Five Things First Time Travellers To Brazil Should Know
- English is not widely spoken in Brazil. While you'll hear the language at tourist hotspots, Spanish is still the most common second language. So it's a good idea to learn some basic Portuguese to make travelling around the country much easier.
- Brasilians kiss each other when meeting for the first time. There is a very different view of personal space compared to other countries around the world. When visiting, expect a high level of physicality even from strangers.
- Be aware of the taxi scams at the airport. When you arrive, you'll be approached by a horde of people advertising taxi services at exorbitant prices. Ignore them and head to the taxi stand outside the terminal. Before starting your journey, confirm you'll be charged a flat rate per mile and not a destination fee.
- Tipping is not expected. Don't worry about leaving a tip for your server; most restaurants add a 10% service charge. But if a taxi driver helps you carry your bags or goes out of their way to help you, a tip will be appreciated.
- Don't make the "ok" sign with your thumb and index finger. While it's a simple way to show agreement in most countries, in Brazil, it's a very offensive hand gesture.
Best Time To Visit Brazil
If you want to save money, visit Brazil during its low season. From May to September, you'll find lower prices for accommodation and fewer crowds at the country's top attractions. Temperatures are cooler, making sightseeing more bearable and it's the best time of year to visit the Amazon for animal sightings.
The most popular time of year to visit Brazil is from December to March. The weather is hot and the country's biggest festival Carnival takes place in February. If you're planning on attending the celebrations, book your hotel and flights well in advance to ensure availability and lock in lower prices.
If you're visiting Brazil for its famous New Year parties, arrive after Christmas. The 25th is an important day for families in the country, and most shops and restaurants will be closed.
Another busy time of year to keep in mind is July to August. While it is Brazil's winter, many Europeans and North Americans flock to the country for their summer holidays. Prices go up a lot during this time, and the weather is at its worse in the northern parts of the country.
Sao Paulo is the largest city in Brazil and one of the most populated cities in the world.
It's known for its soaring skyscrapers, delicious foodie scene and diverse mix of cultures from around the world. In fact, it's home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
Its highlights include beautiful urban parks, world-class art museums and its towering neo-gothic style cathedral.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil's most iconic city and the most visited destination in South America. It's home to the largest Carnival festival, where its streets come alive with parades, beautiful costumes, music, and dancing.
But its vibrant culture isn't the city's only strong point. It also boasts breathtaking natural wonders like the Sugarloaf mountains and the enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Salvador is one of the oldest cities in South America and the third largest city in Brazil. Once the capital of the infamous slave trade, it's now home to a buzzing art scene and a rich culture that pays homage to its African roots.
Salvador's highlights include its historic city centre full of 17th-century architecture, opulent cathedrals and pristine beaches.
Recife is fondly called the "Venice of Brazil" thanks to its many waterways and bridges. Located among lush tropical forests, it's one of the largest cities in Brazil.
Each year, thousands of tourists come to visit its historic city centre and to soak up its vibrant culture. Make sure you visit the Cathedral Sao Pedro and its beautiful Boa Viagem beach.
Top Attractions in Brazil
Christ the Redeemer
The imposing statue of Christ is Rio de Janeiro's most famous landmark. Completed in 1931, it's located at the peak of a 700-metre mountain, giving visitors panoramic views of the landscape below.
If you want to visit the statue without the tour bus crowds, the best time to go is early in the morning during the week. But if you can't get there before 8:30 a.m. try your luck after 3:30 p.m. when the tour buses make their way back to the city.
It's also a good idea to bring your own snacks. While there are nearby cafes, they are overpriced and busy.
Each year, Rio transforms into an extravaganza of colour, music and culture for the Carnival Festival. This four-day festival attracts over two million people a day and half a million foreigners.
The best place to watch the festival is the Sambodromo. It's a series of grandstand boxes that go along the 700-metre route, giving you a bird's eye view of the festivities below.
Watch the parades of competing samba schools or join the locals dancing behind a truck top samba band.
If you aren't a fan of crowds, you can still enjoy the festival. Head to the cities of Salvador, Bahia and Recife for their smaller Carnival celebrations.
The Iguazu Falls is Brazil's most impressive natural wonder. The 247 waterfalls thunder down into the gorge below from a height of 100 metres.
The best viewing platform is The Devil's Throat. Leave early to get the 8:10 a.m. train to the top of the falls for uninterrupted views and to beat the crowds.
It's also worth spending a few hours exploring the area surrounding the falls. Located inside the UNESCO acclaimed Iguacu National Park, there's plenty to see besides its impressive waterfall. Plus, it will only take you three hours to walk through the different trails that are home to more than a 1,000 different species of birds and mammals.
No visit to Brazil would be complete without a visit to the Amazon Rain Forests. Its most popular attraction is the Amazon River, which stretches across the landscape for 6,400 km.
It's the largest river in the world by volume, twice the size of India and only slightly shorter than the Nile. Inside its watery depths, you'll find over 3,000 different species of fish with new ones still being discovered.
Book your river cruise during May to June. The weather is at its best for sightseeing, and you're more likely to see a bevy of animals.
Don't forget to cover up during your trip. You'll want your legs and arms protected to avoid getting unwanted insect bites and scratches.
The Pernambuco Coast
Pernambuco is home to a breathtaking 187 km stretch of coastline. Its crown jewel is Porto de Galinhas, considered by many to have Brazil's best beach. Its azure waters and pristine beaches attract hundreds of visitors each year.
Besides its sandy white beaches, the towns of Pernambuco have a lot to offer. They are full of beautiful resorts, chic boutiques and are all rich in culture and history.
Spend a day snorkelling in the reef-top pools, diving to the impressive shipwrecks and coral reefs or kayaking through the beautiful lagoons.
Major International Airports in Brazil
- Guarulhos International Airport
- Brasília International Airport
- Galeao International Airport
- Tancredo Neves International Airport
- Viracopos International Airport