Sunday, 5 February 2012

Driving in Sao Paulo

Traffic is definitely up there for most-talked-about-topics here in Sao Paulo. Ways to avoid traffic, blitzs (police drinking stops), rodizios, bus lanes, accidents. when it rains how it gets 100 times worse...

When you are stuck in traffic sitting there patiently for it to clear.... the most irritating thing is when a car zooms by in the emergency lane and cuts in at the top as the traffic light goes green. Firstly, you're just pissed off that you hadn't plucked up the courage to do it, and secondly, you're really pissed off that the driver has the impunity to do it and nothing is going to happen to him/her. English people would never consider jumping the queue, it would be just considered rude. In the opening chapter of Watching the English  the author has to have a drink to be able to jump a queue, which is a big no-no there! 

There is generally seen to be a very poor standard of driving here, and coupled with the terrible standards of the road, I'm not surprised over 37,000 people died last year in car fatalities (1). People die every day, motoboys drive like demons down the marginal with not a care for ther life, people kill people and walk away just paying off the family. I actually don't even drive here yet because I'm scared sh*tless. It's on the wrong side of the road and I was never a very confident driver in the first place but I'm about to start lessons with a Brazilian instructor...  wish me (and him) luck!


* Just got my Angloinfo newsletter today titled Accidents in Sao Paulo. I've copied the information below:

Dealing with Road Accidents

Do you know what to do if you’re involved in a road accident? Are you confident you know what to do if you witness a crash? AngloINFO has the information you need, so you can rest assured that you know how to handle accidents on the road, whether it’s a minor prang or something more serious.

Need to know

In the case of a serious road incident, the most important thing to do first is alert the emergency services. The Emergency Telephone Numbers Information Page has the numbers to call.

Whether you’re a driver or not, it’s important to be aware of the rules regarding what to do following a road accident as you might be involved as a passenger or witness. The Road Traffic Accidents in Brazil Information Page has important information regarding accident reports, the people and vehicles involved in a crash, as well as which authorities to alert afterwards. The page on Insuring a Car in Brazil has helpful information about insurance coverage and filing a claim. Make sure you understand the procedure so that you know what to do, should the need ever arise.

And finally, to fix dents, dings and bigger damage following an incident on the road, browse through the Car Service & Repairs category of The AngloFILE where you'll find listings for English-speaking professionals in your local area.


  1. While I generally agree with all your concerns about driving in Sao Paulo, try looking at the positive side: once you get the hang of it, you will find it really easy to drive in many other places. To be honest, you'll become better technically, just because you have to. Here in the UK I see drivers make such bad decisions and get away with it because traffic is relatively calm and the other drivers are very forgiving.

  2. My husband will be excited to see the day when I'm a good driver!! I'm copying a fb post from a friend here in SP. This weekend was obviously a bad one for traffic!

    So...I just spent the most amazing and completely relaxing weekend on the coast of Sao Paulo, only to completely lose my temper on the way back...Stuck in a 5 hour traffic jam (a drive that should have taken 2hrs), I was enraged by all the cars driving on the shoulder, only to cut in a few cars ahead of us, causing the traffic to slow down even more. Of course, my rage found its release in more than a few choice words and a lot of body language targeted at the offenders, as my husband tried to block off at least a portion of the shoulder with our car, but unfortunately it did not stop anyone :( and nobody else seemed to care!!!! I am at a loss here, it seems that people here, as a general group seem to associate themselves less with those offended than those committing offense.

    1. Ah, the drive up from the "litoral"... People driving on the shoulder are really annoying but just make sure they haven't relaxed the rule about that. When traffic gets really bad, the highway police will sometimes put up temporary signs telling you that you are allowed to drive on the shoulder and you still have to cut back into the slow lane at points where there is no shoulder. Maybe your friend should've been doing the same thing.

  3. My husband has definitely become more Brazilian in his driving and happily drives up the shoulder to cut in at the top...

    I witnessed 2 minor accidents today - Brazilians definitely show their worst / weakest sides on the road! They are the friendliest people in the world but when it comes to driving it's a totally different matter. We might be ushered to the front of a queue, or seated straight away in a restaurant but try crossing a road with a buggy is literally taking your life into your hands!