Getting Real (R$) about Stretching Your Budget in Brazil

August 22, 2011 by

Hotels & Lodging, Local Recommendations

Brazil is perfect for the budget traveler - if you know where to look

The price of success can be steep, and Brazil has had a great run in recent years. It’s one of the developing world’s success stories, today ranked the seventh or eighth largest economy on Earth (depending on who you ask) and a global powerhouse by any estimation. Brazil has also become the most expensive country in South America .

The Brazilian real (R$) has gained about 40% on the US dollar since 2009, while strengthening against the euro, British pound, and Chinese yuan as well. This isn’t simply because the population is growing wealthier. Global currency battles have artificially inflated the real, with Forbes magazine suggesting it’s the most overvalued currency in the world. Brazil’s central bank has no plans to mitigate inflation, either.

Some budget travelers may already be rerouting their trip toward less expensive destinations, in the hopes that Brazil will become cheaper in the future. Others, however, are finding ways to save now, so they can enjoy this dynamic nation while it enjoys unprecedented growth, but still isn’t firmly entrenched in the most expensive, “first-world” travel bracket.

Because exchange rates are particularly volatile right now, take travel costs outlined in guidebooks and older websites with some suspicion; prices may have risen significantly. Online budget travel guides; to Brazil are appearing on the web, and offer suggestions for getting great deals.

Choose your destination wisely. Because Brazil is enormous and diverse, it’s almost always the off season somewhere. If you can learn enough Portuguese to haggle for a hotel room, your savings during these downtimes could increase significantly.

Though fuel costs are skyrocketing, you can still find solid package deals combining hotel and airfare online. Before you purchase your international ticket, however, check out the terms and conditions of a TAM air pass, which can save you hundreds of reals on domestic flights. Long-distance buses are even cheaper. Though there is some talk of repealing the reciprocal visa fee (US$140 for US citizens), thus far it remains in place.

Hotel prices continue to rise, and are on par with some European and US hotels in the most popular destinations. There are other options, however. If you don’t mind sleeping in a dormitory some nights, hostels (albuerges); charge US$10–25 per bed, including amenities that might include a kitchen, free wifi, and breakfast. A step above these are pousadas, or guesthouses, which start at around US$60 for a double in the simplest spots, and rise with quality.

You can also save serious money by taking some of your meals at kilo restaurants (restaurante por quilo, comida a quilo). Set up as steam-table buffets, you can select several items (a boon for people who don’t speak much Portuguese) and pay by weight.

Planning ahead, particularly using online resources, can save you serious cash once you’re on the ground. Even Rio has fabulous bargains, though all bets are off during big events like Carnival. Still, ynless you need to pinch every penny, do try to splash out at least once on Brazil’s fine dining, outrageous nightlife, and stunning hotels, and help celebrate this nation’s success in style.

-Paige Penland

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Brazil tours & things to do, Brazil attractions, and Brazil travel recommendations.

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