Climate: Avoid the rainy seasons and find the best time to visit each part of Brazil.

Long time ago I promised to write about the seasons, but as there are so many interesting topics I totally forgot my intention to dedicate an entire blog post only for seasons. However this issue came up again sometime ago when I was wishing that central Brazil would get some heavy rains to extinguish the forest fires.

Seasons are funny. In theory there are better or worse seasons for travelling, but if we are totally honest in today’s

Eco-Adventures

Eco-Adventures

word there is no way to forecast all the climatical conditions and their consequences for the nature. This is exactly what happened in case of central Brazil as well. Basically the dry season is the best moment to hike around in such National Parks as Chapada dos Guimarães (Mato Grosso) and Chapada dos Veadeiros (Goiaís). However the extremely dry season with no rain at all for many months can cause several forest fires and damage these conserved areas. This is exactly what happened with Chapada dos Guimarães.

Anyhow none of us enjoys travelling during the rainy season, so this is basically one of the most important things to take into consideration when planning a trip. During the rainy season the northest part of Brazil receives heavy rainfalls and  just like the northeastern coast may also suffer intense floods. Naturally you don’t want to book a beach holiday if the probably of raining cats and dogs is pretty much higher than a possibility of sunbathing.

So, let’s take a look at the seasons. In the northern Brazil (See Map) the rainy season starts at the end of the year and goes basically until May. This is when it’s not worth visiting such beach destinations as Ilha do Algodoal, Ilha de Marajó and Alter do Chão, or depending on the intensity of the rains practise outdoor activities in the Amazon region . The northeastern coast is the next one to receive the rains. The extreme north of it (Maranhão and Ceará) tend to suffer for heaviest rains between March and May/June. However there are some very dry coastal areas in Ceará (like Canoa Quebrada) with very low annual rainfall. Right after follow the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Paraiba with the rainy season basically in between April and July, while Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia tend to receive the highest amouth of rainfall between May and August. In the southern the end of Bahia the rainy season may extend until September.

Cloudy day in Rio

Cloudy day in Rio

When we reach the states of southeastern and southern Brazil things change. Then the guestion is not just about the rainy season, but raither about the temperature. Yes, Brazil is a tropical country, but it’s also a huge country meaning that there are times when you simply cannot enjoy sun and the beaches in extreme south like Florianopolis or Balneario de Camboriu. During the winter months even Rio de Janeiro has a raither mild weather, which is not bad at all when it comes to a city-break, but if you are dreaming of hot days on the beach you may not get what you are looking for. In this region the highest rainfall usually occurs during the summer months, which naturally are the hottest and the most humid months as well. There may be some days with heavy rains, but a typical summer rain in Rio de Janeiro tends to be a strong thunderstorm at the end of the day, something that really doesn’t deter you from having a perfect beach holiday.

When it comes to eco-tourism destinations thing get even a little bit more complicated. Like I mentioned earlier the rainy season hits the Amazon region during the first six months of the year. Other eco-tourism destinations that should be avoided during the beginning of the year are Chapada dos Veadeiros, Lencois Maranhenses, Pantanal and Jalapão. However when it comes to eco-tourism it’s highly recommended to visit these and some other destinations like Bonito, Iguacu Falls, Chapada dos Guimarães, Delta de Parnaiba and Chapada Diamantina right after the rains, when the level of water in the waterfalls is highest and the nature is very much alive thanks to the rains.

For more details and full information about best travelling seasons check out our specific destination guide divided into Beaches, Eco-tourism and Culture.

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Travelling in Brazil FAQ. Part II: M-Y

Welcome to follow the second part of our Frequetly Asked Questions posts. Just like the first part, this will also be updated according to the upcoming issues and possible questions. The second part covers topics from M till Y.

Here we go again…

  • Toucan

    Toucan

    MALARIA – Malaria is very common disease in the northern and north-western part of Brazil. Make sure you have an appropriate protection against the mosquitos and avoid the highest risk hours of early evening and early morning, when the concentration of insects is biggest. Before travelling it’s also recommendable to contact your own health care center for more information about prophylactic drugs. If you are in the risk areas and start suffering any of the symptoms like fever, shivering, joint pain, nausea, sweating, headache and dry cough contact a doctor immediately.

  • MONEY EXCHANGE – In  the major cities you will find many money exchange offices called Câmbio. Make sure you use the services of these official offices and never change money on the streets. Usually the exchange offices will also offer you a better rate than for example the hotel front desks.
  • POST OFFICE – In portuguese the post offices are called “Correios” and can be recognized of the yellow and blue colors in the logotype. The post offices are open from Monday till Friday during the office hours and also on Saturday mornings. In general the post in Brazil works pretty well, and in most of the cases your mail will be delivered to the destination within a reasonable time.
  • PHONE – When calling to Brazil from abroad you have to dial the country code 55 and the local code (for example 021 for Rio de Janeiro and 011 for São Paulo) without the first zero. Your mobile will work in Brazil without any problem. When you wish to use roaming in Brazil try to connect at the red of TIM, Oi, Claro or Vivo, operators that cover basically the whole country. If you wanted to get yourself a prepaid sim card with a local number remember to take into account that you will need a CPF (an identity number for individuals issued by the Brazilian government) in order to get it. Getting CPF as a foreigner is not complicating, but will take a while and you will need to hand out a pile of documents, so it’s really not something to be done if you stay shorter time as a tourist in Brazil.
  • PRICE LEVEL – As our readers are spread out to different countries of the world, comparing the price level to any other country doesn’t really work. As many of you might have been travelling at least a little bit around the world, I would say that the price level in Brazil is not even nearly comparable with most of the Asian destinations, but doesn’t reach the levels of Caribbean either. In Brazil you will find everything from expensive till inexpensive, depending on where you are and what you are looking for. You will find fancy highly priced stores, restaurants and hotels, but on the other hand you have also plenty of options for economic dining, shopping and accommodation. It’s all up to you! Please refer to parts of  “Restaurants” and “Shopping”  (below) for more detailed information and price examples. Due to the long distances, travelling in Brazil either by air or by land, may not be as cheap as you have expected. Check out our blog post about getting around for further tips and recommendation.
  • Hammocks

    Hammocks on board

    RAINY SEASON – Check out our blog post of the best seasons to travel….this will be out shortly!

  • RESTAURANTS – You will find a wide range of restaurants of all kind in Brazil. There is everything from a typical Brazilian restaurant to diverse ethnic options. With no doubt “Churrascaria” is probably the most well know type of the Brazilian restaurants. It’s a kind of buffet restaurant where delicious barbecue dishes are served right to your table, and with a fixed price you eat as much as you wish tasting all the choices. A large variety of salads and side dishes are included in the prices as well. Churrascaria is something not to be missed during your stay in Brazil. An another popular concept is the buffet restaurant where food is priced according to the weight. These “A kilo” restaurants tend to be economic options and they serve a good variety of different and tasty dishes. In many traditional á la carte restaurants the meals are large and ment to serve two persons, something to be checked out at the moment of ordering. Due to the big Italian, Japanese and Lebanese communities you will run into many excellent pizzerias, sushi resturants and arab delicacies. Just to give you an idea, an avarage price level (not the cheapest, nor the priciest) is around 30-80 R$ per person in Churrascarias, around 15 -30 R$ per person in “A kilo” restaurants and around 40-70 R$ for two person in a common restaurant. As the country is very large and there are major differencies even in between the neighborhoods of one single city, it’s impossible to give you any more concrete references.
  • SECURITY – Security is something that always comes up when a first time traveller is planning to go to Brazil. You may have heard a lot of stories, some of them true, others not. The simple fact is that some of the world’s biggest cities are located in Brazil and naturally these urban areas have their problems caused by social differences. So when travelling to state capitals always be aware of the security facts. Don’t carry any valuable items with you, leave jewelery at home, passport, extra cash and credit cards at the safety box of your hotel and look after your bag and other personal items. Avoid walking in empty streets, don’t go to favelas on you own and at the night always take a taxi in stead of driving or walking. Beaches or parks of the big cities are not places to go after the sunset. If anything happens, stay calm and hand over all your belongings. It’s not worth fighting against or trying to run away as for many bandits your life has no value. When it comes to smaller places, such as the holiday villages along the coast, the life style is totally different. In these areas you will rarely face any sort of violence or situation of danger. This side of Brazil is as safe for a tourist as any other tourist destination in the world. So if you have a common sense to look after yourself and don’t put yourself purposely on danger, there is absolutely no need to skip travelling to Brazil due to security matters.
  • SHOPPING – When it comes to shopping local brands are nicely priced and worth buying for. All imported products and international brands on the other hand tend to be highly priced, due to the taxation. The stores and shopping centers are open from Monday till Saturday and many of them open on Sunday afternoons as well. At the stores prices are usually fixed, occassionally you may get a discount when paying with cash in stead of a credit card. In market places bargaining may sometimes come into question. Clothes, shoes and handicrafts are popular souvenirs. Don’t forget to buy yourself a box of delicious Garoto chocolates and some brazilian coffee to take back home.
  • Flowers

    Flowers

    SUNSCREEN – Being a tropical country the sun in Brazil is very strong and you better be protected. If you have a very white skin buy inexpensive sunscreen lotion with high factors (30, 50…) from Brazil. Don’t let the strong winds of the northeastern coast to bluff you, the sunscreen is needed even if you might not notice it immediately.

  • TAXI – The taxi prices vary depending on the city and the state, but in general compared to most of the western countries taxis are inexpensive. For example Rio de Janeiro enjoys a large number of taxis (yellow cars visible at any part of the city) and the prises are good even compared to the general standard of Brazil.  All the common taxis have a taxi meter, so make sure the driver turns it on. At the stations and at airports there are taxis that operate with fixed price. In these cases the price of a ride depends on the neighborhood where you are going to. These taxis are a good option for those who arrive to the country for the first time, because just like anywhere in the world, in Brazil you will also unfortunately meet some taxi drivers who are willing to charge a little bit more from tourists who are not familiar with their destination or doesn’t be able to communicate in local language.
  • TIME – There are three time zones in Brazil. The main time zone corresponds to the time of the capital Brasilia, and is equal to -3 UTC. This time zone is the one used in many other areas of touristic interest, like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza and Belem. The other time zones are: -4 UTC at the states of Acre, Amazonas, Rondonia, Roraima, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul and  -2 UTC followed by few Atlantic island on the east coast of Brazil (for example Fernando de Noronha). However please note that some of the Brazilian states use the concept of summer time, when for example the main time zone changes to -2 UTC, but is NOT followed by northern and northeastern stated of Brazil. The summer time, that starts usually on the 3rd Sunday of October and ends the 3rd Sunday of February, applies only to the following states: Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and the Federal District of Brasilia. Ocassionally the start or the end of the summer time can be postponed for example depending on the timing of Carnival. Always check the possible changes if you are travelling around these dates. Access the World Time Zone to check the exact time on our brazilian destination.
  • TIPPING – Tipping in Brazil is up to you. Normally in restaurants a 10% of service charge is added into you bill automatically and there is no need for additional tipping unless you feel that the service has been extra ordinary. In case the 10% is not added into to value of your restaurant bill, tipping of the respective value is recommended. In other situations (bellboy etc) giving  few coins or a note of 2 R$ will be a good amouth.
  • Ordem e Progresso

    Ordem e Progresso

    TRAVEL DOCUMENTS – Before travelling check out the document requirements. Nationalities of the Schengen countries can entrer to Brazil without visa, but a passport valid for 6 months is requiered. In these cases a permission to stay for 90 days is given at the airport. Later on this can be extended up to 180 days with certain requierements. US citizens will need to apply for visa when travelling to Brazil. Always check the latest information concerning the documents from the Brazilian Embassy of your country. A return ticket, sufficient funds and a hotel reservation can also be requiered either by carrying airline or by local immigration officers. Once in Brazil, make sure you always carry some document of identity or at least a copy of it with you.

  • TRAVELER’S CHEQUES – If possible try to avoid traveler’s cheques, they might be more trouble than benefit for you. Changing them might turn out to be complicating, especially if you are outside of the biggest cities.
  • VACCINATION – When travelling to Brazil you should check you the basic vaccination. Make sure you have protection for hepatitis, polio and tetanus. Depending on the area yellow fever vaccination and malaria protection are also good to have. Always consult your doctor before travelling and carry an international certificate of vaccination with you.
  • YELLOW FEVER – Yellow fever is an another disease transmitted by mosquitos. It’s common in rural areas, especially in northern and midwestern regions. The best way of prevention is a vaccination, which everybody who is heading to the areas of risk should have. If you arrive to Brazil from some of the countries with yellow fever risk (certain South American and African countries) make sure you have the vaccination and carry the international certification of yellow fever vaccination with you, otherwise your boarding might be denied. Check out the information page of the Brazilian Health Ministry for further information of the disease and the risk areas.

In the first part of our Frequently Asked Questions I decided to highlight the importance of attitude whenever travelling at any part of the world. In this second part I would like to state an another important fact that affects on the way we are going to be received by the locals. This simple thing is called a smile, and together with the attitude it’s one of the key points of a successful holiday. Brazilians are a very hospital nation with a lot of curiosity when it comes to gringos (the way foreigners are called in Brazil). If you are lacking a common language remember smile, it’s the easiest way to break the frontiers. Smile and you will be smiled back!

Brazil Diversity wishes you Happy Travelling!

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Travelling in Brazil FAQ. Part I: A-L

Tropical flowers

Tropical flowers

One of our followers suggested us to create a Frequently Asked Questions post, which actually turned out to be an excellent idea. When you are planning a trip many questions will arise and it may not always be easy to find information concerning local habits and other useful details. Knowing them in before hand will make travelling easier and most probably you will avoid some unexpected situations.

We have divided our Frequently Asked Questions in two parts, simply because there are many issues we want to share with our followers. The topics are in alphapetical order and the post post will include letters from A till L. In the future this post will be constantly modificated depending on the issues that may come up. If you have a question about travelling in Brazil, if you would like to read more about some particular issues or if you have any suggestions mail us at brazildiversity(a)gmail.com.

So let’s get started…

  • ACCOMMODATION – When you start searching for accommodation in Brazil, you will run into the concept of pousadas. In addition to pousadas the other accommodation options are hotels, hostels and rental apartments. English translation for a pousada would be guesthouse, however there are pousadas of different kind and therefore the term guesthouse doesn’t always fit for them. Pousadas are usually smaller, have more personalized touch than hotels and are often located in tiny cities or villages. There are pousadas for all budgets, very simple ones, comfortable tourist class pousadas and high quality pousada with ultimate luxury facilities. Usually pousadas requiere 50% of the total value at the moment of booking. Tighter conditions often apply during public holidays. We highly recommend you to book yourself a pousada accommodation, this is when you will feel the Brazilian hospitality and get the best out of your stay. Unlike many Caribbean countries, Brazil is NOT an “All Inclusive” destination. Some hotels/luxury pousadas do offer half board as part of the price and give an option for full board, but “all inclusive” resorts are not something you should be searching from Brazil. Personally I think it’s a good fact, because Brazilian food is inexpensive  and so diverse that it would pity to dine always within a resort area.
  • AIR TRANSPORTATIONCheck out our blog posts about  Travelling and Transportation and average distances & flight times between the major cities.
  • ATM MACHINES You can withdraw cash from ATM machines available at the airports, stations and all around the cities. Depending on the machine they work with all the major credit and debit cards, however we do recommend you to carry always a little bit cash with you, as it’s not uncommon to find an ATM machines out of order or simply without international connection. When travelling to smaller villages or islands, be prepared that not all of them have an ATM machine, so check it out first and plan your carry on cash depending on that. Even if there were an ATM machine in distant places it’s not good to count only on them.  Be also aware that due to the security reasons during the night time only a limited number of cash (100 R$) can be withdrawn from your account.
  • BANK – The banking hours are from Monday till Friday usually from 10 am till 4 pm. A large number of international banks can also be found from major Brazilian cities.
  • CLIMATE – Check out our blog post of the best seasons to travel….this will be out shortly!
  • Colorful Havaianas

    Colorful Havaianas

    CLOTHINGIn general Brazilians do not dress very formally on their spare time, especially in the cities located at the sea side. Why am I telling this to you then? There are few reasons why I would recommend you to dress like the brazilians do. First of this is a way for your not to call attention of the pickpockets and other unwished persons. Secondly due to the climate this will certainly be the best and the most comfortable way to get dressed. So don’t be asshamed to use shorts, mini-skirts, tops and tiny bikinies, this is exactly the way the brazilians are dressed when they head to the beach. Buy yourself a pair of world famous Brazilian Havaianas, colorful and comfortable flip flops used by each and everyone in this country.

  • CREDIT CARDS – The use of credit cards is very common in Brazil. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, but Amex and Diners may not turn out to be so useful to carry with you. Not all the restaurant and stores accept payment with credit cards, so check it out always before ordering. In general the credit card machines work with the chip code, so make sure you remember yours. Cloning cards do happen in Brazil, so be aware of that and always keep an eye on your card.
  • CURRENCY – The currency used in Brazil is called Real (R$). One Real is divided into 100 cents. In recent years the value of Real has been raither stable compared to the history of Brazil with several week and unstable currencies. In most of the countries it’s possible to exchange Reias (plural) in before hand, but you will certainly get a better a rate when exchanging for example dollars or euros in Brazil. However we do recommend you to change a little bit money before you arrive to Brazil. It’s always good to have at least some local cash with you when arriving to a new and unknown airport. Check out the daily value of Real using a currency converter.
  • DENGUEDengue fever is a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitos. It’s very common in Brazil throughout the year and unlike malaria dengue is as prevalent in urban districts as rural areas. The common signs of the disease are severe headache, fever, rash, muscle and joint pains. The best way to prevent dengue is to avoid touch with mosquitos. This basically means using anti-mosquito sprays and wearing long sleaves especially during the evening/night time. If you suspect you might be suffering dengue, contact a doctor immediately. Any aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided as these drugs may worsen the bleeding tendency associated with some of these infections.
Coconuts

Coconuts

  • DRINKS – Brazil is full of interesting and delicious drinks for all the tastes. First of all, remember to buy mineral water, tap water is not drinkable. In Brazil there are many juice bars offering tasty tropical juices. Try as many as you can, because you will rarely find that many exotic tastes in any other place. Tropical fruit is also the main ingredient of a common soft drink Guaraná. Brazilians drink a lot beer as well, being Brama, Skol, Antartica, Bohemia, Original, and Itaipava some of the most common brands. Chopp is a draft beer served in bars and resturants. The most well known Brazilian alcoholic drink caipirinha is prepared of limon, sugar and cachaca (a sugar cane spirit). Nowadays you will find caipirinhas based on other fruits and caipivodkas where cachaca has been substituided with vodka.
  • DRIVING – The traffic in the big cities can be pretty chaotic and heavy traffic jams are part of the daily life, especially during early morning and late afternoon, when people are heading to work and back. Similar or even worst traffic jams can be expected during public holidays. If you are planning to drive in Brazil, we do recommend you to take few things into consideration. First of all driving can be a good method to move yourself from place A to place B in the coastal regions when visiting several smaller villages during your stay. Try to avoid driving in major cities, especially if you are not familiar with heavy traffic. Taking a taxi or a pre-booked transfer will save you from stress and headache. Secondly avoid driving after the sunset, when both the possibility of becoming robbed and the risk of getting involved in an accident are higher. In general brazilians drive fast and are not always respecting the speed limits and other regulations. Remember Brazil applies zero tolerance when it comes to alcohol and driving. For a  rental car company it might be enough to have you national driver’s license plus an official translation into portugues from your national authority, but we do recommend you to have an international drivers license as well. It may turn out to be useful especially if you get involved with the Brazilian authorities.
  • DUTY FREE – The duty free stores at the Brazilian airports are not particularly cheap. Buy souvenier before you head back to the airport, and also pay attention on the fact that at the airport’s international area the prices are in US dollars.
  • ELECTRICITY – In most of the places the electricity is 110v. However some northern states and some hotels may use 220v in stead. The outlets in Brazil usually accept two types of plugs, a flat blade plug or two round pins. In case your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter.
Favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Favela in Rio de Janeiro

  • FAVELA – Brazilian slums are called Favelas, they are present in all the major cities and for example in Rio de Janeiro the mountain sides are dominated by favelas. These areas are usually controlled by drug dealers and face conflicts on regular basis. It’s definitely NOT recommendable to visit favelas on your own as without knowledge and precaution you may end up in danger. Nowadays regular tours to favelas are organized at least in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. A part of the tour price usuaylly goes to some social project of the area such as health care and education.
  • FOOD – Brazilian food is tasty, fresh and in most of ther cases healthy as well. The basic component is rice which is often served with beans and other side dishes. Along the coast you will find a large choice of  seafood and fish. Throughout the country delicious barbecue dishes are served, but meat is speciality of southern part of Brazil, where the biggest ranches are located. Brazilian food is not spicy unless you personally prefer so. In restaurants the meals tend to be large and are often served for two persons. Before ordering it’s always good to check whether the meal is individual or not.
  • HEALTH CARE – The health care in Brazil is divided into public and private sectors. As a tourist you will have a travel insurance (at least we hope so!) and therefore a chance to use most of the private health care services when needed. Naturally the quality of the services vary depending on the hospital, but in general the standard of private health care in Brazil is really good. In smaller places, where private hospitals are not available you have a right to use the public services as well, though in those cases you better be prepared to face longer queues.
  • LANGUAGEPortuguese is the official language of Brazil, although many local dialect and indigenous languages are spoken widely around the country. English is spoken in touristic areas, but often only among the person with higher education or those who work in the tourism sector, so don’t expect your taxi driver to be fluent in English. It would be good for anyone to learn little bit portuguese, at least basic vocabulary and most used phrases before travelling to Brazil. If you know Spannish that will be an advantage, especially when it comes to written language. In case you don’t speak portuguese at all, raising your thumb is common sign to show that everything is alright.

Last but not least I would like to point out something that is always present, no matter where we travel to. Once you have made a decision to travel and left your home behind your expectations are naturally high. Knowing many facts and details of your destination will surely help you to have a wonderful and unforgettable travelling experience. However during your trip you are most likely to face some unexpected situations as well. This is when the attitude comes into question. Having an easygoing attitude is often the best way handle the up coming issues. After all each and every country has its’ own particular culture and when travelling we are expected to respect all these magnificant little details that make our destination different from our home.

Talking about attitude, I would like to quote someone I know. After having missed a visit to Iguassu Falls due to major problems in Brazilian domestic air traffic, this elderly gentleman kept enjoying the sun in Rio de Janeiro saying: “Now I have a good reason to come back, and after all there is only water there…”

Brazil Diversity wishes you Happy Travelling!

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