The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by the entire population except for a few very remotely Amazon tribes. Although there are a few accents and slang differences but speakers of either can understand each other.
Brazil is the largest country in South with a wide range of weather conditions: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, temperate and subtropical. In the North, near the equator there is a wet and a dry season; from about São Paulo down to the south there is spring / summer / fall / winter. Winter temperatures can get around 15 ºC, summers can be very hot of more than 40°Celsius in some places.
Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. It may be considered the result of many dishes brought by overseas immigrants that have been adapted to local tastes throughout times.
Brazil's national dish is feijoada, a hearty stew made of black beans, pork (ears, knuckles, chops, sausage) and beef (usually dried). It's served with rice, garnished with collard greens and sliced oranges. It's not served in every restaurant; the ones that serve it typically offer it on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Don’t eat much of it! This is a heavy dish!
Brazil is also well know for it’s great meat called picanha. Sometimes farofa, spaghetti, vegetables and French fries will come along. Beef may be substituted for chicken, fish or others.
Excellent seafood can be found in coastal towns, especially in the Northeast. Brazilian snacks, lanches (sandwiches) and salgadinhos (most anything else), include a wide variety of pastries. Try the coxinha (deep-fried, batter-coated chicken), empada (a tiny pie, not to be confused with the empanada - empadas and empanadas are entirely different items), and pastel (fried turnovers). Pão-de-queijo, a roll made of manioc flour and cheese, is very popular, especially in Minas Geraisstate - pão-de-queijo and a cup of fresh Brazilian coffee is a classic combination.
Local time is GMT -3 (-2 to -4 depending on the province)
Electrical current changes within each city or state along with the plug (North American or European plug).
In general it is used 127V/60Hz with some cities using 220V/60Hz. 110V/60Hz is manily used in São Paulo and most other cities use 110V.
Vaccination against yellow fever and taking anti-malaria medication may be necessary if you are traveling to central-western (Mato Grosso) or northern (Amazon) regions.
If you're arriving from Peru, Colombia or Bolivia, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required before you enter Brazil. Some countries, such as Australia and South Africa, will require evidence of yellow fever vaccination before allowing you enter the country if you have been in any part of Brazil within the previous week. Check the requirements of any country you will travel to from Brazil.
Foreign nationals are entitled to unforeseen emergency medical treatment in Brazilian public hospitals. However, you are not obliged to offer treatment for existing illnesses or care after you have been stabilised.
Public hospitals in Brazil, especially in major cities, tend to be crowded. Private hospitals will not accept you unless you can present evidence of sufficient funds or insurance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Due to the rainy season (December - March) and the elevated temperatures in the summer it is common for the number of dengue cases to increase. There is no vaccine to prevent dengue. You can reduce the risk of infection by taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites such as using insect repellents, wearing appropriate clothing to cover up - such as long sleeve tops and trousers.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 192 but you must speak Portuguese or request our staff to help you. You should contact your insurance / medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Food from street and beach vendors has a bad hygienic reputation in Brazil. Bottled and canned drinks are safe.
Brazil has some of the highest violent crime rates in the world. Of significant concern is that policemen may not always provide the best quality of assistance and even be more dangerous than the criminals itself. Lack of man power, low wages and inappropriate training contribute to a lack of professionalism.
The best advice we can give you is for you not act like a tourist, and do not display items of extreme wealth such as laptops, jewelry, etc. Also avoid carrying large amounts of money with you. Walking in slums and other poor areas while wearing expensive clothes or jewelry is extremely dangerous. Wearing shirts of football teams in slums is also very dangerous. Actually, being a foreigner in a poor area is extremely dangerous.
Credit card fraud is common. Try to keep sight of your card at all times. Additionally, with the possibility of theft, consider keeping a spare credit card for emergencies in your hotel safe, if there is one, in a sealed envelope (for extra security- to indicate fraudulent access to the safe).
Brazil's unit of currency is the Real, abbreviated BRL, or just R$. One real is divided into 100 centavos.
Foreign currency such as US Dollars or Euros can be exchanged in major airports, luxury hotels (at some bad rates), exchange bureaus and major branches of Banco do Brasil (no other banks allowed to do it), where you need your passport and your immigration form.
If you want to withdraw some cash, look for an ATM with your credit/debit card logo on it. Large branches of Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, Citibank, BankBoston and HSBC ATMs will work but will charge around R$ 6,50 per withdrawal. Banco 24 Horas is a network of ATMs which also accept foreign cards (charging R$ 10 per withdrawal). Withdrawal limits are usually R$ 600 (Bradesco) or R$ 1000 (BB, HSBC, B24H), per transaction and in any case R$ 1000 per day. Note that most ATMs do not work or will only give you R$ 100 after 10 PM.
In smaller towns, it is possible that there is no ATM that accepts foreign cards. You should therefore always carry sufficient cash.
Entry requirements - Visas
Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with all countries, meaning that whenever prices and restrictions are applied to Brazilian visiting a country, Brazil adopts the same measures for that country's visitors.
Citizens from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Zambia may enter the country with a valid ID card and stay up to 90 days.
No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days from holders of passports from these countries, unless otherwise indicated: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR passport, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom (Including British National (Overseas) passport holders), Uruguay , Venezuela (60 days) and Vatican City. Note that the immigration officer has the right to restrict your visa to less than 90 days, if he deems fit. (This has been done routinely for lone male travellers arriving in Fortaleza, allegedly to combat prostitution tourism.) He will then state the number of days (e.g. 60 or 30) in pen writing inside the stamp just given in your passport; if not, it remains as 90 days.
Citizens from all other countries do require a visa. The fees vary depending on reciprocity: for example, US citizens have to pay at least US$160 for a tourist visa and US$220 for a business visa. As of August 2012, citizens of Canada should expect to pay at least CDN$81.25 for a tourist visa, not including any handling or processing fees. Cost of Brazil visa for citizens of Taiwan or Taiwanese passport holder pay $20 (Reference from Embassy of Brazil in Lima, Peru) and 5 days to process. The reciprocity, however, also frequently applies to visa validity: US citizens can be granted visas valid up to 10 years and, likewise, Canadian citizens for up to 5.
The requirement to first enter Brazil within 90 days of the issue of the visa now only applies to nationals of Angola, Bahrain, Burma, Cambodia, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, The Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Syria, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Tunisia. Failure to enter Brazil within 90 days will invalidate the visa, no matter how long it is otherwise valid for.
* Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Brazil for the most up to date information.
Travelling with children
There are additional requirements for all children under 18 entering and/or transiting Brazil without their parents or legal guardian (including on school trips), or if travelling with one parent only. You should contact the Brazilian Consulate for up-to-date advice on requirements.
How to get there
Brazil has several international airports, the two major ones being São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport and Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport.
The cheapest airfares are from February (after Carnaval) to May and from August to November. Tickets from New York, for instance, can cost as little as US$699 including taxes. Many undersubscribed flights within Brazil can be had for bargain prices.
TAP Portugal is the foreign airline with most destinations in Brazil, from Lisbon and Porto, and provides extensive connection onwards to Europe and Africa. Direct flights to São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Natal, Recife, Fortaleza, Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Porto Alegre.
Air travel in Brazil has increased exponentially in the past few years, partly as a result of the poor condition of many Brazilian roads(qv)and the absence of any viable railroad network (cf India). It is still relatively inexpensive with bargains sometimes available and easily the best option for long distance travel within the country. Some major aiports, particularly those in Sao Paulo and Rio, are, however, becoming very congested.
Brazil operates a number of land border posts with neighboring countries. In certain border towns, notably Foz do Iguaçu/Ciudad del Este/Puerto Iguazu, you do not need entry/exit stamps or other formalities for a daytrip into the neighbouring country. These same towns are good venues if you for some reason want to cross without contact with immigration authorities.
Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The ride is a gruelling 12 days upriver though. From French Guiana, you can cross the river Oyapoque, which takes about 15 minutes.
Brazil has international telephone code 55 and two-digit area codes, and phone numbers are eight digits long. Some areas used seven digits until 2006, meaning you might still find some old phone numbers which won't work unless you add another digit. (Mostly, try adding 2 or 3 at the beginning).
Eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 2 to 5 are land lines, while eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 6 to 9 are mobile phones. To dial to another area code or to another country, you must chose a carrier using a two-digit carrier code. Which carriers are available depends on the area you are dialing from and on the area you are dialing to. Carriers 21 (Embratel) and 23 (Intelig) are available in all areas.
The international phone number format for calls from other countries to Brazil is +55-(area code)-(phone number) In Brazil:
§ To dial to another area code: 0-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
§ To dial to another country: 00-(carrier code)-(country code)-(area code)-(phone number)
§ Local collect call: 90-90-(phone number)
§ Collect call to another area code: 90-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
§ International Collect Call: 000111 or through Embratel at 0800-703-2111
- Coutry Police: 190
- Emergency Service: 911
- Ambulance: 192
- Firefighters: 193