Looking west on Praia de Ipanema.
Let’s face it – it won’t be a secret that you are a gringo in Brazil.
It is fairly obvious separating the locals from the tourists, but the process becomes even easier at the beach.
Luckily, by following the simple code of Brazilian beach etiquette you will be able to (attempt) to blend in amongst the Brazilians, and decrease your chances of being repeatedly hassled by the vendors of beach accessories, jewelry, and bathing suits (yes, bathing suits).
NO TOWELS ALLOWED
This may come as a shock to many of you, but the quickest way to pick out the gringos at the beach is to look for everyone with a towel. Brazilians do not bring towels to the beach. Women bring sarongs or “cangas” to lay out on, and the men rent chairs from the “barracas” located all along the beach.
First of all, Brazilian women do not go topless at the beach. Now we have that out-of-the-way, they do show a lot of ass. Like all of it. They shame the bikinis of the United States, and make American women look like they are wearing giant diapers. Men often sport sungas (through board shorts are acceptable as well, and the sunga is more popular in Rio than elsewhere in Brazil). NEVER wear shoes or jeans (any pants) to the beach (but this is true everywhere), and avoid hats and your hawaiian shits – they are not fashionable on Brazilian beaches. Your havaianas, suit, and a t-shirt should be all you need.
LEAVE YOUR FOOD BEHIND
Bringing a cooler, a backpack, or some other contraption filled with food to the beach is also against the rules. Should you become hungry, the beach offers up plenty of friendly vendors who will gladly sell you anything from fried cheese, to açaí, to beer, to sandwiches.
CHAIRS AND UMBRELLAS
Rent chairs and umbrellas from the barracas. Thinking of frequenting the same spot? Make friends with the barraca guys, they can be incredibly helpful and will sell (and bring) you fresh coconut water, beer, and more. And, wait a second, why are all the men just standing around with their hands on their hips? Because that’s what Brazilian men do at the beach – how else are they going to scope while allowing others to appreciate the goods?
PLAYING WITH YOUR BALLS
On many beaches (at least in Rio de Janeiro) you are not permitted to play games on the beach next to the water between the hours of something like 10:00 and 17:00. This includes: soccer, frescoball, frisbee, badminton, Settlers of Catan, and Risk. However, plenty of space exists for these activities farther up on the sand (away from the chillen). I can’t say that I ever saw this enforced, and plenty of people choose to ignore this rule, but it’s nice to know why you’re being scolded if you don’t speak the Portuguese.
Wear it. Even if you are one of those people who thinks they “don’t burn” (you almost make me as angry as those people who think they “don’t get hung over”), wear sunscreen. The sun in Brazil is incredibly strong (like strongman strong), and you will burn. Many Brazilians (particularly from the older generation), however, do not believe in sunscreen and do not wear any (and they will likely die of skin cancer). Also, BRING SUNSCREEN FROM HOME (like your home country). Sunscreen in Brazil is insanely expensive for a country you would think to have a thriving sunscreen market.
Leave everything at home. The beach is not a place for your electronics, your jewelry, your wallets, or your books (only gringos read on the beach). Bring a small amount of cash to purchase what you need from the beach vendors, but leave everything else behind. If your entire group is going to be abandoning your spot to venture into the water or to strut your stuff on the sand, then ask someone nearby to keep an eye on your things (because unfortunately there is a chance those things will be taken – even your havaianas).
Lastly, for all you ladies who are trying to get rid of those “pesky tan lines”, said lines are sexy to the point of being a source of pride in Brazil – so keep your straps done.