Sizzling beaches, steamy rainforests, and a rhythm that never stops beating—Brazil is simply mesmerising. Home to the world’s largest rainforest, the largest samba band and even the largest mural made of kisses, everything is bigger in Brazil. Encounter elusive Amazonian tribes in the north and thundering waterfalls in the south. Wherever you visit, Brazil will leave you enchanted.
In a country of this size, wide diversity is to be expected. Brazilians are a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. As a result, Brazilian culture can be hard to define. However, a few traditions and values are shared country-wide.
Brazilians are a passionate and lively people. Family is cherished above all and extended families can be quite close. However, the Brazilian exuberance doesn’t end there! New friends and even strangers will be welcomed with the same warmth as family. Kissing, even among strangers, is a common practice!
When you are welcomed into your new Brazilian “family,” it is polite to bring a gift. Chocolates, treats, or trinkets representing Australia are excellent ideas for your hosts. However, you should avoid gifting knives or other sharp objects, which symbolise the desire to severe the relationship. Guests should also avoid gifting handkerchiefs, which are associated with funerals. Avoid wrapping gifts in the Brazilian colours of mourning: purple or black. Instead, wrap gifts in green or yellow, the colours of the Brazilian flag!
Brazil is a hard country to miss! It occupies nearly half of the land in South America! Taking up the bulk of eastern South America, Brazil shares borders with nearly every country on the continent. It is so large that it spans four times zones. The time in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital city, is 3 hours behind UTC.
Visiting Brazil requires some advance planning. Australian tourists will need a valid passport as well as a visa. Visas are not available on arrival or online. Applications can be made by post or in person and can take around two weeks to process. Once approved, visa holders can stay in the country for up to 90 days.
The Brazilian currency is the Brazilian real. On average, one Australian dollar will buy you .56 real. Visitors can acquire cash on arrival using international debit cards. ATMs are widely available, however not all will process international cards. Travellers should also be wary of ATM fraud and carefully inspect machines for evidence of outside card reading devices. Most major international credit cards will be accepted. Tipping for services is conventional and guests should plan for around 10% of their bill.
Brazil covers an area of around eight and a half million square kilometres! With that much territory, naturally the country has several different climate zones. The Northern region, near the equator, has the consistent hot and humid weather which most people associate with Brazil. The South, on the other hand, can be downright cold.
With so much variety in weather, it is always a great time to visit Brazil somewhere. If you are hoping to escape the crowds, visit in September or October. However, if it is actually pulsing hordes of people that you seek, time your arrival to coincide with Carnival in January or February!
Transportation logistics in Brazil require a certain degree of patience. The country has a number of international airports, with the São Paulo International Airport being the biggest and busiest. There are regular international flights, however delays are unfortunately quite common.
Transportation within the country can be similarly tedious. Crossing a country of such vast size means that transit takes days rather than hours. Travellers can take domestic flights to city hop more quickly. Those with more time can take cheap and straight-forward buses. However, travellers should keep in mind that buses can take days to cross the country. Plan your itinerary accordingly!
With rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and endless parties, there is plenty to do in Brazil. This is a country synonymous with adventure. With so much to do and explore, it helps to know where to focus!
Brazil’s size can make it a challenge to city-hop. No one wants to sit on those buses longer than necessary! But if you can only select a few cities to visit, there are a few that take top priority.
Of course, the obvious first stop must be Rio de Janeiro! Contrary to popular belief, this vibrant city is not the capital of Brazil. It is however a capital of energy and culture. Soak in the sun at this city’s legendary Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Or, take in one of the wonders of the world at the Christ the Redeemer Statue.
For a taste of Brazil’s modern metropolis, it is São Paulo you want. Often compared to the likes of New York and Tokyo, this is a city of urban high-rises and frenetic energy. Spend your time here taking in one of the myriad museums or indulging in the city’s fine dining.
After the super modern, visit the fascinatingly historic. Salvador, one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, exudes serious charm. Stroll through the preserved 17th and 18th century architecture and take in this city’s Afro-Brazilian culture.
If the bustle of Brazil’s big cities becomes too much for you, relax in Olinda. This quaint artist colony is an excellent place to appreciate Brazilian creativity. It is also seeped in history and the Olinda downtown area is actually a world heritage site.
Finally, wind down in Florianopolis. This island city is an excellent place to kick back on the beach and feast on fresh local seafood. Or, if you are looking for some activity, this area offers plenty of hiking and surfing.
Another essential Brazilian place to visit is Iguaçu Falls. This stunning natural wonder is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. The main falls are over 80 metres high and 2700 metres across! Prepare to get soaked as you hike around the thunderous falls. Beyond the waters, encounter some of Brazil’s diverse wildlife, like the jaguar, ocelot and so many monkeys!
Of course, no trip to Brazil would be complete without exploring the Amazon rainforest. Over 80% of the food we eat today and a quarter of the medicines we use come from this expansive forest. Thousands of animal species make their homes here and visitors might encounter unfamiliar animals such as the capybara and the kinkajou. But beware the giant anaconda! Adventure seekers can hike or kayak the forests while those looking for more relaxation can enjoy an eco-lodge.
Sugarloaf Montain, in Rio de Janeiro rounds off the list of Brazilian essential destinations. Climbing this mini-mountain affords visitors a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and surrounding landscape. You can even see out to the Atlantic Ocean! However, if hiking isn’t really for you, have no fear! You can also purchase a ticket to ride a cable car, which will deposit you easily at the top.
More than specific destinations, Brazil is a place of adventurous experiences. For example, swimming with dolphins makes it on to many traveller bucket lists. In Brazil, tourists can spend an afternoon swimming with pods of wild spinner dolphins and the occasional giant sea turtle. For this experience, visit Praia da Pipa and charter one of many tour boats.
Speaking of the water, Brazil’s beaches are second to none. In fact, these beaches are so epic that they even feature in a number of timeless, classic songs! As mentioned, Rio’s Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are legendary. However, in a country with 7500 kilometres of beach, you have many options! Brazilians love the beach and can often be found beachside with a surfboard or a game of volleyball.
While on the beach, you might find a casual game of the country’s favourite pastime and obsession: soccer. With some of the best teams in the world, it is no wonder that the Brazilians admire soccer above most else. While you can find a casual game being played just about anywhere you look, true sports fans will want to catch a proper match. In Rio, tourists can attend matches for any one of the city’s four teams.
However, if there is one thing that represents the Brazilian vibe better than soccer, it is dancing. No matter where you go, this country never seems to stop the beat! The nightlife in cities like Rio and São Paulo will keep you moving all night long. Brazilians love to dance and lively samba dance originates here. Why not try out your own moves in a samba class?
Then, of course, there is the ultimate party: Carnival. This annual five day festival is the lead up to Ash Wednesday in the Catholic religious calendar. Traditionally, religious practitioners should abstain from indulgence during the several week long period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Carnival is meant to be a celebration of last indulgences before one must abstain. While the festival is celebrated around the country, Rio is unquestionably the star of this show. The focal point of the party is a massive street parade featuring elaborate floats, vibrant costumes and throbbing music.
Finally, no Brazil experience is complete without sampling the delicious cuisine. Travellers will especially enjoy the churrascarias, or Brazilian barbecue restaurants. A variety of meats are loaded onto skewers and then charcoal grilled to flavourful perfection Fejioada is a traditional hearty stew and another local favourite. Don’t miss Moqueca, which is a tasty seafood dish. And if you need a quick snack, try Acaraje, or deep-fried patties of peas, onions and nuts.
Brazil is a breathtaking country with adventure around every corner. However, it is also a country with an alarmingly high rate of crime and a selection of health risks. While this shouldn’t deter a visit, travellers would be wise to take a few precautions.
As with any country with widespread poverty and tropical conditions, sanitation isn’t always the best in Brazil. Travellers often complain of stomach problems and other issues relating to food. Tourists should avoid eating from the street vendors. In places where sanitation may be questionable, it is wise to choose only foods that have been thoroughly cooked. Similarly, Brazil’s tap water is not always the best quality. Tourists would be wise to stick to drinking only bottled water with a sealed cap.
Unfortunately, many food and water related infectious diseases exist in Brazil. Take extra precautions to avoid cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. Wise travellers will make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date before leaving home.
As a tropical climate, Brazil experiences plenty of mosquitos. And unfortunately, those mosquitos may be carrying a variety of tropical diseases, such as Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever. The Zika virus is the latest addition to the particularly nasty things you can catch from these tiny little bloodsuckers. Take plenty of precautions against these diseases. Once again, make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date! Consider taking pills to prevent diseases such as malaria. Check that hotel screens are free of holes. And, always use a strong, DEET-based insect repellent.
Occasionally, travellers make poor choices which compromise their health and safety while travelling. Brazil may feel like a non-stop party, but that doesn’t mean that you should party beyond your limits. Know when enough is enough. Don’t drink more than you can tolerate. Not only will this prevent nasty health side effects, but it could also prevent criminals from taking advantage of your incapacitated state.
When partying, make sure to stay in a group. Keep to well established restaurants and pubs and always watch your drink. If possible, make sure your drinks are mixed where you can see them. Drugging tourist drinks has led to theft in the past.
Driving in Brazil also poses a risk for tourists. More than 40,000 people die in traffic related issues each year. Local traffic can seem like chaos to visitors who are unfamiliar with the subtle rules of the road. Brazilians frequently speed and weave through traffic. Road conditions are often very poor. If you must drive, make sure you have the skills to do it safely and always be alert.
Even if you are not the one at the wheel, transportation can still be risky. With such chaos in the roads, it is inevitable that crashes happen. Your safest bet is the public underground train system. However, at night, skip public transit and only use taxis. It is essential to use a licensed taxi and your hotel can easily summon one for you. You should never get into a random taxi, but if you do, be alert for scams and questionable behaviour.
Beyond threats to your physical safety, Brazil does have a strong criminal element. Most crime is no more than petty theft. Pickpocketing occurs frequently. Leave valuables at home when you travel. If you must bring something, make plans to keep it locked away during the day. Avoid carrying irreplaceable valuables. Don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself with flashy attire or expensive jewellery. You might consider carrying a dummy wallet which can be handed off in the case of a mugging.
One valuable item that many people often carry is their passport. However, in Brazil, the risk of passports being stolen is too great. Smart travellers will leave their passport behind, locked in the hotel safe. However, Brazilian law mandates the everyone, including tourists, carry proper identification at all times. Make sure to keep a colour copy of your passport ID page on you wherever you go.
Armed robberies, carjackings, kidnappings and sexual assault are all very real possibilities in Brazil. While these are more likely in urban centres, they can happen anywhere. Be vigilant of your surroundings and make sure a loved one knows your itinerary and contact information.
Financial and high tech crime are also very common in Brazil. Credit and debit card skimming are regular occurrences and tourists should be alert. Check ATMs or credit card readers for signs of tampering. If possible, only use ATMs inside of secure or guarded buildings. And always make sure to keep an eye on your financial records.
Brazil has gotten a terrible reputation for safety in recent times. Yet, a few wise precautions will mean that tourists can enjoy this vibrant and passionate culture without stress!