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Driving Versus Uber When Visiting Brazil With Kids: Which Is Better For You?

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Transportation in foreign countries can be stressful, unknown, and sometimes complicated. As a family, we honestly would love to drive so we can see more of the city or country we are in, and it’s convenient for kids. However, there are places where it makes sense, and there are places where it doesn’t.

Here are the places we visited over our five-week stay in Brazil – Sao Paulo, Natal, Salvador, Rio, and Manaus. Let me share with you how did we get to these destinations.

When to Drive And When To Uber When Visiting Brazil with Kids

Escadaria Selarón, famous steps in Rio de Janeiro

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In general, the bigger the city, the better chance you have to use a ride-share app, like Uber.  Fortunately, it’s blissfully cheap in Brazil, and Sao Paulo is amazing!  We never waited for more than a couple of minutes for an Uber to arrive. Our rides around the city would usually cost $1-3 USD.

However, when we went this year, Covid protocols limited passengers in Ubers to only three.  This made things tricky with our party of eight.  So we just stuffed four people into the backseat of two Ubers.  Maybe 5% of the time, the drivers would reject us and make us find someone else.  While about 20% of the time, they would let one of the adults sit in the front if we would ask.

Rio de Janeiro, on the other hand, also has plenty of Ubers and mass transit.  But due to safety precautions, we never tried to have public transportation.  Again, Uber here is super cheap, from $1-5 USD for most rides around the city.

For smaller cities and remote places, you have an option to rent a car from the airport.  Rental cars are quite expensive, and we advise that you get insurance.

Iguazu Falls

Uber When Visiting Brazil with Kids: 6 Tips

Inform your credit card company that you are traveling to Brazil

  • Inform your credit card company that you are traveling to Brazil and that you expect to have frequent Uber charges that are usually in small amounts. Our provider flagged our credit cards nearly every other day for fraud, and it was very disappointing!
  • One tip for avoiding credit card declines is to pre-pay on the Uber app for rides.  I’d recommend this!

Be patient in getting a ride

  • You might be dropped a couple of times before you get a ride. They said they couldn’t see the location until they accept the booking. As a result, they will often drop you if they don’t want to drive that far, and you’ll quickly jump in through drivers. But don’t stress out! Take it as part of your travel experience. We always got some, even if it took a couple of minutes and several drivers. 

Uber is the easiest mode of public transportation

  • Uber is the easiest form of mass transportation, especially when you speak English, because you don’t have to talk to the driver at all.  In the messaging part of the app, your conversation is auto-translated.  
  • It’s about half the price of a taxi cab. This is consistent everywhere in Brazil.
Dune buggy ride in Brazil

Buckling up is not a must

  • For most Uber drivers in Brazil, buckling up is lax.  Like many third-world countries, safety isn’t the top concern.  They don’t care if you buckle up, and many of them don’t, either. We had kids on laps many times as well.

Keep the car clean

  • Drivers want their cars to stay that way. Considering most of the population of Brazil lives on the coast, you might visit the beach and then want to Uber back.  We learned quickly that drivers do NOT want you to get their car dirty.  Several even turned us down. So on our next ride, we had to wipe off well and change into semi-dry clothes.

Give a tip!

  • If you can, give the Uber driver a tip! Chris talked to several of the drivers, and we discovered that most of them work for about 10-12 hours, 7 days a week, and bring home about $600/month. We tried to tip generously!

Rental Car When Visiting Brazil with Kids: 6 Tips

Rented car in Brazil

Get the Insurance

  • Learn from our mistake.  I was rear-ended by a drunk driver in a parking lot. It was completely his fault, but we still had to pay several thousand dollars, and no one really cared! Imagine the stress and hassle we could have avoided if we got insurance. The police witnessed the whole thing and sent him home drunk. Here’s where you can get travel insurance.

Larger cars are rare

  • In most places, finding a rental car larger than a 5-seater is a challenge, if not impossible. In fact, we did not find one!  Like in Salvador, we had to rent two cars and drive separately. We have used Discover Cars to book our rental cars around the world and have found amazing deals.

Fueling

  • Pay close attention to the type of fuel your rented car is using if it’s diesel or gasoline. The gas price is a bit high in Brazil.
  • Gas stations are full-service. This means you won’t be pumping your own gas and don’t even need to get out of the car (but still turn it off!).  We tipped a little bit of cash when we had it, but I don’t know how much they expected it.
  • Gas stations are also good places for the restroom and snacks.
Rear-ended car in Brazil

Brush up on general road signs and rules in Brazil before you start 

  • Speed bumps are very common.  When you are driving on a highway, anytime you come into a town or city, you will have to slow down because of several speed bumps. In the city, they are hard to see and take you by surprise.
  • Potholes are very common, too so watch out!  They can be big!!!
  • Passing and other road rules are flexible. 🙂 It’s a bit of a game of chicken and less following road rules.

Download your map or get it going before you start the trip

  • Our data was terribly slow, and our Wi-Fi hotspot couldn’t get a signal a lot of times, especially out of the city.  If you fill up for gas, be sure to get your map going as well.  Alternatively, you can get a SIM card for Brazil.

Parking can be tricky in the city 

Especially in Rio, I think parking is very hard. We didn’t even try to drive there, but a local guide told us we should have.  However, I would have been quite nervous, and there was no parking at our Airbnb.

The few times we had a rental car when traveling with kids and we enjoyed it! We loved exploring Chapada Diamantina.  Exploring is so much easier, and you can get to know the place a lot better as you spontaneously find things. Don’t be too intimidated to try as you explore Brazil!

Amazon Boat Tour with kids

Where To Stay In Rio de Janeiro?

Check out these hotels:

Xoxo,

Leslie

✈️ Book your flight to Brazil on Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a nice hotel in Rio de Janeiro from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of Brazil with GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Rent a Car on Expedia Rental Cars

✅ Get insured while traveling with World Nomads

Capture your best memories in Brazil as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

18 Beginner Tips for International Family Travel

Obtaining Two Passports: When You Need Them and How To Get Them

Bangkok Travel Guide: 11 Tips, Tricks, and Takeaways

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  1. Pingback: 12 Wonderful Ways To Enjoy Rio With Kids - 7 Wayfinders

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