Vast and varied, timeless and tempting, Brazil beckons travelers from all over the world. From pristine rainforests to urban jungles, world-class parties to quiet beaches, there is something here for everyone. Brazil can be challenging, however, even for experienced travelers. Planning ahead can make all the difference.
1. Brazil Isn’t Cheap
This is no longer a “third world” country (at least, not in terms of prices, particularly for big cities), it’s a rising world power with a very strong real (R$). Check hotel, food and transportation prices online while planning your budget, to avoid unpleasant surprises. Even committed backpackers will be hard-pressed to stay under US$50 per day, particularly in places like Rio, while mid-range travelers will probably plan to spend between US$150 and US$200 per day. For luxury travelers, the sky is the limit.
2. This Country is Huge, so Plan Accordingly
Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world. When planning your trip, take into account the enormous distances between top tourist draws such as Iguassu Falls, Rio and the Amazon. If you don’t have months to spend exploring every corner of the country by bus and boat, either choose one region to explore, or invest in a TAM Brazil Airpass, offering relatively inexpensive flight packages around the country to foreigners, available only before they arrive.
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3. Almost Everything is Online
Brazil is a web-savvy country and just about every tourist destination, big or small, is covered comprehensively online—often in English. While it’s always convenient to carry a guidebook, you’ll find up-to-date hotel recommendations, bus schedules, events and nightlife calendars, forums, maps, and much more on your computer. Internet access is widely available.
4. Bring a Phrasebook
Brazilians speak Portuguese, not English or Spanish. Even if you’ll be sticking to major tourist destinations such as Rio and Salvador, it’s worth investing in a phrasebook, and learning a few useful words from memory.
5. US, Australian and Canadian Citizens, Among Others, Need a Visa
Brazil has a reciprocal visa program, which means that if your country requires a pricey visa from visiting Brazilians, you’ll need one, too. They aren’t cheap, either. You’ll need to obtain your visa prior to traveling, so check online for more information. If you hold a passport from most Latin American countries, the EU, UK, Switzerland or many other countries, however, you’ll get a free 90-day tourist visa stamped at the airport.
6. Rainy Season Can Be Serious Business
If you’re sticking to paved roads and big cities, rainy season (November–March in the south, April–July in the north) just means you’ll get wet. If you’re headed into the hinterlands, including the Amazon region or smaller towns with unpaved roads, allow some flex time in your schedule to deal with flooded bridges, mud slides and other annoyances.
7. Crime Rates Are High, so Take Precautions
While expat bloggers and other on-the-ground sources will reassure you that warnings about crime are overblown (particularly in Rio, where the recent “pacification” of the favelas, or slums, has led to a remarkable drop in crime rates), it’s still worth taking precautions. Leave jewelry at home and valuables at the hotel (carry a photocopy of your passport), plan for pickpockets and stay alert, especially at night. Ladies, you know the drill—go clubbing with friends, stay reasonably sober, never accept open drinks from strangers and don’t bring strangers back to your room. (Frankly, that’s sound advice for men as well.) Always ask at your hotel about current security issues, and respect their advice. But don’t stress! Just keep in mind that you are a tourist and therefore targeted for theft, but with a little bit of preparation, you’ll be fine.
8. Relax and Enjoy
Brazil is a famously laid-back country, so give into the vibe and don’t try to do too much. It’s tempting to try to see everything, and of course there are dozens of tours to the some of the best destinations. But Brazil’s most charming moments often come clad in flip flops and board shorts, with a caipirinha in hand, probably hanging out with friends, new and old somewhere incredibly beautiful. Enjoy it.