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!

The African Roots of Salvador, Bahia

Streets of Pelourinho

Streets of Pelourinho

Salvador, the state capital of Bahia, was also the first capital of Brazilian Republic and even today is the city with most african influence. Salvador is also the third biggest city of the country, right after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and naturally its’ airport is among the busiest of northeastern part of Brazil. In Salvador you can easily feel the african roots of Brazilian culture, hear the rhythms, taste the flavours and feel the power of myths and such african religions as candomble.

If you are looking for culture together with city life, Salvador is probably one of the most interesting brazilian cities to stop by. The main attraction of Salvador is the old town called Pelourinho, located in the upper part of the city, which belongs in the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. It’s dominated by colorful colonial style buildings, beautiful churches and lively streets. Here you will find plenty of charming restaurants, shops of local handcrafts, artists of all kind and “baianas“, the local ladies wearing traditional white dressing and often selling some delicacies. It’s not rare to find people practising capoeira or playing Afro-Brazilian rhythms on the street. It’s here, where samba-reggae was born and became famous thanks to well known Afro-Brazilian band Olodum. Up from the edge of Perlourinho you will also have beautiful view over the Baía de Todos os Santos bay and if you take an elevator down you will find yourself being in front of the Mercado Modelo market, an another excellent place to buy local handcrafts and souvenirs of Bahia.

Mercado Modelo

Mercado Modelo

Salvador has another important historical spots as well, one of the most popular being the church of Bonfim. This church is a pilgrimage destination for the Brazilians, but is worth visiting for anybody who enjoys old architecture and history. To reach Bonfim, you can either take a regular bus leaving in front of Mercado Modelo or alternatively try the touristic Salvador Bahia Bus, which works on “hop on, hop off” basis and in addition to Bonfim takes you to many other interesting parts of the city with fixed daily price. If you choose regular bus, you better be prepared to longer travelling time, due to the number of stops and depending on the type of the bus, air conditioning may not be available either. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, in Salvador organized tours to favela (=slum) can also be found. Part of the tour fee usually goes in the education or in the improvement of the living conditions of the favela inhabitants, so therefore the tours are not only a safe way to visit favela, but also a great way to make this world a better place for everybody.

Church of Bonfim

Church of Bonfim

When choosing your neighborhood in Salvador we would recommend you to stay either in Pelourinho, Barra or Rio Vermelho. In Pelourinho you will find some charming old building that were refurbished to serve as hotels and has turned out to be an excellent place to spend overnight.  Another good options to stay are the neighborhoods of Barra and Rio Vermelho, both just a short drive away from Pelourinho with large variety of accommodation options for all budget and several restaurants and bars for dining as well. The carnival of Rio de Janeiro may be world widely more famous than the carnival of Bahia, but in fact the carnival of Salvador is the world’s biggest street party and attract a countless number of participants to celebrate in the streets of Salvador. Definetely something you should consider about, if you are into carnivals!

Baianas

Baianas

Many tourists travel to Bahia planning to stay at one of the stunning beaches of the state, but once you are in Salvador make sure you stop there at least for two or three nights. Salvador is worth stopping and after having explored Pelourinho, we are sure that you are not regretting at all. We recommed you to combine Salvador with some of the many beach or eco-tourism destination located close by.

In our other blog posts we have already covered destinations that combine perfectly with Salvador, check out our related blog posts:

Our suggested itineraries including Salvador:

Brazil Diversity recommends:

  • Casa do Amarelinho – A small hotel located in refurbished building in the heart of Pelourinho. Excellent level of service with special charm and all the amenities you might be expecting.
  • Catharina Paraguacu – A good tourist class hotel located at Rio Vermelho. Catharina Paraguacu offers you an intimate stay in an old style building surrounded by gardens.
  • Restaurante O Nilo – An excellent restaurant serving arab food in a peaceful corner of Pelourinho. O Nilo has tables both inside and outside, but does not accept credit cards.
Pelourinho

Pelourinho

Getting around in Brazil: Travelling and Transportation

Travelling in Brazil would be so simple, if the country were not that huge as it really is. This means that to discover Brazil, a lot of time and patience are needed. Once you have decided to travel around the country you basically have two choices, either you take a bus/transfer/car or you decide to fly. Below we have listed few tips and opinions of ours, just to give you an idea of what would be the best choice in each situation.

Alternative transportation

Alternative transportation

Many times hiring a transfer will end up to be the best option to reach your final destination. This means you don’t need to worry about the arrangements and you reach your accommodation in minimum time without any stress. At some parts of Brazil, especially in the northeastern coast hiring a car can end up to a good option, especially if you are heading from airport to smaller villages and keep on discovering the region by car. The traffic varies depending on the place, but in general Brazilians drive fast and do not always respect the traffic rules.  Big cities suffer major traffic jams especially when the locals are heading to work or returning back at home. If possible avoid driving in cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, often a public transportation (especially metro) is a quicker way to reach your final destination. The condition of the roads vary as well. If possible try to travel during the daytime, which is not only safer, but you will also face less heavy traffic, such as trucks and haulers.

When it comes to regular bus services, the long distance buses in Brazil are in fact surprisingly comfortable, with wide and inclining seats, plenty of leg space and air conditioning, which generally tends to be really so cold that you better be prepared with long sleaves if you pretend to travel longer distance by bus. Well, when it comes to buses there is just one little problem, the distance and the time it takes to get from point A till point B. Travelling by bus during 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours or even more within Brazil is not rare at all. You will also find buses of different standards operating in the same routes, and naturally the more money you pay, the more comfortable will your journey be. Usually you will be given a tag when you luggage is stored in the hold, so make sure that you keep it safe as the tag will serve as a receipt when claiming your luggage.

Tam Linhas Aéreas

Tam Linhas Aéreas

If you are not into sitting hours and hours in a bus to reach your destination, and most importantly if you are lacking time the only option is to take a domestic flight. When it comes to flights the same rules apply, travelling within Brazil takes time even if you are flying. The distances are long, there are several time zones in the country and the delays are not rare at all. Lately the air traffic has been slightly calmer and more stable than during the last few year, but still never ever book youself with too tight separate connections. Doing this will only increase your blood pressure once you find out that the schedules are not working out as expected. There are two main companies operating in Brazil, TAM and Gol. Both of them fly international and domestic routes, but Gol mainly concentrates in operating within South America while TAM flies to Europe and North America as well. There are also many other regional companies operating widely around the country. The most useful ones for a traveller might be Trip, covering a large number of smaller airport and Azul, so called low cost company bringing more competitive prices for domestic markets. Domestic routes tend to include many stops without that a change of aircraft is needed. This means that your flight departing from São Paulo may stop for example in Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza before reaching São Luis. This obviously takes time and may not be the most comfortable way to travel. So when booking flights always keep an eye on the number of stops and prefer as straight flights as possible. Domestic flights can be purchased with major credit cards in the sites of both TAM and Gol.

Gol Linhas Aéreas

Gol Linhas Aéreas

Don’t expect domestic flights to be cheap, they are not. If you are planning to travel around Brazil, so before leaving your country the wisest thing to do is to book an airpass provided either by TAM or by Gol. When it comes to airpasses there are several rules and they are sold only together with your international ticket. This means that you have to arrive to Brazil with certain co-operative airlines in order to be able to purchase an airpass. TAM for example has two different price levels, the lower price is available for travellers who arrive to country by TAM and the higher price on the other hand for those arriving by co-operating airline. The price of the airpasses varies also depending on the number of flight segments purchased. Please note that many domestic connections include more than one flight segment, which has to be taken into account when planning a trip. Same leg cannot be flewn into same direction more than once either. In addition to a traditional Brazil airpass Gol offers also an another airpass covering the northeastern part of Brazil. This northeast airpass turns out to be a very good deal for travellers willing to explore this part of Brazil. Check out also TAM’s South American airpass if you are planning to travel widely around the continent, and Gol’s Mercosur airpass if in addition to Brazil you are heading to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia. Please note that the maximum time of any airpass tends to be 30 days after the first flight. For bookings and further information contact the airline or your travel agency.

Last but not least, when travelling long distances in Brazil, remember the attitude. Travelling is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, so after all it’s the attitude that matters!

A regional airline

A regional airline

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Rio de Janeiro, Part II: One of the 7 wonders and other things to see and do.

Restaurants and bars:

Churrascaria Majórica –
Restaurant Arab –
Restaurante à Mineira –
Restaurante Espirito Santa –
Rio Scenariuam
Carioca da Gema

What to do and see in Rio de Janeiro? Anyone of us can probably name the three most popular sights of Rio, the world famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the Sugar Loaf mountain. These three must be visited by any tourist who comes to Rio.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

There are two ways to reach the statue of Christ the Redeemer which was recently chosen among the 7 new wonders of the world. You can either take a taxi up to the hill or pick a small train from the Corcovado station that takes you up through the Atlantic rainforest area. If you are not in a hurry, we do recommend you to try this out, it’s a nice experience and worth it even if you may have to take a queue before boarding the train. Once you are up on the top you still have to ascend 220 steps (or take an elevator) to reach the feet of the statue. Together with the beauty of the statue you can enjoy stunning views over the city. For the best views, try to reach the top of the Corcovado hill during the morning, before the clouds come up. There is also a small chapel up on the feet of the Christ for those who want to get married and immortalize their love in this spectacular place.

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Together with the Corcovado, the top of the Sugar Loaf mountain is one of the best places to enjoy breathtaking views over Rio de Janeiro. To reach the top you have to take two steps cable car from the neighborhood of Urca. In addition to the views you can also enjoy the trails surrounded by the tropical vegetation. Sugar Loaf Mountain and the smaller Urca mountain are also popular among mountain climber and together they create one of the largest urban climbing areas in the world.

Copacabana and Ipanema are the most well known and popular  beaches of Rio de Janeiro. These world famous beaches have been numbered according to life guard posts and serve as meeting points both for locals and for tourists. One of the most trendiest points, is the always crowded post number 9 located at Ipanema.  In addition to these two pearls, Rio de Janeiro has many other smaller or less famous beaches. Arpoador, which is especially in favour of surfers, is located in between of Copacabana and Ipanema. Less crowded Leblon on the other hand is the continuation of Ipanema. The beach of Flamengo is not suitable for swimming but offers one of the most beautiful beach views facing the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Niteroi.

Tram to Santa Teresa

Tram to Santa Teresa

Rio de Janeiro is a lot more than just world famous beaches and landmarks. We highly recommend you to visit the boheamian neighborhood Santa Teresa, located up hill close to the center of the city. There are two ways to get up, either by taxi or by one of the charming old style trams leaving from the feet of Arcos da Lapa, an old aquaduct and entrance to the neighborhood of Lapa. You may have to face a queue to take this pictoresque tram, but it will certainly be at least worth of one way trip. Get off at the square of Largo de Guimarães and wander around in the streets of Santa Teresa. You will find a lot small shops selling handmade items of local artist and small restaurants with delicious dishes. Walking in these streets, while the monkeys are jumping up and down in the trees and tucans hiding themselves behind the leaves, you will start  feeling like if you were in a smaller town and forget of being in a city of more than 6 million inhabitants.

When it comes to historical sights, don’t forget to visit the monastery of São Bento, church of Candelaria and the national museum of Fine Arts. Enjoy a cup of delicious brazilian coffee at the fort located in between Ipanema and Copacabana or walk through the tropical vegetation on the top of the Leme mountain to enjoy another spectacular view over the beaches. The botanic gardens of Rio de Janeiro are worth visiting as well. Jardim Botanico, as it’s called in portuguese is a huge park, where you will find parts decicated for oriental vegetation, others for the Amazon rainforest flora. Don’t miss out the orchid house either! If you enjoy football, pay a visit to the world’s largest stadium, Maracana. Assisting a local match is so much more than just a game, the stadium is full of passion when the Cariocas enjoy their favourite sports and there is no lack of emotion while the fans encourage their teams by singing.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca

A seeker of an active holiday will also find plenty of things to do in Rio de Janeiro. If you are into surfing try out the beaches of Barra da Tijuca and Recreo, they are just one hour away from the heart of the city and offer great waves for the lovers of surf. These beaches are also less crowded and for example a small beach of Prainha, surrounded by the mountains is an excellent place for a swim in beautiful settings. Big emotions and bird’s view over the city are guaranteed if you decide to try hang gliding at São Conrado neighborhood. You may not know, but the world’s biggest urban rainforest area is also located in Rio de Janeiro. Visiting the National Park of Tijuca, is an excellent way to escape from urban life and feel the touch of the nature. For the first time visitors, it’s recommendable to take a tour with a local guide in order to avoid getting lost. The light hikes through the tropical vegetation will take you to waterfalls and viewpoints with breathtaking views over the city.

Once the night falls, we recommend you to head to Lapa. The most trendy, slightly bohemian neighborhood full of bars and restaurants. This is were the Carioca’s go to enjoy a drink and live music. The easiest and the safest way to reach Lapa is by taxi. Don’t consider taking metro, even tough the nearest station is not that far away, at the night time walking through the empty streets of Centro may not be very wise idea. The buildings of Lapa has been refurbished respecting the old architecture, which turns it to be a culturally interesting place to visit as well. Once you reach Lapa you will see a lot of people on the streets, especially during the weekend. Just join them and start bar hopping until you find your favourite place. There are plenty of options for all tastes and budgets. Also check out our recommendations for night in Lapa (see below).

Check out our other blog post about Rio de Janeiro:

Our suggested itineraries in the state of Rio de Janeiro:

Carnaval of Rio

Carnival of Rio

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Restaurants, Bars & Shopping

  • Churrascaria PorcãoA famous Brazilian steakhouse with excellent choice of meats served right at your table. Serves also delicious side dishes and deserts. Try out Porcão located in Flamengo and enjoy stunning views of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
  • Churrascaria Majórica – A typical Brazilian steakhouse, where the quality of meat is highly appreciated. Located at the neighborhood of Flamengo and very growded especially in the weekends.
  • Restaurante Arab – Restaurante Arab serves tasty arab food and can be found both from Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and from Copacabana. We recommend you to have a dinner at Arab of Lagoa Rodgrigo de Freitas where in the evenings you can enjoy live music and stunning views over the Lagoa.
  • Restaurante à Mineira – Located at Humaitá neighborhood. A buffet restaurant specialized at delicious dishes from Minas Gerais state.
  • Restaurante Espirito Santa – This small, but charming restaurant is located uphill at Santa Teresa and is very popular especially during weekends. Espirito Santa serves Brazilian flavours and has a small terrance with few tables for those who prefer their meal at fresh air.
  • Rio Sul – If you are into shopping check out the shopping center of Rio Sul, just a short step away from Copacabana. Here you will find a large number of both national and international brands.
  • Rio Scenariuam – One of the most interesting places to explore the nightlife of Rio. Rio Scenarium, located in Lapa,  is an like an antiquarian with a large number of old items being part of the decoration. It’s a show house, where you will enjoy traditional Brazilian music, samba and forró. Like in many Brazilian bars you will also have a possibility for dining in Rio Scenarium. During the weekends, try to arrive before 11pm. just to avoid long queues.
  • Carioca da Gema – One of the most tradional music houses of Lapa. Carioca da Gema is quite small, but the quality of the music, mainly traditional samba, and the atmospheare takes it to the top of the list when it comes to nightlife in Rio de Janeiro.

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