Getting Around in Brazil
Because of Brazil’s size, the most effective and, at times, cost-effective way of getting around the country is by air.
The main national carriers include LATAM Airlines, Azul and Gol that use certain airports as major hubs for serving regions of the country. In the southeast, they include São Paulo (GRU) and Rio (GIG). Other hubs include Porto Alegre (POA) and Curitiba (CWB) in the south; Brasília (BSB) in the central west; and Salvador (SSA), Recife (REC) and Fortaleza (FOR) in the northeast.
If travelling extensively in Brazil, it may be worth purchasing a Brazil Airpass that can consist of up to nine coupons. Each coupon is valid for one domestic flight in Brazil in economy class.
The Brazil Airpass can only be purchased with an international roundtrip ticket departing from a city outside of Brazil, with the destination being any city in Brazil. Full details are available on VBRATA’s website (vbrata.org) or from any VBRATA tour operator or airline member.
There is also a South American Airpass that enables passengers to fly within South America and covers cities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The cost of the South American Airpass is based on the mileage covered from 1,200 to 8,200 miles.
There is an extensive domestic bus service in Brazil linking all the main cities with over one million miles of roads. Despite being an inexpensive way to view the country, the distances can be quite considerable. Fortaleza, the capital of the northeast state of Ceará, for example, is nearly as far from Rio de Janeiro, 1,700 miles!
The big international car rental companies such as Avis and Hertz operate in the major Brazilian cities alongside national and local companies. The car rental agencies accept most credit cards but tend to restrict the driver’s minimum age to 25. As a visitor, all that is required to drive in Brazil is a full valid British or European driving licence. It is preferable to take a drivers licence with a photo. There is zero-tolerance drinking and driving policy.
Like the buses, the main restrictions of driving around Brazil are the distances. Otherwise, the main highways are good and well signposted. Check with the rental company if the car is restricted to the state you have rented it in or can be used throughout Brazil.
With only 17,500 miles of rail track, compared to over one million miles of road, the passenger rail network in Brazil is extremely limited and not a viable option for travelling around the country. There are, however, a number of scenic routes, including across the Pantanal.
As one of the most popular areas in the world for cruising, it is possible to travel up and down the Brazilian coast by ship. Besides Rio, popular ports of call include Manaus, Belem, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and Vitoria. In high season it is also possible to cruise to neighbouring countries such as Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.