The world’s fifth largest country has more to offer than simply beaches, soccer, samba and a giant stone Jesus.
From the Amazon to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, to São Paulo and its 11 million residents, the vastness of Brazil affords travelers a seemingly bottomless reservoir of adventure. So pack your best beachwear and leave those preconceptions behind.
QUICK BRAZIL FACTS
- Capital: Brasilia
- Language: Portuguese
- Currency: Real / R$ / BRL
- Population: 193,946,886
- Time Zone: UTC−2 to −4
- Calling Code: +55
- Drives On: Right
- Drinking Age: 18
- Drinking In Public: Legal
- Drinking Tap Water: Advised against
- Flushing Toilet Paper: Not okay
- Vaccinations Required: CDC
- Credit Cards: Visa/MC widely accepted
- Tipping: Not expected (10% pre-included at restaurants)
- Emergency Numbers: Police: 190; Ambulance: 192; Fire: 193
- Outlets: 110/220 V varied by city/state
- Visa Requirements: Brazilian Consulate
- LANGUAGE | You may find this shocking, but Brazilians do not speak Spanish or Brazilian. They speak (Brazilian) Portuguese. Be sure to brush on your “bom dias” and “obrigados” to get you gringo ass in working order come caipirinha time. More on Portuguese.
- GETTING AROUND | Getting around the country and its cities is relatively painless thanks to a large network of buses and citywide subways. Single-use transportation tickets will cost you around R$3 per trip, and the intercity buses are a relatively comfortable and a cheap alternative to airplanes. A note on cabs: Monday through Saturday meters read “1” from 6:00 to 21:00 and “2” from 21:00 to 6:00 (fares are 20% higher). Sundays and holidays meters are “2” all day.
- CLOTHING | Got your havaianas, canga, and sunga? Then you’re practically set – for the beach. However, many areas in Brazil are not blessed with high temperatures year-round, and depending on the timing of your visit some “winter clothing” may be in order. For best results, check local forecasts before your visit.
- THINGS TO DO | In such a large country the number of things to do is overwhelming, but certain things should not be missed. The beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the skyscrapers of São Paulo, the Amazon in Manaus, the boringness of Brasilia, the North, the South, and everything in between. From amazing hikes to raging nightclubs, you will find yourself with a longer list than you can manage.
- WHEN TO GO | The best time to visit Brazil? The summer. But remember, that’s the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Between the months of January and March you will find not only spectacular sunga-sporting weather, but also the celebration of Carnaval and the welcoming of the New Year – two events that Brazil does better than anyone else.
- AÇAÍ | When I first saw açaí I thought it was disgusting. I was wrong. This life-changing purple sludge became part of my daily diet whilst in Brazil, and I can’t wait to go back just to have more. Read about açaí here.
- CHURRASCO | A lot of meat. In Brazil, you can visit restaurants known as churrascarias where, for a fixed price, you can sit for the better part of a day and be fed endless amounts of every type of meat imaginable. I suggest the chicken hearts. More on churrascurias.
- SALGADOS | Salgados are delicious Brazilian snacks available on just about every corner (in Brazil’s many suco joints). You can find them stuffed with cheese, meat, or anything else that taste’s delicious fried (read: everything). Many varieties of the salgado exist (pastel, joelho, kibe), but my favorite has to be the coxinha.
- FEIJOADA | This list would not be complete without the inclusion of Brazil’s national dish: feijoada. A delicious stew of beans and meat (pork and/or beef), feijoada is renowned for putting people to food-induced comas. Many local restaurants serve feijoada once weekly, and servings are usually suitable for at least two people.
- COCONUT WATER | Coconut water, or água de coco as it is known in Brazil, is not that overpriced, boxed, Vita Coco garbage many of you may be used to. In Brazil it comes straight from a coconut opened directly in front of you with a machete, and it is more delicious. More on água de coco.
- CAIPIRINHAS | If you haven’t heard about caipirinhas, then consider yourself lucky. They are a deadly concoction of sugar, lime, and cachaça. And did I say sugar? A lot of sugar. The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha now comes in many different flavors (none of which are really caipirinhas), but after you sample the traditional, I suggest moving to caipiroskas (substitute vodka for cachaça).
BRAZIL TIPS & TRICKS
- The beach can be found at the center of many Brazilians’ lives (perhaps this is what makes the country so magical). Be sure you know what you’re doing out there before you make yourself out to be too big a gringo (no towels allowed). Check out Brazilian Beach Etiquette for the full scoop.
- On the subject of beaches – if you plan on frequenting the beach in Brazil, then I would suggest you bring your own sunscreen. Brazilian sunscreen is incredibly expensive, which is strange because you would think there would be so much of it in the country. Regardless, bring your own and spend those extra reais on come caipirinhas.
- If arriving in Brazil at an airport where you will need to take a taxi into the city, go to the departure terminal to hail your cab. Many cabs soliciting passengers in the arrival terminal have (illegally) fixed meters and will end up costing you a fortune. Catching a cab after it drops someone off poses a smaller risk of you being ripped off.
- Largely regarded as one of the largest parties on Earth, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro proves to the world, year after year, that Brazilians know how to party. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the country during this yearly event then you had best have your samba boots on and be ready to consume copious amounts of cerveja and street food.
- If you are invited to anything that could be considered an informal event it is imperative that you show up late. Arriving on time to a party or a similarly festive gathering of people could (and likely will) cause great embarrassment to yourself and possibly your host. More on this subject here.