Brazil can truly be called a land of passion - the people of Brazil are young, vibrant, energetic, and full of an irrepressible zest for life. To get a true sense of the essence that is Brazil you absolutely have to visit during the Carnival.
Brazil is a country of great diversity, from the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Alagoas, Pernambuco, and Bahia, the wilderness of the Amazon rain-forest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil. The thick Amazon forests, the pristine tropical beaches, the long winding rivers, and the people themselves make Brazil a land full of beautiful mystery and wonderful surprises. Brazil is a young country and promises to be an exciting one.
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BRAZIL QUICK FACTS
Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL)
Area: 8,514,877 km² - Occupying almost half the continent, Brazil is the largest country in South America. It ranks fifth largest in area and sixth in population when compared to other countries in the world. Distances in Brazil are enormous and should not be underestimated when travelling.
Population: 209,500,000 (2018 estimate) - Its population is over half that of all of South America ---over 65% of the population is below 30 years of age.
Language: official: Portuguese; recognised in some States: Talian, Pomeranian, Hunsrik, and German; also spoken: +180 indigenous languages, English, and Spanish.
Religion: Roman Catholic 64.6%, Protestant 22.2%, none 8.0% (2010 Census)
Electricity: In Brazil there is no standard voltage. Most federative units (about 60 percent of all Brazilian households) use 127 V electricity (North American plug), but some other – mainly northeastern – states are on 220 V ( European plug).
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BRAZIL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
21 April, Tiradentes Day
1 May, Labor Day
7 September, Independence Day
12 October, Our Lady Aparecida
1 November, All Saints Day*
2 November, All Souls Day
15 November, Republic Day
8 December, Immaculate Conception
* All Saints Day is not an official holiday but may be taken, especially in villages.
Although Carnival is only 5 days long officially, it may be difficult to do business during the whole of Lent due to the combination of Carnival and school holidays. Also, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Corpus Christi.
FESTIVALS IN BRAZIL
The biggest party in the world takes place across the country every year, lasting almost a week in February or early March. It is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, from the giants boneco masks of Olinda and the trios elétricos of Salvador to the massive samba parades of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. For a relatively more subdued atmosphere, check out the university-style street party of Ouro Preto or the sporty beach party at Ilha do Mel.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BRAZIL
Brazil is one of the biggest countries in the world, so it is only natural that the climate systems would vary from location to location. Nearly 59% of the Amazon, the largest humid equatorial rain-forest and river basin in the world are in Brazil, contributing to the country’s rich biodiversity, various climates, and extraordinary wealth of ecosystems. Within the Amazon Basin, the average temperature is 27.9˚C during the dry season and 25.8˚C during the rainy season. The Amazon region surrounding the mouth of the Amazon River experiences an excess of 3,000 mm of rainfall annually, whereas the northwestern region of the Brazilian Amazon is drier, with annual rainfall between 1,500 and 1,700 mm.
The peak tourist season is the summertime (December till March) at which time in most of Brazil it is very hot and the temperature may rise upwards of 40 degrees Celsius. The summer is also considered the wet season. During winter months (June and August) usually one experiences cool temperature and a fair amount of rain.
This peak holiday season starts before Christmas and lasts until Carnival (which usually is held in February through March) and this season tends to be incredibly crowded. Booking for accommodation and flight should be done well in advance if you plan on visiting during this time. In addition, the prices also tend to be much higher during the New Year’s and Carnival season.
Another ideal time to visit Brazil and enjoy its pleasant weather is during the spring season of September till mid-November, as well as the autumn season which occurs right after the carnival, between March till May. Visiting during these months is recommended as prices tend to be lower and you may avoid the throngs of crowds.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
HIKING & CYCLING IN BRAZIL
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Brazil throughout the year. The peak season is from December to March although this is also the hottest and wettest time of the year! May to November are significantly drier and there will be less tourists.
BEACH OPTIONS IN BRAZIL
You can visit Brazil's beautiful beaches any time of the year, although the busiest peak tourist season is between December and March.
SURFING IN BRAZIL
Brazil is a year round surfing destination. The surf season in Southern Brazil is best from April to September, while in Northern Brazil it's best from November to March.
KITESURF IN BRAZIL
Brazil is a true kitesurfing paradise with some of the world’s best waves and many flat water lagoons. You should find good wins from June to February with winds almost guaranteed from July to January.
For more details on kite surfing in Brazil expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN BRAZIL
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
BRAZIL TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of living in Brazil is low outside the main tourist spots, and even within them shopping around can lower costs a lot. Europeans will mostly think Brazil cheap, North Americans a little less so but still comparing favourably with the US for most things. However, Brazil is one of the most expensive countries in South America, and you will find that prices depend on where in the country you are, and what kind of activities you’re doing. Brazil’s main cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo will always be more expensive than rural areas (unless you’re seeking out less touristy locales), and tour styles will also influence how much you spend. Particularly reasonable are hotels (except in Rio), foodstuffs (including eating out), and bus travel, while most museums are free.
BRAZIL TRAVEL TIPS
On the whole, Brazil is very much a viable destination for the budget traveller. The cheapness of food and budget hotels – and the fact that the best attractions, such as the beaches, are free – still make it possible to have an enjoyable time on a budget of less than $25 USD a day. Staying in good hotels, travelling by comfortable buses or planes, and not stinting on the extras is likely to cost you around $80 USD a day.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BRAZIL
Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil) is the largest country in South America and the fifth-largest in the world. Brazil is famous for its football (soccer) tradition and its annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, and Olinda. It is a country of great diversity, from the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Alagoas, Pernambuco, and Bahia, the wilderness of the Amazon rain-forest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil.
For a taster of Brazil's most iconic sights and cities travel from south (Rio) to north (Bahia):
Rio de Janeiro - One of the world’s truly great cities, with mind-blowing views seemingly at every corner, and legendary beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema.
Paraty - Travel along the coast to this picturesque colonial town, crammed with enticing pousadas and restaurants.
São Paulo - Don’t skip Brazil’s largest city; it might appear intimidating, but it contains the best restaurants, art galleries, and museums in the country.
Iguaçu Falls - Stand in awe at the world’s largest waterfall, a vast series of cascades plunging along the Rio Iguazu.
Ouro Preto - Fly up to Belo Horizonte, the gateway to the pretty colonial hill towns of Minas Gerais: if you have time for only one, this is it, a beguiling collection of steep cobbled streets and elegant Baroque churches.
Brasília - Take a flight up to Brazil’s capital city, a remarkable monument to the vision of iconic architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Salvador - Head back to the coast to soak up the sun, rhythms, and flavours of the Afro-Brazilian capital of the nation. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this gorgeous city, with its romantic colonial remnants, exotic food, capoeira, and famously musical citizens.
Morro de São Paulo - End your tour on the beach, at one of Brazil’s most fashionable and fun resort towns, just south of Salvador.
Hot, sultry, rich in history, culture and some of the greatest music made in Brazil, the Northeast is perhaps the most beguiling part of Brazil.
Praia do Francês - Close to the congenial resort city of Maceió, this is a fabulous, chilled-out beach backed with excellent places to eat and drink.
Porto de Galinhas - Transformed from a sleepy port town to hip resort in just a few years, with a hypnotic strip of perfect white sand and a party crowd at night.
Olinda - Brazil’s picture-perfect colonial enclave is a languid, liberal ensemble of Baroque architecture, art galleries and live music.
Praia da Pipa - Soak up Brazil’s most fashionable beach scene, enhanced by dreamy beaches, pristine lagoons and rich marine life, including dolphins.
Natal - From this lively coastal city – a hub for music and dance – you can explore hundreds of kilometres of wide, dune-backed beaches by 4WD or beach buggy.
Jericoacoara - This low-key backpacker village in the dunes is far less isolated than it used to be, but just as compelling, with quality surf, wind and lagoons to lounge next to the top draw.
Parque Nacional dos Lençóis - It’s worth making the effort to reach this spectacular national park, a vast area of untouched sand dunes studded with crystal-clear pools.
São Luís - End up at this steamy colonial relic, its opulent azulejo-smothered mansions half crumbling but filled with vibrant bars, museums and galleries.
Floating down the Amazon has been a romantic dream of travellers for centuries, and though the journey is a lot easier (and safer) today, it still requires some planning and patience. Take your time and make these stops along the way.
Belém - The gateway to the Amazon basin is a surprisingly intriguing old city of museums, mango trees, live music and craft beer.
Ilha do Marajó - This vast island at the end of the Amazon delta remains well off the beaten track, with wild, untouched beaches and herds of water buffalo.
Alter do Chão - This remote Amazon town is the home – bizarrely – of a wonderful white-sand beach and a wildlife-rich lagoon surrounded by jungle.
Floresta Nacional do Tapajós - Take a trip from Santarém to this tropical sanctuary along the Rio Tapajós, noted for its jungle trails and mammoth samaúma trees.
Rio Amazonas - If you haven’t done so already, hop on an iconic Amazon riverboat at Santarém for the two-day journey into the heart of the jungle at Manaus.
Manaus - The capital of Amazonia is home to the incredibly opulent (and incongruous) Teatro Amazonas, a host of creative restaurants and numerous jungle tour operators.
Jungle-Tripping - Manaus is the perfect base from which to organize excursions into the surrounding jungle, with stays in romantic forest lodges or on riverboats.
Acre - The wild, untrammelled jungles of Acre, on the Bolivian border, are prime wildlife territory – make sure you take a balloon ride over the forest to soak it all up.
Amazon Rain-forest - The Amazon River Basin holds more than half of the world's remaining rain-forest, and over 60% of that lies within the North of Brazil — approximately one billion acres. The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, over 40 000 plants species, 2200 fish species, and more than 2,000 types of birds and mammals. One in five of all the bird species in the world live in the rain-forests of the Amazon, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams.
Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) - A region of tropical and subtropical forest which extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the Northeast to the Rio Grande do Sul state in the South. The Atlantic Forest has a wide variety of vegetation, including the many tree species such as the iconic araucaria tree in the south or the mangroves of the northeast, dozens of types of bromeliads and orchids, and unique critters such as capivara. The forest has also been designated a World Biosphere Reserve, with a large number of highly endangered species including the well-known marmosets, lion tamarins and woolly spider monkeys. Unfortunately, it has been extensively cleared since colonial times, mainly for the farming of sugar cane and for urban settlements — The remnants are estimated to be less than 10% of the original, and that is often broken into hilltop islands. However, large swaths of it are protected by hundreds of parks, including 131 federal parks, 443 state parks, and 14 municipal parks, most of which are open to visitation.
Pantanal - A vast tropical wetland expanse, one of the world's largest, sprawling over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres. 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping support a dense array of animal species.
Waterfalls (Cachoeiras) - Brazil has an amazing range of impressive waterfalls of all sizes and shapes. Iguaçu Falls, in eastern Parana, is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, truly a sight to see. The 353-meter Cachoeira da Fumaça in Bahia's Chapada Diamantina National Park is the country's second-highest waterfall after the Amazon's almost inaccessible Cachoeira do Araca. Other famous waterfalls include Caracol Falls, in the Rio Grande do Sul state park of the same name near Canela, Itaquira Falls, an easily accessible 168-meter fall near Formosa, Goiás, and the gorge at Parque da Cascata near Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais. Aside from the nationally famous falls, in many parts of the country, particularly the South, Southeast, and Central West regions, you are rarely far from at least one locally-famous, named waterfall worth a short hike.
Almost the entire coast of Brazil is lined with fabulous beaches, and the beach lifestyle is a big part of Brazilian culture. Nowhere is that more true than in Rio de Janeiro, with its laid-back, flip-flop-footed lifestyle and famous beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana. Beaches in other areas of the country may not have the instant name recognition but are no less amazing. The Northeast has jewels like Jericoacoara, Praia do Futuro, Boa Vista, Porto de Galinhas, and Morro de São Paulo which bring in throngs of travellers, particularly Europeans. In the South, weekend revellers flock to Ilha do Mel or Balneário Camboriú, while the 42 beaches of Santa Catarina Island draw in thousands of Argentinian tourists every year.
LGBTQ IN BRAZIL
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Brazil are among the most advanced in Latin America and the world. Same-sex unions had already been legally recognised since 2004 and LGBT people have been having marriage rights in Brazil nationwide since May 2013.
Today same-sex relationships are widely accepted and Brazil proudly hosts the annual São Paulo Gay Pride Parade.
WHERE TO STAY IN BRAZIL
Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Authority, which rates the hotels from five to one star, regulates most hotels in Brazil. These hotels must have a price list with an Embratur label. Even so, you could strike a good deal by bargaining directly. Look around for at least one YHA (youth hostel association) hostel in state capitals and tourist areas. If you’re not a YHA member, you pay more. Dormitories are the cheapest places to stay and motels are ideal for couples - there is no stigma attached and staying there is good value for money.