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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Rio de Janeiro, Part I: Where to stay and not to stay.

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

During the short existence of Brazil Diversitys blog we have noticed that many of our readers are looking for detailed information about travelling in Rio de Janeiro. Therefore we decided to come up with this topic as soon as possible, even if there are plenty of other attractive places to visit in Brazil and it’s hard to choose in between them. With no doubt Rio de Janeiro is a marvellous city and has some of the most beautiful views in the world. It’s also a city of  huge contrats and probably due to this travelling to Rio always brings up some questions such as the security. When I first stepped the ground of Rio de Janeiro, I do had to admit that there is something unique and very special in marvellous city. The beauty of the city and the life style of the Cariocas (=native Rio born) left me speechless and fullfilled all my expectations. And it’s was just a start for a long term relations with Rio de Janeiro. So let’s get started!

There are two airports in Rio de Janeiro,  the centrally located airport of Santos Dumont serves only domestic flights and about 25 kilometers from the city you will find the airport of Galeão, serving both international and domestic flights. The simplest way to get to your accommodation is to book an arranged transfer in before hand or take a taxi. The yellow taxis of Rio de Janeiro are everywhere and they are reasonably priced. As anywhere in the world the first time tourist arriving to the international airport has a danger to become cheated by the taxi drivers. All the taxis do have a taxi meter, but the driver may not speak your language, so if you are unable to communicate in portuguese we do recommend you to contract a taxi with fixed price. This is easy! Even before you step out from the airport’s international area you will find a number of ladies calling for you and offering taxi service. Take an advantage of this and book a taxi with fixed price to your destination. The price depends on the neighborhood you are going to.

Copacabana adn Sugar Loaf Mountain

Copacabana and Sugar Loaf Mountain

Now that you are in the city you will start circulating the in neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. The most well know ones are without any doubt Copacabana and Ipanema. They both give a name not just for the beach, but for the surrounding neighborhood as well. This is also where most of the hotels are concentrated. If you are looking for a beach front hotel with seaview, but are not ready to pay astronomic prices your choice will most probably be located at Copacabana. At this world famous beach you will find a large number of hotels in all categories. Many of them are located right on the beach boulevard Avenida Atlantica, but less pricy hotels can be found few blocks from the seaside. Ipanema on the other hand is one of the fanciest neighborhoods of the city and the beach front has mostly residential buildings. Some highly priced hotels enjoy direct sea view, but also here you will find some larger number of options few blocks away from the beach boulevard.

Centro

Centro

Other interesting neighborhoods, when it comes to tourism are Leblon, an another fancy and most residential neightborhood located right next to Ipanema. Flamengo is a residential neighborhood for local middle class with large number of good quality budget hotels and easy access (10min) by metro to Copacabana Santa Teresa, the bohemian up hill neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro with smaller boutique hotels and an excellent alternative choice thanks to its’ relaxed small town kind of atmospheare. The center of Rio de Janeiro is called “Centro” and it’s basically home for many offices and financial operations of the town. The hotel’s located in the center will not bring any special interest for an ordinary tourist, unless you are travelling on business. It’s recommendable to vist Centro and it’s attractions from Monday till Friday during the day time, when the numerous restaurants and shops are open and you will find many Cariocas in the streets of Centro. At night time and during the weekends Centro remains empty and can turn out to be unsafe for a traveller.

Rio’s location at the Tropic of Capricorn on souther hemispheare means that the winter months June, July and August, temperatures are lower (20-25 degrees) and on the summer time an average temperature is over 30 degrees, occassionaly reaching 40 celcius. Rainfall is highest during the summer time, but usually it means thunderstorms at the end of the day. What would be a good time to stay at Rio then? Some people stop only for two days, other stay two weeks. We would recommend something in between. You will certainly always find something to do in Rio de Janeiro, but nearby in the state there are other interesting places worth of visit like Angra dos Reis, Ilha Grande, Búzios and Arraial do Cabo. All these are beach destinations, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving with clearer waters than the capital itself. In the inland, you will find the mountainous areas with options for hiking, mountain biking, river rafting and horseback riding. We do recommend you to take a short escape out of the urban life of Rio and visit at least one of these beautiful areas located nearby. To get an idea take a look at our blog post about Ilha Grande.

One of the many favelas

One of the many favelas

Then the never ending question of safety. Is it really safe to walk in the streets of Rio de Janeiro? On my opinion it’s as safe as walking in any other large city. It’s good to remember that Rio de Janeiro has more than 6 million inhabitants and you should not be wandering around at any part of the city on your own. The favelas (=slums), mostly located up on the hills are not to be visited by yourself. If you want to see this part of Rio de Janeiro, take a tour. It’s an interesting way to find out how big part of the population lives and in addition to sightseeing the tour guide provides you lot of information concerning the social system of Brazil. Highly recommended! Also leave all you jewellery, extra money and other valuable articles at hotel any time going out. There is absolutely no need to carry them with you. At the night time take a taxi, like we mentioned earlier they are everywhere and they are cheap. If at any moment you end up in a dangerous situation, stay calm, hand over all your belongings and contact the Rio’s tourist police afterwards. As a general mnemonic a street with few people should be avoided.

Last but not least, now it’s time to enjoy Rio de Janeiro! Shortly we are going to publish an another blog post discussing about the attractions that Rio de Janeiro has to offer. In the meanwhile, have a walk on the beach and enjoy a glass of chilly caipiriha!

Check out our other blog posts related to Rio de Janeiro:

Our suggested itineraries including Rio de Janeiro

Sunset at Ipanema

Sunset at Ipanema

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Accommodation:

  • Rio Guesthouse A small and stylish penthouse pousada right in the heart of Copacana.
  • Mama Ruisa – A mansion style pousada located up hill in the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
  • La SuiteYour hideaway design guesthouse in Rio. Choose this option if you want to enjoy the spectacular views without leaving your pousada and don’t mind taking a taxi when willing to discover the attractions of the town.
  • Astoria Palace – A reasonably priced new hotel right in front of the sea at Copacabana.
  • Sofitel Copacabana – Beach front hotel, located just a short step from Ipanema allowing you to enjoy easily the attractions of both world famous beaches.
  • Travelling with tight budget and looking for a hostel? Try out Bamboo Rio Hostel or Vila Carioca Hostel, both offering private rooms and dormotories.
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