Brazilian travel tips are the largest and most complete anywhere on the
Internet. They are intended to assist you in planning your trip to Brazil,
make your journey more enjoyable and help you to make more informed decisions.
We've attempted to provide only the tried, true and most useful tips, dos and don'ts and information, however, they are not all inclusive nor do they presuppose any specific travel itinerary. We're not a travel agency nor in any way affiliated with the Brazilian government and, therefore, cannot provide any recommendations about your individual travel plans nor offer any advice or information about obtaining a visa. If you have any questions about these things, please contact a travel agent well versed in travel to and within Brazil and/or the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction for where you live. You may also want to check the U.S. Department of State information about traveling in Brazil as well as the U.S. Department of State background notes on Brazil.
Click any topic below to view that information. Click TOP to return here.
Before You Go
Where to Go in Brazil
Getting to Brazil
Immigration & Customs
Are You a Gringo and/or a Marajá?
Some Common Misconceptions about Brazil & Brazilians Laid to Rest
Brazilians - Characteristics & Culture
Brazilian Social Customs
Using Credit & Debit Cards
Safety & Security
Laws & Legal Issues
Traveling within Brazil
City Taxis, Buses & Subways
Food & Restaurants
Prices of Things in Brazil
Before You Go
Brazil is a vast country and there are many different Brazils within Brazil. Even the most basic understanding of the country's history, culture and people can go far in enriching your entire travel experience. A relatively painless way to gain valuable insights into Brazilian history is by reading the historical novel Brazil by Errol Lincoln Uys (Silver Springs Books, July 1, 2000, ISBN 0916562514). New editions are available at Amazon.com and they also often have used editions advertised for sale. Additionally, You Tube contains a wide range of Brazilian videos and slide shows.
You may also want to visit the Brazilian government's tourism page [in English and also available in Spanish, French, German, Italian and, of course, Portuguese] for more information about various areas and locations you may want to consider visiting in Brazil.
as much as you can about the particular area you plan to visit in Brazil
you get there will make your entire trip more rewarding and enjoyable.
If your Brazilian travel plans span different states or areas, you also
may want to consider buying and carrying a Brazilian road map (bought either
before you go or as soon as you arrive in Brazil) because it will help
your better understand where you are at any given moment.
to Go in Brazil
If you are contemplating a trip to Brazil, it could be for any number of reasons. For some, it could be to experience and enjoy the hundreds and hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches. For others, it could be to experience the wonders of the Amazon, the wildlife of the Pantanal, the awesome power of Foz de Iguaçu (Iguaçu Falls) or the historical charm of old cities like Ouro Preto. For still others, it could be to experience the music, cuisine and heritage of Brazil's 500 year old culture. It doesn't matter if you are drawn by the allures of Rio de Janeiro or simply want to kick back and enjoy the delights of a freshly made caipirinha and do nothing. Brazil is a big country and there are places, people and things that will be of interest to even the most jaded traveler. Brazil is more than a country, it is a sensation unlike almost anywhere else on the planet.
To successfully plan any trip requires that you have sufficient information. Many Brazilian travel guides (such as those published by Lonely Planet, Fodor's, Frommer's, Michelin, etc., as well as many online resources) describe areas of interest throughout Brazil and have a lot of specific information and descriptions. These resources can provide invaluable information when planning your trip. Additionally, many cities, states and areas in Brazil have English web sites packed with information and resources. Just do a search on Google, Yahoo or your favorite search engine for a specific state, city or locale.
Other places to start gathering information include Brazil in Focus, a Brazilian government web site (in English) that provides a wide range of information about Brazilian history, customs, art and culture, economy, environment and more. Additionally, Brazilian Tourism, another Brazilian government web site (in English), provides a broad range of information about various areas and locations you may want to consider visiting. Additionally, many travel agents are well versed in traveling to and in Brazil and can advise you about specific locations that may be of interest to you. There are also official Brazilian government Tourism offices locations in the US and UK that can be contacted for information:
phone: (646) 378-2126
phone: (310) 341-8394
phone: + 44 20 7396-5551
Brazil maintains a reciprocal visa policy whereby a visa is required by any citizen of any country requiring Brazilian citizens to obtain a visa. U.S., Canadian and Australian citizens REQUIRE a visa . You should check with the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction for your specific area of residence for the very latest visa information.
If you require a visa, it can be obtained by application to the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction for your specific area of residence. Once issued, a visa must be used to enter Brazil within 90 days of its issue date. See the general visa requirements and, if you have any questions, please contact the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction for your specific area of residence.
of the following countries do NOT need a visa when traveling to
Brazil for tourism for a period of up to 90 days:
Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, the Vatican, and Venezuela. Visitors traveling from these countries for any other reason than tourism should check with the specific Brazilian Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction.
Any attempt to provide a daily budget for any Brazil travel itinerary would be futile. Without knowing the personal likes and dislikes, minimum requirements and specific travel plans of the individual involved, it's simply impossible. Remember, Brazil is slightly larger than the continental United States and the costs of lodging, food and transportation can vary widely depending upon the city, the area, the time of year (high or low season) as well as other factors. Sometimes and for some specific things, larger cities can sometimes be less expensive than small towns while, at the same time—for other things—smaller towns can be a bargain. It all depends on where, when ... and who.
The U.S. Department of State has established per diem rates for their employees staying in various cities in Brazil that range from a low of USD$ 141.00 per day to a high of USD$ 365.00 per day. These per diem rates should provide you with a point of reference when planning a budget for your own trip. Depending upon where your Brazilian travel plans take you, it is possible to travel for less.
Many of the printed Brazilian
travel guides such as those published by Lonely Planet, Fodor's,
etc., and many online travel resources, often provide information, descriptions
and prices for specific hotels and restaurants throughout Brazil. This
information can provide invaluable when budgeting your own trip.
The major Brazilian airline with international flights to Brazil is TAM. Varig, the once proud flagship airline of Brazil, filed for bankruptcy in 2006, was sold and reorganized and now only offers international flights from a few European cities. Other major airlines with international flights to Brazil include Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air France, Alitalia, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Iberia, Japan Airlines, KLM, LAN Chile, Lufthansa, South African Airways, SAS, TAP Air Portugal and United Airlines. The major U.S. gateways for flights to Brazil are New York, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Los Angeles.
The approximate flight time
Rio de Janeiro
from Los Angeles = 14 hours
from New York = 10 hours
from Dallas = 10 hours
from Atlanta = 9 hours
from Chicago = 11 hours
from Miami = 8 hours
Generally speaking, most airlines consider LOW SEASON travel to Brazil to be the period from March 1st to May 31st and August 16th to November 30th. ALL OTHER times of the year are considered HIGH SEASON. During LOW SEASON, airline tickets are sometimes less expensive. For those who wish to use frequent flyer miles, it usually requires fewer miles to travel to and from Brazil during LOW SEASON. To travel during HIGH SEASON, you may need DOUBLE the number of miles that travel during LOW SEASON would require.
Before booking your own flight to Brazil either directly with an airline or using their online system, it's usually a good idea to at least check with an experienced travel agent that understands Brazil. They often have special airfares and/or travel packages not available to the general public or online.
Tip: Find and work a travel agent that is either a flight consolidator or works closely with one. Flight consolidators are companies that buy seats in bulk from airlines. You can look upon them as a type of wholesaler. Consolidators buy seats in volume, so they can usually offer tickets for less than the normally published fare. For example, a flight consolidator may buy a certain number of seats on every flight to Brazil on a certain airline. Do an online search for "flight consolidators" and check out your options.
You may find that a flight consolidator has tickets available for flights which the airlines show as being completely sold out . On the down side, many consolidators have restrictions and you may have to make more stops than you like, travel at an inconvenient time or change travel dates. But beware, most consolidators charge penalties for any changes in travel dates or any cancellation. If you are flexible and willing to work within certain minimal restrictions, you can book a round trip flight to Brazil with a flight consolidator that is usually far less than even the airline's own cheapest fare. The more flexible you are about departure times and dates, the less your round trip ticket may cost.
Unfortunately, no matter where you plan to travel in Brazil, the international arrival gateways for most all regularly scheduled flights from North America, Europe and elsewhere are the cities of São Paulo (Guarulhos International Airport) and Rio de Janeiro (Galeão—Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport). Consequently, even if your final destination is elsewhere in Brazil, north, east, south or west, you will most likely enter Brazil in either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro and then have to travel from there to your final destination—even if this means 'backtracking'.
When you arrive, you will need to clear both Brazilian immigration and customs. Your airline should distribute immigration and customs forms for you to fill out before your arrival.
There will be different immigration lines for Brazilian citizens and foreigners. At immigration, make sure you get your passport stamped and keep the copy of the entry form that you are given. Don't lose it. You'll need to surrender this entry form copy to immigration officials upon your departure from Brazil. If you don't have your passport stamped or lose your copy of the entry form, you'll have to be specially cleared by the Federal Police before being allowed to leave the country and you could be fined.
All American citizens are both photographed and fingerprinted as part of their immigration clearance process. This is because Brazil practices diplomatic reciprocity and processes American citizens entering Brazil the same way the U.S. processes Brazilian citizens entering the United States. This is most assuredly NOT the place to demonstrate any displeasure with this process. More that a few Americans (including at least one airline pilot) have been arrested, fined (thousands of dollars) and ejected from the country forever for making an obscene gesture during this process.
Brazilian customs officials normally inspect the baggage of 30 to 40% of all arriving international passengers. In addition to clothing and personal effects, tourists are allowed to bring in one radio, one tape/CD player, one typewriter, one notebook computer, one film/video camera and one still camera. There is a USD$ 500 value limit on the value of gifts and other merchandise you can bring into Brazil duty free—either brought from outside or purchased at a duty free shop outside Brazil. Goods purchased at a duty free shop in Brazil have few restrictions. If you bring gifts or other merchandise exceeding USD$ 500 in value, you should declare it. You will pay a 50% duty on things over the USD$ 500 value limit. Having the original purchase receipts for such items may help you pay a little less—especially if you brought it on sale—otherwise, the customs officials will use their printed valuations which may be "full price." If you fail to declare gifts or other merchandise exceeding the USD$ 500 limit and the customs officials catch you, you will pay not only the 50% duty on the item(s) but an additional 25% penalty. Beware.
Bringing in a reasonable number of the same item (no matter what) is justifiable either as gifts or for personal use or consumption. More than a reasonable number of any single item makes you look like an importer and, thereby, possibly subject to customs duties.
There is no limit on the
amount of money any individual can bring into Brazil but if you're carrying
R$10,000.00 (ten thousand reais) or more, or its equivalent
in cash, checks, traveler's check, currency or any combination thereof,
you are required to declare this when you enter Brazil. This is
for tax reasons. They just want to know. To determine
the equivalent amount of your currency, use
our online currency converter.
you a Gringo and/or a Marajá?
Let's get this out of the way. Simply put, to Brazilians, any foreigner in Brazil is a gringo (females are gringas). It doesn't matter where you hail from or your ability (or inability) to speak Portuguese (although, if your Portuguese is very good, you may be able to "fake them out" for a while). To Brazilians, if you are a foreigner in Brazil, you are a gringo. Period. Don't take it personally because it's not considered derogatory in Brazil as it often is elsewhere.
term marajá (maharaja or rich person) can apply to
anyone (Brazilians included) but especially to any foreigner in Brazil.
This is because, in the eyes of most poor Brazilians, you're very
rich. After all, you were able to pay an unbelievable amount of money (to
them) to buy a airplane ticket just to visit Brazil. That makes you very
rich in their eyes. Again, if you're called marajá,
don't take it personally because it's not necessarily derogatory.
Common Misconceptions about Brazil & Brazilians Laid to Rest
Because there are some similarities between Spanish and Portuguese and because both languages originated on the Iberian peninsula and are both Romance languages, many erroneously believe that Portuguese is merely a dialect of Spanish. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Brazilians speak Portuguese and Portuguese is not a dialect of Spanish or any other language, but rather a separate and individual language all its own. See our history of the Portuguese Language for further information.
Many people, authors and institutions who should know better refer to Brazilians as "Hispanics" and Brazil as an "Hispanic nation." You will see Brazil and Brazilians categorized as "Hispanic" in such places as books, college textbooks, US government documents and web pages as well as many other places. The fact of the matter is this mis-categorization is pure ignorance. This misconception may be due to the fact that Brazil and Brazilians are surrounded by Hispanic nations and Hispanics. A quick check of any English dictionary will show you that the meaning of the word Hispanic is "belonging to Spain, its language or people, Spanish." Plain and simple, Brazil does not belong to Spain, its language is not Spanish and, while there are Spanish immigrants in Brazil, they do not constitute a sufficiently large enough percentage of the population to justify attaching the label "Hispanic" to either the Brazilian people or the country of Brazil. One can certainly refer to Brazilians as Latinos and Brazil as a Latin American nation but never Hispanic.
Between Brazil & Argentina
It's pretty amazing how many seemingly intelligent people think that the capital of Brazil is Buenos Aires, that Brazilians speak Spanish (see above) and that Brazil's national dance is the tango. Wrong, wrong and wrong. The capital of Brazil is Brasília, the national language is Portuguese and the Brazilian national dance is the samba. Many of these misconceptions may have been perpetuated by Hollywood. For example, during her career Carmen Miranda starred in fourteen films and, although the studios labeled her the "Brazilian Bombshell," her films tended to blur her Brazilian identity in favor of a generalized Latin image.
Sided with the Nazis during World War II?
This myth may have been perpetuated by Ira Levin's 1976 novel Boys from Brazil, followed in 1978 by a film of the same name based on the book and starring Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier and James Mason. As a result, if you were to ask many even supposedly enlightened Americans today about World War II and the part, if any, Brazil played in it, they would very likely respond, "didn't they hide Nazis after the war?" and, then, further assume that Brazil must have actively sided with Hitler and his Nazi war machine. Nothing could be further from the truth. While another large Latin American nation (guess which one), in fact, openly sympathized with Nazi Germany until a mere two months before the end of the war in Europe — their goose-stepping troops emulating their Nazi Fascist heroes as they paraded through the streets of their capitol city in their German style helmets — from almost the very onset of the entry of the United States into the war, Brazil was was actively aiding the Allied cause by providing both critical air and naval bases, using its Navy to counter Germany submarine activity in the South Atlantic, deploying a fighter squadron to combat areas as well as the only Latin American nation to deploy ground forces to engage, fight and die in combat against the Axis powers on European soil. More information about this.
Women are "Easy"?
More than a few American and European men seem to believe that Brazilian women are sexually promiscuous and "easy." Furthermore, many of these same men seem to have somehow come to believe that Brazil is a good spot for "sexual tourism." Again, wrong and wrong. While Brazilian women may be highly "exotic" to some, often wear string bikinis on the beach (locally called fio dental, literally translated = dental floss) and dress somewhat more provocatively than their European or American counterparts, generally they are also serious, intelligent, have high moral standards and are very family oriented. Many are also very religious. Just as with every society since time out of mind, there is prostitution in Brazil. But beware! The Brazilian government has severe laws against the exploitation of minors. If you're caught with an underage girl—even if she is a plying her "trade" on the street or elsewhere—you are going to jail and there is little that your embassy or consulate can do for you.
— Characteristics & Culture
No matter to what extent other places in the world may claim to be a "melting pot", they pale in comparison to Brazil. Brazilians can proudly lay claim to a diverse and complex ethnic and racial heritage dating back over 500 years that includes immigrants from Europe (Portuguese, Italian, German, Jewish, French, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Czech and more), Syria, Lebanon, other middle Eastern countries (often referred to in Brazil as "Arabs" no matter their origin) and Japan, added to Africans (originally brought to Brazil as slaves) and native indigenous people. Of the 191+ million Brazilians, far more than half can proudly lay claim to a mixed heritage that includes two, three, four or more of these ethnic and racial groups.
All these ethnic and racial groups have made their mark on the cultural fabric of Brazil, instilling different ideas and ethics, introducing new cuisines, music, art and design, and bringing new words and a charming, novel accent to the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil which unifies the entire country. Brazilians have inherited this diversified ethnic and racial heritage and successfully woven it into a single, shared national identity. It's the reason the Brazilian government can justifiably use the slogan Um País de Todos (A Nation for All).
Brazilians are known the world over as some of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle people on the face of the planet. And few people on earth are willing to accept new ideas, methods and technologies as readily and as quickly as Brazilians. Remember, this is the country that, starting in the late 1950s, created a new capitol city (Brasília) from the ground up—with the (then) express purpose of stimulating the development of the interior of the country. Brazilians spending more time on the Internet than almost any other people in the world, including Americans. Google's Orkut (a by invitation only, peer-to-peer, network community) claims to have over a million worldwide members. Of these about 24 percent are American and over 40 percent are Brazilian. The preponderance of Portuguese on Orkut has angered numerous English speaking members.
Brazilians are fanatical about futebol (called soccer in the US and football elsewhere). It approaches the status of a national "religion." For example, imagine taking all the fans in the United States who avidly follow (American) football, baseball, basketball, soccer and ice hockey and combining their passions into a single sport. Only then can you begin to understand what futebol really is in Brazil. That's not to say that Brazilians don't follow other sports. They do, especially vôlei or voleibol (volleyball), basquetebol (basketball) and even Grand Prix racing but, for most Brazilians, nothing even comes close to futebol. International stars such as Pelé and Ronaldo are national heroes and Brazilian children begin playing futebol at an early age. One North American traveler in Brazil reports having watched a group of boys playing futebol in the dry, northeast part of the country. They were playing barefooted, on a dusty dirt road, without goal nets, using a ball handmade from coconut husks and covered with natural latex tapped from a nearby rubber tree. Needless to say, the ball wasn't exactly round. He was astonished at how good they were and says, "No wonder Brazil has won five World Cups. If those kids play so well there, under those conditions, imagine what they can do with shoes and a ball that's actually round!"
Many are surprise to discover the great number of Brazilians who live in condominiums or apartments. Probably nobody's really sure of the exact percentage, but it's not small, especially in any city with a population of over 100,000. In cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, as well as numerous municipalities elsewhere, both on the coast and in the interior, it's very common for many Brazilians to live in condominiums or apartments.
In spite of what you may envision if you've never traveled to Brazil, Brazilians are very clean people and most practice a very high level of personal hygiene—often taking numerous showers throughout the day, especially when it's hot. You'll find that the sidewalks fronting most stores, apartment and office buildings, etc., are thoroughly washed at least weekly. A visit to a private home or apartment will demonstrate to you the true meaning of the term "Brazilian clean"—not just clean but all but spotless.
Much of the life of any Brazilian revolves around family—both immediate and extended. Brazilians are sun worshippers and love spending time at the beach and most have a favorite. They also like festas (parties) and will use almost excuse (or invent one) to have one. Most love music and dancing. Brazilian men (and many women) are beer (cerveja) drinkers and love nothing better than a cold chopp (draft beer) or bottle of beer bem gelado (well chilled). Brazil has numerous brands of beer including Bohemia, Antártica, Skol, Brahma, Itaipava, Bavaria, Xingu, Kaiser and more. Try them yourself so you can tell Brazilians your favorite. You should also try a caipirinha while you're in Brazil. This Brazilian "national drink" is made with Brazilian cachaça and is fast becoming a worldwide sensation. It is somewhat like drinking a sweet margarita.
Brazilians are smart, ingenious,
hard working, industrious people and have created the 10th largest economy
in the world—manufacturing everything from cars, trucks, buses, tractors,
jet airplanes and domestic appliances to minerals, chemicals and a plethora
of consumer products. Brazilian agricultural output is enormous and many
believe that Brazil, quite literally, has the potential to feed the world.
Generally, because Brazilian culture is European based, most common European social customs are observed in Brazil. In both business and social situations, shaking hands upon meeting or taking leave is customary. But Brazilians are also very warm and caring people. Brazilian women may kiss one (or both) cheeks of other women upon meeting them and, often, kiss men in a similar manner.
In some social situations, a man or woman may shake hands upon meeting a Brazilian woman and receive a kiss from them on one (or both) cheeks when taking leave. But don't presuppose anything. Let your Brazilian hostess lead they way. Men will often both shake hands and pat the shoulder of another man upon meeting or taking leave. This is just a simple indication of caring. Again, let your Brazilian host lead the way.
For men, coats and ties are common in São Paulo and Brasília as well as some formal business situations in cities elsewhere in the country. But because of the tropical climate, many Brazilian businessmen typically only wear a shirt (with collar) and slacks. In fact, there are some cities in Brazil where men may not even own a suit, jacket or blazer, or tie. Generally, what would be considered casual business dress elsewhere in the world, is both acceptable and common for both business and social situations, especially during hot weather. For women, slacks or skirts with a blouse, or dresses are common and acceptable, although, a dress or skirt may prove to be much cooler. Brazilian women tend to dress somewhat more provocatively than their European or American counterparts even at the office.
If you plan or expect to be invited for lunch, dinner or just a visit to a private home, flowers, chocolates or other confection are acceptable gifts of appreciation. A small souvenir (coffee cup, T-shirt, key chain, etc.) from your home city, state or country will usually be well received and appreciated.
In both social and business situations throughout the day, Brazilians will often offer um cafezinho (a little coffee). A demitasse of this highly sugared espresso will assuredly wake you up if the weather has made you a little sleepy.
Like most places elsewhere in the world, smoking has become increasingly restricted in Brazil. Government health agencies throughout Brazil have totally banned smoking in all public places including airports, post offices, government offices, rest rooms, banks, hospitals, supermercados (supermarkets) and other food stores, shoppings (shopping centers/malls) as well as restaurants and bars. In essence, all public places.
Brazil is a predominately
Catholic country and the Catholic Church is highly respected and revered
by many. No matter your beliefs, opinions or positions, it's not the place
to criticize the Catholic Church.
Brazil's currency unit is the real (plural = reais) and is made up of 100 centavos. The real is issued in denominations of 1 real 1 real notes have been discontinued but the coin is everywhere), 2 reais,5 reais, 10 reais, 20 reais, 50 reais and 100 reais (rarely seen or used). Prices are written in reais using the symbol R$. Centavos are issued in denominations of 1 centavo (rarely seen or used), 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 25 centavos and 50 centavos. It's best to carry nothing larger than 10 or 20 reais bank notes. This will make it easier to make small purchases as well as easier for small vendors, stores and restaurants to provide you with change. Also, because the 1 centavo coin is almost never seen these days, many establishments will round off your purchase to the nearest 5 centavos. Don't consider this a big thing because there is nothing that can be bought for only a few centavos anyway. See Brazilian Banknotes and Coins for front and reverse sides of all those currently used as well as the designs for new banknotes to be issued starting in 2010.
You will have no need for any reais until you have fully exited Brazilian immigration and customs so avoid exchanging money at your departure airport in North America or Europe. Money exchanges at departure airports outside Brazil usually provide a very poor exchange rate. Wait. The international airports in both São Paulo (Guarulhos International Airport) and Rio de Janeiro (Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport) have several bank operated, money exchange booths just outside the immigration and customs area. Both cities also have money exchange offices throughout the city and some hotels offer currency exchange.
While it is relatively easy to exchange any currency for reais in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in smaller cities it can sometimes become a time consuming and costly endeavor. One traveler reported that a branch of one bank in a smaller city in the interior wanted to charge a USD$ 50.00 fee to exchange USD$ 250.00 into reais at the worst possible exchange rate. Traveler's checks are almost impossible to use anywhere except the very largest cities, and even then, only at certain currency exchanges.
You may see different exchange rates listed—commercial, tourist and/or parallel—in various places. All are usually within a few points of the others. The commercial rate is the rate most often used in commercial transactions (including credit cards) as well as the one most often used (but not always) by online currency converters. The tourist rate is just what it implies, the exchange rate a tourist can expect if exchanging, for example, dollars for reais at an airport, bank, hotel, authorized money exchange or travel agency. The tourist rate is usually offers the lowest exchange rate and is less than the commercial rate. The parallel rate is often the basis used by cambistas (black market money changers). Rates also differ depending upon whether you're buying or selling reais or buying or selling another currency (e.g. dollars, euros, pounds, yen, etc.). When converting traveler's checks, the exchange rate is usually lower.
In 2009, the value of the US dollar plummeted almost 35% against the value of the Brazilian real. Check today's exchange rate. For the latest, up to the minute exchange rate for the Brazilian real to/from US dollars, euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, etc., check the free online currency converter and see pictures of all the most current Brazilian banknotes and coins in circulation including their reverse/obverse sides.
especially when dealing with money, keep in mind that, in Brazil,
the use of commas (,) and periods (.) expressed in numbers
is exactly the opposite of what is used in the United States.
Brazilians use a period (.) instead of a comma (,) —to delineate
thousands— and a comma (,) instead of a period (.) —to delineate
fractions. Normally, an amount in reais is written as R$,
R$ 6,00 (with a comma)
is six reais and R$ 6.000 (with
a period) is six thousand
for amounts with fractions (centavos), it's 1.045,25
instead of 1,045.25 (one thousand, forty five reais
and twenty five centavos) or R$ 10,25 instead of R$
reais and twenty five centavos).
Credit & Debit Cards
Using a credit or debit card can be an ideal way to avoid carrying more cash than you require for just incidental expenses. Most hotels, restaurants and stores in Brazil readily accept Visa and Master Card. After you've made your purchase (in reais), the charge is sent on to Visa or Master Card. They convert the charge from reais to dollars or the currency of your country at the official exchange rate the day the charge is processed. When you receive your monthly statement, the charge will be listed in dollars or the currency of your country. The only problem with using credit cards is that most issuing banks will charge a foreign transaction fee of from 2 to 3% and may have additional fees. If this is of concern to you, you may want to check with the bank that issued your credit card before using it in Brazil.
American Express cards are not as widely accepted in Brazil as Visa and Master Card but most hotels as well as many restaurants and stores (especially in the larger cities) do accept American Express. There are also American Express offices in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where you may obtain a cash advance using your American Express card. While somewhat a of a dinosaur in North America and elsewhere in the world, the Diner's Club card is accepted at many stores, restaurants and hotels in Brazil.
It is not a good idea to have or use traveler's checks unless you plan on only traveling to one of the large, major Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, etc.. In the hinterlands, traveler's checks will probably not be cashed or honored even at banks.
With many Brazilian phone companies, toll free numbers (used in North America and elsewhere) CAN be dialed from Brazil, however, if you do so, you will pay full international calling rates when you call such a number. You may want to check with the bank(s) that issued your credit card(s) and obtain their international collect phone number(s) in case you need to report a lost or stolen card. If you intend to use your Visa or Master Card credit card(s) in Brazil, you may also want to alert the bank that issued your card(s) that you will be traveling in Brazil and using your card there. Some banks have been known to block a card when it is used in an area they consider 'abnormal' for the card.
Normal banking hours in Brazil
are from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday and most Brazilian
cities of any size have at least one full service branch office of, at
least, Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil). Brazilian
banks have literally thousands of ATM machines throughout Brazil
and many function 24 hours a day. At most Brazilian ATMs, you can use your
bank debit card to obtain cash in reais. The Bradesco
(bank) and HSBC (bank)
ATMs, for example, are located throughout the country and offer an English
menu option and operate in a manner similar to those in North America,
Europe and elsewhere, although you most often have to insert your card
more than once. Many travelers to Brazil have found that the Bradesco
and HSBC (bank) ATMs are
the only ones that will work with their (foreign) bank debit cards. Caution:
In addition to a 2 to 3% foreign transaction fee that the issuing bank
may likely charge for cash withdrawals from an ATM when you use your Visa
or MasterCard debit card, you may also be charged an additional fee or
fees. Also, you may not get the "best" exchange rate. The exchange rate
banks often use for cash withdrawals is often a percentage point or two
the published rate for the day. It's a good idea to check with your bank
you go. For numerous reasons, it is also best
not to use you debit
card for any purchases, only cash withdrawals. Even if your bank offers
free ATM withdrawals, you will most like get hit with a 1% "ISF fee" (International
We asked a experienced Brazilian traveler if he thought traveling in Brazil was dangerous. He responded without hesitation, "only if you do something stupid!" Just as it's not a good idea to walk around a poor neighborhood in any large North American or European city at night, alone, with your pockets stuffed with cash, wearing a Rolex and an expensive camera slung around your neck, it's not a good idea to do it in any large Brazilian city either. Think
The vast majority of all Brazilians are honest, forthright, hard working people and, in the smaller cities of Brazil, life is less hectic, dangerous and, quite frankly, safer. But there are also poor people in Brazil. Like any society, especially in the larger urban areas, there are also muggers, pickpockets and other criminals who make their living preying on easy targets. For them, there's no better or easier target than a foreign tourist. There are, however, a few simple things you can do to avoid being an easy target:
Don't carry large amounts of cash with you on the street. Pulling out a
wad of cash may be impressive in some places in the world but in most large
Brazilian cities you might as well paint a target on yourself. Carry only
the amount of cash you think you will need for the activities you plan
for the day or the individual side trip you are making.
Don't carry what you're not going to need and use during any excursion. If you don't need your credit cards, don't carry them. If you won't use your camera, don't bring it.
Make xerox copies of your passport picture/information page(s) and Brazilian visa page and carry only these with you for identification. Replacing a lost or stolen passport can be a huge hassle and, for American citizens, only accomplished at the US Embassy in Brasília or the US Consulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Recife. If you don't happen to be in one of these cities when your passport turns up lost or stolen, then that's where you'll have to go. The same goes for travelers from other countries.
Carry your wallet with minimal contents in a front pocket. This makes it more difficult for pickpockets to grab and run. Some experienced travelers use a small, business card wallet to carry their credit card(s) and ID. Some travelers carry a "fake" wallet in their back pocket. It's only stuffed with paper and a couple reais but provides a pickpocket or mugger with a "conquest" if one should be encountered.
Don't wear expensive jewelry or watches or even cheap things that "look" expensive. This is a situation where less is best. Leave your expensive jewelry and watches at home and buy a cheap (and cheap looking) $20 watch before you leave home. You won't cry too much if it's ever lost or stolen.
Many Brazilians carry their valuables, cameras, etc., in small belly packs firmly strapped around their waists with the pack in front. If you think this is something that could work for you, get one and use it.
Many Brazilian women use backpack style purses and often wear them in the front. If you carry a handbag or purse with a strap, it's best to wear it laterally across your shoulders rather than merely slung over a single shoulder.
Avoid highly congested areas as they are often a haven for pickpockets.
Don't walk on empty streets at night alone because you become a muggers dream. Stay in well-lit areas where there are other people around.
Especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, make sure you always use a legitimate (real) taxi because some thieves have been know to disguise themselves as taxis and ... well, you fill in the blank. It's pretty easy to determine a real, legitimate taxi. Have your hotel doorman or the restaurant you're leaving call or hail a taxi for you (they'll know), only use taxis that are lined up at a ponto de taxi (taxi stand), call a radio taxi service or use your hotel's car service. Legitimate taxis also have red or maroon license plates (denoting that the car is registered as a commercial vehicle) while those on private cars are silver gray. The red or maroon colored commercial license plate should include the name of the city you are in.
Avoid using any taxi driver who attempts to "befriend" you upon your arrival at the airport—especially in Rio. They will often charge far over the going rate for a ride into town.
Favelas are essentially squatters communities where people simply appropriated vacant land and built a house. They are not necessarily unique to Brazil. Some favelas have substantial brick and mortar houses with electricity, running water and sewage service. Many residents in these favelas have televisions, washing machines, microwave ovens and other modern conveniences. But there are also favelas that are simple shantytowns where the "houses" are constructed (quite literally) of almost every material imaginable. Life in a favela in Rio de Janeiro was depicted in the 2002 Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God). No matter what personal allure they may hold for you and no matter that some companies offer tours and even overnight accommodations in a favela, it's probably not a good idea to go into any favela ever. While the residents of many favelas are honest but poor people, favelas are also havens for traficantes (drug traffickers) and other criminals who make their living preying on others. Some favelas can often be extremely violent places where human life has little value. They're certainly no place for a foreign tourist.
& Legal Issues
Even as a visitor and a citizen of another country, when you are in Brazil you are subject to all Brazilian laws. During your travels in Brazil, you may encounter Federal Military Police, Federal Highway Police, Customs Agents, Tax Revenue Agents and other law enforcement agents, and in cities, Civil Police and Traffic Police. Always obey any order any police officer or agent gives you and always show them both courtesy and respect.
It doesn't matter that you may witness others disobeying laws or are cajoled into going along with the crowd; as a foreigner, you should always obey all laws. A good "rule of thumb" is to remember that if some thing or some action is illegal in either the United States, Canada, the UK or Australia, it's probably more than likely that it's also illegal in Brazil.
Approximately 80% of all foreigners in Brazilian prisons are there on drug related offenses. Beware! Brazilian drug laws are, at best, draconian . A drug violation that might reap you a punishment of little more than a fine, probation and a period of community service in the U.S., Canada or the U.K., could put you behind bars for years and years in Brazil. And Brazilian jails and prisons make those in Western Europe and North America look like resorts.
Should you have a penchant for any illicit drug—using, buying or trafficking (including giving it away free of charge)—be aware that Brazil is not the place to indulge these inclinations. In Brazil, illicit drugs include the usual culprits (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, crack, etc., etc.) but also any controlled substance such as prescription (controlled) drugs or medications. If you have a prescription drug in your possession without a bona fide prescription or a supply of any controlled substance which "appears" too large for a single person, you could be in a world of trouble. Brazilian law doesn't differentiate between, for example, cocaine, opium or heroin and anabolic steroids or pain killers. If it's illicit, it's illicit.
Brazil is also not the place for "sexual tourism." Brazil has severe laws against the exploitation of minors. If you're caught with an underage child—even if they're plying their "trade" on the street or elsewhere—you are going to jail.
Besides offering advice, there are only a limited number of things that the embassy or consulate of your country can do to help you if you are arrested, charged, convicted or incarcerated in Brazil. The U.S. State Department offers a web site that outlines what assistance is available to U.S. Citizens Arrested Abroad. The British government also offers information about this.
great number of foreign overseas prisoners has led to the formation of
such groups as the UK-based Prisoners Abroad organization which offers
specific fact sheets about the Brazilian
Criminal Justice System (.pdf file) and the Brazilian
Prison System (.pdf file). Both make for some somber reading.
You may also want to review the 2007,
Amnesty International reports about Brazil.
Almost all Brazilian cities have treated water supplies. Those that don't use artesian well water. Either way, you're probably not going to get sick from drinking the water, anything washed in it or ice cubes made from it. But if the taste of chlorine is not your favorite, it's probably best to drink only água mineral sem gás (non carbonated mineral water) or com gás (carbonated) which is readily available almost everywhere. In Rio de Janeiro, the problem is not the water, it's the delivery system which is old and leaky. Again, it's probably best to drink only água mineral sem gás (non carbonated mineral water).
Because Brazil is a tropical country, it's very easy to quickly become dehydrated. Brazilian doctors recommend drinking at least two liters of water per day. You should also consider drinking coconut water which is readily available at many beaches and in cities from street vendors as well as restaurants and lanchonetes (snack bars). Coconut water is a natural isotonic beverage with the same electrolytic level as human blood. It contains no cholesterol, is naturally sterile and is full of natural sugars, salts and vitamins to ward off fatigue. It's nature's own 'sports drink' and far better for you than any commercially produced product.
If your travel plans include time at the beach, limit your exposure to the sun to recommended time limits and use a sun block with a rating of 30 or more. More than a few North American and European tourists have been almost (literally) fried on Brazilian beaches. Numerous marcas (brands) of sun block are available at most drogarias (drug stores).
Because of the tropical climate of Brazil, occasional cases of Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Chagas disease are reported in various parts of the country. In addition, cases of hepatitis A, B, C and D are not unknown. Brazilian public health officials are both diligent and quick to respond to any reported case of these or other communicable diseases.
If your travel plans include areas in the north, northeast or center west of the country (specifically, the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, the Federal District of Brasilia, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and/or Tocantins), a yellow fever vaccination (good for ten years) is advised. If, within the last 90 days, you've traveled in Angola, Bolivia, Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Colombia, the Congo, Ecuador, French Guyana, Gabon, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan or Venezuela, you may be asked to provide proof that you've had a yellow fever vaccination. Make sure that you carry a record of your yellow fever immunization.
You may want to consider having a gamma globulin injection which can offer protection against some forms of hepatitis.
Because many tropical diseases are mosquito borne, you may want to pack a can or bottle or your favorite insect repellent. Many insect repellents, including well known brands such as Off, are also available in Brazil.
The Brazilian medical infrastructure is first rate. Brazilian doctors and dentists are well trained, competent and up to date with all the very latest developments, procedures, treatments and medications They also use the most modern diagnostic tools and Brazilian medical testing laboratories are top notch. Should you feel the need for a doctor or dentist, don't hesitate. Many hotels, travel agents or the nearest consulate of your country can probably put you in contact with an English speaking doctor or dentist.
If you wear glasses or contacts, it's a good idea to carry a copy of your prescription with you in the event you lose or break a lens. Brazilian opticians have replacement contact lenses and/or can easily make a replacement lens or completely new pair of glasses for you.
If you need to carry prescription medications with you, be sure that your name, the prescribing doctor's name, the dispensing phramacy/phramacist and other such information is on a sticker attached to the bottle or box of medication or carry your prescription with you. If you don't have the original prescription, carry a xerox copy of your prescription or a note from your doctor. This is to avoid any possibility of running afoul of Brazil laws.
Numerous farmácias (pharmacies) or drogarias (drug stores) are located throughout Brazil. Many farmacêuticos (pharmacists) can help you with minor ailments and provide remédios (medicines) that can put you back on your feet. Of course, unless you stumble across an English speaking farmacêutico (pharmacist), this will be dependent upon the level of your Portuguese language skills. Many farmácias (pharmacies) specialize in homeopathic medicines.
Don't confuse farmácias (pharmacies) and drogarias (drug stores). Farmácias (pharmacies) only dispense medicines while drogarias (drug stores) dispense medicines and stock almost every personal toiletry item you may want or need including well known international marcas (brands) such as Colgate, Close Up, Sensodyne, Oral-B, Listerine, Palmolive, Schick, Gilette, Johnson & Johnson, Nivea, L'Oréal and many others in addition to Brazilian brands.
Remember that Brazil is a tropical country straddling the Equator but, because of its sheer size, the climate can often vary considerably from north to south even during the same season. Because it lies in the Southern Hemisphere, seasons in Brazil are exactly the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere:
|June 22 to September 21|
|September 22 to December 21|
|December 22 to March 21|
|March 22 to June 21|
In the winter, if you are
traveling anywhere in the
be aware that it can sometimes get a little nippy even for North Americans
and Europeans who are more accustomed to colder temperatures. While rare,
there is an occasional dusting of snow in some areas in the far
south of the country during the winter months. Again, pants and
a light jacket or sweatshirt may be needed. Check today's
weather forecast for all regions of Brazil and, if needed, use
converter to convert Celsius
Remember that Brazil is a large country, just slightly bigger than the continental United States. At its longest (north to south), Brazil is approximately 4,345 Km (2,700 miles) and, at its widest (east to west), approximately 4,330 Km (2,690 miles). That's a lot of territory. Brazil's 26 states are widespread and traveling from, for example, Belém in the state of Pará in the north, to Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in the south, is approximately the same distance as going from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Make your travel plans accordingly. Rail travel is all but non existent in Brazil so you will have to rely on either airlines or intercity buses.
Be aware that in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, a domestic flight may depart from a different airport than the one where your international flight arrived. In Rio de Janeiro, international flights arrive at Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport, while many domestic flights originate at Santos Dumont Airport or Galeão Airport. Likewise, in São Paulo, international flights arrive at Guarulhos International Airport while many domestic flights originate at Congonhas Airport. Traveling between airports can sometimes take a considerable amount of time on the congested streets. Plan your itinerary accordingly. In both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo there are regularly scheduled busses between airports. Check at the airport for scheduled times and fares.
If you have numerous cities to visit or cities that are a considerable distance apart, you may want to consider purchasing a Brazil Air Pass before departing from North America or elsewhere. The Brazil Air Pass can only be purchased outside Brazil and allows a variable number of stops within a 21 day period. It can often be a more practical and economical way to travel within Brazil. Check with a travel agent or visit the TAM web site for more information about the Brazil Air Pass.
If you only have a limited number of stops and/or only need to buy a individual ticket, you may want to consider purchasing the tickets in Brazil because it can sometimes prove to be a little less expensive than buying them in North America or elsewhere. However, be aware that you may have to pay cash for a ticket as many Brazilian travel agents won't accept a credit card. Compare travel agent price quotes against those online. The major Brazilian airlines serving Brazil are GOL, TAM , WebJet and BR. They all fly the most modern equipment and are good at maintaining published schedules, however, not all of them have flights to and from all Brazilian cities.
Airport Bageiros (skycaps) most often have a firm, fixed price that ranges anywhere from R$ 1.50 to R$3.50 per bag. However, most airports have luggage carts readily available for free.
Bus travel between cities is more economical than flying but also more time consuming. As a very general rule of thumb (when traveling from one city to another on an express bus), you can expect to spend about one hour for every 70 Km (43 miles) traveled. So, a 700 Km (434 mile) bus trip will take around 8½ to 9 or 10 hours at an approximate cost of R$ 140 to R$ 150+. Intercity express buses are comfortable, relatively hassle free and you can often choose between competing companies providing service on the same route. Most intercity express buses provide reclining, sleeper seats with three or four seats across, onboard toilets, air conditioning and both a pillow and a blanket. Many intercity express routes are scheduled at night and only stop periodically to change drivers or for a 20 to 30 minute snack stop at a posto (gas station/restaurant) every 4 to 5 hours.
Bageiros (porters) at most Rodoviárias (bus stations) charge a firm, fixed price that ranges anywhere from R$ 1.00 to R$2.50+ per bag and very few Rodoviárias (bus stations) have luggage carts available.
If you are traveling with
a group, many cities have van services available. Vans are most often air
conditioned, use experienced drivers and can carry anywhere from 6 to 10
people with luggage. Hiring a van and driver can be an excellent way to
travel with a group.
Taxis, Buses & Subways
Local taxis are available in most Brazilian cities of any size and most all are metered. Just make sure you always use a legitimate taxi. This is pretty easy if you have your hotel or restaurant hail or call a taxi for you (they know), only use taxis that are lined up at a ponto de taxi (taxi stand) or call a radio taxi service.
Taxis from the international airports in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to various locations in the city are usually contracted on the basis of a flat, one way charge although, to make your departure easier, you may want to buy the round trip upon your arrival. There will be a kiosk or booth at the airport for these taxis and either cash or credit card payment is usually accepted. In Rio, do not contract with an independent taxi (who may be very friendly and show you a printed price sheet) because their fare from the airport to, say, the Copacabana area may, in fact, prove to be at least twice the real fare.
With the exception of Rio de Janeiro where a 10% tip is the norm, tipping taxi drivers is not usual except for rounding off the metered fare to the nearest real and letting them keep the change. If a taxi driver totes heavy suitcases or packages for you, it is appropriate to leave them a couple of reais para um cafezinho (for a little coffee) or, for a little larger tip, para uma cervejinha (for a little beer).
Numerous Brazilian cities also have moto taxis which are pretty much what the name implies: put a provided helmet on your head and hop on behind the driver for your taxi ride. Moto taxis are inexpensive at R$ 3+ to R$ 5 for a short trip. If you want a cheap adventure, this is for you.
Most Brazilian cities of any size have local buses with interconnecting routes that cover the entire city. Bus fares are normally reasonably priced at around R$ 2.00+ to R$ 3.00+ and transfers are available.
Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have extensive metro (subway) systems.
Unlike what you may be used to in North America, the
metros in São
Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are graffiti free,
clean, fast and
efficient, and often provide the best way to get around these two often
One piece of advice if you're thinking about driving in Brazil: don't. According to recent statistics, Brazil holds the dubious honor of having the third highest number of traffic deaths per 100,000 people of any country in the world (26), only surpassed by the Dominican Republic (41) and El Salvador (42). At the opposite end of the spectrum, The United Kingdom (ranked at the 196th position) has 5.6 traffic deaths per 100,000 people per year and Singapore has 5.2.
While Brazilians are known the world over as some of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle people on the face of the planet, this is not necessarily the case when you encounter them behind the wheel of a car, motorcycle, truck or any other form of motor vehicle. Imagine highways filled with crazed taxi drivers and you'll begin to get the picture. According to one Brazilian wag, concepts such as stop signs, lanes, speed limits, double yellow lines, no passing zones or any other road sign that may be encountered are merely "suggestions" to the average Brazilian motorist. But this is on the highway where things are relatively calm and orderly. It's even worse on the streets of most larger cities—especially Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. There, imagine streets full of drivers racing in a Grand Prix. Individual lanes are all but meaningless. Motorists will turn left from the right lane and right from the left lane. They regularly run red lights, weave in and out of traffic without rhyme or reason, rarely use turn signals, drive too fast and insanely, and will all but murder you to ensure that they are the first in line at a stop light—when they actually do stop for one.
If you decide to rent a car and drive in Brazil, good luck! There are numerous car rental agencies with booths at the airport or your travel agent can arrange a reservation for you. You will need your driver's license but you may also need an International Driving Permit / License obtainable from your local AAA office in the USA.
The vast majority of rental cars in Brazil most often are equipped with a five speed, manual transmission. Some rental agencies may have some cars with automatic transmissions but don't count on it.
If you rent a car, be sure to sign up for the full, 'return only the smoking key' type of insurance. Being at fault in an accident and not having sufficient insurance (or none at all) backing you up is a situation you don't want to get into.
Keep in mind that gasoline is expensive in Brazil. As of 2010, a liter of gasoline costs about R$ 2.60+ per liter (depending upon the city and/or area) or the equivalent of about USD$ 4.50+ per gallon. Many Brazilian manufactured cars are designed to run on alcohol [ethanol] (made domestically from sugarcane) or have "flex" engines, which can operate on either gasoline or alcohol [ethanol]. Alcohol [ethanol] costs less than gasoline (sometimes and in some areas it's half) and provides more horsepower but also less mileage per liter. Most all Brazilian postos (gas stations) offer both gasoline and alcohol [ethanol] in addition to diesel.
Numerous highways in many parts of the country are toll roads. On these, be prepared to stop every 30 minutes or so to pay the variable pedágio (toll) for that section of highway—anywhere from R$ 4 to R$ 15+.
Most highways have numerous postos (gas stations) at various intervals and most have a restaurant attached. The Graal and Frago Assado chains of restaurants are among the best and cleanest in all of Brazil. Postos (gas stations) are good places to gas up, take a break and have a snack.
As you drive the streets, roads, highways and byways of Brazil, also be prepared to be stopped by the Federal Highway Police or Military Police in an impromptu blitz—essentially a roadblock where every passing vehicle is stopped for a check of the driver's identity and the car's registration papers.
be on the lookout for speed bumps on many roads and highways that pass
through or near a any city or town as well as on many city streets. They're
called different things in different parts of Brazil—redutor
de velocidade (speed reducer) or quebra-molas (break springs)—but
they're all there to slow traffic down. Some of these bumps are relatively
small but others are quite substantial and will most assuredly wake you
up and possibly damage your car if you hit them at full speed.
True five star hotels in Brazil are not cheap. For example, the Renaissance Hotel in São Paulo is a true five star establishment with all the appropriate amenities one would expect anywhere in the world for a top of the line hotel. It's spectacular. Of course, at USD$ 300+ per night for a single room, you'd better be traveling on an expense account. Many experienced travelers in Brazil opt for hotels with a two or three star rating because they offer clean, basic accommodations at reasonable rates.
In may places, what you pay for a room will depend upon whether it's their
'high season' or 'low season'. This is dependent upon what city you're
in and at what time of year. For example, Carnaval is definitely 'high
season' in Rio de Janeiro (as well as other popular locales) and you will
pay a premium price for any hotel room. 'High season' throughout Brazil
is generally considered to be July and the period extending from December
through February (the end of Carnaval). Easter is also considered a 'high
Most every hotel in Brazil includes café da manhã (breakfast) which usually consists of a buffet including various breads, cakes, cheeses, cold meats, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, juices, coffee and other accompaniments.
Many hotels include (or offer for an additional fee) individual room safes to store your valuables while your out of your room. If the hotel doesn't have individual room safes, many will lock your valuables in their main safe. Neither is a bad idea if you have concerns.
Many newer hotels have central hot water systems but, you may encounter shower heads (in some hotels) with electrical wires coming out of them. Don't be alarmed, these are simply common appliances that electrically heat water directly at the shower head.
Many hotels include (or offer for an additional fee) high speed Internet access plug or a wireless Internet system, if not in the room, then at least at a computer somewhere in the hotel.
Because electricity is expensive in Brazil, hallway lights in many hotels are turned on my motion detectors. Many newer hotels also employ systems that automatically turn off all room lights when you leave.
Don't confuse Brazilian motels with motels in North America. In Brazil, motels (unlike most hotels) offer hourly rates. Get the picture? On the other hand, especially in some smaller cities, a local motel may offer the best accommodations available in the area and, usually, at a reasonable overnight rate. It's something to consider in some situations.
Most hotels have a checkout time of between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Be sure you know the checkout time before you have to pay for another full day you don't need.
If you're scheduled to leave Brazil on a night flight, most hotels will store your luggage for you—from the time of your checkout until your departure for the airport. Many will do this for free but some may charge a small fee.
Most Brazilians eat a "continental" breakfast consisting of fresh fruit and/or juice, bread, butter, requeijão (a spreadable cheese) or cheese and café com leite (coffee with milk). The biggest meal of the day for most Brazilians is almoço (lunch), usually between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Dinner or supper in Brazil is usually (but not always) lighter and can start anywhere from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm at night. Arroz and feijão (rice and beans) are basic in Brazil and likely to be found as part of almost any lunch or dinner.
Most restaurants where you order from the menu (and have a waiter) will
add a 10% service charge to your conta (bill). This the waiter's
tip. Unless the service was exceptional and/or very personal, there's no
need to leave anything additional. Many restaurants cannot add the tip
to a credit card charge and the waiter may inform you of this fact as he
points out his uncharged 10% on the conta (bill). He'll want
For lunch, most cities have restaurants offering comida por peso (food by weight). You simply fill your plate from a large buffet table consisting of various meat, fish, vegetable, pasta and salad choices—sometimes as many as thirty different hot items with an equal number of cold or salad items. The price is determined by the weight of your plate minus the weight of the plate itself. Prices vary from one restaurant to another but at the better restaurants generally range anywhere from R$ 15 to R$ 30+ per kilo. One half kilo is usually plenty unless you're very hungry. Many smaller cities will also have buffet style restaurants but, rather than change by weight, they charge a single, fixed priced for all you can eat.
You'll find lanchonetes almost everywhere in Brazil but they're not necessarily about lunch in spite of how close the word lanchonete looks or sounds like the English word luncheonette. A lanchonete is a snack bar, usually offering various types of sandwiches, often including the cachorro quente (hot dog), x-búrguer (cheeseburger), misto quente (hot ham and cheese sandwich), bauru (ham, cheese and tomato), americano (egg, ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce) as well as salgados (salty snacks) and fresh fruit juices, water, soft drinks, beer and more.
You'll also may find salgaderias in some places. They offer a wide variety of salgados (salty snacks) including coxinhas (chicken filled, teardrop shaped appetizers), pastéis [meat and/or cheese and/or palmito (hearts of palm) filled envelopes], empadinhas (chicken or meat filled pies), bolinhas de bacalhau (cod fish balls), kibe (ground meat appetizer with Middle Eastern origins) and other finger foods. They are typically very inexpensive.
Churrascarias (barbecued meat restaurants) are common throughout Brazil. Most are all all you can eat restaurants and charge a flat price per person. Most all churrascarias offer an extensive salad bar and an almost never ending rodízio (rotation) of different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish all served table side by waiters wielding long, sword like spits filled with meat. The rodízio (rotation) of meat will continue as long as you're table 'signal' is turned to green and you're still able to see. Vegetarians should avoid churrascarias like the plague.
Feijoada (black bean and meat stew) was probably first concocted by slaves and, in many ways, is the quintessential Brazilian "soul food." If Brazil has a national dish, feijoada is it. Feijoada for Saturday lunch is a tradition although there are restaurants who proudly serve it seven days a week. Feijoada is made with black beans, ham hocks, lingüiça (pork sausage), bacon, ham, pork ribs, carne seca (dried beef) and other beef and pork cuts. Traditional or "real" feijoada (feijoada legítima) also includes pork feet, ears, tail and tongue but these are often omitted for sake of the squeamish. Feijoada is normally served accompanied with rice, farofa (manioc meal fried with bacon, garlic, onion and chopped boiled egg), couve mineira (thinly sliced collard greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic and bacon) and orange slices to help counteract all the grease.
Many restaurants in larger cities have bilingual or even trilingual menus (Portuguese, English and Spanish). Many restaurants in the larger cities will have a separate English menu available. Ask if you're not sure what they offer.
Many shoppings (shopping centers/malls) in the larger cities have a food court with numerous walk up restaurants offering a wide variety of different food choices and ample open seating. They can be a good option for lunch.
In most of the larger cities, you'll find at least one McDonald's but, with the array of Brazilian food available, why would you want to unless you're American and want to experience the novelty of ordering a McBurger with a McBeer?!
Many nightclubs in Brazil may open as late as midnight while more than a few bars remain open as long as there is a single customer.
The legal drinking age in Brazil is 18.
In addition to restaurants
offering Brazilian regional food (comida) specialties from, for
example, the states of Bahia (comida baiana), Minas Gerais (comida
mineira) and elsewhere, most large Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro
and São Paulo offer a wide variety of cuisines and restaurants—from
Italian, French, German and Spanish to Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese,
Chinese and other oriental cuisines. Let your stomach and your nose be
Electric current in Brazil varies widely—from 100 to 127 volts or 220 to 240 volts and from 50 to 60Hz—even within the same city, building, apartment or office. Be aware before you plug in any electrical device. Some cities in Brazil only use 220 volts. While many hotels clearly label electrical outlets, others don't. If you're in doubt, ask first. Check the power adapters of you laptop, battery chargers and other electric appliances before you go. Many are designed to automatically accommodate input current from 110 to 250 volts while others are only for 110. Some are switchable and others not. If you have something that only accepts 110 volts, you may want to consider purchasing a voltage adapter before you travel. Also be aware that many electrical outlets in Brazil that will only accept a standard Brazilian two round prong plug. You may need a plug adapter.
While many electrical outlets
in hotels and newer buildings in Brazil will accept the normal, two
flat pronged plug used in the North America, you will most likely
encounter some electrical outlets that will only accept a Brazilian
two round prong plug. Adapters
to covert your
two flat pronged North American plug to a Brazilian two round prong plug
are readily available and inexpensive. Most hardware stores and supermercados
(supermarkets) in Brazil carry these plug
adapters. If you are traveling from Europe or elsewhere (other
than North America) and use a different type of plug, it may be best to
purchase an adapter before you leave home.
Many Brazilians in the larger cities—especially those you encounter working at airports, hotels, better restaurants, tour companies, travel agencies, etc.—speak at least some English. Both English and Spanish are taught in many Brazilian schools. However, the farther away you get from the larger cities, the less likely it is that you encounter people who speak English.
Remember that the language of Brazil is Portuguese and, in spite of what some think, Portuguese is not a sub dialect of Spanish ... or any other language. Portuguese is a separate and distinct language all its own. If you know some Spanish, you can certainly try to make you wants or needs known using Spanish. While Portuguese and Spanish are linguistic cousins and some Brazilians may understand what your saying in Spanish, they probably won't answer you in Spanish.
Even if you are linguistically hopeless, learning and using a just few, simple Portuguese phrases can go a long way in demonstrating respect for Brazilian life and culture. Using simple phrases like thank you (obrigado for men, obrigada for women), no thank you (não obrigado for men, não obrigada for women), por favor (please), com licença (excuse me), prazer (pleased to meet you), descuple (sorry), bom dia (good morning), boa tarde (good afternoon), boa noite (good evening/good night), adeus (goodbye as in forever) or the even more commonly used tchau [pronounced like the Italian ciao] (goodbye) as well as other simple courtesies will be very appreciated by most Brazilians. See our grammar reference guide for more useful words, phrases and translations.
Brazilians readily adopt words from many different languages including English. Words and phrases such as shopping (shopping center/mall; plural = shoppings), moto boy (motorcycle delivery driver), lite or light (light or lite foods or drinks), mouse (computer), sexy, happy hour and many others have found their way into the Brazilian vernacular. They are regularly used and understood by Brazilians, although the pronunciation is most often very different. In addition, the spelling of many Brazilian Portuguese words are somewhat similar to their English counterparts so it is possible to 'wing it' and get by using English and a few Portuguese phrases, but only up to a point.
When speaking English to almost any Brazilian who says they know the language, it's best to speak clearly, slowly and use simple words. Avoid using slang and colloquial expressions and, by all means, don't assume that they really understand what you are saying in English. Brazilians are generally very polite and want to please you by showing that they understand you ... even if they really don't. If you see a glassy eyed expression accompanied by a smile when speaking English to a Brazilian, you may want to rephrase your statement or question because they probably don't understand.
In most larger cities, highly
trained, English-Portuguese interpreters are readily available for hire.
Most of them have both lived and studied in English speaking countries
for extended periods of time. Many hotels or travel agents can locate an
interpreter for you. However, be aware that an interpreter can cost as
much as R$ 50.00+ per hour or a few hundred reais
per day. Most tour operators provide a multilingual guide as part of the
Brazil has extensive fixed and cellular telephone systems which will allow you to call anywhere in the world. Almost all hotels have a telephone in the room where you can make local, intercity, interstate or international calls. However, just as with hotels everywhere else, you'll pay a premium for calls made from your room.
Orelhões (literally big ears because they look like that) or public telephones are almost everywhere in Brazil and can be used to make local, intercity, interstate and international calls. They all use telephone cards which are widely available at many retail merchants and can be purchased in various denominations. Calls made to cellular phones are more expensive than those made to fixed phones. Intercity and interstate long distance calls are considerably less expensive on Sundays, so you may want to wait until then to make them. Some cellular phone companies in both North America and Europe offer worldwide service, including Brazil. Check with your cellular phone company before traveling.
Toll free 800 numbers used in North America and elsewhere are not free when calling from Brazil. You'll be charged at the same rate as if you called any other international number in the same country. If your credit card offers such, get international collect call numbers before you leave home.
Internet service is readily available in Brazil. Many hotels include (or offer for an additional fee) high speed Internet access, if not in the room or wireless, then at least somewhere in the hotel. Additionally, most larger Brazilian cities have Cyber Cafés offering inexpensive, high speed Internet access on their computers or yours.
The Brazilian Correios
(postal service) is very efficient. You can expect a typical airmail postcard
or letter to take about ten days to two weeks for delivery to most locales
in North America and Europe. For faster delivery, Sedex service
is available (for either letters or packages) with a typical delivery time
of between five to seven days to most major cities in North America and
Stores and offices are normally open Monday through Friday from 9:00 or 10:00 am to 6:00 pm as well as from 9:00 or 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturdays. Most shoppings (shopping centers/malls) are open until at least 8:00 pm and many until 10:00 pm. Many farmácias (pharmacies) and drogarias (drug stores) are also open on Sundays and some supermercados (supermarkets) in larger cities are open 24 hours.
Normal banking hours in Brazil are from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday and most Brazilian cities of any size have at least one full service branch office of, at least, Banco do Brasil (Bank of Brazil). Brazilian banks have literally thousands of ATM machines throughout Brazil and many are open 24 hours.
Leather goods such as shoes, purses, belts, etc., are relatively inexpensive in Brazil and of excellent design and quality.
Clothing for men, women and children is usually inexpensive in Brazil. You may want to pack a swimsuit but you should certainly check out the Brazilian fashions.
Women's clothes in Brazil can be relatively inexpensive, of good quality and uniquely Brazilian design.
Electronics and other similar manufactured items are most often more expensive in Brazil than elsewhere, so it's not your best place to find bargains on these things.
Supermercados (supermarkets), cachaçarias (bars specializing in cachaça, some with hundreds of brands) and other bars and restaurants are a good source for a special bottle of cachaça that's usually impossible to obtain elsewhere. Most countries will allow you to bring back at least a few bottles without paying any customs duties or taxes. Check with the customs service of your country before you go.
Natural crystals and other polished, semi-precious stones are generally a good bargain. There are also numerous jewelry items (bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc.) made from semi-precious stones that are inexpensive, unique, beautifully designed and make good souvenirs or presents.
Items carved from crystal, semi-precious stones and soapstone (parrots, macaws, bowls, cups, ashtrays, etc.) are a usually bargain and make a uniquely Brazilian souvenir or present.
In some parts of the Brazilian northeast, handmade lace is both gorgeous and relatively inexpensive.
Art, sculpture and handmade arts and crafts can be both inexpensive as well as good souvenirs or presents.
With most newer releases costing R$ 20 to R$ 30 or more, music CDs are not necessarily inexpensive in Brazil but, if you want to add to your Brazilian music collection, this is the place to do it. Sometimes, you may find a promoção (sale) where you can pick up older releases for considerably less. Avoid buying CDs or DVDs from street vendors because they are usually pirated copies and often won't play on any machine anywhere.
Many Brazilian cities have Sunday street fairs (some have them daily) where you can browse among the booths of individual vendors selling a staggering variety of clothing, shoes, handmade jewelry, arts and crafts, hammocks, furniture, food, etc., etc., etc. and etc.
Most Brazilian cities of almost any size have a mercado municipal (municipal market) selling a dazzling variety of fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, jewelry, clothing, shoes, household items, birds and other animals—almost everything available in the community. Most are housed indoors but there are also many "open air" markets throughout Brazil. They are fascinating places to browse, people watch, shop and get a feel for Brazilians and their way of life.
A dazzling variety of fresh tropical fruit is available throughout Brazil—from mangoes, papayas, pineapples, passion fruit, and numerous others you've probably never heard of or seen, to numerous varieties of bananas not available anywhere in North America or Europe. Unfortunately, you can't bring back any fresh fruit with you so get your fill while you're there.
You can check the prices of things in Brazil by visiting our what things cost page.
Items such as film, batteries (AA, AAA, D, C) and other such consumables are readily available throughout Brazil.
Drogarias (drug stores) and supermercados (supermarkets) stock almost every personal toiletry item you may want or need including well known international marcas (brands) including Colgate, Close Up, Oral-B, Palmolive, Schick, Gilette, Johnson & Johnson, Kleenex, Listerine, Nivea, L'Oréal and many others (in addition to Brazilian brands).
Don't be alarmed if you see a store sign that includes the notation "Cia." It has nothing to do with the CIA of spook fame. "Cia." is merely the common abbreviation of the Portuguese word companhia (company).