Information & Facts
Brazil's attractions are equally divided between the urban and the natural, with the cultural delights of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo balancing the natural wonders of the Amazon and Pantanal rainforests and ensuring there's something to see and do in Brazil for just about everyone.
Every year, thousands flock to the world-famous Carnival in Rio, when the entire city is enveloped in parties, parades, music and dancing. Rio also features the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which is one of the seven marvels of the modern world, and the architectural marvel Samba City. The mild climate of the major cities makes them an attractive destination all year long, with the coastal areas being even warmer and suited to year-round sunbathing. Brazil's major cities are known for their wild nightlife, with enough bars, clubs, dance halls, and parties to satisfy even the most hedonistic.
Brazil's beaches are just as famous, with several (Ipanema and Copacabana) immortalised in song. There are several well-known nude beaches, including one in the relaxed town of Pinho. The southern beaches, including Praia Do Rosa, offer big waves that attract top surfers from all over the world between April and November. There are also many popular scuba diving spots that have beautiful coral reefs, volcanic islands, caves, and shipwrecks.
Brazil is a huge country, with an area larger than the continental United States, and over half of that is rainforest. The Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest, covers seven million square kilometres and is a bird-watching and wildlife paradise, home to countless species of plants and animals you won't find in any other country. The pink dolphin, for example, is only found in the Amazon and its tributaries. You might also find jaguars, howler monkeys, sloths, toucans and anacondas, among many others.
Brazil's marine life is also teeming with amazing creatures. Dolphin and whale-watching are popular activities in places like Fernando de Noronha, or go snorkelling in Bonito, whose name fittingly means 'beautiful'. Praia do Forte and other beaches are also good places to find sea turtles hatching.
Generally business practices are different throughout the country: very formal in Sao Paulo, but more relaxed in Rio de Janeiro and other centres. Multi-national companies have similar business etiquette to Europe or the US, while local businesses require a few more considerations, particularly preferring face-to-face meetings above phone calls or written communication. Brazilians place a very high value on personal relationships within business environments and will generally only conduct business through personal connections or with those whom they have already established a personal relationship. All meetings are preceded by handshakes and small talk, and visitors should avoid the temptation to rush things; even after the meeting is over it is considered rude to rush off. Entertaining is common, either at a restaurant or someone's home, again with the emphasis on building personal relationships. Punctuality is flexible, except when meeting at a restaurant, when tardiness is considered impolite, and a small gift or flowers for the hostess is common when invited to a home. Business suits are expected, especially for first meetings. Portuguese is the dominant language, and although English is widely spoken in business an interpreter might be required. Business cards, as well as written documents, should be printed in both English and Portuguese. Business hours are 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.
Brazil's weather is quite diverse as there are five different climatic regions: equatorial, tropical, semi-arid, highland tropical and subtropical. The seasons are the reverse of those in Europe and the United States. Cities such as Sao Paulo and Brasilia, on the plateau, have a mild climate with temperatures averaging 66°F (19°C). Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Natal and Salvador on the coast have warmer climates balanced by the Trade Winds. Rio, for example, has an average temperature of around 80°F (26°C), which will climb to over 100°F (38°C) during the summer months. In the southern Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, the subtropical climate is similar to parts of the US and Europe, with frosts occurring in the winter months (July to August) when temperatures can fall below freezing. Summers are hot, however. Despite the popular image of the Amazon as a region of blistering heat, temperatures rarely rise above 90°F (32°C), and days are generally warm, wet and humid. The region has two seasons: a rainy season (November to May) and not-so-rainy season (June to October).
The international access code for Brazil is +55. The outgoing code depends on what network is used (e.g. 0014 for Brasil Telecom), which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001444 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Brasilia is 61, but the access code to make a call within the country from another area also depends on what network is used (e.g. (014)61 for Brasil Telecom). GSM 900and 1800 mobile phone networks cover the main cities, and phones are available to rent. Internet cafes are widely available. Every town has a central telephone office called a Posto Telefonico, from where long distance calls can be made, and public phone booths are everywhere, operated by phone cards. For cheaper calls, visitors can connect to an operator at home and place a credit card or collect call. Sending mail overseas is expensive, but the postal system is generally reliable.
Brazilian culture is European based and most social customs will be familiar to visitors.
Travellers to Brazil can enter the country with 400 cigarettes or 25 cigars; 2 litres of alcoholic beverages and goods to the value of US$500, without incurring customs duty. Restricted items include fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Strict regulations apply to temporary import or export of firearms, antiquities, tropical plants, medication and business equipment.
Brazil has a variety of electrical voltages, sometimes within the same city, The better hotels offer 220 volts. If not, transformers are available in electrical stores. Outlets often accept a variety of plug types but the two-pin type is standard.
The sheer size of Brazil makes local flights the most convenient method of travelling between major cities. São Paolo is the major connecting hub. Travellers who plan to fly to several destinations can make use of a Brazil Airpass, which allows for flights to up to nine local destinations. Buses are the main alternative, with services linking all the major cities. The schedules are fairly reliable, and buses are clean and well-maintained. Buses are also a primary mode of transportation within the cities. Taxis are the most reliable and safest formof transport at night. Taxis in major cities will use meters, however in smaller cities a price needs to be arranged beforehand. In the rural areas of the Amazon, river travel is still used, and in large sections of the Pantanal rainforest it is the only way of getting around. Car rentals in Brazil are relatively widespread, however drivers should take care as the rules of the road are often treated more as suggestions. While Brazilian trains are primarily used for freight, there are a few scenic passenger trains that travel between Curitiba and Paranaguá, São João del Rei to Tiradentes, and Campos do Jordão to Santo Antônio do Pinhal.
Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are reccommended for all travellers. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in Brazil. Insect repellent and protective clothing is essential. Malaria exists below 2,953ft (900m) in most rural areas, and outbreaks of dengue fever occur frequently. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those travelling to rural areas and other parts of the country as a yellow fever outbreak occurred at the beginning of 2008. Visitors travelling from infected areas outside the country require a yellow fever certificate. Chagas disease, caused by a parasite, is widespread in rural areas of Brazil. Until recently infection was believed to be from insect bites only, but an outbreak in March 2005 caused three deaths in Santa Catarina and was traced to the ingestion of sugar cane juice contaminated with the faeces of vector insects, and further cases were linked to the ingestion of bacaba wine from roadside stalls; visitors are advised to seek medical advice urgently if any of the symptoms occur (fever, nausea, muscle aches and pains and/or swelling at the site of the insect bite). Tap water is heavily treated resulting in a strong chemical taste; bottled water is, however, freely available for drinking purposes. Typhoid vaccinations are reccommended if travellers intend to spend a lot of time outside of major cities. Milk in rural areas is not pasteurised. Travellers are advised to take along medication for travellers' diarrhoea. Hospitals in the major cities are fairly good, but most doctors will want cash payment, even for travellers with insurance.
The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.
The Brazilian monetary unit is the real (BRL), plural reais. There are 100 centavos to the real. The US dollar is also welcome in most tourist establishments. In the main cities foreign currencies and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks or cambios. There is an extensive network of ATMs in the country and most major international credit cards are accepted.
All visitors require passports that are valid for at least the period of intended stay in Brazil. Sufficient funds to cover their stay in Brazil, as well as a return or onward ticket and documentation required for further travel, are necessary for all travellers.
Brazil is politically stable with no natural enemies and no terrorist activities. In metropolitan areas, however, petty crime is a fact of life. Rio in particular is regarded as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world and, although violent crime is generally limited to the slum areas, foreigners are advised to take precautions. Visitors should not attempt to visit slum areas unless on a guided tour. However violent crime is on the increase due to the establishment of drug and criminal gangs around Rio and Sao Paulo. Muggings, often involving firearms, are frequent and visitors should dress down and conceal cameras, and avoid wearing jewellery and expensive watches. Valuables should be deposited in hotel safes. The threat of personal attack is lower outside the main urban centres, but incidents do occur, and women should be aware that sexual assaults have been reported in coastal holiday destinations. Beware of unofficial taxis and those with blacked-out windows and be particularly careful on public transport in Rio, Recife and Salvador. Armed criminals intercepted a taxi carrying foreigners at night from Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport to central Rio in May 2006; incidents like this occur at random along this road, particularly at night.
Brazil spans four time zones: Rio and Sao Paulo: GMT -2 (GMT -3 April to October); Brasilia and Belm: GMT -3 (GMT -2 October to March); GMT -4 in the West.
Nearly all hotels add a service charge to the bill, usually 10 percent. Most restaurants also add 10 percent or more to the total of the bill, but must make it clear that they have done so; waiters appreciate another five percent if their service has been good. Otherwise, a 10-15 percent tip is customary. Brazilians don't normally tip taxi drivers, except if they handle bags, although they may round up the total. Hotel staff expect small tips and most other services, including barbers, shoe shiners, and petrol station attendants, are usually rewarded with a 10-15 percent tip. Parking attendants earn no wages and expect a tip of around two real.