Brazil Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Real (R$) (BRL)
🕙Time Zone: -2 to -5 GMT
📞Phone Code: +55
🌐Language: Portuguese (Brazilian dialect)
✈️Best time to visit: Feb for Carnival / Nov-March for beaches / Jun-Oct for culture and sightseeing.
🗺️Don't miss: Views from "Christ the Redeemer" in Rio.
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Brazil is a country of diversity, capturing a great amount of tourism year round because of its sparkling beaches, colourful parades, loud and sensual music, dense jungles, rocky mountain peaks, colourful coral reefs, cultural cities and abundant wildlife: there's little Brazil doesn't offer! However, most of travellers come for the crowded beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema or to visit the isolated villages of the Amazon. Whatever you might seek in a trip, from culture to adventure, Brazil sure offers an exciting plate of choices!
In this country, the urban jungles are just as big an attraction as the natural ones. Cosmopolitan cities like Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Sao Paulo offer visitors a great array of cultural activities, from samba lessons, shopping at markets and designer shops, wandering through museums and art galleries, or eating and drinking the local cuisine, which is well noted, internationally.
The Brazilians are a passionate people who love to have a good time, packing the beaches full on weekends and filling soccer stadiums to capacity for every match. Festivals like the famous (or infamous) Carnaval showcase this love for life, colours and diversity!
Brazil is the biggest country in South America, therefore getting there is quite accessible from multiple countries in Europe, America and even Africa. The main port of entry is Sao Paulo, and Río de Janeiro. However the country has been developing some other major cities and the infrastructure has improved a lot making it possible to launch international flights from smaller Brazilian cities to other south American destinations and North American major cities.
The national airline is LATAM, (formally TAM, after it merged with LAN Chile). It flies to many European and American destinations direct from Sao Paulo. It's also possible to reach Brazil with many other European and American Airlines having at least one daily flight to either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Popular airlines to fly to Brazil are Lufthansa, Iberia and Tap Portugal.
The arrival process is pretty straight forward, as all tourists from Europe or America do not need a visa to enter Brazil.
Once in the country you will find that transportation infrastructure is quite far behind, specially between major cities and smaller towns. The best way of travelling through the country is again by air. Local airlines like Gol Líneas Areas, Azul and domestic national carrier, LATAM, offer many flights to every corner of the country. Flights are cheap if booked in advance and are much safer than spending many hours on the road.
Between important cities you can also travel by bus, thus taking many hours. Some journeys can drive in single lane roads which often are not well paved. Also between smaller towns, roads can often be pumpy and not well conditioned. Specially when travelling the north part of Brazil, mountain regions and away from major metropolis.
❗Attention: Travelling domestically in Brazil is safer the more east of the country you are (down the coast line). All the major cities are also in this area, making it easier to travel to. If you travel West or into the dense rain forest you will find conditions of the infrastructure to be very basic or in some cases, precarious. Some areas can be also completely inhabited with a total lack of communication. It's always recommended to check your destinations in Brazil before travelling and taking navigation aid equipment if you plan to venture into the wild side of the country. Often such trips are better made by tours and with local guides.
❗Attention: Another thing to consider in Brazil are the famous "favelas". These are essentially populated areas over the hills near the cities, with very basic construction materials and whose residents correspond to the lower classes. Unfortunately, there is also lots of gangs, illegal weapon and drug trafficking and dangerous criminals who hide in the favelas. It's strongly advised not to venture inside them, unless you are going with a local who can guarantee your safety and knows their way around.
The vast size of the country means that Brazil has many different climates and depending which season you travel in or to which area you can experience very different temperature. From tropical and humid all year round in the north of Brazil to cold and windy seasons in the south. Make sure to enquire which weather conditions to expect on arrival and check for information depending on the region you are visiting. Check the individual cities guides below for more precise information.
For the most popular destinations, Río and Sao Paulo it's best to visit during from November to March when its hot for the beach high season. In addition, February is a good time to go for the popular Carnivals.
However if you want it cooler and avoid the crowds, then May to July is the best season with milder temperatures, with many visitors still taking a swim!
Reflecting Brazil’s rich cultural mix, its cuisine is similarly diverse and flavoursome. Standards are generally very high, and there are dishes to cater for all tastes and appetites (huge portions in restaurants can usually feed two). European, North American, African, Middle Eastern and Asian foods are widely available in resorts and main cities.
The fruits and plants of the Amazon are widely available, such as the açai berry, served in cafes as a refreshing cool smoothie. Brazil’s African roots are strongest in the northeast, which specialises in spicy seafood stews, enriched with palm oil; while Amazonian freshwater fish are often turned into soups or steamed in palm leaves. Although there is no definitive national dish, the hearty feijoada (a stew of beans, beef and pork) is very popular.
There are many traditional dishes and regional specialities which include:
Feijoada: A rich stew of black beans, beef and pork, which can also contain sausage, pigs' ears and tail, white rice, chopped kale and orange slices, and often washed down with a shot of cachaça. Moqueca: Fish or seafood stew from Bahia made with palm oil and coconut milk. Vatapá: Shrimps and chicken in a creamy sauce made of fish oil, coconut milk, and manioc paste, and served with rice. Acarajé: Mashed, deep-fried bean fritters often served with dried shrimps, okra, onions and peppers. Churrasco: Mixed grilled meat served with manioc flour and salad. Fresh fruit: Tropical treats include maracujá, cajú, jabuticaba, goiaba and cupuaçu. Pão de queijo: Cheese dough balls, a favourite snack at any time of the day; the best are freshly made, light, spongy and deliciously tangy. Bolinhos de bacalhau: Cod fishcakes. Romeu e Julieta: Guava jam and minas gerais cheese, a traditional breakfast favourite.
As for drinks, cocktails are the number one thing what to have in Brazil! There are dozens of types and combinations! The added bonus of cheaper prices make it a heaven for those seeking late night parties and good entertainment. Below are the most typical and poplar cocktails:
- Caipirinha is a major drink and famous around the world, it's called Cachaça in its basic form, made by Fiery sugarcane spirit and often mixed with sugar, crushed ice and limes to make a caipirinha cocktail.
- Chopp: Draught beer; Brahma is the most popular brand.
- Batida: Another, equally potent cocktail, made of concentrated fruit juices mixed with cachaça.
- Brazilian wine: Try white wines from Santa Catarina and quaffable red Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon varieties from Bahia.
- Guaraná: Popular fizzy drink made with energy-giving extract from an Amazonian plant.
Brazil was discovered from doing a tour to South America which took me to Peru and Chile, before coming to Brazil. Arriving to Rio was the first Destination in Brazil which welcomed me with an exciting city, full of colour, friendly people and world renowned attractions waiting to be discovered. I was well impressed with the development that Brazil has in its major cities like Rio. It was a great experience to be up in "Cristo del Corcovado" and the "Sugar Loaf" mountain to admire the city.
Rio is a city of pleasure and entertainment, apart from the mentioned attractions, it is also very exciting at night. It's a heaven for those seeking relaxation, peace and tranquillity. Many resorts offer great packages and service are excellent. However on a budget it can be quite different. It's important to review places before you go and always stay close to the city centre. My experience was great however and I was amazed on how much you can actually see and do in Rio. It's not only a sun, sand and sea destination!
Rio de Janeiro Tourism Information Guide
Famous for its beaches, natural and hand made wanders, hotel resorts, exotic food and a constant good atmosphere surrounding the city, Río de Janeiro praises itself as a unique destination where both culture and pleasure can be enjoyed. It's also famous for its carnival, which attracts loads of visitors enjoying the dance moves and colourful costumes which parade down the streets in February every year. It's a city which never sleeps and in Río the fun never ends, with loads of entertainment options available all year round. Relaxing by day, and exciting at night, Rio always has the wow! factor. You will love all it can offer, from incredible views, friendly people to the positive contagious atmosphere and impressive samba dances!
In Rio's summer (December to February), temperatures can reach up to 40ºC or more. When the heat is on, tourists should follow the Brazilian example and hit the beach rather than rush around. These months are also peak season, everything being more expensive.
Rio’s winter (June to September) is never that cold, with temperatures rarely going below 17°C. Rainfall is at its lowest in winter, especially in July and August, when you might only expect half a dozen days with rain over the month.
Rio is very well developed and transportation is very effective. Even more since the 2016 Olympic Games were held here.
Getting from the airport is easy by getting a bus which brings you to the city centre and also continues down the famous Copacabana beach. (from the airport you can't access the metro, you need to take a bus to the nearest station, Vicente de Carvalho).
Within the city you can also travel by bus and underground. Fares are cheap and the service is effective. Note that there are cars or section of trains reserved only for women.
Once you get out of the central and popular areas it's perhaps more tricky to get public transport unless you can go by taxi.
Note that getting up to the Christ the Redeemer is only possible to go by car.
Below you can find a map for the Metro and nearby tourist areas.
Rio offers a wide range of activities, both natural impressive scenery as well as amazing monuments like the famous,Christ the Redeemer. With miles of beautiful coastline and some seriously exciting neighbourhoods to explore, this city has much to offer its visitors.
A visit to Rio de Janeiro would not be complete without the obligatory visits to Sugar Loaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the seven New Wonders of the Modern World and Rio de Janeiro's most famous landmark. Ipanema is the place to go for sun worshippers, where miles of sugary white beaches and shopping opportunities abound.
Tourists planning to spend some time in the city will do well to purchase the Rio Pass which grants the holder free entry to four of Rio's charging tourist attractions, 50 percent off on all other admission fees, discounts on nightlife, and a free map and guidebook full of need-to-know information, among other things. The Pass is available in three variations: for 1, 3 or 7 days, where prices are respectively R$ 169.00, R$ 249.00 and R$ 339.00. Available from major travel shops in Rio.
Below you can find the most important and the details:
- Christ the Redeemer (Cristo del Corcovado): is a statue that was built as a symbol of Brazilian Christianity. In 1850, the idea of building a religious monument was first suggested by a Catholic Priest. It wasn't until 1920 when a group petitioned for support to build a landmark statue that it became a reality.Today, Christ the Redeemer is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Religious symbol, tourist attraction or just a great viewpoint, there are many reasons for visitors to make their own pilgrimage up Corcovado to see Christ.To get there you can have 3 options, by Cog train, van (or licensed taxi) or hike.
- By Cog Train, it's the most scenic route, climbing slowly up the Corcovado mountainside through the lush forest. You can pre-book tickets online and avoid the general queue. The trains depart every half hour from the station at Cosme Velho, and the journey to the top takes 20 minutes.The cost is R$56,00 (low season) R$68,00 (high season), including round trip and entrance to Christ the Redeemer.
- Another option is by vans. Tours depart from both Largo do Machado,and Copacabana. They will take you all the way to the top and the price includes your entrance ticket. Shuttles start at 8am and you can purchase tickets online. However this option is less expensive.Cost: R$ 40.00 (low season) R$ 50.00 (high season) approximately. It is possible to take a taxi part of the way up Corcovado to Paineiras, but you’ll have to take a van for the last stretch. Be aware that there is no set fee for taxi rides up the mountain, so always ensure the meter is turned on or negotiate the tariff before getting in!
- Naturally you can also hike-walk to the top of the mountain, taking about 2-3 hours. It's not recommended in the heat though nor to amateur walkers.
✔️Tip: The best views are better in the morning, with the position of the sun behind, to take pics of the statue and avoid the peak times at midday or early afternoon. Going in September is a good month, not too hot and avoiding the weekends.
- Sugarloaf: It's a mountain which stands out in Rio, with a peak that rises 396 meters high and presents a bird’s eye view of Rio de Janeiro from the mouth of Guanabara Bay. More than a million tourists visit Sugarloaf every year to enjoy a breathtaking view of surrounding beaches, mountains and forests.Ascent is made in two stages: first to the top of Urca Hill, travelling from Praia Vermelha to a height of 220 meters above sea level and then the cable car goes all the way to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
To get there get bus 513 or 581 to Praia Vermelha.
✔️Tip: The best time to visit is at Sunset.
- Botafogo and Flamengo may lack the fame of Ipanema and Copacabana, but these neighbouring middle class area are home to lively nightlife, some fabulous restaurants. and are within easy reach of Rio's famous beaches thanks to their metro stations. Sugarloaf mountain is close by, and there's a huge mall nearby.
- Centro, Rio's downtown may lack the allure of the beaches, but there's plenty here which is worth a visit. Rio's oldest streets can be found here, along with the best museums and galleries in the city.
❗Attention: The centre of Rio or "Centro" is best avoided on Sundays, when it is dangerously deserted. Also avoid walking here after sunset, specially if alone.
- Urca: In contrast to the rest of Rio, Urca is a gentile neighbourhood located right at the foot of Sugar Loaf mountain. Despite its big name attraction, Urca remains pleasingly free of high rise hotels, and home to handsome historical buildings. Cable cars make the dizzying ascent from the base in Urca itself, stopping first at the smaller Morro da Urca before climbing to the Sugarloaf peak.
What's a trip to Rio without visiting the famous beaches! Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are the famous beaches where to get that ideal tan, relax on the sand and enjoy the weather and even admire some amazing Brazilian bodies around you!
- Sun, sea and candy beauties are what comes to mind when one thinks of Copacabana, it's the most famous beach and its backdrop of crashing waves and jungle mountains are an inspiring sight. This famous Rio beach neighbourhood was just a small fishing village until a new highway built in the early 1900s brought crowds of visitors to these golden shores. The Copacabana Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1923, and since then the area mushroomed with Neoclassical and Art Nouveau skyscrapers, penthouses, and apartments.
The beach itself offers white sand and calm waters. The advantage is that there are plenty of facilities and kiosks around for food and drink. It is a popular spot for beach sports like soccer and volleyball, and a good place to sunbathe. Copacabana beach is particularly popular on New Year's Day.
- In Ipanema you'll find more of those beautiful beaches liberally sprinkled with equally beautiful people. Many restaurants and bars around for a whole day of relaxation and enjoyment. It's also the base for numerous excellent hotels, a bustling nightlife, sophisticated shopping opportunities, and quality restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Ipanema, the name, ironically means 'bad water'. Fashion followers should look out for the famous bikini boutiques like Salinas, Blue Man, and Bum-Bum. There are numerous other streets in and around Ipanema to explore, including the eclectic commercial street Visconde de Piraja, lined with speciality shops, bars, restaurants, and some of Rio's best boutiques. Visit the bohemian fair at General Osorio Square on Sundays for wooden sculptures, handcrafts, exotic musical instruments, and artworks.
- Leblon, is another popular beach by it's high end class, top-notch restaurants, lively bars and a stunning beach with white sands and views.Separated from its more famous neighbour, Ipanema, by a narrow canal, Leblon is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Rio, and accommodation here comes at a price.
Río is a heaven for those seeking fun and entertainment after the sun goes down.Popular bars and clubs are plentiful in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Barra. If you not staying in any resorts, then the best places to check out the local offering is in the downtown, Lapa, has some of the best live music venues. Lapa lies at the heart of Rio´s historic center, and the buildings here are some of the oldest in the city. Rua da Lavradio is a street flanked by tall and handsome colonial buildings, most of which now function as antiques stores or bar-restaurants.
Nearby, the Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches) are an eye-catching former aqueduct and an iconic image of bohemian Rio.
Club entry fees often include a drink consumption card, usually with a minimum purchase required. Keep hold of this card or face a steep charge. There are numerous restaurants, cafes and bars open all day and they stay open till late at night. Normally clubs open quite late at night, so it's better to eat late, drink late and then party late till the early hours of the morning. Majority of the places offer very traditional Samba and Caribbean music but today you can find other clubs which offer international music and numerous styles can be found from Jazz clubs to House-Techno clubs and dance floors.
🌈Brazil is also very opened minded, and it's easy to find clubs and bars for all sexual orientations. It's very popular to visit Rio as well during Gay Pride weekend when the whole city bursts into colour, music and events. Rio pride takes places at the beginning of November.
❗Attention: Since the last decade (from 2010), Rio and much of Brazil's safety records have worsened and crime rates have increased dramatically. The cities are not safe now at night for foreigners unless you are staying in the better neighbourhoods and resorts. Partying in local bars and nightclubs should be with local company and paying attention to any invitations from locals who might seem too friendly (pushy) or engaging.
Specially in the older parts of the city centre, and the area of the arches, tourists should not wander into dark streets or walk alone. Also the centre of Rio is best best avoided on Sunday evenings, when it is dangerously deserted.
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro can be a rewarding experience for tourists on the hunt for bargains, whether they're seeking cheap souvenirs or designer goods. While Rio is not usually considered a major shopping destination, there are numerous shopping centres, boutiques, street stalls, and markets offering a wide selection of mementos.
Rio's main shopping destinations are concentrated in areas like Rio Sul in the city centre. There are also numerous shopping districts near the beaches, including Avenida Nossa Senhora and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva in Leblon, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema.
Religious antiques, soapstone carvings, leather goods, and gemstone jewellery are Rio's most popular souvenirs, offered by various establishments throughout the city. You can also find local gemstones carved into shapes like toucans, jaguars, and other wild figures that make for great souvenirs, alongside cheaper options like plastic replicas of Christ the Redeemer.
Good-quality beachwear and Brazilian soccer jerseys are popular, though you'll need to choose between cheap imitations at market stalls and more expensive official merchandise, typically sold at stadium shops. Rio is the birthplace of Havaianas (flip-flops), as such, they're available in any number of styles and colours. A classic souvenir that captures the essence of Rio is music.
Good-quality local arts and crafts can be found at outdoor weekend markets, the best are the Hippie Fair, the Babilônia Hype Fair, and the enormous Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, which has more than 700 stalls.
Rio caters for every pocket, from stylish 5* Hotels and resorts to budget accommodation Hotels and Hostels. Depending on your style of travel, you can choose to just stay at the beach and have organised tours to show you everything and even be entertained at your hotel with exotic dances and Samba music.
On the other side, be more of an explorer and do it yourself. Naturally the second option is more appealing to many travellers and staying in Rio somewhere not so expensive is very easy to find. Good reviewed Hotels and close to transportation are the keys you need to look for. The closer to the beach the more expensive, but rooms can be found at €25 a night in small Hotels, within reach of the beach. Don't forget that safety in Brazil is very important to look out for, so location is key.
It's always recommended to lock luggage, do not leave things lying around in the room and when out in the street, try to down-dress with the basics, or wearing less garments. Weather is usually hot so going around in shorts and t-shirt should not be a problem for most tourists.
✔️Tip: Recommended areas for accommodation close to Ipanema/Leblon/Copacabana are the best for location/safety.
Rio offers multiple entertainment options. The length of stay can vary if you wish to relax more in the beaches and soak up the local atmosphere.
But if you plan only to do the essential tourism,then a 3 night stay in Rio is enough.