Transportation in Brazil
Air transport is the main way of getting to Brazil, and major airports are located at Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Other options include road, rail and sea. Due to the immense size of the country, getting around once you are there can pose some problems, especially if you wish to see a lot of different things in a short amount of time.
If you plan on flying a lot whilst in Brazil, look into the purchase of an Airpass!
This Brazil Transportation Guide gives details of how to get to and from Brazil, as well as information about getting around once in the country. Use it in conjunction with our Brazil Tours page in order to plan your trip to see everything you want to see in the time you have. Our individual city sites also have transportation pages, which give more detailed information about getting to and from, as well as around, certain cities and regions.
Brazil Transportation Guide
Getting To & From Brazil
The major national airlines are TAM (www.tam.com.br) and Varig (www.varig.com.br), although Varig are facing bankruptcy and have cancelled a number of their flights. The major airports are Brasilia International (BSB), located 11 kilometres south of the city, Rio de Janeiro (GIG) (Galeão), 20 kilometres north of the city, and São Paulo (GRU) (Guarulhos), 25 kilometres northeast of the city.
City buses run from each of airports, with a travel time of between 30 and 45 minutes. Taxis are also available, as are numerous facilities, such as banks/bureaux de change, restaurants, post offices, shops and car hire offices. Further information can be found by going to the Brazilian Airports website. The international departure tax is US$36.
One way of getting around a number of the South American countries is by purchasing airpasses. The Mercosur Airpass allows for travel between Argentina, Brazil, Chile (except Easter Island), Paraguay and Uruguay on TAM Mercosur (PZ), Pluna (PU), TAM Linhas Aéreas (JJ) and VARIG (RG).
Another is the Visit South America Pass, which allows travel between Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile (except Easter Island), Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines include Aer Lingus (EI), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Finnair (AY), Iberia (IB), LAN (LA) and Qantas (QF). This pass must be bought outside South America, in your country of residence. More details can be found by contacting one of the airlines.
For transport from the airport to the city (or from the city to the airport), we recommend Green Path Transfers, who offer eco-friendly airport transfers in hundreds of destinations around the world, including Barra Grande, Buzios, Chapada Diamantina, Costa do Sauípe, Foz do Iguassu, Ilha de Boipeba, Itacaré, Morro de São Paulo, Praia do Forte, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.
Rio de Janeiro is the main port, and is used by a number of international cruise ships. Manaus, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and Vitória are other popular ports. Many of the major international cruise lines sail to Brazil.
Train travel is not very common or popular, and there are only limited rail services, which link Brazil to Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
It is possible to travel from Brazil to various surrounding countries by road, but the journeys tend to be very long, and the buses can be uncomfortable.
Getting Around Brazil
Air travel is an excellent way to get around this vast country, as Brazil has one of the largest domestic air services in the world. There are regular shuttle services between some of the larger cities, and every city in Brazil is connected via the air network. Timetables and air fares can be found in the monthly magazine Panrotas.
Cheap, no-frills airlines include GOL Linhas Aéreas, Azul and OceanAir. Airpasses available include the Brazil Pass issued by Varig, which can only be purchased outside the country, the Star Alliance Varig Brazil Airpass, which must be used in conjunction with a Star Alliance international carrier, the Star Alliance Northeast Airpass, for use in the northeast region of Brazil, and a TAM airpass, which can usually be purchased via any international carrier.
Due to the impenetrable nature of much of the Amazon Delta, river transport is usual the most efficient method of getting around. Private companies are now offering quite reasonable and well-priced services on rivers throughout Brazil. Ferries also serve all the coastal ports, and boat trips from the mainland make the islands of Ilha Grande, Ilhabela and Ilha de Santa Catarina accessible.
Rail is not a popular or common way to get around Brazil. While there are limited rail connections between most major towns and cities, they have been substantially reduced in recent times. Added to this are the fact that the journeys are often very long and quite uncomfortable.
One reason to take a train is for the journey though. There are some very scenic rail routes, some of the best of which are from Curitiba to Paranagua (originating in São Paulo) and from São Paulo to Santos. The longer journeys will often have sleeper and restaurant cars.
Traffic in Brazil drives on the right. Road conditions vary throughout the country, with better roads around and between the main urban centres. The minimum driving age is 18, and an International Driving Permit is required. Car hire is available in major cities, although it can be quite expensive, plus traffic and parking in the big cities can be horrendous.
High-quality, air-conditioned coaches service all the major routes. Other buses reach all inhabited regions throughout the country, although to smaller areas they may be older, more uncomfortable buses.