Brazil Travel Guide

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Huge in size in both land area population, Brazil is one of the world most flamboyant destinations. The largest country of the South American continent it is also the fifth largest in the world and has a population of almost 200 million. Blessed with natural attractions, flamboyant cities and charming colonial towns Brazil is a country with a culture and a landscape like no other.


Brazil will leave you wanting more, it’s unique culture, magnificent landscapes and wonderful people will leave an indelible mark on your heart.

Where is Brazil? History of Brazil
Brazil Visa Requirements Brazil-Travel-Health
What is Brazil Local Currency? What is Brazil Weather?
Culture of Brazil What Languages Are Spoken In Brazil?
Brazil Transport Options Brazil Travel Tips
Brazil Local Food Brazil Local Timezones
Brazil Dutyfree Limits

Where is Brazil?

It’s coastline stretches for 7000 kilometres with white sandy beaches, superlative islands and a scattering of towns and cities. Inland lies the vast Amazon Rainforest, a staggering area of lush jungles, rivers and ecosystems. There are literally millions of species of plants, insects and animals including fish and birdlife. Incredibly this one area contains more than half of the world remaining rainforest – a staggering 1.7 billion acres. There are plenty of options available for touring the rainforest and getting a taste of the incredible bio-diversity it contains. As incredible as the Amazon is, it is only one of many fantastic natural attractions in Brazil.

Brazil teams with water and waterfalls, clear rivers snake throughout the country and in places plunge hundreds of metres creating spectacular tourist attractions. The premier of them all is the Iguazu Falls, a stunning site which attractions many thousands of people each year. Elsewhere you can visit the Caracol Falls, the Cachoeira da Fumaca and the easily accessible Itaquira Falls close to the town of Formosa. Another of the major natural attractions is the vast wetland area of the Pantanal, 200,000 square kilometres of marshes and tropical ecosystems alive with birds, plants and animals.

The north east of Brazil has the Chapada Diamantina National Park with canyons, caves and spectacular views. These make up just a tiny fraction of the natural offerings of Brazil, the entire country is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers, whether you like trekking through quiet trails or white water rafting, surfing or snorkelling or just about any other outdoor persuit you can name.

History of Brazil

Brazil Flag

With all the focus so far on attractions which are nature based you might think party goers should look elsewhere, but this is far from the truth. Rio de Janeiro is one of the worlds most celebrated cities. It is situated in a spectacular setting, with wild jungle, stunning beaches and impressive peaks surrounding it on all sides, the famous statue of Christ overlooking it all. Rio is a study in contrasts, rich and poor, deeply christian but loving to party hard – it is a city that knows how to live. The biggest party of the year throughout Brazil is of course Carnival – a celebration which showcases the countries love of music and life in general. Rio de Janeiro is the place to see it at it’s best however many other cities and towns will also put on a good show.

Brazil Visa Requirements

Citizens from many countries do not require a visa to visit Brazil for stays of up to 90 days – this includes New Zealand, the UK and Ireland and South Africa.

Visas are required for entry to Brazil for Australian, Canadian and US citizens amongst others. Please note that getting a Brazilian visa can be a lengthy process and consular officials can be quite inflexible about applications meeting certain criteria – so allow yourself plenty of time for processing of the visa and make sure you fulfill all requirements of the local consulate or embassy where you are making the application.

All travellers must be in possession of a passport with minimum 6month validity and proof of onward or return tickets and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Visas are generally valid for 90 days from date of issue, although this is at the discretion of Brazilian immigration officials. Tourist visas can be used for multiple entry within the period of validity and can be extended up to a further 90 days, provided the application is made at least two weeks before the expiration of the visa. Visitors should apply in Brazil to the federal police and this must be done before the visa expires or there is a risk of deportation.

There is a departure tax for Brazil of R$115 which is usually included in the airline ticket price.

As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.

Brazil Travel Health

Vaccinations recommended for travel to Brazil are Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid as well as Malaria, Rabies and Yellow Fever depending on the season and the region visited. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers over nine months old arriving from infected regions and vaccination are strongly recommended for travellers intending to visit rural areas. Malaria risk exists throughout the year in many parts of the country. Care should be taken to avoid moquito bites through the use of insect repellant and or long sleeved clothing.

Water should always be boiled or sterilized before drinking or bottled water should be drunk instead. Also be careful of milk in rural areas as it may be un-pasteurised. Ensure that all meats and fish are well cooked and that vegetables are cooked and fruits peeled. Salads can also be a problem.

A polio vaccination certificate is required for children aged between three months and six years old. Other infectious diseases prevalent in Brazil include Schistosomiasis or Bilharzia, Chagas disease also known as trypanosomiasis and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. As with some other tropical areas Dengue fever can be an issue, especially after rain in densely populated areas where the infective agent is carried by mosquitoes. Additionally there are occasional epidemics of meningococcal meningitis in Rio. Air pollution can be high, especially in São Paulo. Rabies also exists in Brazil and if bitten by an animal, seek medical advice immediately.

Medical care is generally of a high standard in major towns and cities with English speaking medical staff found mainly in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. As medical costs are high in Brazil full travel insurance is highly recommended for all travellers.

Unfortunately Brazil is notorious for its violent street crime especially in Brazil’s large cities in the north, northeast and southeast states. However using common sense and taking extra precautions to keep yourself safe while travelling in Brazil should allow you to enjoy your travels without any incidents. Drug trafficking and use is on the increase, with severe penalties in Brazil. By law, everyone must carry a photo ID at all times such as your passport.

Travellers should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which may target civilians, particularly places frequented by foreigners.

Thefts from cars are common, so when travelling in a car keep the doors locked and the windows closed, and take particular care at traffic lights. Credit card fraud is also common so try to keep sight of your card at all times and consider keeping a spare credit card for emergencies in your hotel safe.

Drive cautiously in Brazil as there is a high road accident rate. In many rural areas the quality of roads away from the main highways is poor together with the standard of driving especially of trucks and buses, so vigilance is required at all times.

Emergency numbers for Brazil are: Police 190; Fire and Ambulance 193.

What is Brazil Local Currency?

Brazil’s currency is the real and notes are in denominations of R$100, 50, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of R$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1 centavos.

All banks, travel agencies and authorized hotels exchange traveller’s cheques and foreign currency with the US Dollar being the most widely accepted. However, traveller’s cheques are becoming increasingly difficult to cash and visitors will find that they often lose money when doing so. Withdrawing cash directly from ATMs is recommended. Banks will not cash traveller’s cheques into foreign currency, including US Dollars; however some hotels will accept payment in traveller’s cheques. Most major international credit cards are accepted and there is an extensive network of ATMs throughout the country.

Banking hours are Mon-Fri 1000-1600.

Currency conversion rates as of 11 December 2009 are 1.00 GBP = 2.87 BRL, 1.00 USD = 1.76 BRL, and 1.00 EUR = 2.59 BRL.

What is Brazil’s Weather?

Brazil is a large country which has varied climates. The arid interior ranges from hot and dry in contrast to the Amazon jungle with its humid tropical rainforests. Coastal Brazil for most of the year is hot and sticky but can get cold in the south and in the mountains during the winter months. Rainy seasons occur from January to April in the north, April to July in the northeast and November to March in the Rio/Sao Paulo area.

During the summer (December to February), Rio and the Northeast have temperatures in the high 30s. The rest of the year temperatures are generally in the mid-20s to low 30s. The south has wider temperature variations, ranging from 15°C in the winter (June to August) to 35°C in the summer. The Amazon region rarely gets hotter than 27°C, but is humid, with considerable rainfall over tropical Amazonia.

Brazil’s high tourist season runs from December to March when the country is filled with both foreign visitors and vacationing Brazilian families. Although this is the most festive time in Brazil prices rise during this period and many popular tourist destinations are crowded. Brazil’s low tourist season runs from May to September with this period being the cheapest and least-crowded time to visit the country with the exception of July, which is also a school-holiday month.

Recommended clothing for travel to Brazil are lightweight natural fabrics and waterproof garments rainy season. Warm clothing is recommended in the south during the cooler months from June to August and specialist clothing is needed for the Amazon region. The sun is extremely in bright in Brazil and sunglasses are highly recommended.

Culture of Brazil

In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people with the Southerners being a little colder and more reserved then the people from Rio upwards who truly enjoy having a good time and usually boast a captivating attitude towards life.

Family and social connections are strongly valued and friendship and hospitality are highly praised traits. Brazilians are usually very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous especially to people they have just met. They are known as one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration.

As a general rule workers in most services are tipped 10%. In restaurants the service charge will usually be included in the bill however if a waitperson is friendly and helpful it is greatly appreciated to give more. When the service charge is not included, a 10% tip is customary.

There are many places where tipping is not customary but is a welcome gesture such as juice stands, bars, coffee corners and street vendors. Parking assistants are dependent on tips, usually R$2 as they receive no wages and gas-station attendants, shoe shiners and barbers are also frequently tipped. Although tipping is not expected most people round up taxi fares to the nearest real.

The predominant religion in Brazil is Roman Catholic with 80% of the population being followers. Other religions include Protestant, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, and Baptist.

Brazil is a mixture of ethnicities and races resulting in rich diversity. Be aware that racism is a very serious offense in Brazil and is considered a crime for which bail is not available and is met with imprisonment. Always be sensitive when talking about topics such as local politics and political corruption as you are likely to easily offend. Remember that Portuguese is not Spanish and even though both languages can be mutually intelligible to a wide extent, they differ considerably in phonetics, vocabulary and grammar.

Cheek-kissing is very common in Brazil and when two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men will usually shake hands particularly for more formal occasions and when trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude.

When people first meet, they will kiss one, two or three times depending where you are, alternating right and left cheeks. Be aware that while doing this you should not kiss on the cheeks but actually beside it in the air, placing your lips on a strangers cheek will be perceived as odd. Brazilians like to drink however to get drunk, even in a pub, is frowned upon. People essentially go to pubs to socialize not to drink.

What Languages Are Spoken In Brazil?

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese spoken throughout the entire country. English is not widely spoken except in more tourist areas so do not expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English. Spanish speakers are usually able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south, however while written Portuguese can be quite similar to Spanish, spoken Portuguese may be much harder to understand.

The country code for Brazil is 55. Mobile telephone coverage is generally very good with roaming agreements existing with most international mobile phone companies. Many hotels provide Internet access to guests and Internet cafes can be found in main towns, cities and airports. In smaller towns, public access is sometimes available at post offices.

Postal services are generally reliable with airmail service to Europe taking around one week and surface mail taking at least four weeks. Post offices are widely available throughout Brazil.

Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat 0800-1200.

Brazil Transport Options

The main international airports in Brazil are Sao Paulo (GRU) (Guarulhos), Rio de Janeiro (GIG) (Galeao) and Brasilia International (BSB). The main national airlines are TAM and Gol. As Brazil has one of the most extensive internal air networks in the world there are air services between all Brazilian cities. On weekends it is recommended to book seats as the services are very busy.

Brazil’s railway network is limited and passenger rail connections are few and far between and should not be relied on for getting around.

Traffic drives on the right and road conditions vary throughout Brazil ranging from very good paved highways to dirt tracks that will test your endurance. Coaches are the easiest and most popular way of getting around the country with services between major cities and tourist destinations generally comfortable and efficient however distances are long. Main routes include Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, Recife to Salvador and Florianopolis to Sao Paulo.

International car hire companies operate from major airports and main city centres and drivers are required to be a minimum of 21 years of age. The minimum driving age is 18 and the speed limit is 110kph or 70mph on most highways and 80kph (50mph) in cities. Passing on the right is not allowed and seat belts are mandatory. An International Driving Permit is required for foreigners to drive a car in Brazil.

When driving a car keep the doors locked, especially in the larger cities, as robberies at stop signs and red lights are common. Be equally careful to keep your windows closed and your valuables out of sight to avoid someone putting their hands inside your car and stealing anything.

In smaller cities and towns a bicycle is a popular means of transport although cyclists are generally not respected by cars, trucks, or bus drivers. It is usually easy to get a lift by a pickup or to have the bike transported by a long-distance bus.

Brazil Travel Tips

There are a few travel scams to be aware of when visiting Brazil. Around banks or sources where international money is available be aware of ‘express kidnappings’ where a victim is forced to withdraw money from an ATM machine that they are using. It is recommended to only withdraw money from banks during the day when other people are around.

At airports be particularly alert for pickpockets and do not have valuables in outside pockets. Try to avoid dressing excessively or wearing expensive jewellery as this only attracts unnecessary attention.

When taking a taxi it is illegal for a driver to ask for payment upfront and if this occurs get out of the taxi immediately. Only catch officially licensed taxis as these have meters and the correct price will appear on the screen.

When shopping for antiques be wary of purchasing artefacts unless an export permit issued by the government of origin accompanies the product.

Brazil Local Food

Brazil’s cuisine is varied and caters for all tastes ranging from European, North American and Asian foods. The standard of food is generally very high throughout the country and national specialities include:

  • Feijoada (rich stew of black beans, and various parts of the pig served up on white rice with chopped kale and orange);
  • Moqueca (a seafood stew made with coconut milk and palm oil);
  • Vatapá (prawns cooked with fish oil, coconut milk, manioc paste and rice);
  • Acarajé (a kind of bean fritter cooked in oil and sometimes served with dried shrimps, onions, okra, and peppers);
  • Churrasco (mixed grilled meat served with manioc flour).

Some bars have waiters and table service and there are no licensing hours or restrictions on drinking. The drinking age is 18 and tipping of 10% is common if it is not included in the tab. National drinks include a draft beer known as chopp; the local spirit based drink is cachaça, a strong drink derived from sugar cane popular with locals. It is often mixed with sugar, limes and ice, crushed up and served, this is known as a caipirinha, a refreshing and highly intoxicating cocktail, and the Brazilian national drink.

Some excellent wines come out of southern Brazil and can be found throughout the country. Fresh fruit juice is also commonly found, known as sucos it is available at juice bars. Guaraná is a popular fizzy drink made with energy-giving extract from an Amazonian plant whihc is high in naturally occurring caffeine.

Brazil Local Timezones

The time in most of Brazil is three hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-3). This is true of most places visited by tourists such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasiiía, Bahia, Minas Gerais etc.

Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia, Amapá,Pará, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso are a further one hour behind Brazilian Standard Time (GMT-4).

The north-east states of Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe are one hour ahead of Brazil Standard Time (GMT-2).

During the period of Daylight Saving Time, Brazil’s clocks go forward one hour in most of the Brazilian southeast. Other areas of Brazil do not adopt Summer Time.


Electricity in Brazil is 110 Volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. If you travel to Brazil with a device that does not accept 110 Volts at 60 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter.

Outlets in Brazil generally accept 2 types of plug: flat blade plug and two round pins. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.


Brazil Dutyfree Limits

The following goods may be imported into Brazil by persons over 18 years of age without incurring customs duty: clothes and other articles for personal use; 400 cigarettes or 25 cigars; maximum 2l of alcohol; gifts; and any other articles with total value not exceeding US$500 or equivalent in other currency.

Prohibited Imports include: meat and dairy products; fruit and vegetables; and plants or parts of plant.

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