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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!

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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