holiday in Brazil?
is a monster of a country, larger than Europe and the biggest in South America, hosting stunning
sights, from the Amazon River and its rainforest to stunning Rio
de Janeiro and its Sugar Loaf mountain views, Foz do Iguacu waterfalls
in the far south of the country, as well as pretty towns - from
northern Fortaleza to southern Curitiba - lively and colourful locals who really
like to play, lots of sun, excellent beaches, plenty of wildlife
and mostly at a low cost.
- Thievery of course, tho' primarily in cities.
- Malaria, dengue fever,
- Huge distances need flights or LOTS of time.
- Hands up who speaks Portuguese, (though you can get away with
a little Spanish).
- Local people are sometimes not overwhelmingly friendly.
April-September (July-Oct for the dry season in the Amazon).
Worst: Dec-Feb (summer holidays, so accommodation and transport
are a problem; it's also hot and sticky). Oct-April in far south
(rains, humidity). February or March in Rio if you're not there
for the Carnival.
***Rio de Janeiro. An exquisitely beautiful
setting with gorgeous beaches, elegant urban folk, wild bars and excellent good-value restaurants, spoiled a touch
by run-down buildings, the poverty of much of the population and
the threat of robbery. Rio Photos; Rio Guide
North of Rio
Brasilia. Large, hot, dull city; don't bother unless you
have a special interest in futuristic architecture and an air-conditioned car.
***Salvador, Bahia. A walkable,
sensual, attractive colonial city with a humming music scene, loads
of exceptional beaches all around and a terrific carnival. It's
now, unfortunately, becoming something of a package destination.
**Olinda, near Recife. Lovely little
colonial town, wonderfully located, with a lively cultural scene
and great Carnival.
*Fortaleza. Busy city with superb beaches
both east and west, tho' city beaches not so good.
Amazon jungle trips are more about the boating upriver into the
damp, buzzing, oppressive ambience than seeing animals, since most
of the bigger critters only appear at night when you least want
to be there.
Floating about on a dugout canoe at night in search of caiman by
torchlight, freaking at odd splashes and squawks and beating mozzies
off would not be untypical...
You may well see caiman (crocs), monkeys, sloths, pink dolphins,
tarantulas, electric eels and parrots galore, but don't think of
this as a massed-animal experience such as you may see in East Africa or Namibia. Best July-Oct for the dry season.
See Amazon Travel Tips
Wildlife is possibly more visible in the Pantanal (see below) to
the south, though it's a swamp, not a jungle, so offers less ambience,
romance or name-dropping.
Note that one of Brazil's South America neighbours, Peru, also offers great Amazon experiences starting from the grubby town of Iquitos.
*Belem. A not unattractive Amazon city
and starting point for Amazon river journeys. A riverboat up to Manaus
takes about five days. Second-class on these boats is distinctly
hot and uncomfortable.
If you can afford it tourist boats will not only give you a good
night's sleep and protect your valuables, but they may give you
lessons on the environment too.
historically interesting city, but now overbuilt and unattractive, though a necessary evil for starting Brazilian
Pantanal (south of the Amazon). A massive wetland and ranch
area in central-west Brazil (NW of Rio) alive with wild things,
including iguanas, tapir, capybara, caiman (crocodiles), giant snakes
and anteaters, but in particular birds (parrots, macaws and so on).
It's best July - Oct (the dry season,
so less humidity, less mosquitoes, more life visible).
South of Rio
*Sao Paulo. Only if you really, really like skyscrapers and
big city life, tho' nightlife is wild and there are good beaches
***Iguacu Falls (Foz do Iguacu). These
monstrous waterfalls, a world natural phenomenon - are bigger than
Victoria falls and higher than Niagara, but they're a long way south and there's not much else in the vicinity. So head into
Argentina and/or Paraguay while you're there? (Best August-Nov).
***Curitiba-Paranagua, a lovely town,
spectacular train ride and stunning Vila Velha weird stone park;
95km from Curitiba.
Wildlife walks around the Amazon rainforest of course, though most beasties come
out at night and you might not want to walk around then. Also the
Pantanal, tho' a canoe may be better there.
Bird watching The Pantanal.
River journeys up the Amazon, whether
on posh tour boats or local craft. More to see the rainforest and
wild Brazilians than wildlife.
Surfing near Rio and to the south
on Santa Catarina island, especially Florianopolis.
Wind-surfing north of Fortaleza e.g.
Jericoacoara, or Buzios.
Fishing inland river fishing is especially
interesting.e.g. Rio Araguaia.
Hangliding over Rio!
Rock climbing near Rio and in some
Hiking All along the coast.
Distances are huge and attractions well scattered so budget for
domestic flights, but beware the December-February period when planes may
be fully booked.
If you have the time buses are excellent and good value.
Car hire, biking and hitch-hiking are not recommended for long journeys.
At the bottom end you could stay in the dirt-cheap dormitorios (hotels)
but they are primitive and not very safe. A far better choice -
though a little more pricey - are youth hostels (albergue de juventude).
These are common and well-organised and may help you keep your belongings.
Next up the scale are pensao or pousada, basically small, cheapish
Dec-Jan - Salvador, Festival of Jesus of Navigators. Boats, booze
Dec - Rio, Iemanja (see below)
Feb or March - Rio Carnival, Rio de Janeiro. Also in other Brazil cities
that will be cheaper, more relaxed and better in some respects.
e.g. Salvador, Olinda.
Aug - Fortaleza, Iemanja (Goddess of the sea festival), wild religious
Sept - Nationwide, Independence Day.
some precise dates, more suggestions and information see: Exotic
110/220v, flat 2 pins or occasionally round 2 pins.
Required by almost everyone and available from your country's consulate.
They are usually valid for 90 days so give plenty of time.
Brazil is good value, though prices rocket in the holiday
Credit cards are widely accepted, especially Visa, and ATMs work
fine. Changing cash or traveller's cheques into Reals is easy, but
do get some small bills which are always in short supply.
Cities offer a wide variety of international cuisine, but Brazil's
staples are white rice, black beans (feijao) and chicken, steak
or fish. Farinha (manioc flour) is the least edible local ingredient.
The national dish is Feijoada, a meat, bean and garlic stew, but
vegetarians and vegans will have no difficulty keeping their calorie
levels up as okra, beans, onions, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables,
along with superb and varied fruit, make a frequent appearance.
It's easy to be overconscious of the crime situation in Brazil and
spoil your trip - or not go at all for that matter, but things are
not as bad as that; obey some basic rules and you'll have a wonderful
• Don't walk lonely back-streets at night, especially after too
many drinks; take a taxi home.
• Keep a close eye on your baggage on buses or trains, particularly
at night. In fact, try to avoid night moves completely.
• Stay in as expensive hotel as you can afford, and use the safe.
• Don't take valuables to the beach.
• Don't do drugs.
• Don't resist if someone does rob you, they really don't want to
• Don't automatically run to the police if you do get robbed, they're
sadly corrupt and useless.
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