and April, can cause flash flooding and unpredictable hazardous conditions. Also, be sure to check whether the roads you plan to take are unpaved — rental companies typically do not permit off-roading, and doing so could void your rental agreement.

Border crossings have an additional charge

Do not assume that your Brazilian car rental is allowed to cross into any bordering country. In the cases that car rental companies do allow international crossings, you will usually have to pay a fee and get prior permission for the rental company to cross into another country. If visiting Iguaçu Falls, for example, be sure to check with the rental car company before crossing into Argentina or Paraguay.

Automatic transmissions can be harder to find

Do you know how to drive a car with a stick shift? The vast majority of car rentals in Brazil have manual transmission. If you don’t specifically request an automatic transmission, the vehicle will have a manual transmission. If you need an automatic vehicle, it can be easier to find one at an airport location. But be aware that you may pay more to avoid the stick shift.

Be aware of your surroundings

Neighborhoods in Brazil can change quickly, especially in cities. Before setting out on your trip, have a good idea of what the route looks like and research which neighborhoods you will cross through. For security reasons, avoid informal neighborhoods called favelas. Keep an eye out for obstructions in the road and avoid driving at night if possible.

Know how car insurance works in Brazil

Your U.S. auto insurance policy likely will not cover your rental in Brazil. If not, you may be able to use a credit card with primary coverage to cover the cost of any damages to the vehicle, but check the limits and whether this coverage applies abroad. Brazil car rentals include limited liability coverage, but you should check carefully to see what collision coverage is also included and what the limits are.

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Inspect the vehicle carefully

No matter how excited you are to get behind the wheel of your vacation car in Brazil, take time to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by inspecting the car and taking note of dings, dents and scratches. Document everything with photos at the time you pick up and return the car.