Brazil travel guide
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.
8,515,770 sq km (3,287,957 sq miles).
210,274,356 (UN estimate 2016).
24 per sq km.
Acting President Michel Temer since 2016.
Acting President Michel Temer since 2016.
Last updated: 19 January 2018
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.
Levels of crime including violent crime are high, particularly in major cities. You should be particularly vigilant before and during the festive and Carnival periods. Bank card fraud is common.
There are very high levels of violent crime in shanty towns (favelas), which exist in all major Brazilian cities. In Rio de Janeiro, any visit to any favela can be dangerous, even as part of an organised tour.
Despite the high crime levels, most visits are trouble free. 202,671 British nationals visited Brazil in 2016.
You should take steps to avoid mosquito bites. UK health authorities have classified Brazil as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. There have been outbreaks of yellow fever in Brazil. Cases of dengue fever have also been reported, especially in the south-east and central-west of Brazil and cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
Protests take place regularly across Brazil and often without warning. Roads and public transport are frequently severely disrupted. Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place, monitor local media and follow the advice from the local authorities.
Brazil’s land border with Venezuela may be closed at short notice. You should monitor local media for updates and advice.
Terrorist attacks in Brazil can’t be ruled out.
If you’re a single parent or guardian travelling with a child, you may need additional documentation.
Drug trafficking is widespread in Brazil, and incurs severe penalties.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
There are very high levels of violent crime in shanty towns (favelas), which exist in all major Brazilian cities.
In Rio de Janeiro, any visit to a favela can be dangerous, even as part of an organised tour. Violence in Rio de Janeiro favelas increased in 2017. Armed clashes and shootouts between police forces and gangs are a regular and unpredictable occurrence, and in October 2017 a tourist on a favela tour in Rio de Janeiro was accidentally shot dead by police.
There is a risk of violence spilling over into nearby areas, including those popular with tourists. There have been injuries and deaths as a result of stray bullets in and near favelas.
Armed clashes between the police and gang members have also occurred on major thoroughfares, including the main highway to and from the international airport in Rio de Janeiro which runs alongside a large favela.
Take extra care in all Brazilian towns and cities, especially Rio de Janeiro. If you’re using GPS navigation, whether by car or on foot, make sure that the suggested route doesn’t take you into a favela. Avoid entering unpaved, cobbled or narrow streets which may lead into a favela. Tourists have been shot after accidentally entering a favela. Check with your hotel or the local authorities if unsure.
There are high levels of crime, particularly robberies, within Brazil’s cities and the murder rate can be very high. However this can vary greatly within a city and we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the geography of a city and take local advice to identify the riskier areas. Crime, including violent crime, can occur anywhere and often involves firearms or other weapons. Pickpocketing is common. You should be vigilant, in particular before and during the festive and carnival periods. We recommend that you do not go on to city beaches after dark.
If threatened, hand over your valuables without resistance. Attackers may be armed and under the influence of drugs. Don’t attempt to resist attackers – this increases the risk of injury or worse.
Don’t wear expensive jewellery and watches. Don’t carry large sums of money and consider wearing a money belt. Don’t use your mobile phone in the street and keep cameras out of sight when not in use. Leave your passport and other valuables in a safe place but carry a copy and another form of photo ID, if you have one, with you at all times. Thefts are particularly common on public beaches and include ‘arrastões’ where large groups of thieves run through an area of the beach grabbing possessions. Keep your possessions close and avoid taking valuables to the beach.
The most common incidents affecting British nationals in Rio de Janeiro are thefts and pick pocketing around Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach and the areas of Lapa and Santa Theresa.
Tourists in Rio de Janeiro frequently report armed robberies on the Corcovado walking trail to the Christ the Redeemer statue. We recommend that you don’t use the trail at this time.
The most common incidents affecting British nationals in Sao Paulo are thefts or pickpocketing around Avenida Paulista and the historical downtown area. The red light districts located on Rua Augusta (north of Avenida Paulista) Catedral da Sé, Praça da República and the Estacao de Luz metro area (where Cracolandia is located), are especially dangerous.
In Brasilia, the central bus station area has the highest incidence of robberies and robbery of pedestrians occurs in the Federal District area. Particular care should be taken at these locations.
The most common incidents affecting British nationals in the North East of Brazil are theft from hotel and motel rooms and muggings. Reduce the risk of being mugged by avoiding quiet or deserted streets and / or areas and by using taxis after sunset instead of walking.
Robberies on buses are common in many cities. According to police statistics the most stolen items are mobile phones and the period in which the greatest number of robberies occur is between 4pm and 9pm.
Thefts from cars are common; keep valuables out of sight.
Carjacking can occur, particularly on major thoroughfares and in tunnels. Approach your car with your keys in hand so you can get into your car quicker. When driving, keep doors locked and windows closed, and take particular care at traffic lights. Where possible, use the middle lane. Avoid deserted or poorly lit areas, except under reliable local advice. Be aware of people approaching to ask for information, especially at night. If driving at night outside the city, avoid stopping at the roadside – if you need to do so try to find a petrol station/other well lit area in which to stop.
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.
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. If you withdraw cash at an ATM and it has any sort of pink marks, speak to the bank (or police) straight away to get it changed as it may have been marked as damaged or counterfeit.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations and occasionally strikes take place in cities across Brazil with reports of arrests and clashes between police and protesters. More common in urban areas, they can disrupt transport. Even events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Police have used rubber bullets and tear gas extensively to disperse protesters. The effects of tear gas can be felt several hundred meters beyond the immediate site of demonstrations.
In Sao Paulo, protests take place regularly and often without warning. Roads and public transport are frequently disrupted and there can be delays along the main road to Guarulhos International Airport.
Popular locations for demonstrations in major cities are: Avenida Paulista, Largo da Batata and the historic downtown area in Sao Paulo, Esplanada dos Ministerios in Brasilia and Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
If you’re travelling or residing in Brazil, take common sense precautions, follow local news reports, avoid large gatherings, political rallies or other events where crowds have congregated to demonstration or protest, and comply with the instructions of local authorities. If you encounter a demonstration, leave the area immediately.
Victims of crime
If you or another British citizen becomes the victim of crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest British embassy or consulate. You can find more information on how we can support you in our Support for British Nationals Abroad guide.
The following websites are maintained by the Brazilian authorities and contain useful information about travelling to Brazil:
Check the integrity and safety standards of any adventure travel companies before you use them.
Public transport is likely to be disrupted during demonstrations or civil 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. Criminals often work in gangs robbing large numbers of people concentrated in the same place: public transport hubs can be particular hotspots. There have been incidents of hijacking and robbery of tour buses in recent years.
Only use licensed taxis. You can pick up a licensed taxi from the many recognised taxi ranks around Brazilian cities. Always check your taxi has the company details on the outside. Taxi apps are also a useful way to call a registered taxi; request your taxi inside if possible to avoid displaying your smartphone on the street. If your app allows this, share your journey with friends or family so they can track you.
Be aware that some taxi apps are reliant on GPS and run the risk of entering a more dangerous area of the city, in particular favelas.
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.
You can use your UK driving licence to drive in Brazil, but an international driving permit is recommended. When driving on federal motorways (BR roads) you must turn on your headlights or face a penalty. Always observe the speed limit.
Brazil has a high road accident rate. In 2016, 6,405 people died in accidents on federal roads. Overall standards of driving are poor. Travellers should be vigilant on the roads and avoid riding bicycles. In many rural areas the quality of roads away from the main highways is poor. Bus and coach crashes are frequent.
Brazil has a zero tolerance policy on drink driving. If you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be prosecuted. Penalties range from fines and a suspension from driving for 12 months, to imprisonment for up to 3 years.
All accidents involving personal injury should be reported immediately to the police by calling 190 or by attending to a police station to file a police report. Medical help can be obtained with the fire and rescue brigade at 193 or with the local emergency services (SAMU) at 192.
Call the police on 190 if the vehicles involved are obstructing traffic and you need help.
In Rio de Janeiro, go directly to the nearest police station (DEAT – Tourist Police station call 2332-2924 or 3399-7170 or 2334-6804) to register the accident.
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.
Foreign nationals can travel on domestic flights with a valid photo ID or a police report in case of a lost or stolen passport.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL AIR. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
The railway infrastructure is limited and there have been safety and security incidents on this system.
Sea and river travel
Be aware of safety procedures on board vessels and check the location of life jackets, including for children if travelling with them. Boat accidents on the Amazon river are not uncommon.
Southwest river routes in the Amazon & Solimões river basin are commonly used for drug trafficking and by pirates. Both drug traffickers and pirates are likely to be armed and you should avoid travelling by river in this area. If travel is necessary seek the advice of the local authorities and take an escort.
There have been armed and unarmed attacks on merchant vessels, including British flag vessels off the Brazilian coast and in some Brazilian ports.
Strong currents and sharks can be a danger off some beaches. Take local advice before swimming including paying attention to warning flags on beaches and the location of lifeguards if present on the beach.
Terrorist attacks in Brazil can’t be ruled out. Attacks, although unlikely, could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Drug trafficking is widespread in Brazil. If you are caught trafficking the penalties are severe, often involving long prison sentences in a Brazilian prison. The penalties for possession of drugs for personal use range from educational classes to community service.
Some British nationals have been targeted through email scams in which online fraudsters offer a financial reward for them to travel to Brazil, where they are then asked to carry some items/gifts out of Brazil, including to the UK. These items are often illegal drugs and anyone caught will face detention for drug trafficking regardless of the circumstances.
The sexual abuse of children is a serious crime and widespread in Brazil. The UK and Brazilian authorities are committed to combatting travelling child sex offenders and the Brazilian government continues to crack down on those who commit such offences. If you commit sex offences against children abroad you can be prosecuted in the UK.
There is no legislation against homosexuality in Brazil. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013, and LGBT couples have equal rights in law. Human rights are protected by the Brazilian Constitution, and Brazil is a signatory to international and regional agreements protecting LGBT rights. Name changes on official documents for transgender people are also provided for by law, although this right is not always applied consistently across the country.
Sao Paulo holds the world’s largest Pride celebration, which typically passes off very peacefully – incidents of violence at the event are rare. Rio’s Pride and those of other cities also attract large numbers. Brazil generally has had a tradition of tolerance. However, Brazilian society is quite conservative, particularly outside the larger towns and cities, and LGBT-phobic violence is a concern - you should exercise discretion. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals can normally enter Brazil without a visa as a tourist. For further information about visas see the website of the Brazilian Consulate in London.
Make sure you comply with Brazilian immigration laws on arrival in the country. You must satisfy the Federal Police (the Brazilian immigration authority) of your intended purpose of visit. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you have enough money for the duration of your stay, and provide details of your accommodation and evidence of return or onward travel. Make sure your passport is stamped. If it is not, you may be fined on departure. Keep your immigration landing card. You’ll need it when you leave. If you lose it you may be fined.
If you wish to extend your stay while you are in Brazil you should apply to the Federal Police for an extension. If you overstay your visa, you are likely to be given notice to leave the country at your own expense and you may be fined or deported.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Brazil.
The Brazilian immigration authorities often require dual British/Brazilian nationals visiting Brazil to travel on Brazilian (rather than British) passports.
Travelling with children
There are additional requirements for British-Brazilian dual nationals under 18 entering or transiting through Brazil without their parents or legal guardian, or travelling with one parent only. These requirements don’t apply to foreign nationals, but as a precaution and to avoid any possible delays, British nationals under 18 entering or transiting through Brazil without their parents or legal guardian, or travelling with one parent only, are advised to bring a letter of authorisation to travel from any parent(s) not travelling. Contact the Brazilian Consulate in London for more information and advice.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency travel documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Brazil. Your ETD must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Brazil.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Foreign nationals are entitled to emergency medical treatment in Brazilian public hospitals. Public hospitals in Brazil, especially in major cities, tend to be crowded. Private hospitals will not accept you unless you can present evidence of sufficient funds or insurance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
There has been an increase in reported cases of Hepatitis A in Sao Paulo over the last year. For more information and advice, see the Brazil country advice page and Hepatitis A factsheet from NaTHNaC.
You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes:
- UK health authorities have classified Brazil as having a risk of Zika virus transmission
- Malaria is present in parts of the country
- There have been outbreaks of yellow fever in Brazil
- Dengue fever is particularly common during the rainy season (from November to March).
For more information and advice, visit the NaTHNaC website.
The sun can be extremely strong and UV levels are higher than in the UK.
If you’re taking medication, take a good supply with you, as they may not be available locally. Bring a prescription or letter from your doctor confirming your requirement to carry the medication. Counterfeit drugs can also be an issue, so it’s always better to travel with your own supplies. Rules for carrying personal medication vary and can change, so check with the Brazilian Consulate before you travel.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 192 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The rainy season runs from November until March in the south and south east and from April until July in the north east of the country. Heavy rains can often disrupt infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Flash floods and landslides, especially in poorer urban areas, are common during heavy rains. Monitor local media and follow any instructions given by the local authorities.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.