Driving in Brazil
Driving / General:
In Brazil, traffic laws are very similar to those in the USA and you drive on the same side of the road as in the USA. That's about where the similarity ends though.
Driving / Speed Bumps & Barriers:
Roads are generally not very well maintained, and depending upon where you are, they may be full of pot holes or have enormous holes that will blow out your tire (did that), or require you to drive on the shoulder to avoid.
While driving you will also encounter speed bumps in areas where you would never expect them to be. In the USA & Europe, these are usually relegated to parking areas where you're already going quite slow and they are well marked. In Brazil, these are often found on normal roadways with speed limits up to the 40km range or where speed limits on highways slow as you enter urban areas. There is little to no warning that the bump is coming. In fact, most common is no warning except directly at the speed bump itself where you'll see a sign to the left or right featuring an image of a bump, sometimes with an arrow pointing directly down.
The bumps are often painted yellow, but weather and traffic wears off the paint, and much like not fixing potholes, the speed bumps are not repaired or repainted either. So, be aware... else you may find yourself flying over a speed bump... literally.
In addition to speed bumps, Brazilian infrastructure for roadways incorporates large cement obstructions where cars cannot go. In the USA and Europe, these are usually orange plastic poles or cones and hitting them by accident is not really an issue. However, in Brazil, these are constructed of cement and take the form of large 1/2 circles or blocks in intersections or areas where you cannot go. They are nearly a foot high and hitting them will literally destroy your car. Be aware!
Driving / Circles and Stop Signs:
Traffic circles in Brazil are fairly common versus 4 way stops (which if you encounter a 4 way, be prepared for utter confusion). In a circle, those in the circle have the right of way - as you might expect - however, this does not stop people coming into the circle from simply cutting you off. Even at stop signs, people slow, but if they feel the coast is fairly clear, they will continue without stopping. Fairly clear means you have a 1/2 a car length in front of you. Stop lights get people to stop (usually), but even then, cars and especially motorcycles will go before their light turns green. Stop equates to yield pretty much everywhere - especially the further you are from a city. Red light cameras in some areas help with the latter, but again, be aware and alert at all times
Driving / Following Distance and Motorcycles:
You will find safe following distance for cars in Brazil is directly on your back bumper. This can be unnerving, but is normal practice and something nearly everyone does. Cars will also use any bit of space between you and the car in front of you to cut you off, move across numerous lanes of traffic, pull a u-turn, etc. If you are holding a safe distance behind the car in front of you, be prepared for others to take full advantage of that and cut into your lane just to get around or in front of you.
You will also find motorcycles seemingly do not need to obey normal traffic patterns or laws. They will pass you on the left and the right, split traffic, and generally whizz around cars like it's no big deal. Combined with the guy right on your back bumper or cutting you off, this can really make you nervous if you're not prepared. Driving defensively and being alert is a must.
Driving / Electronic Speed Control:
Throughout Brazil, the police utilize automated, road-side radar to control highways speeds. Unlike the USA where this is not common practice, but seeing police is, this is how most speeding tickets get created. It is quite rare to see a car stopped by police in Brazil outside of a roadblock. Whether this is because there simply are not enough police, or they do not patrol for speed like in other countries is not really clear, but these little big-brother boxes probably cause more issues than they solve. Here's why - the majority of people speed like hell without care for the speed limit, until they come upon the speed control box at which point everyone hits the brakes at the last moment. Once passed the speed box, everyone goes like hell again to the next one. It's a bit crazy, but since these boxes send tickets automatically, and the tickets are expensive, everyone slows for them. The result as you might expect, is crazy traffic patterns of speeding, and braking wildly, speeding and crawling.
These boxes are almost always preceded by a sign indicating "fiscalização eletronica" with a number of meters indicating how far ahead the box is and the speed limit. The older boxes appear as cameras on a pole while the newer ones are road-side obelisks that show your speed digitally along with an indicator of red/yellow/green indicating if you just got a ticket (red), are going a bit too fast (yellow) or all clear (green). Again, awareness is key to knowing these are coming and not getting a ticket, but also to knowing everyone will suddenly be slamming on the brakes ahead.
Driving / Being Stopped by Police:
I have been stopped at many police roadblocks while traveling in Brazil, but never pulled over. I also never encountered a problem.
There are a few kinds of police in Brazil, Military, Highway and Local. The local cops can be distinguished in Natal by the word ROCAM on their uniform. They generally travel in twos in buggy or by motorcycle. The military police are easy to spot, with automatic rifles (AR15s, FN FALs) at the ready, more of a military look about them and "Policia Militar" on their cars. Highway police are usually along primary roadways in an area where you must slow down and cross bumps to pass.
All police in Brazil generally will not bother you too much if you are a tourist. Of the times I have been stopped, all were at roadblocks, and we had no issues. If you get stopped for type of driving offense (rare), I can't comment on how that might turn out. Just obey the speed limits and you should be fine.
Getting the Bill & Tipping
When eating out, you will find it takes some time to get your bill. So, if you plan on leaving soon, ask for the bill THEN! If you wait until you WANT to leave to ask for the bill, you'll end up staying another 1/2 hour waiting.
So, just be sure to ask early and all will be good!
Also note that tipping above the cost of your bill is not customary in restaurants (this is true throughout all of Brazil). Gratuity is built right into the bill at 10%. As such, waitstaff do not expect to be tipped, and leaving money on a table after your meal as a tip is not necessary.
Here in the US, tipping is a customary 15 to 20% of your total bill and is not included unless you have 6 to 8 or more in your party.
In Brazil, 10% tip is always included in your bill and you're not expected to leave any more. If you do - well, you'll make great friends of all the wait staff!! But, you really don't need to. Brazilians NEVER leave money on the table after paying a bill. It's just not done. This kind of extra tipping is not expected so, just pay the bill and you're all set.
If you do want to tip, place the tip directly in the hand of the person you want to give the tip to. You'll make their day (and out yourself as a tourist). But, never just leave money like you would at home. Leaving money on a table is a sure way for it to quickly vanish into thin air the moment you turn away.
Don't Touch Your Food or Burp
Being an American, we eat everything with our hands and have no trouble with it. Basically because we wash our hands all the time and especially before we eat.
Brazilains, however, don't touch their food. They'll eat pizza with a knife and fork, and routinely hold sandwiches with a napkin or wax paper so their fingers never touch the food itself. What American;s might consider "finger food" is even served this way in Brazil, in a little pouch to hold. Needless to say.. I touched my food often and didn't care one bit to try not to - to the obvious dismay and disgust of many.. oh well for them! I know my hands are clean! LOL
As for burping.. well.. just don't do it. I think, Americans understand that some bodily functions are OK sometimes, (in certain situations anyway). Burp and OK... Oh, excuse me. NOT in Brazil.. oh no.. burp and every Brazilian around will give you a dirty look. Some may go so far as to tell you "falta do educação " - equating to.. you're uneducated.
I found these things to be hilarious considering that men and women alike will hock up a big loogie anywhere, anytime and everyone spits all over the place.. but GAWD FORBID you touch your food or let a little gas escape your stomach in public!
Go figure.. ;-)
Getting Someone's Attention
To get someone's attention in Brazil it is customary to whistle or if you can't whistle, to make a noise something like you're calling a cat and saying "phew" at the end... Kind of hard to explain.. but you'll see and hear it right away. i.e. "pppssssshhhhheewwww".
Also, saying "AAAAAAAyy" is common for the same purpose.
These are true for both local men and women - but especially the women, who have no problem being downright rude to waiters or public servants of any kind.
Fishing on the morning
If you a an early bird, you can catch men and boys fishing on the beaches. I watched a couple of times this fishing by seine and saw some eight different fish types, all of them unknown to me. One type looked some kind on small bass.
Catch was about twenty kilos on average.
Blow the Car Horn - Always!
Using the Horn in your car in the states - well, it means something. In Brazil.. it's debatable as to if it means anything at all. Much like speaking, horn usage requires context in Brazil. Use it to say "hello", "get out of my way", "you're cute", "I'm passing you", "you're in my lane", "look @ me, I have a horn", etc. LOL..
Basically.. blow your horn for any reason and for no reason at all and you'll fit right in.
think of the climate
Natal is very close to the eauator....and brazilians have their life much at the beach...= don´t bring to much clothes...especially not worm ones.....
The oldest Portuguese Mark in...
The oldest Portuguese Mark in the World.
The Gaspar Lemos and Americo Vespucio expedition - 1501
Reis Magos Fortress Museum
- Save money, Book now!
- Booking.com Excellent choice, Low rates
- Great room rates