From Carnival to the Amazon to the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil is a fascinating country to visit. Despite its recent economic recession, Brazil continues to be a top travel destination with a thriving tourist industry. Like any foreign country, before embarking on your journey, it is always a good idea to do some research ahead of time. Being knowledgeable and prepared in advance of your trip will ensure that you can make the most of your time exploring this incredible country. Here’s our guide of things to know before traveling to Brazil.
GOING TO THE OLYMPICS
Like many other travelers this summer, you may be traveling to Brazil for the Summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. From tickets, to hotel rooms to airfare, if you’re planning on attending the Olympics live this summer, start booking your trip well in advance. Tickets for the games are sold through different agencies depending on what country you live in. For example, citizens living in the United States will purchase their tickets through CoSport. If you’re looking to save a few dollars on airfare, keep in mind that the days preceding the start of the games will also be the most expensive. If you’re having difficulty locating a hotel room, consider Airbnb; Rio’s official alternative lodging supplier for the games.
If you’re planning on visiting Brazil this summer, you may be exempt from the standard visa requirements. In hopes of giving the country a financial boost, Brazil’s Minister of Tourism has announced a three month visa waiver program for tourists. As part of this initiative, citizens from either the United States, Canada, Japan or Australia entering the country between the dates of June 1 and Sept. 18, 2016, are able to enter the country without a visa and stay for up to 90 days.
With the recent outbreak of the Zika virus, it is important to be aware of the risks in order to a make safe and educated decision. According to the World Health Organization, it is generally considered safe for travelers to visit Brazil and other countries that have been affected by the Zika virus. For certain demographics, however, the Center for Disease Control recommends certain precautions. For example, if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, the CDC advises against visiting any Zika impacted destinations. For those that are traveling to Brazil at this time it’s worth remembering that the Zika virus is mostly transmitted via mosquito bites so some simple measures can be taken to reduce the risk, such as: using a mosquito net at night and requesting a hotel room with a fan.
Before packing your bags and heading out the door, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your trip run much more smoothly.
- Many Brazilians do not speak English, especially outside of the larger cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. If your Portuguese is a little rusty, consider taking a class to brush up on some key phrases or pack a pocket phrasebook in your bag.
- Ensure that your passport will be valid for your entire stay in Brazil. If your passport is going to expire during your stay, be sure to renew it well in advance of your trip in order to allow sufficient time for processing.
- The tap water is considered safe to drink in Brazil, however, many travelers and locals find the taste to be unpleasant and opt for bottled water instead.
- Car rentals in Brazil are rather expensive. Most travelers will instead use Brazil’s buses. Keep in mind that Brazil is a vast and expansive country; getting from Rio to Sao Paulo by bus will take you anywhere from six to eight hours.
- Some of Brazil’s bigger cities have gained a reputation for being high in petty crime. Although the country is generally considered safe for travelers, with the high volumes of visitors anticipated during the Summer Olympics, be sure to take some extra precautions when going out.
- Be aware of your possessions at all times. I don’t know how many stories I have heard of people’s passports, money, etc. being stolen. Make sure to leave your passport and other valuable items inside a safe or with you at all times. Don’t even take expensive jewelry with you. I am sure you can survive a couple weeks without them. Do not show off any sort of wealth or money. Giving way to this can get you mugged.
- Don’t make the ok sign in Brazil; it is considered very rude and offensive.
- Domestic flights are extremely expensive in Brazil, so make sure to book your flights to go around South America in advance.
- If you are planning on visiting Rio de Janeiro, do NOT – I repeat- do NOT visit the favelas by yourself. This is very dangerous and they are still ruled by drug dealers. The people are nice, yet the laws are vague since it is a drug territory. You can purchase guided tours through travel agencies, if you really want to go, just make sure that you are with a group of people who know the area very well.
- Once you have landed in Brazil, it’s time to start exploring the country. The country is an outdoor paradise, filled with tropical land, beaches, jungles and waterfalls, and Brazilians are known for being a vivacious and outgoing crowd.
- Be prepared to work on your tan at the beach. Women wear tiny bikinis and men wear speedos. They clearly do not enjoy tan lines.
- A very common dish is rice, beans, and manioc, which should be good news for vegetarians. Brazil has a lot of beef. Make sure to try all their foods. Their street snacks include chicken hearts and corn on the cob.
- The public transportation can be sketchy. Make sure you take taxis everywhere AND make sure they have credentials and a meter inside. A lot of taxis can be fake.
- You do not need to tip. It is only mandatory for hotel staff and waiters.
- Drugs (including marijuana) and going topless are illegal and prohibited.
Brazil is a beautiful place filled with great hospitality and amazing attractions, yet you must remember that it is still a developing country. Use caution when traveling around and make sure to always be wary of your possessions. Let me know if I missed anything and if you are lucky enough to be in Brazil now!
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