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Brazil Travel Tips

3.0 stars

Insider advice for your Brazil vacation


LucyHB
I don't like Mondays! 2 stars
Word to the wise - If you're planning to make a visit to any museums, art galleries or cultural centres during your time in Brazil, don't earmark a Monday as the day to do it. Across the country, Mondays seem to be a 'day of rest' for the Brazilian museum/gallery industry, and you'll find any such centres closed. Every other day of the week, however, you'll find them open - very often until fairly late in the evening. Sundays seem to be the busiest day for browsing galleries and museums or strolling in parks and gardens, so if you want to escape the crowds set aside a time mid-week in which to satisfy your culture vulture leanings. Preferably, a cloudy or rainy day - if the sun is bright, stay out of doors, Brazil's weather is notoriously temperamental and things might not stay sunny for too long!

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LucyHB
Exchange rate in Brazil 3 stars
The Brazilian unit of currency, the real (prounounced hay-al, plural reais, or hay-eyes) is a pretty unstable one, and tends to float up and down against the UK pound, the Euro, and the US dollar. Keep tabs on the exchange rate at xe.com, although bear in mind that your bank is likely to give you rather less than the official rate. At the time of writing, the real is at 3.82 to the UK pound - great news for British travellers as it had been hovering at just over 3 reais to the pound for several months. If you see that the real has dropped in value dramatically against your unit of currency, it's a good idea to take out enough money to last you a while - it may rise in value again within days, so taking cash out when you get a good exchange rate can make your spending money go a lot further. For example, just last month my rent was the equivalent of just under £150 per month. Today, it is £118 per month. I'm off to the cashpoint!

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LucyHB
Getting cheap flights 3 stars
Given the enormous scale of Brazil (the whole of Europe could comfortably fit inside the country), and the high prices in comparison with most of Latin America, if you want to do much travelling in the country you're going to need to set aside a fair wedge of cash. Even those bottom-achingly long coach trips will set you back a few hundred reais, so it's well worth looking into flights if you want to save time and travel in comfort - in some cases, if you want to travel from Rio to Salvador, for example, the difference in price would be minimal. The best way to get a cheap flight is to persuade a Brazilian friend with a credit card to make the purchase on your behalf, as you'll need a card registered in the country to get the best fares. Look on the Gol site (www.gol.com.br) and check out the prices, they can vary from day to day so it's worth visiting a few times.

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LucyHB
Check your bill! 1 stars
It's an unfortunate fact that gringoes (foreigners) in Brazil can often be seen as easy targets for scams and ripoffs. While most Brazilians are law-abiding, low wages mean that it's not uncommon for waitstaff to bump up tourists' bills if they think you won't notice. Always double check and don't be afraid to ask if anything look dubious. Sometimes honest mistakes are made, especially when staff are rushed off their feet, and questioning the bill shouldn't cause any hard feelings. Similarly, if you're paying with a card, always make sure it's swiped at the table or in front of you at the bar - card cloning continues to be a major problem in Brazil.

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LucyHB
Music to your ears? 4 stars
I'm often asked by friends back in England what I think of Brazilian music, which, to be honest, is a little like being asked what I think of food. Brazilian music is so varied and different that it's impossible to group everything together. Samba is possibly the country's most famous musical export, and hearing a samba drumming group in action is certainly an exhilarating experience. Forro, which comes from the North East, is less trendy but very very popular across Brazil, with forro dancing possibly even bigger than samba. Pagode is a sort of cross between forro, samba and MPB (Musica Popular Brasilero - pop music) and you'll hear it pumping out of bars across towns and cities, as couples dance on the pavement. From the favelas of Rio, meanwhile, comes Baile Funk music - an electronic, dirty-sounding din that is combines elements of hip hop, Miami Bass and Reggaeton. And then, of course, there's Axe - not to my taste, a sort of 'middle-aged pop' from the North. And then there's Bossa Nova...there are so many styles here that it can be difficult to know what you are actually listening to, but you'll soon be able to pick out the music that appeals to you.

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LucyHB
Female travellers 3 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Brazilian men (and, to be fair, women!) have a reputation for being rather 'bold' in their approaches towards the opposite sex, and women travelers may be a little concerned about how they will cope in the country. In truth, it's really just a matter of 'grin and bare it'. Foreign females will always attract attention, and if you're traveling alone then chances are the problem will be exacerbated. However, as a fairly shy blonde English woman living alone in Rio de Janeiro, I have to say that the problem is rarely anything that can't be coped with. What woman can honestly say they object to being addressed as 'hey beautiful' as they walk down the street? Expect comments, yes. Expect poor chat up lines. In bars and at street parties, expect some touchy-feely behaviour, and often a full on attempt at forcing an unwanted kiss. If you look like you're in trouble, somebody will come to your aid - so don't be afraid to make it clear if you are uninterested. Although we might consider it rude to tell an unwanted suitor to go away, subtle hints don't get you very far here. Don't be rude, but be firm, and remember that the culture is very different here.

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LucyHB
Using cash and credit cards in Brazil 1 stars
Will it work? Won't it work?? Please let it work! Yes, using a credit or debit card in Brazil is always something of a white-knuckle moment.
To save yourself a bit of stress, bear the following in mind: not all banks accept international cards. Best bets are HSBC, Banco do Brasiil, and Bradesco. Citibank and Banco 24 Horas accept foreign cards, but impose a hefty commission. When you've found the right bank, make sure you use a cashpoint with the appropriate sign next to it - eg Visa/Maestro...if the sign isn't there, the card won't be accepted. Often, even if you are paying with a debit card, the machine will class it as a credit card. Don't worry too much about it, it won't make any difference to the cost of the transaction.
In bars, restaurants etc, try to have backup - eg cash as well as a card, or more than one card. For mysterious reasons, cards often fail to work in this country - which can be a little bit embarrassing if you've just eaten a three-course meal!


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LucyHB
Down on the farm 4 stars
If you want to get away from the big cities and experience rural life in Brazil, a stay on a Fazenda is a great option. Vast farmhouses are adapted to accomodate tourists, and most fazendas offer plenty of opportunity for horseriding, hiking, swimming etc. I visited a number of lovely favelas in Rio Grande do Sul for work purposes, but you'll find them throughout the country - head an hour or two out from Rio, for example, and you'll find good fazendas that feel a million miles away from the rush and crush of the big city. If you fancy a stay in a fazenda, ask the tourist office for advice and recommendations - they'll normally have a list of several places.

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LucyHB
Visa extensions 2 stars
Brazil´s an enormous country, a beautiful country and a fascinating country. So much so, that backpackers travelling South America frequently find that the 90 -day tourist visa most people receive on entry is far from sufficient. Most European an North American tourists are entitled to a further 90-day extension, but actually obtaining this can be time-consuming and stressful. First, you´ll need to have a credit card or cards, which apparently somehow proves you have sufficient funds to stay here. You´ll also need your entrance card and a return ticket home or onward ticket for further travel. Obviously, when backpacking, further travel plans can be vague, but if you have a booked ticket home this will help enormously. You´ll need to take all this down to the federal police, fill out a load of forms, pay R$100 or so and be asked a whole lot of questions about why you want to stay. At the end of all that, the police officer can still say no if they see fit. In Rio, a female officer at the federal police is fond of turning down requests - avoid her by heading out to the federal police station in the suburb of Barra instead.

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LucyHB
Eat until you can eat no more! 4 stars
If you´ve got a hearty appetite, you´ll find plenty to keep your tastebuds happy in Brazil. Country-wide, you´ll find restaurants offering food ´rodizio´style, which essentially means food is brought round to your table until you say stop. Or until you burst, whichever comes first! The Brazilian churrascaria (barbeque) rodizios are legendary, but you can also fond restaurants offering rodizio pizza, japanese food, pasta, even vegetarian food. A word to the wise though, Brazilian pizza tends to be a bit greasy and sickly - what sounds like a good deal for éat all you want´might not end up being quite such a bargain when you find you can, in fact, only stomach a couple of slices.

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LucyHB
Hey Gringo! 3 stars
Yes, that's you! As soon as you arrive in Brazil, you come with a label attached to you. Gringo. Or Gringa if you're a girl. While the word sounds vaguely offensive, it usually isn't meant to be so - unless preceeded by 'bobo' or 'burro' (stupid)! Some Brazilians refer to anyone from outside the country as Gringoes, even other South Americans, while for others it is only Westerners who get the tag. There's little you can do to hide your 'gringo-ness' - even if you're dark skinned, dress like the locals etc, you'll give the game away as soon as you open your mouth. Reaction to gringoes tends to vary - in big cities like Rio you will be much less of a novelty than in little-visited towns in the south, for instance. If you're female and 'look' like a gringa, you'll more often than not find yourself subject to a lot of male attention. This is usually harmless, just smile and accept any compliments. If you're male, you may find yourself subject to the attention of 'gringo hunters' - women on the look out for foreign men and possibly a passport! Just make sure you know what you're doing before you get into any sort of situation with this type of woman! Very often, you'll just be met with friendly curiousity, and locals will be keen to kind out about your own country - especially the weather, the football and the women!

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LucyHB
Pharmacies in Brazil 4 stars
Going to the pharmacy in Brazil is a very different experience to doing the same thing in the UK. Despite the fact that many medications - antibiotics, tranquilisers etc are officially available only with a doctor's prescription, in reality the pharmacist will hand over pretty much anything you ask for. If you're planning a 36 hour bus trip and think you'll need help sleeping, the pharmacist will, in most cases, hand over tranquilisers or sleeping pills with few or no questions. If you've picked up a bug and need some high-strength antibiotics, again, no problem. Of course, the problem with this relaxed approach is that the pharmacist is not checking whether they are giving you the right product for your needs - largely, I assume, because they don't think it's worth the hassle of trying to get sense out of a gringo! The best thing to do is to research symptoms and medications online, write down the recommended product, dosage etc and then just hand this over to the pharmacist who can check to see if they have the product in stock. If you just wander down there with a vague notion of the sort of thing you need, you might end up with a product or dosage that is unsuitable.

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LucyHB
Portuguese classes 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
If you're planning in sticking around in Brazil more than a couple of weeks, it's certainly worth investing in language classes. Portuguese is a beautiful but notoriously hard to learn language (you'll be off to a good start if you already speak Spanish though) and any helping hand you can have in communicating will make your stay more rewarding - Brazilians genuinely appreciate any effort made to speak the lingo. Look for adverts in newspapers and on shop/bar notice boards, and if there are a few of you at the same level then try to negotiate a price for a small group class - you can save quite a bit of money this way. I've had both good and bad experiences with language teachers here (the fact I still struggle probably suggests more bad than good!) - if you don't feel the teacher is right for you feel free to tell them you would prefer to learn another way, cover different material or just find another teacher. Classes are quite expensive and the last thing you want is to waste time and money on lessons that are moving too fast or too slow, or simply not teaching you what you want to know.

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LucyHB
Brazilian television 2 stars
Brazilian TV has to be seen to be believed. So bizarre is it, that I never know quite whether to be appalled or amused. Political correctness clearly has yet to take a hold on the Brazilian public consciousness, as will be immediately apparent to anyone who catches hugely popular programs such as Faustao or Panico na TV. Many television shows feature a presenter shouting loudly in front of a bevy of bikini-clad lovelies, grinning fixedly while dancing to no music whatsoever. Programmes are frequently interrupted by the presenter making a blatant advertising plug - the worst example of this I have seen was during a football game review, when the very serious presenter suddenly stopped mid-report to plug a brand of underwear that he stressed was worn by all the best footballers. Panico Na TV is more disturbing still - not least in the segment where two 'hilarious' male presenters visit a beach with their camera crew and assess women's physical appearance. If the girls are considered attractive, they get a green for go sticker, if not, they get a red for stop sticker and a torrent of insults. Seeing teenage girls called fat on national television, or a girl accused of having a moustache, is actually rather disturbing. Whether they get a red or a green sticker, these girls are then subject to the intense gaze of the camera on their bodies - either lasciviously or mockingly. As I said, it's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry

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LucyHB
Inflation in Brazil 1 stars
With inflation in Brazil now standing at well over six per cent, it's not just tourists that are feeling the pinch. Food prices seem to rise on a daily basis, causing problems for all but the most privileged of Brazilians. Brazilian president Lula has recently commented that the high inflation rate reflects the fact that Brazil has become 'almost Paradise', but that may come as news to the millions living well below the poverty line. For tourists, the high inflation rate and strong Brazilian currency mean that visiting the country is no longer a particularly cheap option, but bear in mind that having to scrimp a little on your dining options does not compare with being unable to feed your family - the country may be doing well financially at the moment, but this does not translate into more money for the vast majority of Brazilian people. Don't be misled into thinking that poverty isn't a problem in Brazil - it's a huge problem, and for this reason care should still be taken in terms of not flaunting your assumed wealth.

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LucyHB
Vaccinations and medication 3 stars
When you come to a tropical country, it goes without saying that you should check with your doctor regarding any vaccinations or medications that might be necessary. What you will need depends on where you'll be going - If you're just heading for a fortnight's beach holiday in Rio or Florianopolis, for example, your health needs will be very different than if you'll be taking in the Amazon too. If you are heading for the Amazon, then you'll need malaria medication and probably a course of rabies injections (leave enough time for this as they have to be taken over a 21 day period). There's no malaria presence in Rio or even in the wetlands of the Pantanal (that doesn't mean your mosquito bites won't itch like crazy though!). If you are taking malaria medication make sure you take advice on which to take - there are some highly unpleasant side effects associated with larium in particular. You'll also need a yellow fever jab (although these can be given free of charge in Rio), tetanus booster, and hepatitis A/B jabs, as well as a typhoid shot. There, isn't your arm aching already?

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LucyHB
Visas and overstays 3 stars
Brazil's a big place, and a beautiful place. For these reasons, and many others, a lot of foreigners find themselves staying longer than is permitted by their tourist visa. So what happens if you overstay? I've known people overstay by a year or more and leave without problems, but I've also heard talk of the R$8 a day charge imposed, and harsh grillings by the federal police on departure. My boyfriend headed back to England this week after an overstay of just over two months, so I was able to find out exactly what happened from him. Firstly, there's no need to pay the fine there and then - it should be paid when you return, apparently, at the Banco do Brasil. The R$8 per day is up to a maximum of R$800 (which to some people's minds means you might as well over stay by three years as by three months...). Apparently the officials put a stamp in his passport to say he had overstayed and that he would need to pay the fine if he returned to Brazil. And that was it. Did they seem angry? I asked him - no, he said, they just seemed to have seen it a million times before. Of course, a longer overstay might be dealt with more harshly, but it seems like tourists who stay in the country an extra couple of weeks or so have little to worry about.

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LucyHB
The most addictive drink in the world? 3 stars
We Brits might think we love our tea, but trust me, the British obsession with a good old cuppa is nothing compared to the love affair between southern Brazilians and their gourds of Mate, or Chimarrao as it's also known. As Santa Catarina approaches Rio Grande do Sul, you'll start to see the stuff everywhere - locals carry their distinctive gourd and metal straw/filter everywhere. So what's all the fuss about? To be quite honest, I don't really know. It's a kind of tea, that doesn't taste particularly good. It must have some kind of addictive property though, because the southern Gauchos just can't get enough of the stuff. If somebody offers you a sip of their mate make sure you accept - it's apparently considered rude to refuse.

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LucyHB
White wine crisis! 2 stars
t's difficult to be a wine drinker in Brazil, it's even more difficult to be a white wine drinker in Brazil, and it's yet more difficult still to be a white wine drinker on a very tight budget in Brazil. The days of walking into a bar, European style, and just ordering a white wine are long gone, and it's quite painful to find myself having to drink beer instead of wine with a meal.
While it's not impossible to find white wine by the glass in Brazil, it is difficult, and most places will charge an arm and a leg for wine that is, at best, mediocre. Even in the south of the country, where most Brazilian wine comes from, I foudn myself being given first red wine, then some peach schnapps, when in fact I'd ordered dry white wine. Maybe they thought I wouldn't notice the difference??
Red wine drinkers have a better time of it, although should be aware that quality is low outside of expensive places, and in Brazil even red wine comes 'bem gelado' - well chilled.


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LucyHB
Que saudades! 4 stars
Of all the words in the Portuguese language, probably the hardest to translate into English is 'saudades' (pronounced 'saudadjees'). Very roughly, it means to miss something, or to have feeling of longing for something. Brazilians, being very emotional people, will claim to have saudades for everything from a certain type of food, to their childhood best friend. It's not uncommon for someone to proclaim they have been feeling 'saudades' for you when you only saw them a couple of days previously. If somebody declares themselves to have been feeling saudades for you, the only polite thing to do is to say it back - 'De voce tambem'.

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