Flights & getting there
Most travelers start their Brazilian odyssey by flying into Rio, but the country has several other gateway airports, as well as land borders with every country in South America except Chile and Ecuador. Flights and tours can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Airports & Airlines
The most popular international gateways are Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport and São Paulo’s GRU Airport. From both, connecting flights leave regularly to airports throughout the country. Salvador and Recife receive a few direct scheduled flights from Europe.
Though headquartered in Chile, LATAM is Brazil’s largest international carrier, with flights to New York, Miami, Paris, London, Lisbon and seven South American cities. The US Federal Aviation Administration has assessed LATAM as Category 1, which means it is in compliance with international aviation standards.
For high-season travel, roughly from mid-December to the end of February, tickets to Brazil cost about US$300 more than they do during the rest of the year.
International Air Passes
If you’re combining travel in Brazil with other countries in southern South America, air passes can be decent value if you’re covering a lot of ground in 30 days and don’t mind a fixed itinerary.
The Visit South America air pass offered by airlines of the Oneworld Alliance (www.oneworld.com) allows stops in more than 60 cities in 10 South American countries. Prices are calculated on a per-flight, per-distance basis. Sample fares include US$300 from Rio de Janeiro to Lima (Peru), US$310 from São Paulo to Buenos Aires (Argentina), and US$280 from Santiago (Chile) to Lima (Peru).
The Gol South America air pass is valid for travel on the Gol network, including routes between Brazil and Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia. Fares start at US$680 plus tax for four flights, US$840 for five flights; each additional flight is US$160.
The international departure tax from Brazil is R$113. The domestic departure tax ranges from R$25 to R$40. These fees are always included in the price of your ticket.
There’s direct land access to Brazil from nine countries. Several border towns can also be reached by river from Bolivia or Peru. If arriving overland from Colombia or Venezuela, you no longer need to have a certificate of a yellow-fever vaccine to enter Brazil (but you'll still need a visa!).
There are many places to cross into Brazil, with some borders quite remote (eg in the Amazon and the northern reaches of the country), while others see a great deal of traffic. The most popular and easiest crossings are near Foz do Iguaçu (to reach Argentina) and in Chuy (for Uruguay). Make sure you have your proper documents in order before you reach the border – namely your Brazilian visa (if entering Brazil) and your Bolivian visa if heading that way.
The main border point used by travelers is Puerto Iguazú–Foz do Iguaçu, a 20-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. Further south, you can cross from Paso de los Libres (Argentina) to Uruguaiana (Brazil), which is also served by buses from Buenos Aires.
Direct buses run between Buenos Aires and Porto Alegre (R$335, 21 hours) and Rio de Janeiro (R$550, 42 hours). Other destinations include Florianópolis (R$458, 25 hours), Curitiba (R$385, 32 hours) and São Paulo (R$467, 44 hours).
Brazil’s longest border runs through remote wetlands and forests, and is much used by smugglers. The main crossings are at Corumbá, Cáceres, Guajará-Mirim and Brasiléia.
The busiest crossing is between Quijarro (Bolivia) and Corumbá (Brazil), which is a good access point for the Pantanal. Quijarro has a daily train link with Santa Cruz (Bolivia). Corumbá has bus connections with Bonito, Campo Grande, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and southern Brazil.
Cáceres, in Mato Grosso (Brazil), has a daily bus link with Santa Cruz (Bolivia) via the Bolivian border town of San Matías.
Guajará-Mirim (Brazil) is a short river crossing from Guayaramerín (Bolivia). Both towns have onward bus links into their respective countries (Guayaramerín also has flights), but from late December to late February heavy rains can make the northern Bolivian roads a very difficult proposition.
Brasiléia (Brazil), a 4½-hour bus ride from Rio Branco, stands opposite Cobija (Bolivia), which has bus and plane connections into Bolivia. Bolivian buses confront the same wet-season difficulties.
Although there is no border with Chile, direct buses run via Argentina between Santiago and Brazilian cities such as Porto Alegre (R$486, 40 hours), São Paulo (R$465, 57 hours) and Rio de Janeiro (R$560, 63 hours).
Leticia, on the Rio Amazonas in far southeast Colombia, is contiguous with Tabatinga (Brazil). You can cross the border on foot or by Kombi van or taxi. From within Colombia, Leticia is only really accessible by air. Tabatinga is a quick flight (or a several-day Amazon boat ride) from Manaus or Tefé.
The Brazilian town of Oiapoque, a rugged 560km bus ride from Macapá, stands across the Rio Oiapoque from St Georges (French Guiana). A road connects St Georges to the French Guiana capital, Cayenne, with minibuses shuttling between the two. (Get there early in the morning to catch one.)
Guyana & Suriname
From Boa Vista, there are daily buses to Bonfim, in Roraima state (R$26, 1½ hours), on the Guyanese border, a short motorized-canoe ride from Lethem in southwest Guyana.
Overland travel between Suriname and Brazil involves first passing through either French Guiana or Guyana.
The two major border crossings are Ciudad del Este (Paraguay)–Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) and Pedro Juan Caballero (Paraguay)–Ponta Porã (Brazil). Direct buses run between Asunción and Brazilian cities such as Florianópolis (R$340, 22 hours), Curitiba (R$270, 14 hours), São Paulo (R$250, 20 hours) and Foz do Iguaçu (R$80, 6½ hours).
There is at least one daily bus connecting Rio Branco (Brazil) to Puerto Maldonado (Peru) via the border at Assis (Brazil)–Iñapari (Peru) on the US$2.75-billion Interoceanic Hwy. You can also reach Assis on daily buses from Epitáciolândia (R$20, two hours) and cross the Rio Acre to Iñapari.
The crossing most used by travelers is Chuy (Uruguay)–Chuí (Brazil). This is actually one town, with the international border running down the middle of its main street. Other crossings are Río Branco (Uruguay)–Jaguarão (Brazil), Isidoro Noblia (Uruguay)–Aceguá (Brazil), Rivera (Uruguay)–Santana do Livramento (Brazil), Artigas (Uruguay)–Quaraí (Brazil) and Bella Unión (Uruguay)–Barra do Quaraí (Brazil). Buses run between Montevideo and Brazilian cities such as Porto Alegre (R$267, 12 hours), Florianópolis (R$290, 18 hours) and São Paulo (R$490, 32 hours).
From Manaus, five daily buses run to Boa Vista (R$170, 12 hours), from where you can connect to a 7am bus to Pacaraíma (R$28, 3½ hours) on the Venezuelan border.
International buses travel between Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, along decent roads. Prices of bus tickets between countries are substantially more than you’d pay if you took a bus to the border, crossed on foot and caught another on the other side, but you’ll lose a lot of time that way. If arriving by bus, make sure your papers are in order.
Car & Motorcycle
If you plan to take a vehicle into Brazil, be informed about essential documents, road rules, and info on fuel and spare parts. At the border you will be asked to sign a bond called a termo de responsabilidade, which lists the owner’s identification details and home address, your destination, and a description of the vehicle (make, model, year, serial number, color and tag number). You will also be asked to pay a bank guarantee (the amount to be determined by customs) and sign a statement agreeing that if you stay for more than 90 days, you will contact customs in the area where the entry was registered to apply for an extension for the permit. This must be presented to customs at the time of departure. If your vehicle overstays its permitted time in Brazil, it is liable to be seized and the bank guarantee forfeited. It’s illegal to sell the vehicle in Brazil.
From Trinidad in Bolivia you can reach Brazil by a boat trip of about five days down the Río Mamoré to Guayaramerín, opposite the Brazilian town of Guajará-Mirim.
Fast passenger boats make the 400km trip (around US$75, 10 hours) along the Amazon River between Iquitos (Peru) and Tabatinga (Brazil). From Tabatinga you can continue 3000km down the river to its mouth.
Aside from a few organized commercial cruises with stops in Brazil, there are no regular voyages connecting the country with other international destinations.