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Rough itinerary blocking - Argentina and Brazil - comments appreciated

Rough itinerary blocking - Argentina and Brazil - comments appreciated

Aug 25th, 2011, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 68
It really appears that what the “specific person who was rabid in her fear mongering” advised you of is exactly what you are reporting your experience was, so were you given rabid fear-mongering or sound, factual advice?

Not every traveller would find all the perils, frustrations and inconveniences you have confronted (and the dangers you may have faced unknowingly) to be the way they might want to spend a relaxing vacation. And especially on a much shorter one, those travellers would not be missing much by not driving and instead joining the Brazilians in taking the extremely comfortable buses, or often even more cheaply, flying.

I think you do a major disservice to most travellers to Brazil to suggest that (self)driving through Brazil is a reasonable choice for any but the most intrepid.

You were advised by that person that she did “not recommend driving in Brazil to anyone new to Brazil who does not speak the language well, and is not familiar with road conditions and driving habits…..

Also, not to drive in Brazil in order:
To “AVOID roads with a little asphalt holding together the potholes.”
To “AVOID getting lost in an unsafe area (such as a favela), esp. getting in and out of cities.”

So you reported:
“The highway is not a true highway …….. They are adequate two lane highways BUT with speed bumps when you least expect them and tons of potholes. Also the BR101 (my note: this is the main interstate highway) up here is full of trucks supplying the cities.”
“…..you do not want to be driving around Rio and take a wrong turn into a favela….We spent five days in Rio which we loved. …….. We rented a car …. though the favelas pose an interesting challenge. Be sure to bring your own maps as the rental cars do not provide them here.”

“it took a half hour on this road to do 20km.”

You were advised:
“It takes more than "a little bit of Portuguese" to even understand the rental contract you're signing and the potential costs you may be agreeing to in case of accident, let alone to get the car fixed while on the road, or talk to police at one of the common blitz actions.”

You reported your own experience:
“We rented a car from AVIS in Natal. What a production! There were two young men at the Avis booth, neither of whom spoke English. Nor did they read English so the reservation form you arrive with are tossed aside and they hand write the contract which you can't read because it is in Portuguese. In practical terms this meant that the entire rental process took 1 hour and 30 minutes from start to finish. Since we couldn't read the contract or question the agent, we opted to take full insurance coverage which added BR$13 per day to cover third party damage and windscreen breakage. (Suggest you factor these things into your budget and planning. ….We ended up taking the extra insurance because we found that in Brazil we were scammed at least once a day.”
(My note: the “full” insurance coverage still doesn’t cover damage other than proven third party damage, for example vandalism or anything you yourself might be responsible for, and you will be home by the time they are charging your credit card any price they choose for repair.)

“Manaus was interesting because there are random police blockades on the road to Venezuela. All of a sudden there would be a stop with maybe 10 armed police officers stopping all cars. ……. Very few English speakers.”

You were initially informed about accidents and carjackings. You did indeed more recently report seeing a bad accident, luckily not involving you, in just the short few weeks you have been travelling. Further luck (only) may have prevented you from becoming a victim of crime too.

You stated initially that “there was no way the conditions here in Brazil were as bad as those we encountered in some of the African countries we drove through..” but yet after doing some driving, say “Roads are okay. Mind you, not as good as the roads in South Africa or even the road on the Caprivi strip.” (my note: in Namibia)
Also, you were told about the frequency of carjackings in certain areas of the country. Luckily, up until this point in your trip, it seems you haven’t encountered this problem, and some who do not know the areas well where this occurs may say it is rare. However, as you yourself say “Regarding the armed robbery at Hotel Santa Teresa, all fine and well for you to say it is rare. The fact that it happens at all is disturbing. I doubt any of the guests staying at that very expensive hotel (my note: or anyone renting a car for a peaceful drive around the country) had ever been robbed at gunpoint before. Who has? And why should they have had to endure an armed robbery at all.” Continued good luck to you on your drive, as you enter the areas where carjacking is more frequently reported.
If you claim that “Low level corruption in the cities appears to be part of life in Brazil and I think it is sad because the Brazilians are lovely.” then who is it that is corrupt, if not those very “lovely” Brazilians by whom “we were scammed at least once a day, with “having meal checks be presented with prices that were not reflected on the menu (but were, of course, higher) to taxi drivers changing the tariff rate from 1 (day time) to 2 (nighttime with 17% premium) in the middle of the day while enroute”?
You said “ It is imperative that you bring an English to Portuguese dictionary so you have a shot at not being a victim”, but a few hastily looked-up words are scant proof against the plethora of instances where you didn’t even perceive that you were being charged a hefty ‘gringo tax’ while the “lovely Brazilians” smiled to your face.
The famous Brazilian composer Tom Jobim once said that “Brazil is not for beginners”, and your comments illustrate that this is especially true for those “cabecudos” who think they have it all figured out before they spend much time on the ground. You initially said on the other forum that “We know how to travel and what to expect.” but your post here (and others there) seem to be one long litany of complaints about conditions outlined in advance advice that proved accurate, from those with lots of experience in Brazil, about conditions that you negated previous to travelling.
As mentioned above, not all are as intrepid as you, and not all would want to pass a vacation fraught with so many problems and complications simply in order to get to a few places that might not be reachable by other transportation.
Equestrian is offline  
Aug 25th, 2011, 01:03 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,609
Equestrian, you have my sincere vote for a medal. Gracias.

MarnieWDC is offline  
Aug 26th, 2011, 06:34 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 93
To Equestrian

You really seem to have too much time on your hands.
boudecca is offline  
Aug 26th, 2011, 07:24 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 93
To Equestrian

Sorry I was so slow on the uptake. You're the person who gives so much bad advice on driving in Brazil on "the other board". Try as you will, you just can't hide your writing style and the "I know better than you do" attitude that pervades all your comments wherever you write.

For the record, we are still in Brazil and our trip could not have been better. We have had a fabulous time driving in Brazil. To date, we have logged over 3000 km. Of course, we have had the occasional problem and some of your comments were correct but nothing that happened to us could quell the enjoyment of our trip one tiny iota. Real travelers adjust to glitches and the unusual by devising work arounds on the fly. And we get where we want to go with no fuss.

My reports are not for you who prefers the bus, but for others who have a keen sense of adventure and a free spirit. Brazil is a great country best enjoyed by driving through it. That is my experience and my firm belief. We have met many other fellow travelers these last five weeks who join us in this opinion. My reports are the facts of our specific trip without any judgments. If you interpret this as confirmation of your "advice", that's your opinion. Not mine.

And, what makes you think your opinion is better than mine? You travel by bus. I travel by car. I wouldn't think of giving advice to anyone about bus travel. Why do you think it's okay to give advice about driving when your entire Brazilian travel experience is by bus?

You should get yourself off that bus and try experiencing Brazil through the eyes of a real traveler. Or don't you drive? But at the very least you should stop scaring people about the horrors of driving in Brazil. Your point of view does not work for everyone. And you are just downright wrong about many things.

To my fellow travelers who want to travel through Brazil by car, my advice to you is to go ahead and try it. Pick one area where the driving is easy (maybe pick up a car at the Florianopolis airport or even the Salvador airport and head north to Praia do Forte). If you find you really do not like driving, then you can always change your mode of transportation for future legs of your trip. But if you find that you really like the freedom of driving, a car can open up a whole new Brazil to you. Don't let the negativity of a handful of specific individuals limit your experiences. Talk to people who are kindred spirits and make up your own minds.
boudecca is offline  
Aug 28th, 2011, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 68
My advice for newbies to Brazil to stick to the efficient and comfortable bus and sirline systems actually stems from the number of years (almost 2 decades) I have travelled and lived in Brazil -- and the number of problems I have either encountered or observed while driving with Brazilian friends and relatives over most areas of the country, coastal and inland, rural and urban, during that time period.

Note that the those advising first timers against driving (on the other forum) are Brazilians, who know their roads, and what can befall the unwary on them, well.

Your "good" advice above includes encouraging newbies to drive from Salvador to Praia do Forte, a stretch of road so prone to carjackings that even the buses go in a caravan with armed cars alongside. Cars coming from the sirport are known (by locals) to be particularly targeted. This has included a foreign family with a small child who were left stranded by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere up there, when their car was stolen. I personally know more than one person who has gone through a harrowing experience on that stretch of road. For example, one foreign woman resident was driving her car home along that stretch when she was suddenly forced off the road by two vehicles filled with armed men. She narrowly escaped being killed when one gunman, who was the one designated to drive her car away, couldn't figure out how to drive an automatic (very rare to find a non-stick shift in Brazil), turned his gun on her.

If someone has spent enough time in Brazil to come to know the road conditions and the drivers, and speaks enough Portuguese to get help if lost or in trouble, to know exactly what the rental contract says, and to get informed by locals as to trouble spots, then they may be informed enough to undertake a road trip safely, and to balance the substantial risks with whatever rewards are to be found by stopping at those rare places a bus does not.

Anyone reading this, or the thread(s)on the other forum, is clearly free to decide to take the advice of someone who spent 5 weeks in Brazil, reported many incidents that not every traveller would want to encounter on a vacation, and had some very good luck to avoid others (whether he knows Brazil well enough to understand this or not).
Equestrian is offline  

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