Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil) is the largest country in South America and fifth largest in the world. Famous for its football (soccer) tradition and its annual Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and Olinda. It is a country of great diversity, from the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Alagoas, Pernambuco and Bahia, the wilderness of the Amazon rainforest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil.
Brazil was inhabited solely by indigenous people, mainly of the Tupi and Guarani ethnic groups. Settling 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 settled by the Portuguese and not the Spanish, as were the rest of Central, South and parts of North America in the New World. Despite Portuguese rule, in some parts of Brazil the Dutch founded colonies between 1630 and 1654. They founded several cities, such as Mauritsville (now Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco, at the edge of North-East of the country), 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 centre 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 centuries saw further exploitation of the country’s natural riches such as gold and rubber, alongside the rise of an economy based largely on sugar, coffee and African slave labour. Meanwhile, extermination and Christianizing of natives kept its pace, and in the 19th and 20th centuries a second wave of immigration took place, mainly Italian, German (in southern Brazil), Spanish, Japanese (in São Paulo and Paraná states), American (in São Paulo state), and Portuguese, making Brazilian culture and society complex and unique.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation on September 7th, 1822. 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.
But during these three and a half centuries, Brazil was the nation in the Americas with the most widespread slavery, the first to bring African people to work by force, and the last to set them free. Due to English laws against slavery (some argue more for economic contests than humanity reasons) and fighting between white and black people, slaves and free, for abolition, slavery ended in 1888. But freedom didn’t mean equality to the now-free black people and their descendants.
By far the largest and most populous country in Latin America, it has also overcome more than two decades (1964-1985) of military dictatorship that imprisoned, exiled, tortured, and murdered potential opponents, most of them innocent civilians. These dark times are known as “Os Anos de Chumbo” (Years of Lead). Only recently, with the establishment of a National Truth Commission (2011), has the nation begun to face the human rights abuses that accompanied the U.S.-supported coup that overthrew democratically-elected João Goulart in 1964. Brazil has returned to democratic rule, while facing the challenge of keeping its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, Brazil is a Latin America economic power and a regional leader. Brazil has high rates of crime, income inequality and systemic, centuries-old corruption. Despite it the people try to remain happy and festive.
Owing to Brazil’s continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the country’s culture is rich and diverse. It has huge regional variations (even among neighbouring States sometimes) and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions and States 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. Samba is considered to be the most popular tradition because of its strength in rhythm, and bringing people together.
A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was created by African slaves brought to Brazil, mainly from Portuguese Angola. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities.
In the classical music, Neoclassic 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 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.
Candomble 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 especially in North Region, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in North, although many have been deeply influenced by Western culture, and several of the country’s surviving indigenous languages are endangered. 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.
Globo, the largest national television network, also plays an important role in shaping national identity and public opinion. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians, followed by the radio broadcast. 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 thus mitigating ethnic prejudices and preventing racial conflicts, though long-lasting slavery and genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll. Prejudice is sneaky since this matter is taboo in Brazil, and more directed towards different social classes than between races. Nevertheless, race, or simply 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 almost all white; a few middle-class are mulato (mixed race) and even black; and the majority of poor people are black – except in South Region because blacks and mulatos compose less than 10% of its population. Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage, and social mobility is achievable through education.
In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While Southerners may be somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio upwards people usually boast a captivating attitude towards life and truly enjoy having a good time. Some may even tell you that beer, football, samba, barbecue and woman is all they could crave for.
Friendship and hospitality are highly praised traits, and family and social connections are strongly valued. 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.
Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to some difference treatment: In most of cities, anyone talking, acting or looking like a tourist (even other Brazilians!) could be charged higher prices, such as in parking lots, in restaurants, open malls, etc.
Brazilians seems to be genuinely friendly, but many are used to small acts of corruption in their everyday lives, the so-called jeitinho brasileiro (“Brazilian Way”). Rio de Janeiro people brag about their ability to outsmart people (especially from other countries and Brazilian States) and even nicknamed their State Terra de Malandro (Weasel Land). 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. Notice in some States people call everyone “friend” no matter the degree of intimacy they have to each other, merely as good manners.
Whereas the “Western” roots of Brazilian culture are largely European, especially Iberian, as evidenced by its colonial towns and even sporadic historic buildings between the skyscrapers, there has been a strong tendency in recent decades to adopt a more “American way of life” which is found in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a strongly positive feeling towards technical progress. In spite of that, Brazil is still a nation faced towards the Atlantic, not towards Hispanic America.
Brazilians are not Hispanic. Some may be offended if a visitor openly says that, or tends to believe that Brazilians have Spanish as a primary or secondary language, visitors will receive a warmer welcome if they try to start conversations in Portuguese, but even if the visitor speaks Spanish towards Brazilians, they’re likely to answer in Portuguese.
The contrasts in this huge country equally fascinates and shocks most visitors, especially Europeans, as well as the indifference of many locals towards the social, economic and ecological problems. Whereas an emerging elite of young, well-educated professionals indulge in amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and subhuman housing conditions still exist even in regions blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investments 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 huge efforts in education there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil has faced an increasing wave of immigration from China, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Nigeria, Haiti and Angola. Brazil also has an increasing number of immigrants of the Middle East, specially from Syria.
Brazil is a huge country with different climate zones. In the North, near the equator there is a wet and a dry season; from about São Paulo down to the south there is spring/summer/fall/winter. The weather constantly changes and is sometimes a surprise. It can be scorching hot, then simmer down, and get very cold. It could be sunny 1 minute, and start raining the second minute. The warm climate is perfect for the beach and playing outside.
Brazil observes the following 13 national holidays:
New Year – 1 January
Carnival – February/March (Movable – 7 weeks before Easter. Monday and Tuesday are the actual holidays, but celebrations usually begin on Saturday and last until 12PM 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
Patroness of Brazil – 12 October
All Souls’ Day (Finados) – 2nd November
Republic – 15 November
Christmas – 25 December
Working hours are usually from 08:00 or 09:00 to 17:00 or 18:00. Banks open Monday to Friday, 10:00-16:00. Street shops tend to close at noon on Saturday and only re-open on Monday. Shopping malls normally open 10:00-22:00, Monday to Saturday, and 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 even on Sundays.
Brazil is one of a few countries that use 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.
Although Brazil has its own type of electric outlet, almost nobody uses it. 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. The best 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 60Hz, which may disturb 50Hz electric clocks. Blackouts are less and less frequent, but you always run a risk at peak of high season in small tourist towns.
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.
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:
The cheapest airfares are from February (after Carnaval) to May and from August to November. Tickets from New York, for instance, can cost as little as US$699 including taxes. Many undersubscribed flights within Brazil can be had for bargain prices.
By far the largest international airport in Brazil is São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (IATA: GRU ICAO: SBGR), the hub of LATAM airlines, which has direct flights to many capital cities in South America. Other direct flights include:
The Northeastern capitals have slightly shorter flying times to Europe and North America:
Natal: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Amsterdam by Arkefly.
Recife: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Madrid by Iberia, Atlanta by Delta, Miami by American Airlines and Frankfurt by Condor.
Fortaleza: Direct flights to Lisbon by TAP, Madrid by Iberia and Cabo Verde by TACV. In addition to the above, TAP flies directly to Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Porto Alegre. TAP Portugal  is the foreign airline with most destinations in Brazil, from Lisbon and Porto, and provides extensive connection onwards to Europe and Africa. American Airlines has flights from Miami to Manaus, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and Salvador. Copa Airlines flies from its hub in Panama City to Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Porto Alegre and Manaus, providing a wide range of destinations in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Air travel in Brazil has increased exponentially in the past few years, partly as a result of the poor condition of many Brazilian roads(qv)and the absence of any viable railroad network (cf India). It is still relatively inexpensive with bargains sometimes available and easily the best option for long distance travel within the country. Some major airports, particularly those in Sao Paulo and Rio, are, however, becoming very congested.
The main border crossings are at:
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 services connect 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, though Pelotas has 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 in Portuguese on all operating international bus lines. Online tickets around the country can be found at several websites like Guiche Virtual, brasilbybus.com, Chegue.Lá, Embarcou.com and NetViagem.
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. The ride is a gruelling 12 days upriver though. 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 at the moment is not in use, but bus connections to São Paulo via the state capital, Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey itself is reputedly replete with robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased recently 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.
Air service covers most of Brazil. Note that many flights make many stops en route, particularly in hubs as São Paulo or Brasilia. Most airports with regular passenger traffic are operated by the federal Infraero. They have a very convenient website, with an English version. It lists all the airlines operating at each airport, and also has updated flight schedules.
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 completely changed at least twice over the last 10 years or so. The largest carriers are now LATAM and Gol , which share more than 80% of the domestic market between them. The traditional Varig is now just another brand of Gol. Others include WebJet, and Azul. TRIP has short-haul flights to smaller airports throughout the country, and Pantanal and Puma are growing in the same segment. Portuguese has a few domestic code shares with TAM. There are also a number of regional companies, such as NHT(Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina). Price differences, at least if a ticket is purchased on the internet well in advance, are so small that it’s rather meaningless to call any of these “low cost”, although WebJet and Azul have lately been a notch cheaper for domestic flights.
Booking on the domestic carriers’ sites can be frustrating for non-Brazilian citizens. Often, you will be asked for your CPF (national identity number) while paying by credit card. Even if you -as a foreigner- have a CPF, the sites will often not recognize it. Gol now accepts international cards, but the system is buggy (Oct.2010). One trick that might work is to visit one of the airlines’ foreign websites, although prices may vary. Many flights can also be found on foreign booking engines where no CPF is needed. If you book weeks in advance, most carriers will give you the option to pay by bank deposit (boleto bancário), which is actually payable by cash not only in banks, but also in a number of supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores. Buying a ticket at a travel agent is generally R$ 30 more expensive, noting that certain special offers only can be found online.
Be aware that 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.
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 4 Rodas (can be bought from most newsstands in Brazil) provide not only maps and distances but also information about current conditions of the roads. Cochera andina  publishes useful information on almost 300 routes in the country. In theory, the driving rules of Brazil resemble those of Western Europe or North American. 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.
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.
There are a bicyclers groups around the country, e.g Sampa Bikers in [Sao Paulo] which meets weekly.
Brazil’s railway system was mostly wrecked during the military regimes. Today there are few passenger lines left:
From Campinas to Jaguariuna. Part of the old Ferrovia Mogiana, which was built to facilitate coffee exports in the late 19th and early 20th century. Entertaining guides. Only at weekends and holidays. Some steam trains. Inexpensive. About 1 hr each way.
Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and sometimes (usually if you buy the most expensive ticket), rather comfortable way to travel between regions. The bus terminal (rodoviária) in 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 worth going by plane if you can afford it.
Brazil has a very good long distance bus network. Basically, any city of more than 100,000 people will have direct lines to the nearest few state capitals, and also to other large cities within the same range. Pretty much any little settlement has public transport of some kind (a lorry, perhaps) to the nearest real bus station.
Mostly you have to go to the bus station to buy a ticket, although most major bus companies make reservations and sell tickets by internet with the requirement that you pick up your ticket sometime in advance. In a few cities you can also buy a ticket on the phone and have it delivered to your hotel for an extra charge of some 3-5 reais. Some companies have also adopted the airlines’ genius policy of pricing: In a few cases buying early can save you more than 50%. The facility of flagging a bus and hopping on (if there are no available seats you will have to stand, still paying full price) is widespread 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.
There is no one bus company that serves the whole country, so you need to identify the company that connect two cities in particular by calling the bus station of one city. ANTT, the national authority for land transportation, has a search engine  (in Portuguese) for all available domestic bus lines. Be aware that 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. Another website which you can check the time, prices and buy tickets online is BuscaOnibus . Many times you need a CPF number to buy tickets, but recently BrasilbyBus and ClickBus now cater to tourist without the CPF number.
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. Cheaper seats sometimes sell out fast, so it is worth making the trip early to the Rodoviaria or buy online.
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.
Brazilian bus stations, known as rodoviária or terminal rodoviário, tend to be located away from city centers. They are often in pretty sketchy areas, so if you travel at night be prepared to take a taxi to/from the station. There will also be local bus lines.
Even if you have a valid ticket bought from elsewhere, some Brazilian bus stations may also require a boarding card. This can be obtained from the bus company, often for a supplement fee. If you buy a ticket in the departure bus station you will also be given this boarding card.
Rodoviárias include many services, including fast-food restaurants, cafés, Internet cafés, toilets and left luggage. As a general rule, the larger the city, the more expensive the services (e.g. leaving a suitcase as left luggage in a smaller city may cost 1 R$, but in Recife in might cost you 5 R$).
When buying tickets, as well as when boarding the bus, you may be asked for proof of ID. Brazilian federal law requires this for interstate transportation. Not all conductors know how to read foreign passports, so be prepared to show them that the name of the passport truly is the same as the name on the ticket.
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.
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 no 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$ 3,00.
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 the Amazon region as well as on the coast west of Sao Luis, boat travel is often the only way to get around.
In the Amazon region as well as on the coast west of Sao Luis, boat travel is often the only way to get around.
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by the entire population (except for a few, very remotely located tribes). Indeed, Brazil has had immigrants from all parts of the world for centuries, whose descendants now speak Portuguese as their mother tongue.
Brazilian Portuguese has a number of pronunciation differences with that spoken in Portugal (and within, between the regions there are some quite extreme accent and slang differences), but speakers of either can understand each other. However, European Portuguese (Luso) is more difficult for Brazilians to understand than the reverse, as many Brazilian television programs are shown in Portugal. Notice that a few words can have a totally different meaning in Brazil and Portugal, usually slang words. An example of this is “Rapariga” which in Portugal means young girl, and in Brazil means a prostitute.
English is not widely spoken except in some touristy areas. Don’t expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English, so it may be a good idea to write down the address you are heading to before getting the cab. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak some English.
Spanish has some similarity with Portuguese. Brazilian tourists are able to make basic questions and give basic answers when visiting Spain or other Latin American countries and vice-versa. Of course such communication is quite awkward (mainly due to tilded vowels and semivowelization of ‘e’ and ‘o’ when being the last vowel of a Portuguese word), so take a phrase book and be prepared for slow communication with a lot of interpretive gestures.
The biggest party in the world takes places 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!
Every New Year’s Eve, many Brazilians have a very strong celebration that is believed to give luck. The people in the largest cities usually travel to the coast to see and ever contribute to the fireworks, while dressed in white, which is understood to mean a lucky colour. They all gather flowers to give to the sea as originally the local african groups thought it would please the goddess of the sea, which means they set the flowers on the water and let it float away to where ever the current will take it. These are usually white flowers with a green stem and green leaves. It is a custom that the flowers should be white as the clothing. Some people nest the flowers in a small fishing boat and some simply drop the leaves on the water. It is said this tradition have been constant since it first started. Not everyone does it, but anyone in the area will most likely do it.
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.
ETIV do Brazil A local NGO & Non-Profit Organization that offers meaningful volunteer opportunities in a beautiful tropical surf town called Itacaré, which is located on the coast of Southern Bahia. ETIV do Brasil offers projects in Youth Development, Environmental Conservation, Teaching English, Animal Welfare and Women’s Empowerment. They can also offer housing, Portuguese, Samba and Capoeira classes to volunteers and well as Eco-Adventure tours to the exotic beaches, jungles and waterfalls in and around Itacare. There is also the option to search and compare all the different NGOs available in Brazil. One method to do that is to use a comparison platform such as Volunteer World.
Brazil’s unit of currency is the Real (pronounced ‘hay-OW’), plural Reais (‘hay-ICE’), abbreviated BRL, or just R$. One real is divided into 100 centavos. As an example of how prices are written, R$1,50 means one real and fifty centavos.
Be careful using credit cards at taxis, gas stations, newsstands and small outlets. Their owners aren’t so careful about checking employees and technicians who perform maintenance on card machines, so many people have their cards compromised and then over several days have money siphoned off their cards. A safer option is to use cash for small expenses (so you don’t need to carry too much – just make sure you only withdraw from bank ATMs) and to go to bigger stores with multiple machines since their managers use to enforce security and checking protocols to prevent scammers from compromising card machines (gas station franchises being a sad exception). If you choose to use your credit card, keep an eye on your statement.
Travellers’ checks can be hard to cash anywhere that does not offer currency exchange. Foreign currency such as US Dollars or Euros can be exchanged at major airports and luxury hotels (although at bad rates), exchange bureaus and major branches of some banks, where you need your passport and your immigration form.
Look for an ATM with your credit/debit card logo on it. Large branches of Banco do Brasil (no withdrawal fees for credit cards) usually have one, and most all Bradesco, Citibank, BankBoston, Santander and HSBC machines will work. Banco 24 Horas is a network of ATMs which accept foreign cards (charging R$ 10 per withdrawal). Withdrawal limits are usually R$ 700 (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”. Note that most ATMs do not work or will only give you R$ 100 after 10 PM. In some smaller towns there is no ATM able to accept foreign cards. Be sure you carry enough cash if you intend to stay far from larger cities.
There are many federal regulations for dealings with foreign currency, trading in any currency other than Real in Brazil is illegal, although some places in big cities and bordering towns accept foreign money and many exchange offices operate in a shady area. In addition, exchange offices are almost impossible to find outside of big cities. Currencies other than USD and EUR are 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. E.g., Banco do Brasil collects US$15 for each transaction (regardless of amount). In May 2016 (just 3 months before Rio Olympic Games) Federal Government enacted new taxes over currency exchange: 1.1% for bill (species) transactions and 6.38% for travellers’ check and credit card ones.
Wiring money to Brazil can be done through Western Union transfers to be picked up at a Banco do Brasil branch in most cities, and also quite a few exchange offices.
A majority of Brazilian shops now accepts major credit cards. However quite a few online stores only accept cards issued in Brazil, even though they sport the international logo of such cards. It is also very common for credit cards being used like debit card. When you pay using card commonly you will hear the question: “Crédito ou débito?” (“Credit or debit?”). Using debit card is like paying in cash, the difference is, the cash was in your bank account – not in your wallet.
Contactless cards are accepted in Brazil but not widely understood. Merchants are often confused by the concept of entering the transaction amount into their card terminal before presenting the card. If you see a contactless symbol on a merchant’s card terminal, then it will accept contactless payments, although the chances are that the employee won’t know the procedure. By the time they have worked out the procedure, it will have been faster to use chip & PIN instead. Apple Pay works on contactless card terminals in Brazil, at least for MasterCard, despite not yet being supported for cards issued in Brazil.
Some places put signs stating a minimum card value payment. This is illegal. Every commercial establishment that accepts card is required to accept payment regardless of the amount. If the merchant that accepts cards refuses to receive the payment due to the low value, call the police or PROCON (consumer protection agency). It is also illegal to pay change for cents with candies (for example, R$ 0,05 or R$ 0,10) without asking the customer in advance. You have the right to refuse the candies and demand true money.
Coins are R$0.05, R$0.10, R$0.25, R$0.50 and R$1. Some denominations have several different designs. Images from the central bank of Brazil . And more . Bills come in the following denominations: R$2 , R$5 , R$10 (still a few plastic red and blue around), R$20 , R$ 50 and $100. Images from the central bank of Brazil .
Since 2010 Real bills were redesigned and are replacing old ones. Still, you are likely to find some older bills circulating.
Similar to the rest of Latin America, hand-crafted jewelry can be found anywhere. In regions that are largely populated by Afro-Brazilians you’ll find more African-influenced souvenirs, including black dolls. Havaianas sandals are also affordable in Brazil and supermarkets are often the best place to buy them — small shops usually carry 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 a traditional game of the same name, similar to volleyball.
It’s not a bad idea to pack light and acquire Brazilian clothes within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist. 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.
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.
Make sure any appliances you buy are either dual voltage or the same as in your home country. Frequency in Brazil is 60Hz, so don’t buy electric clocks or non-battery operated motorized items if you live in Europe or countries like Argentina, Australia or New Zealand. Voltage however varies by state or even regions inside the same state. (see Electricity below).
Brazilian-made appliances and electronics are usually expensive or of poor quality. All electronics are expensive compared to European or US prices.
Brazil uses a hybrid video system called “PAL-M.” It is NOT at all compatible with the PAL system of Europe and Australia. Television began in black and white using the NTSC system of the USA and Canada, then years later, using PAL for its analogue colour – making PAL-M a totally unique system. Nowadays, most new TV sets are NTSC compatible. However the newly-introduced digital TV standard is not compatible with that of most other countries. 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 code(s), if any, match your home country (Brazil is part of Region 4). 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. Also, be aware that the term “DVD” in Brazil is both an abbreviation for the disc itself and for its player, so be specific to avoid confusion.
There are plenty of bargains to be had, especially leather goods, including shoes (remember 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 cheap option, but avoid brand names like “Nike” – you will pay more and it’s fake. Don’t be afraid to “feel” an item. If it doesn’t feel right, most likely it isn’t. Beware of the dreaded “Made in China” label, and be in mind some Brazilian-made products are less robust than their American or European counterparts.
Brazil’s cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. 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.
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.
The standard Brazilian set lunch is called prato feito, with its siblings comercial and executivo. Rice and brown beans (in Rio de Janeiro there is only black beans, other types are rare) 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.
Excellent seafood can be found in coastal towns, especially in the Northeast.
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.
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. Black beans stew (feijao ou feijoada) is also very popular, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, where most restaurants traditionally serve the dish on Saturdays. It comprises black beans cooked with pork meat accompanied by rice and farofa (manioca flour with eggs) and greens fried with garlic.
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 (deep fried edible black bean soup) and vatapá (prawn-filled roasties).
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).
In the coastal cities of Paraná like Morretes and Antonina, the dish named barreado is served. It’s a meat stew thickened with manioc flour and served with slices of banana, slowly cooked for at least 12 hours on hermetically-sealed clay pots.
Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:
All restaurants will add a 10% service charge on the bill, and this is all the tip a Brazilian will ever pay. It is also what most waiters survive on, but it is not mandatory and you may choose to ignore it, although is considered extremely rude to do it. In some tourist areas you might be tried for extra tip, but you don’t need to tip more – Brazilian tourist almost never do it.
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), very common during lunchtime throughout Brazil. Load up at the buffet and get your plate on the scales before eating any. In the South there’s also the traditional Italian “galeto”, where you’re served different types of pasta, salads, soups and meat (mostly chicken) at your table.
Customers are allowed by law to visit the kitchen and see how the food is being handled, although it’s uncommon.
Some Brazilian restaurants serve only meals for two. The size of the portions might not say in the menu, so it’s recommended asking the waiter. Most restaurants of 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 also very 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-Salad, 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 (and the founder is a Portuguese migrant, by the way). Recent additions, though not as widespread, are Burger King and Subway.
Brazil’s national booze is cachaça (cah-shah-sah, also known as aguardente (“burning water”) and pinga), a sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. Mass-produced, industrial cachaça is cheap and has 40% alcohol. Rural, tradicional cachaça made on small distilleries usually has about 20% alcohol, but is highly praised nationwide for its superior taste. This also means it’s far more costly, but it’s worth each Real. 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 (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.
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 Light Lager type, like Standard American Lager, here called Pilsner, and it is usually drunk very cold (direct from refrigerator). The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica, and Skol. Traditional brands include Bohemia, Caracu – a stout -, Original and Serramalte. They are easily found in bars and are worth trying but are usually a little bit more expensive than the popular beers. There are also some national premium and craft 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, Coruja 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 (350ml, 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, specially sparkling wine. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. There are also the popular, rot-gut brands like Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade.
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.
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.
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.
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. There is also a “Guaraná Jesus” that is popular in Maranhão and a “Guaraná Fruki” that is very popular in Rio Grande do Sul. Almost all regions in Brazil feature their own local variants on guaraná, some which can be quite different from the standard “Antartica” 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 Antartica 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 is also a popular soft drink made of guaraná and a typical Brazilian leaf called Chapéu de Couro. Although most Brazilians says that it tastes like grass, older people (+70 years) claim that the drink has medicinal proprieties.
Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. Some cities, notably Rio de Janeiro has fruit juice bars at nearly every corner.
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”.
Motel is the local term for a “sex hotel”. There’s no social stigma per se in staying in one, but the room service and rates are geared to adults staying for a few hours with utmost discretion and privacy.
Youth hostels (albergues da juventude) are becoming increasingly common.
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 Salvador, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre have Portuguese courses from 2 weeks up.
If you can get a job, working in Brazil is easy, mostly because there is much informality. In theory, you must have a work permit (Autorização de Trabalho) from the Ministry of Labor before you can get a job. However, in order to obtain it, you must be sponsored by an employer before entering the country. The company must want a foreigner bad enough to pay the government upwards of R$2000 to sponsor you, knowing also that they are required by law to simultaneously hire and train a replacement for you. Because of this, finding a legal job can be a pretty daunting bureaucratic task.
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 Veja 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).
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