Advice and miscellaneous information
Traveling to Brazil means exploring a modern, welcoming, but also immense and diverse country. Here are some useful tips to make sure you have a pleasurable stay.
Before you leave
If you are French, Belgian or Swiss, you can travel to Brazil for tourism without obtaining a visa for stays of 90 days or less every 180 days. To do this, you only need to have a passport which is valid for at least another 6 months, with at least two blank pages and at the request of the authorities, a round-trip ticket mentioning the date of departure from Brazil, or even possibly proof of sufficient funds to support you during your stay.
For stays longer than 90 days or if you are Canadian, it is necessary to apply for a tourist visa with the appropriate agencies.
There is no obligation in Brazil for vaccinations. However, it is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever. Having your DPT vaccine up to date is also strongly recommended before going to Brazil. Treatment against malaria is not mandatory, but recommended if your trip includes the Amazon. We also advise you to bring mosquito repellent. Cases of dengue fever and chikungunya have appeared in some areas of Brazil. Mosquito repellents can be easily purchased in supermarkets or pharmacies.
This information is only intended as preventive health advice. For more information, we invite you to contact an international vaccination center near you or to talk to your doctor.
Choose your seat on the plane carefully !
During your trip in the Brazilian Nordeste, you may need to fly between two cities to facilitate the logistics of your trip. This is often the case between Fortaleza and São Luís, the two cities where the famous “Rota das Emoções”, or “Road of Emotions”, begins and ends.
In favorable weather conditions, this flight can turn into a real excursion as you may have the chance to fly over the sublime Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. To see it, you must of course choose a window seat, but also pay particular attention to the side of the plane where you will be seated. In the direction of São Luís towards Fortaleza, it is on the left of the aircraft that you will have to reserve your seat. In the opposite direction, choose a seat on the right.
It is no surprise that Brazil is a vast country. This implies the existence of 4 distinct time zones across the country. In order to avoid possible inconvenience during your trip when you plan to make calls to Europe, especially if you plan to travel to different parts of Brazil, it may be useful to know the distribution of the different time zones:
UTC-05:00 – Southwestern Acre and Amazonas
UTC-04:00 – Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia, Roraima, Acre
UTC-03:00 – Southeast, South, Northeast (except some islands), Goias, Federal District, Tocantins, Pará, Amapa
UTC-02:00 – Fernando de Noronha, Trindade and Martin Vaz, Atoll das Rocas, Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul
In terms of time difference with France, it varies depending on where you are in Brazil. It should be noted that some states adopt international daylight saving time and others do not. The time difference is therefore often between 3 and 5 hours with Paris.
Example for the Nordeste:
UTC-3 (4 to 5 hour difference with France)
– When it is 12:00 in Paris, it is 8:00 in the Nordeste when France is on winter daylight saving time
– When it is 12:00 in Paris, it is 7:00 in the Nordeste when France is on summer daylight saving time.
The climate, the seasons
With its large surface area, Brazil has a variety of different climates with one consistent characteristic: rather mild temperatures all year round.
It has opposite winter and summer seasons compared to Europe and North America since it is located for the most part in the southern hemisphere. The winter season, which extends from May to October, is the dry season with mild temperatures and little rainfall. Between November and April, it is the rainy season with higher temperatures and high humidity. Temperatures in the north of the country are on average higher than in the south, but with less variation during the year. In the south of the country temperatures are more variable, falling to around 15°C during the summer season and raising to 40°C or more in winter.
As you will have understood, Brazil is a country that can be visited all year round. All you have to do is choose the region you will visit according to the times of the year when the weather conditions are most favorable. We invite you to read the “When to go? ” section of our Destinations pages to get a first look at the best seasons to visit each region of Brazil.
Particularities of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park :
Climate variations in Brazil are constantly changing and it is possible that the rainy seasons generate too much or too little rainfall.
The effects of excessive rainfall are as follows: during very heavy rains, some treks must be temporarily stopped for several hours because it is impossible to find your way around, even for a native guide. The effects of very low rainfall in the Lençóis Maranhenses Park area can lead to very low or non-existent lagoon water levels in some areas.
Although it is quite possible that at the time of your arrival the phenomenon may have improved, it is not possible to predict the evolution of the situation with any certainty. However, visiting the park remains an extraordinary and unique experience. The best time to see the full lagoons is between April and September.
Traveling in the country
By plane :
Brazil covers more than 8.5 million square kilometers. It is more than 12 times the size of France. Flying is therefore a recommended means of transport to visit the country and will even become inevitable for anyone wishing to visit several regions of Brazil during the same trip.
Brazilian national companies operate many routes between the country’s main cities. Prices fluctuate rapidly and it is essential to consider this expense when preparing your trip in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Some flight schedules between two cities can sometimes be inconvenient but unavoidable (arrival at night, very early morning departure, etc.). Terra Nordeste always tries to suggest the flights that best suit your itinerary in order to offer you the most logistically coherent travel experience possible.
By car :
What is better than being able to travel from one point to another with your car and private driver? This mode of transport is Terra Nordeste’s first choice for its customers, because it offers real flexibility and guarantees quality and comfort.
Our agency works with a network of private carriers across the country to enable its clients to reach the ares which are the most difficult to access. Some regions of Brazil are still in the early stages of tourism and do not have infrastructure for all types of vehicles. Thus, the limitations of the terrain and the size of the groups require the use of adequate vehicles (classic car, van, 4-wheel drives, buggy, etc.). However, given the size of Brazil, the distances between two steps of your journey are more in line with North American than European standards and can sometimes be very long.
Terra Nordeste always offers, as far as possible, to reduce these travel times by optimizing your itinerary with intermediate stops combining tourist interest and logistical requirements.
By bus :
The bus network is quite developed in Brazil and bus companies operating between two cities are widespread. This is all the more true in the south of the country, where the quality of roads is generally higher than in the Nordeste.
If you want to organize your transport by your own means, you will often have the possibility to choose group minibuses or high-class touring coaches.
Be careful though, when traveling by bus weather conditions can cause delays that can be significant.
Other means of transport:
By bike, motorcycle, helicopter, boat, train or even on foot… Anything goes when it comes to traveling through Brazil.
Hiking and trekking are certainly the ideal way to discover certain regions and enjoy all their wonders.
Terra Nordeste is a pioneer and expert in organizing treks in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. We also organize hikes through Brazil, such as at Chapada Diamantina, in the surroundings of Paraty or around Rio. In some parts of the country, topographical and infrastructure limitations lead to the use of several means of transport to travel between two stops. In the Nordeste, for example, it is not uncommon to take buses, 4x4s, boats and buggies on the same day to reach your destination!
With more than 10 years of experience in organizing trips throughout Brazil, Terra Nordeste has a network of trusted local partners and offers the guarantee of optimal logistical coordination throughout your stay.
Fact : The Brazilian rail network is not very developed so the train is not a first choice when it comes to traveling. Some connections exist but conditions are often difficult and travel times are very long. Therefore, we do not recommend this option to travel within the country.
The languages of Brazil
The official language of Brazil is Brazilian Portuguese. It is very close to the Portuguese of Portugal but it is nevertheless has some nuances specific to Brazil. The accents also vary depending on the region. Thus, although the syntax and vocabulary are similar, you will certainly perceive differences in accent whether you travel to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador de Bahia or São Luís.
To help you better anticipate your arrival in Brazil, here is a small basic glossary in Portuguese that may be useful to you:
- Departure = saida
- Arrival = chegada
- What time do we arrive? = A que hora chegamos?
- The car = o carro
- The van = a van
- The boat = o barco
- A bank note = um bilhete
- The port = o port
- The bus station = a rodoviária
- The central market = o mercado central
- Hotel = o hotel / a pousada (pronounced “a pozada”)
- Where is…? = Cadé… ? (Cadé a pousada? / Cadé o porto?)
- Thank you for leaving me near… = Me deixa perto de… por favor (pronounce “medeicha perto de… por favor”)
Fact : some towns, mainly in southern Brazil, have German and/or Italian as co-official language along with Portuguese. This is due to the important German and Italian heritage and the local communities.
Not unlike its population, Brazilian cuisine is mixed and influenced by its rich Portuguese, African and Amerindian heritage. Full of flavors and colors, Brazilian culinary specialties invite you to taste them. The basis of Brazilian cuisine is rice and black peas called “feijões”, accompanied by manioc flour and “vinagrete”, a sauce made with tomatoes, peppers and onions. Most of the time, this base is served with fish, meat or grilled shrimp. But there are also some delicacies not to be missed:
The feijoada : It is undoubtedly the Brazilian national dish. As its name suggests, feijões constitute the basis of this dish with which sausages, pork, garlic and onions are mixed. A delicious dish but not so easy to digest!
The Churrasco : This is the Brazilian version of the barbecue. Churrasco is a dish composed of various meats cooked in the fire on long skewers. A real treat for meat lovers.
The moqueca : Those who prefer seafood to meat will love the moqueca. This Brazilian specialty, originating from the state of Bahia, consists of fish and/or seafood, coconut milk, coriander, zest and lemon juice, among others.
One thing is certain, there is no shortage of places to eat in Brazil. From small local restaurants that often offer simple, traditional and hearty meals, to small “lanchonetes”, which offer a variety of snacks (pasteis, coxinhas, empadas, folhados, etc.), the options are plentiful. However for meat lovers the best place is the ródizio where guests can enjoy a wide variety of all-you-can-eat churrasco-style meats with table service. Most often, guests pay a fixed price that also allows them to enjoy the buffet of side dishes, salads and desserts. In large cities, it is easy to find restaurants offering international cuisine and fast food chains, as in any major metropolis.
Fact : in Brazil the portions are often very large, especially if you order a local dish. Menus often offer dishes to share with several people.
Communication : Internet, telephone
The Internet network is well developed and quite strong in most major Brazilian cities. Most hotels or pousadas in the city offer Wi-Fi internet access (free or for a fee) in the rooms and/or common areas. Outside cities, the connection speed is variable or even non-existent in some more remote areas. Mobile Internet is also very widespread in Brazil and it is common to have 3G or 4G signal in metropolitan areas. Outside of these areas, the signal depends on the network and satellite coverage of the operator.
As with the Internet, telephone coverage is relatively good around major Brazilian cities. On the other hand, in more remote areas, the signal is sometimes weak or even non-existent. It is often possible to use the land line at the front desk of your pousada to make or receive calls across Brazil.
The most economical way to make calls in the country is to buy a SIM card when you arrive and use it with an unlocked phone. SIM cards are easy to find in the city. The other option is ask your usual operator to allow you to make calls from abroad before your trip. But be careful, this solution can be very expensive! We invite you to contact your operator to find out about its pricing policy in terms of international use.
Fact : Dialing a phone number in Brazil can be quite tricky and can sometimes even be a real headache if you don’t master a few basic rules. The use of the “DDD” code, which indicates which state the call is being made to, and of the specific operator code do not make it easier!
Currency, payment and exchange
The currency in Brazil is the Brazilian real (BRL or R$). It is difficult to give an equivalence in another currency since the exchange rate can vary very quickly, particularly in the unstable political and economic context.
ATMs as well as foreing exchange bureaus are located in major cities such as São Luis, Fortaleza, Parnaíba… Outside these urban areas, it is advised to carry cash with you.
Tips and gratuities
Tipping in Brazil is not mandatory, but it is welcome. It is customary to leave a 10% tip.
In restaurants, a 10% service tax is usually added to the bill. In taxis, it is common to leave the change.
There are different types of sockets and voltages in Brazil. Most of the sockets have two pins but there are also other formats.
As for the voltage, it varies between 110V and 220V depending on where you are. It is advisable to have adapters so that you can use electronic devices across the country.
Safety and security
Rio de Janeiro :
While it is true that some districts of Rio de Janeiro have recently experienced an increase in insecurity, this is by no means generalized to all areas of the city. The difficult political and economic context in Brazil, linked to the high level of corruption in some parts of Rio, particularly in the favelas, has contributed to the rise of crime in some isolated areas. It is this particular situation that is covered by the media who convey a false image of alleged general insecurity within the city.
The visits to Rio that we organize are systematically supervised by professional guides, who have an in-depth knowledge of Rio de Janeiro and its various parts, considerably limiting the risk of being confronted with these problems.
Other parts of Brazil :
The rest of Brazil, where the situation is of course much quieter, does not logically suffer from this negative image. Across the country, and in general, the level of caution remains normal. Nevertheless, it is advisable to use common sense and observe common rules of decorum (not to walk around with objects of great value in an ostentatious way, not to go out on deserted and poorly lit streets in the middle of the night when you are a woman and alone, etc.).
At Terra Nordeste, we do everything in our power to ensure that our customers’ trips throughout Brazil are as safe as possible so that they can enjoy their stay in complete peace of mind.
In Brazil, the notion of delay is generally very variable and it often happens that time schedules are “stretched”.
Foreigners in Brazil often pay a higher price, so be careful not to be taken advantage of.
Be careful to use only guides approved by a tourist agency to avoid any problems.