With a variety of inbound flights from all over the world, nowadays getting to Brazil is easy. However, crossing the Atlantic is still no mean feat, so there is some essential information you should be aware of to prepare for your trip.
In this section, you will find the answers to our most frequently asked questions, such as :
- What administrative documents are required to travel to Brazil?
- How much does the local life cost ?
- What sort of luggage should I take?
We have divided our practical information into 3 sections : Before leaving, once in the country (lifestyle), and Brazilian standards. Learn more below !
What you should know before leaving
Passports & Visas
The immigration policy in Brazil operates through the system of reciprocity. This means that Brazil will apply the same favours, penalties and benefits to visitors, as Brazilians would face visiting your country. 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!
Canadian and US Citizens, need a visa (check with your embassy).
Luggage constraints – International and National airlines.
Be aware of both the weight and volume limits for luggage. Oversized objects can be charged extra, such as sports equipment – check with your airline.
For Brazilian national airlines, the present standard is one 23kg suitcase per traveler (as well as a cabin bag of less than 8kg with maximum sizes of 55 x 35 x 25cm and a personal carry on no bigger than 20 x 45 x 35cm (or a total of 100cm).
TAP airlines allows 2 bags of 32kg per traveler for a one way or round trip. An ideal option if you like bringing back lots of souvenirs!
Regarding the type of luggage, our experience shows that big waterproof canvas bags (duffel bags) are best. They come in various sizes and are easy to handle. Also, they don’t get scratched or dirty and are the easiest to transport when travelling by buggy, 4X4 or small boats and ferries.
Hard suitcases are safer, especially when transporting fragile objects, 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 your itinerary 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.
Once you get here – Brazilian lifestyle!
Money and Payments in Brazil
Brazil has a modern and efficient banking system in all capital cities, so you can easily use your credit card and withdraw cash when arriving at the airport or in the vicinity of your hotel. It is worth asking your bank which Brazilian banks it is partners with.
The system here is slightly different; you can only withdraw money from cash machines in the banks or at the “Banco 24hr” machines. You won’t be able to withdraw money in any bank branch but your own.
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. It is therefore wise to take out cash before going exploring so as not to be caught off guard.
It is advised to bring some Dollars 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 definitely worth learning a few words. Even if not to converse, it will show you are making an effort to communicate and will really be appreciated by the locals. Your gestures and enthusiasm should do the rest! In the southern hotels, you will find people speak English and in the North, less so.
Useful words and phrases :
Good morning Bom dia
Good afternoon Boa tarde
Good evening (from 18:00) Boa noite
Please Por favor
Thank you (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
Important : Tropical illnesses
In Brazil, most diseases presenting a risk to passing travelers are transmitted by the Aede and Anopheles mosquitoes. These are dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and (since 2015) the zika virus. However, these diseases and their carriers are mainly found on the outskirts of big towns, and in less sanitary areas. Dense living quarters in some areas make it easy for the mosquitoes to reproduce, especially near stagnant waters. This allows the disease to travel.
Due to the nature of the services we provide, you will not be taken to any such places, already reducing the risk of infection. However, 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 infection.
In the most humid regions. It is best to wear long, and light-coloured clothing with closed shoes 2 hours before and after sunrise and sunset, when mosquito activity is at its peak. Moreover you can use a mosquito repellent which contains at least 30% DEET, and ICARIDINE. For those who are allergic to skin products or those coming during a very humid period near a high risk area, you can soak your clothes in a solution of PERMETHRINE before departure and this will be an effective deterrent even after about 5 washes.
For yellow fever, you simply need to be vaccinated 10 days before entering an infected zone. This vaccination is mandatory to visit certain parts 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. Inability to produce this card will lead to refusal of entry into Brazil.
Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, easily recognizable with its black and white legs. There is no specific treatment for this disease and doctors tend to treat the symptoms: fever, red blotches and fatigue for 2 to 3 weeks.
Malaria is especially present in the Amazon. Again, the only prevention is avoiding mosquito bites. You can take a preventive treatment, although it is not 100% effective, and some people report side effects which bring other complications. You should discuss this with your doctor but this treatment can prove intense 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; also similar to dengue. 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 and drugstores and they are well equipped and helpful, the only medicines you will find hard to get and that you should bring with you are:
- Anything for treating 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 if you stay in the shade.
- An anti mosquito cream that you probably won’t use in most of the country, but it would e best 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 case of a health complication, you should go to the emergency room 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 a health complication, it’s absolutely essential that all travelers have 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. First aid and initial examinations are often not covered by insurance, so it is imperative that the patient, or the person accompanying them, are able to advance enough funds with a credit card to cover treatment. Without this, the hospital will not take the person in. 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 usually only the big cities and their outskirts that can cause problems. If you respect the basic rules and use your common sense, you don’t need to worry : leave your jewelry at home, leave your valuables (passport and money) in the hotel safe and avoid taking photos with a visibly expensive camera when not accompanied by a guide.
Only carry a credit card on you to pay at 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 pocketers. 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. During the European winter, Brazil has warm weather from North to South, apart from isolated storms in the south where a water-proof jacket could be useful, otherwise nothing special is needed.
However, for the months of July and August the temperature can get down to 10 or 15°C in the south (Rio & Iguaçu) and even as far north as Salvador where it can be 18°C and raining. If you plan on traveling to these regions at this time of the 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 during this season, the best clothes are light cotton shorts, bermudas, T-shirts and shirts. Don’t forget a hat or cap and sunglasses. 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 delicious, 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 when it comes to gastronomy so don’t be afraid to eat salads or sea food. However, do 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 the best grilled meat, accompanied by a buffet. Very plentiful portions and multiple options satisfy meat lovers as well as others. Try the popular Rodizio option (careful the desert cart is not always included).
Another interesting option are the “self – service” 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 priced by 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, a black bean and pork stew that is the national dish. Savour it with rice and orange wedges like the locals. Not to be confused with quentinha, a cheap and popular takeaway dish, made from rice, dried beans and meat.
In the Northeast, on the menu is tropical fish, shrimp and lobsters, fresh off the local reefs! Try the many delicious fish such the much loved Sirigado (grouper), Pargo, the favorite of the locals (a tropical pager with a characteristic red color), and the peixe amarelo, 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 it is frozen products that are served!
In the Amazon, you will discover new flavors with the delicious Açaí sorbet that is said to have a thousand health benefits, pirarucu fillets, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world or tacacá, a soup made from shrimp, cassava and jambu.
Most restaurants add 10% tips to the final bill and it is advised to verify your final bill before paying.
Don’t forget to indulge in plenty of wonderful and healthy tropical fruit juices. They are reminiscent of fashionable smoothies in Europe, always prepared with filtered or mineral water, ice cubes and packed full of fruit. 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 very 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 is to 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 a few reais per bag 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 an idea, the average salary is around 2000 reais per month.
A piece of informal travel 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 (including the island of Fernando de Noronha). From April to October, the time is the same from the South to the North but you lose 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.
Important : 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 is Skype, which you can install on your smart phone, buy credit and be able to call anywhere in the world, 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.