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Melia Brasil 21
Melia Brasil 21 - dream vacation

SHS - Quadra 6 - Conj A - Lote - Bloco D, Brasilia

Bourbon Convention Ibirapuera
Bourbon Convention Ibirapuera - dream vacation

Avenue Ibirapuera 2907 2927, Sao Paulo

Monreale Hotel
Monreale Hotel - dream vacation

Rua Dr. Ramos De Azevedo 100, Guarulhos

Hotel Luzeiros
Hotel Luzeiros - dream vacation

Av. Beira Mar, 2600, Fortaleza

Manhattan Plaza
Manhattan Plaza - dream vacation

Setor Hoteleiro Norte Quadra 2 Bloco A, Brasilia

Ibis Guarulhos
Ibis Guarulhos - dream vacation

R. General Osorio 19 Centro, Guarulhos

St Paul Plaza Hotel
St Paul Plaza Hotel - dream vacation

SHS Quadra 02 Bloco H CEP, Brasilia

Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil) is the largest country in South America and fifth largest in the world. Famous for its football (soccer) tradition and its annual Carnaval in Rio de JaneiroSalvadorRecife and Olinda, it is a country of great diversity. From the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Pernambuco and Bahia, the wilderness of the Amazon rainforest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil.


Brazil is the fifth largest country on earth. It is divided into five regions, mainly drawn around state lines, but they also more or less follow natural, economic and cultural borderlines.


Brazil has many exciting cities, ranging from pretty colonial towns and coastal hideouts to hectic, lively metropolises; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations:

  • Brasília - The capital of Brazil, and an architectural spectacle. Noteworthy buildings include a basket-shaped cathedral, the beautiful Arches Palace (seat of the Ministry of Justice) and others.
  • Florianópolis - The city is located in an island in the Atlantic Ocean in the southern state of Santa Catarina, with lakes, lagoons, amazing nature and more than 40 clean, beautiful, natural beaches. Major destination for Argentines during the summer months.
  • Fortaleza — The 4th biggest city in Brazil, blessed with beautiful beaches. Home of the Iracema Beach street market. A good base for exploring the beaches of the northeastern coast, including Jericoacoara. Famed for forró music and comedians.
  • Manaus — Located in the heart of the Amazon, is the capital of Amazonas State and it is also the biggest city of the Amazon. At Manaus the rivers Negro and Solimões meet to became the Amazonas River. The best place to go to visit the Amazon rainforest. It is a gateway to the Anavilhanas and to Jaú National Park.
  • Porto Alegre — a major city between Argentina and São Paulo and gateway to Brazil's fabulous Green Canyons.
  • Recife — A major city in the Northeast region, originally settled by Dutch colonizers. Nicknamed "The Brazilian Venice", it is built on several islands linked by many bridges. Rich in history, art and folklore. Do not miss neighboring Olinda and Porto de Galinhas. The city is also a gateway to the amazing archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.
  • Rio de Janeiro — World famous, beautiful city that welcomes visitors with that big statue of an open-armed Jesus atop Corcovado Hill.
  • Salvador — The first capital of Brazil is home to a unique blend of indigenous, African and European cultures. Its Carnival fun is famous, and the influence of African culture and religion is remarkable.
  • São Paulo — Brazil's largest, richest and most cosmopolitan city, where you can find strong influences of several ethnicities, including Italian, Korean, Japanese, German, Russian, Caribbean and Arab.

Other destinations

  • Amazonia — jungle tours, wildlife, floated wood, the mysteries of the Amazon
  • Chapada Diamantina National Park
  • Chapada dos Veadeiros — cerrado (tropical savanna) wildlife and stunning waterfalls
  • Fernando de Noronha — tropical island paradise in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, is protected as a Marine National Park since 1997 and a World Heritage Site
  • Ilha Grande
  • Iguaçu Falls — world-famous waterfalls
  • Ilha do Marajó
  • Lençóis Maranhenses
  • Pantanal — the world's largest wetland hosts lots of eco-tourism and vast biodiversity, including caiman, jaguar, anaconda, giant anteater, primates, giant otter, and piranha



Before Columbus arrived in the Americas, the area now known as Brazil was home to people mainly of the Tupi and Guarani ethnic groups. Colonizing by the Portuguese began late in the 16th century, with the extraction of valuable wood from the pau brasil tree, from which the country draws its name. Brazil was colonized and developed by the Portuguese and not the Spanish, who claimed much of the Americas. During Portuguese rule, some parts of Brazil formed a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. The Dutch founded several cities, such as Mauritsville, and many sugar cane plantations. The Dutch fought a grim jungle war with the Portuguese, and without the support of the Republic of their homeland due to a war with England, the Dutch surrendered to the Portuguese, though they did not officially recognize Portuguese rule, which led to an all-out war with Portugal off the coast of Portugal in 1656. In 1665 the Peace Treaty of The Hague was signed, Portugal lost its Asian colonies and had to pay 63 tons of gold to compensate the Dutch Republic for the loss of its colony.

Brazil became the center of the Portuguese Empire by 1808, when the King Dom João VI (John VI) fled from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and established himself and his government in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

The following four centuries saw continued exploitation of the country's natural resources such as gold and rubber, alongside the rise of an economy based largely on sugar, coffee and African slave labor. Christianizing and exploitation of natives continued, and the 19th and 20th Century saw a second wave of immigration, mainly Italian, German (in southern Brazil), Spanish, Japanese (In São Paulo State) and Portuguese, adding to the set of factors that generated today's complex and unique Brazilian culture and society.

Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation on September 7, 1822. Until 1889 Brazil was an Empire under the rule of Dom Pedro I and his son Dom Pedro II. By this time, it became an emerging international power. Slavery, which had initially been widespread, was restricted by successive legislation until its final abolition in 1888. Many factors contributed to the fall of the monarchy and the rise of nominal Republicanism thereafter, but, in effect, there was military intervention for a century in Brazil after the fall of the empire.

By far the largest, most populous and prosperous country in Latin America, it has also recently emerged from more than two decades (1964-1988) of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue democratic rule, while facing the challenges of continuing its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources, enormous geographic area, a large labor pool, and relatively liberal economic rules, today Brazil is Latin America's leading economic power and a regional leader, overshadowing the likes of Mexico and Argentina. Political corruption, as in most of Latin America, and high barriers to entry of markets including labor, remain pressing problems. A consequence of this is high crime rates, especially in large cities.

The recent "pink tide" in Latin American politics has brought greater economic disparity in Brazil as in other countries, with political classes growing in wealth and number while poorly educated and politically poorly-connected people suffer from high barriers to entry into labor markets, higher education and other markets. Discontent with the Brazilian government erupted into open protests during the 2014 World Cup football tournament. Government forces had begun forcibly removing people from their homes before the tournament began, and the response to the protests was brutal by most accounts. Some protesters pointed out the absurdity of building expensive stadiums in faraway places when people were living in slums with no property rights.


Owing to Brazil’s continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the country’s culture is rich and diverse. It has several regional variations, and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions are so different from each other that they look like different countries altogether.

Music plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro, samba and bossa nova are considered genuinely Brazilian. Caipira music is also in the roots of sertanejo, the national equivalent to country music. MPB stands for Brazilian Popular Music, which mixes several national styles under a single concept. Forró, a north-eastern happy dancing music style, has also become common nationwide. New urban styles include funk - a name given to a dance music genre from Rio's favelas that mixes heavy electronic beats and often raunchy rapping - and techno-brega, a crowd-pleaser in northern states, that fuses romantic pop, dance music and caribbean rhythms.

A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves, mainly from Portuguese colonies Angola. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities.

In classical music, the Modern Period is particularly notable, due to the works of composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri, who created a typical Brazilian school, mixing elements of the traditional European classical music to the Brazilian rhythms, while other composers like Cláudio Santoro followed the guidelines of the Second School of Vienna. In the Romantic Period, the greatest name was Antonio Carlos Gomes, author of some Italian-styled operas with typical Brazilian themes, like Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo. In the Classical Period, the most prominent name is José Maurício Nunes Garcia, a priest who wrote both sacred and secular music and was very influenced by the Viennese classical style of the 18th and early 19th century.

Candomble and Umbanda are religions with African roots that have survived prejudice and persecution and still have a significant following in Brazil. Their places of cult are called terreiros and many are open to visit.

Indigenous traits can be found everywhere in Brazilian culture, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in all Brazilian regions, although many have been deeply influenced by Western culture, and several of the country's surviving indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing completely. The traditional lifestyle and graphic expressions of the Wajãpi indigenous group from the state of Amapá were proclaimed a Masterpiece of the World's Intangible Heritage [2] by UNESCO.

Globo, the largest national television network, also plays an important role in shaping the national identity. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians, followed by radio broadcasts. TVs broadcast sports, movies, local and national news and telenovelas (soap operas)– 6-10 month-long series that have become one of the country’s main cultural exports.


Throughout its history, Brazil has welcomed several different peoples and practices. Brazil constitutes a melting pot of the most diverse ethnic groups, somewhat mitigating ethnic prejudices and racial conflicts, though long-lasting slavery and even genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll. Prejudice is generally more directed towards different social classes rather than between races. Nevertheless, race, denoted by skin colour, is still a dividing factor in Brazilian society and you will notice the skin typically darkens as the social class gets lower: wealthy upper-class people are mostly white; many middle-class are mixed; and the majority of poor people are black. Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage, and they can hope to achieve social mobility through education.

In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While Southerners may be considered somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio northward people can boast a vivacious attitude and enjoy leisure time.

Friendship and hospitality are highly prized among Brazilians, and both family connections and social interactions are valued highly. To people they have met, or at least know by name, Brazilians are usually very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous. Once introduced, until getting a good reason not to, a typical Brazilian may treat you as warmly as he would treat a best friend. Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration. That being said, tourism in Brazil, as in most of the world, brings out the darker side of humanity.

Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to regional differences:

  • The state of Santa Catarina welcomes their Spanish-speaking tourists with bilingual signs and welcome committees.
  • In Salvador, the largest city of the Northeast, anyone talking, acting or looking like a tourist (even other Brazilians!) could be charged higher prices, such as in parking lots, in restaurants, etc.

Most Brazilians are honest and genuinely friendly, but many are used to small acts of corruption in their everyday lives, the so-called jeitinho brasileiro. If you obviously look like a tourist, you are a potential target; for instance, a vendor may try to sell goods at higher prices, or a taxi driver may choose the longest route to the destination. It doesn't mean that you can't trust anyone, just that you have to be a bit more alert and careful, particularly if someone seems too friendly.

Whereas the "Western" roots of Brazilian culture are largely European, especially Iberian, as evidenced by its colonial towns and sporadic historical buildings between the newer skyscrapers, there has been a strong tendency in recent decades to adopt a more "American way of life" which is found in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a positive attitude toward technical progress. Despite this, Brazil is still a nation facing the Atlantic rather than Hispanic America, and the intellectual elites are likely to look up to Europe, especially France, as sources of inspiration, as opposed to the US. Many aspects in Brazilian society, such as the educational system, are inspired by the French, and may seem strange at first to North American visitors.

Brazilians are not hispanic. Some may be offended if a visitor says that, or believes that Brazilians speak Spanish as a primary language. Visitors will receive a warmer welcome if they try to start conversations in Portuguese. If the visitor speaks Spanish to Brazilians, they are likely to answer in Portuguese.

The contrasts in this large country equally fascinate and shock most visitors, especially Europeans. The indifference of many locals towards the social, economic and ecological problems can upset visitors accustomed to addressing these issues at home. While an elite of well-educated professionals and the political class partake in the amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and grossly inferior housing still exist even in cities blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investment such as São Paulo or Rio.

As much as Brazilians acknowledge their self-sustainability in raw materials, agriculture, and energy sources as an enormous benefit for the future, most of them agree that without enormous changes in education and access to entrepreneurship for all there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil has faced an increasing wave of immigration from China, Bolivia and Haiti.


Brazil is an enormous country with different climate zones, though most of the country is in the tropics. In the North, near the equator there is a wet and a dry season; from about São Paulo down to the south there are four seasons.

Holidays and working hours

Brazil observes the following 13 national holidays:

  • New Year - 1 January
  • Carnaval - February/March (movable - 7 weeks before Easter. Monday and Tuesday are the actual holidays, but celebrations usually begin on Saturday and last until 12PM of Ash Wednesday, when shops and services re-open.)
  • Holy week - March/April (movable) two days before Easter Sunday
  • Tiradentes - 21 April
  • Labor Day - 1 May
  • Corpus Christi - May/June (movable) sixty days after Easter Sunday
  • Independence Day - 7 September
  • Patroness of Brazil and Children's day - 12 October
  • All Souls' Day (Finados) - 2 November
  • Proclamation of the Republic - 15 November
  • Christmas - 25 December

Working hours are usually from 8AM or 9AM-5PM or 6PM. Banks open Monday to Friday, from 10AM-4PM. Street shops tend to close at noon on Saturday and re-open on Monday. Shopping malls normally open from 10AM-10PM or 11PM, Monday to Saturday, and from 3PM-9PM on Sundays. Some malls, especially in large cities, are also open on Sundays, although not all the stores may be open. It is also possible to find 24-hour stores and small markets that are open on Sundays.


See also: Electrical systems

Brazil is one of a few countries that uses both 110 and 220 volts for everyday appliances. Expect the voltage to change back and forth as you travel from one place to the next—even within the same Brazilian state, sometimes even within the same building. There is no physical difference in the electric outlets (power mains) for the two voltages.

Electric outlets usually accept both flat (North American), and round (European) plugs. Otherwise adaptors from flat blades to round pins are easy to find in any supermarket or hardware shop. Some outlets are too narrow for the German "Schuko" plugs. One makeshift solution is to buy a cheap T-connection and just force your "Schuko" in, -the T will break, but it will work. Very few outlets have a grounding point, and some might not accept newer North American polarized plugs, where one pin is slightly larger. Again, use the cheap T. Near the border with Argentina, you might occasionally find outlets for the Australia/New Zealand-type plug. If crossing the border, you'll probably need this adapter as well.

In 2009/2010, the IEC 60906-1 was introduced to Brazil and some newer buildings already have it. It is backwards compatible with the Europlug, but it has a receded socket. Again, T-plugs can be used as adapters for other common formats.

Frequency is 60 Hz, which may disturb 50 Hz electric clocks. Blackouts are becoming less frequent, but you always run a risk at peak of high season in small tourist towns.

Time zones

Time zones can be a confusing matter in Brazil. The country spans four standard time zones from UTC-2 to UTC-5, in Brazilian terms "Brasilia time -2" to "Brasilia time +1". As a rule of thumb, Central and Southeastern states observe Daylight Saving Time (moving clocks one hour forwards), others do not. Visitors from the Northern Hemisphere should also remember that Brazil is south of the Equator and that the DST therefore is used at a completely different time of the year compared to what they might be used to — from October to February.

  • Brasilia time +1 (UTC-2): Fernando de Noronha and some other smaller islands in the Atlantic. This time zone doesn't observe DST.
  • Brasilia time (UTC-3): Southeast, South, Northeast, Goiás, Distrito Federal, Tocantins, Pará, Amapá. DST is observed in Goiás, Distrito Federal and the Southeastern and Southern areas.
  • Brasilia time -1 (UTC-4): Roraima, eastern Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul. The two last states observe DST.
  • Brasilia time -2 (UTC-5): Acre, western Amazonas. None of these observe DST.

Get in

Visa requirements

  • Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with all countries, meaning that whenever visa fees and restrictions are applied to Brazilian visiting a country, Brazil adopts the same measures for that country's visitors.
  • Citizens from all other countries (complete list [3] ) do require a visa. The fees vary depending on reciprocity: for example, US citizens have to pay at least US$160 for a tourist visa and US$220 for a business visa. As of November 2008, citizens of Canada should expect to pay at least CDN$117 for a tourist visa, not including any handling or processing fees. Cost of Brazil visa for citizens of Taiwan or Taiwanese passport holder pay US$20 (Reference from Embassy of Brazil in Lima, Peru) and 5 days to process. The reciprocity, however, also frequently applies to visa validity: US citizens can be granted visas valid up to 10 years and, likewise, Canadian citizens for up to 5.
  • Tourist visas (including those granted on the spot in immigration control) can be extended at any office of the Policia Federal. Tourist Visas granted to citizens of the Schengen Area can not be extended. All state capitals, and most border towns and international ports have one. Tourist visas will only be extended once, for a maximum of 90 days, and under no circumstances can you be granted more than 180 days with a tourist visa for any 365-day period. You should contact the federal police about 1 week before your visa expires. The handling fee is R$67 (Oct 2008). You may be asked for an outbound ticket (book a fully refundable one on the internet, then cancel when your visa is extended), and a proof of subsistence (for which your credit card is mostly accepted.) In order to apply for the extension, you must fill out the Emissão da Guia de Recolhimento on the Federal Police website, which you will carry to the Banco do Brasil in order to pay the fee. Do not pay the fee until you have spoken with a federal police officer about your case. If she/he denies the extension of your visa, you must have a bank account in Brazil in order to receive a refund.
  • By law you are required to produce your outbound ticket upon entry, but this is only enforced in exceptional cases. Even if you are asked, you could often get away with explaining that you are taking the bus to Argentina, and couldn´t buy the ticket in, say, Europe.
  • If you overstay your tourist visa, you will be fined R$8.28 per day (as of October 2007), for a maximum of 100 days. This means that even if you stay illegally for 5 years, the fine will never exceed R$828. You will be made to pay this at the border crossing. As this can take time, it could be wise to do it a few days up front at a federal police office, especially if you have a domestic to international flight connection. The federal police will then give you 8 days to get out of the country. If you don´t pay your fine upon exiting, you will have to pay the next time you enter. The fact that you have been fined for overstaying in the past does not normally imply future difficulties with immigration, but you´d better keep all receipts and old passports for reference.
  • If you want to enter/exit the country for some reason without coming in contact with the immigration authorities, there are numerous tiny border towns that have virtually no control. You will perhaps be told by the local police (who don´t have stamps or computer registers for immigration) to contact the federal police in such and such nearby town.
  • When you are travelling from certain tropical regions to Brazil you need a yellow fever vaccination and the certificate showing you had this. Note that it is illegal to bring in animals, meat, dairy, seeds, plants, eggs, honey, fruit, or any kind of non-processed food without a permit. Contact [vigiagro@agricultura.gov.br] for more information.

By plane

The cheapest airfares are from February (after Carnaval) to May and from August to November. Tickets from New York, for instance, can cost as little as US$699 including taxes. Many undersubscribed flights within Brazil can be had for bargain prices.

By far the largest international airport in Brazil is São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (IATA: GRU), the hub of TAM airlines, which has direct flights to many capital cities in South America. Other direct flights include:

North America: New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Toronto.

Europe: Lisbon and Porto by TAP, Madrid by Iberia, Air Europa, TAM and Air China, Barcelona by Singapore Airlines, Amsterdam and Paris by KLM-Air France and TAM (Paris), London by British Airways and TAM, Frankfurt by Lufthansa and TAM, Munich by Lufthansa, Zurich by Swiss, Rome by Alitalia, Milan by TAM, Istanbul by Turkish Airlines.

Asia: Seoul by Korean Air (via LAX), Doha by Qatar Airways, Abu Dhabi by Etihad, Dubai by Emirates, Singapore by Singapore Airlines (via BCN), and Beijing by Air China (via MAD).

Africa: Luanda by TAAG, Johannesburg by SAA, Addis Ababa by Ethiopian.

The second largest airport in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport, (IATA: GIG) the home of Gol Transportes Aéreos, which flies to many regional destinations including Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Asuncion. Other direct flights include: North America: Delta Air Lines flies to Atlanta, and New York, United Airlines to Washington, D.C., and Houston and American Airlines flies to Charlotte, Miami, Dallas and New York City. Africa: Taag Angola to Luanda about 3 times a week. Europe: Paris by Air France, Rome by Alitalia, London by British Airways, Madrid by Iberia, Amsterdam by KLM, Frankfurt by Lufthansa, Lisbon and Porto by TAP Portugal.

The Northeastern capitals have slightly shorter flying times to Europe and North America:

Natal: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Amsterdam by Arkefly.

Recife: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Miami by American Airlines and Frankfurt by Condor.

Salvador: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Madrid by Air Europa, Frankfurt by Condor, and Miami by American Airlines.

Fortaleza: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Cabo Verde by TACV, and Rome by Air Italy.

In addition to the above, TAP flies directly to BrasiliaBelo HorizonteCampinas, and Porto Alegre. TAP Portugal [4] is the foreign airline with most destinations in Brazil, from Lisbon and Porto, and provides extensive connection onwards to Europe and Africa.

Air travel in Brazil has increased exponentially in the past few years, partly as a result of the poor condition of many Brazilian roads(qv)and the absence of any viable railroad network (cf India). It is still relatively inexpensive with bargains sometimes available and easily the best option for long distance travel within the country. Some major airports, particularly those in São Paulo and Rio, are, however, becoming very congested.

By car

The main border crossings are at:

  • with Uruguay: Chuy/Chuí, Bella Unión/Barra do Quaraí, Artigas/Quaraí, Aceguá/Aceguá, Río Blanco/Jaguarão, and between Rivera/Santana do Livramento
  • with Argentina: Paso de los Libres/Uruguaiana, Santo Tomé/São Borja, Bernardo de Irigoyen/Dionísio Cerqueira, Tobuna/Paraíso (Santa Catarina), Comandante Andresito/Capanema, and between Puerto Iguazu/Foz do Iguaçu
  • with Paraguay: Ciudad del Este/Foz do Iguaçu, Salto del Guaira/Guaíra, and between Pedro Juan Caballero/Ponta Porã
  • with Bolivia: Puerto Suarez/Corumbá, Cobija/Brasileia/Epitaciolandia, San Matías/Cáceres and between Riberalta/Guayaramerin/Guajará-Mirim (the bridge over Mamoré river will be ready in 2007)
  • with Peru: Iñapari/Assis Brasil
  • with Colombia: Letícia/Tabatinga No road connections on either side of the border.
  • with Guyana: Lethem/Bonfim

In certain border towns, notably Foz do Iguaçu/Ciudad del Este/Puerto Iguazu, you do not need entry/exit stamps or other formalities for a daytrip into the neighbouring country. These same towns are good venues if you for some reason want to cross without contact with immigration authorities.

By bus

Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries. The main capitals linked directly by bus are Buenos Aires, Asunción, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Lima. Direct connections from the first three can also be found easily, but from Lima it might be tricky, though easily accomplished by changing at one of the others. Those typically go to São Paulo, though Pelotas has good connections too. It should be kept in mind that distances between Sāo Paulo and any foreign capitals are significant, and journeys on the road may take up to 3 days, depending on the distance and accessibility of the destination. The national land transport authority has listings [5] on all operating international bus lines, and the Green Toad Bus [6] offers bus passes between Brazil and neighbouring countries as well as around Brazil itself.

By boat

Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The ride is a gruelling 12 days upriver though. From French Guiana, you can cross the river Oyapoque, which takes about 15 minutes.

By train

Train service within Brazil is almost nonexistent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, including the Trem da Morte, or Death Train, which goes from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to a small town just over the border from Corumbá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There is still a train line from there all the way to São Paulo which at the moment is not in use, but bus connections to São Paulo via the state capital, Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey itself is reputedly replete with robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased recently and the journey can be made without much difficulty. It goes through the Bolivian agricultural belt and along the journey one may see a technologically-averse religious community which resembles the USA's Amish in many ways.

Get around

By plane

Air service covers most of Brazil. Note that many flights make many stops en route, particularly in hubs as São Paulo or Brasilia. Most all airports with regular passenger traffic are operated by the federal Infraero.[7]. They have a very convenient website, with an English version. It lists all the airlines operating at each airport, and also has updated flight schedules.

There are now several Brazilian booking engines that are good (although not perfect) for comparing flights and prices between different companies. They will mostly include an extra fee, hence it is cheaper to book on the airline's own site.

The Brazilian airline scene completely changed at least twice over the last 10 years or so. The largest carriers are now TAM [8] and Gol [9], which share more than 80% of the domestic market between them. The traditional Varig is now just another brand of Gol. Others include WebJet [10], Avianca [11], and Azul [12]. TRIP [13] has short-haul flights to smaller airports throughout the country, and Pantanal [14] and Puma [15] are growing in the same segment. Portuguese TAP [16] has a few domestic code shares with TAM. There are also a number of regional companies, such as NHT [17] (Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina). Price differences, at least if a ticket is purchased on the internet well in advance, are so small that it´s rather meaningless to call any of these "low cost", although WebJet and Azul have lately been a notch cheaper for domestic flights.

Booking on the domestic carriers' sites can be frustrating for non-Brazilian citizens. Often, you will be asked for your CPF (national identity number) while paying by credit card. Even if you -as a foreigner- have a CPF, the sites will often not recognize it. Gol now accepts international cards, but the system is buggy (Oct 2010). One trick that might work is to visit one of the airlines' foreign websites, although prices may vary. Many flights can also be found on foreign booking engines where no CPF is needed. If you book weeks in advance, most carriers will give you the option to pay by bank deposit (boleto bancário), which is actually payable by cash not only in banks, but also in a number of supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores. Buying a ticket at a travel agent is generally R$30 more expensive, noting that certain special offers can only be found online.

Be aware that many domestic flights have so many stops that some, including yours, may be missing from the listings in the airports. Double check your flight number and confirm with ground staff.

Certain domestic flights in Brazil are "international", meaning that the flight has arrived from abroad and is continuing without clearing all passengers through customs and immigration. This means ALL passengers must do this at the next stop, even those having boarded in Brazil. Do NOT fill out a new immigration form, but show what you were given upon actual arrival to Brazil.

By car

See also: Driving in Brazil

Brazil has the largest road network in Latin America with over 1.6 million kilometres. A car is a good idea if you want to explore scenic areas, e.g. the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the Rio-Santos highway, or the beaches in North-East Brazil. There are the usual car rental companies at the airports.

Many roads are in good condition, especially in the east and south of the country and along the coast. In other areas and outside the metropolitan regions there are also gravel and dirt roads for which an off-road vehicle can be strongly recommended. This especially applies to the Amazon area where many roads are difficult or not at all passable during the rainy season from November to March. This is why it is advisable to travel with a good map and to be well informed about distances, road conditions and the estimated travel time. Road maps of the brand Guia 4 Rodas (can be bought from most newsstands in Brazil) provide not only maps and distances but also information about current conditions of the roads. Cochera andina [18] publishes useful information on almost 300 routes in the country. In theory, the driving rules of Brazil resemble those of Western Europe or North America. In practice, driving in Brazil can be quite scary if you are used to European (even Mediterranean) or North American road culture, due to widespread violations of driving rules, and the toleration thereof.

Distances kept to other vehicles are kept at a bare minimum, overtaking whenever close to possible, and changing lanes without much of a prior signal. Many large cities also suffer from hold-ups when you wait at a red light in the night. Even if there is no risk of robbery, many drivers (including of city buses) run red lights or stop signs at night when they do not see incoming traffic from the cross street. Drivers also indulge in "creative" methods of saving time, such as using the reverse direction lanes. In rural areas, many domestic animals are left at the roadside, and they sometimes wanders into the traffic. Pedestrians take enormous chances crossing the road, since many drivers do not bother to slow down if they see pedestrians crossing. The quality of the paving is very varied, and the presence of enormous potholes is something that strongly discourages night-driving. Also consider the risk of highway hold-ups after dark, not to mention truck drivers on amphetamines (to keep awake for days in a row).

  • In Brazil cars are driven on the right hand side of the road.
  • A flashing left signal means that the car ahead is warning you not to pass, for some reason. If the car ahead of you wants to show you that it is safe to pass it will flash the right signal. The right signal is the same signal to indicate that you're going to stop on the side of the road, so it means you're going to slow down. On the other hand the left signal is the same signal to indicate you're going to pass the car ahead, meaning you're going to speed up.
  • Flashing, twinkling headlights from the cars coming on the opposite side of the road means caution on the road ahead. Most of the time, it indicates that there are animals, cops or speed radar ahead.
  • Keep the doors locked when driving, especially in the larger cities, as robberies at stop signs and red lights are quite common in some areas. You'll make it much easier for the robber if he can simply open up the door and sit down. Be equally careful with keeping your windows wide open, as someone might put their hands inside your car and steal a wallet, for instance. Leave your handbags and valuables out of sight.

By bicycle

In smaller cities and towns the bicycle is a common means of transport. This does not mean that cyclists are usually respected by cars, trucks, or bus drivers. But you may find good roads with little traffic outside the cities. It is also easy to get a lift by a pickup or to have the bike transported by a long-distance bus. Cycling path are virtually non-existent in cities, except along certain beachfronts, such as Rio de Janeiro and Recife.

There are bicyclers groups around the country, e.g. Sampa Bikers in São Paulo which meets weekly.

By train

Brazil's railway system was mostly wrecked during the military regimes. Today there are few passenger lines left:

  • The Serra Verde Express [19] from Curitiba to Paranaguá. This scenic 150 km long railroad links the capital of Paraná to the coastal cities of Morretes and Paranaguá, through the beautiful Serra do Mar mountains covered with mata atlântica forest. The trip takes about 3 hours and has bilingual guides. Trains leave daily at 08:15 and prices start from about R$50 (round-trip) - see Curitiba#Get out for more information.
  • From São João del Rei to Tiradentes - This 35-minute trip on a steam train is almost like time travel. The train operates Fri-Sun, with departures from São João at 10:00 and 15:00 and 13:00 and 17:00 from Tiradentes. The round trip costs R$16.
  • From Belo Horizonte to Vitória - Daily trains operated by Companhia Vale do Rio Doce [20] leave Belo Horizonte at 07:30 and Vitória at 07:00. Travel time is about twelve and a half hours. Tickets are sold at the train stations and a single 2nd class fare costs about R$65 (and R$89 for first class). Seats are limited and it is not possible to reserve, so it is advisable to buy in advance at the Vale's website: [21]. The railway is the second longest passenger line of Brazil, almost 700 km long.
  • From Ouro Preto to Mariana - Weekend (and holiday) scenic trains operated by Compania Vale do Rio Doce and ABPF (Associação Brasileira de Preservação Ferroviária). Leaves Ouro Preto (or Mariana) in different times, depending on the day, or holliday (It's advisable to consult the timetable prior abording or buying tickets). The train runs to both cities in 2 departures by day (sometimes three), and pass by some untouched and preserved atlantic forest reserves, with astonishing landscapes. The travel takes about 1 hour and it's 16 km long. From 2016, the prices starts from R$40 (or R$58 if you buy the round-trip ticket).
  • From São Luis to Parauapebas - interesting because part of it passes through the Amazon rainforest and it's the longest passenger railway of Brazil, almost 900 km long.
  • From Macapá to Serra do Navio
  • From Campinas to Jaguariuna. Part of the old Ferrovia Mogiana, which was built to facilitate coffee exports in the late 19th and early 20th century. Entertaining guides. Only at weekends and holidays. Some steam trains. Inexpensive. About 1 h each way.

By inter-city bus

Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and sometimes (usually if you buy the most expensive ticket), rather comfortable way to travel between regions. The bus terminal (rodoviária) in cities play a role akin to train stations in many countries. You should check travel distance and time while traveling within Brazil; going from Rio de Janeiro to the south region could take more than 24 hours, so it may be worth going by plane if you can afford it.

Brazil has a very good long distance bus network. Basically, any city of more than 100,000 people will have direct lines to the nearest few state capitals, and also to other large cities within the same range. Pretty much any little settlement has public transport of some kind (a lorry, perhaps) to the nearest real bus station.

Mostly you have to go to the bus station to buy a ticket, although most major bus companies make reservations and sell tickets by internet with the requirement that you pick up your ticket sometime in advance. In a few cities you can also buy a ticket on the phone and have it delivered to your hotel for an extra charge of some 3-5 reais. Some companies have also adopted the airlines' genius policy of pricing: In a few cases buying early can save you more than 50%. The facility of flagging a bus and hopping on (if there are no available seats you will have to stand, still paying full price) is widespread in the country. This is less likely to work along a few routes where armed robberies have happened frequently, such as those leading to the border with Paraguay and to Foz do Iguaçu.

There is no one bus company that serves the whole country, so you need to identify the company that connect two cities in particular by calling the bus station of one city. ANTT, the national authority for land transportation, has a search engine [22] (in Portuguese) for all available domestic bus lines. Be aware that some big cities like São Paulo and Rio have more than one bus station, each one covering certain cities around. It is good to check in advance to which bus station you are going.

Bus services are often sold in three classes: Regular, Executive and First-Class (Leito, in Portuguese). Regular may or may not have air conditioning. For long distances or overnight travels, Executive offers more space and a folding board to support your legs. First-Class has even more space and only three seats per row, making enough space to sleep comfortably.

All trips of more than 4 hours are covered by buses with bathrooms and the buses stop for food/bathrooms at least once every 4 hours of travel.

Brazilian bus stations, known as rodoviária or terminal rodoviário, tend to be located away from city centers. They are often in pretty sketchy areas, so if you travel at night be prepared to take a taxi to/from the station. There will also be local bus lines.

Even if you have a valid ticket bought from elsewhere, some Brazilian bus stations may also require a boarding card. This can be obtained from the bus company, often for a supplement fee. If you buy a ticket in the departure bus station you will also be given this boarding card.

Rodoviárias include many services, including fast-food restaurants, cafés, Internet cafés, toilets and left luggage. As a general rule, the larger the city, the more expensive the services (e.g. leaving a suitcase as left luggage in a smaller city may cost R$1, but in Recife in might cost you R$5).

When buying tickets, as well as when boarding the bus, you may be asked for proof of ID. Brazilian federal law requires this for interstate transportation. Not all conductors know how to read foreign passports, so be prepared to show them that the name of the passport truly is the same as the name on the ticket.

By city bus

Most cities have extensive bus services. Multiple companies may serve a single city. There is almost never a map of the bus lines, and often bus stops are unmarked. Be prepared for confusion and wasted time.

Buses have a board behind the windshield that advertises the main destinations they serve. You may have to ask the locals for information, but they may not know bus lines except the ones they usually take.

In most cities you have to wave to stop the bus when you want to take it. This in itself would not pose a problem; however, in big cities there may be dozens of bus lines stopping at a given bus stop and bus stops are not designed to accommodate so many vehicles. Frequently one cannot observe the oncoming buses due to other buses blocking the view. Bus drivers are reluctant to slow down for a bus stop if they are not sure someone will take their bus, so it is common to miss your bus because you could not see it coming to wave on time or the driver did not see you waving in between buses already at the stop. Some people go into the middle of a busy street to wait for their bus to make sure they see it and the driver sees them. In some places, like Manaus, drivers even tend to ignore stop requests (both to get on and to get off) if it is not too easy to navigate to the bus stop.

Most city buses have both a driver and a conductor. The conductor sits behind a till next to a turnstile. You have to pay the conductor; the price of the bus is usually advertised on the windshield. The turnstiles are narrow, and very inconvenient if one carries any kind of load (try balancing a heavy backpack over the turnstile while the bus is running). Larger buses often have a front section, before the turnstile, meant in priority for the elderly, handicapped and pregnant women - you can use it but you still have to pay! Typical prices are around R$3.

You can try asking the conductor to warn you when the bus is close to your destination. Depending on whether he or she understands you and feels like helping you, you may get help.

In addition to large city buses, there are often minibuses or minivans (alternativo). You pay the driver when you go aboard.

By boat

In the Amazon region as well as on the coast west of Sao Luis, boat travel is often the only way to get around.

By e-hailing

Brazil has availability of some e-hailing services, Uber being the largest of them. Notable e-hailing services in Brazil, are:

  • Uber (covering the majority of the big capitals and more than 20 cities at countryside)
  • Cabify (covers some capitals)
  • T-81 (Brazilian app, cover some capitals)


See also: Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by the entire population (except for a few, very remotely located tribes). Indeed, Brazil has had immigrants from all parts of the world for centuries, whose descendants now speak Portuguese as their mother tongue.

Brazilian Portuguese has a number of pronunciation differences with that spoken in Portugal (and within, between the regions there are some quite extreme accent and slang differences), but speakers of either can understand each other. However, European Portuguese (Luso) is more difficult for Brazilians to understand than the reverse, as many Brazilian television programs are shown in Portugal. Note that a few words can have a totally different meaning in Brazil and Portugal, usually slang words. An example of this is "Rapariga" which in Portugal means young girl, and in Brazil means a prostitute.

English is not widely spoken except in some touristy areas. Don't expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English, so it may be a good idea to write down the address you are heading to before getting the cab. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak some English. If you are really in need of talking in English, you should look for the younger people (-30 years), because they, generally, have a higher knowledge of the language and will be eager to help you and exercise their English.

Spanish speakers are usually able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south. While written Portuguese can be quite similar to Spanish, spoken Portuguese differs considerably and is much harder to understand. Compare the number 20 which is veinte (BAYN-teh) in Spanish to vinte (VEEN-chee) in Brazilian Portuguese. Even more different is gente (people), pronounced "HEN-teh" in Spanish and "ZHEN-chee" in Brazilian Portuguese. Letters CH, D, G, J, R, RR, and T are particularly difficult for Spanish speakers to understand, and that's without even considering the vowels. Often confusing to Spanish, even English speakers, is the pronunciation of the letter "R" in the beginning of most words. Common first names such as Roberto, Ronaldo and Rolando are not pronounced as you would think: the "R" is pronounced as "H". Thus you would say Hoberto, Honaldo and Holando. If you address Ronaldo with a perfect Spanish pronunciation, he most likely will look at you in confusion and wonder what or who you are speaking to.


Natural wonders

  • Amazon Rainforest - The Amazon River Basin holds more than half of the world's remaining rainforest, and over 60% of that lies within the North of Brazil — approximately one billion acres with incredible biodiversity. The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, over 40,000 plants species, 2200 fish species, and more than 2,000 types of birds and mammals. One in five of all the bird species in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams.
  • Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) - A region of tropical and subtropical forest which extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the Northeast to Rio Grande do Sul state in the South. The Atlantic Forest has a wide variety of vegetation, including the many tree species such as the iconic araucaria tree in the south or the mangroves of the northeast, dozens of types of bromeliads and orchids, and unique critters such as capivara. The forest has also been designated a World Biosphere Reserve, with a large number of highly endangered species including the well-known marmosets, lion tamarins and woolly spider monkeys. Unfortunately, it has been extensively cleared since colonial times, mainly for the farming of sugar cane and for urban settlements — The remnants are estimated to be less than 10% of the original, and that is often broken into hilltop islands. However, large swaths of it are protected by hundreds of parks, including 131 federal parks, 443 state parks, and 14 municipal parks, most of which are open to visitation.
  • Pantanal - A vast tropical wetland expanse, one of the world's largest. 80% of it lies within the state of Mato Grosso do Sul but it also extends into Mato Grosso (as well as into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay), sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometers (54,000-75,000 sq mi). 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.
  • Waterfalls (Cachoeiras) - Brazil has an amazing range of impressive waterfalls of all sizes and shapes. Iguaçu Falls, in eastern Parana, is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, truly a sight to see. The 353-meter Cachoeira da Fumaça in Bahia's Chapada Diamantina National Park is the country's second highest waterfall, after the Amazon's almost inaccessible Cachoeira do Araca. Other famous waterfalls include Caracol Falls, in a Rio Grande do Sul state park of the same name near Canela, Itaquira Falls, an easily accessible 168-meter fall near Formosa, Goiás, and the gorge at Parque da Cascata near Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais. Aside from the nationally famous falls, in many parts of the country, particularly the South, Southeast, and Central West regions, you are rarely far from at least one locally-famous, named waterfall worth a short hike.


  • Colonial architecture - Many cities have reminders of Brazil's colonial past, with churches, monasteries, forts, barracks, and other structures still intact. Some of the most concentrated and best-preserved colonial buildings can be found in old gold-mining towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, but many other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis, SalvadorParaty, and Goiânia have quite significant colonial centers as well.
  • Oscar Niemeyer works - Niemeyer, Brazil's most famous architect, is a modern architectural pioneer who explores the aesthetic impact of reinforced concrete, using curves to create buildings with a unique sense of space. He is most famous for designing many of the buildings when the new capital of Brasilia was built in the 1950s, but his works literally dot the country, with major works in Natal, João Pessoa, Belo HorizonteRio de Janeiro, Niterói, São Paulo, Londrina and other locations.


Gay travel

Due to its high degree of acceptance and tolerance, gay travel is increasingly popular. Brazil hosted the first gay ball in America in 1754! Nowadays the main lesbian and gay destinations are Rio de Janeiro, which was elected the world's sexiest destination twice, São Paulo, which has the world's largest Pride Parade, Florianópolis, which is the hippest gay hangout and Recife which is attracting more and more lesbian and gay tourists looking for fun and sun.


The biggest party in the world takes places across the country every year, lasting almost a week in February or early March. It is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, from the giants boneco masks of Olinda and the trios elétricos of Salvador to the massive samba parades of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. For a relatively more subdued atmosphere, check out the university-style street party of Ouro Preto or the sporty beach party at Ilha do Mel. Don't forget to make your reservations well in advance!


Almost the entire coast is lined with fabulous beaches, and the beach lifestyle is a big part of Brazilian culture. Nowhere is that more true than in Rio de Janeiro, with its laidback, flip-flop-footed lifestyle and famous beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana. Beaches in other areas of the country may not have the instant name recognition but are no less amazing. The Northeast has jewels like Jericoacoara, Praia do Futuro, Boa Vista, Porto de Galinhas, and Morro de São Paulo which bring in throngs of travellers, particularly Europeans. Landlocked mineiros go mingle with the rich and famous at Guarapari or dance forró in the sand at Itaunas, while paulistas head for Caraguá or Ubatuba. In the South, weekend revelers flock to Ilha do Mel or Balneário Camboriú, while the 42 beaches of Santa Catarina Island draw in thousands of Argentianian tourists every year. Hundreds more beaches lie ready to be explored as well. Don't forget for those nude beaches in Rio and São Paulo!


  • Soccer - Soccer is the talk of the town wherever your are in Brazil, and the country is brimming with great teams and great players. While Rio de Janeiro's world-famous Maracanã stadium is currently in renovations, you can still catch a game at lots of other great venues like the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte or Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo.
  • Volleyball - While soccer is the main sport in Brazil, volleyball is extremely popular as well. In addition to the standard indoor sport known the world over, there are several other varieties you can play or watch in Brazil:
  • Beach volleyball - It is very common to find spaces on the beaches where you can play beach volleyball, but this version of the sport possess a different code of rules than indoor volleyball (for example instead of six players, only two players are allowed to play on each team).
  • Footvolley - Created in Brazil, this challenging sport is essentially beach volleyball played with the ball and no-hands rules of soccer.
  • Biribol - Another Brazilian original, biribol, named after the city of Birigüi where it was invented, is an aquatic version of volleyball, played in a 1.3-meter-deep pool with 4 players on each team and a ball similar to a water-polo ball.



Brazil's unit of currency is the Real (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural Reais ('hay-ICE'), denoted "R$" (ISO code: BRL). One real is divided into 100 centavos. As an example of how prices are written, R$1,50 means one real and fifty centavos.

Foreign currency such as US dollars or euros can be exchanged major airports and luxury hotels (bad rates), exchange bureaus and major branches of Banco do Brasil (no other banks), where you need your passport and your immigration form.

The Real is a free-floating currency and has become stronger in the past few years. Especially for US citizens, prices (based on exchange rates) have increased quite a bit.

There are many federal regulations for dealings with foreign currency, trading in any currency other than real in Brazil is considered illegal, although some places in big cities and bordering towns accept foreign money and many exchange offices operate in a shady area. In addition, exchange offices are almost impossible to find outside of big cities. Currency other than US dollars and euros is hard to exchange and the rates are ridiculous. If you would like to exchange cash at a bank, be prepared to pay a hefty commission. For example, Banco do Brasil collects US$15 for each transaction (regardless of amount).


Look for an ATM with your credit/debit card logo on it. Large branches of Banco do Brasil (charging R$6,50 per withdrawal) usually have one, and most all Bradesco, Citibank, BankBoston and HSBC machines will work. Banco 24 Horas is a network of ATMs which accept foreign cards (charging R$10 per withdrawal). Withdrawal limits are usually R$600 (Bradesco) or R$1000 (BB, HSBC, B24H), per transaction, and in any case R$1000 per day. The latter can be circumvented by several consecutive withdrawals, choosing different "accounts", i.e. "credit card", "checking", "savings". Note that most ATMs do not work or will only give you R$100 after 10PM.

In smaller towns, it is possible that there is no ATM that accepts foreign cards. You should therefore always carry sufficient cash.

Wiring money to Brazil can be done through Western Union [23] transfers to be picked up at a Banco do Brasil branch in most cities, and also quite a few exchange offices.

Travellers' checks can be hard to cash anywhere that does not offer currency exchange.

A majority of Brazilian shops now accepts major credit cards. However, quite a few online stores only accept cards issued in Brazil, even though they sport the international logo of such cards.

Coins are R$0.05, R$0.10, R$0.25, R$0.50 and R$1. Some denominations have several different designs. Bills come in the following denominations: $2, R$5, R$10, R$20 R$50 and R$100.


While tips can sometimes be given for some services, delivery or tourism, tips are very uncommon. It is usually not expected in cabs, although rounding up the fare occasionally takes place. It should be noted that many restaurants include a 10% delivery charge in the note, with no further tippings being required. Such a charge often depends on the municipality. Tipping bartenders is not customary.


Similar to the rest of Latin America, hand-crafted jewelry can be found anywhere. In regions that are largely populated by Afro-Brazilians you'll find more African-influenced souvenirs, including black dolls. Havaianas jandals are also affordable in Brazil and supermarkets are often the best place to buy them — small shops usually carry fake ones. If you have space in your bags, a Brazilian woven cotton hammock is a nice, functional purchase as well. Another interesting and fun item is a peteca, a sort of hand shuttlecock used in a traditional game of the same name, similar to volleyball.


It's not a bad idea to pack light and acquire a Brazilian wardrobe within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist, and give you months of satisfied gloating back home about the great bargains you got whenever you are complimented on your clothing. Brazilians have their own sense of style and that makes tourists - especially those in Hawaiian shirts or sandals with socks - stand out in the crowd. Have some fun shopping, and blend in. Another good reason for buying clothes and shoes in Brazil is that the quality is usually good and the prices often cheap. However, this does not apply to any foreign brand as imports are burdened by high import taxes - therefore, do not expect to find any good prices on brands like Diesel, Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. To figure your Brazilian trousers size, measure your waist in centimeters, divide by 2, and round up to the next even number.

Store windows will often display a price followed by "X 5" or "X 10", etc. This is an installment-sale price. The price displayed is the per-installment price, so that, "R$50 X 10", for example, means 10 payments (typically monthly) of R$50 each. The actual price is often lower if you pay in cash.

Make sure any appliances you buy are either dual voltage or the same as in your home country. Brazil is 60 Hz, so don't buy electric clocks or non-battery operated motorized items if you live in Europe or Australia. The voltage, however, varies by state or even regions inside the same state. (see Electricity below).

Brazilian-made appliances and electronics are expensive. If not, they are usually of poor quality. All electronics are expensive compared to European or US prices.

Brazil uses a hybrid video system called "PAL-M." It is NOT at all compatible with the PAL system of Europe and Australia. Television began in black and white using the NTSC system of the USA and Canada, then years later, using PAL for its analogue colour—making a totally unique system. Nowadays, most new TV sets are NTSC compatible. However, the newly introduced digital TV standard is not compatible with that of most other countries. Digital video appliances such as DVD players are also compatible with NTSC (all digital colour is the same worldwide), but make sure the DVD region codes, if any, match your home country (Brazil is part of Region 4). Prices for imported electronic goods can be quite expensive due to high import tax, and the range of domestic electronic gadgets is not very wide. Also, be aware that the term "DVD" in Brazil is both an abbreviation for the disc itself and for its player, so be specific to avoid confusion.

Although the strength of the Real means that shopping in Brazil is no longer cheap, there are still plenty of bargains to be had, especially leather goods, including shoes (remember sizes are different though). Clothes in general are a good buy, especially for women, for whom there are many classy items. Street markets, which are common, are also a very good option, but avoid brand names like "Nike" - you will pay more and it's probably fake. Don't be afraid to "feel" an item. If it doesn't feel right, most likely it isn't! Beware of the dreaded "Made in China" label. If there's none, it's probably Brazilian, but be aware: some Brazilian-made products are less robust than their American or European counterparts.



Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. On the other hand, some may find it an unrefined melange, and everyday fare can be bland and monotonous. While there are some quite unique dishes of regional origin, many dishes were brought by overseas immigrants and have been adapted to local tastes through the generations. Italian and Chinese food in Brazil can often be as baffling as Amazonian fare.

The standard Brazilian set lunch is called prato feito, with its siblings comercial and executivo. Rice and brown beans in sauce, with a small steak. Sometimes farofa, spaghetti, vegetables and French fries will come along. Beef may be substituted for chicken, fish or others.

Excellent seafood can be found in coastal towns, especially in the Northeast.


  • Brazil's national dish is feijoada, a hearty stew made of black beans, pork (ears, knuckles, chops, sausage) and beef (usually dried). It's served with rice, garnished with collard greens and sliced oranges. It's not served in every restaurant; the ones that serve it typically offer it on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A typical mistake made by tourists is to eat too much feijoada upon first encounter. This is a heavy dish — even Brazilians usually eat it parsimoniously.
  • Brazilian snacks, lanches (sandwiches) and salgadinhos (most anything else), include a wide variety of pastries. Look for coxinha (deep-fried, batter-coated chicken), empada (a tiny pie, not to be confused with the empanada - empadas and empanadas are entirely different items), and pastel (fried turnovers). Another common snack is a misto quente, a pressed,toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich. Pão-de-queijo, a roll made of manioc flour and cheese, is very popular, especially in Minas Gerais state - pão-de-queijo and a cup of fresh Brazilian coffee is a classic combination.
  • Farofa: cassava flour stir-fried with bacon and onion bits; the standard carbo side dish at restaurants, along with white rice
  • Feijão verde: green beans with cheese gratin
  • Paçoca: beef jerky mixed with cassava flour in a pilão (big mortar with a big pestle). Traditional cowboy fare
  • Pastel: deep-fried pastry filled with cheese, minced meat or ham
  • Tapioca (or more precisely, "beiju de tapioca"): made with the cassava starch, also known as tapioca starch. When heated in a pan, it coagulates and becomes a type of pancake or dry crepe, shaped like a disk. Some will serve it folded in half, others will roll it rocambole-style. The filling varies, but it can be done sweet or savory, with the most traditional flavors being: grated coconut/condensed milk (sweet), beef jerky/coalho cheese, plain cheese, and butter (savory). However, in recent times it has become a "gourmetized" food item, to be treated with creativity; nutella, chocolate, napolitano (pizza cheese/ham/tomato/oregano) and shredded chicken breast/catupiry cheese being almost standard options nowadays.

Regional cuisines

  • Southern - Churrasco is Brazilian barbecue, and is usually served "rodizio" or "espeto corrido" (all-you-can-eat). Waiters carry huge cuts of meat on steel spits from table to table, and carve off slices onto your plate (use the tongs to grab the meat slice and don't touch the knife edge with your silverware to avoid dulling the edge). Traditionally, you are given a small wooden block colored green on one side and red on the other. When you're ready to eat, put the green side up. When you're too stuffed to even tell the waiter you've had enough, put the red side up... Rodizio places have a buffet for non-meaty items; beware that in some places, the desserts are not considered part of the main buffet and are charged as a supplement. Most churrasco restaurants (churrascarias) also serve other types of food, so it is safe to go there with a friend that is not really fond of meat. While churrascarias are usually fairly expensive places (for Brazilian standards) in the North, Central and the countryside areas of the country they tend to be much cheaper then in the South and big cities, where they are frequented even by the less affluent.
  • Mineiro is the "miner's" cuisine of Minas Gerais, based on pork and beans, with some vegetables. Dishes from Goiás are similar, but use some local ingredients such as pequi and guariroba. Minas Gerais cuisine if not seen as particularly tasty, has a "homely" feel that is much cherished.
  • The food of Bahia, on the northeast coast has its roots across the Atlantic in East Africa and Indian cuisine. Coconut, dende palm oil, hot peppers, and seafood are the prime ingredients. Tip: hot ("quente") means lots of pepper, cold ("frio") means less or no pepper at all. If you dare to eat it hot you should try acarajé (prawn-filled roasties) and vatapá (drinkable black beans soup).
  • Espírito Santo and Bahia have two different versions of moqueca, a delightful tomato-based seafood stew prepared in a special type of clay pot.
  • Amazonian cuisine draws from the food of the indigenous inhabitants, including various exotic fish and vegetables. There is also a stupendous variety of tropical fruits.
  • Ceará's food has a great sort of seafood, and is known to have the country's best crab. It's so popular that literally every weekend thousands of people go to Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza to eat fried fish and crabs (usually followed by cold beer).

Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:

  • Pizza is very popular in Brazil. In Sāo Paulo, travellers will find the highest rate of pizza parlours per inhabitant in the country. The variety of flavours is extremely vast, with some restaurants offering more than 100 types of pizza. It is worth noting the difference between the European "mozzarella" and the Brazilian "mussarela". They differ in flavor, appearance and origin but buffalo mozzarella ("mussarela de búfala") is also often available. The Brazilian "mussarela", which tops most pizzas, is yellow in color and has a stronger taste. In some restaurants, particularly in the South, pizza has no tomato sauce. Other dishes of Italian origin, such as macarrão (macaroni), lasanha and others are also very popular.
  • Middle-eastern and Arab (actually Lebanese) food is widely available. Most options offer high quality and a big variety. Some types of middle-eastern food, such as quibe and esfiha have been adapted and are available at snack stands and fast food joints nation-wide. You can also find shawarma (kebabs) stands, which Brazilians calls "churrasco grego" (Greek Barbecue)
  • São Paulo's Japanese restaurants serve up lots of tempura, yakisoba, sushi and sashimi. The variety is good and mostly the prices are very attractive when compared to Europe, USA and Japan. Most Japanese restaurants also offer the rodizio or buffet option, with the same quality as if you ordered from the menu. Sometimes, however, it can be quite a departure from the real thing. The same can be said of Chinese food, again with some variations from the traditional. Cheese-filled spring rolls, anyone.Japanese restaurants (or those that offer Japanese food) are much commoner than Chinese and can be found in many Brazilian cities, especially in the state of São Paulo.


  • ALL restaurants will add a 10% service charge on the bill, and this is all the tip a Brazilian will ever pay. It is also what most waiters survive on, but it is not mandatory and you may choose to ignore it, although is considered extremely rude to do it. In some tourist areas you might be tried for extra tip. Just remember that you will look like a complete sucker if you exaggerate, and stingy and disrespectful if you don't tip. R$5-10 are considered good tips.
  • There are two types of self-service restaurants,sometimes with both options available in one place: all-you-can-eat buffets with barbecue served at the tables, called rodízio, or a price per weight (por quilo), very common during lunchtime throughout Brazil. Load up at the buffet and get your plate on the scales before eating any. In the South there's also the traditional Italian "galeto", where you're served different types of pasta, salads, soups and meat (mostly chicken) at your table.
  • Customers are allowed by law to visit the kitchen and see how the food is being handled, although this is extremely uncommon and doing so will probably be considered odd and impolite.
  • Some Brazilian restaurants serve only meals for two. The size of the portions might not say in the menu, -ask the waiter. Most restaurants of this category allow for a "half-serving" of such plates (meia-porção), at 60-70% of the price. Also, couples at restaurants often sit side-by-side rather than across from each other; observe your waiter's cues or express your preference when being seated.
  • Fast food is also very popular, and the local takes on hamburgers and hot-dogs ("cachorro-quente", translated literally) are well worth trying. Brazilian sandwiches come in many varieties, with ingredients like mayonnaise, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, corn, peas, raisins, French fries, ketchup, eggs, pickles, etc. Brave eaters may want to try the traditional complete hot dog (just ask for a completo), which, aside from the bun and the sausage, will include everything on display. The ubiquitous X-Burger (and its varieties X-Salad, X-Tudo, etc.) is not as mysterious as it sounds: the pronunciation of the letter "X" in Portuguese sounds like "cheese", hence the name.
  • Large chains: The fast-food burger chain Bob's is found nationwide and has been around in the country for almost as long as McDonald's. There is also a national fast-food chain called Habib's which despite the name serves pizza in addition to Arabian food (and the founder is Portuguese, by the way). Recent additions, though not as widespread, are Burger King and Subway.



Brazil's national booze is cachaça (cah-shah-sah, also known as aguardente ("burning water") and pinga), a 40% sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. It can be tried in virtually every bar in the country. Famous producing regions include Minas Gerais, where there are tours of distilleries, and the city of Paraty. Pirassununga is home to Caninha 51, Brazil's best-selling brand. Outside Fortaleza there is a cachaça museum (Museu da Cachaça) where you can learn about the history of the Ypioca brand.

Drinking cachaça straight, or stirring in only a dollop of honey or a bit of lime juice, is a common habit on the Northeast region of the country, but the strength of cachaça can be hidden in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, where it is mixed with sugar, lime juice and ice. Using vodka instead of cachaça is nicknamed caipiroska or caipivodka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima; and with sake it's a caipisaque (not in every region). Another interesting concoction is called capeta ("devil"), made with cachaça, condensed milk, cinnamon, guarana powder (a mild stimulant), and other ingredients, varying by region. If you enjoy fine brandy or grappa, try an aged cachaça. Deep and complex, this golden-coloured spirit is nothing like the ubiquitous clear liquor more commonly seen. A fun trip is to an "alambique" - a local distillery, of which there are thousands throughout the country - not only will you be able to see how the spirit is made from the raw cane sugar, you will probably also get a better price.

Well worth a try is Brazilian whisky! It's actually 50% imported scotch - the malt component -and approximately 50% Brazilian grain spirit. Don't be misled by American sounding names like "Wall Street". It is not bourbon. Good value for money and indistinguishable from common British blends.

While imported alcohol is very expensive, many international brands are produced under license in Brazil, making them widely available, and fairly cheap. You can buy booze in the tax-free after landing at Brazilian airports, but it generally is more expensive than buying it outside the airports.


Beer in Brazil has a respectable history because of the German immigrants. Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be way less thick and bitter than German, Danish or English beer. More than 90% of all beer consumed in Brazil is Pilsner, and it is usually drunk very cold (at a temperature close to 0°C). The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica, and Skol. Traditional brands include Bohemia, Caracu (a stout), Original and Serra Malte (another stout). They are easily found in bars and are worth trying but are usually more expensive than the popular beers. There are also some national premium beers that are found only in some specific bars and supermarkets; if you want to taste a good Brazilian beer, search for Baden Baden, Colorado, Eisenbahn, Petra, Theresopolis and others. There are also some international beers produced by national breweries like Heineken and Stella Artois and have a slightly different taste if compared with the original beers.

There are two ways of drinking beer in bars: draft or bottled beer. Draft lager beer is called chope or chopp ('SHOH-pee'), and is commonly served with one inch of foam, but you can make a complaint to the bartender if the foam is consistently thicker than that. In bars, the waiter will usually collect the empty glasses and bottles on a table and replace them with full ones, until you ask him to stop, in a "tap" charging system. In the case of bottled beer, bottles (600ml or 1l) are shared among everyone at the table and poured in small glasses, rather than drunk straight from the bottle. Brazilians like their beer nearly ice-cold - hence, to keep the temperature down, bottles of beer are often kept in an insulated polystyrene container on the table.


Rio Grande do Sul is the leading wine production region. There are a number of wine-producing farms that are open to visitors and wine tasting, and wine cellars selling wine and fermented grape juice. One of these farms open to visitors is Salton Winery, located in the city of Bento Gonçalves. The São Francisco Valley, along the border of the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, is the country's newest wine-producing region. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. Popular brands like Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade and others with prices below R$6.00 are usually seen as trash.

In Minas Gerais, look for licor de jabuticaba (jabuticaba liquor) or vinho de jabuticaba (jabuticaba wine), an exquisite purple-black beverage with a sweet taste. Jabuticaba is the name of a small grape-like black fruit native to Brazil.

Coffee and tea

Brazil is known world-wide for its high-quality strong coffee. Café is so popular that it can name meals (just like rice does in China, Japan and Korea): breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã (morning coffee), while café com pão (coffee with bread) or café da tarde (afternoon coffee) means a light afternoon meal. Cafezinho (small coffee) is a small cup of strong, sweetened coffee usually served after meals in restaurants (sometimes for free, just ask politely). Bottled filtered coffee is being replaced by stronger espresso cups in more upscale restaurants.

Chá, or tea in Portuguese, is most commonly found in its Assam version (orange, light coloured). Some more specialised tea shops and cafés will have Earl Gray and green tea available as well.

Mate is an infusion similar to tea that is very high in caffeine content. A toasted version, often served chilled, is consumed all around the country, while Chimarrão (incidentally called mate in neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries) is the hot, bitter equivalent that can be found in the south and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos (Rio Grande do Sul dwellers). Tererê is a cold version of Chimarrão, common in Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso state.

Soft drinks

Nothing beats coconut water (água de coco) on a hot day. (Stress the first o, otherwise it will come out as "poo" (cocô)). It is mostly sold as coco gelado in the coconut itself, drunk with a straw. Ask the machete-wielding vendors to cut the coconut in half so that you can eat the flesh after drinking the water.

If you want a Coke in Brazil, ask for coca or coca-cola, as "cola" means "glue", in Portuguese.

Guaraná is a carbonated soft drink made from the guaraná berry, native to the Amazon area. The major brands are Antarctica and Kuat, the latter owned by Coke. Pureza is a lesser known guaraná soft drink specially popular in Santa Catarina. There is also a "Guaraná Jesus" that is popular in Maranhão. Almost all regions in Brazil feature their own local variants on guaraná, some which can be quite different from the standard "Antarctica" in both good and bad ways. If traveling to Amazonas, be sure to try a cold "Baré," which due to its huge popularity in Manaus was purchased by Antarctica and is becoming more available throughout northern Brazil.

Tubaína is a carbonated soft drink once very popular among Brazilians (particularly the ones born in the 70s, 80s and early 90s) and becoming extremely hard to find. It was once mass-produced by "Brahma" before it became focused on beers only. If you happen to find a place that sells it, try it.

Mineirinho (or Mate Couro) is also a popular soft drink made of guaraná and a typical Brazilian leaf called Chapéu de Couro. Although most Brazilians say that it tastes like grass, older people (+70 years) claim that the drink has medicinal properties.

Fruit juices

Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. Some cities, notably Rio de Janeiro, have fruit juice bars at nearly every corner.

  • Açai (a fruit from the Amazon) is delicious and nutritious (rich in antioxidants) and can be found widespread across the nations. In the Amazon region it's used as a complement to the everyday diet, often eaten together with rice and fish in the main meal of the day. Curiously, outside of the Amazon region, it's typically used in blended in combination with guarana (a stimulant) powder and a banana to re-energize from late-night partying. It is served cold and has a consistency of soft ice. There are also açai ice creams available.
  • Maracuja (passion fruit) (careful during an active day as this has a relaxant effect)
  • Caju (cashew fruit) and
  • Garapa: freshly pressed sugarcane juice
  • Manga (mango) are also great juice experiences.
  • Mangaba
  • Umbu
  • Vitamina: milk shake with fresh fruits

Brazilians have great taste when it comes to mixing juices.


High season in Brazil follows the school holidays calendar, December and January (summer) being the busiest months. New Year, Carnival (movable between February and March, see Understand above) and Holy week are the peak periods, and prices can skyrocket, especially in coastal cities like Rio and Salvador. Also, during those holidays, many hotels restrict bookings to a 3 or 4-day minimum and charge in advance.

Hotels are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil and can range from luxury beach resorts to very modest and inexpensive choices. The Brazilian tourism regulation board imposes specific minimum attributes for each type of facility, but as the 1-5 star rating is no longer enforced, check in advance if your hotel provides the kind of services you expect.

Pousada means guesthouse (the local equivalent of a French auberge or a British boarding house), and are usually simpler than hotels, and will offer fewer services (room service, laundry etc.). Pousadas are even more widespread than hotels.

In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas, which are ranches with guest facilities. In small towns of Minas Gerais people are fond of hotéis-fazenda (farm hotels) where you can swim, ride, walk, play football, and camp as well as sleep in picturesque barracks.

Also there is great fun in going on a boat hotel which will take you to inaccessible places on the rivers and lakes for great fishing trips or for simply relaxing and watching and photographing the wildlife which is very abundant in the Pantanal. The boats are large, safe, and comfortable with air-conditioned rooms (very necessary). Several small aluminum boats with outboard motor, carried by the boat hotel, driven by experienced fisher/guide will take 2 or 3 tourists to the best "points".

Motel is the local term for a "sex hotel". There's no social stigma per se in staying in one, but the room service and rates are geared to adults staying for a few hours with utmost discretion and privacy.

Youth hostels (albergues da juventude) are becoming increasingly common.


Portuguese courses for foreigners are not widespread outside the big cities. A good alternative is to befriend language students and exchange lessons.

If you come to Brazil with some initial notions of Portuguese, you will see that people will treat you much better and you will get by much easier.

Language schools in CuritibaSalvador, São Paulo, Rio de JaneiroBelo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre have Portuguese courses from 2 weeks up.


If you can get a job, working in Brazil is easy, mostly because there is much informality. In theory, you must have a work permit (Autorização de Trabalho) from the Ministry of Labor before you can get a job. However, in order to obtain it, you must be sponsored by an employer before entering the country. The company must want a foreigner bad enough to pay the government upwards of R$2000 to sponsor you, knowing also that they are required by law to simultaneously hire and train a replacement for you. Because of this, finding a legal job can be a pretty daunting bureaucratic task, even in Brazil's growing job market of today.

If you are a native English speaker, you may be able to find an English-teaching part-time job, but don't expect that to save your holidays. Although working in the informal market can seem hassle-free at first, there are risks as well. The pay will be under-the-table without contract, so it will be difficult for you to claim your labor rights later. In the bigger cities, there is also the danger of being turned in to the authorities by a rival school, which may see you to a plane home earlier than you had planned.

There is also a growing demand for Spanish language classes, so native Spanish speakers should have no trouble finding work, especially in the major cities. In both cases, it's always much more lucrative to find work privately rather than through schools. This can be done easily, for example by putting an ad in the classifieds section of the Veja weekly news magazine (you have to pay for it) or by putting up signs on the notice boards at universities like USP (free of charge).

Refer to the Ministry of Labour website [24] for more detailed information.

Stay safe

By law, everyone must carry a photo ID at all times. For a foreigner, this means your passport. However, the police will mostly be pragmatic and accept a plastified color photocopy.


Even the most patriotic Brazilian would say that the greatest problem the country faces is crime. Brazil is one of the most criminalised countries of the world; therefore, the crime rate is high, even for a developing nation. Pick-pocketing and theft are rampant, but perhaps what is more scary to visitors - and also depressingly common - are robberies at gunpoint, which target both locals and tourists. There are cases of armed criminals attacking hotels (from guesthouses to luxurious resorts) and even package tour buses, and armed robberies in crowded areas at plain daylight.

Most visitors to Brazil have trips without any incidents, and a few precautions can drastically reduce the likelihood of being victim of crime. Even with those precautions, though, the chance of a bad incident may still not be negligible. Check the individual city/area articles for advice on specific cities or places. Generally speaking, with exception of a few prosperous countryside areas and smaller towns (mostly in the southern part of the country), most areas in Brazil aren't extremely safe, so it is advisable to avoid showing off expensive possessions in public areas, to avoid deserted streets during the night, and especially, to avoid poor, run-down towns or neighbourhoods. There are cases of Brazilians or tourists being shot down without warning when entering certain neighbourhoods, either in a car or on foot. If you want to visit a favela (slum neighbourhood) or indigenous village, use a licensed, reputable tour service.

Intercity buses are generally safe, but in large cities, intercity bus terminals are often located in run-down, unsafe areas of the city, so it is prudent to take a taxi to and from the terminal rather than walk to or from it. In touristy places, tourists are often seen as "preferred prey" for criminals, so it is better to avoid looking like a tourist. For example, avoid being seen carrying a large camera or guidebook (leave them in a backpack and use them discreetly only when necessary), or dressing in a way dramatically different from the locals. It is perfectly fine to sometimes stop locals to ask questions, but avoid looking clueless and vulnerable when in public.

Road safety

Murder is probably the top fear of visitors to Brazil, but traffic-related deaths are actually nearly as common as murders - in fact, the chance of a road fatality in Brazil is comparable to countries with poor road safety reputation, like Malaysia or Vietnam. This may come as surprise as the traffic in Brazil, especially in large cities, appears to be relatively well-organised compared to these countries. However, this apparent sense of safety is where the danger lurks - Brazil has a large share of irresponsible drivers, who defy speed limits, drive under the influence of alcohol, and sometimes ignore traffic lights. Therefore, keep always your eyes open when crossing the road, even when the pedestrian light is green and the cars have stopped - you never know when a motorbike will pop up from between two cars.

In certain parts of the country, especially in the northern part, roads tend to be poor-maintained, and enforcement of traffic regulations tend to be lax. Although sometimes unavoidable, it is worthwhile to re-consider taking very long road trips inside the country when there is the option of taking a plane instead.

Stay healthy

Food from street and beach vendors has a bad hygienic reputation in Brazil. The later in the day, the worse it gets. Bottled and canned drinks are safe, although some people will insist on using a straw to avoid contact with the exterior of the container.

Bear in mind the heat and humidity when storing perishable foods.

Tap water varies from place to place, (from contaminated, saline or soaked with chlorine to plain drinkable) and Brazilians themselves usually prefer to have it filtered.

In airports, bus stations, as well as many of the cheaper hotels and malls, it is common to find drinking fountains (bebedouro), although not always safe. In hostel kitchens, look for the tap with the cylindrical filter attached. In more expensive hotels, there is often no publicly accessible fountain, and bedrooms contain minibars, selling you mineral water at extremely inflated prices — buying bottled water from the store is always the best alternative.

Vaccination against yellow fever and taking anti-malaria medication may be necessary if you are travelling to central-western (Mato Grosso) or northern (Amazon) regions. If you're arriving from Peru, Colombia or Bolivia, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required before you enter Brazil. Some countries, such as Australia and South Africa, will require evidence of yellow fever vaccination before allowing you enter the country if you have been in any part of Brazil within the previous week. Check the requirements of any country you will travel to from Brazil. In coastal Brazil there's also a risk for dengue fever, and the Zika virus outbreak in Latin America hit Brazil hard with more than 60,000 confirmed cases in 2015 and 2016.

Public hospitals tend to be crowded and terrible, but they attend any kind of person, including foreigners. Most cities of at least 60,000 inhabitants have good private health care.

Dentists abound and are way cheaper than North America and Western Europe. In general, the quality of their work is consistent, but ask a local for advice and a recommendation.

The emergency number is 190, but you must speak Portuguese.

Beware that air conditioning in airports, intercity buses etc. is often quite strong. Carry a long-sleeved garment for air-conditioned places.

Although Brazil is widely known as a country where sex is freely available, it is sometimes misunderstood regarding HIV. Brazil has one of the best HIV prevention programs and consequently, a very low infection rate compared with most countries. Condoms are highly encouraged by governmental campaigns during Carnaval, and distributed for free by local public medical departments.


Brazilians tend to be very open and talk freely about their problems, especially political subjects and other issues. Also, they use a lot of self-deprecating humour. This allows you to make jokes about the problems in Brazil, when they are talking about such issues, in a playful manner. It is common when you pointing out something bad, for them to give answers like, "That's nothing. Look at this here. It's so much worse". But don't imitate them, as they are likely to feel offended if you criticize certain areas, such as nature or soccer. In some small towns, local politics can be a sensitive issue, and you should be careful when talking about it. Always be polite.

Be aware that racism is a very serious offence in Brazil. Most Brazilians frown upon racism (at least in public), and even if you are only joking or you think you know your company, it is still wise to refrain from anything that can be perceived as racism. According to the Brazilian Constitution, racism is a crime for which bail is not available, and must be met with 6 months to 8 years imprisonment. This is taken very seriously. However, the law only seems to apply to overt, unquestionably racist statements and actions. Therefore, be aware and be respectful when discussing racial relations in Brazil; do not assume you understand Brazil's history of racial inequality and slavery better than a Brazilian person of colour.

Remember that Portuguese is not Spanish and Brazilians (as well as other Portuguese speakers) feel offended if you do not keep this in mind. Both languages can be mutually intelligible to a certain extent, but they differ considerably in phonetics, vocabulary and grammar. It is not a good idea to mix Portuguese with Spanish; don't expect people to understand what you're saying if you (intentionally or unintentionally) insert Spanish words into Portuguese sentences.

It is also noteworthy that the Brazilians are fanatical about football (soccer) and so there are (sometimes violent) disputes between teams from different cities, and walking with the shirt of a team in certain areas may be seen as controversial or even dangerous. Speaking ill of the Brazilian national football team is not considered an insult, but you should never praise the Argentine team or compare them both.

Brazil is open to LGBT tourists. São Paulo boasts the biggest LGBT Pride parade in the world, and most major cities will have gay scenes. However, be aware that homophobia is widespread in Brazilian society, and Brazil is not the sexual haven that many foreigners perceive it to be. Couples that in any way don't conform to traditional heterosexual expectations should expect to be open to some verbal harassment and stares if displaying affection in the streets, though several neighborhoods of many of the major cities are very welcoming of the LGBT population, and LGBT-oriented bars and clubs are common. It is best to gather information from locals as to which areas are more conservative and which are more progressive.

Social etiquette

  • Cheek-kissing is very common in Brazil, among women and between women and men. When two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men WILL shake hands. A man kissing another man's cheek is extremely bizarre by Brazilian standards (unless in family relationships, special Italian descendants, and very close friends). Kissing is suitable for informal occasions, used to introduce yourself or being acquainted, especially to young people. Hand shaking is more appropriate for formal occasions or between women and men when no form of intimacy is intended. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude. However, to clearly refuse a kiss is a sign of disdain.
When people first meet, they will kiss once (São Paulo), twice (Rio de Janeiro) or three times (Florianópolis and Belo Horizonte, for instance), depending on where you are, alternating right and left cheeks. Observe that while doing this, you should not kiss on the cheeks (like in Russia) but actually only touch cheeks and make a kissing sound while kissing the air, placing your lips on a strangers cheek is a clear sign of sexual interest. Failing to realise these rules likely won't be seen as rude, especially if it is known that you are a foreigner.
  • Many Brazilians can dance and Brazilians are usually at ease with their own bodies. While talking, they may stand closer to each other than North Americans or Northern Europeans do, and also tend to touch each other more, e.g. on the shoulder or arm, hugs etc. This is not necessarily flirtatious in nature.
  • Brazilians love to drink, and going to pubs and bars is definitely part of social life - sometimes even for those who don't drink alcohol. However, alcoholic beverages aren't allowed in certain places such football stadiums, and laws concerning driving under the influence of alcohol have become increasingly more strict and more rigorously enforced.
  • Brazilians do not normally take their shoes off as soon as they get home, neither expect their visitors to do so. Hence, only take off your shoes when you visit someone's house if your hosts ask so or you see they doing that.

Table etiquette

Except for highly formal situations, Brazilians don't normally mind their tones when eating and chatting. Restaurants tend to be relatively noisy and cheerful environments, specially when there are tables with large groups of people.

Most meals will be eaten with forks/spoons and knives, but there are some things that you can eat with your hands. If you are unsure whether you should use the knife to cut something shorter or just grab it with your hands, observe how people behave around you and imitate them - or simply ask.

Burping is considered impolite, unless you are among very close friends or relatives. Brazilians usually place the knife and the fork in a parallel manner on the plate to signalize they are finished.

If you order a beer or a soda and it comes with a cup, waiters may fill it for you from time to time as they see it becoming empty. They will normally collect empty bottles and cans without asking you first.


By phone

Brazil has international telephone code 55 and two-digit area codes, and phone numbers are eight or nine digits long. Some areas used seven digits until 2006, meaning you might still find some old phone numbers which won't work unless you add another digit. (Mostly, try adding 2 or 3 at the beginning, or if it's an eight-digit number starting with 6 to 9 try adding a 9 at the beginning).

Eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 2 to 5 are land lines, while eight-digit or nine-digit numbers beginning with digits 6 to 9 are mobile phones.

All cities use the following emergency numbers:

  • 190 - Police
  • 192 - SAMU(Serviço de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência)
  • 193 - Firefighters

However, if you dial 911 while in Brazil, you will be redirected to the police.

To dial to another area code or to another country, you must chose a carrier using a two-digit carrier code. Which carriers are available depends on the area you are dialing from and on the area you are dialing to. Carrier 21 (Embratel) is available in all areas.

The international phone number format for calls from other countries to Brazil is +55-(area code)-(phone number)

In Brazil:

  • To dial to another area code: 0-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • To dial to another country: 00-(carrier code)-(country code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • Local collect call: 90-90-(phone number)
  • Collect call to another area code: 90-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • International Collect Call: 000111 or through Embratel at 0800-703-2111

Public payphones use disposable prepaid cards, which come with 20, 40, 60 or 75 credits. The discount for buying cards with larger denominations is marginal. Phone booths are nearly everywhere, and all cards can be used in all booths, regardless of the owner phone company. Cards can be bought from many small shops, and almost all news agents sell them. The Farmácia Pague Menos sells them at official (phone company) price, somewhat cheaper. Calls to cell phones (even local) will use up your credits very quickly (nearly as expensive as international calls). Calling the USA costs about one real per minute. It's possible to find all international and Brazilian phone codes on DDI and DDD phone codes.

By mobile phone

When traveling to Brazil, even though it may seem best to carry your cell phone along, you should not dismiss the benefits of the calling cards to call the ones back home. Get yourself a Brazil calling card when packing for your trip. Brazil phone cards [25]

Brazil has 4 national mobile operators: Vivo (Telefónica Group), Claro (Telmex/América Móvil Group), OI and TIM (Telecom Italia Group), all of them running GSM, HSDPA/HSPA+ and LTE networks. There are also smaller operators, like Nextel (NII/Sprint Group) (with iDEN Push-To-Talk and HSPA+), CTBC-ALGAR (GSM and HSDPA in Triangulo Mineiro Region (Minas Gerais)), and Sercomtel (GSM and HSDPA in Paraná).

Pay-as-you-go (pré-pago) SIM cards for GSM phones are widely available in places like newsstands, drugstores, supermarkets, retail shops, etc. Vivo uses 850/1800/1900 MHz frequencies, while other operators uses 900/1800 MHz (and some specific cases, 1900Mhz) frequencies. 3G/HSDPA coverage is available mostly on big cities on the southeast states and capitals. Some states use 850 MHz but others use 2100 MHz for 3G/HSDPA. For LTE, all states and operators use the european 2600Mhz (B7) frequency (700Mhz B28 is under tests on this moment) If you need to unlock a phone from a specific operator, this can be done for a charge in any phone shop.

If you prefer, you can use international roaming in any operator (respecting the roaming agreements). In this case, if you want to call to Brazil, you must call the number directly, as stated above, or using the standardized way, as +<countrycode><areacode><number> to call abroad.

All major carriers (Vivo, Claro, TIM and Oi) can send and receive text messages (SMS) as well as phone calls to/from abroad. Some operators (as Vivo, Claro, and TIM), can send and receive international text messages.

By net

Internet cafes (Lan houses) are increasingly common, and even small towns often have at least one spot with more or less decent connections.

An increasing number of hotels, airports and shopping malls also offer hotspots for Wi-Fi with your laptop computer or smartphone.

For general tips on internet while travelling, see our travel topic: Internet access

By mail

The Brazilian Correio [26] is fairly reliable and post offices are everywhere. However, be aware that if you ask how much it costs to send a letter, postcard or package they will automatically give you the "priority" price (prioritário) instead of the normal one (Econômico). You might think that the priority one will make it go faster, but it isn't always true; sometimes it takes as long as the normal fare, so be sure to ask for the "econômico" price of anything you wish to dispatch.

A homestay can be an incredibly rewarding experience both for the homeowners and visitors. Typically, students use homestays as safe, affordable accommodations when traveling on a tight budget. But it’s also a great way to practice language skills in a comfortable environment and receive insider information on the best areas to explore in their travel destination—homestays are especially suited to solo female travelers

  1. Yuvacali, Turkey

In Turkey’s southeast region, in the village of Yuvacali, visitors receive a raw experience of what daily life is like for local Kurdish families. Traditional life means hard work for families living here, most only survive off a few dollars a day. Though struggling financially, these families offer a culturally rich experience for anyone interested in a unique holiday. A handful of families in the small village offer accommodation under the starry skies of Yuvacali in a nomadic canvas tent adorned with vibrant paintings or in a traditional, mud/brick house. Guests help out on the farm, learn to cook traditional dishes on an open hearth, and enjoy swapping stories with locals. This is no five-star hotel (in fact, it’s far from it) and families here, though extremely friendly, present an opportunity to work together, not offer hotel-like services. If you’re up for the challenge of helping out, Yuvacali has plenty to offer any curious, open-minded traveler.

  1. Tighza Valley, Morocco

Throughout Morocco, there an abundant number of opportunities to experience a homestay with a local family. One particularly magical place is within the breathtaking Tighza Valley where many Berber families open their homes to foreign visitors, offering simple, clean rooms within family owned homes. The arid valley, dusted with cacti and leafy green foliage, is within the high-reaching Atlas Mountains, far from the turbid, bustling cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat. This is rural Moroccan life at its finest: simple and scenic. Within the valley, most guests take to the alpine trails, hiking throughout the valley and enjoying mountainous routes filled with endless snap-worthy scenes: Berber women cultivating fields, shepherds watching after flocks of goats and sheep, and boisterous children playing imaginative games. Life definitely happens at a slow pace, which is not for everyone, but the Berber people are exceptionally welcoming and on point with keeping guests occupied and well-fed.

  1. Old Havana, Cuba

Becoming familiar with the words “casa particular” or “casa particulares” is a great advantage when traveling to Cuba for an independent holiday. The term means “private house”, and upon booking, will land you either a private home or room. The Cuban government issues special permits for renting out privately owned homes, or rooms in family homes, and they are advertised through bright blue signs out front with the words “Arrendador Divisa”, it’s a rental permit showing which casas are legal. Prices vary and depend on the travel season, area of Cuba, amenities offered, square footage, and so on. One of the best places for casas is in Old Havana, where friendly owners give a healthy measure of gossip and tips on the lay of the land. You’ll get great insider information on Old Havana’s top music clubs, festivals, and bars, and most often the owner will treat you just like family.

  1. Lisbon, Portugal

In Portugal, “Solares de Portugal” is an interesting idea introduced to bolster tourism within houses laden with charm and unique character, called “Turismo de Habitação”. The concept is aimed at preserving rich heirlooms of the country’s cultural and architectural heritage. This type of accommodation is not a guesthouse or hotel, but a genuine homestay. Accommodation comes in various forms such as rustic farmhouses, elegant estates, and grand country homes restored to their original luster for welcoming guests from around the world. Most homestays can be found in Lisbon, but others are in Porto, Faro, the southwest islands, and other small Portuguese cities and towns. The Solares exemplify hundreds of years of Portuguese culture and history (a large part of the magnificent 17th and 18th centuries manors are owned by descendents of the original owners). Taken quite seriously as a representation of their country, the Portuguese are dedicated to providing exceptional experiences to foreign visitors.

  1. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

If you’ve ever had the desire to explore the deepest reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a Brazilian homestay could be an idyllic experience. Easily planned in Manaus, you can book a trip and be paired up with an indigenous family. You’ll score a room in an eco-lodge or camp under the forest canopy—it’s entirely up to you. Lodges are simply constructed from locally sourced, natural building materials and designed in traditional style. Think “fancy” thatch hut with some modern conveniences and you’re not far off. Ideal for intrepid spirits, planning a trek through the lush, magical landscape is authentic, eye-opening, and lands you where wildlife is richest. Friendly indigenous guides offer a healthy dose of insight on the rain forest ecosystem and teach guests survival tips in a natural environment. You’ll also be treated to some amazing local eats and be privy to some Amazonian cooking secrets too.

The post Top 5 Destinations Around the World for Homestays appeared first on Geeky Traveller.

Before I left Rio de Janeiro in 2007, I worked in a hostel as a receptionist and I couldn’t understand how some travellers were so naive. It didn’t matter how many times I told them to not go somewhere in the evening, they just thought they knew better. The result: every week at least one traveller got mugged.

When I arrived in London in the same year, it took me a couple of months to adjust. I remember putting my mobile and wallet in my underwear when walking on unlit streets; always double-checking if I was being followed, and, of course, being acutely aware of the things happening around me.

The thing is you cannot compare the violence between Brazil and Europe. It’s just on another level.

We have a history of violence

I’m not going to delve too much into Brazilian history, but it’s important to understand a bit of our past to have a clear look at our current state.

Brazil was built through exploitation. We were that last country in the world to abolish slavery. If you add to that the macho culture, the horrendously uneven distribution of wealth, and the rampant corruption of the government, it’s difficult to see a different outcome.

Our population is very diverse, but it doesn’t translate into an equal nation. Black people constitute the majority of our inmate population; women fight every day to have more agency over their lives, and we have areas where mansions share a wall with favelas.

Violence is part of your life.

Have you heard about the “thief’s money?” It’s when people spread their money in different pockets and keep a dummy wallet with expired cards and documents, so that If they get robbed, they’ll just lose a fiver.

It’s funny that this is a strategy travellers use when they’re visiting dangerous countries, whereas in Brazil it’s the way people live.

We don’t have hole-in-the-wall ATM’s in Brazil, it just wouldn’t work. If you want to withdraw some money you need to either go inside the bank or use one of the secure outside “cabins” — and they’re usually closed by 22:00. If you need money, you have to find the elusive 24-hour cash points.

After 23:00 the traffic lights turn to flashing yellow. Not everywhere of course, otherwise it could be dangerous, but anywhere with a high crime rate. This law was created as in the past the drivers had two options: stop at the red light, only to be robbed at gunpoint or go through and possibly crash into oncoming cars.

Is it getting any better?

The government created a program called UPP, where it allocated police units to the favelas in the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro (a rich neighbourhood) to control violence and get rid of the drug lords. The problem is that it was mainly created because we were about to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

Are we safe now? Well, one of my friends just got robbed in Ipanema a couple of days ago; 56 inmates were killed in one of Brazil’s biggest massacre as the main drug lord’s factions are fighting each other, and a guy killed 12 people on New Year’s Eve leaving behind an extremely misogynist letter (nine women were killed).

Probably, a better question to ask is: Is there any hope? Yes! I wanted to give you a raw image of Brazil so you have an idea of the things people face on a daily basis, but does it mean you shouldn’t visit it? No it doesn’t and you should definitely spend some time in Brazil.

The people of Brazil

The main take here is that although we’re used to violence it doesn’t mean we condone it — we hate it as much as the next person. It’s a problem you learn to live with. The same way you might leave home early to avoid the traffic jam, we might not visit a neighbourhood in the evening to avoid being robbed.

However, as soon as you leave the big cities or capitals and explore the countryside and small towns, you see a different country. We still have places where kids play on the streets, neighbours gossip on their doorsteps, and people sleep with their windows wide open.

When people ask me about the violence in Brazil, my answer is always the same: ask the locals. These people know the dangerous areas; dangerous bars; dangerous times and most importantly, they want you to be safe.

However, don’t forget that shit happens and if it happens to you, just shake it off and carry on with your life as we Brazilians do every day. More like this: 8 myths about Brazil that foreigners get wrong

Before I left Rio de Janeiro in 2007, I worked in a hostel as a receptionist and I couldn’t understand how some travellers were so naive. It didn’t matter how many times I told them to not go somewhere in the evening, they just thought they knew better. The result: every week at least one traveller got mugged.

When I arrived in London in the same year, it took me a couple of months to adjust. I remember putting my mobile and wallet in my underwear when walking on unlit streets; always double-checking if I was being followed, and, of course, being acutely aware of the things happening around me.

The thing is you cannot compare the violence between Brazil and Europe. It’s just on another level.

We have a history of violence

I’m not going to delve too much into Brazilian history, but it’s important to understand a bit of our past to have a clear look at our current state.

Brazil was built through exploitation. We were that last country in the world to abolish slavery. If you add to that the macho culture, the horrendously uneven distribution of wealth, and the rampant corruption of the government, it’s difficult to see a different outcome.

Our population is very diverse, but it doesn’t translate into an equal nation. Black people constitute the majority of our inmate population; women fight every day to have more agency over their lives, and we have areas where mansions share a wall with favelas.

Violence is part of your life.

Have you heard about the “thief’s money?” It’s when people spread their money in different pockets and keep a dummy wallet with expired cards and documents, so that If they get robbed, they’ll just lose a fiver.

It’s funny that this is a strategy travellers use when they’re visiting dangerous countries, whereas in Brazil it’s the way people live.

We don’t have hole-in-the-wall ATM’s in Brazil, it just wouldn’t work. If you want to withdraw some money you need to either go inside the bank or use one of the secure outside “cabins” — and they’re usually closed by 22:00. If you need money, you have to find the elusive 24-hour cash points.

After 23:00 the traffic lights turn to flashing yellow. Not everywhere of course, otherwise it could be dangerous, but anywhere with a high crime rate. This law was created as in the past the drivers had two options: stop at the red light, only to be robbed at gunpoint or go through and possibly crash into oncoming cars.

Is it getting any better?

The government created a program called UPP, where it allocated police units to the favelas in the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro (a rich neighbourhood) to control violence and get rid of the drug lords. The problem is that it was mainly created because we were about to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

Are we safe now? Well, one of my friends just got robbed in Ipanema a couple of days ago; 56 inmates were killed in one of Brazil’s biggest massacre as the main drug lord’s factions are fighting each other, and a guy killed 12 people on New Year’s Eve leaving behind an extremely misogynist letter (nine women were killed).

Probably, a better question to ask is: Is there any hope? Yes! I wanted to give you a raw image of Brazil so you have an idea of the things people face on a daily basis, but does it mean you shouldn’t visit it? No it doesn’t and you should definitely spend some time in Brazil.

The people of Brazil

The main take here is that although we’re used to violence it doesn’t mean we condone it — we hate it as much as the next person. It’s a problem you learn to live with. The same way you might leave home early to avoid the traffic jam, we might not visit a neighbourhood in the evening to avoid being robbed.

However, as soon as you leave the big cities or capitals and explore the countryside and small towns, you see a different country. We still have places where kids play on the streets, neighbours gossip on their doorsteps, and people sleep with their windows wide open.

When people ask me about the violence in Brazil, my answer is always the same: ask the locals. These people know the dangerous areas; dangerous bars; dangerous times and most importantly, they want you to be safe.

However, don’t forget that shit happens and if it happens to you, just shake it off and carry on with your life as we Brazilians do every day. More like this: 8 myths about Brazil that foreigners get wrong

Photo: Danielle Pereira

Bruno took another sip of beer as we watched the sun set over Rio from the summit of Two Brothers Hill.

“I used to be happy we had this view to ourselves,” he said, as he looked down at the wealthy districts of Leblon and Ipanema. “But it’s so beautiful, I want to share it with the world.”

Unlike its more famous neighbours, Corcovado and Sugarloaf, the only way to reach the top of Morro Dois Irmãos is by going through Vidigal, one of the hundreds of favelas that dot the skyline of the Cidade Maravilhosa. Long derided as brutal dens of violent crime, drug dealing and murder, favelas are largely avoided both by tourists and middle-class Brazilians. But like everything in this fascinating land, the reality is more complex. I had come to teach at a community centre in the neighbourhood to find out the truth for myself.

With over 30,000 homicides a year, Brazil has more gun murders than any other nation on Earth. These overwhelmingly take place in poor, urban barrios like Vidigal or its neighbour, Rocinha, the largest shanty town in South America. Every favela dweller shares similar memories that seem incomprehensible to outsiders. A friend lost to the drugs trade. A family member hit by stray gunfire. Stepping over a bullet-ridden corpse on the way to school. But to Bruno, the neighbourhood is a world away from the hell on Earth portrayed in films like City of God.

“We used to joke that the kids down there were in prison,” he said, gesturing towards the grand townhouses of neighbouring Gávea. “As soon as night fell, they’d be safely locked away, while we could stay out for as long as we wanted.” During my time in the favela, Bruno told me many shocking stories about life there. And yet all his tales spoke of his home with great warmth and affection. Trapped between the drug dealers above them and a distrustful populace below, residents had forged a close-knit community that stood in stark contrast to the barbed wire fences and security guards of Leblon and Lagoa.

“We have many problems here,” Bruno said. “But we are Brazilian. We know how to enjoy life.”

As night fell and we made our way back down the hill, I could see he was right. On one side of the road, a group of barefooted boys played football on a small patch of tarmac. On the other side, a trio of young girls danced to funk music. Unlike so many American and European children, who couldn’t live without a host of expensive gadgets, the kids here could be happy with just a kite, a football, or some marbles.

Over the next few months, I got to know a lot more about the barrio in greater depth. My students came to chat to me at the centre or invite me round their house for lunch. A quiet after-work beer turned into a friendly conversation about the ways of the world. My young neighbour, Thiago, made sure to always wave to me from his balcony window. I began to see why so many people like Bruno loved this place, despite the violence, terrible sanitation, and lack of social mobility.

Around the time I arrived in Vidigal, the Rio Police installed a Pacification Unit in the neighbourhood. Suddenly, the drug dealers vanished and the police were everywhere, questioning people going in and out. Our community centre received a comic called A Conquista da Paz (The Conquest of Peace) which promised an end to the years of turbulence and bloodshed. After years of being a very public symbol of Brazil’s failings, the process of bringing the favelas into the city had finally begun.

I began, too, to see a change in myself. On my arrival, I had been the very stereotype of a formal, reserved Brit. But as the days wore on, I began to relax. I stopped worrying about being on time. I had rice and beans for lunch every day. I exchanged my heavy shoes for flip flops and a shirt became an optional accessory.

I quickly forgot about the bright lights of London, with its stressed out people and terrible work-life balance. Instead, I started to appreciate the simplicity of life here, like a game of volleyball on Leblon Beach or a quiet beer with friends.

On my final day in Brazil, I met Bruno on his way to his first ever job as a waiter in a high-class cocktail bar. Despite the fierce heat, he was wearing a shirt and tie. I wondered if he had ever worn one before.

I asked him how he thought his community would change now the gangs were no longer in charge of the barrio.

“Change?” he laughed. “This is Brazil. Nothing ever changes.” He shook my hand and wished me luck. As I watched him disappear down the hill, I wondered what the future held for this unique neighbourhood. More like this: Here is what I tell people when they ask me about Brazil's problem with violence

“On the eighth day, God created Rio.”

It doesn’t take long to understand why cariocas love to say so. Palm fringed beaches bookended by iconic granite morros, the world’s largest urban forest, and one infamous statue of Christ perpetually watching over the city. One of the most geographically blessed cities I’ve had the privilege to visit, it’s hard not to believe that whatever or whomever created this universe, they had a soft spot for Rio de Janiero.

And so did I, long before I first set my own eyes on the city. When I was cleaning out boxes of old college notebooks and projects last summer, I came across detailed ramblings about a fantasy semester in Brazil scribbled in the margins of many a class note. More recently, my mom took on a similar project purging my sister and my’s grade school stockpiles, and came across a report I’d done when tasked with researching any continent – I’d lovingly selected South America. For years, when asked what destination topped my bucket list, I barely had to hesitate.

For as long as I’ve loved travel, Brazil was a tornado force of a desire, with Rio at the eye of the storm. That’s a lot for one city to live up to, regardless of how marvelous it may be.


Originally, as this dream began to take shape in reality, I hoped to spend two full weeks in the city. Later, as I negotiated with Heather, my travel copilot, and accepted how much else of the country I wanted to see, that time was pared down to just one week.

I was determined to make the most of it.

By the time we arrived in the Cidade Maravilhosa, we had partied at Tomorrowland in Itú, fallen for the biggest baddest city in Brazil in São Paulo, been charmed by Paraty, and got lost in wild Ilha Grande. We were ready for Rio.

After careful consideration, Heather and I had chosen to split our time in Rio between two different digs – kicking things off at a hostel in Botafogo, and then later moving to an Airbnb near Copacabana beach (get $35 off your first booking!) We bit off a lot before we’d even arrived, booking several tours and creating an exhaustive itinerary. We were so excited we were practically powerless to do otherwise, despite being fully aware of how burnt out we’d be by the end of the week. We even skipped one tour we’d pre-payed for, a favela nightlife tour – pretty much unheard of from this penny pincher — because we were too exhausted and hungover to make it.

In one week, we crammed in a sunrise tour of Cristo Redentor, a DIY photo safari of Lapa and Centro, hang gliding over São Conrado, a walking tour of Santa Marta favela, a sunset at Aproador, a night out in Ipanema, two beach days, a street art tour, a trip to Jardim Botânico, and sunset at Pão de Açúcar. We literally loved every single one of these activities and I’ll be writing in more detail about each of them.

Even so, we left with much not crossed off our lists.  Rio is a big, sprawling city with so much to see and do — it could take weeks, or months, or a lifetime to explore. I think one of the biggest struggles for any do-and-see-it-all-er heading to Rio will be accepting that in this city, that would be an impossible mission.


There’s a famous comparison that Rio is Brazil’s Los Angeles and São Paulo, Brazil’s New York. After being well and truly and very unexpectedly swept off my feet by São Paulo, I couldn’t help but see why.

While what I loved about Rio did remind me of what I love about Los Angeles — the beach! — a lot of what I didn’t like about Rio reminded me of what I don’t like about Los Angeles – namely, urban sprawl and charmless seediness.

The rivalry between the Cariocas (people from the city of Rio de Janeiro) and Paulistas (residents of São Paulo) is an intense one, just like that between residents of the US’s largest east and west coast cities. To state the obvious, Rio wins by a landslide when it comes to setting. The city’s natural beauty is unrivaled, and the ocean it’s surrounded by is its number one draw.

Experiencing this city’s unique beach culture was the highlight of my time in the city, so much so that I’ll be dedicating a whole post to it coming up — stay tuned! While we were visiting in Brazil’s autumn, we found the beaches pleasantly buzzing.

The weather, our busy itinerary and a few unexpected wrinkles in our plan (hello, last minute work assignment and Heather going to the hospital) meant we spent less time there than we would have liked to, and so I dream of returning one day in the summer to spend a whole week doing not much more than beach bumming.

Beaches aside — and I admit, it’s a rather important factor to put aside — I was surprised to find myself favoring São Paulo in many other categories. Through my eyes, São Paulo had an undeniably chicer, hipper vibe. The art scene was a bit more sophisticated, the restaurant scene a bit more diverse and trendy, and transportation was more accessible (though traffic in both cities was insane).

The more I travel, the greater emphasis I have placed on food. After really swooning over the restaurant scene in São Paulo, especially for Heather as a vegetarian, we were a little disappointed in Rio’s — though I was warned. That said, we did find a few gems. We fell in love with hip Meza in Bogafoto (we went for both dinner and Sunday brunch – with a bubbles bar!) and bohemian Zaza in Ipanema, and made three different trips to cute Oficina Gelato. Yet overall, we were super grateful for the kitchen in our Airbnb – it meant we could cook a few meals, eat takeaway in comfort and not rely on eating every meal out at a restaurant.

Getting around in Rio was a bit of a struggle at times. Traffic was intense and destinations were quite spread out. Due to the language barrier we used Uber exclusively for cab needs — get a free ride of up to $20 with Uber here — but even then we did run into some issues with drivers getting lost and taking ridiculous routes. We spent ages attempting to use the city’s municipal bike program but it requires a local SIM card to unlock the bikes. Heather had one but I didn’t, and so that was out.

The best thing we did for ease of movement was simply splitting our time in two different areas of the city and creating a logical itinerary around those two bases. This allowed us to walk quite a bit, which is always my favorite way of getting around a new city. Next time, I’d love to try using the metro.

One of the pleasant surprises of Rio was how comfortable we felt as two women traveling alone. While we were constantly — like literally, constantly — warned by everyone we encountered to be careful with our cameras, we were vigilant and cautious and had zero issues and really felt surprisingly safe and secure throughout our time in the city.

Frankly, overall we felt this was all throughout Brazil, but it was most poignant in Rio, where multiple viewings of City of God had prepared me to be relieved of all my belongings within moments of stepping onto the streets. It was a nice surprise.


Bottom line? We had a blast. But we were also so busy – and rounding the corner of travel burnout – that we didn’t leave much time to just soak up the magic of the place, which Rio requires quite a bit of.

I look forward to returning someday and putting less emphasis on tours and attractions (only because I’ve now seen them – I don’t regret a single one) and focusing instead on soaking up the beach culture, my absolute favorite aspect of the city, enjoying some of the nightlife, which we regretfully missed out on aside from one over-indulgent night, and attempting some of the beautiful urban hikes and beginner surf breaks I learned about in the area.

I hope I don’t have to wait too long for that return. In the meantime, I can’t wait to share more details from our week in Rio de Janeiro.

Have you been to Rio? Did it live up to your expectations? What part of my trip are you most excited to read about?

Many thanks to Heather for the beautiful portraits she took of me throughout this post!

There are two attractions that are pretty much non-negotiable must-sees for more travelers to Rio — the Cristo Redentor statue, also known as the Christ Redeemer statue, and Pão de Açúcar, also known as Sugarloaf Mountain. Heather and I were no exceptions, and planned to make both a priority during our one week in Rio de Janeiro.

However, we chose to check off each in what I considered especially spectacular fashion.

As a professional photographer and a professional blogger, it pretty much goes without saying that photos are a top priority for Heather and I when we travel (but I went ahead and said it anyway, just in case.) Which is why, despite being very distinctly not morning people — at least not setting-the-alarm-for-before-sunrise-morning-people — we enthusiastically signed on for a Viator Exclusive: Early Access to Christ Redeemer Statue Tour. Photos of Rio’s top attraction without hundreds of our fellow tourists loitering in the background? I could get up early for that.

And so on our first morning in Rio de Janeiro, we sprung out of bed, grabbed our cameras, and set off to meet Jesus — and maybe let him take the wheel (please tell me I have at least one country music fan in this crowd).

Photo by Heather Holt

We were mildly irritated by the three different phone calls back and forth that were required to confirm our tour, but at this point we had grown at least mildly accustomed to the daily miscommunications that were a fact of traveling in Brazil for us. We were also a little bummed that our hostel in Botafogo wasn’t within the pickup zone, which required us to travel in the opposite direction of our final destination in order to reach the designated meeting point for those not on the pickup list, but we just rolled with it.

At 7am, we were scooped up from the meeting point in Copacabana and on our way. Our tour guide Solomon switched seamlessly between English, Portuguese and Spanish for the mini-bus full of travelers from around the Americas, and we settled in for the ride up to Corcovado Mountain.

We reached the ticket gate about ten minutes before the attraction’s opening time, and remarked on the chill at 2,300 feet above sea level — bring a cardigan, friends! As soon as the clock struck 8:00am, we were on the very first official park shuttles from Paineiras (private vehicles cannot go past this point).

When we reached the top, we had the choice of climbing the 220 steps to the top or hoping on the elevator. Heather and I were not shy about practically sprinting onto the elevator in our attempt to be first to the top — and it worked! We probably had a good three or four minutes before the rest of our group appeared, and then another five or six more before another bus-full showed up. It might not sound like much, but if you’re shutter-ready, you can get drool-worthy travel shots in a matter of seconds. When it comes to having one of the world’s top attractions to yourself, every minute matters! We were pretty lucky that things stayed low key the entire hour or so we were onsite.

Photo by Heather Holt

Photo by Heather Holt

When we were finally able to momentarily chill and cede our perfect shot spot for others the snap away at, Solomon filled us in on the history of the iconic statue. Constructed in 1931 from concrete and sandstone and named one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, the statue was bigger in our minds than it was in reality — we both remarked we though it would be bigger! Apparently, we don’t have a concept of what 130 feet tall with a 98 foot arm span really translates to.

GoPro fail // Photos by Heather Holt

The morning, like many in Rio, was foggy, giving the city below us an other-worldly feel — but making it somewhat tricky to photograph. Still, the morning light was perfect for photographing the statue, as well as taking portraits in front of it. And of course that was that whole “escaping the crowds” thing going on too — which was made even more successful by the fact that we came on a weekday.

If you still want to beat the crowds and the heat but your priority is taking photos of the view, you might prefer to come in the late afternoon.

Photo by Heather Holt

About as crowded as it got // Photo by Heather Holt

When Solomon finally summoned us we’d had plenty of time to snap statue selfies, soak up the view and enjoy the morning air. We opted to take the steps back down to basecamp, and after getting the okay from our guide, grabbed a morning tea and snack from the overpriced onsite cafe… which we immediately had to frantically chug/inhale because we were told we couldn’t bring them on the shuttle with us. Ha! Cue us asking Solomon why he encouraged us to get hot beverages when we knew we couldn’t bring them onboard and we had to leave urgently that moment, and filing it away in our “We Literally Never Knew What Was Going On Ever in Brazil” folder.

Would I recommend this tour? I’m going to skip yes and just go straight ahead to DUH. Despite some of the logistical hassles, we were just giddy with happiness at at the swoon-worthy photos and exclusive experience we walked away with. I often find myself seized with stress at big crowded tourist attractions, and it was so dang nice to just saunter around the place like had rented the place out for a small private party of ourselves and a dozen friends.

One thing to keep in mind is you will not be taking that cute little cog train up the mountain. We didn’t read the tour description very well and were a little disappointed, so just be aware of the trade-off when booking. A minibus might be little less glamorous than a train car (and a lot more motion sickness inducing, so prepare for that if needed) but in my opinion the compromise is well worth it.

Back at the base of the mountain, it was time to go our separate ways. The tour actually offers an optional upgrade in which you can visit Sugarloaf on the same day, which is awesome for those with limited time, though because we had a whole week we decided to save that for another outing.

Plus, we had big plans for the rest of the day. We decided to forgo our ride back to south Rio and instead take advantage of being up in the north to do a little DIY walking tour of Lapa and Centro using my trusty guidebook to lead the way.

Next stop? Escadaria Selarón! This expansive piece of open-air, public installation art is the brainchild of Chilean-born Jorge Selarón. Began in 1990, the steps lie between the bohemian neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa, and are a popular draw for art-lovers from around the world.

Wandering the steps, I was reminded me of similar mosaic installation projects I’ve seen in Philadelphia and in Utila — each the inspiring work of one dedicated artist. This 215 steps that make up this constantly evolving work of art are covered in tiles from over sixty countries, many of them gifts once Selarón’s project became widely known — in the early days, he scavenged tiles from trash and construction sites and sold paintings to fund the work. Selarón once claimed that “this crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death,” a quote that felt omniscient in retrospect when he was found dead under mysterious circumstances at the top of the stairs.

While many arrive, take a quick glance around, snap a few photos and then leave, Heather and I spent ages on the steps. We moved slowly, admiring the various tiles and excitedly pointing out to each other the ones from destinations we ourselves had visited. We also did some wonderful people watching — the homes along the stairs are still very much occupied, and it was fun to imagine what it must be like to walk along art every day to make it to your front door.

If you want people-free photos on the steps, you’ll have to follow one of my favorite photography tips: be patient. Still on a roll from our successful morning at Cristo Redentor, we were relentlessly persistent while waiting for those brief moments when the steps cleared so we could frame the shots we envisioned. As you can see from Heather’s behind-the-scenes shot below right, it was no easy feat.

But the portraits we took of each other in front of the most famous section of the stairs were well worth the wait.

Photo by Heather Holt

Photo by Heather Holt

One of the things I love about traveling with Heather is seeing how different the world looks through her lens! One thing this chick excels at is portrait photography. Generally, I am far too shy and too nervous to take portraits when I travel, but Heather comes from a journalist background and really makes magic happen when she points her camera at someone. How beautiful are these portraits of the people of Selarón steps?

After spending so long at the steps we basically became honorary locals, it was time to wander on. We meandered over to the nearby Arcos da Lapa, an aqueduct dating back to the 1700s. A local landmark, the aqueduct was architecturally impressive, but we didn’t linger long in the nearly abandoned square. Both of our guards were up and we later agreed that this square was one of the few places in Brazil that we felt uneasy.

Luckily it was a relatively short walk to our next stop, Catedral Metropolitana Church. Our guidebook had a long list of Rio churches to explore, but this one stood out to us as the one must-see. Built in 1976 after over a decade of construction, the cathedral is a textbook example of ultra modern, brutalist architecture. Though we both felt there was a very strong spaceship inspiration going on, we later read the true muse for the cathedral was the Mayan pyramids.

Next up, we made our way to the Theatro Municipal, a stunning theater built in 1905 to mimic the Paris Opera. Though we skipped the guided tours of the ornate interior, we loved admiring the building from the outside, which truly did feel like a piece of France plopped down in the middle of a South American street.

After wandering by a few more museums, churches, and busy downtown streets, we could wait no longer for lunch. We decided to dine at one of Brazil’s famous per kilo buffets, settling on The Line. Bursting with color and set along a busy, narrow alley, we exercised literally zero self control at the buffet and piled our plates as high as can be before nabbing ourselves two outside seats. For both our heaping plates and drinks below, we paid just 40BRL, or about $11 — not a bad deal in pricey Brazil.

Most tourists head to the Christ the Redeemer statue, but few stick around the explore Lapa and Centro during the day. I can’t recommend more highly to start your day with Viator Exclusive: Early Access Tour, and then take advantage of your location and strategically spend a few hours exploring Rio’s under appreciated downtown.

It was the perfect day. We experienced a very, very different side of Rio than what we saw in the southern zone — and both left so glad we set aside time to explore here. And with a dash of patience and the help of the perfect tour, we captured it beautifully in priceless photos.

What’s your secret for getting crowd-free travel photos?

I am a member of the Viator Ambassador initiative and participated in this tour as part of that program. This post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small percentage of any sale made at absolutely no cost to you. Thank you for supporting Alex in Wanderland!

Hang gliding in Rio de Janiero was just one of those things I had to do. Back when I was a distracted student sketching maps of Brazil in the back of my math notebooks, I must have come across a guidebook or an early blog post that highlighted it as a top attraction — because while I can’t pinpoint where or when I first heard about it, hang gliding in Rio de Janiero has been a must in my mind for as long as I can remember.

Lucky for me, Heather was enthusiastically onboard. She was also, with very little convincing, wiling to wear matching Brazilian flag leggings with me. This is why I love Heather.

This wasn’t my first time testing gravity — I’ve been parasailing on Maui, hot air ballooning in Laos, sky diving on Oahu and helicoptering and prop-plane-ing all over the show. But it was my first time hang-gliding, and I have the nervous-yet-hilarious GoPro shots to prove it.

No, this is not the face of a girl who’s totally sold on the idea of running off a cliff.

Little time had passed since we were whisked from our hostel doorstep to the white sand beaches of São Conrado, the epicenter of hang gliding in Rio de Janiero. A strip of shops form a neat row, and we were directed into the appropriate one to sign waivers, pay about $10 in fees, and get matched up with an instructor. Then we were back in the van, winding our way up to the launch point in Tijuca National Park, the largest urban forest in the world.

Although I was incredibly impressed with how organized, efficient, double-checked and safety-focused the whole affair was, the idea of flinging myself off a mountain was starting to seem suspect. Despite of, or perhaps because of, the expression on my face, I was the first one called forward to fly, and after receiving the world’s shortest briefing — which literally consisted of “keep running until you don’t feel the ground under your feet anymore” — I started to sprint.

And soon I couldn’t feel the ground any more.

The adrenaline rush of the launch was overwhelming, but within moments my heart-rate returned to something resembling normal and I was struck how peaceful it was, up there among the clouds.

While I admired the view, my instructor expertly navigated us using the wind. That’s the beauty of tandem — you pretty much have your own private air chauffeur and you can just kick back and focus on making thumbs up signs and flashing peace fingers at the camera. (Why, Universe, why is must this be my default?)

Rio de Janiero has no shortage of incredible views, but these were particularly impressive. Not only could we make out our friend Christo Redentor in the distance, but we also had front row seats for Pão de Acuçar, the lush Mata Atlantica forest, and of course the white sands of several of the city’s most famous beaches.

We also had a poignant vantage point of Rio’s infamous gap between extreme poverty and opulent wealth. In one direction, we gazed at the infamous Rocinha Favela; in other, the ocean-front mansions of São Conrado. If you do want a voyeuristic look at the houses (and pools!) of Brazil’s rich and famous, you can’t ask for a better bird’s eye view.


The final challenge? Landing. Again, on my part it involved little more than simply running till I was told not to. For an “adventure sport,” I was sure taking it easy up there.


And then we were back on land — or sand, rather. While my instructor took care of our harnesses and rig, I ordered up two fresh coconuts and waited to cheer Heather’s landing on.


She rocked it! Once reunited, we giddily recounted every moment of our experiences, and gave ourselves some serious high-fives for checking another adrenaline rush off our travel wish lists.

Unfortunately, we soon encountered our one and only complaint about the tour we’d booked. We carefully selected a package that said “photos and videos included,” and technically, there were some photos and videos included, our instructors explained to us while we perfected our mutual RBFs. The gliders are set up with two GoPros, and the included photos and video clips are from only the front camera. The side camera shots will run you an extra 100R (around $32USD). Also, they give them to you on a DVD unless you pony up 20R (around $7 USD) extra for a USB or memory card.

Considering we were traveling with approximately twenty-seven USB sticks and memory cards between us, we were pretty annoyed we hadn’t been given a heads up in order to bring our own. And we were extremely irritated that the photography exclusions weren’t clear when we booked. I begrudgingly paid for the extra photos, which to his credit my instructor gave to me on memory card that he didn’t charge me for to smooth out the situation.Considering it was a very experience experience, being nickeled-and-dimed at the end didn’t feel good.  It definitely left a bitter taste in our mouths to feel like we’d been mislead, so if you’re heading to Rio and booking a hang gliding package, just clarify exactly what’s included before hand.

Three hours later, we were back where we started on the steps of our hostel. Our photo frustrations aside, I loved this experience and would recommend our tour package. The ease of transportation (our driver offered to drop us at Ipanema or Copacabana beaches if we preferred, which was lovely), the efficiency with which we got up and off the mountain and the high safety standards all left us impressed.

After so many years of anticipation, and so many other amazing adrenaline-inducing experiences in between, it would have been easy to be let down by this one. But nope, hang gliding in Rio de Janiero lived up to every math class I ever daydreamed about it through.

As I told Heather that morning… it’s a beautiful day to leap off a cliff!

I am a member of the Viator Ambassador initiative and participated in this tour as part of that program. This post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small percentage of any sale made at absolutely no cost to you. Thank you for supporting Alex in Wanderland!

Photo: fgmsp

Here’s a run-down of our top things to do in Brazil for free.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Appriciate street art on Boulevard Olímpico, Rio de Janeiro

 Boulevard OlímpicoRio de Janeiro, BrazilRejuvenated boulevard designed for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Colorful murals adorn several blocks leading from the Museum of Tomorrow. Great place for a stroll and some colorful photography. #gallery #free #art #murals #riodejaneiro #brazil #olympics #rio2016

Escadaria Selaron, Rio de Janeiro

 Escadaria SelaronRio de Janeiro, BrazilFamous stairway in the heart of Lapa. Beware of pickpockets here and watch your cell phones (particularly iPhones!) and cameras here. Go early or around sunset if you want to take plenty of photos with fewer tourists around. Brilliant colors! #free #art #colors #tiles #publicart

Explore sand dunes of Genipabu Beach, Natal

 Praia de GenipabuExtremoz, BrazilCruising through the sand dunes of Genipabu Beach outside of Natal, Brazil. 🙌

Hike to Castelinho Morin, Rio de Janeiro

 Castelinho Morim PetrópolisPetrópolis, BrazilEasy one-hour hike to Castelinho-Morin.

Snorkel at Praia do Perigoso, Rio de Janeiro

 Praia do PerigosoRio de Janeiro, BrazilPraia do Perigoso – paradise after a little hike.

Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, San Jaun

 Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis ChateaubriandSan Juan, BrazilOne of the best art museums in São Paulo and it is always free on Tuesdays! Its building is also one of the city’s landmark and it is located right next to a metro station, which is always useful. #museum #free #gallery #art

Enjoy the sunset over Parque Nacional de Jericoacoara

 Parque Nacional de JericoacoaraJijoca de Jericoacoara, BrazilPreparing for sunset on the sand dunes of Jericoacoara, in Northeastern Brazil.

And the view from Niterói Parque Da Cidade, Niterói

 Niteroi Parque Da CidadeNiterói, BrazilThe best view on Rio is from Niteroi.

Beco do Batman, São Paulo

 Beco do BatmanSão Paulo, BrazilAn outdoor gallery in a cool neighborhood where there are many bars and restaurants. Graffiti is a big thing in SP and this is a great thing to check it out. #graffiti #brazil #streetart #free

Hike to Pedra Bonita, Rio de Janeiro

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilNice hike to Pedra Bonita.

Surf at Praia de Atalaia

 Praia de AtalaiaCoroa do Meio, BrazilThe coolest thing about this beach is the amount of sand before the water. It looks amazing and it makes you forget you are in a city beach. Also good for surfing ? #surf #surfspot #beach #brazil

Explore Fortaleza dos Reis Magos, Natal

 Fortaleza dos Reis MagosNatal, BrazilIt is a fortress from the 17th century built by the Portuguese and once invaded by the Dutch. Not that easy to reach or well preserved but worth going. The scenery of the sea, the fortress, the river going into the sea and crystal clear pools formed around the area make the difference ? #free #history

Get out the city and relax on Praia de Ponta Negra

 Praia de Ponta NegraNatal, BrazilGreat city beach next to a upper class neighborhood and with a good infrastructure. There are vendors walking through it and also bars by the beach that offers chairs and umbrellas to hide from the sun. Beers (Brazilian pilsens ) from 7-9 reais the 600ml bottle. #beach #sun #bar #swimming

Appreciate the sunset at Praia de Porto da Rua, São Miguel dos Milagres

 Praia de Porto da Rua – Rota Ecológica dos MilagresSão Miguel dos Milagres, BrazilSunset at this small fisherman village in the countryside of Alagoas. If you go down from Maragogi to the capital you will see many beautiful beaches and one of them is Porto da Rua. #beach #beachlife #beaches #brazil

Photo: tpsdave

This is but a small number of excellent hikes around Rio de Janeiro. Let it inspire you to strap on your boots and escape the city, enjoy the fresh air and views of the coast.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Sugar Loaf

 Sugarloaf MountainRio de Janeiro, BrazilCable car going down from Urca Hill.

Sugar Loaf is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rio de Janeiro. Avoid long lines for the cable car and hike. You will see the stunning landscape that includes Botafogo cove, Copacabana beach and the entrance to the Guanabara Bay. For photographers, this is the best viewpoint for sunset shots over Rio.

 Sugarloaf MountainRio de Janeiro, BrazilAmazing helicopter trips! 6-7 minutes 88 euro, 12-13 minutes – 190 euro, 15-16 minutes – 220 euro, 21-22 minutes – 275 euro, 30 minutes – 305 euro.


 CorcovadoRio de Janeiro, BrazilView from Corcovado hill where the Christ the Redeemer is located.

The statue of Christ the Redeemer is the largest and most famous Art Déco sculpture in the world. It is considered as New Seven Wonders of the World.

To get to the statue, grab a train that leaves from the Cosme Velho neighborhood. There’s also licensed vans in Largo do Machado and Praça do Lido square. To avoid overpriced transportation (38 and 65 reais) you can take the trail that starts at Parque Lage. The entrance to the Corcovado statue will cost you then 24 reais. The trail might be challenging but it is well equipped with metal chains and steps. You will definitely feel satisfied completing this hike.

 Christ the RedeemerRio de Janeiro, BrazilUsually it is much more people at the Christ the Redeemer;)

Pedra Bonita

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilThe way from Pedra Bonita hike at night. It is better to take a taxi, though;)

To get to his trail take the bus, Tropical 4 to the last stop and change to bus 448. The hike is very steep. You have to register before entering the trail. The coast of the carioca South Zone can be seen from one side, while the imposing Pedra da Gávea looms over, and the immense Barra da Tijuca, with its skyscrapers and large beach, can be found on the right. You can also rent a hang glider in Pedra Bonita and enjoy a flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

 Pedra BonitaRio de Janeiro, BrazilNice hike to Pedra Bonita.

Dois Irmãos

 Dois IrmãosBelford Roxo, BrazilFantastic view from Dois Irmãos.

One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Dois Irmãos mountain, is a common background of photos taken on the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. The trail that goes to the top of the mountain begins at the Vidigal community in São Conrado. From the beginning, you can take in a beautiful view of the beach in São Conrado and the Cagarras Islands. Take rests and use the time to take some pictures and catch your breath. You will be awarded by the breathtaking view of the city, which includes the South Zone. Don’t forget to buy some açai to cool down.

Pedra da Gávea

 UrcaRio de Janeiro, BrazilView from Urca Hill at night. The most romantic place in the world 🌎

Pedra de Gávea is part of the Tijuca National Park. To get to the summit, Cabeça do Imperador, you’ll find a trail through the Atlantic Forest. It’s a route for experienced climbers. It is a good idea to hire a professional guide and be physically prepared for this hike. Take a lot of water and lunch with you. From the top of the mountain, it is possible to have a view over the city and Maciço da Tijuca.

Pico da Tijuca

Pico da Tijuca is the highest mountain in the Tijuca Forest, with an altitude of 1.022 meters. To get to its summit, you have climb a 117 step staircase which is carved into the rock. The trail starts in Praça Afonso Viseu square, near the entrance of Sector A of the Tijuca National Park. Enter the forest from the neighborhood Alta da Boa Vista, in Rio North Zone. At the beginning of the hike, you’ll come across the Cascatinha Taunay waterfall, the largest waterfall in the park. The trail has a slight slope and is enclosed by trees throughout the entire hike.

Pedra Do Telégrafo

Pedra do Telégrafo is located in Barra de Guaratiba, West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The region is about 50 km away from the Center. The trail to the Pedra do Telégrafo starts at Praia Grande in Barra de Guaratiba, known as the Camino dos Pescadores.

It is a very popular place during the weekend and you might need to wait in order to take a photo. If you have the opportunity visit this stop during a weekday.

Praia do Perigoso

 Praia do PerigosoRio de Janeiro, BrazilPraia do Perigoso – paradise after a little hike.

This beach is very popular among surfers. On the light 30-minute trail, you can climb to the top of the Tartaruga Rock, which offers amazing views of the coastline. To get to the trail, go to the Parlon Siqueira street in Barra de Guaratiba. This trail is considered mild and does not require high physical fitness.

Vista Chinesa

 Jardim BotânicoRio de Janeiro, BrazilJardim Botânico with palms avenue.

The journey from Jardim Botânico to Vista Chinesa is not long if you travel by car or taxi, around 10 to 20 minutes. The road is very good and paved. Although the climb is steep, it is common to find many cyclists and pedestrians. It has two waterfalls, Gruta and Macacos. The monument was built in the early twentieth century as a tribute to the Chinese who brought the tea to Brazil.

Parque da Cidade

 Niteroi Parque Da CidadeNiterói, BrazilThe best view on Rio is from Niteroi.

The Parque da Cidade was opened in 1976 and has a lookout spot that offers a spectacular view of the coast, the neighborhoods of Niteroi and Guanabara Bay. The park is open from 8:00 till 18:00 (19:00 during summer time).


This hike is will take three days between nearby towns Petropolis and Teresopolis. It’s approximately 30 km and deep within the mountain range Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos. It’s one of the most beautiful hikes with breathtaking scenery. While it might be a challenging hike, the efforts are definitely worth it. Along the way, there are two camping spots where tents and facilities can be rented.

To visit a favela or not to visit a favela: it’s a controversial decision many travelers to Rio will ponder at some point or another.

Critics call it poverty tourism, proponents say it de-stigmatizes and brings income to marginalized communities. Even amongst my own peers, there’s discord. Friends from South Africa have made me cross my heart that I’ll never take a township tour, and some of my Brazilian friends strongly discouraged me from visiting a favela as well. Their concerns were not for my safety, but rather that tourists create a “human zoo” by paying to ogle at the darkest side of economic inequality. That, I wanted no part of.

And yet, pretending favelas don’t exist also seemed cruel in its own way. I desperately wanted to be educated, to be exposed, to experience multiple sides of Brazil. After much research and reflection, Heather and I decided we were going to visit a favela in Rio de Janeiro — and that the most respectful way to do so would be to take a walking tour with a small, locally owned company. (Big, drive-by tours in armored vehicles were out from the get go, obviously.)

There are many favelas in Rio. We chose to visit Santa Marta for several reasons. First, it was literally within walking distance of our hostel in Botafogo, and we were eager to explore the neighborhood we were staying in. Second, as artists, we were magnetically drawn to the popular mural project at the base of the favela and were excited to see it in person. Third, we found a locally-owned, ethically-run and reasonably priced walking tour with Tour Santa Marta.

We met our guide at a petrol station across the street from Santa Marta. We were pleased to learn we’d lucked out with a private tour, which meant we’d have no distractions from the bajillion questions we were planing to pepper our guide with.

And Pedro was more than happy to answer them. When he first approached us, we did a double take at how young he appeared to be. Later, when Pedro was flipping through his backpack I noted several textbooks, and he confirmed he was attending university nearby using his earnings from tour guiding. Based on his amazing English, I could only imagine his studies were going well.

Pedro explained we’d start the tour with a ride up to the top of the favela via cable car, and wind our way slowly back down on foot. Chiago, the owner of the small tour company, met us briefly to say hello and invite us to stop by his home in the favela on our way back.

As we approached the cable car, I noticed a small piece of street art and reached for my camera, only to realize I’d made the day’s massive face-palm: I left the battery charging back in our hostel room. To my surprise, Pedro translated that Chiago was a photography aficionado and had offered to quickly run home to see if he had a spare on the same size. A favela-dweller with a dSLR camera collection? Our misconceptions were already being broken down.

After an initial bout of the blues I realized it was perhaps a blessing in disguise. Heather, with her journalism background, is much more comfortable and skilled at taking photos in sensitive situations. Frankly, I’d been stressing even before we arrived. Freed from my discomfort and my obligation to take photos, I could focus fully on the experience. So with the exception of a few iPhone snaps, full credit for the photos in this post go to the talented Heather Holt.

As we disembarked from the cable car, a gift from the government to the favela upon pacification, we marveled at the amazing views over the city. Pedro laughed when we commented what high real estate prices vistas like this would command in the US, and countered that the top of the favela was actually traditionally the least desirable, as pre-cable car, it was a difficult slog up the steep hill on foot.

Santa Marta was the first of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas to be pacified back in 2008. Pacification refers to the government’s plan to wrest control of the favelas from drug dealers and gangs and hand it to a special police force known as the UPP, or the Pacifying Police Unit in English. The results have been mixed, but in Santa Marta, once one of the most violent slums in Rio, it’s almost impossible not to see the changes as positive.

Favelas have been a part of life in Rio since the late 1800’s. The word favela comes from the favela tree, a plant that, ominously, causes skin irritations to all those who come in contact with it. The moniker stuck for the communities mushrooming up all over Rio, populated by former slaves, poverty-stricken squatters, and soldiers who had nowhere else to go.

With 22% of Rio’s population living in them, favelas are an unmistakable facet of Brazilian life. At 8,000 residents, Santa Marta is on the small side.

Pedro’s fascinating stories were regularly paused to greet friends and acquaintances as we walked. From tiny tots calling his name and running over to ask for help finding their cats to the local barber stopping him to discuss football scores, it truly felt that Pedro knew every single person in Santa Marta.

And we weren’t left out. One of my favorite moments of the day was when we walked by a street-side barbecue and an older gentleman called Pedro over to try some, and translated through him his absolute insistence that Heather and I have a taste as well. With Heather being a vegetarian, I thought it only polite to eat enough for both of us!

Pedro explained that Chiago had created the tour company to change the conversation on favelas. Born and raised in Santa Marta, he wanted to show the world the energetic, vibrant community that he loved and continues to live in to this day by choice.

That spirit we were starting to understand was introduced to many in the world when Michael Jackson and Spike Lee traveled to Santa Marta in 1996 to film scenes for Jackson’s controversial music video They Don’t Really Care About Us. The government initially opposed the project and they pushed forward regardless, hiring residents as extras in the video and making Jackson a hero to the community in the process. Pedro proudly showed us the football field where Jackson’s helicopter had landed for filming, and the mural and statue the community built in his honor after.

Around the statue there were a handful of ramshackle souvenir-shops with locally-produced art and gifts, as well as a few small bodegas and snack shops.

Knowing that Santa Marta was the first pacified favela and continues to be one of the safest in the city, I frankly didn’t have any security-related qualms whatsoever about visiting. However, we got a serious reality check when, moments after stepping into a local shop to browse, we heard shouting and commotion out the door. While the owner of the shop smiled and tried to distract us, our hearts pounded as we pressed our faces to the window and saw military police with assault rifles aggressively shoving a local resident to the ground.

Just drug related, Pedro later assured us.

It was a reminder that yes, Santa Marta was once one of the most violent slums in the city and many people died here in bloody shootouts. In one of the most poignant physical symbols of change, bullet holes still dot the colorfully painted walls of a former day care center, now HQ for the Pacified Police Unit.

As our heart rates returned to normal we continued to ply Pedro with questions. In turn, he volleyed them right back at us, asking everything about where we live, what we studied, our travels, and beyond. Soon it felt like we were being shown around by a friend.

That feeling was only reinforced when we arrived at Chiago’s house. He offered us juice and showed us photos of famous visitors he’d welcomed to the favela, big names from Madonna to Vin Diesel to Alicia Keys and beyond. I marveled at how lucky we were to be seated in that cozy living room, invited guests in world that seems so mysterious to so many.

As we continued our descent down the hill, I reflected on how the day was different from my expectations.

I’d read so many posts from my fellow travel bloggers about their favela experiences before arriving that frankly, they’d all started to run together in my head and I’d even started to feel blasé about the entire experience. After reading about nightclubs and hostels opening in some favelas, and the growing concerns of gentrification, I think I half arrived expecting some sort of hip facsimile of Bushwick. Um, yeah, guys — I’m guessing you don’t need a spoiler warning for this, but Santa Marta is no Brooklyn.

So while many visitors to favelas seem to have their eyes opened to the fact that these are tight-knit, supportive communities with a lot to be proud of, I kind of already went in expecting that. Instead, what humbled me were the bullet-hole riddled reminders of gun violence, the relentless smell of open sewage, and walking paths carved out of mountains and rivers of garbage. Having just come from a morning of hang-gliding over some of Rio’s plushest ocean-side manors in São Conrado, it was quite the contrast. I’ve been exposed to poverty many times in my travels. And yet, my eyes were wide open to it here.

The further down we traveled in the favela, the more “cleaned up” it felt. Soon, we were almost back down at sea level, and we found ourselves face to face with the mural project that had partially inspired us to visit Santa Marta in the first place.

Just look at this beautiful work! The project was pioneered by two Dutch artists who lived in the favelas for some time and eventually hired local youths to bring their paint-swatch daydreams to life. The project energized and made proud the local community, Pedro assured us with a smile. In fact, the same favelas that residents were once dying, literally, to get out of, have become desirable real estate that some are actually moving into by choice.

Earlier I mentioned that Santa Marta was within walking distance of our hostel. Santa Marta is in Botafogo, which felt like an entirely different city than the one we’d later experience in Copacabana and Ipanema. We loved our time there and I was sad to learn that our hip hostel, Oztel, has permanently shuttered — so I won’t be writing a full review of it. Admittedly, we had several issues there that in retrospect didn’t look promising for its future, but shucks — isn’t it cute?

Had we had more time at Oztel, I would have happily returned to the base of the Santa Marta for dinner or drinks. We’d actually booked a favela nightlife tour for later in the trip to see yet another side of favela life — with a different company — but had to cancel due to travel burnout and the worst hangovers of our lives (ugh). While I can no longer recommend Oztel specifically, I highly recommend considering a few nights in Botafogo, which is the perfect base for exploring Santa Marta.

Favela tourism, I predict, will only continue to grow. If you are coming to Rio, I gently encourage you to do some research to find the right fit for you. I never feared for my safety, just for the possibility that I was being unintentionally disrespectful or voyeuristic — however my concerns were quickly assuaged upon arrival.

I believe Chiago had amazing intentions of supporting his family and his community when he started this business, and that Pedro is a fabulous tour guide and all around cool dude to hang with. He even invited us to a football match the next evening with his friends, which we regretfully had to decline because we had other plans. How many tour guides have you ever had that are so friendly?

So, do you need to do a tour? We did see two girls who appeared to just be wandering around without a guide, which in Santa Marta is totally possible to do. However, we felt the most respectful way to visit was to be led by a member of the local community, and had we just gone for a stroll we never would have left with such an informed understanding of the social and economic dynamics of the neighbhood.

Tour Santa Marta offers two hour tours twice a day, at 10am or 2pm, for a minimum of two person, at a cost of 100R per person ($32USD).

What I took away from this experience, in addition to a profound respect for people who manage to live with dignity regardless of their external circumstances, was a reminder that the world is so very small. From Brazil to Bangkok to Brooklyn, gentrification brings both the blessings of stability and de-marginalization but also the curses of scrutiny and rising prices, and people everywhere are just trying their darndest to find a balance between the two.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the community of Santa Marta. But in this present moment, I feel grateful for the opportunity to have been welcomed into it, if only for an afternoon.

What do you think? Would you visit a favela in Brazil?

Thank you again to Heather Holt Photography for the photos in this post. We paid full price for our tours and I was not compensated for this review.

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The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)

Robert M.Levine, John Crocitti

Bordering all but two of South America’s other nations and by far Latin America’s largest country, Brazil differs linguistically, historically, and culturally from Spanish America. Its indigenous peoples share the country with descendants of Portuguese conquerors and the Africans they imported to work as slaves, along with more recent immigrants from southern Europe, Japan, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Capturing the scope of this country’s rich diversity and distinction as no other book has done—with more than a hundred entries from a wealth of perspectives—The Brazil Reader offers a fascinating guide to Brazilian life, culture, and history.

Complementing traditional views with fresh ones, The Brazil Reader’s historical selections range from early colonization to the present day, with sections on imperial and republican Brazil, the days of slavery, the Vargas years, and the more recent return to democracy. They include letters, photographs, interviews, legal documents, visual art, music, poetry, fiction, reminiscences, and scholarly analyses. They also include observations by ordinary residents, both urban and rural, as well as foreign visitors and experts on Brazil. Probing beneath the surface of Brazilian reality—past and present—The Reader looks at social behavior, women’s lives, architecture, literature, sexuality, popular culture, and strategies for coping with the travails of life in a country where the affluent live in walled compounds to separate themselves from the millions of Brazilians hard-pressed to find food and shelter. Contributing to a full geographic account—from the Amazon to the Northeast and the Central-South—of this country’s singular multiplicity, many pieces have been written expressly for this volume or were translated for it, having never previously been published in English.

This second book in The Latin America Readers series will interest students, specialists, travelers for both business and leisure, and those desiring an in-depth introduction to Brazilian life and culture.

Lonely Planet Brazil (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Brazil*

Lonely Planet Brazil is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Party at Carnaval in Rio, come face to face with monkeys and other creatures in the Amazon, or snorkel the aquatic life-filled natural aquariums of Bonito, all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Brazil and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Brazil:

Full-color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, music, football, cinema, literature, cuisine, nature, wildlife Over 119 color maps Covers The Amazon, Rio de JaneiroSao PauloBrasiliaSalvador, Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraiba, Rio Grande de Norte, Parana, Ceara, Piaui, Maranhao, Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Brazil, our most comprehensive guide to Brazil, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for a guide focused on Rio de Janeiro? Check out Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer, or Make My Day Rio de Janeiro, a colorful and uniquely interactive guide that allows you to effortlessly plan your itinerary by flipping, mixing and matching top sights.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Brazil. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA.


Simona Stoppa

With some of the world's most stunning and diverse landscapes, as well as its cultural richness, Brazil is the ideal place to go for unforgettable adventures and unique sensory experiences. Through a treasure trove of images that range from the lush Amazon to sophisticated cities, from lavish colonial churches to favelas, Brazil captures the country's spirit, its history, and its people.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brazil


DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brazil is your in-depth guide to the very best of this country in South America, publishing in time for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Whether you want to explore the streets of Rio de Janeiro or lounge on its beaches, celebrate the culture of Carnaval and discover the best places to hear the sounds of bossa nova and samba, or explore the vast Amazon rain forest in the north, Brazil proves to be an extraordinarily diverse country of modern cities, verdant landscapes, and rich heritage.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brazil

   • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.    • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.    • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.    • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Area maps marked with sights.    • Detailed city maps of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo include street finder indexes for easy navigation.    • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.    • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.

With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brazil truly shows you this country as no one else can.

Recommended: For a pocket guidebook to Rio de Janeiro, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Rio de Janeiro, which is packed with dozens of top 10 lists, ensuring you make the most of your time in the city.

Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide.

Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed

Larry Rohter

In this hugely praised narrative, New York Times reporter Larry Rohter takes the reader on a lively trip through Brazil's history, culture, and booming economy. Going beyond the popular stereotypes of samba, supermodels, and soccer, he shows us a stunning and varied landscape--from breathtaking tropical beaches to the lush and dangerous Amazon rainforest--and how a complex and vibrant people defy definition. He charts Brazil's amazing jump from a debtor nation to one of the world's fastest growing economies, unravels the myth of Brazil's sexually charged culture, and portrays in vivid color the underbelly of impoverished favelas. With Brazil leading the charge of the Latin American decade, this critically acclaimed history is the authoritative guide to understanding its meteoric rise.

Brazil: Travel Guide for Men Travel Brazil Like You Really Want To (Brazil Travel Book, Brazilian Escorts, Body Massages, Brazilian Girls, Rio De Janeiro Travel Guide)

Christopher Street

Brazil Travel Guide All men have heard about the sexy secrets of Brazil but finding them out for yourself can be difficult on your own. Outside of seedy backpages written in Portuguese knowing where to go to meet the right girls can be difficult, knowing who you can trust is impossible, and making sure you stay safe can be daunting. Internet forums will speak in codes and never give you the right information, other travel guides skirt around the topic, and all the juiciest tips to be found aren’t in English. This is where this Brazil travel guide for men comes in. Written in plain English you will be walked through Brazil’s sex scene and given advice and tips for finding the best spots and clubs in some of Brazil’s most beloved cities and tourist destinations. Get a rundown on the best time of year to visit Brazil to meet girls, the most cost effective way to scout different venues, and which cities to hit up on your tour. Discover the many different venues available to you on the Brazil scene. From the samba-swirling girls on the dancefloors of a boite, to the luxurious and stress-free goddesses in Brazil’s termas, to a cheerful quickie with a chica in one of the coveted massage parlors. Your choices are nearly endless and once the lingo has been deciphered you will be able to get exactly what you want wherever you are. Find in-depth guides to the scenes in FortalezaRecifeSalvadorRio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. From the rainforests, to the mountains, to the harbors Brazil has a rich variety of things to offer and this Brazilian travel guide will give you the keys to them all. Get in and around the main beach cities, discover the best beach fronts and locations for meeting freelance girls, find the vibrant red light districts, and stay safe in a recommended love motel. Read about the latest bars, clubs and termas, and get a low down on the most recent prices and what you can expect to pay. How do these places work? How do you approach a girl? How do you haggle? Find out the answer to all of these questions and more with a handy phrasebook and a guide to seducing Brazilian women and making the most of the time you spend with them. Make sure you stay safe with advice on staying on the right side of the law, avoiding dangerous areas, and keeping away from potential scams. Brazil is the land of fantasy and if you can think of it then you can do it with one of the girls here. Not only can all of your dreams come true, but in the future you’ll be left dreaming of Brazil. So get out your Speedos, lay down that beach towel, and start sipping on fresh coconuts while you learn the ways of Brazil and prepare for the time of your life.

Brazil - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Sandra Branco

For many people Brazil conjures up images of football, Carnaval and fine coffee, but it is much more than beaches and bossa nova. If you could choose only one word to describe Brazil, it would be diversity. The variety of racial types, lifestyles, wealth, landscape and climate is enormous. Jeitinho is the Brazilian means of dealing creatively with life’s everyday complications. Literally translated as a “little way”, in practice it means that regardless of the rules or systems in place, where there is a will there has to be a way around them. The jeitinho is so ingrained in daily life that you can see examples everywhere; managing to get a seat when all the places are booked up, traveling with more luggage than is allowed or successfully ordering something that is not on the restaurant menu. Culture Smart! Brazil is a concise guide to understanding the Brazilian people and illuminating the complexities of their national identity. Familiarise yourself with their customs, traditions and culture and experience Brazil authentically.

Brazil: An Extraordinary Nation In Photographs

Regis St. Louis

Brazil is now the world's seventh largest economy by nominal GDPWritten by Regis St. Louis, travel writer and coordinating author of the Lonely Planet Guides to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and South AmericaFeaturing 350 painstakingly curated images encompassing the landscape, culture, design and architecture, sport and peopleIn-depth text and extended captions accompany each themed chapterOne of the most dynamic economic and cultural forces of the twenty-first century, Brazil is a remarkable country of diversity and character, with a forward-looking ethos that has ensured its status as a superpower. Combining the natural beauty of the rainforest, the remote territories of its indigenous peoples, the exhilarating mix of cultures to be found on the city streets and the country's fascinating history, Brazil explores - in six themed and exquisitely illustrated chapters - every facet of the background and contemporary culture of this remarkable nation.Contents: Introduction by Regis St. Louis; History and Early Development; People - A Nation of Diversity; The Cultural Beat of Brazil; The World's Natural Paradise; From Baroque Cathedrals to High Modernism; Natural Resources and the Rise of Modern Brazil; Timeline of Brazilian history; Credits; Index.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Gang-related violence

Police efforts to crack down on crime in favelas (shanty towns) have led to retaliation by criminal gangs. As a result, there is an increased chance of violence everywhere, including major thoroughfares. Remain vigilant at all times and comply with security directives imposed by local authorities.

Incidents of gang-related violence continue to pose a threat in large urban centres, where there is often a visible disparity in the levels of wealth. In the past, targets have included police stations, buses, official buildings and businesses. Most tourist hubs and destinations have also been targeted. In urban centres, violent incidents and armed clashes between police forces and alleged criminals are a regular occurrence. Although additional security forces have been deployed throughout the country, future incidents are likely and could involve the use of firearms, as these are increasingly easy to obtain.

Exercise a high degree of caution at all times and avoid travelling alone, especially at night.


Serious crime, which can involve significant violence, is high in most urban centres, including, but not limited to, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, BrasiliaRecife and Salvador. The use of firearms is common. Victims have been seriously injured or killed when resisting perpetrators.

Robberies involving tourists occur regularly, even during the day, and are sometimes violent. Avoid isolated areas and unsupervised beaches with poor visibility from the sidewalk, and ensure that your hotel or living accommodation is totally secure. You should be extremely vigilant. Incidents of sexual assault against foreigners have been reported, sometimes involving the use of sedatives. Unaccompanied female travellers should exercise caution in dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, and be extremely cautious about accepting invitations.

Any visit to a favela (shantytown) should be done in the company of a reputable tour guide only. Crime levels in favelas are extremely high and police assistance in these areas may be very limited.

Street crime, including pickpocketing, mugging and purse snatching, is common, especially during public festivities such as the annual Carnival. Tourists are a favourite target. Be vigilant when visiting outdoor markets and be cautious of strategies to distract your attention. Avoid walking alone on beaches or in central areas of major cities after dark, and use well-lit and well-frequented streets. Carry only small amounts of money and avoid showing signs of affluence, including carrying a laptop computer. Store your valuables and important documents in a hotel safe. As Brazilian authorities require all individuals to carry some form of identification, carry a photocopy of the identification page of your passport and visa documentation.

Express kidnappings and carjackings occur throughout the country, particularly in larger cities. Victims are usually picked up from the street and forced to withdraw funds from automated banking machines (ABMs). Remain cautious with new acquaintances who offer friendship, hospitality or assistance. Credit card fraud is also common, and travellers are advised to keep their cards in sight when executing a transaction.

Armed robberies at restaurants is a growing issue. Patrons towards the front of the restaurant are at the greatest risk. You should choose a seat towards the back of the restaurant. In all cases, comply with the attackers orders to mitigate the chances of violence.

Piracy occurs in Brazilian coastal waters. Mariners are advised to take appropriate precautions and ensure that they can communicate with authorities easily in case of emergency.

Civil unrest

Political and labour strikes and demonstrations are common and could lead to violent incidents. Roadblocks are sometimes used during protests. Avoid large gatherings and keep informed of future demonstrations by monitoring local news reports closely.

Since June 10, 2013, demonstrations have been taking place throughout Brazil to protest against corruption and an increase in costs to basic services. These demonstrations can occur anywhere at any time. In São Paulo, protests have caused delays along the main road to Guarulhos International Airport. Protests may turn violent with little to no warning, and police presence has increased. Expect traffic and public transportation disruptions, avoid all demonstrations and large crowds, and monitor local media.

Road travel

Brazil has one of the highest road accident rates in the world. Driving is hazardous due to aggressive driving habits, a significant number of trucks, reckless passing, excessive speeds, poorly marked lanes, construction, vehicles moving in the wrong direction on one-way streets, and poorly maintained roads. Avoid driving after dark, and keep car doors locked and windows closed at all times. Be careful when stopping on the side of any highway, both for traffic and for the potential of being a victim of crime.

When driving in the city, pay particular attention to your surroundings while waiting at traffic lights. It is common to let motorists treat red lights as stop signs between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to protect against hold-ups at intersections. Most cities will have a flashing yellow light to indicate that drivers only need to yield. Pedestrians and motorists proceeding through green lights during these hours should be particularly cautious. If you feel threatened at any time, do not stop.

Air travel

Reconfirm flight details with your airline and arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure for international flights and one hour prior to departure for domestic flights. Failure to do so could result in the loss of your seat, as airlines attempt to accommodate passengers on waiting lists. Boarding gates frequently change before the final boarding announcement. Boarding announcements are often given in Portuguese only. Verify with airport personnel and listen carefully to all announcements, to ensure that you are at the proper boarding gate.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Public transportation

Theft on buses and trams is common, especially at night. Violent incidents are frequently perpetrated in unofficial taxis, which are often present at airports. Registered taxis are clearly identified but may look different in each city. To be safe, purchase tickets from taxi offices in the airport arrival hall. In town, use taxis from taxi stands. Only use official taxis to travel to and from airports. Few taxi drivers speak English or French. Local law requires the use of the taxi meter to determine the legal fare; adding surcharges to a fare is illegal. At night, it is safer to order a taxi by telephone.

Emergency services

Report all criminal incidents to the nearest police station.

Dial 193 for the fire department, 190 for the police and 192 for ambulance services.

In São Paulo, dial (11) 3120-4447 or 3151-4167 to reach the tourist police (Delegacia de Proteção ao Turista). In Rio de Janeiro, dial (21) 2332-2924, 2332-2511 or 2332-5112 to reach the tourist police.

In case of emergency or an accident with injuries, dial 193 throughout the country. In the event of an accident without injuries, contact the military police at 190. Never confront the driver of the other vehicle in an accident, as this should be handled by the police. Roadside assistance is generally offered by local garage owners.

General safety information

Undertake travel in the Amazon border regions and the Pantanal wetlands only with trained guides. These areas are largely uninhabited and dangerous.

Exercise caution when swimming offshore. Strong currents and sharks are present, especially in Recife. Follow the advice of local authorities before swimming.

Large scale events such as Carnival celebrations, sporting events and international conferences are a common occurrence in larger cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. Remain vigilant during such events as fraud and theft become more frequent. Banks and businesses are commonly closed during these occasions.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South America, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South America. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in South America, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness)West Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal

Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.

Leishmaniasis, viceral

Visceral leishmaniasis (or kala azar) affects the bone marrow and internal organs. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion or sharing contaminated needles. If left untreated it can cause death. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.



  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in South America, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies in quality elsewhere. Certain medications may not be available. Private hospitals and clinics located in cities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal activities

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs is severely punished. Avoid areas of known drug trafficking. Travellers should not, under any circumstances, carry any items for strangers, especially baggage and parcels.


It is recommended that you carry an original piece of identification (such as a driver’s license) as well as a copy of your passport and visa at all times. Not caring identification can lead to problems and delays if stopped by police or in case of a medical emergency.

Brazil is actively seeking to prevent child sex tourism, and a number of tourists have been convicted of offences relating to the corruption of minors. The legal age of consent in Brazil is 18. Prison sentences are severe.

Consumption of any alcoholic beverages prior to driving is illegal in Brazil.

Canadians can drive in Brazil for up to 180 days with a valid Canadian driver’s licence. Obtaining an official Portuguese translation of your Canadian driver’s licence may help when dealing with local authorities.


The currency is the real (BRL). Canadian dollars are not generally accepted in Brazil, although some exchange bureaus, most likely at airports, will accept them. Finding an exchange bureau elsewhere can be difficult. Carry small bills, as change is often unavailable for small transactions. Canadian bank cards may not work in automated banking machines (ABMs). Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX and Diners Club) are widely accepted in stores and at ABMs, although many locations will not accept more than one or two of those listed above. Credit card fraud is a major problem. When using credit cards, ensure that your card remains in your sight and retain your transaction receipt along with the carbon paper. Traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted in Brazil.


The rainy seasons extend from January to July in the north, from November until March in the south and south east, and from April until July in the north east of the country. Flash floods and landslides can occur. During the rainy seasons, travel conditions on mountain roads and on highways leading to beaches can be dangerous due to flooding or landslides. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Hot, dry weather conditions during the dry season, which lasts from May to September, may lead to wildfires in the central areas of Brazil, including the capital of Brasilia. Remain alert to local developments through the media and modify your travel arrangements accordingly. In the event of a wildfire, follow the advice of local authorities. If you suffer from respiratory ailments, take into account that the air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.