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Brazil is undoubtedly one of South America's finest destinations. From the dense jungles enveloping the mighty Amazon River, to the mountainous terrain on the southern coastline, to the many miles of beautiful sandy beaches, Brazil has something for everyone. But beyond its natural beauty, the Brazilian people and their culture is what makes Brazil a great destination. The four day festivities of the world-renowned Carnival, held around late February, are a fantastic attraction for many travellers. Although Brasilia is the capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro (literally 'January River') is often considered the heart of the country.
It remains somewhat of a shiboleth that Brazil was 'discovered' by the Portuguese in the 1500's because unlike many of the other Andean tribes Brazils indigenous people have left little evidence of their existence.
On the 22nd of May 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral led the colonisation of Brazil by the Portuguese. During the first century of occupation the major export was Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata) giving the country its name. However the Portuguese interest in the country was fairly slack which led to successive attempts by the French and Dutch to invade. The Dutch sacked Bahia in the 1600's and successfully captured Salvador, they formally withdrew in 1661 after successfully occupying the Nordeste for about 30 years.
Interestingly Brazil is one of only two countries among the 'new worlds' that housed an effective legal monarchical state (the other was Mexico), for a period of almost 90 years. Brazil's capital city from 1808 to 1821, Rio de Janeiro, was the head of the Portuguese empire during that time. The monarchy was deposed on November 15, 1889 by a Republican military coup led by general Deodoro da Fonseca, who became the country's first de facto president through military ascension. In 1985 the military regime peacefully ceded power to civilian rulers.
Brazil extends over 8.5 million square kilometers, occupying just under half (47%) of the area of Latin America. Including its Atlantic islands, Brazil lies between latitudes 6°N and 34°S, and longitudes 28° and 74°W. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, and third largest in the Americas. This includes Arquipelago de Fernando de Noronha, Atol das Rocas, Ilha da Trindade, Ilhas Martin Vaz, and Penedos de Sao Pedro e Sao Paolo. It borders with Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. Its coastline is 7,491 kilometres and its highest point is Pico da Neblina (3,014 metres). Terrain is mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and a coastal belt. The main upland area occupies most of the southern half of the country. The northwestern parts of the plateau consist of broad, rolling terrain broken by low, rounded hills. The southeastern section is more rugged, with a complex mass of ridges and mountain ranges reaching elevations of up to 1,200 metres. These ranges include the Mantiqueira and Espinhaço mountains and the Serra do Mar. In the north, the Guiana Highlands form a major drainage divide, separating rivers that flow south into the Amazon Basin from rivers that empty into the Orinoco River system, in Venezuela, to the north. Brazil has a dense and complex system of rivers, one of the world's most extensive, with eight major drainage basins, all of which drain into the Atlantic. Major rivers include the Amazon (the world's second-longest river and the largest in terms of volume of water), the Paraná and its major tributary the Iguaçu (which includes the Iguazu Falls), the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and Tapajós rivers.
Land use is composed of; arable land: 5%, permanent crops: 1%, permanent pastures: 22%, forests and woodland: 58%, other: 14%. Natural resources include bauxite, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, uranium, petroleum, hydropower, timber. Main agricultural products include coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus; beef and main industries in textiles, shoes, chemicals, cement, lumber, iron ore, tin, steel, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, other machinery and equipment.
Brazil is divided into 26 states (known as estados) and one federal district (Distrito Federal) in five main regions:
|North||Acre, Amapa, Amazonas, Pará, Rondonia, Roraima, Tocantins|
|Northeast||Alagoas, Bahia, Ceara, Maranhao, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Piaui, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe|
|Central West||Brasilia (FD), Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul|
|Southeast||Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo|
|South||Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina|
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Bordering Brazil and Argentina, the Foz do Iguacu comprise of 275 waterfalls which cascade along the cliff edges for some 2,700 metres, falling from heights of up to 80 metres. The Brazilian side offers the nicest overall views but isn't worth spending more than half a day or so. You get more close and personal with the falls from Argentina, where you'll also find better hikes and more to do. You can easily spend days here and the town of Puerto Iguazu is also nicer and smaller to stay, with better budget options. For more information, have a look at the Iguazu Falls article.
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The Pantanal is the world's largest continuous wetland with a total area of more than 200,000 square kilometres. Over half of the Pantanal is located in Brazil which also offers the best opportunities for a visit to this paradise full with animals. The Pantanal can be reached both from the north (Cuiaba) and from the south (Campo Grande), and both are equally rewarding and impressive. There are dozens of places to stay, from camping to 5-star luxury.For more details about visiting this amazing place read the Pantanal article.
The Amazon Rainforest contains over half of the rainforest in the world and is by far the largest rainforest with about 7 million square kilometres.
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The Chapada Diamantina National Park is unique, wonderful and natural. It boasts beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, canyons and a big natural swimming pool. Enjoy reading the full Chapada Diamantina National Park article for your options to visit the main sights.
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Fernando de Noronha is an UNESCO World Heritage site with fine beaches, marine wildlife and great landscapes to admire. It is part of the state of Pernambuco, but located around 350 kilometres off the northeast coast of the country and can only be excessed by plane from places like Salvador, Recife or Rio de Janeiro.
Teatro Amazonas, in English Amazon Theatre, is an amazing opera house built in the city of Manaus. Built in a Renaissance style this opera house took seventeen years to build, with construction being completed in1895. The money for the theatre was funded by the massive rubber boom in the late 19th and early 20th century. The decadence in this build is outrageous with roofing tiles, furniture and murals of the meeting of the waters from Alsace and Paris.
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The FIFA World Cup 2014 will be held in Brazil. It takes place from 12 June to 13 July 2014. It will be the second time that Brazil has hosted the competition, the previous being in 1950. The national teams of 32 countries will join the second biggest sports event in the world (after the Olympic Games). A total of 64 matches are to be played in twelve cities across Brazil, with the tournament beginning with a group stage. For the first time at a World Cup Finals, the matches will use goal-line technology. Twelve locations will be World Cup host cities: Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo. They cover all the main regions of Brazil and create more evenly distributed hosting than the 1950 finals in Brazil provided, when matches were concentrated in the south-east and south. As a result the tournament will require significant long-distance travel for teams. Brazil opens the tournament against Croatia, played in Sao Paulo on the 12th of June, and the final will be played on the 13th of July in Rio de Janeiro.
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Although Carnival (or Carnaval) is a festivity that is celebrated in vast (Catholic) areas in the world, the best is definately found in Brazil. Almost every city has its own Carnival, but the most famous one definately is in Rio de Janeiro. Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Everything in the country comes to a complete stop for almost a week and festivities are go on day and night. The celebrations happen in almost every city and town and is a mixture of Christian, Pagan and Native Brazilian traditions. Carnival is an annual festival held forty-six days before Easter. It is held the 4 days before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Roman Catholics and some other Christians used to abstaine from the consumption of meat and that is where the name "carnival," meaning "to remove or raise meat", originally comes from. Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In Rio and Sao Paulo, enormous parades are led by samba schools meant to be watched by the public, while smaller parades allow public participation and these can be found in other smaller cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Seguro and Recife have organized groups parading through streets. Just be ready to dance and have a crazy time! The most extreme Carnival cities are Rio De Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, Recife, Ouro Preto, Mariana and Diamantina. Remember that Carnival is different in every city and to really experience the festival it is best to go to different cities every year.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the greatest partiy on Earth. And this partying tradition goes a long way back: the first carnivals in Rio were celebrated in 1723. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival, or "Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro" for locals, is held four days before Ash Wednesday, usually in February, but sometimes as early as late January or late as early March (like in 2011). Quite different to the European celebrations due to its mixed African, Native, Portuguese, German and other European countries elements, Carnival in Brazil has also variations by region. In the southeast (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), Carnival focuses on organised parades. This carnival parades are carried out by "samba schools" (or, in Portuguese again, "escolas do samba") which compete in the "sambodromo". In this kind of Carnival only affiliates can parade. However, on smaller cities, since there are no large public events but the municipalities promote celebrations in clubs or beaches. Since the 1930s the parade traditionally goes from Sunday evening until early morning Monday in the Sambadrome, which is a large structure that includes several buildings forming a large open circle and covers 700 metres of Marquês de Sapucaí Street, converted into a permanent parade ground. The "Sambódromo", as it is called in Portuguese has bleachers for spectators on both sides and it can seat ninety thousand people.
Although 90% of the country is within the tropical zone, more than 60% of the population live in areas where altitude, sea winds, or cold polar fronts moderate the temperature. There are five climatic regions in Brazil: equatorial, tropical, semi arid, highland tropical, and subtropical.
The hottest part of Brazil is the northeast where, during the dry season, between May and November, temperatures may reach above 38 °C. Along the Atlantic coast from Recife to Rio de Janeiro, mean temperatures range from 23 °C to 27 °C. Inland, on higher ground; temperatures are lower, ranging from 18 °C to 21 °C. South of Rio, the seasons are more noticeable and the annual range of temperature greater. The average temperature for this part of the country is in the range between 17 °C and 19 °C.
Brazil's most intense rainfall is found around the mouth of the Amazon River (around Belém), and also in the upper regions of Amazônia where more than 2,000 mm (78 inches) of rain falls each year. The rest of the country has moderate rainfall of between 1,000 and 1,500 mm (39 to 59 inches) a year, most of which falls in the summer, between December and April with winters tending to be dry.
Brazil shares borders with 10 countries. Travelling overland from all of these countries except Suriname is possible. Many people arrive by air as well and Brazil has international airports all over the country.
If arriving by air, there are a few airports which will likely be your starting point in Brazil. These are Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Guarulhos, 25 kilometres from Sao Paulo and Galeão International Airport (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro. Brasilia International Airport is the third busiest with some international connections as well.
Within the region, GOL has an extensive network of destinations. In the north there are several airlines serving The Guyanas (Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana) from for example Belem and Manaus. Airlines among which to search are Meta and Suriname Airways.
There are no direct train connections from neighbouring countries into and out of Brazil. There is, however, the option to travel to Bolivia from Corumba and take the train from Quijarro to Santa Cruz, also known as the Death Train.
Crossings to and from Brazil]] are possible from all South American countries except Ecuador, Chile and Suriname. It does share borders with the latter one, but you have to go via Guyana or French Guiana. Those crossings require a 4wd for part in Brazil (to French Guiana) or the part in Guyana. Crosssings to and from Bolivia and Peru are also along rough roads, while crossings into Colombia are possible at the border near Leticia, though you have to get there by boat or plane first. Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay can be reached along good tarred roads, though once across the border, especially the roads in Paraguay can be a little rougher.
Have your documentation and insurance regarding the car in order and be sure to have an international driver's licence.
There are many options to get into Brazil by bus from neighbouring countries directly.
Peru and Colombia
The Amazon functions as the riverine highway of Brazil and many neighbouring countries. Although there are no scheduled services to other countries, you can travel the entire lenght from Belem in the east to the border with Colombia and Peru in the west on many boats. Accommodation is usually in hammocks and it is a great way to experience local Amazonian life. The border is also called the triple frontier and from here on you can travel the Amazone even further into Peru to the city of Iquitos and even Pucallpa.
Boats also cross the river Rio Mamore from Guajara-Mirim (Rondonia) to Guayaramerin in Bolivia. This crossing is about 5.5 hours from Porto Velho. You can reach this crossing as well from Trinidad in Bolivia by boat, which takes 5 days and is a very adventurous off the beaten track experience.
Not many border crossings, but the best is in the south of Peru between Inapari and Assis Brazil by ferry across the Rio Acre.
Because of the size of Brazil many travellers make the choice to fly between cities, particularly into Manaus for access to the Amazon as the road through the central states has been closed for several years. There are about 30 airports across Brazil offering domestic flights and a handful of these are international. Rio de Janeiro's Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport is the main international airport in Brazil with dozens of international and domestic airlines offering services.
Domestic business is dominated by GOL, TAM and Varig and cheap flights can best be obtained while inside the country. Other airlines, operating flights to smaller places include TRIP Linhas Aereas, Rico and Ocean Air.
Travellers who are not of Brazillian nationality should note that it is virtually impossible to reserve/pay for flights directly online with Brazillian airlines unless you have a credit card issued by a Brazillian bank. Foreign credit cards are not accepted for payment as you have to have a CPF# to make an online booking. (The CPF# is the Brazilian ID card.) The airlines cross reference the name associated with the CPF# and the name on the credit card to prevent credit card fraud.
There are few existing trainlines in Brazil. Still, there are several scenic tourist lines which are definately worth a try. These include the scenic Serra Verde Express which operates between Curitiba and the port city of Paranaguá. Stops include Morretes and Marumby State Park and although it is only 100 kilometres the landscape and scenery is spectacular.
Brazil boasts some of the best buses in South America. Prices vary generally as a function of distance and journey length. There are dozens of companies in the country but you can start checking Expresso Brasileiro and AutoViacao. Some buses travel from south all the way north to places like Belem and can take over 3 days! It is better to either break up your trip, or look for cheaper deals regarding flights, as prices of long distance buses can add up.
Travelling around by car is getting more and more popular in Brazil, especially in the coastal areas. Although road conditions vary widely throughout Brazil, roads are generally in a relatively good condition, but not all and not everywhere! The government offers an up to date online service for checking road conditions. 
Driving behaviour of the Brazilians and busy traffic in certain parts of Brazil are certainly worth thinking twice before you rent a car, but don't let this scare you too much. Many cities and airports have facilities, with both local and international agencies like Hertz and Avis. Remember that 21 is the minimum age to be able to rent a car.
Foreigners that have an international driving license issued abroad are normally allowed to drive in Brazil for 6 months from the date of arrival.
Although in most parts of Brazil, you will just be fine travelling around by land or plane, the Amazon is the place where you really need a boat to get to most places, unless you want to take flights all the time.
You have a choice of taking slow boats to most places and several fast boats to a few places as well, although these only travel between Manaus, Tefé and Tabatinga in western direction and to Santarem in eastern direction.
Slow boats travel across the Amazon River between Belem and Tabatinga on the border with Peru and Colombia. It takes around a week downstream but over one and a half upstream to cover the route.
Other options include routes between Manaus and Porto Velho in the south along the Rio Madeira and north from Manaus to São Gabriel da Cachoeira travelling along the Rio Negro. The first takes about 4 days, the second almost a week!
On all these boats you have a choice to spend the nights in a hammock or for a little bit more you can get a cabin, sometimes with airconditioning, usually only with a fan. In the latter case, it can become very hot in the cabins, so travel like the locals do and learn to sleep in a hammock, enjoying the fresh nightly air.
Travellers from the following countries will be granted a 90 day visa on arrival in Brazil: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Holland, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Malta, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican and Venezuela.
US citizens and others will be required to obtain visas from Brazillian consulates before travelling to Brazil. Depending on previous travel you may be required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate on entry.
Travellers from Australia are required to obtain a visa from a Brazillian consulate before travelling to Brazil. When obtaining a visa, be sure to note if you require a single or multiple entry visa.
See also: Money Matters
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Brazil's currency is the Brazilian Real (BRL) (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural Reais ('hay-EYES'). The subunit is called centavo(s) (cents). There are notes for R$1, R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50 and R$100. 
Coins vary in size and colour and come in 1 centavo, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 25 centavos, 50 centavos and R$1. BRL1 is roughly US0.55 USD/€0.45 EUR/0.35 GBP (check Oanda for up to date conversions).
Use of travellers cheques is restricted and must be exchanged. Exchange centres can be found across Brazil in all major cities called 'casas de cambio. Holders of major credit cards can use most major ATMs to access accounts and withdraw cash (other transactions limited).
Portuguese is the unofficial language of Brazil. 
Language is one of the strongest elements of Brazil's national unity. Portuguese is spoken by nearly 100% of the population. The only exceptions are some members of Amerindian groups and pockets of immigrants, primarily from Japan and South Korea, who have not yet learned Portuguese. The principal families of Indian languages are Tupí, Arawak, Carib, and Gê.
There is about as much difference between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and that spoken in Portugal as between the English spoken in the United States and that spoken in the United Kingdom. Within Brazil, there are no dialects of Portuguese, but only moderate regional variation in accent, vocabulary, and use of personal nouns, pronouns, and verb conjugations. Variations tend to diminish as a result of mass media, especially national television networks that are viewed by the majority of Brazilians.
Brazil is a huge country with vary diverse cuisine depending on the area in the country. Some of the more common food may seem a bit boring, especially in the poorer areas of the country. The national dish is Feijoada (Meat Stew) and might be a bit much for some tourists because of its use of organs and other innards.
A must try for people that eat meat is Brazilian BBQ (Churrasco), which is amazing. The different kinds of meat are cooked on a spears and waiters bring the spears to you and pull off pieces of food. On each table will be a little card that is green on one side and red on the other. As long as the green side is up more meat will be brought to you. This is always an all you can eat kind of meal. The restaurants that specialize in this form of cooking are called churrascarias and can be found anywhere in the country, even at truck stops. You will find them throughout the country, but probably the best ones are in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, with some of the best in Porto Alegre.
Large chains have started to dominate the country nationwide. One of the most well known is Bob's, which is similar to McDonalds although a little better. Habib's is also common and is a Middle Eastern fast food chain found in most of the country. Chains like Burger King, Subway and Pizza Hut have started to appear although not super common. Most Brazilians do not like touching there food and will eat finger food with napkins and even use a fork to eat french fries.
It is common among locals to tip 10% of the bill. Sometimes this 10% will be included in the bill, although it is not mandatory to pay it. It is actually a customers legal right to ignore the tip if they think they got bad service. If eating at a restaurant regularly it is best to make friends with a waiter by giving a larger tip and in the long run get better service. Some restaurants do not allow the waiters to keep the tip, therefore it might be better to slip the tip to the waiter discreetly while leaving, in cash, so he or she may keep it.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Brazil. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Brazil. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, tuberculosis, rabies and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended as well, except in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza and Recife.
Malaria is prevalent in much of the tropical part of the country, except along the coastal areas. The risk is particularly high in the Amazon. It is recommended to take malaria pills and take other normal anti-mosquito precautions as well. Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
A big concern of many travellers to Brazil is safety and the subject is often contentious and opinions widely varied. Major cities like Rio, Salvador and Recife have significant reputations for being dangerous in terms of street crime. Rio de Janeiro in particular has unfortunately an increasing problem with violent crime and many sites will advise caution is exercised when considering it as a destination and also when travelling around in the city, particularly on buses.
The skewed distribution of income in Brazil (one of the most unequal in the world) may be partially responsible for an endemic and increasing problem of non-political crime and like any location in which crime is high tourists and travellers may be targets. However this should by no means deter travellers from choosing Brazil as a destination as behaving cautiously and with a certain degree of common sense will reduce any serious risks. This includes things like not carrying around large amounts of cash or flashing expensive cameras. It is also recommended that walking the streets at night in major cities is avoided unless in groups.
Internet cafes (Lan houses) are increasingly common, and even small towns often have at least one spot with more or less decent connections.
An increasing number of hotels, airports and shopping malls also offer hotspots for Wi-Fi with your laptop computer or of course smartphone. Sometimes it is free, sometimes you need to register and there is a time limite and sometimes you need to pay a small amount for (day) use.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Brazil is: 55. To make an international call from , the code is: 0014. All cities use the following emergency numbers: 190 (police), 192 (medical) and 193 (fire department). However, if you dial 911 or 112 while in Brazil, you will be redirected to the police.
Brazil uses two-digit area codes, and phone numbers are eight digits long. Numbers beginning with digits 2 to 5 are land lines, while eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 6 to 9 are mobile phones.
Public payphones use disposable prepaid cards, which come with 20, 40, 60 or 75 credits. The discount for buying cards with larger denominations is marginal. Phone booths are nearly everywhere, and all cards can be used in all booths, regardless of the owner phone company. Cards can be bought from many small shops, and almost all news agents sell them.
Brazil has 4 national mobile operators: Vivo (Telefónica Group), Claro (Telmex/América Móvil Group), OI and TIM (Telecom Italia Group), all of them running GSM and HSDPA/HSPA+ networks. Pay-as-you-go (pré-pago) SIM cards for GSM phones are widely available in places like newsstands, drugstores, supermarkets, retail shops, etc.
Correios is the national postal service of Brazil. It is a government run postal service and overseen by the Brazilian Ministry of Communications. Post offices are generally open from Monday to Friday from 09:00am to 5:00pm, although post offices located in shopping malls have their own opening hours, usually from 10:00am to 10:00pm. There are no set opening hours at weekends and as post office owners can choose when to open and close. More and more post offices are open until 1:00pm on Saturdays though. You can check things at the nearest post office.
Sending postcards, letters and parcels is a rather straightforward process and services are reliable, though not overly fast when sending post internationally, mostly taking about a week to the USA and Europe, and there is a track-and-trace service for this as well. Domestically, there are both next day as well as more expensive same day delivery options. Stamps are available at post offices, as well as some kiosks or other places where they sell postcards.
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Ask Utrecht a question about Brazil
I traveled to Brazil during two totally different trips. But out of the main cities and far away from the beaches. If you are going to the Iguacu Falls, Pantanal and Amazon Basin on the other hand, I might be of some use to you! This also applies to the extreme south: Rio Grande do Sul.
Ask mindfultravel a question about Brazil
I traveled to Brazil 4 times, work and pleasure, and I'm an expert on cities like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador de Bahía
Ask csfreixo a question about Brazil
I am brazilian, so any doubts concerning routes, seasons, festivals, what to do or not or maybe a companion for journeys, just get in touch!
Ask Cecibastos a question about Brazil
I can help because I am Brazilian, carioca, living in RIo de Janeiro
Ask vianalorena a question about Brazil
I'm brazilian and live in Salvador, Bahia, a very touristic city on the northeast of the country. I don't know the whole country, but I sure can give some tips, about the trips.
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