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BRAZIL TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Brazil travel guide for over 40 solo travel, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Brazil travel planning.
BEM VINDO AO BRASIL!
Brazil – home of the Amazon Rainforest (the largest rainforest in the world, Copacabana Beach, Carnaval, Sugarloaf Mountain, Iguaçu Falls, the samba and bossa nova, cachaça and caipirinhas (the national drink), and futebol (soccer). Brazil also holds one of the 7th Wonders of the World, the Christ the Redeemer statue.
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LANGUAGES IN BRAZIL
The official language is Portuguese.
How's Your Portuguese?
Brush up on your Portuguese before your trip to Brazil.
Brazil, the largest country in South America, is officially known as the Federative Republic of Brazil. It is primarily a Western derived culture influenced mostly from the Portuguese and African people; however, there are many indigenous cultures as well. The majority of the population identify as Catholic and celebrate secular holidays as well as place importance on their familial time, leisure and barbecues. Brazilians are also notoriously late – they have a laid back attitude so placing punctuality on their list of priorities is not on the high end. If you are invited to a party, it’s quite alright to show up “fashionably late”.
POPULAR BRAZILIAN ACTIVITIES
Brazil holds the world-class city, Rio de Janeiro, to where thousands flock in February for the annual Carnaval festival. Soccer is also hugely popular in Brazil, but capoeira is the national sport. Brazilians also enjoy their leisure time with dancing and parties in the lively nightlife scenes of Rio and Sao Paulo to getting out to the national parks or nature reserves of the Amazonian region.
Brazil uses the Brazilian real (R$) – exchange rates are very favorable for U.S. citizens.
Brazil has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber. Uber is available in Rio de Janeiro, but I recommend you research in advance if they are in your destination area. Getting around, and booking transportation in advance, is no problem in many areas of Brazil.
TIPPING IN BRAZIL
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So, take just a few moments to look at Brazil’s holidays.
BRAZIL ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Brazil’s voltages are 127V, 220V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz so bring Type C and N adapters (I recommend bringing 2!) for Brazilian sockets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for Brazilian outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapter with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country on your trip in addition to Brazil, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided links to adapters below for your convenience!
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TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR BRAZIL
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport and a Brazil travel visa. Visas must be obtained through the Brazilian consulate, which may take some time. Ensure you prepare well in advance – at least two months to be safe. I recommend hiring a visa service to expedite this process for you as well as save yourself the extra work. Once you have the visa affixed in your passport, it is valid for 10 years. Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 6 months from your return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Brazil. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR BRAZIL
Vaccinations may be advised or required for Brazil travel, depending on where you go. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Brazil. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
BRAZIL TRAVEL SAFETY
In Brazil, it really depends on where you’re going to know if one area is more of a safety concern than another. Keep in mind, Brazil is a very large country. Theft or pickpocketing, which could happen in most places to be honest, could be a concern. Be careful not to wander or bike at night by yourself. If you do walk at night, make sure it’s in well-lit areas and with plenty of people. If need be, take a taxi. Always consult the U.S. State Department for the particular region and city to which you are going well in advance and throughout your planning up to departure.
Of course, my standard tips for female and solo travelers still apply:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT BRAZIL
Brazil’s summer is December to March and it can get quite hot no matter where you go. Winter is June to September, which is considered their high season. March and April are considered the cheapest time to visit Brazil. The winter season holds good fares, too. Considering that the weather is still warm (lowest temperatures remain round 20oC/70oF in July) during their winter, I consider this still a good time to go, especially if you are headed to the Amazon and Pantanal regions. If hot and humid is not for you, stick to visiting between March to October, if not June and July.
Additionally, if you love to shop but are on a budget, then Brazil’s exchange rate and lower prices, depending on the product, could make you very happy.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
If you are flying to or within Brazil, consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
I lived in Marin County, California for many years and had the good fortune to make several Brazilian friends there. I miss the birthday or holiday barbecues they would have with meat galore and caipirinhas. Music is non-stop and there could be dancing or card games. Casual events like these could go well into the night, considering also that they would inevitably always get going late. For example, if the party starts at 3pm, then show up at 4 or 5pm. Brazilians are much fun to hang out with – they have a great sense of humor and are very hospitable. When you’re with them you feel like one of the family. I’m ashamed to admit it took me many years to get to Brazil – yah, life gets in the way sometimes. I finally made it in 2018 to visit one of my Marin girlfriends and her family in Rio and Angra dos Reis as well as do my first international dives in Buzios. I’ll share soon my Brazilian tips and tales.
Brazilians are some of my favorite people, and my Marin Brazilian friends are some of the best people I know. Period. Beijo!