Feel Brazil’s vitality in the pulse of Rio de Janeiro, take in the incredible Amazon rainforest, and immerse yourself in the unique blend of cultures that makes this South American giant such a sensational experience.
Official Language: Portuguese.
Religions: 70% Roman Catholic. Indian animism and spiritism such as Candomblé.
Voltage: 220 volts. In Rio and Sao Paulo, 127 volts. Sockets are of the two pin type.
Passports must be valid for at least six months. Visas are required for many nationalities, including Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. Tourist visas are valid for 90 days, with one extension of up to 90 days possible. Most EU citizens do not require a visa. Costs of visas vary depending on nationality.
The monetary unit in Brazil is the Real (R$). 1 Real = 100 centavos.
Approximate exchange rates (as at May 2008) are as follows:
1 USD = 1.66 BRL
1 EUR = 2.57 BRL
1 GBP = 3.3 BRL
Visit XE.com for the latest rate of exchange.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Bring a combination of US$ cash and cards. Notes should be blemish free.
We recommend that you bring US$ notes and cash only. Traveller’s cheques are alright for an emergency reserve but are often hard to exchange. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that you may bring into Brazil, provided you declare amounts over R$10,000. There is often a general lack of small change and we recommend maintaining a supply of small denomination notes and coins. Notes are in denominations of R$100, 50, 10, 5 and 1.
ATMs are marked Cartao. Visa cards work with Banco do Brasil, Mastercard works in HSBC, Itau and Banco Mercantil. Increasingly Brazilian ATM machines are accepting Cirrus and Maestro cards, particularly Baco de Brasil, but do not rely on your ATM card alone – carry a reserve of cash in case. ATMs only allow withdrawal of US$15 or equivalent between 10pm and 6am. Many banks close at weekends, although airport banks are usually open 7 days a week. There are two rates of exchange – oficial, from a bank, and turismo, from hotels or travel agencies, which is slightly less.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Although bank cards are often the easiest way to go, there are times where they will not work for you even if your bank at home tells you it will. Do not rely on your card as your only source of money. Always have a few back-ups with you.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday.
Taxis are often the best way to get around within a city. Taxis are metered with two different rates – the second, more expensive one, covers trips after 8pm, on Sundays and public holidays, and certain destinations such as the airport or bus station. In smaller towns and rural areas there is often no meter so it’s best to agree a fare in advance.
Buses in cities can get very crowded. You enter at the back and pass through a turnstile where you pay the fare, which is not normally more than 50c. In some cities there are stops in areas best avoided, especially after dark.
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo both have a good metro system, offering one of the safest and most comfortable ways to get about. Tickets can be bought as single or return and are available in sets of 10 as well.
Brazil is a huge country so often the best way to get around is by plane. Some flights act as airborne buses, stopping in several destinations, so check whether the flight is direct or not.
You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier. Breakfast is provided each day on most tours, and many tours also include a number of dinners. Lunches are rarely included to give you more freedom.
As a guideline eating out in a cheap café such as a lanchonete will cost around R$15-30 for a main meal, although there are usually a variety of snacks available, like empadinha, a small pie that comes with various fillings like meat or shrimp. In an expensive restaurant you might pay between R$40-60. Tipping is always appreciated as wages are very low.
All drinks such as water, soft or alcoholic drinks are at your own expense at all times. The following is a guideline for drinks bought in a shop in the street. Prices in restaurants and hotels can sometimes be more than double the prices specified below:
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Brazil see the General Information section of this dossier.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. Please also check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
Imtrav Travel Tip - Bring a backpack or easy to carry luggage and travel light. You will have to carry your own luggage frequently – don't let this be an ordeal.
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In the hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. Be prepared for cooler evenings - for this reason you will generally find it better to pack several thin layers rather than one thick layer. Water resistant jackets and trousers are essential during the rainy season (January to April in the north, April to July in the north-east, November to March in Rio / São Paulo).
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Some trips have a few days where toilets are not available. When you do answer the call of nature please burn your toilet paper – do not bury it. If it is not possible to burn it, take it back to the camp where it can be placed in the rubbish bin and disposed of appropriately.
Whenever you use a western or squat style toilet please place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
Imtrav Travel Tip - You may find it useful to take along a supply of antiseptic gel (i.e. water free soap) and plastic bags to put your toilet paper in if it cannot be burnt/placed in a bin.
Throwing rubbish on the floor may be acceptable to some locals, but please hold on to your waste until you find a litterbin or somewhere appropriate to dispose of it.
Begging is not common in Brazil but has started to appear at some tourist destinations. Ultimately donations are a traveller’s personal choice; however our recommendation is NOT to give money, pens, gifts or sweets as this encourages a begging mentality and is largely ineffectual. If you do want to help it is probably better to give to a recognised charity. If you choose not to give, simply say no with a smile and keep on walking. If you learn nothing else of the local language, try to learn to say ‘no thank you’.
In the larger cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo, shops often stay open until late into the evening. Antiques and jewellery such as emeralds or silver are popular, as are leather goods. Sao Paulo specializes in crystal and pottery. In the Amazon region, Belem has many handicrafts from the jungle, but ensure none are restricted or prohibited, such as skins from protected species. Most shops are open till 7pm, but supermarkets usually close at 10pm.
Upon arrival at Rio International Airport (Antonio Carlos Jobin or Galeao) please look for our representative who will be holding a sign with your name or The Imaginative Traveller on it. He should be waiting for you in the Arrivals Hall (i.e. after exiting the Immigration and Customs area).
The meeting point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers.
It is easy to make your own way to the meeting point if you are not being transferred. Once you clear Immigration and Customs, straight ahead you will find the taxi information stands. The people working there will try to get you to use one of their taxis. We recommend two of the companies, Cootramo (blue) and Transcopass (red). Both have a desk there. You should pre-pay at the desk (around US$30-35), and your assigned driver will drive you safely to the hotel. The rate is higher than the yellow taxis outside the airport, but these are official taxi companies and the safety of your journey is guaranteed.
If you arrive during the day you also can take the air-conditioned airport shuttle bus right outside the airport building to your right. The bus rate is R$6 (around US$3) per person to Copacabana (where our hotel is located) and runs from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm every 30 minutes. It is safe, but depending on the number of passengers it may take quite long to Copacabana as the bus stops frequently. The bus normally takes the route along Avenida Atlantica. You must tell the driver where you would like to get off, and from the stop in Avenida Atlantica you will have to walk three blocks up to the hotel.
On entering Brazil all visitors must complete an entry/exit card. The exit section will be returned to you and this should be kept safe for presentation to Customs and Immigration upon departure.
It is advisable to get some local currency at the airport as it might be difficult to obtain late at night in the city, especially if you arrive in the evening.
Brazil has gained something of a reputation for crime, but it is important to keep a sense of perspective. While some shanty towns or favelas may be dangerous places, they are not generally places that tourists visit. There is some street crime, normally pickpocketing or occasional bag snatching. It is advisable not to wear expensive-looking watches or jewellery and don’t leave a wallet in your back pocket or carry loose hanging bags. Keep your camera concealed when not in use. Keep money hidden in a money belt, and a separate amount to pay for things so you do not have to keep opening the money belt.
Remember that most thieves don't use violence but rely on diversionary tactics which can take place at anytime of the day or night. Do not be paranoid, but just be aware of what could happen at all times. Always be vigilant and the chances are nothing will ever happen to you. It’s generally safer in cities to take a taxi rather than to walk, and at night try to stick to busy, well-lit streets. The safety of our passengers is our tour leaders’ number one concern and they will provide all necessary local information during the pre-departure meeting.
Protective helmets of a reliable standard are not always available locally. If you intend to take part in activities such as bike or horse rides, you should consider bringing a suitable helmet from home. If you have any safety concerns you should mention these to your tour leader immediately.
Your tour leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your tour leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour leaders are supported by our local agents and a locally based manager. We also use the services of specialist guides in some locations such as in the jungle.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
In Brazil our tours operate in conjunction with Rentamar Turismo, an experienced local operator.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats, trains and while camping.
A laundry service is available in most of the hotels we use.
Brazilian food is divided into quite distinct regions. In Minas Gerais, Comida Mineira describes the regional cuisine, based mainly on pork and spinach with refried beans. Comida Baiana is from the Salvador coast, and uses a lot of fish, hot peppers and coconut milk. Comida do Sertao comes from the north-east, and features a lot more meat, as well as various beans and tubers grown in the region. Comida Gaucha is found in Rio Grande do Sul, and involves vast quantities of meat grilled on charcoal.
If there is a national dish it is feijoada, a stew of pork and beans garnished with oranges. Otherwise the mainstay is generally beef or chicken with rice and beans. A set meal of this is called prato feito or prato comercial.
Given the climate there are a wide variety of tropical fruits like mango, papaya, passion fruit and other exotic items from the Amazon. These are used as the base for ice cream and the fresh fruit juice known as suco.
Coffee is the national drink, served strong and sweet in small cups – ask for cafézinho, as café just refers to coffee beans. Tea is often good, especially cha maté, a strong green tea. Fruit juices called sucos are especially good. A local fizzy drink called guarana is also popular.
Beer is usually of the lager variety – draught beer is called chopp. The main spirit is cachaca, rum made of sugar cane. It can be rough, but there are some smoother brands such as Velho Barreiro and Cachaca 51. The best way to drink it is in a caipirinha, mixed with fresh limes, sugar and crushed ice.
If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. There are usually good salads available, but you might find that you are eating a lot of omelettes and other egg dishes as well as rice and beans. Our tour leaders will do their best to organise interesting vegetarian alternatives for included meals, but your patience and understanding is requested.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
As with everywhere, the easiest and cheapest form of communication is via the Internet. You will find Internet cafés in every major town. The average cost is approx. $1.50-$3 per hour. Connection is generally slower in the smaller, more remote places. In bigger towns some internet cafés are now starting to offer internet phone calls which are cheaper than phone cards.
There are many public phones in Brazil which take phonecards sold by newspaper stands and cafés. A 5 reis card will do several local calls, but for an international one you’ll need a higher value card. Long distance calls can also be made from a posto telefonico where you are assigned a booth. The trick with Brazilian phones is persistence. If the tone is engaged, try several times and you will usually get a connection.
The postal service is generally reliable and stamps are available everywhere, but post office queues can be lengthy. `
Availability of Film
35mm 100 ASA film is generally available, but is often of uncertain vintage and is expensive. Anything else is hard to come by, so bring plenty. Small batteries can be difficult to find as well. In the Amazon you may need a faster film such as 400 ASA as it can be surprisingly dark. A polarising filter is a good idea for SLR cameras. Increasing numbers of internet cafes will burn a memory stick from a digital camera to CD.
The south, in Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul, is the most temperate, with a distinct winter between June and September. Even so, temperatures are cool rather than cold. The climate along the coast is warm and pleasant all year. In Rio and Sao Paulo the rainy season lasts from October to January; further north, it begins around April and lasts for about 3 months. Even in the rainy season the weather is mostly fine with occasional downpours. Summer (December to March) is hot, with top temperatures ranging from 25°C (77°F) to 40°C (104°F). It can also be very humid. Winter temperatures range from around 20°C (68°F) to 30°C (86°F).
The Northeast is tropical, and average temperatures never go below 25°C. In the semi-arid interior summer temperatures often go over 40°C. Much of Amazonia has a distinct dry season from July to October. Belem is a typically tropical city, with a lot of rain from January to May, and slightly less rain the rest of the time. Temperatures are usually steamy.