Traveling to Brazil: Advice for Planning Your Trip

Warm beaches, adventure-filled jungles, and fast-paced metropolises. Brazil is such a diverse country with plenty to offer. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip!

Finding Plane Tickets

Plane tickets to Brazil can be expensive! We suggest starting your search 4 – 6 months in advance and being flexible. Play around with the dates and the airports on Google Flights. This year, we’ve seen tickets from Miami to Fortaleza for about $350 round trip during May and June, and we’ve seen tickets from Salt Lake City to São Paulo for $500 round trip during May. Last year, we found tickets between Salt Lake City and Manaus for $650 round trip June – August.

Documentation and Vaccinations

  • Valid Passport
  • Visa: As of June 2019, if you are from the USA you don’t need to get a tourist visa!
  • Vaccinations: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid (either a shot that lasts two years or oral pills that last 5 years). Rabies is also recommended for long term travels but not required.

Learn a bit of Portuguese

You will be able to get by in the larger cities and more touristy areas of Brazil with English or sometimes Spanish, but it is very helpful to know at least a little bit of Portuguese. I was far from fluent by the time we arrived, but the study tools listed below helped me get to point where I could chat a bit with our Airbnb host, go grocery shopping, and use public transportation by myself.

  • Mango Languages was most helpful to learn conversational Portuguese. This really helped me prepare to have small, simple conversations with our Airbnb host and helped me feel more comfortable using public transportation. It also has cultural notes which are both interesting and helpful. You might be able to get a free account through your local library (or university if you’re a student).
  • Memrise is helpful for building your vocabulary.
  • Language Learning with Netflix. This Chrome extension lets you watch Netflix with two sets of subtitles. It works best with Brazilian movies or TV shows (our favorite is 3%), but it can be used with any show that offers Portuguese audio or subtitles. This is a great option once you are at an intermediate level in Portuguese.
  • Practice and be patient with yourself! Learning a language means that you will have to invest some time into it and that you will make mistakes! Don’t get discouraged by the mistakeslearn from them!

Booking a Place to Stay

  • If you are going to the southern part of Brazil during May – August (winter in the southern hemisphere), try to book a place with heated water. Taking cold showers in 40° weather is no fun. If you booked a place that claims to have heated water but it’s still cold for you, don’t turn the faucet all the way on.
  • If you’re visiting the north or northeast regions of Brazil, we wouldn’t worry too much about heated water. It’s always hot in those two regions of Brazil.
  • Book a place with reviews. If it’s a newer listing or only as one or two reviews, be sure to message the owner before booking. We were surprised how many times the owner told us the place actually wasn’t available after we had messaged them. If there are reviews from foreigners, they will often give helpful indicators of how safe the area felt for them.

Safety

Brazil tends to be an overlooked tourist destination in part due to safety concerns. We never felt in danger while we were there, so this shouldn’t be a reason to dissuade you from visiting this beautiful country! That being said, here are some travel safety tips:

  • Be careful with your cell phone! I can’t tell you how many times people would tell me to not have my cell phone out because it wasn’t safe…. If you go to a market, you will see many “used” (i.e. stolen) cell phones for sale. If you are not careful, your cellphone could end up in one of those stands. My husband bought a cheap cell phone to use during the trip and left his iPhone at home. I brought my phone, but I avoided using it in public.
  • Dress to blend, not to impress. If you stand out and your clothing looks noticeably nicer or wealthier than that of the people around, that makes you a preferred target. I left my wedding ring at home and didn’t bring my nice purse. The standard will change depending on what city you are in. What will make you stand out in Belém might not be considered as ostentatious in São Paulo.
  • Seperate your cash. Don’t have all your cash and cards in one spot. Split it up into different pockets and areas in your purse/bag. Keep a bit of “thief money” separated from everything else.
  • Don’t leave your things unattended at the beach. When we went swimming, we would generally go to the beach with nothing but our house keys and a canga (a light blanket that can also be used as a cover-up, scarf, towel, and whatever else you can think of. Much more commonly used than a towel at Brazilian beaches.)
  • Be extra cautious at night. Subways tend to be safer than buses. Stay where there are other people around.

Getting Around

  • In the larger cities such as São Paulo and Rio, we loved using the Metro. They run on regular schedules (about every 10 minutes) and cost only about $1-2 USD.
  • During the daytime, we also used the buses. The app Moovit is the most helpful and reliable way to look up bus schedules. You can also take intercity buses as a cheaper option than planes to travel around Brazil.
  • When traveling at night or when we had our luggage with us, we used Uber.
  • Blablacar is another cheap option to travel to different cities. It is similar to Uber, except for longer distances. Drivers post their trips and prices, and you can reserve your seats in advance. We were able to take a Blablacar from São Paulo to Rio for about $20 each.

Top Places to Visit

  • Rio de Janeiro. There’s a reason this city is the icon of Brazil. There are many gorgeous parts of the city and so much to do here. People often talk about how dangerous it is, but that’s mostly because of the favelas in the north part of the city. If you stick to the touristy areas (generally in the south part of Rio), you should be fine. (Keep your eye out for our upcoming travel guide for Rio! We’ll have it up this summer.)
View of Rio from Pão de Açúcar
  • Iguazu Falls ( Foz de Iguaçu). This natural wonder of the world is located in the south of Brazil bordering Argentina. The falls are breathtaking and well worth the trip. Click here to read our full guide to Iguazu Falls!
Iguazu Falls
  • The Amazon Rainforest. We went camping in the rainforest with Jaguar Amazon Tours. The company is small and local, and it was one of our favorite adventures in Brazil. It’s located in Manaus, which is also a fun city to explore!
We got to see and hold actual sloths while in the rainforest!
  • São Paulo. Ranked as the 11th largest city in the world and the largest city in the Americas, São Paulo should be high on your list if you are planning a trip to Brazil. It is a diverse city with amazing Italian food and great sushi. We enjoyed the many interesting museums, such as the São Paulo Museum of Art. Read our full guide to São Paulo here.
  • Salvador. Warm beaches and colorful cities, Salvador is known for its mixture of Brazilian and African cultures. Located in the state of Bahia in the north-eastern part of Brazil
Salvador

Off the Beaten Path

  • Belém. The port city at the juncture of the Amazon river with the Atlantic ocean in the north of Brazil, Belem is an overlooked gem in the Amazon rainforest. It offers various attractions including the Ver-o-Peso (Latin America’s largest open air market) and the Mangal das Garças. Be sure to sample the freshest açaí or cupuaçu available anywhere, but take extra caution due to the high rate of crime.
  • Gramado. A little piece of Europe in Brazil. It feels like a small German town turned into a tourist attraction. A really popular honeymoon destination for Brazilians, Gramado is known for its cheese and chocolates. Canela is the neighboring town with a gorgeous stone church that is worth a visit!
  • Olinda. Darling town located outside of Recife in the northeast region of Brazil. Famous for their carnival celebrations, it also offers warm beaches and gorgeous roads with colorful houses.

Packing List

  • Rain Jacket. It can be pretty rainy in many parts of Brazil. My husband and I love Columbia’s Arcadia II Jacket. It is lightweight and keeps you dry!
  • If you are planning on visiting the south of Brazil, comfy rain boots are very useful! It can get pretty chilly during the winter, so it’s nice to be able to wander around without having to worry about wet socks. I bought these from Target for and wore them almost everyday while we were in the South!
  • If you are going to the north or northeast regions of Brazil, bring comfortable walking sandals. I wore my Chacos almost everyday in northern Brazil.
  • If you are planning on hiking in the rainforest, be sure to bring hiking pants. Leggings will NOT cut it. Your bum and legs will be eaten alive by mosquitos if you wear leggings.
  • Adapter. Amazon sells them for pretty cheap. Click here to get three for $5.99
  • Bug spray is handy to have, but I didn’t need to use it in the larger cities.
  • Dry shampoo. This is a must for me whenever we’re traveling. It’s nice for those days when you’re in a rush and don’t have time to dry your hair.

Boa sorte com sua viagem!

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