Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil) is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest in the world. Brazil is an incredibly diverse country, in people, culture, and landscapes—from the famous summer carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Olinda, and Recife to the wild power of nature in the Amazon and Iguaçu Falls. You'll find bustling cities, laid-back beaches, and traditional lifestyles, often right next to each other. Brazilian culture, which varies substantially across the country, comes from an international mix of European colonizers, African and Asian communities (notably in Salvador and São Paulo, respectively), and indigenous influence throughout the country.
With its vast landscapes, cultural treasures, and warm hospitality, a country of wonders awaits your presence!
Brazil is the fifth largest country on earth. It is divided into five regions, mainly drawn around state lines, but they also more or less follow natural, economic and cultural borderlines.
|North (Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins)|
The Amazon, the rain forest and frontier life, with remarkable Amerindian influence. The state of Mato Grosso in the Central West region (below) is mostly within the Amazon Basin as well.
|Northeast (Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe)|
Mostly caipira culture, with black culture in Bahia, mingles with early Iberian folklore and Indigenous traditions. This is often considered the country's most beautiful coastline, and has the sunniest and hottest climate; but it is also the country's driest and poorest region. Capital of the "Forró" musical style.
|Central West (Distrito Federal (Federal District), Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul)|
The Pantanal wetlands, great farms, young cities, the cerrado and the Federal District, with its otherworldly modernist architecture. Birthplace of the "sertanejo" music style.
|Southeast (Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo)|
The cosmopolitan heart of the country. São Paulo and Rio are the largest cities in the country and its economic and industrial hub; there are also some centuries-old colonial towns, especially in Minas Gerais.
|South (Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Santa Catarina)|
A land of valleys and pampas where a strong gaucho culture (shared with Uruguay and Argentina) meets European influences. It has several mid-size cities and rural settlements. Great German, Italian, Polish and Ukrainian immigration took place in the region during the 19th century.
Brazil has many exciting cities, ranging from pretty colonial towns and coastal hideouts to hectic, lively metropolises; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations:
- 1 Brasília – The purpose-built capital of Brazil, and an architectural spectacle. Noteworthy buildings include a basket-shaped cathedral, the beautiful Arches Palace (seat of the Ministry of Justice) and others.
- 2 Florianópolis – The city is located on an island in the Atlantic Ocean in the southern state of Santa Catarina, with lakes, lagoons, sand dunes, amazing nature and more than 40 clean, beautiful, natural beaches. Major destination for Argentines during the summer months.
- 3 Fortaleza – The 4th biggest city in Brazil, blessed with beautiful beaches. Home of the Iracema Beach street market. A good base for exploring the beaches of the northeastern coast, including Jericoacoara. Famed for forró music and comedians.
- 4 Manaus – Located in the heart of the Amazon, is the capital of Amazonas State and it is also the biggest city of the Amazon. At Manaus the rivers Negro and Solimões meet to become the Amazonas River. The best place to go to visit the Amazon rainforest. It is a gateway to the Anavilhanas and to Jaú National Park.
- 5 Porto Alegre – a major city between Argentina and São Paulo and gateway to Brazil's fabulous Green Canyons.
- 6 Recife – A major city in the Northeast region, originally settled by Dutch colonizers. Nicknamed "The Brazilian Venice", it is built on several islands linked by many bridges. Rich in history, art and folklore. Do not miss neighboring Olinda and Porto de Galinhas. The city is also a gateway to the amazing archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.
- 7 Rio de Janeiro – World famous, beautiful city that welcomes visitors with that big statue of an open-armed Jesus atop Corcovado Hill.
- 8 Salvador – The first capital of Brazil is home to a unique blend of indigenous, African and European cultures. Its Carnival fun is famous, and the influence of African culture and religion is remarkable.
- 9 São Paulo – Brazil's largest, richest and most cosmopolitan city, where you can find strong influences of several ethnicities, including Italian, Korean, Japanese, German, Russian, Caribbean and Arab.
- 1 Amazonas – jungle tours, wildlife, floated wood, the mysteries of the Amazon
- 2 Chapada Diamantina National Park
- 3 Chapada dos Veadeiros – cerrado (tropical savanna) wildlife and stunning waterfalls
- 4 Fernando de Noronha – tropical island paradise in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, is protected as a Marine National Park since 1997 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 5 Ilha Grande
- 6 Iguaçu Falls – world-famous waterfalls along the border of Brazil and Argentina
- 7 Ilha do Marajó- world's biggest fresh water island
- 8 Lençóis Maranhenses- fresh water and dunes park; half dunes, half lakes.
- 9 Pantanal – the world's largest wetland (swamp) hosts lots of eco-tourism and vast biodiversity, including caimans, jaguars, anacondas, giant anteaters, primates, giant otters and piranhas
|Currency||Brazilian real (BRL)|
|Population||203 million (2022)|
|Electricity||127 volt / 60 hertz and 220 volt / 60 hertz (Europlug, IEC 60906-1)|
|Emergencies||190 (police), 192 (emergency medical services), 193 (fire department), 188 (crisis hotline)|
|edit on Wikidata|
|“||It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand scenes; but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.||”|
—Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, concerning Brazil
Brazil is the largest independent country in South America, set within miles of the tropics. The country is the soul of history and culture and includes nightlife, scenic beauty, white sandy beaches, inland waterways and lush green forests that are among one of the largest in the world.
Before Columbus arrived in the Americas, the area now known as Brazil was home to people mainly of the Tupi and Guarani ethnic groups. Colonization by the Portuguese began late in the 16th century, with the extraction of valuable wood from the pau brasil tree, from which the country draws its name. Brazil was colonized and developed by the Portuguese and not the Spanish, who claimed much of the Americas. Eastern Brazil was a waypoint on the Cape Route between Europe and Asia. During Portuguese rule, some parts of Brazil formed a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. The Dutch founded several cities, such as Mauritsville, and many sugar cane plantations. The Dutch fought a grim jungle war with the Portuguese, and without the support of the Republic of their homeland due to a war with England, the Dutch surrendered to the Portuguese, though they did not officially recognize Portuguese rule, which led to an all-out war with Portugal off the coast of Portugal in 1656. In 1665 the Peace Treaty of The Hague was signed, Portugal lost its Asian colonies and had to pay 63 tons of gold to compensate the Dutch Republic for the loss of its colony.
Brazil became the center of the Portuguese Empire by 1808, when the King Dom João VI (John VI) fled from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and established himself and his government in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The following four centuries saw continued exploitation of the country's natural resources such as gold and rubber, alongside the rise of an economy based largely on sugar, coffee and African slave labor. Christianizing and exploitation of natives continued, and the 19th and 20th centuries saw a second wave of immigration, mainly Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German (in southern Brazil), Japanese, American (mainly in São Paulo State), Polish and Ukrainian (in the south), adding to the set of factors that generated today's complex and unique Brazilian culture and society.
Independence was a far less revolutionary undertaking in Brazil than in its Spanish-speaking neighbors. The Portuguese king Dom João VI fled along with the Portuguese royal family in 1808, when France under Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars.
From 1815, Brazil started to have the same status as Portugal, ceasing to be a colony. The separation was gradual and supported by Prince Pedro, son of Dom João VI. Pedro initially stayed in Rio as provisional regent. Following the ideals of the leader of the independence movement in South America, Simón Bolívar, Pedro declared independence from Brazil on September 7, 1822 and was crowned Emperor Dom Pedro I. Six years later, in 1828, the province of Cisplatina became independent after a long war involving Argentina and Brazil, becoming what is now Uruguay.
Until 1889, Brazil was an Empire under the rule of Dom Pedro I and his son Dom Pedro II. By this time, it became an emerging international power. Slavery, which had initially been widespread, was restricted by successive legislation until its final abolition in 1888. Many factors contributed to the fall of the monarchy and the rise of nominal Republicanism thereafter, but, in effect, there was military intervention in Brazil after fall of the empire until 1894. Since then, democracy in Brazil was interrupted by coups and dictatorships until 1985, when a new civil and democratic government was elected and a new constitution was enacted three years later.
By far the largest, most populous and prosperous country in Latin America, it has emerged from more than two decades (1964-1985) of military dictatorship in the governance of the country to pursue democratic rule, while facing the challenges of continuing its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources, enormous geographic area, and a large labor pool, today Brazil is Latin America's leading economic power and a regional leader, overshadowing the likes of Mexico and Argentina. Political corruption, as in most of Latin America, and high barriers to entry of markets including labor, remain pressing problems. A consequence of this is high crime rates, especially in large cities.
The "pink tide" in Latin American politics has brought greater economic disparity in Brazil as in other countries, with political classes growing in wealth and number while poorly educated and politically poorly-connected people suffer from high barriers to entry into labor markets, higher education and other markets. Discontent with the Brazilian government erupted into open protests during the 2014 World Cup football tournament, and again during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Government forces had begun forcibly removing people from their homes before the tournaments began, and the response to the protests was brutal by most accounts. Some protesters pointed out the absurdity of building expensive stadiums in faraway places when people were living in slums with no property rights.
Widespread discontent with the economy led to the election of far-right populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president in 2018. Bolsonaro has pledged to end environmental protections and roll back indigenous and minority rights in exchange for pursuing economic development, though how this will affect the country's human rights record and the lives of ordinary Brazilians remains to be seen.
Brazil's landscape is characterized by extensive tropical forests from the Amazon plain in the north to plateaus, hills and a mountainous coastline in the south and southeast. While the basis of the country's agriculture is in the savannas of the Midwest, most of the population lives near the Atlantic coast, where almost all major cities are also.
The Brazilian territory also has the archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo, about 800 km off the Brazilian coast, which have only one lighthouse built on them, and the former penal colony of Fernando de Noronha, which is not far from the rocky group. Both are on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, in the equatorial Atlantic. The islands of Trindade and Martim Vaz, which belong to the state of Espírito Santo, are of volcanic origin. The oval-shaped Rocas Atoll spans several kilometers and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional wildlife.
But the largest island in Brazil is the Marajó Island, in the Amazon. It is the largest river island in the world and, with an area of around 48,000 km² (18,532.90 square miles), is larger than Switzerland. However, as large parts are flooded in the rainy season, the island is populated only in a few places. Bananal Island is also one of the largest river islands in the world with an area of approximately 20,000 km². It is located in a national park in the state of Tocantins on the Araguaia River and its size is similar to Jamaica.
Government and politics
Brazil is a federal republic, modeled after the American presidential system. The people directly elect a president who is both head of state and head of government. The president is elected for a four-year term, with the right to only one re-election.
The legislative branch is the National Congress, a bicameral parliament that consists of the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Both houses are directly elected. Senate members are elected for 8-year terms, with renewal of one or two thirds every 4 years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected every four years through the proportional representation of each state. The Supreme Federal Court, the Superior Court of Justice and other Superior Courts, the National Justice Council and the Regional Federal Courts form the judicial branch. The political system follows a multiparty system. The main political parties represented in National Congress are the Workers' Party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Brazil Union. It is common for many Brazilian politicians to switch parties frequently.
One of the main problems in Brazilian politics is corruption. Clientelism, nepotism, political favoritism and overpricing of public funds are common. In addition, the unrestricted multiparty system and the high number of parties make Brazilian politics highly fragmented, making the president needing support from alliances of several different parties in order to implement his governmental agenda (a phenomenon called coalition presidentialism).
Owing to Brazil’s continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the country’s culture is rich and diverse. It has several regional variations, and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions are so different from each other that they look like different countries altogether.
Music plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro, samba and bossa nova are considered genuinely Brazilian. Caipira music is also in the roots of sertanejo, the national equivalent to country music. MPB stands for Brazilian Popular Music, which mixes several national styles under a single concept. Forró, a north-eastern happy dancing music style, has also become common nationwide. New urban styles include funk - a name given to a dance music genre from Rio's favelas that mixes heavy electronic beats and often raunchy rapping - and techno-brega, a crowd-pleaser in northern states, that fuses romantic pop, dance music and Caribbean rhythms.
A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves, mainly from Portuguese colonies Angola. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities. Later immigrants from Japan brought their traditional martial arts with them, which gradually evolved into a unique style known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In classical music, the Modern Period is particularly notable, due to the works of composers like Heitor Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri, who created a typical Brazilian school, mixing elements of the traditional European classical music to the Brazilian rhythms, while other composers like Cláudio Santoro followed the guidelines of the Second School of Vienna. In the Romantic Period, the greatest name was Antonio Carlos Gomes, author of some Italian-styled operas with typical Brazilian themes, like Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo. In the Classical Period, the most prominent name is José Maurício Nunes Garcia, a priest who wrote both sacred and secular music and was very influenced by the Viennese classical style of the 18th and early 19th century.
Candomblé and Umbanda are religions with African roots that have survived prejudice and persecution and still have a significant following in Brazil. Their places of cult are called terreiros and many are open to visit.
Indigenous traits can be found everywhere in Brazilian culture, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in all Brazilian regions, although many have been deeply influenced by Western culture, and several of the country's surviving indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing completely. The traditional lifestyle and graphic expressions of the Wajãpi indigenous group from the state of Amapá were proclaimed a Masterpiece of the World's Intangible Heritage by UNESCO. The vast majority of the world's last uncontacted peoples reside within the dense Amazon rainforest of Brazil.
Globo, the largest national television network, also plays an important role in shaping the national identity. The other five major Brazilian TV networks are SBT (the second largest), RecordTV, Band, RedeTV and Cultura (the public and educational television network). There are also many other local or regional TV channels. In addition, Brazilians increasingly have access to many other cable or satellite TV channels. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians, followed by radio broadcasts. TVs broadcast sports, movies, local and national news and telenovelas (soap operas)– 6-10 month-long series that have become one of the country’s main cultural exports.
Throughout its history, Brazil has welcomed several different peoples and practices. Brazil constitutes a melting pot of the most diverse ethnic groups, somewhat mitigating ethnic prejudices and racial conflicts, though long-lasting slavery and even genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll. Prejudice is generally more directed towards different social classes rather than between races. Nevertheless, race, denoted by skin colour, is still a dividing factor in Brazilian society and you will notice the skin typically darkens as the social class gets lower: wealthy upper-class people are mostly light skinned; most average middle-class people are tan; and the majority of poor people are black. Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage, and they can hope to achieve social mobility through education.
In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While Southerners may be considered somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio northward, people can boast a vivacious attitude and enjoy leisure time.
Friendship and hospitality are highly prized among Brazilians, and both family connections and social interactions are valued highly. To people they have met, or at least know by name, Brazilians are usually very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous. Once introduced, until getting a good reason not to, a typical Brazilian may treat you as warmly as he would treat a best friend. Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration. That being said, tourism in Brazil, as in most of the world, brings out the darker side of humanity.
Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to regional differences:
- The state of Santa Catarina welcomes their Spanish-speaking tourists with bilingual signs and welcome committees.
- In Salvador, the largest city of the Northeast, anyone talking, acting or looking like a tourist (even other Brazilians!) could be charged higher prices, such as in parking lots, in restaurants, etc.
Most Brazilians are honest and genuinely friendly, but many are used to small acts of corruption in their everyday lives, the so-called jeitinho brasileiro. If you obviously look like a tourist, you are a potential target; for instance, a vendor may try to sell goods at higher prices, or a taxi driver may choose the longest route to the destination. It doesn't mean that you can't trust anyone, just that you have to be a bit more alert and careful, particularly if someone seems too friendly.
Whereas the "Western" roots of Brazilian culture are largely European, especially Iberian, as evidenced by its colonial towns and sporadic historical buildings between the newer skyscrapers, there has been a strong tendency to adopt a more "American way of life" which is found in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a positive attitude toward technical progress. Despite this, Brazil is still a nation facing the Atlantic rather than Hispanic America, and the intellectual elites are likely to look up to Europe, especially France, as sources of inspiration, as opposed to the US. Many aspects in Brazilian society, such as the educational system, are inspired by the French, and may seem strange at first to North American visitors.
The contrasts in this large country equally fascinate and shock most visitors, especially Europeans. The indifference of many locals towards the social, economic and ecological problems can upset visitors accustomed to addressing these issues at home. While an elite of well-educated professionals and the political class partake in the amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and grossly inferior housing still exist even in cities blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investment such as São Paulo or Rio.
As much as Brazilians acknowledge their self-sustainability in raw materials, agriculture, and energy sources as an enormous benefit for the future, most of them agree that without enormous changes in education and access to entrepreneurship for all, there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Brazil is a huge country with different climatic zones, although most of the country is in the tropics. Temperatures vary greatly depending on the altitude of the place you are and the distance from the equator. In the Amazon region, from northern Mato Grosso to western Maranhão, there is a tropical rainforest climate, with very frequent rains, high temperatures and a reduced thermal amplitude. There is an almost uninterrupted rainy season in the Amazon rainforest, with the main rainy months from November to March. In the Northeast, the coast has frequent rains in the winter.
The interior of the Brazilian Northeast has a semi-arid climate, where there are very high temperatures, rare rains and frequent droughts. The central areas of Brazil have a tropical savanna climate, with extremely dry winter, low humidity levels in the middle of the year (below 30%) and a hot and rainy summer.
In the southeast, the coast is hot and humid and suffers the direct action of the tropical Atlantic mass, with frequent rains in the summer. In the highest areas of the Southeast, with altitudes between 500m and 1000m or more, there are the lowest temperatures in the entire tropical area, reaching an average lower than 18º C. In the south of the state of São Paulo and in the three southern regions of the states of In Brazil, the climate is subtropical, with rains evenly distributed throughout the year. The summer is very hot and has an average temperature of 30º, whereas the winter, considered very cold, has frequent frosts and low temperatures, sometimes getting less than 0° C. In many cities of altitude over 1000m in Santa Catarina and north of the Serras Gaúchas region of Rio Grande do Sul, temperatures are even colder, even occurring snow.
Christianity is the largest religion in Brazil, with most Brazilians being followers of the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism is the second largest denomination.
Brazilians follow a wide range of religious faiths. For instance, there are followers of Buddhism (brought over by Asian immigrants), Judaism (120,000 followers), Islam (brought over by Arab immigrants), and to name a few. Brazil is said to be home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, and has the second largest Jewish community in South America. In Brazil, Afro-Brazilian religions, such as Umbanda and Candomblé, have many followers, syncretizing African deities (orixás) with Catholic saints. Spiritism is the third most followed religion in Brazil and the country has the largest number of Spiritists in the world.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution and the country is a rare example of religious tolerance.
Holidays and working hours
Brazil observes the following 13 national holidays:
- New Year's Day - 1 January
- Carnaval - February/March (movable - 40 days before Easter. Monday and Tuesday are the actual holidays, but celebrations usually begin on Saturday and last until noon of Ash Wednesday, when shops and services re-open.)
- Good Friday - March/April (movable) two days before Easter Sunday
- Tiradentes - 21 April
- Labour Day - 1 May
- Corpus Christi - May/June (movable) sixty days after Easter Sunday
- Independence Day - 7 September
- Day of Our Lady of Aparecida (Patron Saint of Brazil) and Children's Day - 12 October
- Day of the Dead (Finados) - 2 November
- Republic Proclamation Day - 15 November
- Christmas - 25 December
Working hours are usually from 08:00 or 09:00-17:00 or 18:00. Banks open Monday to Friday, from 10:00-16:00. Street shops tend to close at noon on Saturday and re-open on Monday. Shopping malls normally open from 10:00-22:00 or 23:00, Monday to Saturday, and from 15:00-21:00 on Sundays. Some malls, especially in large cities, are also open on Sundays, although not all the stores may be open. It is also possible to find 24-hour stores and small markets that are open on Sundays.
Brazil spans four standard time zones from UTC-2 to UTC-5 (in Brazilian terms, "Brasilia time -2" to "Brasilia time +1").
- Brasilia time +1 (UTC-2): Fernando de Noronha and some other smaller islands in the Atlantic.
- Brasilia time (UTC-3): Southeast, South, Northeast, Goiás, Distrito Federal, Tocantins, Pará, Amapá.
- Brasilia time -1 (UTC-4): Roraima, eastern Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul.
- Brasilia time -2 (UTC-5): Acre and western Amazonas.
Since 2019, daylight saving time is no longer observed in Brazil.
Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with many countries, meaning that when visa fees and restrictions are applied to Brazilian visiting a country, Brazil generally adopts the same measures for that country's visitors.
- Citizens from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela may enter the country with a valid ID card and stay up to 90 days.
- No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days from holders of passports from the countries indicated by the color green on the map, unless otherwise indicated: all European Union member countries (90 days within a 180-day period except for Croatia, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain), Albania (90 days within a 180-day period), Dominica (90 days within a 180-day period), Georgia (90 days within a 180-day period), Indonesia (30 days), Kazakhstan (30 days), Montenegro (90 days within a 180-day period), North Macedonia (90 days within a 180-day period), Seychelles (90 days within a 180-day period), Singapore (30 days), Ukraine (90 days within a 180-day period), and Venezuela (60 days). The immigration officer has the right to restrict your visa to less than 90 days, if they deem fit. (This has been done routinely for lone male travellers arriving in Fortaleza, allegedly to combat prostitution tourism.) The officer will then state the number of days (e.g. 60 or 30) in pen writing inside the stamp just given in your passport; if not, it remains as 90 days.
- Citizens from all other countries do require a visa[dead link]. The fees vary depending on reciprocity: Cost of Brazil visa for citizens of Taiwan or Taiwanese passport holder pay US$20 (Reference from Embassy of Brazil in Lima, Peru) and 5 days to process.
- The requirement to first enter Brazil within 90 days of the issue of the visa now only applies to nationals of Angola, Bahrain, Burma, Cambodia, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, The Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Syria, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Tunisia. Failure to enter Brazil within 90 days will invalidate the visa, no matter how long it is otherwise valid for.
- By law you are required to produce your outbound ticket upon entry. If you didn't book a return flight to Brazil, buy an onward ticket online for around US$12 or a fully refundable flight ticket to your home country.
- When you are travelling from certain tropical regions to Brazil you need a yellow fever vaccination and the certificate showing you had this. It is illegal to bring in animals, meat, dairy, seeds, plants, eggs, honey, fruit, or any kind of non-processed food without a permit. Contact [[email protected]] for more information.
- If you want to enter/exit the country for some reason without coming in contact with the immigration authorities, there are numerous tiny border towns that have virtually no control. You will perhaps be told by the local police (who don´t have stamps or computer registers for immigration) to contact the federal police in such and such nearby town.
Entry vs. exit stamps
Immediately after your passport is stamped by the Brazilian Federal Police, ensure that the last number on the right-end of the stamp is a 1. A number 1 indicates that you entered the country and a number 2 indicates that you exited. Some federal police officers have mistakenly given foreigners the number 2 stamp upon entering. If you have the number 2 stamp and try to extend the visa in a city that is not your port of entry, you will be told to return to the city where you received the incorrect stamp so that it may be corrected before you can receive the extension.
- Tourist visas (including those granted on the spot in immigration control) can be extended at any office of the Policia Federal. Tourist Visas granted to citizens of the Schengen Area can not be extended. All state capitals, and most border towns and international ports have one. Tourist visas will only be extended once, for a maximum of 90 days, and under no circumstances can you be granted more than 180 days with a tourist visa for any 365-day period. You should contact the federal police about 1 week before your visa expires. The handling fee is R$67 (Oct 2008). You may be asked for an outbound ticket (book a fully refundable one on the internet, then cancel when your visa is extended), and a proof of subsistence (for which your credit card is mostly accepted.) In order to apply for the extension, you must fill out the Emissão da Guia de Recolhimento[dead link] on the Federal Police website, which you will carry to the Banco do Brasil in order to pay the fee. Do not pay the fee until you have spoken with a federal police officer about your case. If she/he denies the extension of your visa, you must have a bank account in Brazil in order to receive a refund.
- If you overstay your tourist visa or visa-free visit, you will be fined R$100 per day (as of July 2021), for a maximum of 100 days. This means that even if you stay illegally for 4 years, the fine will never exceed R$10,000. You will be made to pay this at the border crossing. As this can take time, it could be wise to do it a few days up front at a federal police office, especially if you have a domestic to international flight connection. The federal police will then give you 8 days to get out of the country. If you don´t pay your fine upon exiting, you will have to pay the next time you enter. The fact that you have been fined for overstaying in the past does not normally imply future difficulties with immigration, but you´d better keep all receipts and old passports for reference. The overstaying fees are cancelled 5 years after exiting Brazil.
The two main international gateways to Brazil are São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU IATA) and Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG IATA). Both are the two major international airports in Brasil, are close to their respective city centers and have connections by metro or bus lines. A smaller number of international flights are available to other Brazilian capitals, such as Belém, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Fortaleza, Manaus, Porto Alegre and Recife, as well as Campinas.
The largest Brazilian airline is the flag carrier LATAM Airlines which has direct flights to many destinations in the Americas and Europe. Other low-cost airlines, such as GOL and Azul also have direct flights between many Brazilian and South American cities. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines also operate flights to São Paulo-Guarulhos from some U.S. cities Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Newark, New York City (JFK) and Chicago, as does Air Canada from Montreal and Toronto. European airlines, such as British Airways, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, ITA Airways, Iberia and TAP also operate international flights to São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro from London (Heathrow), Amsterdam, Paris (Charles de Gaulle), Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid and Lisbon.
Coming from Europe you usually get low air fares in high frequency from Madrid and Lisbon.
Air travel in Brazil grew from 70 million passengers in 2009 to almost 120 million in 2019, partly as a result of the poor condition of many Brazilian roads and the absence of any viable rail network. It is still relatively inexpensive with discounts sometimes available and easily the best option for long distance travel within the country. Some major airports, especially those in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are, however, becoming very crowded.
The main border crossings are at:
- with Uruguay: Chuy/Chuí, Bella Unión/Barra do Quaraí, Artigas/Quaraí, Aceguá/Aceguá, Río Branco/Jaguarão, and between Rivera/Santana do Livramento
- with Argentina: Paso de los Libres/Uruguaiana, Santo Tomé/São Borja, Bernardo de Irigoyen/Dionísio Cerqueira, Tobuna/Paraíso (Santa Catarina), Comandante Andresito/Capanema, and between Puerto Iguazu/Foz do Iguaçu
- with Paraguay: Ciudad del Este/Foz do Iguaçu, Salto del Guaira/Guaíra, and between Pedro Juan Caballero/Ponta Porã
- with Bolivia: Puerto Suarez/Corumbá, Cobija/Brasileia/Epitaciolandia and San Matías/Cáceres
- with Peru: Iñapari/Assis Brasil
- with Colombia: Leticia/Tabatinga No road connections on either side of the border.
- with Guyana: Lethem/Bonfim
In certain border towns, notably Foz do Iguaçu/Ciudad del Este/Puerto Iguazu, you do not need entry/exit stamps or other formalities for a daytrip into the neighbouring country. These same towns are good venues if you for some reason want to cross without contact with immigration authorities.
Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries. The main capitals linked directly by bus are Buenos Aires, Asunción, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Lima. Direct connections from the first three can also be found easily, but from Lima it might be tricky, though easily accomplished by changing at one of the others. Those typically go to São Paulo, but southern cities such as Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Curitiba or Pelotas have good connections too. It should be kept in mind that distances between Sāo Paulo and any foreign capitals are significant, and journeys on the road may take up to 3 days, depending on the distance and accessibility of the destination. The national land transport authority has listings[dead link] on all operating international bus lines, and the Green Toad Bus offers bus passes between Brazil and neighbouring countries as well as around Brazil itself.
Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru, Venezuela and Colombia.
From French Guiana, you can cross the river Oyapoque, which takes about 15 minutes.
Train service within Brazil is almost nonexistent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, including the Trem da Morte, or Death Train, which goes from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to a small town just over the border from Corumbá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There is still a train line from there all the way to São Paulo which is not in use, but bus connections to São Paulo via the state capital, Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey is reputedly replete with robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased and the journey can be made without much difficulty. It goes through the Bolivian agricultural belt and along the journey one may see a technologically-averse religious community which resembles the USA's Amish in many ways.
This is the fifth largest country in the world. With a land area of 8,515,767 square kilometres (3,287,956 sq mi), travelling between major cities in Brazil can take a lot of time.
Brazil Air Pass
If you intend to visit various cities within Brazil, you should consider getting a Brazil Air Pass, offered by LATAM or Gol— you purchase between 4 and 9 flight tickets which can be used at any time for any destination within Brazil served by the airline. A typical 4-ticket pass starts at around US $580 while a full 9 tickets will run around US $1150. In addition, Gol also offers a cheaper flight pass good for travel only within the Northeast of the country. These passes can only be obtained before arrival in the country, and you must prove that you have already purchased international return trip tickets or tickets for onward travel.
Air service covers most of Brazil. Many flights make many stops en route, particularly in hubs such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Brasilia. Some airports with regular passenger traffic are still operated by state-owned company Infraero, although many international airports already had their operation privatized.
There are now several Brazilian booking engines that are good (although not perfect) for comparing flights and prices between different companies. They will mostly include an extra fee, hence it is cheaper to book on the airline's own site.
The Brazilian airline scene changes surprisingly often. The largest Brazilian carriers are the flag carrier LATAM Airlines and low-cost airlines Gol and Azul. These airlines have flights that serve all capitals and major cities in the country. Azul's subsidiary Azul Conecta and VoePass offer short-haul flights to smaller regional airports throughout the country. There are also regional carriers.
Many domestic flights have so many stops that some, including yours, may be missing from the listings in the airports. Double check your flight number and confirm with ground staff.
Certain domestic flights in Brazil are "international", meaning that the flight has arrived from abroad and is continuing without clearing all passengers through customs and immigration. This means all passengers must do this at the next stop, even those having boarded in Brazil. Do not fill out a new immigration form, but show what you were given upon actual arrival to Brazil.
- See also: Driving in Brazil
Brazil has the largest road network in Latin America with over 1.6 million kilometres. A car is a good idea if you want to explore scenic areas, e.g. the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the Rio-Santos highway, or the beaches in North-East Brazil. There are the usual car rental companies at the airports. Many roads are in good condition, especially in the east and south of the country and along the coast. In other areas and outside the metropolitan regions there are also gravel and dirt roads for which an off-road vehicle can be strongly recommended. This especially applies to the Amazon area where many roads are difficult or not at all passable during the rainy season from November to March. This is why it is advisable to travel with a good map and to be well informed about distances, road conditions and the estimated travel time. Road maps of the brand Guia Quatro Rodas was available in the most newsstands in Brazil until 2015, but they ceased to be published from that year. Many Brazilian drivers also tend to use online maps such as Google Maps and Waze to find the best routes. In theory, the driving rules of Brazil resemble those of Western Europe or North America. In practice, driving in Brazil can be quite scary if you are used to European (even Mediterranean) or North American road culture, due to widespread violations of driving rules, and the toleration thereof.
Distances kept to other vehicles are kept at a bare minimum, overtaking whenever close to possible, and changing lanes without much of a prior signal. Many large cities also suffer from hold-ups when you wait at a red light in the night. Even if there is no risk of robbery, many drivers (including of city buses) run red lights or stop signs at night when they do not see incoming traffic from the cross street. Drivers also indulge in "creative" methods of saving time, such as using the reverse direction lanes. In rural areas, many domestic animals are left at the roadside, and they sometimes wanders into the traffic. Pedestrians take enormous chances crossing the road, since many drivers do not bother to slow down if they see pedestrians crossing. The quality of the paving is very varied, and the presence of enormous potholes is something that strongly discourages night-driving. Also consider the risk of highway hold-ups after dark, not to mention truck drivers on amphetamines (to keep awake for days in a row).
- In Brazil cars are driven on the right hand side of the road.
- A flashing left signal means that the car ahead is warning you not to pass, for some reason. If the car ahead of you wants to show you that it is safe to pass it will flash the right signal. The right signal is the same signal to indicate that you're going to stop on the side of the road, so it means you're going to slow down. On the other hand the left signal is the same signal to indicate you're going to pass the car ahead, meaning you're going to speed up.
- Flashing, twinkling headlights from the cars coming on the opposite side of the road means caution on the road ahead. Most of the time, it indicates that there are animals, cops or speed radar ahead.
- Keep the doors locked when driving, especially in the larger cities, as robberies at stop signs and red lights are quite common in some areas. You'll make it much easier for the robber if he can simply open up the door and sit down. Be equally careful with keeping your windows wide open, as someone might put their hands inside your car and steal a wallet, for instance. Leave your handbags and valuables out of sight.
In smaller cities and towns the bicycle is a common means of transport. This does not mean that cyclists are usually respected by cars, trucks, or bus drivers. But you may find good roads with little traffic outside the cities. It is also easy to get a lift by a pickup or to have the bike transported by a long-distance bus. Cycling path are virtually non-existent in cities, except along certain beachfronts, such as Rio de Janeiro and Recife.
Brazil's railway system was mostly wrecked during the military regimes. Today, few interstate passenger lines remain after the dismantling and scrapping of rail transport in Brazil. However, there are several urban or short-distance tourist lines between municipalities in the same state, mainly in the southern and southeastern states.
- From Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais to Vitória, Espírito Santo - Daily trains operated by Vale leave Belo Horizonte at 07:30 and Cariacica (10 km of Vitória), at 07:00. Travel time is about 12½ hours. Seats are limited and it is not possible to reserve, so it is advisable to buy in advance at the Vale's website. The railway is the second longest passenger line of Brazil, almost 700 km long.
- From São Luis, Maranhão to Parauapebas, Pará - interesting because part of it passes through the Amazon rainforest and it's the longest passenger railway of Brazil, almost 900 km long. It is operated by Vale. The train leaves São Luís at 08:00 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. From Paraopebas, the train leaves at 06:00 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. 15 hours of travel.
By inter-city bus
Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and sometimes (usually if you buy the most expensive ticket), rather comfortable way to travel between regions. Bus stations (Terminal Rodoviário, Estação Rodoviária or Rodoviária) in Brazilian cities play a role akin to train stations in many countries. You should check travel distance and time while traveling within Brazil; going from Rio de Janeiro to the south region could take more than 24 hours, so it may be worth going by plane if you can afford it.
Brazil has a very good long-distance bus network. Basically, any city with more than 100,000 people will have direct lines to the closest state capitals and also to other major cities within the same range. If the city does not have a bus station, that city may have some form of public transport (a bus, probably) to the nearest bus station.
Sometimes you may need to go to the bus station in person to buy a ticket, although today the big bus companies make reservations and sell tickets online, as long as you get your ticket in advance. In some cities, you can also buy a ticket over the phone and receive it at the hotel for an extra fee of R$3 to R$5.Some companies have also adopted the ingenious pricing policy of airlines: in some cases, buy with advance can save more than 50%. The ease of flagging a bus and getting on it (if there are no seats available, you will have to stand, still paying full price) is common in the country. This is less likely to work along a few routes where armed robberies have happened frequently, such as those leading to the border with Paraguay and to Foz do Iguaçu.
No bus company serves the whole country, so you mist identify the company that connect two cities by calling the bus station of one city. Some big cities like São Paulo and Rio have more than one bus station, each one covering certain cities around. It is good to check in advance to which bus station you are going.
Buser and National Land Transport Agency[dead link] website can be a quick way to find bus tickets to many Brazilian cities. Bus services are often sold in three classes: Regular, Executive and First-Class (Leito, in Portuguese). Regular may or may not have air conditioning. For long distances or overnight travels, Executive offers more space and a folding board to support your legs. First-Class has even more space and only three seats per row, making enough space to sleep comfortably. All trips of more than 4 hours are covered by buses with bathrooms and the buses stop for food/bathrooms at least once every 4 hours of travel.
Bus stations in some Brazilian cities tend to be located far from downtown areas. They can be in quite remote neighborhoods, so if you travel at night, be prepared to take a taxi to and from the station. There will also be local bus lines. Even if you have a valid ticket purchased elsewhere, some Brazilian bus stations may also require a boarding pass. This can be obtained from the bus company, usually for an additional fee. If you buy a ticket at the departure bus station, you will also receive this boarding pass.
In Brazil, bus stations can include many services, including fast-food restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, restrooms and left-luggage office. As a general rule, the bigger the city, the more expensive the services can be (for example, leaving a suitcase as luggage in a smaller city can cost R$1, but in a capital like Recife it can cost R$5).
As required by Brazilian federal law, when buying tickets, as well as boarding the bus, an identification document may be requested (which for a foreigner means your passport). Not all drivers can read foreign passports, so be prepared to show them that the passport name really is the same as the ticket name.
By ride sharing
Many people offer shared rides between many popular destinations. The most notable website for finding rides is BlaBlaCar, which also has a rating system for drivers, making the trip very secure, especially for Brazilian standards. This way, you can easily bring down your transport costs by 40-50%. Costs are about R$20 per 100 km.
Also, it can be considerably faster, without unnecessary stops at restaurants and such. The BlaBlaCar website is free, and you only pay the driver directly. But they will almost certainly charge in the future like they do for other countries as well. But until the taxation status of such services (including Uber) is settled by the government, the free system will not change.
If you would like to see the price of the shared ride in the app in reais, you need to select BRL (Brazilian real) after installing the app. If you have the app on your smartphone already in another currency, you need to delete the app and reinstall it.
Do not underestimate the desire of Brazilians to discuss and talk about everything, and to give their opinions about even the most remote nonsense. This can be highly stressful if you have a different temperament, prefer a quiet drive, and just want to reach your destination.
By city bus
Most cities have extensive bus services. Multiple companies may serve a single city. There is almost never a map of the bus lines, and often bus stops are unmarked. Be prepared for confusion and wasted time. The bus schedule for the urban passenger transport service in large and small cities can be consulted on the site, in addition to Google Maps, it includes some services.
Buses have a board behind the windshield that advertises the main destinations they serve. You may have to ask the locals for information, but they may not know bus lines except the ones they usually take.
In most cities you have to wave to stop the bus when you want to take it. This in itself would not pose a problem; however, in big cities there may be dozens of bus lines stopping at a given bus stop and bus stops are not designed to accommodate so many vehicles. Frequently one cannot observe the oncoming buses due to other buses blocking the view. Bus drivers are reluctant to slow down for a bus stop if they are not sure someone will take their bus, so it is common to miss your bus because you could not see it coming to wave on time or the driver did not see you waving in between buses already at the stop. Some people go into the middle of a busy street to wait for their bus to make sure they see it and the driver sees them. In some places, like Manaus, drivers even tend to ignore stop requests (both to get on and to get off) if it is not too easy to navigate to the bus stop.
Most city buses have both a driver and a conductor. The conductor sits behind a till next to a turnstile. You have to pay the conductor; the price of the bus is usually advertised on the windshield. The turnstiles are narrow, and very inconvenient if one carries any kind of load (try balancing a heavy backpack over the turnstile while the bus is running). Larger buses often have a front section, before the turnstile, meant in priority for the elderly, handicapped and pregnant women - you can use it but you still have to pay! Typical prices are around R$3.
You can try asking the conductor to warn you when the bus is close to your destination. Depending on whether he or she understands you and feels like helping you, you may get help.
In addition to large city buses, there are often minibuses or minivans (alternativo). You pay the driver when you go aboard.
In northern Brazil, it is possible to travel many distances by boat. In fact, the boat is the main and most accessible means of transport to get around the Amazon, since the Amazon Forest is cut by many rivers and some cities are inaccessible by road. The best boat services in the country are in the Amazon, where you can ride on speedboats and comfortable yachts or small wooden boats. The main navigable rivers are the Amazon River, the Araguaia River, the Xingu River and the Tapajós River. It is necessary to know the geography of the region, as in some places waterfalls are formed.
Brazil has availability of some e-hailing services, Uber being the largest of them. Notable e-hailing services in Brazil, are:
- 99Pop. If the app is not available in your Google Play store, you can download it here.
- See also: Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by almost the entire Brazilian population.
Brazilian Portuguese is remarkably different from European Portuguese. For instance, there are a number of pronunciation differences, some words are written differently, some words have a completely different meaning in Brazil, and there are numerous loanwords from English, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.
Although most Brazilians learn English at school, the focus is entirely on formal writing and grammar rather than actual conversation. Thus, many Brazilians are not that proficient in the language. You might find an English speaker in a major hotel or an area populated by tourists. Younger Brazilians are more likely to speak English. If you wish to travel to Brazil independently, you should have a solid knowledge of Brazilian Portuguese.
Spanish speakers are usually able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south, due to the proximity of the states of that region to Uruguay and Argentina and due to the tourists from those countries who visit the states of that region. While written Portuguese can be quite similar to Spanish, spoken Portuguese differs considerably and is much harder to understand. Compare the number 20 which is veinte (BAYN-teh) in Spanish to vinte (VEEN-chee) in Brazilian Portuguese. Even more different is gente (people), pronounced "HEN-teh" in Spanish and "ZHEN-chee" in Brazilian Portuguese. The letters CH, D, G, J, R, RR, and T are particularly difficult for Spanish speakers to understand, and that's without even considering the vowels. Often confusing to Spanish, even English speakers, is the pronunciation of the letter "R" in the beginning of most words. Common first names such as Roberto, Ronaldo and Rolando are not pronounced as you would think: the "R" is pronounced as "H". Thus you would say Hobertoo, Honawdoo and Holandoo. Rio is pronounced "HEE-oo".
Other minority languages are spoken in some parts of Brazil. In the Amazon, several indigenous languages are still spoken, mainly Nheengatu,Tukano, and Baniwa, which has co-official status in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in Amazonas. In the south, in cities that have received German and Italian immigrants, these languages and their dialects are also spoken by a small portion of the population, as in Pomerode, Santa Catarina, which has German and the Pomeranian dialect with co-official status and in Serafina Corrêa and Caxias do Sul, municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul, where the co-official language is Talian, a dialect of the Venetian language spoken in northern Italy. Due to immigration, it is becoming more common in some cities to find speakers of other foreign languages, such as Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Polish, Ukrainian, French and Haitian Creole.
The primary language of the Brazilian deaf community is Brazilian Sign Language (BSL), known locally as LIBRAS. When an interpreter is present in public, he or she will use BSL. It is influenced by French Sign Language (LSF) and also uses a one-handed manual alphabet very similar to that of LSF. Users of British Sign Language, Auslan, or New Zealand Sign Language, however, will have great difficulty understanding it. Those languages differ markedly in vocabulary and syntax from LSF, and also use a two-handed manual alphabet.
Virtually all movies, in addition to foreign shows broadcast on Brazilian TV channels are dubbed into Portuguese. However, some pay TV channels have dual-audio (original audio with subtitles as an option available to be turned on by the user). If you want to watch the latest movies in English, not dubbed into Portuguese, you may be able to see them in some theaters in the capitals and biggest cities. Look for the Portuguese word "Legendado" (original with subtitles). You are unlikely to find films shown in their original language without subtitles.
- Amazon Rainforest - The Amazon River Basin holds more than half of the world's remaining rainforest, and over 60% of that lies within the North of Brazil — approximately one billion acres with incredible biodiversity. The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, over 40,000 plants species, 2,200 fish species, and more than 2,000 types of birds and mammals. One in five of all the bird species in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams.
- Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) - A region of tropical and subtropical forest which extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the Northeast to Rio Grande do Sul state in the South. The Atlantic Forest has a wide variety of vegetation, including the many tree species such as the iconic araucaria tree in the south or the mangroves of the northeast, dozens of types of bromeliads and orchids, and unique critters such as capivara. The forest has also been designated a World Biosphere Reserve, with a large number of highly endangered species including the well-known marmosets, lion tamarins and woolly spider monkeys. Unfortunately, it has been extensively cleared since colonial times, mainly for the farming of sugar cane and for urban settlements — The remnants are estimated to be less than 10% of the original, and that is often broken into hilltop islands. However, large swaths of it are protected by hundreds of parks, including 131 federal parks, 443 state parks, and 14 municipal parks, most of which are open to visitation.
- The Pantanal - A vast tropical wetland expanse, one of the world's largest. 80% of it lies within the state of Mato Grosso do Sul but it also extends into Mato Grosso (as well as into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay), sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometers (54,000-75,000 sq mi). 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.
- Waterfalls (Cachoeiras) - Brazil has an amazing range of impressive waterfalls of all sizes and shapes. Iguaçu Falls, in eastern Parana, is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, truly a sight to see. The 353-meter Cachoeira da Fumaça in Bahia's Chapada Diamantina National Park is the country's second highest waterfall, after the Amazon's almost inaccessible Cachoeira do Araca. Other famous waterfalls include Caracol Falls, in a Rio Grande do Sul state park of the same name near Canela, Itaquira Falls, an easily accessible 168-meter fall near Formosa, Goiás, and the gorge at Parque da Cascata near Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais. Aside from the nationally famous falls, in many parts of the country, particularly the South, Southeast, and Central West regions, you are rarely far from at least one locally-famous, named waterfall worth a short hike.
- Colonial architecture - Many cities have reminders of Brazil's colonial past, with churches, monasteries, forts, barracks, and other structures still intact. Some of the most concentrated and best-preserved colonial buildings can be found in old gold-mining towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, but many other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis, Salvador, Paraty, and Goiânia have quite significant colonial centers as well.
- Oscar Niemeyer works - Niemeyer, Brazil's most famous architect, is a modern architectural pioneer who explores the aesthetic impact of reinforced concrete, using curves to create buildings with a unique sense of space. He is most famous for designing many of the buildings when the new capital of Brasilia was built in the 1950s, but his works literally dot the country, with major works in Natal, João Pessoa, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Niterói, São Paulo, Londrina and other locations.
Due to its high degree of acceptance and tolerance, gay travel is increasingly popular. Nowadays, the main lesbian and gay destinations are Rio de Janeiro, which was elected the world's sexiest destination twice, São Paulo, which has the world's largest Pride Parade, Florianópolis, which is the hippest gay hangout and Recife, which is attracting more and more lesbian and gay tourists looking for fun and sun. However, caution should still be observed especially in rural areas outside of major cities, where Brazil remains culturally conservative and deeply Catholic.
The biggest party in the world takes place across the country every year, lasting almost a week in February or early March. It is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, from the giants boneco masks of Olinda and the trios elétricos of Salvador to the massive samba parades of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. For a relatively more subdued atmosphere, check out the university-style street party of Ouro Preto or the sporty beach party at Ilha do Mel. Don't forget to make your reservations well in advance!
Almost the entire coast is lined with fabulous beaches, and the beach lifestyle is a big part of Brazilian culture. Nowhere is that more true than in Rio de Janeiro, with its laidback, flip-flop-footed lifestyle and famous beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana. Beaches in other areas of the country may not have the instant name recognition but are no less amazing. The Northeast has jewels like Jericoacoara, Praia do Futuro, Boa Vista, Porto de Galinhas, and Morro de São Paulo which bring in throngs of travellers, particularly Europeans. Landlocked mineiros go mingle with the rich and famous at Guarapari or dance forró in the sand at Itaunas, while paulistas head for Caraguá or Ubatuba. In the South, weekend revelers flock to Ilha do Mel or Balneário Camboriú, while the 42 beaches of Santa Catarina Island draw in thousands of Argentianian tourists every year. Hundreds more beaches lie ready to be explored as well. Don't forget those nude beaches in Rio and São Paulo!
Football (soccer) is the talk of the town wherever your are in Brazil, and the country is brimming with great teams and great players. It is often said that football is not just a sport, but the national religion. While Rio de Janeiro's world-famous Maracanã stadium is under renovation, you can still catch a game at lots of other great venues like the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte or Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo. The men's national team has won the World Cup a record 5 times (in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002), and they have a particularly charged rivalry with their neighbours Argentina.
Brazil's top professional men's league is the Brasileirão, and the league is a very competitive one with no shortage of passion from the fans. The "big twelve" clubs in Brazil, sorted by city are:
There are numerous intense rivalries between Brazil's big clubs, but perhaps the most well-known ones are the Paulista Derby between Coronthians and Palmeiras, Fla-Flu between Flamengo and Fluminense, and O Clássico dos Milhões between Flamengo and Vasco da Gama.
- Volleyball - While soccer is the main sport in Brazil, volleyball is extremely popular as well. In addition to the standard indoor sport known the world over, there are several other varieties you can play or watch in Brazil:
- Beach volleyball - It is very common to find spaces on the beaches where you can play beach volleyball, but this version of the sport possess a different code of rules than indoor volleyball (for example instead of six players, only two players are allowed to play on each team).
- Footvolley - Created in Brazil, this challenging sport is essentially beach volleyball played with the ball and no-hands rules of soccer.
- Biribol - Another Brazilian original, biribol, named after the city of Birigüi where it was invented, is an aquatic version of volleyball, played in a 1.3-meter-deep pool with 4 players on each team and a ball similar to a water-polo ball.
Exchange rates for Brazilian reais
As of September 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Brazil's unit of currency is the real (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural reais ('hay-ICE'), denoted "R$" (ISO code: BRL), commonly referred to as a "conto" (slang) or "pila" (a slang term for the currency in Rio Grande do Sul). One real is divided into 100 centavos.
Coins are in denominations of R$0.05, R$0.10, R$0.25, R$0.50 and R$1. Some denominations have several different designs. Bills come in the following denominations: R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50, R$100 and R$200.
Small shops or street vendors are unlikely to have change for R$50, R$100 or R$200 notes. Travelers would be wise to spend those at busy restaurants or grocery stores to keep an adequate supply of small bills on hand.
Look for an ATM with your credit/debit card logo on it. Large branches of Banco do Brasil (charging R$6,50 per withdrawal) usually have one, and most all Bradesco, Citibank, BankBoston and HSBC machines will work. Banco 24 Horas is a network of ATMs which accept foreign cards (charging R$10 per withdrawal). Withdrawal limits are usually R$600 (Bradesco) or R$1000 (BB, HSBC, B24H), per transaction, and in any case R$1000 per day. The latter can be circumvented by several consecutive withdrawals, choosing different "accounts", i.e. "credit card", "checking", "savings". Most ATMs do not work or will only give you R$100 after 22:00.
In March 2021, it was only possible to withdraw money for free with an international credit card from the Bradesco bank.
In smaller towns, it is possible that there is no ATM that accepts foreign cards. You should therefore always carry sufficient cash.
A majority of Brazilian shops now accepts major credit cards. However, quite a few online stores only accept cards issued in Brazil, even though they have the international logo of such cards.
Foreign currency such as US dollars or euros can be exchanged at major airports and luxury hotels (bad rates), exchange bureaus and major branches of Banco do Brasil (no other banks), where you need your passport and your immigration form.
There are many federal regulations for dealings with foreign currency, trading in any currency other than real in Brazil is considered illegal, although some places in big cities and bordering towns accept foreign currencies and many exchange offices operate in a shady area. In addition, exchange offices are almost impossible to find outside of big cities. Currency other than US dollars and euros is hard to exchange and the rates are ridiculous. If you would like to exchange cash at a bank, be prepared to pay a hefty commission. For example, Banco do Brasil collects US$15 for each transaction (regardless of amount). Also, traveling with a backpack, you are out of luck getting into banks, because they have annoying security doors and rules. And even if you get in and exchange is possible, you will have to queue for 30 min or so with other regular customers.
It is thus best to rely on ATM.
Wiring money to Brazil can be done through Western Union [dead link] transfers to be picked up at a Banco do Brasil branch in most cities, and also quite a few exchange offices.
Travellers' checks can be hard to cash anywhere that does not offer currency exchange.
While tips can sometimes be given for some services, delivery or tourism, tips are very uncommon. It is usually not expected in cabs, although rounding up the fare occasionally takes place. Many restaurants include a 10% delivery charge in the note, with no further tips being required. Such a charge often depends on the municipality. Tipping bartenders is not customary.
A budget traveler can get by with R$ 250 to R$ 400 a day and have a little more comfort with R$ 700 a day. Accommodation in hostels or inns tends to be cheaper than in hotels, costing an average of R$ 40. Accommodation can be considerably more expensive during the summer in the southern hemisphere and especially during festivities such as Carnaval.
It's not a bad idea to pack light and acquire a Brazilian wardrobe within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist, and give you months of satisfied gloating back home about the great bargains you got whenever you are complimented on your clothing. Brazilians have their own sense of style and that makes tourists - especially those in Hawaiian shirts or sandals with socks - stand out in the crowd. Have some fun shopping, and blend in. Another good reason for buying clothes and shoes in Brazil is that the quality is usually good and the prices often cheap. However, this does not apply to any foreign brand as imports are burdened by high import taxes - therefore, do not expect to find any good prices on brands like Diesel, Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. To figure your Brazilian trousers size, measure your waist in centimeters, divide by 2, and round up to the next even number.
Store windows will often display a price followed by "X 5" or "X 10", etc. This is an installment-sale price. The price displayed is the per-installment price, so that, "R$50 X 10", for example, means 10 payments (typically monthly) of R$50 each. The actual price is often lower if you pay in cash.
Make sure any appliances you buy are either dual voltage or the same as in your home country. Brazil is 60 Hz, so don't buy electric clocks or non-battery operated motorized items if you live in Europe or Australia. The voltage, however, varies by state or even regions inside the same state. (see Electricity below).
Brazilian-made appliances and electronics are expensive. If not, they are usually of poor quality. All electronics are expensive compared to European or US prices. Prices for imported electronic goods can be quite expensive due to high import tax, and the range of domestic electronic gadgets is not very wide.
There are plenty of bargains to be had, especially leather goods, including shoes (sizes are different though). Clothes in general are a good buy, especially for women, for whom there are many classy items. Street markets, which are common, are also a very good option, but avoid brand names like "Nike" - you will pay more and it's probably fake. Don't be afraid to "feel" an item. If it doesn't feel right, most likely it isn't! If there is no label, it is probably Brazilian, but some Brazilian-made products are less robust than their American or European counterparts.
Similar to the rest of Latin America, hand-crafted jewelry and accessories can be found anywhere, especially in touristy areas, but they will be significantly more expensive. In regions with a larger Afro-Brazilian population, you'll find more African-influenced souvenirs, including black dolls. Havaianas flip-flops are affordable and readily available in Brazil and supermarkets are often the best place to buy them — small shops usually carry off-brand or fake ones. If you have space in your bags, a Brazilian woven cotton hammock is a nice, functional purchase as well. Another interesting and fun item is a peteca, a sort of hand shuttlecock used in an eponymous traditional game, which is similar to volleyball.
- See also: Brazilian cuisine
Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture, based on the variety of crops, livestock and seafood produced in the country. On the other hand, some may find it an unrefined melange, and everyday fare can be bland and monotonous. While there are some quite unique dishes of regional origin, many dishes were brought by overseas immigrants and have been adapted to local tastes through the generations. Italian and Chinese food in Brazil can often be as baffling as Amazonian fare.
The standard Brazilian set lunch is called prato feito, with its siblings comercial and executivo. Rice and brown beans in sauce, with a small steak. Sometimes farofa, spaghetti, vegetables and French fries will come along. Beef may be substituted for chicken, fish or others.
- Brazil's national dish is feijoada, a hearty stew made of black beans, pork (ears, knuckles, chops, sausage) and beef (usually dried). It's served with rice, garnished with collard greens and sliced oranges. It's not served in every restaurant; the ones that serve it typically offer it on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A typical mistake made by tourists is to eat too much feijoada upon first encounter. This is a heavy dish — even Brazilians usually eat it parsimoniously.
- Brazilian snacks, lanches (sandwiches) and salgadinhos (most anything else), include a wide variety of pastries. Look for coxinha (deep-fried, batter-coated chicken), empada (a tiny pie, not to be confused with the empanada - empadas and empanadas are entirely different items), and pastel (fried turnovers). Another common snack is a misto quente, a pressed,toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich. Pão-de-queijo, a roll made of manioc flour and cheese, is very popular, especially in Minas Gerais state - pão-de-queijo and a cup of fresh Brazilian coffee is a classic combination.
- Farofa. A cassava flour stir-fried with bacon and onion bits; the standard carbo side dish at restaurants, along with white rice.
- Feijão verde. Green beans with cheese gratin.
- Paçoca. Beef jerky mixed with cassava flour in a pilão (big mortar with a big pestle). Traditional cowboy fare.
- Pastel. Deep-fried pastry filled with cheese, minced meat or ham.
- Tapioca (Beiju de tapioca). Made with cassava starch, also known as tapioca starch. When heated in a pan, it coagulates and becomes a type of pancake or dry crepe, shaped like a disk. Some will serve it folded in half, others will roll it rocambole-style. The filling varies, but it can be done sweet or savory, with the most traditional flavors being: grated coconut/condensed milk (sweet), beef jerky/coalho cheese, plain cheese, and butter (savory). However, it has become a "gourmetized" food item, to be treated with creativity; nutella, chocolate, napolitano (pizza cheese/ham/tomato/oregano) and shredded chicken breast/catupiry cheese being almost standard options nowadays.
- Brigadeiro. A traditional Brazilian dessert from the 1940s, made of cocoa powder, condensed milk, and butter, covered chocolate sprinkles.
- Southern - Churrasco is Brazilian barbecue, and is usually served "rodizio" or "espeto corrido" (all-you-can-eat). Waiters carry huge cuts of meat on steel spits from table to table, and carve off slices onto your plate (use the tongs to grab the meat slice and don't touch the knife edge with your silverware to avoid dulling the edge). Traditionally, you are given a small wooden block colored green on one side and red on the other. When you're ready to eat, put the green side up. When you're too stuffed to even tell the waiter you've had enough, put the red side up... Rodizio places have a buffet for non-meaty items; beware that in some places, the desserts are not considered part of the main buffet and are charged as a supplement. Most churrasco restaurants (churrascarias) also serve other types of food, so it is safe to go there with a friend that is not really fond of meat. While churrascarias are usually fairly expensive places (for Brazilian standards) in the North, Central and the countryside areas of the country they tend to be much cheaper then in the South and big cities, where they are frequented even by the less affluent.
- Mineiro is the "miner's" cuisine of Minas Gerais, based on pork and beans, with some vegetables. Dishes from Goiás are similar, but use some local ingredients such as pequi and guariroba. Minas Gerais cuisine if not seen as particularly tasty, has a "homely" feel that is much cherished.
- The food of Bahia, on the northeast coast has its roots across the Atlantic in East Africa and Indian cuisine. Coconut, dende palm oil, hot peppers, and seafood are the prime ingredients. Tip: hot ("quente") means lots of pepper, cold ("frio") means less or no pepper at all. If you dare to eat it hot you should try acarajé (prawn-filled roasties) and vatapá (drinkable black beans soup).
- Espírito Santo and Bahia have two different versions of moqueca, a delightful tomato-based seafood stew prepared in a special type of clay pot.
- Amazonian cuisine draws from the food of the indigenous inhabitants, including various exotic fish and vegetables. There is also a stupendous variety of tropical fruits.
- Ceará's food has a great sort of seafood, and is known to have the country's best crab. It's so popular that literally every weekend thousands of people go to Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza to eat fried fish and crabs (usually followed by cold beer).
Brazilian "fusion" cuisines
- Pizza is very popular in Brazil. In Sāo Paulo, travellers will find the highest proportion of pizza parlours per inhabitant in the country. The variety of flavours is extremely vast, with some restaurants offering more than 100 types of pizza. There is a difference between the European "mozzarella" and the Brazilian "mussarela". They differ in flavor, appearance and origin but buffalo mozzarella ("mussarela de búfala") is also often available. The Brazilian "mussarela", which tops most pizzas, is yellow in color and has a stronger taste. In some restaurants, particularly in the South, pizza has no tomato sauce. Other dishes of Italian origin, such as macarrão (macaroni), lasanha and others are also very popular.
- Middle-eastern and Arab (actually Lebanese) food is widely available. Most options offer high quality and a big variety. Some types of middle-eastern food, such as quibe and esfiha have been adapted and are available at snack stands and fast food joints nation-wide. You can also find shawarma (kebabs) stands, which Brazilians call "churrasco grego" (Greek Barbecue)
- São Paulo's Japanese restaurants serve up lots of tempura, yakisoba, sushi and sashimi. The variety is good and the prices are mostly very attractive when compared to Europe, the US and Japan. Most Japanese restaurants also offer the rodizio or buffet option, with the same quality as if you ordered from the menu. Sometimes, however, it can be quite a departure from the real thing. In particular, Brazilian-made sushis often employ copious amounts of cream cheese and mayonnaise, and breaded sushi with tare sauce ("hot rolls") are as popular as "raw fish" sushi. The same can be said of Chinese food, again with some variations from the traditional. Cheese-filled spring rolls, anyone? Japanese restaurants (or those that offer Japanese food) are much more common than Chinese and can be found in many Brazilian cities, especially in the state of São Paulo.
- Restaurants add a 10% service charge on the bill, and this is generally the only tip paid in Brazil. It is not mandatory, but asking for the charge to be removed is often considered very rude and is normally reserved for bad service. If you really want to tip, R$5-10 are enough, and it will probably really surprise your server too.
- There are two types of self-service restaurants, sometimes with both options available in one place: all-you-can-eat buffets with barbecue served at the tables, called rodízio, or a price per weight (por quilo or quilão), very common during lunchtime throughout Brazil. Load up at the buffet and get your plate on the scale before eating any. Especially in the South, the traditional Italian "galeto" is common. You'll be served different types of pasta, salads, soups and meat (mostly chicken) at your table.
- Customers are allowed by law to visit the kitchen to check how the food is being handled, although this is extremely uncommon and doing so will probably be considered odd and impolite.
- Some Brazilian restaurants serve only meals for two. It might not be clear from the menu, so ask the waiter. Most restaurants in this category allow for a "half-serving" of such plates (meia-porção), at 60-70% of the price. Also, couples at restaurants often sit side-by-side rather than across from each other; observe your waiter's cues or express your preference when being seated.
- Fast food is popular, and the local takes on hamburgers and hot-dogs ("cachorro-quente", translated literally) are well worth trying. Brazilian sandwiches come in many varieties, with ingredients like mayonnaise, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, corn, peas, raisins, French fries, ketchup, eggs, pickles, etc. Brave eaters may want to try the traditional complete hot dog (just ask for a completo), which, aside from the bun and the sausage, will include everything on display. The ubiquitous x-burger (and its varieties x-salada, x-tudo, etc.) is not as mysterious as it sounds: the pronunciation of the letter "X" in Portuguese sounds like "cheese", hence the name.
- Large chains: The fast-food burger chain Bob's is found nationwide and has been around in the country for almost as long as McDonald's. There is also a national fast-food chain called Habib's which despite the name serves pizza in addition to Arabian food. Burger King and Subway are also widespread.
Brazil's national booze is cachaça (cah-shah-sah, also known as aguardente ("burning water") and pinga), a 40% sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. It can be tried in virtually every bar in the country. Famous producing regions include Minas Gerais, where there are tours of distilleries, and the city of Paraty. Pirassununga is home to Caninha 51, Brazil's best-selling brand. Outside Fortaleza there is a cachaça museum (Museu da Cachaça) where you can learn about the history of the Ypioca brand.
Drinking cachaça straight, or stirring in only a dollop of honey or a bit of lime juice, is a common habit on the Northeast region of the country, but the strength of cachaça can be hidden in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, where it is mixed with sugar, lime juice and ice. Using vodka instead of cachaça is nicknamed caipiroska or caipivodka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima; and with sake it's a caipisaque or saquerinha (not in every region). Another interesting concoction is called capeta ("devil"), made with cachaça, condensed milk, cinnamon, guarana powder (a mild stimulant), and other ingredients, varying by region. If you enjoy fine brandy or grappa, try an aged cachaça. Deep and complex, this golden-coloured spirit is nothing like the ubiquitous clear liquor more commonly seen. A fun trip is to an "alambique" - a local distillery, of which there are thousands throughout the country - not only will you be able to see how the spirit is made from the raw cane sugar, you will probably also get a better price.
Well worth a try is Brazilian whisky! It's actually 50% imported scotch - the malt component -and approximately 50% Brazilian grain spirit. Don't be misled by American sounding names like "Wall Street". It is not bourbon. Good value for money and indistinguishable from common British blends.
While imported alcohol is very expensive, many international brands are produced under license in Brazil, making them widely available, and fairly cheap. You can buy booze in the tax-free after landing at Brazilian airports, but it generally is more expensive than buying it outside the airports.
Beer in Brazil has a respectable history because of the German immigrants. Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be way less thick and bitter than German, Danish or English beer. More than 90% of all beer consumed in Brazil is Pilsner, and it is usually drunk very cold (at a temperature close to 0°C). The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica, and Skol. Traditional brands include Bohemia, Caracu (a stout), Original and Serra Malte (another stout). They are easily found in bars and are worth trying but are usually more expensive than the popular beers. There are also some national premium beers that are found only in some specific bars and supermarkets; if you want to taste a good Brazilian beer, search for Baden Baden, Colorado, Eisenbahn, Petra, Theresopolis and others. There are also some international beers produced by national breweries like Heineken and Stella Artois and have a slightly different taste if compared with the original beers.
There are two ways of drinking beer in bars: draft or bottled beer. Draft lager beer is called chope or chopp ('SHOH-pee'), and is commonly served with one inch of foam, but you can make a complaint to the bartender if the foam is consistently thicker than that. In bars, the waiter will usually collect the empty glasses and bottles on a table and replace them with full ones, until you ask him to stop, in a "tap" charging system. In the case of bottled beer, bottles (600ml or 1l) are shared among everyone at the table and poured in small glasses, rather than drunk straight from the bottle. Brazilians like their beer nearly ice-cold - hence, to keep the temperature down, bottles of beer are often kept in an insulated polystyrene container on the table.
Rio Grande do Sul is the leading wine production region. There are a number of wine-producing farms that are open to visitors and wine tasting, and wine cellars selling wine and fermented grape juice. One of these farms open to visitors is Salton Winery, located in the city of Bento Gonçalves. The São Francisco Valley, along the border of the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, is the country's newest wine-producing region. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. Popular brands like Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade and others with prices below R$6.00 are usually seen as trash.
In Minas Gerais, look for licor de jabuticaba (jabuticaba liquor) or vinho de jabuticaba (jabuticaba wine), an exquisite purple-black beverage with a sweet taste. Jabuticaba is the name of a small grape-like black fruit native to Brazil.
Coffee and tea
Brazil is known world-wide for its high-quality strong coffee. Café is so popular that it can name meals (just like rice does in China, Japan and Korea): breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã (morning coffee), while café com pão (coffee with bread) or café da tarde (afternoon coffee) means a light afternoon meal. Cafezinho (small coffee) is a small cup of strong, sweetened coffee usually served after meals in restaurants (sometimes for free, just ask politely). Bottled filtered coffee is being replaced by stronger espresso cups in more upscale restaurants.
Chá, or tea in Portuguese, is most commonly found in its Assam version (orange, light coloured). Some more specialised tea shops and cafés will have Earl Gray and green tea available as well.
Mate is an infusion similar to tea that is very high in caffeine content. A toasted version, often served chilled, is consumed all around the country, while Chimarrão (incidentally called mate in neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries) is the hot, bitter equivalent that can be found in the south and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos (Rio Grande do Sul dwellers). Tererê is a cold version of Chimarrão, common in Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso state.
If you want a Coke in Brazil, ask for coca or coca-cola, as "cola" means "glue", in Portuguese.
Guaraná is a carbonated soft drink made from the guaraná berry, native to the Amazon area. The major brands are Antarctica and Kuat, the latter owned by Coke. Pureza is a lesser known guaraná soft drink specially popular in Santa Catarina. Other local guaraná brands are Fruki, very popular in Rio Grande do Sul, and Dolly, popular in São Paulo. There is also a Guaraná Jesus, a sweet pink soft drink that is popular in Maranhão. Almost all regions in Brazil feature their own local variants on guaraná, some which can be quite different from the standard "Antarctica" in both good and bad ways. If traveling to Amazonas, be sure to try a cold "Baré," which due to its huge popularity in Manaus was purchased by Antarctica and is becoming more available throughout northern Brazil.
Tubaína is a carbonated soft drink once very popular among Brazilians (particularly the ones born in the 70s, 80s and early 90s) and becoming extremely hard to find. It was once mass-produced by "Brahma" before it became focused on beers only. If you happen to find a place that sells it, try it.
Mineirinho (or Mate Couro) is also a popular soft drink made of guaraná and a typical Brazilian leaf called Chapéu de Couro. Although most Brazilians say that it tastes like grass, older people (+70 years) claim that the drink has medicinal properties.
Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. Some cities, notably Rio de Janeiro, have fruit juice bars at nearly every corner.
- Nothing beats coconut water (água de coco) on a hot day. (Stress the first o, otherwise it will come out as "poo" (cocô)). It is mostly sold as coco gelado in the coconut itself, drunk with a straw. Ask the machete-wielding vendors to cut the coconut in half so that you can eat the flesh after drinking the water.
- Açai (a fruit from the Amazon) is delicious and nutritious (rich in antioxidants) and can be found widespread across the nations. In the Amazon region it's used as a complement to the everyday diet, often eaten together with rice and fish in the main meal of the day. Curiously, outside of the Amazon region, it's typically used in blended in combination with guarana (a stimulant) powder and a banana to re-energize from late-night partying. It is served cold and has a consistency of soft ice. There are also açai ice creams available.
- Maracuja (passion fruit) (careful during an active day as this has a relaxant effect)
- Caju (cashew fruit) and
- Garapa or caldo de cana: freshly pressed sugarcane juice
- Manga (mango) are also great juice experiences.
- Vitamina: milk shake with fresh fruits
Brazilians have great taste when it comes to mixing juices.
High season in Brazil follows the school holidays calendar, December and January (summer) being the busiest months. New Year, Carnival (movable between February and March, see Understand above) and Holy week are the peak periods, and prices can skyrocket, especially in coastal cities like Rio and Salvador. Also, during those holidays, many hotels restrict bookings to a 3 or 4-day minimum and charge in advance.
Hotels are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil and can range from luxury beach resorts to very modest and inexpensive choices. The Brazilian tourism regulation board imposes specific minimum attributes for each type of facility, but as the 1-5 star rating is no longer enforced, check in advance if your hotel provides the kind of services you expect.
Pousada means guesthouse (the local equivalent of a French auberge or a British boarding house), and are usually simpler than hotels, and will offer fewer services (room service, laundry etc.). Pousadas are even more widespread than hotels.
In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas, which are ranches with guest facilities. In small towns of Minas Gerais people are fond of hotéis-fazenda (farm hotels) where you can swim, ride, walk, play football, and camp as well as sleep in picturesque barracks.
Also there is great fun in going on a boat hotel which will take you to inaccessible places on the rivers and lakes for great fishing trips or for simply relaxing and watching and photographing the wildlife which is very abundant in the Pantanal. The boats are large, safe, and comfortable with air-conditioned rooms (very necessary). Several small aluminum boats with outboard motor, carried by the boat hotel, driven by experienced fisher/guide will take 2 or 3 tourists to the best "points".
Youth hostels (albergues da juventude) are becoming increasingly common.
Many ho(s)tels give discounts if you do not use the monopolistic reservation website in the middle, especially in Rio. So, checkout their website directly or drop them a message.
Motels vs hotels
A quick word of caution; in Brazil a "motel" is not the same as what one normally finds in the United States. The term motel in Latin America usually refers to a place of accommodation where the rooms are rented on a short term basis, typically for romantic assignations. Hotels, by contrast, are places of accommodation for travelers and are typically family friendly. Many hotels will not permit persons who are not registered as guests to go beyond the reception area. This is for the safety of both the guests and hotel staff and also to protect the hotel's reputation in what is still a culturally conservative and Catholic country. So visitors looking for a place to enjoy the physical company of another, will often use motels. Also privacy is something of a premium in Brazil, with children often living at home until they are married. For this and other practical reasons, couples, even married couples desiring a little intimacy, sometimes rent a room at a motel. These motels are common in Brazil and do not carry the social stigma that used to be associated with so called "no tell motels" in the United States or Canada. The quality and price of motel accommodations varies, sometimes drastically, with most being clean and well kept. Rooms are engaged anonymously with the tariff and any associated charges usually being paid on a cash only basis.
The quality of Brazilian universities varies greatly depending on the region. In Brazil, there are hundreds of universities, and public universities are usually the most renowned in the country and the ones that produce the most scientific research than private universities. Some of the most important public universities are University of São Paulo (USP), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), University of Brasilia (UnB), Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). In addition, there are also some important private universities, such as Mackenzie Presbyterian University and the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUCSP), the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS). Public universities have a standard entrance exam, called the ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio, National High School Exam), although some of them also have their own entrance exam. All of these universities have excellent undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and are internationally recognised, with various exchange programmes with various universities in many countries around the world.
In order to register at a Brazilian university as an exchange student, you must obtain a student visa at the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate in your home country. After you have arrived in Brazil with a valid student visa, then you must register in the Departamento da Polícia Federal (Federal Police Department) within 30 days of your arrival and obtain the RNE (Registro Nacional do Estrangeiro), which is the national ID card for overseas citizens. This is also where you can renew your visa with the Brazilian authorities.
Portuguese courses for foreigners are not widespread outside the big cities. A good alternative is to befriend language students and exchange lessons. If you come to Brazil with some initial notions of Portuguese, you will see that people will treat you much better and you will get by much easier. Language schools in Curitiba, Salvador, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre have Portuguese courses from 2 weeks up.
Brazil is known for its very welcoming stance towards immigrants, especially when compared to other nations in South America. Many people from South American countries live and work in Brazil. Since Brazil has one of the largest economies in the world, there is an abundance of work opportunities in the country.
With an unemployment rate of 8.8% (as of 2023), finding a job in Brazil can be a competitive affair. A very good knowledge of Portuguese will enhance your employment prospects in Brazil and put you ahead of most people applying for jobs in the country.
To work in the country, you must have a work permit (Autorização de Trabalho) from the Ministry of Labor. To obtain it, you must be sponsored by an employer before entering the country. The process of hiring non-Brazilians can be a pretty daunting, complex, bureaucratic task; employers are required, by law, to prove your skills to the government and simultaneously hire and train a replacement for you.
If you are a native English speaker, you may be able to find an English-teaching part-time job, but don't expect that to save your holidays. Although working in the informal market can seem hassle-free at first, there are risks as well. The pay will be under-the-table without contract, so it will be difficult for you to claim your labor rights later. In the bigger cities, there is also the danger of being turned in to the authorities by a rival school, which may see you to a plane home earlier than you had planned.
There is also a growing demand for Spanish language classes, so native Spanish speakers should have no trouble finding work, especially in the major cities. In both cases, it's always much more lucrative to find work privately rather than through schools. This can be done easily, for example by putting an ad in the classifieds section of the newspapers Folha de S. Paulo and Estado de S. Paulo (in São Paulo), O Globo (in Rio de Janeiro) and Zero Hora (in Porto Alegre) or in the Veja national weekly news magazine (you have to pay for it) or by putting up signs on the notice boards at universities like USP (free of charge).
Refer to the Ministry of Labour website[dead link] for more detailed information.
Working as a volunteer, learning Spanish and seeing the country on a shoestring is popular with many travellers in South America. Mostly people with lot of time opt for this kind of travelling, getting to know the country and its people.
Volunteering can be done as part of a large organisation, or for local families. When working with or for local families, they often provide you with food and accommodation for about 3-5 hr work per day. Such engagements can be found with any of the following websites, which differ by length and type of stay: Workaway, HelpX, Wwoof, and Worldpackers. The website generally demand a small commission or a yearly fee.
Use the rating system of these websites to determine good and reliable hosts. And beware, many locals just use those websites to find cheap labour, offering a terrible experience, sometimes no food or no decent accommodation. Avoid such offers, which are just badly managed businesses, and opt for placements that really depend on volunteers (like green farming, education, NGOs, etc.).
In general, avoid paying for volunteering. You can also contact a bunch of international NGOs and let them know you are interested in working for them. Sometimes you can also get a paid job after doing some volunteer work. Just be clear that you are able to stay a fixed amount of time for unpaid work, and that you would need some money to continue your work.
When visiting the Midwestern states of Brazil, the relative humidity can be below 30% during the dry season from June to September. It is important to drink plenty of water to avoid the unpleasant effects of dehydration.
Food from street and beach vendors has a bad hygienic reputation in Brazil. The later in the day, the worse it gets. Bottled and canned drinks are safe, although some people will insist on using a straw to avoid contact with the exterior of the container. Bear in mind the heat and humidity when storing perishable foods.
Tap water varies from place to place, (from contaminated, saline or soaked with chlorine to plain drinkable) and Brazilians themselves usually prefer to have it filtered.
In airports, bus stations, as well as many of the cheaper hotels and malls, it is common to find drinking fountains (bebedouro), although not always safe. In hostel kitchens, look for the tap with the cylindrical filter attached. In more expensive hotels, there is often no publicly accessible fountain, and bedrooms contain minibars, selling you mineral water at extremely inflated prices — buying bottled water from the store is always the best alternative.
Vaccination against yellow fever and taking anti-malaria medication may be necessary if you are travelling to Midwestern state of Mato Grosso or northern (Amazon) regions. If you're arriving from Peru, Colombia or Bolivia, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required before you enter Brazil. Some countries, such as Australia and South Africa, will require evidence of yellow fever vaccination before allowing you enter the country if you have been in any part of Brazil within the previous week. Check the requirements of any country you will travel to from Brazil. In coastal Brazil there's also a risk for dengue fever, and the Zika virus outbreak in Latin America hit Brazil hard with more than 60,000 confirmed cases in 2015 and 2016.
Beware that air conditioning in airports, intercity buses etc. is often quite strong. Carry a long-sleeved garment for air-conditioned places.
Although Brazil is widely known as a country where sex is freely available, it is sometimes misunderstood regarding HIV. Brazil has one of the best HIV prevention programs and consequently, a very low infection rate compared with most countries. Condoms are highly encouraged by governmental campaigns during Carnaval, and distributed for free by local public medical departments.
Brazil has both a public tax-funded health care system similar to the NHS in the United Kingdom (Sistema Único de Saúde, known by its acronym in Portuguese, SUS) and a large private health care system. Public hospitals tend to be crowded and terrible, but they attend any kind of person, including foreigners. Most cities of at least 60,000 inhabitants have good private health care. Treatment in private hospitals is expensive. When travelling to Brazil, you should take out comprehensive travel insurance. The level and availability of care varies from region to region, but in general, care in private clinics is of a good standard. On the free public side, waiting times can be long, so access to private medical care is quicker. Public health care is available to tourists in emergencies, but after emergency treatment, care is usually transferred to the private sector. Adequate care may not be available outside urban areas.
In cases of acute serious illness, call an ambulance on emergency number 192 or 190 (Servico de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência, SAMU), but you must speak Portuguese. The ambulance will take the patient to the public hospital emergency department (Emergência), where a doctor will assess the need for transfer to the intensive care unit. If the patient has travel insurance or can pay for the treatment, he or she will be transferred to a private hospital.
If you have a minor illness, you can go to the nearest municipal emergency department, the UPA (Unidade de Pronto Atendimento), or to a private hospital. In large cities, there are first aid stations open 24 hours a day.
Recommended hospitals for foreigners include:
- Brasília: Hospital Sírio-Libanês and Hospital Brasília.
- São Paulo: Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Hospital Sírio Libanês and Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz
- Rio de Janeiro: Hospital Copa D`Or (Copacabana) and Hospital Samaritano (Botafogo)
- Porto Alegre: Hospital de Clínicas and Santa Casa Hospital Complex
In the private health sector, you can obtain services either through travel insurance, Brazilian health insurance or by paying by card or cash. On the private side, you must agree in advance whether you will pay for treatment through insurance, cash or a guarantee cheque. Some places only accept cash payment.
Dental services are cheaper than in western countries. In general, the quality of their work is good, especially in the big cities, but ask a local for advice and a recommendation.
Pharmacies are plentiful, offer a wide range of medicines and depending on the city, can be open 24/7. Certain medicines (e.g. antibiotics) can only be obtained with a valid prescription. Some medicines can be bought without a prescription. Not all medicines sold in Finland may be available.
Larger pharmacies also offer services such as COVID testing.
|“||O Brasil não é para principiantes. |
"Brazil's not for beginners."
—Tom Jobim, Brazilian musician
By law, everyone must carry a photo ID at all times. For a foreigner, this means your passport. However, the police will mostly be pragmatic and accept a plastified color photocopy. Not carrying a photo ID can lead to problems and delays if stopped by police or in case of a medical emergency.
Brazil is thought to be of the most criminalised countries in the world; this means the country's crime levels are high.
The country has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, and reports of homicides, carjackings, theft, and armed robberies are common. There have been cases of people (including tourists) being shot down without warning when entering certain neighbourhoods.
Being a tourist will, undoubtedly, make you an "easy" target for criminals. Having little to no knowledge of Portuguese will also make you stand out. You can drastically reduce the likelihood of being a crime victim by applying a modicum of common sense — don't display signs of affluence, don't flash around your gadgets, keep your valuables and belongings out of reach, don't go to unfamiliar areas, don't go out at night, and don't be too trusting of people you don't know.
If you are robbed at gunpoint, give the robber whatever they're asking for. Do not fight back or resist or else you might die or get badly injured.
If you want to visit a favela (slum neighbourhood) or indigenous village, use a licensed, reputable tour service. Third-party governments normally forbid their staff from entering such places without permission.
Intercity buses are generally safe, but in large cities, intercity bus terminals are often located in run-down, unsafe areas.
Emergencies related to a crime can be reported to toll-free number 190.
Brazil has five police forces, one for a different purpose.
- Each state has a Military Police (Polícia Militar), often abbreviated as PME*, where * is the abbreviation of the state, with exception of state of Rio Grande do Sul, where its Military Police is called Military Brigade (Brigada Militar, abbreviated as BMRS), which is responsible for ostensive policing and the street patrolling. The uniform of Brazilian military police officers varies depending on the state, and may be gray, dark blue, khaki or black.
- The Civil Police (Polícia Civil, often abbreviated as PCE*, where * is the abbreviation of the state), is responsible of dealing with investigations. Civil police officers usually work in plain clothes, without uniforms.
- In state and federal highways, road patrol is handled by the State Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária Estadual) and the Federal Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária Federal).
- Border control, security of ports and airports, and interstate crimes are handled by the Federal Police (Polícia Federal).
- Many municipalities in Brazil also have a Municipal Guard (Guarda Municipal), which is responsible for the security of public parks, city government buildings and city public schools. Municipal Guards can be armed or not, depending on the municipality.
Most Brazilian police officers are not fluent in foreign languages, so you will need at least basic knowledge of Portuguese.
The efficiency of the Brazilian police varies depending on the region of the country, as their salaries vary from state to state. Most inefficiency problems occur in the Southeast region of the country, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Don't try to bribe a police officer: many Brazilian police officers are honest and you will be arrested if you try to do this, but remember not to trust completely in the Brazilian police as their low salaries mean they are easily swayed and some do partner with criminals to commit scams, muggings and other crimes. Always be respectful and collaborative when interacting with law enforcement, and seek assistance from your country's embassy or consulate if you encounter any problem.
Murder is probably the top fear of visitors to Brazil, but traffic-related deaths are actually nearly as common as murders - in fact, the chance of a road fatality in Brazil is comparable to countries with poor road safety reputation, like Malaysia or Vietnam. This may come as a surprise as the traffic in Brazil, especially in large cities, appears to be relatively well-organised compared to these countries. However, this apparent sense of safety is where the danger lurks - Brazil has a large share of irresponsible drivers, who defy speed limits, drive under the influence of alcohol, and sometimes ignore traffic lights. Therefore, always keep your eyes open when crossing the road, even when the pedestrian light is green and the cars have stopped - you never know when a motorbike will pop up from between two cars.
In certain parts of the country, especially in the northern part, roads tend to be poor-maintained, and enforcement of traffic regulations tend to be lax. Although sometimes unavoidable, it is worthwhile to re-consider taking very long road trips inside the country when there is the option of taking a plane instead.
As Brazil is a very large country and has a wide geographical and climatic diversity, parts of the country can be affected by natural disasters.
Floods and landslides
In the Amazon, the rainy season occurs between December and May, bringing torrential rains and frequent flooding in these regions, which can make the highways (which are not paved) a real quagmire impossible to transit. However, it can still be a good time to visit some of the well-populated and tourist-oriented areas and, except in unusually strong floods, you can still see the strong waterfalls, igapós and other attractions in the forest that can make an interesting moment to visit.
Floods in the semi-arid Sertão, in the inland of the Northeast region, are rare, so you would be unlucky to find them. However, if you are planning to visit a city in the Sertão and the area is flooded, you should reconsider. The terrain is flat, so the water can take weeks to drain, leaving the land swampy.
The rainiest period in the Central West is generally around the summer months, from early October to April. Some cities can have points of flooding. On the northeastern coast and in the Southeast region of the country, including Salvador, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, the rainiest period is summer months. Torrential rains in the region can cause floods and catastrophic landslides, including in tourist areas. In São Paulo, as the city is cut by the rivers Tietê and Pinheiros and the soil is impermeable, making the water slow to drain. In mountainous areas in the southeast of the country, landslides can disrupt roads and cause damage.
As Brazil is located in the center of the South American plate, Brazil does not usually have earthquakes of great intensity and many of them are imperceptible by the population (below 3.0 degrees on the Richter scale).
Brazil is a difficult country for hurricanes reach, as wind shear is rare in countries close to the Equator and the temperature of the ocean reaches just 26º C on the northeast coast. The only tropical storm that has ever occurred in Brazil was Hurricane Catarina, in 2004, which hit the coast of the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Even so, cases like this are very rare in Brazil.
The Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, the center and south of the state of Paraná and the south of the state of São Paulo are part of the South America Tornado Corridor, the second most tornado-prone area in the world (behind the United States Tornado Alley). Monitor local media notices and if you see that the sky is dark, the light take on a greenish-yellow cast or a loud sound that sounds like a freight train, this could be an indication of a tornado. Find shelter immediately.
Refer to the tornado safety article for analysis of the issues here.
Low humidity during the dry season in the Pantanal, in the Brazilian Central West (including the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and in Brasília) between May and October can lead to forest fires. If you have breathing problems and are visiting these areas, it is recommended to monitor information from the local media and avoid the areas of fires.
Demonstrations and political protests are not unusual in Brazil. Brazil has a history of political instability characterised by corruption scandals, economic crises, and shifts in power.
You should do all you can to avoid political protests, demonstrations, and marches. If you suspect that a protest is about to take place, evacuate the area immediately.
Don't feel tempted to take photos of protests, help out injured protestors, and so on, or you might lose your life, get detained by the authorities, or get injured. Make it a point to monitor Brazilian media often during your stay.
The majority of popular demonstrations usually take place in the capitals such as São Paulo (in places like Largo da Batata, Avenida Paulista and Praça da Sé), Rio de Janeiro (Cinelândia and Copacabana Beach), Brasília (Eixo Monumental and Esplanada dos Ministérios) or Porto Alegre (Esquina Democrática and the Historic District).
The main Brazilian newspapers are Folha de S. Paulo, Estado de S. Paulo (both published in São Paulo) and O Globo (published in Rio de Janeiro). Other major newspapers include Correio Braziliense, Estado de Minas and Zero Hora. Veja, IstoÉ and CartaCapital is the main Brazilian national weekly news magazines.
- See also: Electrical systems
Brazil is one of a few countries that uses both 110 and 220 volts for everyday appliances. Expect the voltage to change back and forth as you travel from one place to the next—even within the same Brazilian state, sometimes even within the same building. There is no physical difference in the electric outlets (power mains) for the two voltages.
Electric outlets usually accept both flat (North American), and round (European) plugs. Otherwise adaptors from flat blades to round pins are easy to find in any supermarket or hardware shop. Some outlets are too narrow for the German "Schuko" plugs. One makeshift solution is to buy a cheap T-connection and just force your "Schuko" in, -the T will break, but it will work. Very few outlets have a grounding point, and some might not accept newer North American polarized plugs, where one pin is slightly larger. Again, use the cheap T. Near the border with Argentina, you might occasionally find outlets for the Australia/New Zealand-type plug. If crossing the border, you'll probably need this adapter as well.
In 2009/2010, the IEC 60906-1 was introduced to Brazil and some newer buildings already have it. It is backwards compatible with the Europlug, but it has a receded socket. Again, T-plugs can be used as adapters for other common formats.
Frequency is 60 Hz, which may disturb 50 Hz electric clocks. Blackouts are becoming less frequent, but you always run a risk at peak of high season in small tourist towns and during particularly strong storms, even in big cities.
Generally speaking, Brazilians are passionate, curious, welcoming conversationalists.
Brazilians tend to be transparent; it's common for them to freely talk about their problems and subjects that are usually seen as shockingly private in other parts of the world.
Engaging in small talk is common. Try not to be surprised or on guard when someone you don't know approaches to converse with you in a public place; this is how Brazilians get to know the people around them, and you may easily make a friend or two this way. Ignoring someone when they try to converse with you can be seen as insensitive, so try to respond accordingly when someone tries to talk to you.
Brazilians may be known for being friendly and talkative, but you should try to be diplomatic with your words. Just because they seem sociable and confident does not mean they are immune to offence.
Try not to assume the worst in people. Brazil may have its share of social and political problems, but that does not mean everyone is alike.
Brazilians are not known for being punctual, which can be very surprising to visitors from countries where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect your Brazilian contacts to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Brazil and does not mean a lack of respect for the relationship. However, this does not apply to work or business meetings.
If you are invited to a dinner or party, e.g. 19:00, that does not mean that you must be present at 19:00, but that you must not arrive before 19:00. You will be received at some minutes later. However, not all scheduled activities are tolerant with delays in Brazil. For example, at concerts or plays, the venue's doors close at the scheduled time. Long-distance buses also depart on the scheduled time. Short-distance public transport, such as city buses and subway, is not even concerned with the estimated time of arrival; they arrive when they arrive! Keep these elements in mind when calculating how long things will take.
Delays in the subway or city buses are not uncommon, especially in the capitals (such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro). However, long distance bus departures almost always leave on time (even if they arrive late), so don't count on lack of punctuality to save money when you arrive late at the bus terminals. Brazilian airports are also known for their punctuality: flights always take off at the scheduled time.
Racism is a very serious offence in Brazil. Most Brazilians frown upon racism (at least in public), and even if you are only joking or you think you know your partner, it is still wise to refrain from anything that can be perceived as racism. According to the Brazilian Constitution, racism is a crime for which bail is not available, and must be met with 6 months to 8 years of imprisonment. This is taken very seriously. However, the law only seems to apply to overt, unquestionably racist statements and actions. Therefore, be respectful when discussing racial relations in Brazil; do not assume you understand Brazil's history of racial inequality and slavery better than a Brazilian person of colour.
Brazilians are not Hispanic. Also, remember that Portuguese is not a variant of Spanish. Doing this may result in puzzled stares or amused reactions, but you might get away with it as a foreigner.
It's not a social faux pas to discuss politics. Brazilians, in general, are pretty engaged in their country's politics, and you will be exposed to a breadth of viewpoints and perspectives, both publicly and privately. While it may be common to listen to feelings of frustration with and grumblings directed towards the Brazilian government, it's crucial to approach political discussions with sensitivity and respect.
Try not to discuss someone's personal convictions unless you're well acquainted with someone.
The Brazilian military government, which ruled the country from 1964 to 1985, can be a sensitive topic of discussion. In some circles, people felt there was more stability under their rule.
As is the case throughout South America, family is one of the most important pillars of Brazilian culture. Brazilian society is generally known for its strong family values and close-knit family relationships. Be mindful of that when conversing with Brazilians.
Avoid being overly enthusiastic about Argentina. Although relations between Brazil and Argentina are healthy and there are no feelings of resentment and hatred towards Argentine people, Brazil and Argentina are considered "rivals".
Brazil is considered the most LGBT-friendly country in Latin America. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013, São Paulo boasts the largest LGBT Pride Parade in the world, and most major cities will have gay scenes. However, homophobia is still widespread in Brazilian society, and Brazil is not the sexual heaven that many foreigners imagine. Couples who somehow do not conform to traditional heterosexual expectations should expect some verbal harassment and stares if displaying public affection in the streets, although several neighborhoods of many of the major cities are very welcoming of the LGBT population, and bars and clubs especially oriented for the LGBT public are common. In general, small towns or rural areas mainly in the north, tend to be conservative and many people (especially older ones) may be shocked by public displays of homosexual affection.
Under current Brazilian laws, religious intolerance — which also encompasses writing hateful comments about religion on social media — is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a hefty fine, or both. In 2015, a Brazilian TV network was heavily fined after one of their hosts made some negative remarks about atheists.
In Sao Paulo, engaging in religious intolerance is punishable by fines up to R$82,000.
Anything hinting at proselytisation is generally frowned upon and will not be appreciated. When visiting sites of religious importance, you should always act and dress respectfully.
- Cheek-kissing is very common in Brazil, among women and between women and men. When two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men will shake hands. A man kissing another man's cheek is extremely bizarre by Brazilian standards (unless in family relationships, special Italian descendants, and very close friends). Kissing is suitable for informal occasions, used to introduce yourself or being acquainted, especially to young people. Hand shaking is more appropriate for formal occasions or between women and men when no form of intimacy is intended. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude. However, to clearly refuse a kiss is a sign of disdain.
When people first meet, they will kiss once (São Paulo), twice (Rio de Janeiro) or three times (Florianópolis and Belo Horizonte, for instance), depending on where you are, alternating right and left cheeks. Observe that while doing this, you should not kiss on the cheeks (like in Russia) but actually only touch cheeks and make a kissing sound while kissing the air, placing your lips on a strangers cheek is a clear sign of sexual interest. Failing to realise these rules likely won't be seen as rude, especially if it is known that you are a foreigner.
- Many Brazilians can dance and are usually at ease with their own bodies. While talking, they may stand closer to each other than North Americans or Northern Europeans do, and also tend to touch each other more, e.g. on the shoulder or arm, hugs etc. This is not necessarily flirtatious in nature.
- Brazilians love to drink, and going to pubs and bars is definitely part of social life - sometimes even for those who don't drink alcohol. However, alcoholic beverages aren't allowed in certain places such football stadiums, and laws concerning driving under the influence of alcohol have become increasingly more strict and more rigorously enforced.
- Brazilians do not normally take their shoes off as soon as they get home, neither expect their visitors to do so. Hence, only take off your shoes when you visit someone's house if your hosts ask so or you see them do so.
- Except for highly formal situations, Brazilians don't normally mind their tones when eating and chatting. Restaurants tend to be relatively noisy and cheerful environments, especially when there are tables with large groups of people.
- Most meals will be eaten with forks/spoons and knives, but there are some things that you can eat with your hands. If you are unsure whether you should use the knife to cut something shorter or just grab it with your hands, observe how people behave around you and imitate them - or simply ask.
- Burping is considered impolite, unless you are among very close friends or relatives. Brazilians usually place the knife and the fork in a parallel manner on the plate to signalize they are finished.
- If you order a beer or a soda and it comes with a cup, waiters may fill it for you from time to time as they see it becoming empty. They will normally collect empty bottles and cans without asking you first.
Brazil has international telephone code 55 and two-digit area codes, and phone numbers are eight or nine digits long. Some areas used seven digits until 2006, meaning you might still find some old phone numbers which won't work unless you add another digit. (Mostly, try adding 2 or 3 at the beginning, or if it's an eight-digit number starting with 6 to 9 try adding a 9 at the beginning).
Eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 2 to 5 are land lines, while eight-digit or nine-digit numbers beginning with digits 6 to 9 are mobile phones.
All cities use the following emergency numbers:
- 190 - Police
- 192 - SAMU (Serviço de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência, Paramedics)
- 193 - Firefighters
However, if you dial 911 while in Brazil, you will be redirected to the police.
To dial to another area code or to another country, you must choose a carrier using a two-digit carrier code. Which carriers are available depends on the area you are dialing from and on the area you are dialing to. Carrier 21 (Embratel) is available in all areas.
The international phone number format for calls from other countries to Brazil is +55-(area code)-(phone number)
- To dial to another area code: 0-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
- To dial to another country: 00-(carrier code)-(country code)-(area code)-(phone number)
- Local collect call: 90-90-(phone number)
- Collect call to another area code: 90-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
- International Collect Call: 000111 or through Embratel at 0800-703-2111
Public payphones use disposable prepaid cards, which come with 20, 40, 60 or 75 credits. The discount for buying cards with larger denominations is marginal. Phone booths are nearly everywhere, and all cards can be used in all booths, regardless of the owner phone company. Cards can be bought from many small shops, and almost all news agents sell them. The Farmácia Pague Menos sells them at official (phone company) price, somewhat cheaper. Calls to cell phones (even local) will use up your credits very quickly (nearly as expensive as international calls). Calling the USA costs about one real per minute. It's possible to find all international and Brazilian phone codes on DDI and DDD phone codes.
When traveling to Brazil, even though it may seem best to carry your cell phone along, you should not dismiss the benefits of the calling cards to call the ones back home. Get yourself a Brazil calling card when packing for your trip.
Brazil has 4 national mobile operators: Vivo (Telefónica Group), Claro (Telmex/América Móvil Group), OI and TIM (Telecom Italia Group), all of them running GSM, HSDPA/HSPA+ and LTE networks. There are also smaller operators, like Nextel (NII/Sprint Group) (with iDEN Push-To-Talk and HSPA+), CTBC-ALGAR (GSM and HSDPA in Triangulo Mineiro Region (Minas Gerais)), and Sercomtel (GSM and HSDPA in Paraná).
Pay-as-you-go (pré-pago) SIM cards for GSM phones are widely available in places like newsstands, drugstores, supermarkets, retail shops, etc. Vivo uses 850/1800/1900 MHz frequencies, while other operators uses 900/1800 MHz (and some specific cases, 1900Mhz) frequencies. 3G/HSDPA coverage is available mostly on big cities on the southeast states and capitals. Some states use 850 MHz but others use 2100 MHz for 3G/HSDPA. For LTE, all states and operators use the European 2600Mhz (B7) frequency (700Mhz B28 is being tested) If you need to unlock a phone from a specific operator, this can be done for a charge in any phone shop.
If you prefer, you can use international roaming in any operator (respecting the roaming agreements). In this case, if you want to call to Brazil, you must call the number directly, as stated above, or using the standardized way, as +<countrycode><areacode><number> to call abroad.
All major carriers (Vivo, Claro, TIM and Oi) can send and receive text messages (SMS) as well as phone calls to/from abroad. Some operators (as Vivo, Claro, and TIM), can send and receive international text messages.
Brazil uses a hybrid video system called PAL-M. It is not at all compatible with the PAL system of Europe and Australia. Nowadays, most new TV sets are compatible with the NTSC system used in the United States and Canada. Until 2023, Brazil will bring digital broadcasting with the Japanese ISDB standard. Digital terrestrial television is available in almost 90% of Brazil. In addition to the 6 major Brazilian television networks (Globo, RecordTV, SBT, Band, RedeTV and Cultura), many cities in the country have pay TV via cable or satellite.
Digital video appliances such as DVD players are also compatible with NTSC (all digital colour is the same worldwide), but make sure the DVD region codes, if any, match your home country (Brazil is part of Region 4). Also, the term "DVD" in Brazil is both an abbreviation for the disc and for its player, so be specific to avoid confusion.
Hotels, airports and shopping malls often offer free WiFi hotspots for your laptop computer or smartphone. In addition, Brazil seems to be a country with overly many open WiFi hotspots, only requiring login via Facebook for instance.
For general tips on internet while travelling, see our travel topic: Internet access.
The Brazilian Correio is fairly reliable and post offices are everywhere. However, if you ask how much it costs to send a letter, postcard or package they will automatically give you the "priority" price (prioritário) instead of the normal one (Econômico). You might think that the priority one will make it go faster, but it isn't always true; sometimes it takes as long as the normal fare, so be sure to ask for the "econômico" price of anything you wish to dispatch.
- Argentina and Paraguay: Directly at the border crossing to both countries is the Brazilian airport of Foz do Iguaçu. The airport has flights from several Brazilian destinations.
- Bolivia: The bigger Brazilian airports nearby are in Campo Grande, Cuiabá and Porto Velho. Directly at a border crossing is the airport of Corumba with flights for example from São Paulo.
- Uruguay: Fly to nearby Pelotas or Porto Alegre.
- Colombia and Peru: Take a flight or a boat on the Amazon to Tabatinga. To the Peruvian border you could also fly to Rio Branco or Porto Velho.
- French Guyana: Take a flight to Macapa or Belém.
- Guyana and Venezuela: Fly to Boa Vista or Manaus.