A Brazilian roadtrip sounded like the perfect way to explore a country I’d never seen. Who doesn’t love a good roadtrip? And by good, I mean the kind where almost everything goes wrong. Who wants to listen to someone’s perfectly executed roadtrip? Bor-ing! So when my boyfriend and I decided to throw together a three day Brazilian roadtrip from Sao Paulo to Paraty, we thought, how hard could it be?
Lower Your Expectations
Renting a car in Brazil was a piece of cake – I hopped onto Europecar, threw in my city pairs, chose my compact car and, because my partner and I can’t speak a lick of Portuguese, we paid for GPS for good measure. Click, purchase, done! We figured with a few printed maps we’d be fine. That is until we arrived at Sao Paulo airport after 20 hours of travel to find a gutless-tin can, with bald tires and no GPS waiting for us.
Polish Up Your Portuguese
If humankind managed to find their way from the Africa to the Asian subcontinent over a million years ago without the aid of technology, surely we could make the 4 hour journey from Sao Paulo to Paraty without GPS right? The short answer is yes, the long answer, it took 9 hours, about 20 wrong turns, and enough sugar and caffeine to fuel an entire army of hackers for a week.
Our first challenge was getting out of Sao Paulo, which, if you look on a map seems relatively easy, except that if you miss your turnoff, it can take over an hour to find the next freeway entrance. Be prepare to be perpetually lost (and lost in translation). Tip of the day? Either bring your OWN GPS that you can calibrate, learn to understand enough Portuguese to read the road signs, and slip your navigator just enough Gravol to prevent them from projectile vomiting every time they look down at a map.
Bring Your Change Purse
There are more tollbooths on Brazilian highways than there are cars. Slight exaggeration, but it felt like we were shelling out Reais every 10 minutes. Bring small bills or change, and have it ready in hand when you pull up or prepare for a barrage of honks behind you for being a slowpoke.
Brazilian driving etiquette is not for the faint of heart. If you drive like your eighty-six year old Grandma, hand the keys over to someone else, this isn’t for you. Brazilians might be friendly, but they can be downright insane on the road. They weave in and out, cut you off, ride your bumper and blare their horn…and that’s just in the parking lot. Traffic is heavy on the highways, and with sudden weather changes, especially on the coast, it can treacherous. So chin up, grip that wheel with both hands, and be confident, and keep your eyes peeled for motorbikes, mid-highway speed bumps and speed traps.
Stop to Enjoy the Views
Roadtrips shouldn’t be about punching a clock. Who cares if you’re three hours behind, Brazilians are always late – Do as the Romans do. A Brazilian roadtrip is probably one of the most scenic roadtrips you’ll ever take, and there are TONS of vista turn-out points and hidden beaches to explore. Pack a picnic, lot’s of water, and take a breather from the highway chaos.
Keep a Sense of Humour
Brazilian roadtrips are the leading cause of travel divorces. Okay, I totally made that up, but it’s not that farfetched. Think about how pissed off you get when your partner backseat drives at home! Before you set out on a roadtrip in any country, be okay with getting lost, agree not to take it out on each other, and above all, remember that all mishaps make for great storytelling later on.