Brazil Travel Tips
Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to some of the world’s most metropolitan cities, but this is just the beginning. The world famous Carnival takes place every year where millions dance, samba, and party the days away. Wildlife fans will enjoy exploring the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rainforest, while those who enjoy colonial architecture and historic cities will revel in the chance to visit Salvador. Throw in beaches, soccer, beautiful people, and cheap prices, and it’s pretty easy to convince someone this is a country worth seeing. Also make sure to add several of the dozen World Heritage Sites to your must see list. Brazil sells itself.
Destination Guides for Brazil
Accommodation – You can expect to pay upwards of $20 USD for a dorm room – sometimes cheaper in the countryside, definitely not cheaper in Rio. Private rooms are about triple the price. Small, family owned budget hotels are also widely abundant and cost upwards of $50 USD per night. Serviced apartments typically range from $20-30 USD for your own room in someone’s home via rental sites.
Food – Food is affordable. Small, locally owned restaurants here cost $4 USD for a meal that includes a couple of courses and a drink. Nicer meals at a more casual restaurant with a nicer décor will cost around $10 USD. Grocery shopping is very cheap, just about $30 USD per week. All prices are higher in Rio.
Transportation – Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and comfortable way to travel between regions. Bus tickets cost about $2-3 USD per hour of travel. Check travel distance and times online—going from Rio de Janeiro to the south region could take more than 24 hours, so it may worth going by plane if you can afford it. Train service is limited to the tourist oriented steam train that offers transport in between two important Brazilian tourist towns, Sao Jao del Rei and Tiradentes.
Activities – Attractions are reasonably affordable. Prices for football matches cost upwards of $10 USD per ticket, depending on where you’re seated and entrance to Iguazu Falls is $12 USD. Amazon river cruises cost a few hundred dollars to thousands depending on how long and luxurious they are.
Money Saving Tips
Go off season – Around the Rio Carnival, accommodation prices triple. December to March is also a pretty busy time as people from the Northern hemisphere escape the winter. Try to avoid these dates if you want to keep prices low.
Buddy up – In Brazil, you’ll pay a premium for a single room, almost twice the cost of a double. Pair up with a friend to halve the cost of your accommodation if you’re not keen on staying in a dorm.
Agree on taxi prices - Agree on the price for your journey with the taxi driver before setting off—many drivers will refuse to use their meters and try to rip you off. It’s much better to take a bus most of the time.
Eat Coxinha – These are the perfect snack to keep you going on long bus journeys. They are deep fried chicken pockets and cost just a few cents.
Top Things to See and Do
Fútbol – Soccer is religion here, and going to a match is one of the most entertaining things you can do in Brazil. Maracana is one of the largest stadiums in the world and seats 100,000 supporters. With the 2014 World Cup turning the world’s attention to the country, soccer fever is all the rage. Take in a match if you can.
Rio Carnival – The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous parties in the world. Music and dancing take over the streets with thousands of people enjoying the celebrations before the start of the sombre period of Lent. Prices during this festival triple, and you need to book months in advance, but it’s worth every penny to experience the local flavor.
Rio de Janeiro – Rio is the 5th largest city in the world and has so much to offer visitors that it will take you weeks to scratch the surface. Head up Corcovado to take in the statue of Christ the Redeemer and an amazing view of the city. Additionally, Rio has more museums than you could imagine, as well as endless beaches, parties, food, lively locals, and much more. It’s a great (albeit slightly expensive) city.
Brasilia – Although not as famous as Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia is definitely worth a visit. The city was inaugurated in 1960 and is a masterpiece of modernist architecture, attracting aficionados the world over. The city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Pantanal – These are the largest wetlands in the world, located in the west, stretching into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. As can be expected, the Pantanal is a wildlife watcher’s dream come true. Over 11,000 species of animal live in the wetlands, from the rare Marsh Deer to the Giant Anteater and the Hyacinth Macaw.
Iguacu Fall – Known as ‘Iguazu Falls’ to the Argentines, these magnificent waterfalls lie across the border from Argentina and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The falls are higher than and twice as wide as Niagra Falls and one of the country’s best natural wonders. 450,000 cubic feet of water thunder down the 275 cascades every second.
Amazonia National Park – The Amazon covers 8% of the earth’s surface but is home to 50% of its biodiversity. The Amazonia National Park is almost 40% of the nation’s landmass and perfect for birdwatching, trekking, and kayaking. There are many points of entry, chances to go hiking, camping, and river tours. No trip to Brazil is complete without seeing the Amazon.
Salvador – Visit Brazil’s first city and cultural capital, Salvador on the country’s north east coast. Also known as the ‘capital of happiness’, visitors enjoy the city’s easy going atmosphere and colonial architecture. The colonial center of Perlourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo is the third largest city in the world and the largest in South America, home to over 17 million people. Visitors to this expansive city can enjoy world class nightlife, music and cuisine. While it lacks the charm of Rio, I still like it.
Recife – Recife is home to some of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches and is the second largest city on the country’s northeastern coast. The city’s historical center is extremely beautiful with dozens of restaurants and quaint establishments. Head to nearby Olinda, a colonial city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
Manaus Opera House – The Amazon theatre is located in the heart of Manaus. Built in 1896, it strongly reflects the Italian Renaissance influence from the time. It has been featured in several movies.
Try Dancing Capoeira – This Afro-Brazilian martial art is a “war dance” practiced and performed by thousands of people throughout the country. If you aren’t too embarrassed to try it out, it’s a memorable experience for everyone involved.
The Manaus Municipal Market – Located in Manaus, this building is right on the bank of the Rio Negro and covers 12,000 square meters. Many locals come here for their daily shopping. You can find almost anything you can imagine—fish, caimans, turtles, fruit, wine, and knick-knacks.