Getting to Brazil is easy today with lots of connections from many different countries. However, Crossing the Atlantic is still no mean feet so it’s important to gather as much information to prepare your trip.
In this section, you will find the answers to the most common questions all travelers ask : what administrative formalities are needed to travel to Brazil? How much does the local life cost ? What baggage to take, etc !
To help you in your research, we have divided our practical information into 3 sections : Before leaving, once in the country, and Brazilian standards. Find out more now !
What to know before leaving
Passport & visas
The migration policy in Brazil operates through the reciprocity system. This means that Brazil applies the same constraints to visitors that their country applies to visiting Brazilians. European citizens (except Portugal who has a special agreement) don’t need a visa for a visit of less than 3 months. A passport valid for more than 6 months (after your return date) is needed for all travelers. Remember to check yours!
The Canadians and US Citizen, however, need a visa (check with the Embassy).
The choice of luggage and the constraints of international and national airlines.
Be aware of the weight limits for luggage, but also the volume! Certain oversized objects can be charged extra, check with your airline.
The present standard is one suitcase of 23kg per traveler with the Brazilian airlines for internal flights (as well as a cabin bag of less than 8kg with maximum sizes of 55 x 35 x 25cm) and a personal handbag no bigger than 20 x 45 x 35cm (or a total of 100cm).
The TAP allows 2 bags of 32kg per traveler for a single or return trip. An ideal option if you like bringing back lots of souvenirs!
Concerning the type of luggage, our experience shows that big waterproof canvas bags (duffel bags) are best. They come in various sizes, are easy to handle and are virtually indestructible. They don’t get scratched or dirty and are the easiest to transport when travelling by buggy, 4X4 or small boats or ferries.
Hard suitcases are obviously safer, especially when transporting fragile objects and liquids, but they are more cumbersome and not very resistant to scratches and other types of dirt.
It is up to you to choose what suits you best according to the profile of your trip and what you want to take. If in doubt, do not hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to help you choose the best luggage for your trip.
Get to know a basic lifestyle information about Brazil
Money and payments in Brazil
Brazil has a modern and efficient banking system in all modern cities, so you can easily use your credit card and withdraw cash when arriving at the airport or in the vicinity of your hotel. Think of asking your bank which Brazilian banks it is partners with. Indeed, the system here is slightly different; we can only withdraw money from our bank’s cash machines or the « Banco 24hr » ones. So you won’t be able to withdraw money in any bank branch but your own bank ones.
However, if you have chosen to visit more out of the way places such as the small seaside villages of the Northeast, you won’t find any cash machines and the small businesses only accept cash & not credit cards.
It is therefore wise to take out cash before going exploring so as not to be caught out. Also it is advised to bring some Euros too so you can change them in an exchange office. You can also order a few hundred Brazilian “reals” before your trip to bring along just in case.
The official language in Brazil is Portuguese and it’s worth learning a few words. Even if it won’t help much, it will show you are making an effort to communicate and will be appreciated by the locals. Then your gestures and enthusiasm will do the rest. In the big southern hotels, you will find people speak English and in the North a lot less …
A few useful words and phrases :
Good morning Bom dia
Good afternoon Boa tarde
Good evening (from 18:00) Boa noite
Please Por favor
Thankyou (Muito) obrigado [for a male]
(Muito) obrigada [for a female]
Excuse-me Com licença
I’m sorry Desculpe
Is everything fine? Tudo bem ?
Everything is fine Tudo bom
I (don’t) speak Portuguese Eu (não) falo português
I (don’t) understand Eu (não) entendo
How do you say it in Portuguese? Como você fala em português ?
What’s your name? Qual é seu nome ?
My name is … Meu nome é…
I’d like to go to … Eu quero ir para…
What time does it … leave/arrive? A que horas… sai/chega ?
Health in Brazil
Tropical illnesses are a risk for our clients
In Brazil, most diseases presenting a risk to passing travelers are transmitted by specific Aede and Anopheles mosquitoes. These are dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and since 2015 the Zika virus. However, these diseases and their insect carriers are mainly found, and therefore create a risk, in unhealthy areas in the outskirts of big towns. Lack of basic hygiene and the dense living quarters make it easy for the mosquitoes to reproduce in stagnant waters and the disease to travel. Simply due to the nature of the services we provide you will not be taken to any such places thereby reducing the risk of infection. But it is always possible to be bitten elsewhere by a carrier insect, which is why prevention is essential and the most effective way to avoid any contagion. There are therefore two solutions to be combined in the most humid regions. It is best to wear long, ample and light-coloured clothing with closed shoes 2 hours before and after sunrise and sunset, when mosquito activity is at its highest. To this you can add a mosquito repellent which contains at least 30% DEET, and ICARIDINE that you put on your skin. For those who are allergic to products or those coming during a very humid period you can soak your clothes in a solution of PERMETHRINE before departure and this will be effective even after about 5 washes.
For yellow fever, you simply need to be vaccinated 10 days before entering an infected zone. This vaccination is obligatory to visit certain areas of the Amazon. A vaccination card is required for all travelers coming from a South American or African country infected by yellow fever upon entry into Brazil, the absence of which will lead to the refusal of entry into Brazil.
Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, easy to recognize with its black and white legs. There is no specific treatment for this disease and doctors just tend to treat the symptoms: fever, red blotches and fatigue for 2 to 3 weeks.
Malaria is especially present in the Amazon. Again, not much can be done in prevention, apart from avoiding mosquito bites. You can take a preventive treatment, although it is not 100% effective, and that some people react badly to and it brings other problems. You should discuss this with your doctor but treatment is quite heavy for a short stay.
Arriving with the football World cup in 2014, Zika virus is transmitted by the same mosquito that carries dengue fever. Relatively benign, it only triggers symptoms in one person out of five; these are similar to those of dengue fever. However, a possible correlation between microcephaly of newborn babies and their mothers and sexual contamination has been established. So one must be cautious, but following a major national mobilization, an eradication campaign has been launched and is having a positive effect.
Chemists / Drugstores
There are lots of Brazilian Chemists or Drugstores and they are well equipped, the only medicines you will find hard to get and that you should bring with you are:
Anything for treating upset stomachs, tummy bugs or indigestion or sunburn, you can also bring a local antiseptic spray to use as a general disinfectant if needed.
– Ear plugs, The Brazilians often have a party spirit that you may not want to join in with every night….
– You should also buy a strong sun cream (available everywhere) and use it regularly even if it’s cloudy or you stay in the shade.
– An anti mosquito cream that you probably won’t use in 95% of the country but it will reassure you to have it.
Chemists are often open late or all night, as well as some supermarkets. You can therefore ask the hotel staff to order medicines and bring them to your room without it costing too much.
In the case of a health problem, you should go to the emergency dept. of the best private hospital in town. (Unimed is a good reference throughout Brazil). Doctors don’t do call outs, take your credit card with you as all care has to be paid for and is relatively expensive (even if you are reimbursed by your insurance company, you must pay a deposit). The doctors and hospitals are of good quality in Brazil.
In the case of an accident, it’s absolutely essential that all travelers have a good insurance covering repatriation and medical costs (we suggest US$ 50 000 minimum for medical costs). Indeed, in Brazil only the private hospitals are capable of providing quality care and the bill can increase very quickly. In addition first aid, and initial examinations often take place before the foreign insurance can kick in, so it is imperative that the patient, or the person accompanying him, is able to advance enough funds with a credit card to cover it. Failing that, the hospital will not take the person in charge. Brazil Selection disclaims all liability in this case and has no authority to advance these funds or provide medical services.
We hear a lot about safety in Brazil, but it’s only the big towns and their outskirts that are a concern. If you respect the basic rules and use your common sense, you need not worry : Leave your jewelry at home, leave your valuables in the hotel safe (passport and money), avoid taking photos with a visibly expensive camera when not accompanied by a guide.
Only carry a credit card on you to pay restaurants and shops in the big towns as well as some change for taxis and small things you may want to buy. When you go to the beach (in the big towns), only take essentials so as not to attract pick pockets. For these occasions a small waterproof bag is very useful. You can also send us photocopies of your passports by email which could be useful if you lose them.
Brazil is a vast country therefore temperatures vary accordingly. During the European winter its fine, Brazil has warm weather from North to South, apart from isolated storms in the south so a water-proof jacket could be useful, otherwise nothing special is needed.
However, for the months of July and August the temperature can come down to 10 or 15°C in the south (Rio & Iguacu) and even as far north as Salvador where it can be 18°C and raining. If you travel in these regions at this time of year, a light jumper or jacket and a raincoat such as a Mac or Paclite should cover most situations.
If you are not visiting southern Brazil at this season, the best clothes are light cotton shorts, Bermudas, T-shirts or shirts. Don’t forget a hat or cap and sun glasses. Long sleeves and trousers are better in the evenings. A cardigan in your hand luggage could be good for evenings on the beach or on a flight (Air conditioning in the airplanes can be cold especially in the central cabin area).
In general, Brazilian food is good, plain and copious, with lots of beef and grilled fish. The modern looking restaurants are well equipped with quality kitchens and regular hygene inspections. The Brazilians are very professional on this subject so don’t be afraid to eat salads or sea food. However be careful of street vendors! Always ask for sealed bottles that they open in front of you.
The main food attraction is obviously the churrascaria : a restaurant that serves meat at will accompanied by a buffet often very copious and offering multiple options that satisfy meat lovers as well as others. You should choose the formula called Rodizio (careful the desert cart is not always included).
Another interesting formula is the restaurants where they serve food by the kilo (comida por kilo). It’s a varied buffet where you serve yourself as much as you wish; your plate is then weighed and the price decided by its weight (the price for 100g is shown at the cash desk).
As far as specialties are concerned, it’s impossible to talk about Brazil without mentioning the delicious feijoada, the Brazilian national dish that is a bit like a cassoulet, to be savored with rice and orange wedges like the locals. Not to be confused with quentinha (kentinia), a popular dish made from rice, dried beans and meat to take away and is very cheap.
In the Northeast, its tropical fish, shrimps and other lobsters fresh off the local reefs. Feel free to try the many delicious fish with the most noble, being the Sirigado (grouper), the favorite of the locals, the Pargo (tropical pager with the characteristic red color), but also the peixe amarelo, Le Ciuba and many more! For lobsters, simply choose them roasted, that’s how they reveal all their flavor. Be careful however, from December to June, their fishing is prohibited, so they are frozen products that are served!
In the Amazon, you will discover new flavors with the delicious Acai sorbet of a thousand virtues, Pirarucu fillets, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world or Tacaca, a soup made from shrimps, cassava and jambu.
Most restaurants add 10% tips to the final bill and it is still advised verify your bill before paying.
You can enjoy at your leisure the wonderful tropical fruit juices. They are reminiscent of fashionable smoothies in Europe, always prepared with filtered or mineral water, including ice cubes and full of fruit. It will be an opportunity to discover new flavors with local fruits and amazing tastes. We particularly recommend: Caja, Graviola, Acerola (the richest vitamin C fruit in the world), Maracuja (passion fruit) and Siriguela.
Taxis and Uber
It is very easy to take taxis in Brazil and the drivers are often friendly. If you do not speak the language, it is best to inquire about the price of the trip at the front desk of your hotel and negotiate the price before you start. Another solution: ask the concierge to order the taxi.
Uber is also available in all the big Brazilian cities, it ‘s quite cheap but most of the cars are small and basic.
Not counting restaurants where tips appear on the bill and hotels where it’s custom to give 2 or 5 reais per baggage to the valet, the other tips are at your discretion, they must be given to express your satisfaction and are not at all compulsory. To give you and idea, the average salary is around 2000 reais.
A piece of traveling advice
Brazil is not Switzerland. Even if the tourism providers emphasize punctuality and are usually on time, there can sometimes be delays in the appointments that are set for you, particularly because of traffic jams in the capitals. In this case you have to be a little patient and remember you are in a country with a different culture!
GMT/UTC – 3hrs (in Brasilia), watch out for the time difference between summer and winter, (only the Northeast doesn’t change time from October to March) and the 3 different time zones within Brazil. (incl. the Fernando de Noronha island) From April to October, the time is the same from the South to the North but you loose an hour when visiting Noronha and you gain an hour when going from Manaus to Pantanal.
Weights and measures
The Metric system is used in Brazil. Distances are calculated in metres and weight is measured in Kilos and grams.
Attention, the electric current is not standardized and can vary between 110V and 220V. Bring a transformer and check before connecting your electrical devices! It is also better to have an adapter that allows you to connect your devices to jacks, most of the Brazilian sockets in hotels being type C.
Telephoning in Brazil
To call Brazil: (+ 55) + area code + 8 digit number (for cell phones, sometimes you have to add the new code, the 9 if it is not already shown). Ex (55) 85 9 8864 5877
• To call a foreign country from Brazil, you must dial: 00 + the operator code + the country code + the phone number without the 0. Example from Brazil to the USA : 00 21 1 – area code and number
00 is the number that gets you out of the country
21 is the operator code
1 corresponds to the country code
• Another cheaper and more convenient solution, use Skype, which you can install on your smart phone, buy credit and be able to call anywhere in Brazil or France, as soon as you have wifi.
• Finally, with WhatsApp, you can now send messages of multimedia content and even call for free, anywhere in the world, just register your number before departure and use the wifi in hotels.