Top events in Brazil

May
03

The annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) parade is the world’s largest, attracting around four million people. Expect riotously...

May
07

Head to Rio de Janeiro and check out the world's best surfers competing in the Billabong Rio Pro. The 12-day competition is Brazil’s only event in...

May
16

A 24-hour, non-stop celebration of city culture that showcases everything from dance and film to art and theatre. Organisers lean heavily on the...

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
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Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

© 123rf.com/Christophe Schmid

Brazil Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

8,547,404 sq km (3,300,171 sq miles).

Population

201 million (2013).

Population density

23.5 per sq km.

Capital

Brasília.

Government

Federal Republic.

Head of state

President Dilma Rousseff since 2011.

Head of government

President Dilma Rousseff since 2011.

Electricity

Brasília and Recife, 220 volts AC; Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, 127V AC or 220V in larger hotels. Plugs are of the two-pin type. Most hotels provide 110V- and 220V-outlets, transformers and adaptors.

From the jungle calls of the Amazon to the thong-clad crowds of Copacabana beach, Brazil is an intoxicating mix of the big, the bold and the beautiful, perennially one of the world’s favourite destinations.

It’s also one of the largest countries on the planet, with an awesome array of treasures to match. Its vast coastline is fringed with soft sands and island getaways; the Amazon Basin teems with an unrivalled mass of flora and fauna; and the wetlands of the Pantanal, the largest on Earth, support a staggering diversity of wildlife.

And then there’s the Iguaçu Falls, an unforgettable natural spectacle featuring hundreds of waterfalls, which cascade from the tropical rainforest as blue morpho butterflies flit through the spray.

Undoubtedly the greatest draw, however, are the Brazilians themselves; probably the most hedonistic people on earth. Whether it’s Rio’s effervescent Cariocas going overboard at Carnival, or São Paulo’s sultry citizens gyrating in chic nightclubs, Brazilians love having fun.

Their irrepressible joie de vivre finds its best outlet through music and dance. Samba, lambada and bossa nova are Brazil’s best-known musical exports, but visitors can also discover a plethora of other genres, from the Northeast’s forró to the punchy bass of baile funk coming out of Rio’s favelas.

Adrenaline junkies can go wild in Brazil; shooting the big surf of Santa Catarina; bouncing in beach buggies over the sand dunes of northern Natal; snorkeling in Fernando de Noronha National Park; or abseiling in the Chapada Diamantina National Park.

Or you can take life easy and let Brazil come to you by lolling in a hammock on an Amazonian ferry, looking out for the occasional macaw, or browsing the backstreets of colonial towns such as Ouro Preto and Paraty, which are lined with architectural monuments and chic boutique hotels.

Whatever you’re looking for, rest assured, Brazil has it in spades.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 April 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Crime levels are high. Violence and crime can occur anywhere and often involve firearms or other weapons. You should be vigilant, particularly before and during the festive and carnival periods.

Avoid wearing expensive jewellery, watches and clothes. Don’t carry large sums of money. Keep mobile phones and cameras out of sight and leave your passport and valuables in a safe place, though you should carry another form of photo ID like a driving licence with you at all times. Be ready to hand over valuables if you’re threatened. Don’t attempt to resist attackers. They may be armed and under the influence of drugs.

Thefts from cars are common, and cases of carjacking occur. When approaching your car have the keys ready to make it easier to get into the car. When driving, keep doors locked and windows closed, and take particular care at traffic lights. In three or more lanes of traffic, consider using the middle lanes. Avoid deserted or poorly lit places, except under reliable local advice. Be aware of people approaching to ask for information, especially at night. The threat of personal attack is lower outside cities, but incidents can occur even in holiday destinations that appear relatively secure.

Rape and other sexual offences against tourists are rare, but there have been attacks against both men and women. Some have involved ‘date rape’ drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep them within sight at all times.

There has been an increase in robberies at ATMs. Some ATMs have been fitted with an anti theft device that applies pink coloured ink to the notes of an ATM that has been damaged or tampered with. Any pink coloured note will not be accepted and automatically loses its value. If you withdraw cash at an ATM and it has any sort of pink marks, speak to the bank straight away to get it changed. If outside bank hours or not in a bank branch you should get a bank statement from the ATM showing the withdrawal and take it with the marked note to a police station to get a police report.

Bank and credit card fraud is common, including card cloning from ATMs. Keep sight of your card at all times and do not use an ATM if you notice anything suspicious. Notify your bank in advance of your trip to avoid your card being blocked.

Mobile phone cloning occurs. Take care of your handset at all times. 

Favelas

There are high levels of poverty and very high levels of violent crime in shanty-towns (favelas), which exist in all major Brazilian cities. The state government has implemented a Pacifying Police Force (Unidade de Policia Pacificadora - UPP) in several favelas in Rio de Janeiro. This has improved security in these favelas, but all favelas are unpredictably dangerous areas, even if you visit with well organised tours. Violence, particularly aimed at police and officials, can occur at anytime. Be alert and make sure you are aware of local conditions at all times.

Local travel

The following websites are maintained by the Brazilian authorities and contain useful information about travelling to Brazil:

Rio de Janeiro

São Paulo

Brazil

Check the integrity and safety standards of any adventure travel companies before you use them.

Public transport

Public transport is likely to be disrupted during periods of unrest. Be vigilant when using public transport, especially during rush-hour as petty crime is common. Generally, the metro systems in Rio and São Paulo are safer than buses. There have been incidents of hijacking and robbery of tour buses in recent years. There are frequent bus crashes.

Only use licensed taxis. You can pick up a licensed taxi from the many recognised taxi ranks around Brazilian cities. Most airports have licensed taxi desks inside the baggage reclaim areas. You can pay for your taxi in advance using a credit card or cash inside the airport rather than in the street.

Most major cities in Brazil have facilities adapted for disabled travellers, including easy-access public buses and lifts to tube stations and platforms.

Road travel

Brazil has a high road accident rate. In many rural areas the quality of roads away from the main highways is poor, and standards of driving, especially trucks and buses, is low.

Brazil has a zero tolerance policy on drink driving. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you’ll probably be prosecuted. Penalties range from fines and a suspension from driving for 12 months, to imprisonment for up to 3 years.

Air travel

Always use recognised national air carriers. There have been accidents involving light aircraft, which sometimes have poor maintenance standards. A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes list of registered airlines  that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport for your flight. Traffic in the main cities, especially São Paulo and Rio, can be very heavy, particularly during rush hour.

Rail travel

The rail and metro infrastructure is limited. In the past there have been some safety and security incidents on these systems.

Sea travel

Be wary of safety procedures on board vessels. Boat accidents on the Amazon River are not uncommon.

There have been armed and unarmed attacks on merchant vessels, including British flag vessels off the Brazilian coast and in some Brazilian ports.

Swimming

Strong currents and sharks can be a danger off some beaches. Take local advice before swimming.

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