Travel Guide South America Brazil





© Señor Usuf

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.

Warning: The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause severe damage to a child in the womb. There are defenses, such as long sleeves and mosquito repellents, but there is no vaccine and no cure. The risk is severe enough that some Latin American governments have advised citizens not to become pregnant and the US government lists 22 countries where they advise pregnant women not to travel.



Brief History

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:

NorthAcre, Amapa, Amazonas, Pará, Rondonia, Roraima, Tocantins
NortheastAlagoas, Bahia, Ceara, Maranhao, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Piaui, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe
Central WestBrasilia (FD), Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul
SoutheastEspirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo
SouthParana, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina




  • Belém - city along the tropical northern coast, gateway to the Amazon River;
  • Belo Horizonte - one of the biggest cities, north of Rio;
  • Brasilia is the nation's capital;
  • Campo Grande - gateway to the southern Pantanal;
  • Corumba - another entry point to the southern Pantanal, on the border with Bolivia;
  • Cuiaba - in Mato Grosso, gateway to the northern Pantanal and southern Amazon;
  • Curitiba - pleasant city, not far from Sao Paulo;
  • Florianópolis is Brazil's top touristic destination;
  • Fortaleza - in the tropical north, popular beach destination;
  • Foz do Iguacu - gateway to the Iguazu Falls;
  • Goiânia - central Brazil;
  • João Pessoa - in the north, popular beach hang-out;
  • Maceió - capital and largest city in the northeastern state of Alagoas;
  • Manaus is the capital of the Amazon;
  • Natal - in the northeast, with great nearby beaches;
  • Porto Alegre - southernmost big city in Rio Grande do Sul;
  • Porto Velho - in the extreme east, southern gateway to the Amazon;
  • Recife - in the northeast and great for Carnival and beaches;
  • Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, home to an amazing carnival and some wonderful beaches;
  • Salvador - the most African city in the country;
  • Sao Luis - colonial city in the central north;
  • Sao Paulo (City) is Brazil's largest city and economic centre.
  • Tabatinga - border with Colombia (Leticia);
  • Tefé - small city and great Amazonian surroudings.



Sights and Activities

Amazon Rainforest

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.

Night spotting in the Amazon

Night spotting in the Amazon

© Utrecht

The area actually containing forest is slightly smaller and is divided by 9 countries of which Brazil has the largest part. Manaus is the gateway to the Brazilian central Amazon, and although there are many trips from here, you are better of if you venture deeper into the rainforest and visit from for example Tefe,where you can travel further towards the fantastic Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve, with an abundance of flora and fauna. For more information about the lungs of our planet, read the Amazon Rainforest article.

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is a national park of Brazil located in the Chapada dos Veadeiros, an ancient plateau with an estimated age of 1.8 billion years. Based in the Brazilian state of Goias, the park was created on January 11, 1961 by President Juscelino Kubitscheck, and listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2001. It occupies an area of 655 square kilometres in the municipalities of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, Cavalcante and Colinas do Sul. The park is maintained by Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation. With altitudes between 600 and 1650 metres, it is the highest plain in Central Brazil. The highest point of the park and of the state of Goiás is Serra da Santana, at 1691 metres above sea level. Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is noted for its waterfalls. Those which range from 80 to 120 metres include the Corredeiras, Cannyon I, Cannyon II, the Carioquinhas Waterfall and the Jardim de Maitréya.

Chapada Diamantina National Park

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.

Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha Island

Fernando de Noronha Island

© Luis M

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.

Iguazu Falls

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.

Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande is an island off the coast of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro and is a popular place to enjoy both lush Atlantic rainforests as well as tropical beaches.

Ilha Grande view from boat

Ilha Grande view from boat

© daveliz

Apart from relaxing in a hammock at your accommodation or at a beach, the island has around 150 kilometres of hiking trails between the villages and across the rainforest. There is wide range of animals, some of which you might spot during hiking, including endangered ones like the brown howler monkey, the red-browed Amazon parrot and the maned sloth.


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.

Little Caymans, Pantanal

Little Caymans, Pantanal

© Utrecht

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.

Teatro Amazonas

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.

Teatro Amazonas

Teatro Amazonas

© Davelanky

From Italy came Carrarra Marble for the stairs, statues and columns, also 198 chandeliers, including 32 made from Murano glass in Venice. Pretty much everything was imported from Europe, including the bricks, except the wood. The theatre was recently fully restored back to its previous grandeur.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Beaches in Brazil are amazing. Many of the great beaches are between Fortaleza and Salvador in the northeast and not to forget the Ipanema and Copacobana beaches in Rio de Janeiro. Jericoacoara near Fortaleza is a famous small fishing village with a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Ouro Preto, together with Olinda, has amazing colonial architecture.This southern town has some of the finest examples of towns with colonial style architecture and just like its northern counterpart on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Salvador - Pelourinho Square,

Salvador - Pelourinho Square, "Rosario dos Pretos" Church

© mig13

  • Salvador de Bahia is home to a mix of African, European and indigenous people and famous for its Carnival. It has some fine colonial buildings including churches as well.
  • Brasilia is the capital and is not as often visited as Rio or Sao Paulo, but has some very fine modern architecture.
  • Olinda is located close to Recife in the northeast, this is probably one of the best examples of colonial style buildings, combined with great coastal scenery. Many of the buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and the town is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • The southern state of Rio Grande do Sul is a world apart from much of Brazil, with some gaucho culture, wine regions and both Italian and German influences, reflected in both building style as well as food.
  • Ilha do Mel - a beautiful and popular island off the coast of the state of Parana.



Events and Festivals


Carnival time

Carnival time

© richfuell

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.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival

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.

Festa de Iemanja

The festival of Iemanja is a great way to ring in the upcoming year. It is held after the New Year’s Eve celebrations die down, on January 1, predominantly along the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. It celebrates the Water Goddess, Iemanja, and sees thousands of people flock to the water where gifts are provided to the goddess. Singing, dancing and swimming usually follows.


Often simply called Lapinha, the Reis Holiday is predominantly celebrated in the large city of Salvador on January 5. The event commemorates the Three Wise Men that visited Jesus Christ upon his birth eons ago. The city hosts a famous procession, which travels through the streets of Salvador and ends at Lake Igreja da Lapinha. While at the lake, tourists can watch plays or enjoy traditional cuisine.

Boi Bumba

Boi Bumba is a smaller rendition of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, held in June on the island of Paratins. The celebrations usually last for three nights, without much of a break in between. When in full swing, tourists can embrace the culture mojo that Brazil is so famous for. The colors, music, dance, and rhythms radiating from the celebrations are incredible.

Festival of St Benedict

Taking place in the month of July, the Festival of St Benedict is an interesting celebration that is held in the central western region of the country. Cattlemen are at the center of attention with cowboys dressed completely in leather ‘uniforms’ or costumes, while priests bless the feasts in front of them. Deep fried rice, bolinhos, and cheeses are the main ingredients eaten.

Virgin of Nazareth Festival

More than two million people descend on the city of Belem the second Sunday in October to join a procession from the center of town to the Nazareth Basilica. Even though the event actually has Portuguese origins, it is still widely renowned in the nation of Brazil.

Children’s Day

On October 12, Brazil enjoys a national holiday celebrating the patron saint of the country, Our Lady Aparecida. However, Bahia’s central park is where the most important celebrations are found. Bahia also boasts plenty of events throughout the malls of the city, including shows and concerts that are kid-friendly.

Christmas of Light

Certainly the most important Christmas festival in Brazil, Christmas of Light is a beautiful and enticing celebration that lasts for 60 days throughout November and December. Every night, festive lights are displays across Gramado in the Rio Grande du Sol. Traditional cuisine, tree lighting, nativity reenactments, and nightly music make this festival a popular attraction for visitors of all ages.




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.



Getting There

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.

By Plane

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.

Although Varig is the national flag carier, TAM Airlines is the biggest Brazilian airline with flights to/from several cities in Europe, North America and South America.

Foreign airlines serving these cities directly from Europe are Air France, KLM and TAP Portugal. The latter has direct flights to Brasilia, Recife and other cities in Brazil as well.

From North America most cities mentiond above are served by several airlines as well. Also, unlike flights from Europe, it is possible to fly directly into Manaus, for example from Miami.

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.

By Train

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.

By Car

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.

By Bus

There are many options to get into Brazil by bus from neighbouring countries directly.

  • Argentina - From Argentina, the most used crossing is the Puerto Iguazu - Foz do Iguacu crossing and further south there is the Paso de los Libres to Uruguaiana crossing. Both are served by direct buses from Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires, there are direct buses to Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Curitiba, Sao Paul and Rio de Janeiro. The latter takes 46 hours!
  • Bolivia - The main crossing with Bolivia is at Corumba, opposite the Bolivian town of Quijarro (see train above). This one is particularly interesting when you want to visit the southern Pantanal. At the northern Pantanal section it is best to travel from Caceres towards the Bolivian border town of San Matias, which is about 2 hours. There are also daily direct connections from Caceres all the way to Santa Cruz in Bolivia. In the extreme west there is a crossing from Brasileia to Cobija in Bolivia. It is about 4,5 hours by bus from Rio Branco in the Acre State.
  • Chile - There are direct buses from Santiago in Chile to Curitiba (52 hours), Porto Alegre (36 hours), Sao Paulo (56 hours) and Rio de Janeiro (72 hours!).
  • Colombia - Crossing is between Tabatinga and Leticia in Colombia.
  • French Guiana - Crossing is between Oiapoque and Saint Georges in French Guiana.
  • Guyana - Crossing is between Bonfim and Lethem in Guyana.
  • Paraguay - The main crossings are between Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este and between Ponta Pora and Pedro Juan Caballero.
  • Peru - Not many border crossings, but the best is in the south of Peru between Inapari and Assis Brazil. Also possible by boat (see below).
  • Uruguay - Most used crossing between Chuy and Chui, border is at the main street in this twin town. Other crossings are Rio Branco - Jaguarao, Isidoro Noblia - Acegua, Rivera - Santana do Livramento, Artigas - Quarai, and Bella Union - Barra do Quarai. Direct buses travel between Montevideo and Porto Alegre (12 hours), Florianopolis (19 hours) and Curitiba (24 hours).
  • Venezuela - To and from Venezuela , the main crossing is between Pacaraima and Santa Elana de Uairen in Venezuela. There are direct connections between Manaus and Boa Vista in Brazil to Ciudad Bolivar further north in Venezuela.

By Boat

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.



Getting around

By Plane

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.

By Train

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.

By Bus

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.

By Car

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. [1]

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.

By Boat

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.

Other options outside the Amazon include ferries by Barcas S/A between Rio de Janeiro and Niteroi, and between Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande.



Red tape

Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with many countries, meaning that when visa fees and restrictions are applied to Brazilian visiting a country, Brazil generally adopts the same measures for that country's visitors.

Citizens from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela may enter the country with a valid ID card and stay up to 90 days.
As of 2018, citizens of Canada, Japan, Australia, and the USA can apply for an electronic tourist visa. This electronic visa is valid for multiple entries within two years and stays of up to 90 days in a one-year period and costs US$45. Citizens of the same four countries will be able to enter Brazil visa-free for up to 90 days, effective June 17, 2019.

No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days from holders of passports from these countries, unless otherwise indicated: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR passport, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Singapore (30 days, ordinary passports only), Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom (Including British National (Overseas) passport holders), Uruguay, Venezuela (60 days) and Vatican City. The immigration officer has the right to restrict your visa to less than 90 days, if he deems fit. (This has been done routinely for lone male travellers arriving in Fortaleza, allegedly to combat prostitution tourism.) He will then state the number of days (e.g. 60 or 30) in pen writing inside the stamp just given in your passport; if not, it remains as 90 days.

Citizens from all other countries do require a visa. The fees vary depending on reciprocity: for example, US citizens have to pay at least US$160 for a tourist visa and US$220 for a business visa. Cost of Brazil visa for citizens of Taiwan or Taiwanese passport holder pay US$20 (Reference from Embassy of Brazil in Lima, Peru) and 5 days to process. The reciprocity, however, also frequently applies to visa validity: US citizens can be granted visas valid up to 10 years and, likewise, Canadian citizens for up to 5.

Tourist visas (including those granted on the spot in immigration control) can be extended at any office of the Policia Federal. Tourist Visas granted to citizens of the Schengen Area can not be extended. All state capitals, and most border towns and international ports have one. Tourist visas will only be extended once, for a maximum of 90 days, and under no circumstances can you be granted more than 180 days with a tourist visa for any 365-day period. You should contact the federal police about 1 week before your visa expires. The handling fee is R$67 (Oct 2008). You may be asked for an outbound ticket (book a fully refundable one on the internet, then cancel when your visa is extended), and a proof of subsistence (for which your credit card is mostly accepted.) In order to apply for the extension, you must fill out the Emissão da Guia de Recolhimento on the Federal Police website, which you will carry to the Banco do Brasil in order to pay the fee. Do not pay the fee until you have spoken with a federal police officer about your case. If she/he denies the extension of your visa, you must have a bank account in Brazil in order to receive a refund.

The requirement to first enter Brazil within 90 days of the issue of the visa now only applies to nationals of Angola, Bahrain, Burma, Cambodia, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, The Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Syria, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Tunisia. Failure to enter Brazil within 90 days will invalidate the visa, no matter how long it is otherwise valid for.

By law you are required to produce your outbound ticket upon entry, but this is only enforced in exceptional cases. Even if you are asked, you could often get away with explaining that you are taking the bus to Argentina, and couldn´t buy the ticket in, say, Europe.

If you overstay your tourist visa, you will be fined R$8.28 per day (as of October 2007), for a maximum of 100 days. This means that even if you stay illegally for 5 years, the fine will never exceed R$828. You will be made to pay this at the border crossing. As this can take time, it could be wise to do it a few days up front at a federal police office, especially if you have a domestic to international flight connection. The federal police will then give you 8 days to get out of the country. If you don´t pay your fine upon exiting, you will have to pay the next time you enter. The fact that you have been fined for overstaying in the past does not normally imply future difficulties with immigration, but you´d better keep all receipts and old passports for reference.

If you want to enter/exit the country for some reason without coming in contact with the immigration authorities, there are numerous tiny border towns that have virtually no control. You will perhaps be told by the local police (who don´t have stamps or computer registers for immigration) to contact the federal police in such and such nearby town.

When you are travelling from certain tropical regions to Brazil you need a yellow fever vaccination and the certificate showing you had this. It is illegal to bring in animals, meat, dairy, seeds, plants, eggs, honey, fruit, or any kind of non-processed food without a permit. Contact [[email protected]] for more information.




See also: Money Matters

Brasilian Reais

Brasilian Reais

© Casa Cohiba

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. [2]

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 official language of Brazil. [3]

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.

English is not widely spoken except in some touristy areas. Don't expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English, so it may be a good idea to write down the address you are heading to before getting the cab. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak some English. If you are really in need of talking in English, you should look for the younger people (-30 years), because they, generally, have a higher knowledge of the language and will be eager to help you and exercise their English.

Spanish speakers are usually able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south. While written Portuguese can be quite similar to Spanish, spoken Portuguese is much harder to understand.




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.

Fast Food

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.




High season in Brazil follows the school holidays calendar, December and January (summer) being the busiest months. New Year, Carnival (movable between February and March, see Understand above) and Holy week are the peak periods, and prices can skyrocket, especially in coastal cities like Rio and Salvador. Also, during those holidays, many hotels restrict bookings to a 3 or 4-day minimum and charge in advance.

Hotels are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil and can range from luxury beach resorts to very modest and inexpensive choices. The Brazilian tourism regulation board imposes specific minimum attributes for each type of facility, but as the 1-5 star rating is no longer enforced, check in advance if your hotel provides the kind of services you expect.

Pousada means guesthouse (the local equivalent of a French auberge or a British boarding house), and are usually simpler than hotels, and will offer fewer services (room service, laundry etc.). Pousadas are even more widespread than hotels.

In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas, which are ranches with guest facilities. In small towns of Minas Gerais people are fond of hotéis-fazenda (farm hotels) where you can swim, ride, walk, play football, and camp as well as sleep in picturesque barracks. Also there is great fun in going on a boat hotel which will take you to inaccessible places on the rivers and lakes for great fishing trips or for simply relaxing and watching and photographing the wildlife which is very abundant in the Pantanal. The boats are large, safe, and comfortable with air-conditioned rooms (very necessary). Several small aluminum boats with outboard motor, carried by the boat hotel, driven by experienced fisher/guide will take 2 or 3 tourists to the best "points".

Youth hostels are increasingly common in most places.




Brazil's national booze is cachaça, a 40% sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. It can be tried in virtually every bar in the country. Famous producing regions include Minas Gerais, where there are tours of distilleries, and the city of Paraty. Pirassununga is home to Caninha 51, Brazil's best-selling brand.

Drinking cachaça straight, or stirring in only a dollop of honey or a bit of lime juice, is a common habit on the Northeast region of the country, but the strength of cachaça can be hidden in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, where it is mixed with sugar, lime juice and ice. Using vodka instead of cachaça is nicknamed caipiroska or caipivodka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima; and with sake it's a caipisaque (not in every region).

Beer in Brazil has a respectable history because of the German immigrants. Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be way less thick and bitter than German, Danish or English beer. More than 90% of all beer consumed in Brazil is Pilsner, and it is usually drunk very cold (at a temperature close to 0 °C). The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica, and Skol.

Rio Grande do Sul is the leading wine production region. There are a number of wine-producing farms that are open to visitors and wine tasting, and wine cellars selling wine and fermented grape juice. One of these farms open to visitors is Salton Winery, located in the city of Bento Gonçalves. The São Francisco Valley, along the border of the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, is the country's newest wine-producing region. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines.

Brazil is known world-wide for its high-quality strong coffee. Café is so popular that it can name meals: breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã (morning coffee), while café com pão (coffee with bread) or café da tarde (afternoon coffee) means a light afternoon meal. Cafezinho (small coffee) is a small cup of strong, sweetened coffee usually served after meals in restaurants (sometimes for free, just ask politely). Bottled filtered coffee is being replaced by stronger espresso cups in more upscale restaurants.

Mate is an infusion similar to tea that is very high in caffeine content. A toasted version, often served chilled, is consumed all around the country, while Chimarrão (incidentally called mate in neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries) is the hot, bitter equivalent that can be found in the south and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos (Rio Grande do Sul dwellers). Tererê is a cold version of Chimarrão, common in Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso state.

Guaraná is a carbonated soft drink made from the guaraná berry, native to the Amazon area. The major brands are Antarctica and Kuat, the latter owned by Coke.




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.



Keep Connected


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.

For sending packages internationally, you can also used competitively priced private companies like TNT, UPS or DHL. They are generally much quicker and not much more expensive.



  1. 1 Road Conditions
  2. 2 Banco Central Real Notes
  3. 3

Quick Facts

Brazil flag

Map of Brazil


Local name
Federal Republic
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant)
Brazilian Real (BRL)
Calling Code
Time Zone
UTC -2 to -5


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Brazil Travel Helpers

  • Utrecht

    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 Utrecht a question about Brazil
  • csfreixo

    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 csfreixo a question about Brazil
  • Leti Levy

    I am a Brazilian and know quite well my Country. There are a lot of concerns of the travellers when coming to South America specially to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I would be very helpful on dismistifing all bad things people here abroad about us, besides revealing the beauties of our region.

    Ask Leti Levy a question about Brazil
  • aitor

    Travelled in 2002. Sao Paulo, Florianopolis, Iguaçu and Rio de Janeiro.

    Ask aitor a question about Brazil
  • thespis

    I am professional travel consultant, Brazil specialist, and I know almost all Brazilian states

    Ask thespis a question about Brazil

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This is version 142. Last edited at 8:31 on May 2, 19 by Utrecht. 167 articles link to this page.

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