Brazil is a country in South America that occupies over half of the continent’s landmass. As the fifth largest country in the world, Brazil stretches around 2700 miles from north to south and from east to west, encompassing a huge range of tropical and subtropical landscapes, including wetlands, savannas and low mountains. Brazil is also home to most of the Amazon basin.
Despite the huge expanse of Brazil, most of its inhabitants live on or near the coast, or in densely populated cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In 1960, Brazil welcomed a new capital, Brasilia. Brasilia was a planned city, meaning it was specifically developed and designed to be the capital of Brazil. However, the previous capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, still remains to be, in the eyes of the world, the most iconic city of Brazil.
With its white sandy beaches, progressive music, hedonistic nightlife in their wild city metropolises, rich regional cuisines and world renowned carnivals, Brazil will be sure to show you a good time. But Brazil is also home to diverse ecosystems, vibrant biodiversity and the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. Brazil has something for everyone, which is why this magnetic country welcomes in millions of tourists every year.
Top Festivals and Carnivals in Brazil
Events, celebrations, carnivals and festivals take place all year round throughout Brazil and Brazilians certainly know how to party!
This world renowned carnival attracts over 5 million visitors every year. Taking place during Easter, from Friday the to the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, Rio Carnival welcomes in huge parades featuring elaborate costumes as well as drummers and dancers making their way through the streets. In 2020, Rio carnival will run from 21st-29th February.
Festa Junia is celebrated throughout Brazil across the month of June. It celebrates Saint Anthony, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter and marks the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest. Expect to see traditional dress, food and dancers inside an arraial, a large tent made from raw materials. In the bigger cities, the arraial is usually a building that is decorated with flags, checkered tablecloths and lots of balloons. Clothes are usual checkered shirts and straw hats.
The Germanic roots of Southern Brazil brought this typically German festival to Brazil. Held in the middle of October every year in Blumenau in the state of Santa Catarina, it celebrates German cuisine and plenty of beer!
Belem is the largest festival along the River Amazon and revolves around a statue of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth) which is believed to have performed miracles. Brazilians honour the statue and carry her from Belem to Icoaraci and back in a river possession of 100+ boats. Millions of people fill the streets in the second week of October singing hymns and accompanied by bells and fireworks.
Language Spoken in Brazil
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese.
Helpful Portuguese Phrases to Learn for Travel in Brazil:
- Good Morning: Bom dia
- Good Afternoon: Boa tarde
- Good night: Bon noite
- Do you speak english? Fala inglês?
- I only speak a little Portugues: Só falo um pouco de português.
- I dont understand: Não entendo.
- Do you understand? Compreende?
- Sorry: Desculpa
- Can you help me please? Você pode me ajudar por favor?
- Everything well? Tudo bem?
- Thank you: Obrigado (masuline) /Obrigada (feminie)
- I want the bill please: Quero a conta, por favor
Weather in Brazil
Brazil’s climate is mostly tropical, with high humidity. Whilst rainfall varies depending on the location in Brazil, temperatures are largely uniform, rarely dropping below 20°C (68 26°F). The climate of Brazil varies from hot and dry in the interior and hot and humid in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon jungle.
In the central areas of Brazil, January temperatures average around 26°C (79°F). Along the coast it is a few degrees cooler, and up to the Northeast, it is a few degrees hotter. During the winter months (May to October), the Brazilian highlands are generally dry with cool rainy weather extending along the coast.
When to Visit Brazil:
Brazil’s high season and summer is between December and March, coinciding with the northern-hemisphere winter. The weather during high season is hot and sticky and prices are often much higher, especially during Carnival (February). It is especially busy in Rio de Janeiro and popular beach destinations along the coast.
Unless you are visiting specifically for Rio’s carnival, it is better to visit during the shoulder season (April-October) where the weather is warm and dry along the coast, prices are not as inflated and the crowds are a little less. If you are visiting the Amazon, best times would be during the low season months, July-September.
Currency in Brazil
The official currency of Brazil is the real (R$). One Real is made up of 100 centavos. At the time of writing the exchange rates were as follows:
R$1 = €0.20
R$ = $.24 USD
ATMs are plentiful in Brazil. You will usually find ATMs around the main squares, in the airport and in some shopping centres. Most ATMs in Brazil will change you a transaction fee. All Brazilian ATMs have a maximum withdrawal limit. Look out for:
- Banco de Brazil
You can use credit cards for most purchases in Brazil and to make withdrawals from ATMs and banks. Visa is widely accepted, as is MasterCard.
Credit Card and ATM fraud is rife in Brazil, especially card cloning. To avoid becoming a victim, in restaurants, never let someone walk off with your card, ask them to bring the card machine to you. Only use high traffic ATMa inside banks during banking hours, always cover the ATM keypad when entering your PIN code and always check the ATM keypad and card slot before you withdraw money.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad and where you are going. This will notify the bank and prevent them from freezing your card which they will do if they think it has been stolen.
Getting around Brazil
Brazil is a large country with so much to see, therefore it requires good transportation to explore it fully.
Internal Flights in Brazil:
Brazil had two major national flight carriers, Gol and LANTAM. You can usually get the cheapest flights with GOL but LANTAM often run great deals, so be sure to sign up to their newsletter. Other major flight carriers are: Azul, Ocean Air and Varig.
If you are planning on taking more than a couple of flights while you are in Brazil, it may be a good idea to invest in a Brazil Airpass to save you money. A Brazil Airpass can be purchased from Gol who offer 4-5 domestic flights to anywhere on their network from $505 usd plus taxes and fees. Azul also offer a 4 day flight pass for $500 USD for a 21 day period. If you are travelling during peak and busy times, book ahead. Always reconfirm your flight as schedules frequently change. N.B You must purchase these passes before you arrive in Brazil.
N.B There are restrictions with the Airpasses in that they are valid for a maximum of 30 days and you can only purchase them outside of Brazil. Also, you will need to book your different flights at the same time, otherwise penalty fees apply. You cannot change your route but you can amend the dates.
Long Distances Buses in Brazil:
The main mode of transport used by most backpackers in Brazil are long distance buses and network between all major cities is extensive. The service is generally excellent. The buses in Brazil run on a strict time schedule and most are clean, comfortable and well serviced, linking all major cities leaving at regular times. Every main city and most small ones have at least one main long distance bus station, known as a rodoviária (ho-do-vi-ah-ree-ya). Unfortunately most of the time they are located on the edge of town or just outside. They are busy and at times overwhelming, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to find your terminal and bus.
The best long distance bus services are found in Southern Brazil but in the north and Amazonia region, they are still a good standard. Brazil has numerous bus companies. ClickBus is a great app for departure times and fare prices or check out Busca Onibus. You can buy your tickets at the station, but in general and especially when it is high season or during the holidays, it is a good idea to buy your tickets the day before you want to travel.
Classes on long distance buses are split into three. The standard (convecional or comum) is fairly comfortable with a toilet on-board. An executivo or semi-leitos is more comfortable with reclining seats and less stops but they are slightly more expensive. And then at the top you have the overnight sleeper buses (leito) which can cost twice as much as the comum. These buses come with fully reclining seats, blankets, pilllows, aircon and sometimes attendees providing food and drink.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Pack layers for the bus! It can get very cold with the Air Con!
Local buses tend to be fairly decent as they are the main mode of transport for the locals to get to work. In the cities and towns they run frequently and their network is extensive. One way fares are usually around R$3-$4.50. There is normally a money collector on-board, sitting just inside the entrance.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Be aware of your belongings and do not take anything valuable on the bus (Laptop etc), crime can be rife on some of the routes.
Both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have excellent and extensive metro systems. They are safe, cheap, clean and efficient way of exploring these large cities. One way fares range from R$4-4.30. In Rio, the metro has had some extensions to the network covered by aircon metrobus, carrying people to points of interest that are not near a metro station, such as Leblon and Sugar Loaf. Please note, the metros do not run at night (unless during carnival where they run 24/7).
Taxis are the best option for travelling around the larger cities at night and can easily be flagged down on the street. They usually have meters on but always check before you get in. Always make sure the meter is at ‘0’ before you get in and the tariff is usually 1 (except at night and during Sundays in December when the tariff is 2). In the smaller towns, taxis often don’t have meters, so make sure you agree on a price beforehand. The best app for local taxi drivers is 99Taxi. Make sure you have it downloaded before you need it! You can also use Uber and Cabify in most place in Brazil.
Travel Insurance for Brazil
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Advice for Brazil:
When you know where you want to go in Brazil, go to your doctor’s and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. Some of the vaccinations may just be boosters for you (if you have had them before) which will bring the overall cost down. It is likely that you will need:
● Hepatitis A and B, tetanus
● Diphtheria, rabies, typhoid
● Yellow Fever
● Malaria Tablets (location dependent)
In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper. When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel.
What to pack For Brazil:
- Warm clothes for the evenings (jeans, light sweater).
- Dresses / shorts / light clothes
- Swimwear / beach items / quick dry towel
- Good walking shoes / sandals / trainers
- Waterproof clothing / rain jacket / poncho
- Packing cubes
- First aid kit inclusive of activate charcoal & electrolytes
- Battery pack / electronics
- Zip lock bags – perfect for carrying food that has been opened or protecting liquids from spilling
- Money belt
- Padlocks x2 or 3
- Ipod / music for the long bus journeys
- Biodegradable soap – especially important when you are camping and washing in nature
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate
For a more extensive list, check out this epic travel blog
Safety Consideration in Brazil
Brazil receives plenty of bad press about its violence and high crime rate. And while some areas are certainly more dangerous than others, it is still a fantastic country to experience and enjoy. Use your common sense and follow our safety advice below:
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away. Don’t wander around with your expensive Iphone in hand or leave your Ipad in full view when travelling on long bus journeys.
- Always keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front, with your big backpack on your back and padlocked if walking around in crowded places.
- Don’t take anything unnecessary to city beaches. Bathing suit, towel and a small amount of cash will do just fine.
- Dress down, leave your expensive jewellery at home and don’t walk around with your Iphone in hand or headphones on.
- Be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing money from an ATM. Always choose an ATM inside of a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel really nervous about withdrawing money, go with someone else.
- Never accept a drink or cigarette off a stranger as there have been many reports of spiking.
- Never leave your drink unattended when out.
- Be aware of scams - such as someone diverting your attention by asking for a lighter or cigarette. Usually they work in pairs. Always remain alert.
- Never carry your wallet in your pocket, or your phone.
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security: put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes.
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and try and put your rain/protective cover over it for extra security as it will be going in the boot under the bus.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your two bank/credit cards separate, so if anything does happen, you have a second source of money as a back up.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport, so if you lose your passport, you still have a copy of it and bring another form of identification with you (driver’s license).
Budget For Brazil
Brazil is not the cheapest South American country to explore on a budget but it is entirely possible to survive on $20 USD (€18) a day. Things like cafe food, street food and public transport are super cheap and there is never a lack of free things to do and enjoy and you can get a cheap hostel for anywhere between $9-12 USD. A more comfortable budget would be $40 USD (€36). If you are interested in going into the Amazon and doing adventure tours, getting internal flights or going out partying, you are more likely to spend upwards of $70 (€64) a day when in Brazil.
Don't forget to buy your Travel Insurance...