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 I: A-L

Tropical flowers

Tropical flowers

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

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

So let’s get started…

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

    Colorful Havaianas

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

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

Coconuts

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

Favela in Rio de Janeiro

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

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

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

Brazil Diversity wishes you Happy Travelling!

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