By Oliver Lynch
Ah! Brazil… Land of carnivals, the Amazon, football and beautiful beaches! This stunning country is a diverse melting pot of cultures and is renowned as a party hotspot. Whatever you’re looking for from your visit, you will find it in this incredible country.
There is a lot to see and do in Brazil, and if you are heading there for the first time, it pays to know a few things in advance to prepare yourself.
1. Brazil is Big
Like, really big! The country is split into 5 time zones and overland journeys can take a lot of time. Trying to everything in a small amount of time would be tiring and expensive, so focus on a particular region if your Brazil tour is time bound. You’ll find plenty to experience in Rio de Janeiro state alone, or if you want to do a guided tour of the Amazon, you’ll find many of opportunities to hire a local guide from Manaus.
2. Brazilians are Very Religious
Christianity is the dominant religion in Brazil, specifically Catholicism. Huge cathedrals dominate Brazilian towns, and one can spot the saints or images of the Holy Mother & Child all across the land. Be sure to respect the local culture, as you would anywhere else in the world, to avoid offending sensibilities.
3. Football is the Other Major Religion
Football (or soccer) might be more important to Brazilians than their religion, well, at least for some of them anyway. You’ll see impromptu games played everywhere, from beaches to forest clearings to hillsides. A great way to experience the passion and fervour for the ‘beautiful game’ is to join the locals cheering for their team. Domestically, the big clubs are Corinthians, Flamengo, Fluminense, and Santos - but pick any local team and enjoy the carnival vibe in the stadium. Football tours are available in various Brazilian cities including Rio de Janeiro. These include a visit to the big game with a local tour guide and offer a great way to get a real understanding of the fan's perspective.
4. Brazil Speaks Portuguese
The world’s largest Lusophone country (as Portuguese speaking nations are called), Brazilians rarely speak English, especially away from the big tourist centres. Spanish is a second language for many, but that too can be rare. To get the best out of travelling in Brazil be sure to swot up on a bit of the language. Using a local guide in the places you’re heading to will help blend into the culture, as your guide will typically act as a translator too.
5. The Crime Rate
News reports would have you think that the whole country is run by gangs and that you’ll be robbed as soon as you get off the plane! Like any country, there are dangerous areas (of course) and taking sensible precautions are recommended. As a tourist, being careful with your belongings and the display of wealth is the primary concern. Urban areas are the most dangerous where petty crime is likely. Avoid leaving expensive equipment like cameras, phones, or laptops unattended or on display. A majority of visitors to Brazil leave the country with great memories! Listen to local advice about dangerous places and use the safe in your hotel whenever possible.
6. There’s More to Brazil Than Rio
No question, Rio de Janeiro is a stunning city that will capture the hearts of any visitor. Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema beach, the Maracana stadium - these are global icons and some of the best places to visit in Brazil. But the scale of the country means the variety of landscapes is immense; from the tropical flavour of the Amazon, to Iguazu falls and the stunning north coast of Brazil with its Caribbean vibe.
Florianopolis is an island city fringed with over 40 fantastic beaches and makes a great Rio alternative. Likewise, Salvador and Recife are some of the best cities for the carnival, especially if you’re looking for a more authentic and less touristy experience. There is so much to see and do that you’ll be hard-pressed to cram it all in. The best idea is to focus on what you want from your visit to Brazil and plan your travel itinerary to maximise your interests. Using local tour guides will enable you to make the most of your time in many of these places too.
7. Don’t Forget your Visa
Some countries will need a visa to enter Brazil, which you’ll need to get before you arrive from a Brazilian consulate. EU citizens can pick up a tourist visa on arrival, but American, Australian and Canadian citizens will need to get an electronic visa waiver before they arrive. Brazilian visa requirements are a little unorthodox, so check with your local consulate before you visit.
8. Daily Budget
Brazil is not a cheap country to visit; it is easily on a par with mid-range European destinations. In fact, most will say a daily budget of US$50 is about right for backpacking, including around US$15 for a hostel in the big cities.
9. Brazilians are Very Friendly!
Some people are surprised by how friendly and flamboyant the Brazilian people can be. Expect kisses on cheeks, strangers talking to you, and invites to dine or drink with people you only just met. Embrace it! Brazilians are a sociable bunch, so go with an open mind and a smile on your face to get the best out of this country and its culture.
10. The Climate Varies Hugely
Most of Brazil is humid and subtropical with lots of sunshine. But regular heavy rains are typical, especially in the areas around the Amazon and cities like Recife. Further south in Curitiba or Porto Alegre, expect a more Mediterranean climate, with chilly winters and warm summers. Even beach paradise Rio gets cold, so if you’re heading to the country between April to October, remember to bring a jacket.
Oliver Lynch is a London based writer who travels as often as possible, usually for some kind of crazy adventure like exploring a jungle or going snowboarding.
Image details and licenses: https://flic.kr/p/6mVufB (a l o b o s, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)