Travel to Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying the north eastern chunk of the continental body. The country has borders with every other South American country except Ecuador and Chile.
Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese in 1500 and it remained a Portuguese colony until 1808. It was later elevated to the status of Portuguese Kingdom until the country became a presidential republic in 1889.
The majority of Brazilians are Catholics and the official language Portuguese. Visitors may make the mistake of thinking Brazilians are Hispanic. Brazilians view Spanish as a secondary language and might be offended if attempts to speak to them are conducted in Spanish.
Brazil has the largest share of global wealth in Latin America along with the largest population and is an emerging economy, recognized for its industrialization, natural resources, agricultural power and vast labor pool.
Brazilian culture definitely has its origin in Europe. The style of architecture and colonial towns definitely reflect this. Music plays an important part in forming the Brazilian identity. Samba, chord and Bossa nova are styles that originated in Brazil.
Given the size of the country, Brazil is subject to the widest climatic differences. The Equatorial north has a wet and dry season but São Paulo down south, enjoys four seasons.
Some of the tourist highlights of the country include the biodiverse wealth of the Amazonian rainforest and the majestic splendor of the Iguazu Falls.
We hope that this carefully prepared travel guide will ease your travel planning for Brazil holidays and encourage you to plan a future trip to Brazil.
Visa Requirements for Brazil
Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with most countries. Citizens of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina can enter Brazil with a valid ID and stay for 90 days (60 days in the case of Venezuela). Check the guidelines for Brazil passport visa free countries.
Citizens of a host of other countries do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days with a valid passport. Citizens of all other countries do require a visa.
Brazil visa application for tourists can be extended at the Policia Federal offices. Border towns, ports and state capitals all have one.
Please note that there is a difference in the entry and exit stamps that are issued in Brazil. The entry stamp has an odd number at the right-end of the stamp. The exit stamp has an even number. Please do check this on entry, otherwise visa extension will be refused until you rectify the entry stamp.
Please check the current guidelines, of the visa requirements for your country and ways to get a Brazilian visa, if required, before you travel to Brazil.
Important Cultural Information
Brazilians are friendly people and quite open about talking about their problems, corruption and other civil problems. They might be rather sensitive to criticism about these affairs though, so broach the topic carefully or best avoid it on your holidays in Brazil.
Any line of racism or a racial slur is treated very seriously in Brazil and someone might be arrested for racist ideas.
Brazilians speak a form of Portuguese. Don’t try to communicate with Brazilians by inserting Spanish words in between Brazilian phrases as they differ considerably with regard to phonetics, word usage and grammar.
Cheek kissing is a common mode of greeting between two women and a man and woman. Shaking hands is also a form of more formal greeting and appropriate for two men. People will kiss once (São Paulo, Brasilia), twice (Rio de Janeiro), or thrice (Florianopolis and Belo Horizonte). There will not actually be a kiss on the cheek but a touch on the cheeks with a kissing sound.
Brazilians are quite fanatical about their football with serious rivalry between local teams often leading to flare-ups and controversy.
Brazilians are good dancers and are quite at ease with their bodies. They might tend to stand closer to each other than people of other nations and engage in hugging, touching on the arm or shoulders while talking.
The best time to visit Brazil is from June to September – the period of Brazilian winter.
Banking & Money in Brazil
The unit of currency in Brazil is the Real (BRL), which consists of 100 centavos. Coins come in 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos and 1 Real denominations. Notes come in 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Real denominations.
It is advisable to not use cards at smaller outlets – at gas stations, in taxis, newsstands etc. Card information may be compromised. Better to pay in cash that has been withdrawn from ATMs and go to large stores when making more expensive purchases.
Look for ATMs with the same logo as that on your credit/debit card. Banco de Brasil, Bradesco, Citibank, BankBoston, Santander and HSBC machines should all work for this purpose. Withdrawal limits are usually in place. A transaction fee for each ATM withdrawal will usually be charged.
Foreign currency like Euros and Dollars may be exchanged in larger hotels and international airports or banks. Currencies other than USD and Euros are hard to change.
A number of Brazilian shops accept credit cards.
Medical Emergency Information
Some Emergency numbers to keep at hand when visiting Brazil include the following:
- 190 for Police
- 192 for Ambulance
- 193 for Firefighters
- 021/3399-7170 Tourist Police 24 hr contact in Rio de Janeiro
- 011/3214-0209 Tourist Police Contact in São Paulo
Major hospitals in Brazil include:
- Hospital Copa d’Or (Rio de Janeiro)
- Hospital Samaritano (Rio de Janeiro)
- Hospital Albert Einstein (São Paulo)
- Hospital Sao Jose (São Paulo)
- Brazil Hospital Sirio E. Libanes (São Paulo)
- Hospital Memorial (Natal)
To be sure, you should have travel insurance for Brazil. Make sure to get good travel insurance for Brazil beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.
Wi-Fi and Internet in Brazil
The international telephone code of Brazil is 55.
Brazil has 4 national mobile operators. They are Vivo, Claro, Ol and TIM, which run on GSM and HSDPA/HSPA+ networks. Smaller operators in the country are Nextel and Sercomtel.
Pay as you go SIM cards for GSM phones can be bought everywhere – at newsstands, retail shops, pharmacies and supermarkets. If a phone needs to be unlocked then this can be done in a phone shop for a charge.
Calling cards are also a great way to call loved ones back home and has a number of benefits.
Internet cafes (LAN houses) are popular and on the increase. Even in small towns you can expect a cafe or two with decent connectivity. Airports, large hotels and shopping malls may offer Wi-Fi hotspots. Make sure to set-up a VPN (like ExpressVPN) before using public Wi-Fi spots. Read more about why it’s important to use a VPN while traveling.
Arrival in Brazil
The main port of arrival into Brazil by air is São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). The LATAM airlines has a monopoly over direct flights into São Paulo from many capital cities in South America, so keep this in mind when booking plane tickets to Brazil.
LATAM also has direct flights from a number of cities in North America, Europe, a few locations in Asia and Africa.
The next largest airport in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro Galeão International Airport (GIG). Gol Transportes Aereos flies to Santiago, Buenos Aires and Asunción from here. Delta flies to American destinations from Rio. There are also direct flights to Africa, Europe via different airlines.
Sydney and Auckland has connections to Brazil although the flights make a pit stop.
Search for flights to Brazil on Expedia.
Brazil can be approached by road. Brazil has numerous border crossings with Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Guyana.
Brazil is connected to neighbouring countries via long-distance bus travel.
Brazil is connected to Peru, Venezuela and Colombia by Amazon river boats. The journey, however, takes 12 days and is most grueling.
Train travel is not developed but there is the ominous ‘Death Train’ from Santa Cruz, Bolivia into Brazil but the journey route is plagued by robbers. Is Brazil safe – is a popular question and precautions should definitely be taken when planning things to do in Brazil.
Areas of Brazil
These are the main geographical areas and places in Brazil. The main cities are Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and São Paulo.
The northern region is the place of the Amazonian forest with a distinct Amerindian cultural influence.
Keyplaces: Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, and Rondonia
This region is considered to have the most beautiful stretch of sunny coastline. The region is the hottest and sunniest in the country and is also the poorest. There is a strong black culture in this region especially concentrated around Bahia. The northeast region is home to the “Forro” music and should be on your places to visit in Brazil if you enjoy music.
Keyplaces: Bahia, Paraiba, Rio Grande do Norte, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Salvador (the capital of Bahia)
Central Western Brazil
This region is where you will find the Pantanal wetlands with farms, younger cities and the Federal District. “Sertanejo” music has its origins here.
Keyplaces: Federal District, Mato Grosso
This region is home to the country’s two largest cities: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Apart from cosmopolitan, big cities, the Southeast region also has some old colonial towns particularly to be found in Minas Gerais. Some of Brazil highlights can be found in this region.
Keyplaces: Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro (read things to do in Rio de Janeiro), São Paulo
This region is characterized by valleys and pampas where a gaucho culture meets European culture. Many Polish, German, Italian and Ukrainian people immigrated to this particular region, which has the best standard of living in Brazil.
Keyplaces: Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, Santa Catarina