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.

How to plan your trip to Brazil?

I find planning a trip entertaining. Maybe that’s why I ended up working in travel industry, which is full of changes, unexpected situations and challenges. On the other hand it’s also a very rewarding industry with huge cultural diversity and many very open minded people working on the field. Planning a trip may sound easy, but when it comes to creating an itinery in a foreign country it may not be that simple after all. This is why I wanted to share some of my tips with all of you who are planning to travel to Brazil, simply because I want you to see the diverse faces of this lovely country and get the best out of your stay in Brazil.

Ten things to take into consideration when planning a trip to Brazil.

1. – Destinations – First step is to choose your destination. What are you looking for? Do you prefer spending your holiday laying down on a beach and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters? Or maybe you enjoy an active holiday diving, hiking and surfing around. On the other hand you might enjoy observing the nature or spending your spare time in the pulsing nights of a tropical city. Choosing destination is basically the first thing to do. To ease your task, we have divided the top brazilian destinations into three categories: Beaches, Eco-Tourism and Culture.  Pick up the category that mostly fits into your needs and go through our suggestations or opt for a quick  search that takes you directly to a specific beach, eco-adventure or city break type. If you prefer a combination of these styles check out our itinerary suggestions or contact Brazil Diversity.

2. Seasons – Once you have decided what sort of holiday you are looking for it’s time to take a look at the seasons. To guarantee an unforgettable holiday it’s essential to pay attention on the weather, in case of Brazil especially on the rainy season. Brazil is a tropical country and you will always find a place to enjoy the sun, however you need to check when the rains tend to occur and when the temperatures are at lowest. Heavy rains  may not only destroy your holiday, but also close roads and cause complications when trying to reach your destination. Low season may also offer more attractive rates, but remember spending as little as possible is not always the best option. If you want to economise check out the weather conditions and try to take advantage of the middle season, that usually offers good rates and less crowded attractions. Finding out best seasons it easy. Brazil Diversity has included season recommendations in the description of each wonder, check them out!

3. Public Holidays – You may not know the dates of all public holidays in Brazil. Actually they even vary depending on the state. Now you may ask what they have to do with your vacation plans. Well, public holidays, not only New Years Eve and Carnaval, have all to do with your holiday, especially at the moment of making plans. In Brazil the hotels and pousadas usually not only increase prices but also sell packages with minimu stay during the public holidays. So if you planed to stay in a certain region only during few nights you will most probably find it extremely complicating to find an accommodation option during a long weekend or another public holiday period. If you were lucky enough to find something you would end up paying an extra price for that. This is why it’s good to take public holidays into account when travelling to Brazil and of course, if your budget is very tight it might be best to avoid these peak seasons. For further information and exact dates contact Brazil Diversity.

4. Distances – Brazil is a huge country, something that should be taken into consideration when planning an itinerary or a combination of several destinations. In a map the distances may not look that long, but believe me or not, they are! And it’s not only about the distance, it’s also about the transportation options and the condition of the roads. Public transportation may always not be as good, quick and direct as you are used to in your home country. The lack of infrastructure may also double the travelling times. Study these issues, check out the distances and opt for the best ways to get transfered from one place to another when planning your trip.

5. Transportation –Like I mentioned transportation is worth paying attention to. Basically there are no passanger trains in Brazil, so all long distance transportation is done either by road or by air. The busses are in general spacious and in good condition, though this means of transportation is very time taking, due  to several stops, heavy traffic and lack of  highways. Air transportation reaches all the mayor cities of Brazil and is a quick and easy way to move from one place to another. If you go through the offers and book early enough you will also be able to find quite nice deals and taking a plane can end up being a really good and time saving choice, and in some cases not even that much more expensive. Another option is to take a look at the airpasses offered by both GOL and TAM. They are a good option for a traveller who is planning to take several long distance flights in Brazil. Planning is essential in this case as well, because all the airpasses have to be purchased in before hand outside of Brazil. We have discussed about transportation options in our earlier blog posts, check them out for tips and recommendations or contact Brazil Diversity.

6. Time – How many days should you stay in Brazil? Well, this depends totally on how many cities/destinations you are planning to visit? I would say that on a city-break a minimun time would be three full days per city, especially if you are arriving from a long haul destination and still suffer jet-lag. Time that you spend in a beach destination depends totally on you. Personally I enjoy seeing as many different places as possible, meaning that 4 nights in a same village tends to be pretty much the maximum for me. However I do know people who enjoy relaxing on the beach for two weeks without changing destination, so this is pretty much based on your personal choices. When it comes to Brazil’s top destinations, I would say that 5 full days in Rio de Janeiro is an ideal time for you to visit the principal sights without rush and run. If you are planning to stay for more than that, consider an option of visiting nearby destinations, such as Búzios or Ilha Grande for couple of nights. The Falls of Iguacu can be seen in two days. If you want to extend your trip to Paraguay, add one more day into your itinerary. Time to spend in each eco-tourism destinations varies as well. As many of them are located in raither distant areas , so therefore a minimum stay of 3 to 4 nights is highly recommended.

7. Booking – Book in advance! Not only because booking your accommodation and transportation in advance makes your life a lot easier, but it’s also an excellent way to guarantee the availability and the price. As we all know in today’s world there are no last minutes prices in tourism, unless we talk about charter flights and package tours. You will never know when there happens to be a congress or any other mayor event in the city, so that all the hotels are fully booked leaving you without any reasonably priced option. Planning and booking in advance means that you can enjoy stress free vacation and in the meanwhile get the best out of your holiday. If you need any tips or if you are willing to book an unforgettable holiday in Brazil, contact Brazil Diversity.

8. Accommodation – I know accommodation is something that fully depends on our personal tastes. Some may enjoy luxurous pool villas, whiles other prefer raither small ecological hideaways. When planning a trip to Brazil you will run into the word “pousada”. If you are still unfamiliar with this term, check out our earlier blog post “Pousada: what is it and why should I stay in one”. I really want to encourage all of you to stay in a pousada. Pousada is not a just a simple guesthouse with minimum infrastructure, it’s definitely not a roadside motel or a hostel with shared bedrooms and bunk beds. Today pousada is a cozy and often raither small accommodation option that differs from a conventional hotel with personalized attentions and unique characteristics often related to local environment or culture. So when booking your accommodation in Brazil, consider seriously a possibility of staying in a pousada, you won’t regret your choice. Hand picked hotel and pousada recommendations can be found from the site of Brazil Diversity. Another thing to take into consideration is that most of the brazilian hotels and pousadas ask a prepayment of 50% from the total price in order to guarantee the booking.

9. Tours and Excursions – There was a time when I loved to explore touristic sights on my own. I used to think that taking a tour is waste of money and turns travelling less adventurous. To be honest I still apply this theory of mine in many destinations like Europe or US, where it’s easy to be an independent traveller and still not miss a single point. However today I do admit that this sort of travelling doesn’t work in each and every destination, or at least not with all the attractions. By taking a tour you will get a deeper knowledge of the sight you are visiting and in case of Brazil most importantly, a tour may be the only way to reach a certain spot or destination. It may also be the safetiest, the less stressfull and especially the quickest way to visit the sight. I’m quite sure that you are not willing to lose any precious time on holidays or happy about any extra stress that might appear, so why not booking a tour. If you have a very tight schedule consider an option of booking your tours in before hand, otherwise fix the dates once you have arrived to your destination and checked the climatical conditions for the coming days.

10. Attitude – Last but not least. Now that you have planned everything and are ready to take off, remember you will be on vacation and things may not always work on the way you are used to. Relax, leave the stress back home and enjoy your stay!

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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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