For those of you who love to drive, Sao Paulo Brazil has a lot of action.
On my last 5 trips to Brazil, mainly to Sao Paulo I have had the pleasure of renting a car and driving around the "controlled" chaos.
First let me provide you with some background on Sao Paulo. It is either the second or third most populated city (depending on where you get your results) in the world with an estimate of 10,677,000 habitants, not including the suburbs which can push the figure to 15 million. It is the economic engine of Brazil and the largest city in South America.
My rental car was a Chevrolet Corsa 5 speed, 1.8 Litre engine. Enough to get you around the city, but anything over 140km/hr and the car feels unstable, even though the speedometer read 220km/hr. At least it inspired me and gave me an objective.
For those of you who have not experienced "controlled" chaos here are a few rules to keep in mind while:
One rule of thumb, especially if you want to keep your thumb(s), is to keep your arms inside your car. Do not put your arm out the window to point at something or stick your head out the window to talk to the pretty girl or guy in the next car as a "motoboy" can and will ride his motorcycle in between both of your cars. The quickest way to get around such a large city is by motorcycle. They race in between cars with their horns honking and they all make their way to the front of the intersection.
#2 Don't talk on your cell phone. It is illegal to do so in Sao Paulo.
#3 Running red lights is not customary in North America and took some practice and courage for me to do so. But in Sao Paulo if you're driving at night and approach an intersection in a neighbourhood that you're (a) not too familiar with (b) are really scared or (c) you simply like to drive through red lights, you're in for a surprise. You can. But be discreet about it and try not to run a red with a police officer on the corner. Remember to look both ways before you do though.
Apparently though, the police are trying to crack down on this.
#4 Defensive driving skills are essential. I had a motorcycle drive up the wrong way along the curb side as I tried to turn onto another street. Almost took him out.
#5 Watch out for potential T-bones at four way intersections, especially at night. If they don't stop for red lights, what makes you think they'll stop at signed intersections?
#6. If you drive a flashy car, for example a Honda Civic sedan or anything in that price range and higher you will notice the cars to have very dark tinted windows. This provides protection to the occupants inside as those on the outside do not know how many people are inside the car. Some cars even have the front windshield tinted!!!
#7. Keep your doors locked at all times and keep your eyes open.
#8. Bring a GPS unit or a loaded GPS mapping device with you. This will help considerably in your travels.
So there you have the simple rules to adhere to should you try driving in Brazil. I hope this does not discourage or provide people with the impression that Sao Paulo is a dangerous place. A large city does have vast differences and yes it can be dangerous, depending on where you go, but it's a city that must be visited and drive in too.
Unfortunately as I only had two days off I was unable to drive the curvaceous road runs along the coastal Serra das Araras mountain range toward Rio de Janerio but did enjoy the bus ride along the route on my previous visit.