10 Travel tips for Brazil that will improve your trip
April 16, 2019
Brazil is an amazing country to travel in. From the Amazon, Cerrado and spectacular water pools, to islands, gorgeous beaches and fun cities – Brazil has it all. But it’s not the easiest country to travel. There’s violence, language barriers and massive distances to cover. After spending almost two years in the country (and travelling a lot!), I have some travel tips for Brazil to share. Let me know if you have any others to add
1. Do some prior research and global planning, especially if you’re short on time
Brazil is so big, you can easily spend months there. If you have that time: great! If you don’t, make sure to think about the places you really want to visit. Do you have only two weeks and is an Amazon trip non-negotiable for you? Start by planning the Amazon trip first, and the rest around it. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to travel from one place to another, even if you’re flying. If you’re going to Brazil for just 2-3 weeks, you will have to say no to some things – it’s just not enough to see all the amazing things the country has to offer. Do some research and find out what you really don’t want to miss – this could also be less-known (and harder to reach) destinations like Jalapão, Fernando de Noronha or Lençois Maranhenses. My friends who came to visit me during their holidays learned this lesson while travelling – you can’t see it all at once. So they came back 🙂
2. Speak some Portuguese
Or even Spanish, for that matter. A lot of Brazilians don’t speak any English, and those that do are usually located in the large coastal cities. Even in Brasilia, the capital, the average Brazilian you talk to on the street won’t understand a word you’re saying. So invest some time in learning a few key phrases in Portuguese, that will help you to get to places or in emergency situations. If you only speak Spanish, that will do, too. Brazilians generally don’t like it when latinos only speak Spanish to them, but they usually give gringos some slack 🙂
3. Stay safe
Brazil (and Latin America in general) has a pretty negative image when it comes to personal safety. And for a reason – some cities are amongst the highest ranking cities with most gun violence. But that doesn’t mean it’s always unsafe for tourists, too. Rio de Janeiro got a lot of bad publicity when the president called for a military intervention, but if you stay in Zona Sul (where you’ll most probably stay), you won’t see any difference. I barely saw any military officers on the streets and didn’t feel any more or any less safe when I was there. There are, of course, areas in certain cities where you shouldn’t go, or that you should avoid at night. But other than that, walking on the streets in Brazil shouldn’t have to be dangerous. Don’t wear flashy jewelry, take only the necessary things with you, keep an eye on your surroundings and use your common sense. I’ll write a post on safety in Latin America soon!
4. Use Ubers to get around
Uber is very cheap and widely used in Brazil. So if you need to cover a short distance at night, take an Uber to get you there. It’s safer than walking, faster than a bus and cheaper than a regular taxi. Of course, in cities like Rio and Sao Paulo, you can easily take the metro during the day to get around, but at night I would definitely recommend using a taxi/Uber.
5. You can pay almost anywhere with your debit or credit card
So no need to bring a lot of cash! Which is good for your safety 🙂 I’m amazed at how often you can pay with your card, even it’s for a snack on the beach. Mind you, don’t bring all your cards with you – always keep one in your backpack/in the hotel. But, if you make any big purchases, be aware that there is often a discount if you pay by debit card and even more when you pay cash. So it’s worth it to ask for this option if you buy anything expensive.
6. It’s not always sunny in Brazil
Even though weather conditions in Brazil are not as varied as in, for example, Ecuador or Argentina, it’s wise to bring different type of clothes. Depending on the season, you might encounter a lot of rain on your travels, so bring a light-weight rain jacket. Bringing a jacket or something to keep you slightly warm is always a good idea – the wind in rainy season, winter in the south, or the airconditioning on planes and buses, can make it quite chilly!
7. Save some money
Unfortunately, Brazil is not a cheap country. The prices of hostels, food and drinks in the big cities come close to those in Europe. Do save some money beforehand if you plan to spend a lot of time in Brazil. Travelling around the country by bus is the cheapest option, but you might not have enough time for slow travel. Domestic flights are a great way to travel if you’re short on time (almost every city is connected), but can be expensive if not booked (well-)ahead of time. The longer you wait, the more expensive they become. So remember tip #1, do some global planning of your trip and take care of the most important flights already. It will save you a lot of money!
8. Take care of your health
Health-wise, Brazil is a relatively easy country to travel in. But there are, of course, some things to take care with. Mosquitos bring the most risks – with diseases such as dengue, zika and malaria. In the past year, there has been a severe outbreak of dengue cases, so make sure to protect yourself properly from mosquitos. Wear long sleeves if you can (especially in the Amazon) and use repellent, even also during the day (this is when the dengue mosquito attacks). Mosquitos are usually not such a big problems in cities like Rio, but here in Brasilia, I get bitten a lot!
9. Whatsapp is everything
Brazilians cannot live without Whatsapp. They use this medium to leave voice messages for their friends, talk to their doctors, arrange appointments at beauty salons, and set up business meetings. Likewise, they also like to use it for arranging tours with tourists. If you need to get anything done, just send a whatsapp message – and not an email.
10. Go back!
Brazil is so big, varied and wonderful, that you won’t be able to cover it all in one trip. And Brazil grows on you, so even if you’ve just spent six months in the country, you’ll most likely want to come back one day 🙂
Your travel tips for Brazil
I’m very curious to hear from you! What are your travel tips for Brazil that I might not have covered? Is there a travel hack that has proven so useful to you in the country? Let me know, so I can update these travel tips for Brazil!