BRAZIL TRAVEL GUIDE
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
- Capital: Brasilia
- 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) - Its population is over half that of all of South America and 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 north-eastern – 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
- Carnival - (February) 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.
- Semana Santa - (March) Throughout Latin America, Holy Week is celebrated with fervour. In Quito (Ecuador), purple-robed penitents parade through the streets on Good Friday, while Ouro Prêto (Brazil) features streets ‘painted’ with flowers. Ayacucho hosts Peru’s most colourful Semana Santa, culminating in an all-night street party before Easter.
- Bumba Meu Boi - (June) This traditional fest, celebrated across Brazil’s Maranhão region in late June, blends African, indigenous and Portuguese traditions. Hundreds of troupes take to the streets in São Luís, dancing, singing and re-enacting one of the region’s great creation myths.
- Sao Paulo Pride - São Paulo throws the largest gay-pride parade on the planet, attracting some three million people. There are street fairs, concerts, film screenings and exhibitions in the days leading up to the big parade – which usually happens on Sunday in mid-June.
- Cirio de Nazaré - (October) Belém’s enormous annual event brings one million to the streets to take part in the procession of one of Brazil’s most important icons. Fireworks, hymns and one massive flower-bedecked carriage creaking through the throngs are all part of this wild spiritual gathering.
- Oktoberfest - Celebrating the historical legacy of Brazil’s substantial German immigrant population, Oktoberfest features 17 days of folk music, dancing and beer drinking. It’s considered the largest German fest in the Americas and goes down in mid-October in Blumenau.
- Carnatal - Brazil’s biggest ‘off-season Carnaval’ is this Salvador-style festival held in Natal in December. It features raucous street parties and thumping trios elétricos (amplified bands playing atop mobile-speaker trucks). You can get in on the fun by joining one of the blocos (drumming and dancing processions).
- Reveillon - There are many great spots in South America to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but Rio is a perennial favourite. Some two million revellers, dressed in white to bring good luck, pack the sands of Copacabana Beach to watch fireworks light up the night sky.
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 28˚C during the dry season and 26˚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 north-western 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.
- December to February - Summer sizzles in the lead-up to Carnaval. Rainy season in the Amazon.
- September to November - Crowds dissipate as spring brings serenity and pleasant temperatures.
- March to June - Low season offers good-value travel, moderate temperatures and a sunny Northeast.
An 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.
BRAZIL WEATHER SYNOPSIS
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. Brazil’s climate varies from equatorial in the north to temperate in the south. Nearly 59% of the Amazon, the largest humid equatorial rain-forest and river basin in the world, is 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.
BRAZIL TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN BRAZIL
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 find Brazil cheap, North Americans a little less so but it still compares favourably with the US in most aspects. However, Brazil is one of the more expensive countries in South America, and you will find that prices also 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 your preferred travel / tour style will also influence how much you spend. Particularly reasonable are hotels (except for in Rio), foodstuffs (including eating out), and bus travel, while most museums are free.
How To Stick to a Budget:
Slow down - stick around and enjoy a place rather than rushing off to the next destination. The further and faster you go, the more you’ll have to pay.
Eat like a local at street stalls or markets.
Opt for dorm rooms or share a room with a buddy.
Stay in fan (non-air-con) rooms with shared bathroom.
Travel overland instead of flying.
Book flights online (and bus tickets where possible) rather than paying an agent commission.
BRAZIL TRAVEL TIPS
Rio de Janeiro doesn’t have to be an expensive destination. There are hostels aplenty, cheap caipirinhas served right on the beach, and plenty of free amusements (live music at sidewalk cafes, free exhibitions at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and great people-watching at the outdoor street party in Lapa on weekends).
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.
Due to the great distances in Brazil, the occasional flight can be a necessity, and may not cost much more than a long-haul bus journey. If you intend to take more than just a couple of flights, a Brazil Airpass will probably save you money but make sure to compare options.
Bus services in Brazil are generally excellent. Departure times are usually strictly adhered to, and most of the buses are clean, comfortable and well-serviced Mercedes, Volvo and Scania vehicles. All major cities are linked by frequent buses – one leaves every 15 minutes from Rio to São Paulo during peak hours – and there is a surprising number of long-distance buses. Every big city, and most small ones, has at least one main long-distance bus station, known as a rodoviária (ho-do-vi-ah-ree-ya).
Use a ride-sharing app (like Uber, 99Taxis or Easy Taxi) to get around major towns and cities. It's generally faster and cheaper than using a traditional taxi.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BRAZIL
- Rio de Janeiro - Fall under the seductive spell of Rio amid the whirlwind of wild samba clubs, sizzling sands and soaring peaks.
- Iguaçu Falls - Witness the ferocious roar of these jaw-dropping waterfalls.
- Fernando de Noronha - Wiggle yourself comfortable into some of the world’s most pristine sands.
- Amazon Jungle - Spy on pointy-toothed piranhas and glowing caiman eyes while on a cruise of the mighty Amazon.
- Ouro Prêto - Meander along cobblestones in this cinematic colonial mountain town.
- Salvador - Follow delirious drumbeats through the colonial center during its regular evening street parties.
- Pantanal - Snap away at spectacular wildlife at the home of some of Brazil’s best wildlife watching.
- Bonito - Snorkel crystal-clear rivers, hike through forests, explore caves and relax in cooling waterfalls.
- Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina - Hike the surreal landscapes of this dramatic national park.
Start off in the Cidade Maravilhosa, aka Rio de Janeiro and spend two days taking in grand views from the forested mountaintops overlooking the city (atop Pão de Açúcar and Cristo Redentor). Make sure to leave time for relaxing on Ipanema Beach, biking along Copacabana Beach and strolling through the historic center. For some real local flavour take in a samba club in Lapa one evening. On days three and four, fly up to Salvador for a heady dose of Afro-Brazilian culture. Check out the brightly painted colonial buildings of the Pelourinho, take in a sparkling dance performance of the Balé Folclórico da Bahia and feast on seafood at Pelô Bistrô. On your fifth day, make a day trip out to Morro de São Paulo for a slice of tropical, car-free paradise. Beat the sunrise for an early-morning flight down to Iguaçu Falls (via São Paulo). Spend the first day exploring the Brazilian side of the majestic waterfalls. On your last day, cross to the Argentine side for a walk through rainforest and a boat trip near the thundering falls.
For a taster of Brazil's most iconic sights and cities travel from south (Rio) to north (Bahia):
Rio de Janeiro - Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fuelled nightlife and spectacular football matches.
Paraty - Travel along the coast to this picturesque colonial town, crammed with enticing pousadas and restaurants.
São Paulo - Brazil’s largest city 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 trip on the beach, at one of Brazil’s most fashionable and fun resort towns, just south of Salvador.
RIO DE JANEIRO
One of the world’s truly great cities, with mind-blowing views seemingly at every corner. Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fuelled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City).
- Boasting magnificent beaches and pleasant tree-lined streets, Ipanema and Leblon are Rio’s loveliest destinations and the favoured residence for young, beautiful (and wealthy) cariocas.
- Once a destination for international jet-setters, Copacabana is the city’s somewhat ragged tourist magnet, with dozens of oceanfront hotels and sidewalk restaurants.
- Just north of Copacabana, Botafogo and Humaitá are desirable neighbourhoods with vibrant nightlife and cutting-edge restaurants. Urca retains a peaceful vibe, and is famed for Sugarloaf Mountain, which shadows its quiet streets.
- To the north of Botafogo, residential neighbourhoods include low-key Flamengo, leafy Laranjeiras and, further west, Cosme Velho, above which looms Cristo Redentor.
- Lapa is a ramshackle district that’s also the epicentre of Rio’s nightlife, with dozens of samba-filled bars and clubs, and late-night street parties.
- Uphill from Lapa, Santa Teresa is a picturesque neighbourhood of winding streets and old mansions that have been restored by the many artists and bohemian characters who have settled there.
- Centro is Rio’s business hub and also one of the city’s oldest areas; it houses baroque churches, historic sites, scenic plazas and lavish theatres. Its wide boulevards are crisscrossed with narrow pedestrian streets sprinkled with colonial buildings.
- Praça Mauá is the center of Rio’s revitalized port district and has some outstanding new museums.
Those who manage to tear themselves away from Rio’s charming clutches will find some of Brazil’s most endearing attractions right in its backyard. Coastal highlights include the Costa do Sol north of Rio, home to the upscale beach resort of Búzios – a weekend city escape for hot-to-trot cariocas; and the spectacular Costa Verde, stretching south from Rio to São Paulo, boasting rainforest-smothered islands (Ilha Grande), beautifully preserved colonial villages (Paraty) and postcard perfect beaches (the whole stretch). Or head inland to the convivial state of Minas Gerais, famous throughout Brazil for its hearty cuisine and friendly population. Here time has frozen colonial-era gold-mining towns such as Ouro Prêto or sleepy villages like Tiradentes, where magical historical delights beckon around every corner. It all culminates in South America’s cultural capital, São Paulo, where you’ll find some of the best museums, nightclubs and restaurants in South America.
Spectacular white-sand beaches, pristine subtropical islands and the thunderous roar of Iguaçu Falls are a few of the attractions of Brazil’s affluent South. While often given short shrift by first-time visitors, the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul offer a radically different version of what it means to be Brazilian. Here gaúchos still cling to the cowboy lifestyle on the wide plains bordering Argentina and Uruguay, while old-world architecture, European style beer, blond hair and blue eyes reveal the influence of millions of German, Italian, Swiss and Eastern European immigrants.
THE CENTRAL WEST
A land of breath-taking panoramas and exceptional wildlife, Brazil’s Central West is a must-see for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Pantanal, one of the planet’s most important wetland systems, is the region’s star attraction. Its meandering rivers, savannas and forests harbour one of the densest concentrations of plant and animal life in the New World. Other regional attractions include dramatic chapadas (tablelands), which rise like brilliant red giants from the dark-green cerrado (savanna), punctuated by spectacular waterfalls and picturesque swimming holes; Bonito, where crystal-clear rivers teeming with fish highlight one of the world’s most unusual natural destinations; and Brazil’s surreal, master-planned capital, Brasília.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
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. More than 2000km of fertile coastline is studded with idyllic white-sand beaches, pockets of lush rainforest, sand dunes and coral reefs. A spectrum of natural environments creates the perfect backdrop for a wide variety of outdoor activities. The picturesque urban centers of Salvador, Olinda and São Luís are packed with beautifully restored and satisfyingly decaying architecture. Add to this the lively festivals, myriad music and dance styles, and exotic cuisine loaded with seafood, and you will find Brazil’s most culturally diverse region.
- Salvador da Bahia - Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, Salvador has an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match.
- 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.
THE NORTH / THE AMAZON
The Amazon usually conjures up a romantic, near-mythical image in our minds, but nowadays the reality is also an urgent one. The future of this immense expanse of rivers and jungle, a vital lung for the world, is of huge importance. The numbers alone are mind-boggling: the Amazon Basin contains six-million sq km of river and jungle, and just over half is in Brazil. It contains 17% of the world’s fresh water, and the main river-flow at its mouth is 12 billion litres per minute.
While you can still have amazing wildlife experiences in the vastness of the forest here, it’s important to realize that pouncing jaguars and bulging anacondas are rare sightings. Nevertheless, a trip into the jungle ecosystem is deeply rewarding, both for wildlife-watching and the chance to appreciate how local communities have adapted to this water world. Manaus is a popular base for river trips, but there are other good possibilities. The main city, Belém, is an appealing launchpad to the region, while the tranquil white sands of Alter do Chão make a peaceful stopover on your way upriver. Nowadays a journey through the Amazon is a lot easier (and safer), 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. Iguazú 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.
WHAT TO EAT IN BRAZIL
Brazilian restaurants generally serve huge portions, and many plates are designed for two – not great for single travellers, as the bill can cost 60% to 70% of the price for two when a portion for one is ordered (though often portions for two can feed three!).
The basic Brazilian diet revolves around arroz (white rice), feijão (black beans) and farofa/farinha (flour from the root of manioc or corn). The typical Brazilian meal, called prato feito (set meal, often abbreviated ‘pf’) or refeição, consists of these ingredients plus either meat, chicken or fish and costs R$12 to R$20 in most eateries. A good option are por kilo (per kilogram) lunch buffets. You serve yourself and pay by the weight: typically between R$45 and R$80 per kilogram, with a big plateful weighing around half a kilo. The fixed-price rodízio meal is another decent deal, and most churrascarias (meat BBQ restaurants) offer rodízio dining, where they bring endless skewers of different meat to your table. Be aware that overcharging and short-changing are almost standard procedure so make sure to check your bill carefully.
- Feijoada - Rich stew of black beans and pork traditionally served on Saturday or Sunday.
- Petiscos - (appetizers) The perfect match to a cold cerveja (beer).
- Agua de coco - (coconut water) Sometimes served straight from the nut.
- Sucos - (juices) Available in myriad flavours at the corner juice bar.
LGBTQ IN BRAZIL
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Brazil are among the most advanced in Latin America and also the world. Brazilians are pretty laid-back when it comes to most sexual issues, and homosexuality is more accepted here than in any other part of Latin America. Same-sex unions had already been legally recognised since 2004 and LGBT people have had marriage rights in Brazil nationwide since May 2013. That said, the degree to which you can be 'out' in Brazil varies greatly by region, and in some smaller towns discrimination is prevalent.
Rio is the gay capital of Latin America, though São Paulo and to a lesser extent Salvador also have lively scenes.
WHERE TO STAY IN BRAZIL
Brazil hotels are among South America’s priciest; a far more charming and local option is a pousada, which typically means a small family-owned inn, though some hotels call themselves pousadas to improve their charm quotient.
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.
RIO - Zona Sul is the chic Rio zone where all the tourist action happens. Ipanema and Leblon are the most appealing Zona Sul neighbourhoods to base yourself. The historic hillside bohemian quarter of Santa Teresa also appeals, and it’s close to nightlife-centric Lapa, though it’s far from the beaches. Other northern neighbourhoods along the metro line (Botafogo, Flamengo and Catete) often have cheaper options than the beachside southern neighbourhoods.
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