It’s a massive land the size of continental USA covering nearly half of South America, and the 5th largest country in the world and with a population of 150 million people, it’s the largest Catholic nation on earth. It’s an urban city, with most of its population centred in the major cities – Sao Paulo, a massive population of 17 million, Rio de Janeiro, a beach-tourist’s paradise and carnival epicentre of the world, and also home to the best hiking and climbing within its state. Only in Brazil can you discover a mixing of cultures, people, traditions and ancient verses modern civilizations.
It’s a passionate country, of rhythm, football, adrenalin and drama and its energy and colour has inspired the western world. It’s also the official home of the party – with Festivals taking on monumental significance, and the legendary Rio Carnival is the biggest and most exuberant street party of earth. In contrast, the mystique of the tropical rainforests of the Amazon, the most diverse eco-system on earth and the world’s biggest jungle, has become a focus for explorers and intrepid travellers throughout time. The Pantanal wetlands south of the Amazon is the world’s largest wetlands and holds a massive concentration of flora and fauna.
One of the first things you notice in any Brazilian city is the number of street kids. Half the population is under 20 and there’s no welfare system. The northeast is the poorest part of Brazil and the cities have the worst social problems.
Like beach life, football in Brazil can be a national obsession, a common denominator which brings all walks of life together. People play everywhere. Little wonder Brazil has won more World Cups than any other country. If you’re a fan, try and catch a professional game. There’s as much entertainment off the pitch as on it and Brazilian football fans have a reputation for being amongst the most exuberant you’ll find anywhere. They call Brazil’s National Hero O Rei or “The King” and even years after retiring, Pele remains the world’s most famous footballer. Awarded the title “Athlete of the Century”, he’s the most popular man in Brazil.
Music is massive in Brazil, it’s practically invented every type of modern Latin music – theSamba, bossa nova, tropicalismo. The funky beats of the Samba, the sound of Carnival, is the beat behind the hot yet cool daily life of Brazilians.
- Belo Horizonte
- Porto Alegre
- Sao Paolo
- Top Ten Sights in Rio de Janeiro
Due to its vast size, there are two types of climate – one in the south which experiences seasonal changes, but in the north the seasons are much less pronounced. Winter is from June to August, which is probably a good time to visit as it rarely get cold in Brazil. Summer, from December to February, is generally a bad time to visit unless you’re going to experience the February Carnival in Rio, as most Brazilians go on holiday to escape the overpowering heat and filth of the cities. Temperatures can reach up to 110F in Rio.
Rain is common throughout Brazil, Belem in the Amazon basin is one of the most rained on cities in the world. Short tropical rains fall regularly but they shouldn’t stop you doing just about anything, even sunbathing and they are refreshing and cooling.
In the Amazon, the weather changes very quickly and you can suddenly be caught in a downpour. Good wet weather gear is always essential.
The economy of Brazil is very unstable, it’s been something of a boom-bust business in recent years but tremendous modernisation and developed has taken place in the last decade. The gap between rich and poor is phenomenal and at times appalling. It’s a relatively cheap country to travel in, but varies dramatically depending on inflation.
You could survive on around $50 US staying in cheap hotels at $10 a night. For absolute thread bare travel sleeping on beaches, you could live of $10 a day. Always bargain down the price of a hotel room if you can.
The currency has changed dozen of times in recent years and it is currently the Brazil real.
Very approximate conversions are:
$1 US = 2.25 Brazil Reals
1 Euro = 2 Brazil reals
£1 Sterling = 4 Brazil Reals
Check with your local foreign exchange bureau for up to date currency information.
Brazil is officially Catholic, but it is also home to many sects and tribal religions like the Candomble, which fuses tribal cultures with Christianity.
It’s one of the least densely populated nations in the world, and most of its 150 million population live in cities around the east coast.
There are numerous social problems with poverty, especially “abandonados”, some 12 million of the countries orphans who are brutally tortured and murdered by gangs. It’s truly a mixed race nation, with people related to black slaves, native Indians and white colonisers, making the Brazilian’s a nation of many beliefs, background and skin tones.
One of the first things you notice in any Brazilian city is the number of street kids. Half the population is under 20 and there’s no welfare system. The northeast is the poorest part of Brazil and the cities have the worst social problems. Poverty and economic inequality are rampant in Brazil, with the wealthiest 10% of the population receiving 42.7% of the nation’s income, in contrast to the poorest 34% who receive 1.2%. Crime is also a major issue, with 23.8 murders per 100,000 residents.
The official language is Portuguese, which has been modified in the last 4 centuries since the original Portuguese settlers arrived by dialect from African slaves and Indian natives, but numerous other tongues are spoken by native Indian groups. If you speak Spanish you may be understood in most parts of the country, but little to no English is spoken outside of the major cities.
The visa policy is that if a Brazilian needs a visa to enter your country, you will need one to enter Brazil. UK citizens to not, but USA, American and Australians do.
If you’re only visiting Rio or one of the major cities, you don’t need to worry too much about tropical diseases. If you’re heading out into the north-east or Amazon, you should guard against malaria, yellow fever, leprosy and dengue fever. Take care to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Brazil has an incredibly rich musical background. With its initial influences rooted in African and European styles, over the past century or so, Brazil has been a country of sonic innovation, with such styles as samba, bossa nova, tropicalia and choro all originating in Brazil.
In addition, unique sub-genres of Western music such as rock, rap and folk music have also emerged to prominence within Brazil. Samba Music in particular has become recognizable across the world. Synonymous with Brazil’s spectacular Carnival, samba has become a national symbol in its own right.
Don’t drink Brazilian tap water, stick to the bottled variety or purify water using Iodine tablets. Avoid fruit juices or milk unless they are in sealed bottles. Drink plenty of water to counter act sweating in all that Brazilian heat.
Brazilian staples are white rice, black beans and manioc flour, served with either steak, chicken or fish. Portions in sit down restaurants are huge, think USA style, so it’s better to share or opt for fast food.
Buses are the main mode of long and short distance transport of Brazilians. Services are clean, comfortable and fast as well as cheap, costing around $2 an hour. Air flight is expensive but a necessity to get to far flung spots like the Sertao and Amazon.
Brazil’s capital city is often overlooked in favour of the more well-known and vibrant big cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. However, Brasilia is a happening cosmopolitan city in its own right, known for its innovative modernist architecture (which was instrumental in the city being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Points of interest include the Complexo Cultural da Republica, Brasilia’s cultural hub, which is comprised of the National Library of Brasilia and National Museum of the Republica, the design of which exemplifies Brasilia’s contemporary look. As the country’s capital, the city is home to over a hundred embassies, thereby giving the city a multicultural feel. Brasilia is a host city for the 2014 World Cup, with its matches to be played at the Estadio Nacional, an enormous stadium with a capacity of over 68,000.
Brazil’s third largest city and the capital of the state Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte is a city of incredible natural beauty, entirely surrounded by mountains. Many large parks and nature reserves are in very close proximity ti the city, most notably the Jambeiro Woods nature reserve, which is home to an incredible biodiversity of birds and animals. Contrasting with the stunning natural beauty, Belo Horizonte is also a cosmopolitan urban jungle with over 5 million people.
The city centre is marked with hundreds of skyscrapers and cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries. Belo Horizonte is also known for its thriving bar culture, and renowned across the globe as ‘the capital of neighbourhood bars’. The region’s cuisine is also very unique, having produced a number of popular dishes and drinks, most notable of which is the spirit cachaca, which is sold internationally.
Belo Horizonte will host a number of matches in the 2014 World Cup at the massive 62,160 capacity Estadio Mineirao Stadium.
A major tourist region amongst Brazilians, Fortaleza is one of the Northeast’s more quiet major cities, especially in comparison to the raucous Salvador and Rectife. Known for its pleasant tropical climate and urban beaches, Fortaleza’s beaches each have unique characteristics. Iracema is a bohemian hotspot in the city, home to several popular bars and nightclubs. Contrastingly, Mucuripe is popular with fishermen and home to many jangadas. Much of the city’s seafood comes from there, with the fishermen selling their catches in the city’s famous fish market.
Like the rest of Brazil, sport is huge in Fortaleza, especially football, with several games of the forthcoming 2014 World Cup being hosted at the city’s stadium the Arena Castelao.
Due to the lovely beaches and strong winds, aquatic sports such as surfing are also popular in Fortaleza, while the city also produces several famous athletes of combat sports such as Mixed Martial Arts.
A city with a predominant European population, Porto Alegre is the capital of the state Rio Grande do Sul. The city is incredibly important for trade within Brazil, due to its location on the Lagoa dos Patos, the intersection of five rivers. Primarily a transportation hub for local food produce such as cassava and rice, it is also a key trading spot for Brazil’s leather industry.
The city is also famous for its buzzing nightlife, home to bars and clubs for all different kinds of taste. Among these include more casual bars as well as 24-hour rave spots. Porto Alegre is also one of Brazil’s musical capitals, and is steeped in theatrical culture, home to several major venues. Porto Alegre is also a host city for the 2014 World Cup. The matches will be played at the Estadio Beira-Rio, a 51,300 capacity stadium on the river bank posthumously named after the engineer who supervised its construction.
Situated at the intersection of the Beberibe River and the Capibaribe River, where they flow into the Atlantic Ocean, the city is commonly nicknamed the ‘Brazilian Venice’ due to the several bridges, small islands and water features. In its early history during colonization, the city was a major port of Brazil, although its importance in this regard has decreased in recent decades. More recently, the city has become rejuvenated as a tourist destination and is now home to several luxury hotels, beach resorts and shopping malls. This is in no small part due to the city’s stunning beaches, which lay along the 116 mile long Paernambuco Coast.
Although many of the urban beaches are highly congested and polluted such as Boa Viagem, the beaches outside the city centre still retain their local charms and natural beauty. Nearby Recife n the state of Pernambuco are a number of other interesting destinations, including Olinda, one of Brazil’s best preserved colonial cities, which dates back to the seventeenth century as well as the Fernando de Noronha, a collection of beautiful islands with diverse marine life and incredible waters, making it a popular tourist destination for divers. Recife is also a host city of the 2014 World Cup, hosting its matches at the 46,154 capacity Arena Pernambuco, a ‘Green Arena’ well known for its inclusion of a solar power plant within its structure.
Situated in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, Manaus is one of Brazil’s most interesting and idiosyncratic cities. Once popularly termed the ‘Heart of the Amazon’ and the ‘City of the Forest’, the city was the richest city in South America during the 1800s due to the booming rubber exporting business. In its early days, the city attracted many wealthy European families, who helped imbue the city with a sophisticated cultural facet, which continues to resonate within the city today.
The city is famous today for its free port, which exports several goods from the nearby Amazon Rainforest. In addition, it is unique amongst other major Brazilian cities for its preservation of the culture of Native Brazilian tribes. The city is a popular tourist destination for its beautiful river cruises, incredible biodiversity and close proximity to the Rainforest. Manaus is also a host city for the 2014 World Cup, playing its matches at the recently opened Arena da Amazonia, making it the first city to host a World Cup in the Amazonian region.
The closest Brazilian city to the Old World, since the construction of the Via Costeira Highway along the coast in the 1980s, Natal has been rejuvenated as a major tourist destination, home to a vast number of attractions, which cater to a variety of different tastes. Naturally, the city is home to the largest cashew tree in the world and the clear, serene Maracajau waters.
Culturally, the city is known for major historical stuctures such as the immense Forte Dos Reis Magos and the Alberto Maranhao Theatre. Furthermore, the city has several popular beaches, particularly Ponta Negra as well as Parque das Dunas, Brazil’s second largest urban park. Perhaps Natal’s most unique cultural feature is the Carnatal, a raucous event and one of Brazil’s biggest off-season carnivals.
Natal is also a host city for the 2014 World Cup, with its matches to be played at the Arena das Dunas.
Sao Paulo city is the economic and industrial heart of Brazil and the richest state in South America. With a population of 17 million, it is also home to 11% of all Brazilians. It is an incredibly cosmopolitan city with people from Japan, rural Brazil, Italians and many others making up the Paulistanos populations.
It’s hot and smoggy in summer and cold in winter, so it’s not the ideal tourist haunt but there’s much to discovery, like the colourful Mercado Municipal market, the art museum with the best collection of art in Latin America and some of the best multi-ethnic cuisine in the country.
The Paulista Coast is home to stunning beaches like Ubatuba, Ilhabela island and the port of Santos which are great retreats from the furious city. Sao Paolo is also a host city for the 2014 World Cup, with its matches to be played at the Arena Corinthians.
One of Brazil’s celebratory hubs, Salvador is also known as the country’s ‘Capital of Happiness’. Renowned for its frequent and wild outdoor parties, which are complimented by the stunning weather and beachside backdrop, Salvador hosts the biggest carnival in Brazil and the world. In addition, the city is home to Porto de Barra Beach, one of Brazil’s most stunning beaches. One of the 2014 Football World Cup’s host cities, Salvador will see matches played at the newly-opened 55,000 capacity Arena Fonte Nova.
Founded in 1719 at the heart of the gold rush, Cuiaba remains one of Brazil’s agricultural trading hubs, located in the centre of the South American continent. Its isolation however has been detrimental to the city’s economic progression, with the archaic Riverboats continuing to be used as a mode of transportation and communication. Nonetheless, Cuiaba is a melting pot of African, European and Native Indian cultures, the influences of which are shown in cusine, art, music and dance. Cuiaba is a host city of the 2014 World Cup, hosting its matches at the recently completed Arena Pantanal.
Resting on a plateau 932 metres above sea level, Curitibia is a modern yet calm city and the capital of the Parana region. One of Brazil’s most sustainable and stable cities, Curitibia’s economic growth was boosted by a huge influx of European immigrants in the 1850s. Home to several cultural institutions and festivals such as Latin America’s largest museum the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitibia is brimming with contemporary culture. The older side of Brazil remains intact nearby however. The ancient “stone city” of Vila Velha is in close proximity to Curitibia as is Parangua, one of Brazil’s most significant ports. On the nature side, Curitibia is close to the breathtaking Iguazu Falls, a series of waterfalls of absolutely stunning natural wonder. Curitibia is also a host city for the 2014 World Cup, with its matches to be played at the Arena da Baixada.
Top Ten Sights in Rio de Janeiro
1. Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) Opened in 1931, the 98 foot tall statue of Jesus Christ looks over Rio de Janeiro from the top of Mount Corcovado. On a clear night, the serene, open arms of Christ can be seen from every part of the city! With his open arms, Christ the Redeemer is reminiscent of the Christian cross and serves as a symbol of peace, welcoming you to the city. From the foot of the statue there are spectacular views of the city and the surrounding bays. It is located in the Tijuca National Park and can be accessed via a train – get there early to avoid the inevitable crowds.
8am – 7pm, Street cog station, Cosme Velho 513, www.corcovado.com.br
2. Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) The Sugarloaf Mountain rises from the Guanabara Bay where the land juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It gets its name from the history of the Brazilian sugar trade, when sugar was packed into conical moulds for transportation, resulting in blocks of sugar that were similar in shape to the mountain. The peak of the mountain can be reached by two glass-paneled cable cars, one that ascends to Morro da Urca at 220 meters and the other which reaches the peak of Pão de Açúcar. From the glass-enclosed bondi (tram), you’ll get a breathtaking view of the city. The panoramic views at the top are dazzling and for a truly special moment – get there just before sunset. But don’t rush off back to the big city just yet, linger a while and you will be rewarded with the quaint, upscale village of Morro de Urca, filled with picturesque cottages, palatial mansions, and charming restaurants. The mountain is also used by rock climbers, making it part of the one of the largest climbing areas in an urban environment in the world.
Avenida Pasteur, 520 – Urca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 04719-001, Brazil, +55 21 2546-8400
3. The Beaches! In particular Ipanema and Copacabana. The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are world famous, especially Ipanema and Copacabana. Songwriters wax lyrical about the beauty of its beaches, Going down to Rio, The Girl from Ipanema, Copacabana to name a few. Ipanema is where the beauties of Brazil hang out in their droves. For an eye-popping display of Rio’s local fashionistas head down to Garota de Ipanema, but be warned, the bars and restaurants around here are pricey! For coastal walks, it is hard to beat the majestic mountain backdrop of Copacabana and the 4km stretch of sugary-white powdered beach to sink your toes into. And if the exertion sounds like too much, the boardwalks are brimming with vendors, kiosks and restaurants and bars. The beaches themselves will have a mix of locals and tourists playing football, relaxing, swimming and people watching.
4. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro (Botanical Gardens) Originally a site for the acclimatization of plants arriving from the West Indies, the gardens are now open to the public and are home to over 8,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, 6,00 different species of Orchids and over 100 species of birds. The park includes significant historical sculptures, fountains and a Japanese garden. Additionally, the Avenue of the Royal Palms is lined with 134 palm trees which all descend from the same tree. Most of the 140-hectare site remains uncultivated, running into the Atlantic Forest at the base of Mount Corcovado. During the week it’s the perfect antidote to the buzzing vibrant city where you can escape its hustle and explore its 137 hectares in peace. By the weekend, expect to see plenty of families and music. Don’t forget to take your insect repellent – you’re still in the tropics! Try to avoid anything containing the pesticide DEET which not only irritates the skin but is harmful to the natural environment, read the manufacturer’s label and stick to natural repellents.
8am – 5pm. R. Jardim Botânico, 1008 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22460-030, Brazil. Phone:+55 21 3874-1808
5. Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps) Perhaps one of the most visually famous landmarks of Rio – Think of the coloured staircase and you’ve found yourself at Escadaria Selaron. The brightly decorated steps link the neighbourhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa and are the brainchild of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón who started work decorating the staircase in 1990 in an attempt to transform the derelict steps by his home. The steps are covered with brightly coloured tiles, especially featuring the colours of the Brazilian flag. Some of the tiles came from construction sites around the city, whilst some were donated from other areas of the world. Some estimates say that the Tiles have been collected from over 60 countries around the world! The 250 steps are covered with over 2000 tiles to form a bright pattern that was constantly evolving until Selarón’s death in 2013.
Barrio de santa teresa, Rio de Janeiro, 20240-180, Brazil
6. Estádio do Maracanã (Maracanã Stadium) Football is a very popular national pastime in Brazil. The Maracanã Stadium was built for the 1950 World Cup and was recently renovated for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to hold 80,000 spectators. Rio de Janeiro’s four main football teams all play here so games occur fairly regularly and there is also sports museum inside. This is the stadium that will host the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies.
Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20271-150, Brazil. +55 800 062 7222
The Centro area is the historic centre of the city and displays the grandeur of the former capital of Brazil. It is the location of sites such as the Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the National History Museum. Another thing to see is the Paço Imperial, which was built as the residence for the governors of 18th century colonial Brazil, is also in the Centro area. Finally, visitors can see Saint Sebastian’s Cathedral in Centro. The Cathedral is a modern adaptation of the Mayan temple style. The ceiling is dominated by the symbol of the cross with each arm extending into 64 metre stained glass panels that run along the sides of the conical structure.
8. Lapa neighbourhood
To escape the creeping Americanisation of some parts of Rio (Zona Sul in particular), where glittering malls sell overpriced clothing and fast food malls are on the rise, the Lapa neighbourhood is a breath of fresh air. A traditional town with a distinctly Brazilian feel, it is ofen described as a city where the Samba never stops! Formerly Rio de Janeiro’s red-light district, it now it serves as the backdrop to the nightlife district where many of the nineteenth century buildings have been converted into lively restaurants, bars and clubs and the sounds of samba, forró, and choro emanate from Lapa’s packed nightclubs. The streets are filled with music and the electric energy that Brazil is famous for.
Rocinha is the largest favela (slum town) in Rio de Janeiro. They were originally built by former slaves who were without land or work, but expanded massively in the last 50 years due to a rise in urban migration. Once associated with drug crime, they have seen a decline in violence and an increased number of visitors. Tours of the favelas are popular, and often the tour guides are residents of Rocinha and therefore can provide unique insight. The profits from these tours help fund schools and community centres in the favela. There are 300,000 residents who cram into the tiny nooks and alleys of this vibrant favela as Rocinha extends far into the valleys and up along the hillsides of Rio.
10. Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca National Park offers hiking, amazing views and a diverse plant and animal life. Its predominately mountainous terrain covers over 12 square miles, which includes Pico da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro’s highest peak and the 100-foot Cascatinha waterfall. In the early nineteenth century, expanding coffee plantations almost wiped out the natural landscape and meant that a large portion of the forest had to be replanted by hand in the mid-late 1800s. The statue of Christ the Redeemer at the summit of Mount Corcovado is also within the park’s boundaries.
Estrada da Cascatinha, 850. Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Santo Cristo)
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