Rent a Car for Travel in Rio de Janeiro

Known for its stunning beaches, samba culture, and dramatic landscapes, Rio de Janeiro is one of South America’s most vibrant destinations. With attractions spread across the sprawling city, having your own set of wheels makes exploring efficient. Here’s a guide on renting and driving in marvelous Rio!

Finding Rental Car Companies in Rio

As a major tourist hub, Rio is served by all the big international chains like:

  • Hertz
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Alamo
  • Thrifty

There are also reputable local brands like Localiza, Movida, and Unidas. Compare rates across companies. Reserve early for best availability, especially in peak seasons.

Documentation and Requirements

Typical documents required:

  • Valid driver’s license from your home country
  • Passport
  • Major credit card for payment
  • International Driving Permit recommended

Some companies have minimum age requirements, typically 21-25 years old. Additional fees often apply for drivers under 25.

Types of Rental Cars in Rio

Car TypeExamplesDescription
EconomyFiat Mobi, Renault KwidSmall, budget friendly cars good for 1-2 people
CompactVW Gol, Fiat ArgoModestly sized cars for city driving
StandardToyota Corolla, Nissan VersaMidsize sedans fitting 4 passengers
SUVJeep Compass, Hyundai TucsonFor families, beach trips, luggage capacity
LuxuryBMW 3 Series, Audi A3Premium models with luxury features
ConvertibleFord Mustang, Fiat 500CFor scenic drives with top down

Automatic transmission is predominant in Brazil but manual rentals are available too.

Driving in Rio de Janeiro – Rules of the Road

Key driving regulations and etiquette:

  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Seat belt use mandatory for all passengers
  • Drunk driving laws strictly enforced
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Right turns permitted on red lights after full stop
  • Keep headlights on day and night
  • Hands-free cell phone use only when driving
  • Watch for passing cars on right

Roads can be hazardous. Drive very defensively given aggressive local styles.

Useful Rental Car Tips for Rio

  • Reserve well in advance for best deals
  • Inspect car thoroughly for prior damages before accepting
  • Purchase maximum liability insurance protection
  • Ask about GPS navigation devices
  • Have offline maps downloaded just in case
  • Be cautious when parking on streets
  • Keep belongings and valuables out of sight
  • Carry spare change for parking meters

Using these tips will provide peace of mind with your rental.

Top Day Trip Destinations

Having your own wheels makes escaping to amazing attractions near Rio easy. Top day trips include:

  • Búzios – Gorgeous beach resort town with great food and atmosphere. 2 hr drive.
  • Petrópolis – Mountain town with imperial history and cooler temps. 1 hr drive.
  • Paraty – Picturesque colonial coastal village with waterfalls and islands. 4 hr drive.
  • Itatiaia – National park with lush jungle, hiking, waterfalls. 3 hr drive.
  • Angra dos Reis – 365 islands make this a boating and diving paradise. 3 hr drive south.
  • Foz do Iguaçu – Spectacular Iguazu Falls, one of the New 7 Wonders. 1 hr flight.

Carefully follow GPS or offline maps when driving outside Rio. Road signage is limited. Keep fuel tanks full.

FAQ About Renting a Car in Rio de Janeiro

What documents do I need to rent a car in Rio?

You’ll need a valid driver’s license, passport, and credit card. Some agencies require an International Driving Permit.

What side of the road do Brazilians drive on?

Brazil drives on the right side of the road, just like North America and mainland Europe.

What insurance should I purchase with a rental car?

Get minimum third-party liability coverage. Consider buying supplemental coverage for maximum protection in case of incidents.

Is driving in Rio difficult?

Yes, heavy traffic, aggressive drivers, and safety risks make driving demanding. Use caution, allow extra time, and consider a GPS device.


While Rio’s chaotic roads can be challenging, having your own rental car is often the best way to experience sprawling marvelous Rio and its nearby beach towns and nature escapes. Reserve early, inspect cars carefully, purchase sufficient insurance, and brush up on local driving practices. Then with your own wheels and a sense of adventure, iconic Copacabana, the giant Christ statue, and incredible day trips await!


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