Your Ultimate Brazil Travel Guide
Brazil is the largest country in the South American continent and the fifth-largest country in the world. It is an awe-inspiring destination that every traveler and adventurer should visit and experience at least once in their life!
A vibrant and bustling country, Brazil has everything. From the most diverse ecosystem, the Amazon Rainforest, which boasts a colossal collection of plant and animal species to cosmopolitan cities like Rio de Janeiro. It is also home to beautiful stretches of white sandy beaches, mind-blowing carnivals, and delicious cuisine!
Despite all this, it is still an intimidating destination to the average traveler because of its sheer size. That’s why I’ve decided to write this guide where I tell you some of the essential things you need to know before traveling to Brazil.
This guide will help you break down the process of planning your trip, give you an idea of where to go and what to see, and also provide you with a rough budget and transmit you the want to never go back home!
Ultimate Guide for Brazil
NOTICE: The information here is updated as best we can in light of COVID-19. Please check before you go anywhere what modifications have taken place to avoid any inconvenience!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BRAZIL?
Luckily enough, Brazil is an all-year-round destination, which means there’s no bad time to visit! The best thing to do before deciding when to travel is to check the weather by region because it can vary.
Regardless of when you choose to visit, Brazil won’t disappoint you! Nevertheless, I’ll give you a general breakdown of the climate, so you can choose the best time according to your preference and budget.
#1. November to March
Summertime and living are easy! Who doesn’t love hot daily temperatures?
Indeed the ideal time to visit Brazil is between the months of November and March, which are the warmest months all around the country with temperatures between 27°C and 33°C (77°F).
However, this is a particularly busy and expensive time because of the Carnival and New Year celebrations, when people all over the world want to escape the cold. So if you decide to visit during these months, make sure to do all your bookings in advance!
Guess what takes place in February? The most famous celebrations take place in Rio: the Carvinal. Where you will experience one of the most colorful samba parades and street parties of the world/
Hey Goofball! If you are traveling on a budget, make your way to Brazil in November and also February right after the Christmas holidays and before the Carnival celebration!
#2. April to May
Although it’s considered winter, April and October are the shoulder season where prices are not so expensive and the weather is still on the warmer side!
As the hot weather is gone, also is the crowd of tourists, this made these months another great time and more affordable to go sightseeing and hiking in cities like Rio.
Hey Goofball! Take advance of it, visit the Iguazu Falls during these months and go celebrate the Semana Santa in Minas Gerais!
#3. June to August
Because Brazil is tropical, it doesn’t get a true winter. These months on the northeastern coast, however, the rain usually comes in the form of afternoon showers, so it’s nothing too disastrous!
It’s a perfect time to visit the Green Coast and also to jump into the Amazon to explore the following animals usually seen during these months: see ocelots, pumas, monkeys, and sloths.
#4. September to October
Beginning of spring and also the low season, which is a perfect mix for visiting Brazil’s tropical beaches. Due to that is also considered really a quiet period to be in Brazil, if you’re looking for some peace this is the right time to go to Brazil.
Hey Goofball! These months are perfect to visit the Pantanal: the largest wetlands in the world, with over 11000 species of animals living there.
WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN BRAZIL
Brazil is packed with a lot of things to see and do, here are some of my suggestions! Of course, you can’t go to Brazil without visiting Rio de Janeiro, its most popular city.
#1. Visit Iguaçu Falls
What is it?
The Iguaçu Falls is the largest waterfall system in the world and they are truly an astonishing sight to behold.
Although Argentina has better trails around the falls, Brazil is lucky to have the best views of the magnificent 275 separate falls that will blow your mind when you not only see them in person but hear their roaring sound as they crash in the river below.
The falls are protected by the UNESCO-acclaimed Iguaçu National Park, which is home to more than 1000 different species of wildlife.
#2. Attend a “Fútbol” match in Rio
What is it?
Fútbol (soccer) in Brazil is something HOLY that also the ones who know nothing about it will enjoy!
The largest stadium in the world is Maracaña situated in Rio de Janeiro, be sure to go to a local team’s games (Flamengo, Vasco, and Fluminese) which are going to guarantee you a match full of cheering, singing, and insult-slinging.
Hey Goofball! Be ready to experience this wonderful cheerful football match!
#3. Explore the Amazon Rainforest
What is it?
The Amazon Rainforest is an adventurer’s heaven! It’s the largest rainforest in the world and it’s home to a mesmerizing amount of wildlife species from insects and birds, to mammals and reptiles.
You can go to the Amazon by boat from Manaus which takes you to a point called Encontro das Aguas, or meeting of the waters. This is where you can see the dark Rio Negro waters meet the light waters of the Rio Solimões, flowing side by side for about six kilometers before merging together as the Amazon.
Hey Goofball! I personally made this tour of 3-4 days and it was one of the best experiences in my life. If you have more than 4 days, I would suggest you stay even longer as this place is truly magic!
#4. Experience the real Carnaval
What is it & why go?
It’s not like any Carnaval around the world, this is pure magic where the country gets down to some of the most serious partying in the world: a mix of the epic festival of music, samba, and revelers dressed in elaborate, colorful regalia as they take to the streets by the thousands!
Rio, Salvador, and Olinda are the places where Carnaval has become a mass event, attracting visitors from all over the world (2 million people hit the street every day during this event).
Hey Goofball! Keep in mind that prices for accommodations triple during this period of time, so be sure to book it in advance in order to not be screwed.
#5. Explore the Pantanal
What is it?
This is another perfect place to explore the wildlife in Brazil and unlike the Amazon Rainforest, it’s actually easier to spot wildlife in the Pantanal.
It’s the largest wetlands in the world, with over 11’000 species of animals living there. The best time to visit the Pantanal is the dry season when animals gather around the waterholes.
Hey Goofball! A multi-day sightseeing tour where you can spot most wildlife is going to cost you a minimum of about 825 BRL per day.
#6. Chill at Pernambuco Beaches
What is it?
Pernambuco is the gem of the northeast coast, it is home it some of Brazil’s most stunning beaches. It’s exotic and tucked away which will give you some peace of mind and quiet away from the crowds.
The first beach you should probably visit is Porto de Galinhas, which is actually known as the best virtually empty beach in the entirety of Brazil. Maracaibo is a beach that is popular for water sports such as surfing and kayaking and if you’re a beginner, you’ll find surf schools on the beach that can help you get started!
Other beautiful Brazil scenic beaches located on the eastern tip of the country: Recife! Piedade is less touristic than Boa Viagem (7km/4 miles stretch of sand between Pina to Piedade), both are lined with restaurants and bars where the locals go (remember, do what locals do!).
#7. Visit Brazil’s Capital
What is it?
Brasilia, the capital, is often overlooked by tourists, but it’s an architectural masterpiece that you must pass through!
Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, many of the city’s buildings are World Heritage Sites such as the Cathedral and the National Congress. Parque Nacional de Brasilia is another highlight that’s worth visiting in Brasilia.
Hey Goofball! Do not miss São Paulo, the largest city in South America and the third-largest in the world, home to over22 a million people. It seems like every area of the city is like its own micro-city, so wherever you are it’s a completely different vibe than another Brazilian city.
#8. Art Museum of São Paulo
What is it?
Generally, you can’t miss Sao Paulo while in Brazil, and the Art Museums of Sao Paulo are ultimately the top things to visit there!
They are simply incomparable and hold some of the best art pieces and collections in Latin America. Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) is the first modern art museum in the world and it’s home to more than 10,000 works including pieces by artists like Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, Matisse, and Bo Bardi. Other museums include Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Museu de Arte Moderna, and Pinacoteca.
#9. Dance like Locals
What is it?
One of the oldest Rio’s samba schools and one that won the most parade prizes!
Samba is the most important Brazilian cultural symbol, a musical genre, and dance born in Rio de Janeiro’s Afro-Brazilian communities. If you have the opportunity, you should absolutely not miss it and learn it!
Another African well-known dance is Capoeira which is a combination of dance, music, and martial arts. Do not miss out on the opportunity to take part in one of their classes on this kind of looked breakdancing, emphasizing flow over specific stances!
#10. Visit Ouro Preto
What is it?
Ouro Preto is a lovely colonial town and it’s the first Brazilian city to be considered a World Heritage Site.
This town is known for its outstanding Baroque architecture and brightly painted houses. It will be a joy to explore the hidden gems of Ouro Preto. Some of the places you should definitely visit include Museu Casa Guignard, Mine du Veloso, and the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.
#11. Discover this Pirate’s hideout
What is it?
Ilha Grande was once a pirate’s hideout, a leper colony, and a high-security jail.
Come here to disconnect and chill out. Nowadays it is a perfect place to disconnect and chill out on this tropical island paradise!
#12. Visit Salvador
What is it?
Salvador is a charming colonial city and the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia and it’s another must-visit destination to put on your Brazil list.
It’s also the 4th largest city in Brazil. Located on the northeastern coast of Brazil, Salvador is known for its amazing coastal views, its booming nightlife, as well as being home to a deep Afro-Brazilian heritage and culture.
Hey Goofball! Do not forget to check out the Ribeirão da Ilha not that far from Salvador itself.
#13. Hike the Tijuca National Park
What is it?
This vast rainforest is another ideal destination for outdoor lovers. Tijuca National Park is the world’s largest urban rainforest, covering 8,300 acres.
The beauty of Tijuca is awe-inspiring as it is home to diverse terrains, waterfalls, and hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, many of which are threatened by extinction. The park offers a wide variety of activities such as hiking, picnicking, hang gliding, and rock climbing. It also includes many remarkable attractions, most famously the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Other highlights include the Cascatinha Waterfall; the Mayrink Chapel, with murals painted by Cândido Portinari; and a giant granite table called the Mesa do Imperador (the table of the emperor).
Hey Goofball! Admission to the park is free, but you will have to pay to visit Christ the Redeemer or get the following guided tour to get the best experience ever!
COSTS OF TRAVELING TO BRAZIL
#1. Cost of food
Brazilian cuisine is a mix of many cultures and food varies per region, you don’t really have to go far to find an affordable meal! On average, people spend around 35-80 BRL on food per day (depending on whether you eat in a local restaurant or not).
Hey Goofball! If you want to break down the cost of it, grocery shopping costs about 100-200 BRL per week for basic staples.
Because of its vastness, accommodation prices change from city to city and from season to season (as said, Carnival has a huge impact on price increasing). Also, metropolitan cities have different prices from beachy destinations.
The average price for one person for accommodation in Brazil could vary from 60 to 130 BRL per night. For two people sharing a typical double-occupancy hotel room, the average price for a hotel room inBrazil is 225-250 BRL.
If you are more a Gextremers, you could even get a basic plot in a campground by the beaches and national parks for around 40-70 BRL per night.
Activities depend on what you want to do. Iguazù falls is 72 BRL, a soccer game can be as low as 10 BRL, samba classes around 105 BRL, and so on!
TIPS FOR BUDGETING YOUR BRAZIL TRIP
Here is a rough budget of average costs you can spend during your trip. On average, you should plan to spend around 420 BRL daily during your trip to Brazil, of course, this will vary according to your needs and the level of comfort you’re looking for.
If you’re backpacking, this amount will probably go down to around 210 BRL and if you want a luxurious trip, your budget might go up to 675 BRL per day or more.
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style – someday you’ll spend more other less, it all depends on what you do! PRICES ARE IN BRL
Hey Goofball! Expect an increase in prices during Carnival and if you are staying in Fernando de Noronha.
There are plenty of ways to save money during trips, and here Giorgy aka G-Extreme is about to add another list of her top tips to keep your budget even slower than the one mentioned above. Ready to know the trick to break down Brazil in a low-budget style?
- Low/shoulder-season – As mentioned before, not only does traveling outside high season allow you to save you a lot of money but it also won’t be packed with people too!
- Eat al local restaurants – Buffets, where you pay by weight, are very common throughout Brazil. These hole-in-the-wall restaurants offer the best value in the country. Or cook your own meals saving a fortune!
- Type of transportation – The airplane is the cheapest way to fly around the country, moreover if you buy the ticket more in advance. If you happen to get a cab, agree on the prices before jumping on it!
- Avoid tour activities– Most cities offer a free walking tour around the city for instance Rio. You can have an inside of the city’s history and culture, also get to know new travelers. Try to avoid other tour activities which are overrated and way too expensive. Instead do also hiking, swimming, and relaxing around which cost you nothing at all!
- The secret of the Nights Out – Who said you have to necessarily drink alcohol every time you go out? You can still have fun without alcohol and drinking, no alcohol each night can also significantly reduce travel costs.
- Camping – A lot of resorts and hostels allow you to put your tent on their property for around 6’000 CRC per night.
- Own your Water bottle – Since it’s not safe to drink tap water in Brazil, so bring the following filtered water bottle to save money and reduce plastic around the world!
- Cash vs Digital banking – Digital banking is getting more available in most of South America; keep in mind this is going to save you unwanted fees.
- Slow travel – If you have the luxury of traveling long-term instead of a few weeks, it is going to allow you to incorporate more free days around the city and explore what you like around you without being in a hurry – which means saving a lot of money as well.
- Stay with a local – Not only does Couchsurfing give you free accommodation, but it connects you with locals who can give you insider tips and advice. And why not make a new international friendship?
HOW TO GET AROUND BRAZIL
Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and comfortable way to travel in Brazil (maybe not the one someone with little time is going to choose). The cost could vary on the length from 80 to 300 BRL. Check Brazil Bus Travel to check schedules and book your tickets.
City transportation in Brazil is efficient and modern. Some cities even have a subway system. And Buses are everywhere and a ticket costs 3-5 BRL one way.
Use taxis during the evening when public transportation may not be safe. Use apps like 99Taxis iôr Uber (licensed taxi).
RENT A CAR
If you want whole independence from any other public transportation, rent your own vehicle car around 125 BRL per day! Ta-taaa-taaaa the roads are not always great, so think twice and check where you are heading before renting a vehicle. Also to have insurance as a back plan!
Why not give it a try? I did it a few times even though is not common for long-distance rides. Check this website for deep hitchhiking info in the country.
There is basically just trains between Sao Joao del Rei and Tiradentes, expensive and way too touristic. I would definitely not recommend this!
I put it as the last option because is not eco-friendly at all. It is also not efficient at all ~ you only save time if you are in the country for a unlimited time.
- Airpass: back at it! This is good if you are unlimited time traveling. It is a practical option if you’re going to take a lot of flights within 30 days. With GOL you can get a 90-day pass with four domestic flights in its network for 2,600 BRL. Azul offers something similar with four flights within three weeks for the same price. If you choose this option, you will spend less than 120 BRL per day on transportation. Brol.com can help you find the right pass. Just keep in mind that you have to book in advance for these passes so this doesn’t allow for flexible travel. You also cannot use these passes during popular time periods, like during Carnival and Christmas/the New Year.
BRAZIL PACKING ESSENTIALS
Do you know the saying pack light and efficiently?! First of all, triple-check your baggage allowance for your flights to Brazil and the regions you are about to visit.
As just mentioned above, Brazil’s regions are vastly different in nature, it’s really important to pay attention to what you’re packing.
Here is a list of some essential items you can’t go without:
- Sunscreen: Depending on when you visit Brazil being exposed to the sun require also protection for your skin. Remember to pack enough sunscreen for your trip;
- Sun Hat & Sun Glasses: Pack your hat and a pair of polarized sunglasses (this is the pair I use lol) to protect you from the rays;
- Flipflops or sandals: a good pair of sandals or flipflops while going around exploring the cities or hitting the beaches;
- Swimsuit: Having a comfortable swimsuit is essential for your next trip to Brazil;
- 3 – 4 different Outfits: Depending on your itinerary and how long you’re traveling, try to pack light and choose a few outfits that you can then wash during your travels.
- Hiking boots and hiking socks: According to how many hikes you are going to do, having a comfortable pair of supportive boots completed with socks are really important while exploring Brazil.
- Lightweight backpack: Pack light and efficiently?!
- Lightweight waterproof jacket: Whether you are hiking, on boat rides, or exploring the beaches, the weather is unpreventable, and having a good waterproof jacket could save you from these unconventional situations;
- Reusable Water Bottle: Water is important, bring a reusable bottle with you which you can fill from wherever you are;
- Travel Insurance: A good rule of thumb is to never travel without travel insurance. Put a First Aid Kit in your backpack, always comes in handy;
- Photo gear and underwater camera: The landscape, nature, and wildlife on the island are so incredible, that you will not want to miss taking lots and lots of pictures! Don’t forget to pack chargers and memory cards too.
STAYING SAFE AS YOU TRAVEL
Is Brazil Safe? In the end, everywhere you go could happen something to you. It’s just important to be precautionary, to be vigilant, and stay safe while traveling around Brazil, here are some tips I would like to remember for you all!
- Know where you are heading – There are certain areas people should avoid, and Brazil is no different. Make your research in order to be safe in the areas you plan to visit. Be also aware that taking an overnight bus (which is always a good reason if you can sleep everywhere and want to save money on accommodation) is a little bit riskier, more if you get to the destination very early or late at night. Especially if you go for a hike, check the weather in order to avoid complications while the hike; also never stray from the trail, in doubt hire a guide.
- Taxi scam – Never believe when someone says the meter is broken once the drive has begun; stick on metered taxis or negotiate a price in advance.
- Drink in moderation – Not only does not drink alcohol is allowing you to spare money but saving you from unwanted situations since it makes you more vulnerable. Keep in mind that alcohol makes it harder for your body to acclimate especially in high-altitude places. Also bring just the money you need for the night, the rest locked in your accommodation’s locker.
- Not be outstanding – Try also to avoid outstanding with rare gadgets or jewelry that may attract the wrong kind of attention as theft. Neither leaves valuables in the car (if you rent a car) overnight.
- Reassure the beloved ones – Let others know where you are by sharing your itinerary.
- Have a copy of your essential documents – You never know what could happen, make sure to have a copy (paper and digital) of all your essential documents. There could be fake police around the area you are in, so show them always a copy. And the inner gut never does wrong, feel and leave if you feel something is about to happen!
- Travel Insurance – You never know what could happen while traveling, Travel Insurance will protect you against anything!
- Become a local – Knowing at least a bit of Spanish or Portuguese, it’s going to be helpful while traveling in Brazil. I would recommend downloading an app for learning it or getting an instant translator to have with you a long way.
- Follow the rules – If you don’t do it at home, neither do it in Brazil!
WHAT TO EXPECT
Language: Unfortunately, English is not widely spoken in Brazil outside the major cities like Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, so I recommend you learn some basic Portuguese phrases in order to be able to get around or get a translator around with you! Of course, you can always use the help of digital translation applications or websites.
Currency: The official currency of Brazil is the Real (BRL) which is equivalent to 0.19 USD. Likewise, 1 USD is equivalent to 3.84 BRL.
ATMs & Credit Cards: ATMs are quite common in Brazil, even in smaller towns. The harder part is finding an ATM that works with your card. Cirrus and PLUS networks are the most common. Most banks in Brazil have ATMs, some inside and some outside. As for credit and debit cards, US, UK and Australian debit and credit cards generally work in Brazil, as Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, and Maestro are all widely accepted. However, you need a four-digit pin in order for the ATM to work. Lastly, the maximum withdrawal per transaction is generally 1000 Real.
Plugs: In Brazil, there are two plugs: Type N and Type C, so you will most likely need an adapter. You might also need a voltage converter because Brazil operates on 127 / 220 Voltage and the frequency is 60 Hz. Some places operate on different voltages, so you need to be aware of the voltage used where you’re going. Your appliances probably won’t be damaged but they might not function optimally, so it’s better to be careful.
Safety: Brazil is mostly safe for travelers and backpackers, but like any busy and touristic country, you need to pay attention to safety measures so you can enjoy your trip while staying safe! I encourage you to not wear expensive jewelers or carry your valuables around with you. Don’t walk around with too much cash and separate your cards. Avoid empty streets, especially at night, and only withdraw cash from ATMs inside buildings.
Don’t let its vastness intimidate you and already start planning your trip to Brazil! You can use this guide as an inspiration to embark on this exciting journey to one of the richest and most wonderful places on earth!
If you need more detailed advantages, you can check my ultimate guide for backpacking through South America.
Have fun because BRAZIL is awaiting you Goofball! Be ready to go on an adventure and don’t forget to be safe out there Gextremers!