Brazil in detail


Accessible Travel

Wheelchair users don’t have an easy time in Brazil, but in the large cities there is a concerted effort to keep people mobile. Problems you’ll encounter include immensely crowded public buses, and restaurants with entrance steps. It pays to plan your trip through contact with some of the relevant organizations.

Rio is probably the most accessible city in Brazil for travelers with disabilities to get around in, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. The metro system has electronic wheelchair lifts, but these aren’t always operational. The streets and sidewalks along the main beaches have curb cuts and are wheelchair accessible, but most other areas do not have cuts. For transport around Rio, contact Especial Coop Taxi. In São Paulo, contact the the government's Central de Atendimento do Táxi Acessível (11 3740-5544).

Most newer hotels have wheelchair-accessible rooms, and some cable TV is closed captioned.

Useful Organizations

Turismo Adaptado ( São Paulo–based travel agent specializing in accessible tours and itineraries.

Centro de Vida Independente Can provide advice for those with disabilities about travel in Brazil.

Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality Resource for travelers with disabilities. Another website to check out is


A little bargaining for hotel rooms should become second nature. Before you agree to take a room, ask for a better price: ‘Tem desconto?’ (Is there a discount?) and ‘Pode fazer um melhor preço?’ (Can you give a better price?) are the phrases to use. There’s sometimes a discount for paying à vista (cash).

You should also bargain when shopping in markets. And if you’re about to ride in unmetered taxis, be sure to agree on the price before departing.

Dangers & Annoyances

Brazil receives plenty of bad press about its violence and high crime rate. Use common sense and take general precautions applicable throughout South America:

  • Carry only the minimum cash needed plus a fat-looking wad to hand over to would-be thieves.
  • Dress down, leave the jewelry at home and don’t walk around flashing iPhones, iPads and other expensive electronics.
  • Be alert and walk purposefully. Criminals hone in on hesitant or disoriented-looking individuals.
  • Use ATMs inside buildings. Before doing so, be very aware of your surroundings.
  • Check windows and doors of your room for security, and don’t leave anything valuable lying around.

Avoiding Danger Areas

  • Don’t take anything unnecessary to city beaches – bathing suit, towel, small amount of cash and nothing else!
  • After dark, don’t ever walk along empty streets, in deserted parks or on urban beaches.
  • Central business districts can be dangerous on Saturday and even more so on Sunday, when there are few people around. Be sure to save these visits for weekdays.

Scams & Robbery Techniques

Distraction is a common tactic employed by street thieves. The aim is to throw potential victims off guard so that they’re easier prey. It may be something as simple as asking you for a cigarette or a light so that you slow down and take your attention off other people around you.

There have also been reports of druggings, including spiked drinks. While you’re temporarily unconscious or semiconscious as a result of some noxious substance being slipped into your beverage, you’re powerless to resist thieves. If you start to feel unaccountably dizzy, disoriented, fatigued or just mentally vacant not long after imbibing, your drink may have been spiked. If you suspect this to be the case, call for help, quickly extricate yourself from the situation and try to get to a safe place – your hotel room.

Exercise extreme caution when someone you don’t know or trust offers you a drink of any kind or even cigarettes, sweets etc. If the circumstances make you suspicious, the offer can be tactfully refused by claiming stomach or other medical problems.

Cut-rate Tour Operators & Touts

In Manaus, Cuiabá and other parts of the Amazon and the Pantanal, there’s a major problem with freelancers and shady operators selling cut-rate tours that turn out to be ecologically unsound, awful and/or unsafe. As a rule, never book a tour (or even accept help) from someone who approaches you unsolicited at the airport or on the street. Go directly to the offices in town, or book on websites ahead of time.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on the security situation in Brazil and elsewhere.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (
  • British Foreign Office (
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (
  • US State Department (


The electrical current is not standardized in Brazil and can be almost anywhere between 110V and 220V. The most common power points have two sockets, and most will take both round and flat prongs. Carry a converter and use a surge protector with electrical equipment.

Embassies & Consulates

Emergency & Important Numbers

Brazil's country code55
International collect call0800-703-2111

Entry & Exit Formalities

Immigration and customs formalities are fairly straightforward, though you'll want to be sure to have your visa in order if you're from a country (like the USA, Canada or Australia) that needs it.

Customs Regulations

Travelers entering Brazil can bring in 2L of alcohol, 400 cigarettes, and one personal computer, video camera and still camera. Newly purchased goods worth up to US$500 are permitted duty-free. Meat and cheese products are not allowed.


By law you must carry a passport with you at all times, but many travelers opt to carry a photocopy (preferably certified) when traveling about town and to leave their passport securely locked up at their hotel.


Brazil has a reciprocal visa system, so if your home country requires Brazilian nationals to secure a visa, then you’ll need one to enter Brazil. US, Canadian and Australian citizens need visas, but UK, New Zealand, French and German citizens do not. You can check your status with the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country.

If you do need a visa, arrange it well in advance. Visas are not issued on arrival; and you won’t be permitted into the country without one. Applying for a visa got easier in 2018, however, when Brazil rolled out its new e-visa system, which is available to citizens from the US, Canada, Australia and Japan. The application fee is US$40, plus an online service fee of US$4.25. The service is valid for both tourists and business travelers.

To apply, visit the official website endorsed by Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: VFS Global ( You will need to upload a passport photograph and a scanned image of your passport bio page, and fill in other required details on the application. E-visas are valid for two years, for stays of up to 90 days per year.

Once all the documents have been submitted, the processing time for the visa is around five business days. Unfortunately, the online application process does not currently run very smoothly. Many applicants have had problems uploading photos – or having their photos rejected – or have experienced website crashes. It's wise to apply well in advance of your departure.

After your visa has been approved, you will receive a pdf of your e-visa. Print this out and take it with you on your trip. Without the printed copy, you may not be allowed to board your flight, and may also be denied entry into the country.

Old-fashioned consular visas are also still available. These are pricier and you'll have to apply in person to a Brazilian consulate in your home country.

Applicants under 18 years of age wanting to travel to Brazil must also submit a notarized letter of authorization from a parent or legal guardian.

Entry & Exit Cards

On entering Brazil, all tourists must fill out a cartão de entrada/saida (entry/exit card); immigration officials will keep half, you keep the other. They will also stamp your passport and, if for some reason they are not granting you the usual 90-day stay in Brazil, the number of days you are allowed to stay will be written in your passport.

When you leave Brazil, the second half of the entry/exit card will be taken by immigration officials. Don’t lose your card while in Brazil, as it could cause hassles and needless delays when you leave.


Brazilians are pretty informal, but there are a few key rules of etiquette.

  • Greetings When greeting or bidding goodbye to women, an air kiss is exchanged on each cheek (start to her left). Men shake hands with one another.
  • Dining Use a napkin or a toothpick when eating finger food. Brazilians tend to eat pizza with a knife and fork.
  • Touchy subjects Brazilians are exasperated by their country's corruption, but can be defensive if foreigners criticize their government or talk about poverty or religion.


A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. The policies handled by STA Travel and other student-travel organizations are usually good value. Some policies offer lower and higher medical-expense options; the higher ones are chiefly for countries such as the USA that have extremely high medical costs. There is a wide variety of policies available, so check the fine print.

Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities,’ which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even hiking.

You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.

Check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.

Internet Access

Most hostels and hotels, as well as many cafes and restaurants, provide wi-fi access. It's usually free, although pricier hotels sometimes charge for it.

Internet cafes have largely disappeared from the Brazilian landscape. If you do manage to find one, expect to pay between R$5 and R$10 an hour.

LGBTIQ+ Travelers

Brazilians are pretty laid-back when it comes to most sex, and same-sex couples is more accepted here than in any other part of Latin America. That said, the degree to which you can be out in Brazil varies greatly by region, and in some smaller towns discrimination is prevalent.

Rio is the gay capital of Latin America, though São Paulo and to a lesser extent Salvador also have lively scenes. Gay and lesbian bars are disappearing (blame it on dating/hooking-up apps like Grindr). Those still around are all-welcome affairs attended by GLS (Gays, Lesbians e Simpatizantes), a mixed heterosexual and homosexual crowd far more concerned with dancing and having a good time than anything else.

There is no law against homosexuality in Brazil, and the age of consent is 18.

Useful resources include the following:

  • Mix Brasil ( The largest Brazilian LGBTIQ+ site.
  • ABGLT (Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis, Transexuais e Intersexos;
  • ACAPA (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais;


The Quatro Rodas series, which includes good regional maps (Norte, Nordeste etc), are the best available maps of Brazil and can be found throughout the country. Quatro Rodas also publishes the Atlas Rodoviário, useful if you’re driving, as well as excellent street atlases for the main cities.


  • Newspapers The biggest Portuguese-language daily newspapers are Jornal do Brasil ( and O Globo (, both from Rio, and O Estado de São Paulo ( and Folha de São Paulo (, out of São Paulo. The weekly Veja ( is a current-affairs magazine, and in Rio and São Paulo it comes with a good pullout guide to what’s happening locally. For English-language news in Rio, check out the Rio Times (
  • TV Programming revolves around sports, comedy shows and the nightly telenovelas (soap operas); O Globo is the largest nationwide TV network. Brazil uses the PAL system for video/DVD.


ATMS are widespread in Brazil. Credit cards are accepted at most restaurants, shops and hotels.


ATMs are the easiest way of getting cash in big cities and are common. In many smaller towns, ATMs exist but don’t always work for non-Brazilian cards. Make sure you have a four-digit PIN (longer PINs may not work). In general, Citibank, Banco do Brasil and Bradesco are the best ATMs to try.


The Brazcurrency is the real (hay-ow; often written R$); the plural is reais (hay-ice). One real is made up of 100 centavos.

It might be handy to keep cash in reserve, though you’ll want to be exceptionally cautious when traveling with it. Cash should be in US dollars or euros.

Credit Cards

You can use credit cards for many purchases and to make cash withdrawals from ATMs and banks. Visa is the most widely accepted card, followed by MasterCard. Amex and Diners Club cards are less useful. Visa cash advances are widely available, even in small towns with no other currency-exchange facilities; you’ll need your passport, and the process can be time-consuming, especially at the ubiquitous but bureaucratic Banco do Brasil.


  • Hotels Tipping is optional for housekeepers, but appreciated.
  • Parking Usually R$2 or more; assistants do not receive wages and are dependent on tips.
  • Taxis Not expected but most people round up to the nearest real.
  • Tours It's customary to tip guides at the end of a tour, and certainly appreciated if you can give a little to the assistant or boat operator(s).
  • Restaurants A 10% service charge is usually included in the bill.

Fraud Warning

Credit-card and ATM fraud is widespread in Brazil, especially in the Northeast. Card cloning (clonagem in Portuguese) is the preferred method: an entrepreneurial opportunist sticks a false card reader into an ATM that copies your card and steals the PIN when you come along and withdraw money. Shazam! A few hours later, $1500 disappears from your account in Recife while you and your card are safe and sound sipping caipirinhas on the beach in Natal!

To combat fraud, restaurants will bring the credit-card machine to your table or ask you to accompany them to the cashier to run a credit-card transaction. Never let someone walk off with your card. Other tips:

  • Use high-traffic ATMs inside banks during banking hours only.
  • Always cover the ATM keypad when entering personal codes.
  • Avoid self-standing ATMs whenever possible and never use an ATM that looks tampered with.

Exchange Rates

Euro zone€1R$4.37
New ZealandNZ$1R$2.45

For current exchange rates, see

Opening Hours

Banks 9am–3pm Monday–Friday

Bars 6pm–2am

Cafes 8am–10pm

Nightclubs 10pm–4am Thursday–Saturday

Post offices 9am–5pm Monday–Friday; some open Saturday morning

Restaurants Noon–2:30pm and 6–10:30pm

Shops 9am–6pm Monday–Friday and 9am–1pm Saturday


Cameras will suffer on the road and they may get broken, lost or stolen. But there are so many good shots in Brazil that you’ll kick yourself if you don’t bring a camera along on your travels.

  • Try not to carry a flashy camera bag – it may attract the attention of thieves – and make sure your equipment is insured.
  • Some Candomblé temples do not permit photography. Avoid taking photographs or a video in banks or near military bases or other sensitive areas.
  • Be respectful of the locals and always ask before taking photos – this applies to indigenous peoples in the Amazon, who may not feel comfortable being photographed or filmed.
  • Photographing in the rainforest is notoriously difficult. It pays to learn how to adjust the speed and aperture of your camera – even a digital point-and-shoot – to get the best shots in low light beneath the canopy.
  • If you lose your camera, there are electronics stores just about everywhere.


The post is fairly reliable. Airmail letters to the US and Europe arrive in a week or so; for Australia, allow about two weeks.

Brazilian postal codes are five numbers followed by three; the first five are the code for the city, the others specify the location.

Public Holidays

April 19, the Dia do Índio (Indigenous Day), is not a national holiday but is nevertheless marked by festivities in indigenous villages around the country.

  • New Year’s Day January 1
  • Carnaval February/March (the two days before Ash Wednesday)
  • Good Friday & Easter Sunday March/April
  • Tiradentes Day April 21
  • May Day/Labor Day May 1
  • Corpus Christi Late May/June (60 days after Easter Sunday)
  • Independence Day September 7
  • Day of NS de Aparecida October 12
  • All Souls’ Day November 2
  • Proclamation of the Republic November 15
  • Christmas Day December 25


  • Smoking Banned in restaurants and bars; some hotels have smoking rooms.

Taxes & Refunds

Value-added tax (VAT), levied on most goods, ranges between 17% and 20% depending on the region; it is always included in the given price. Most restaurants also add on a 10% to 13% service charge.

There's no system of VAT refunds for purchases made in Brazil.

Hotel Taxes & Service Charges

The tax for hotel rooms is 5%, which may or may not be included in the quoted price; double-check when booking. Likewise, a 10% service charge is added to many midrange and high-end hotels; this is rarely included in the initial quoted price.


Brazil has four time zones:

Most of the country is GMT/UTC minus three hours. This includes Rio, São Paulo, the South, Northeast, Brasília and half of the Amazon.

Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and most of the Amazon are one hour behind Brasília time (GMT/UTC minus four hours).

A tiny part of Amazonas state and all of Acre are two hours behind Brasília time (GMT/UTC minus five hours).

The Fernando de Noronha archipelago is one hour ahead of Brasília time (GMT/UTC minus two hours).

Brazilian daylight saving time runs from mid-October to mid-February, during which period clocks are advanced one hour – but only in the Southeast, South and Central West.


Public toilets are not common but can be found at every bus station and airport in most cities and towns; there’s usually a charge of around R$1 to R$2. People will generally let you use the toilets in restaurants and bars. As in other Latin American countries, toilet paper isn’t flushed. There’s usually a basket next to the toilet to put paper in.

Tourist Information

Tourist offices in Brazil are a mixed bag. Some offices have dedicated, knowledgeable staff, while others have little interest in helping tourists.

Embratur (, the Brazilian tourism institute, provides limited online resources.

Travel with Children

Long distances in Brazil can make family travel challenging, but the rewards are considerable: endless fun on sun-kissed beaches, walks in rainforests, boat and train rides, and abundant wildlife-watching opportunities. Best of all is the warm reception from Brazilians themselves – who go out of their way to make kids feel welcome.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Rio de Janeiro state

Funicular rides and scenic views in Rio city, island-exploring on vehicle-free Ilha Grande, wandering cobblestone streets and taking schooner cruises off Paraty. You can even get a taste of mountain scenery in Parque Nacional do Itatiaia, and visit imperial sites in Petrópolis.

  • Minas Gerais

Time-travel to the 18th century in the colonial mountain town of Ouro Preto, which is near an old gold mine you can visit. You can also ride an old steam train from São João del Rei to Tiradentes. Don't miss the Santuário do Caraça to swims in waterfalls and see the maned wolf come in at night.

  • Bahia

Lots of great food, music and street entertainment in Salvador. Catch the hydrofoil to car-free Morro de São Paulo for pretty beaches, a zip line and panoramic views from a hilltop lighthouse. Head inland for the canyons, waterfalls and swimming holes of Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina.

Brazil for Kids

Brazil is a family-friendly country that has a wide range of attractions for kids. Travel here with kids does require some advance planning, but most Brazilians will do their best to make sure children are well looked after.

Eating Out

Dining out isn't usually a problem, even for fussy eaters. Ubiquitous por-kilo (per kilogram; self-serve restaurants that sell food by weight) places are a good place for a meal: children will have a huge range of options, and you can get in and out without a lot of fuss. Familiar food – pizza, burgers, ice cream – is widely available, and sometimes takes fun new forms (pizza with chocolate, or with bananas and cinnamon). Food courts in shopping malls are excellent spots for quick meals.

Juice bars are handy for snack breaks. At these ubiquitous spots, you can order dozens of tangy juices, as well as grilled burgers, sandwiches, pão de queijo (cheese-filled bread) and other bites.

Most sit-down restaurants will have a cadeira alta (high chair), though few have menus for kids. Portions, however, are huge, so kids can share what their parents order. Bring crayons, paper or other amusement, as Brazilian restaurants don't provide these things.


Given the great size of Brazil, transport presents challenges. You'll either spend long hours on buses or have to rely on pricier flights. Sticking to one or two regions is the best way to keep your holiday hassle-free. Renting a car can save you cash and help you move about more efficiently (though you'll need to bring your own car seats).

Children typically fly free or pay half-fare for flights if under two, and pay 10% to 25% of the fare if age two to 12. On buses, it's all or nothing: they ride free if sitting on a lap and full fare if they take up a seat.

Jungle Lodges

Many jungle lodges near Manaus offer fairly low-impact excursions, making them good for families with kids. High-water season may be best, as you do more canoeing than hiking. Black-water areas have far fewer mosquitoes and much lower risk of malaria.

Children’s Highlights

With beautiful beaches and verdant rainforests, Brazil has some pretty obvious appeal for the younger set. You can also find excellent special attractions in many areas, such as amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, and train and boat rides.

The Coast

Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro stateA tropical rainforest-covered island, an old abandoned prison, boat trips, snorkeling, lovely beaches, howler monkeys – and all of it completely free from traffic.

Balneário Camboriú Santa CatarinaThis resort town has many attractions for kids, including an aerial tram, beaches and a roller coaster, all with proximity to the Beto Carrero World amusement park.

Porto Belo, Santa CatarinaAnother laid-back resort spot in the South, Porto Belo has lovely snorkeling, plus a scenic nature reserve and eco-museum at an island just offshore.

Arraial d’Ajuda, BahiaThis low-key town for beach lovers has the usual coastal attractions, plus you can rent a buggy for exploring sandy coastal paths around the area.

The Jungle

Foz do Iguaçu & Around, ParanáThe thundering waterfalls are quite family friendly, with discount entry for kids and various wildlife adventures and boating activities. Kids stay and eat free all over town.

Serra Verde Express, Paraná This memorable train ride traverses lush forests with sweeping views down to the coast.

Bonito, Mato Grosso do SulBonito has caves, lush rainforests, treetop canopy walks and crystal-clear rivers that you snorkel down.

Nature & Wildlife Encounters

Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro This lush space in Rio has short walking trails, plus a playground, a small fishpond and a good outdoor cafe; it's also a great spot to see monkeys.

Pousada Santuário do Caraça, Minas Gerais Watching wolves arrive for a nightly feeding in an enchanting corner of southeastern Brazil.

Pantanal Nature, Cuiabá Spying monkeys, caiman, macaws and loads of other wildlife with this top-notch operator that offers special family trips.


What to Bring

  • If you plan on renting a car, bring your own car seats with you as availability is unreliable with most rental agencies.
  • Diapers (nappies) are widely available in Brazil. You may not easily find creams, baby foods or familiar medicines if you are outside larger cities. Bring insect repellent, sunscreen and other essentials, as prices for these items are much higher here.
  • Baby food is available in most supermarkets.

When to Go

To beat the worst of the crowds, but still enjoy warm beach weather, plan on coming from November through January or late March and April.


Children under five typically stay free, while under 12s often pay half-price. Cribs (cots) are not always available, so have an alternative plan before arriving. Babysitters are readily available in most hotels.

Health & Safety

If you are planning a trip outside of the main coastal cities, you'll need to enquire about vaccines and antimalarial medications (particularly for the Amazon).


Atados Supports several hundred volunteer organizations involved in social work, the environment and health care. Headquartered in São Paulo.

Iko Poran Rio-based service linking volunteers with needy organizations. Iko Poran also provides housing for volunteers.

Regua Accepts volunteers from all over the world for reforestation and other conservation work.

Task Brasil ( UK-based organization that places volunteers in Rio.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used.

Women Travellers

Depending on the region, women traveling alone will experience a range of responses. In São Paulo, for example, where there are many people of European ancestry, foreign women without traveling companions will scarcely be given a sideways glance. In the more traditional rural areas of the Northeast, where a large percentage of the population is of ethnically mixed origin, blonde-haired and light-skinned women, especially those not traveling with a male, will certainly arouse curiosity.

Safety Precautions

If you encounter unwelcome attention, you should be able to stop it by merely expressing displeasure.

Although most of Brazil is nearly as safe for women as for men, it’s a good idea to keep a low profile in the cities at night and to avoid going alone to bars and nightclubs.

Similarly, women should not hitchhike alone or even in groups (men or couples should also exercise caution when hitching). Most importantly, the roughest areas of the North and West, where there are lots of men but few local women, should be considered off-limits by lone female travelers.

What to Wear

Once you’ve spent an hour or two in Copacabana or Ipanema, where some women run their errands wearing fio dental (dental floss – the famous skimpy bikini), you’ll be aware that in some parts of Brazil, the dress guidelines aren’t quite as strict as in others. What works in Rio will probably not be appropriate in a Northeastern city or in a Piauí backwater, where long sleeves and dresses/trousers are more culturally appropriate.


Visitors who enter the country as tourists are not legally allowed to take jobs. It’s not unusual for foreigners to find English-teaching work in language schools, though. It’s always helpful to speak some Portuguese, although some schools insist that only English be spoken in class. Private language tutoring may pay a little more, but you’ll have to do some legwork to get students.