We receive lots of e-mails asking questions about what to expect when traveling to Brazil, so I thought I would share some of my personal experiences traveling the country as a Tour Conductor and a local. I hope this way I can give some insight into what it’s like experience Brazil, a large country that is vast and beautiful but also pretty different from many other places in the world.
1) Is Brazil is a safe place to travel? I saw on TV that poverty is terrible over there.
Most countries around the world have at least one (if not several) neighborhoods/districts that have a reputation for being unsafe. Brazil isn’t any different. In each city there are some neighborhoods that you shouldn’t explore after dark, but those are the exception, not the rule. In general people are very friendly and curious to interact with you, even if they don’t speak a word in English. As Tour Conductor is my priority to keep our travelers safe; I am familiar with all of the cities featured on AIB’s tours and ensure that our travelers are never explose to situations that might put them at risk. But what if you’re not traveling with a local or a group? What precautions should you take?
Here are some basic guidelines that will help ensure your safety:
- Dress like a local. That blue Hawaiian t-shirt you have looks great on you but do you see anyone else wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt around you? Nope! Try to blend with the local style so people won’t immediately recognize you as a foreigner. In Brazil, especially if you are traveling to Rio and northern states (Bahia, Amazon, Recife, etc), flip-flops, shorts and a shirt will serve you well.
- Do not carry your Passport. Make copies of the first page of your passport and your visa. Leave the original locked in a safe inside at your hotel.
- No flashy jewelry or electronics. Bring a small portable camera that is easily concealed. Dangling electronic devices in plain view (ie. around your neck, from your wrist, etc) is a big no-no. The same rule goes for jewelry, most Brazilians wear plain wedding bands and/or simple earrings! Showcasing expensive jewelry is a sure fire way to get noticed in a crowd.
2) What is the best time to go to Brazil? How is winter over there?
The seasons of the South Hemisphere are the opposite of the North Hemisphere. In South America Spring goes from 22sd of September to 21st of December, Summer from 22nd December to 21st of March, Autumn from 22sd of March to 21st of June and Winter from 22nd of June to 21st of September. The States of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo and Minas Gerais can get really cold during winter (About 40º F), on the North and North-East region Amazon, Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte, Pernanbuco and around the rain is a big factor to count and not the cold. The proximity with the Ecuador line make all the difference in those regions, and some ways it can be great to navigate, because the rivers will be very high, making possible to navigate on places that during the summer it can be reach.
3) I’ve never been to Latin America before. Why should I visit Brazil?
Have you noticed that you’re hearing a lot more about Brazil these days? In part it’s because of the fantastic financial transformations made by policies initiated by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003) and continued by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010). Fernando Henrique was the Minister of Finance whom, among others, stopped rampant inflation and stabilized the economy, recuperating national credit and creating millions of jobs. As a result, over the last 15 years more than 30 million people have risen above poverty. All of these changes have enabled Brazil to step up into the international spotlight, most recently Brazil was selected to host the 2014 World Cup games as well as the 2016 Olympic games. You can learn more about this subject by clicking on Plano Real. Click here to check out a great Podcast made by NPR.org to explain the “Brazilian miracle”.
4) What about the language? I don’t speak Spanish and I think I will have a hard time to understand the locals.
It’s important to know that Brazil was a Portuguese colony for more than 300 years and the national language is Portuguese (also called Brazilian Portuguese because the language was influenced by Indians and African slaves). Outside of the major hotels and airports in São Paulo and Rio, you’ll probably have a hard time communicating with locals as English is not widely spoken. If you decide to travel on your own, I strong recommend taking the time to learn some key phrases and traveling with a pocket dictionary to help you get around.
I hope this has given you a taste of what to expect when you visit Brazil and encourages you to embrace a truly Brazilian experience!