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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Foreign visitors to Brazil from one hundred countries can now drive vehicles throughout the entire country with only a valid driver’s license from their country of origin and a passport. The new measure, which began on Friday, July 1st and will last until December 31st, 2016, is designed to encourage and enhance mobility for the half a million tourists who will visit Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
Government officials hope that easing driving restrictions for the 500,000 visitors during the Games will stimulate travel outside the city limits, photo by José Cruz/Agência Brasil.

The new measure is a part of the Brazilian National Traffic Council’s (CONTRAN) Resolution 578/2016 and is meant to complement last month’s Joint Ordinance 216/2015 from the ministries of Tourism, Justice, and Foreign Affairs that established a visa exemption, from June 1st until September 18th, for visitors to Brazil from Australia, Canada, the United States and Japan.

Unlike the numerous roadway traffic and transportation infrastructure works meant to ensure mobility inside the notoriously congested city limits, with the new measure, government officials hope to encourage some of the 500,000 Olympic visitors to travel beyond the city limits post-Olympics.

Before the enactment of the new measure, driving in Brazil for international visitors was covered under Resolution 345/2010, which, like the new resolution, permitted visitors to drive in Brazil with only a valid driver’s license from their home country and a passport.

But, Resolution 345/2010 was limited in scope. It only applied to visitors from countries that were members of the 1968 Vienna Convention, also known as the Convention on Road Traffic, such as Israel, Norway and the U.K.; or countries with which Brazil had reciprocity agreements, such as the U.S. and Canada.

Now, with the new Resolution 578/2016, driving privileges are granted to even non-signatory countries to the 1968 Vienna Convention as well as countries with which Brazil had no prior agreements. This includes tourists from countries with the new visa exemption like Japan, as well as Iceland, Jamaica and India. Interestingly, India will bring to Rio de Janeiro its largest Olympic squad ever, with over one hundred athletes representing the country of 1.2 billion.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
With the new measure, tourists from one hundred countries can drive in Brazil with a valid driver’s license and passport, photo by Marinelson Almeida/Flickr Creative Commons License.

In total, visitors from approximately one hundred countries will now be able to drive throughout the country.

Speaking about the new measure, interim Tourism Minister Alberto Alves said, “This measure encourages foreign tourists who will be in the country for the Olympics to know more the natural and cultural beauties of Brazil and complements the visa exemption for American, Japanese, Canadian and Australian tourists.”

Additionally, government officials hope that the new measure will provide a boost to the car rental industry in particular, with the expectation that the more flexible driving regulations will promote more visitors to rent cars for their travels.

The high expectations for the car rental industry comes on the heels of last month’s 120-page Annual Survey of the Economic Tourism Situation (PACET) commissioned by the Ministry of Tourism that showed that across nine different tourism sectors, the car rental industry had the most positive outlook for 2016 with 99 percent of car rental companies expecting gains this year compared to 2015.

The Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on August 5th going until August 21st, followed by the Paralympics, beginning September 7th until the 18th.

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