After over a month of travelling all over Brazil, here’s my top 10 travel tips on visiting that country. 1. Never accept the first price offered by a hotel, especially if travelling in the low season. Of over 50 hotels and pousadas I visited, only a couple stuck to the original price when pressed for a discount, which is normally in the 10-20% margin. Always haggle.
2. We found that in the vast majority of cases, the best food is found in cheap restaurants. Don’t fall for the handsomely located, tourist trap restaurants. Very rarely were we disappointed by the food in cheap restaurants, yet often we found the more expensive options to have poor food. We often found that by eating cheaply, we ate better food - crazy but true, and worth considering.
3. About car hire in Brazil - in each case, we found it to be cheapest to arrange the hire car upon arrival at the airport. Prices quoted online are usually completely innaccurate. Often, the cheapest car hire rates are found with local travel agents, who have special arrangements with the car rental companies. Generally speaking, Localiza and Unidas seem to have the best value rental vehicles.
4. Domestic flights in Brazil are often excellent value for money. There is a huge range of low cost airlines, and the airpasses offered by Tam (and Varig) are cheap. Lond distance buses are expensive - it’s often cheaper to catch a flight. See the section on Brazil flights for extensive advice.
5. Beware of advice from anyone who is trying to sell you anything, or offering any tourist related service to you. Many people will mis-advise you, or even downright lie to you when it comes to guide services being offered. Locals will play upon your lack of knowledge and fears and often tell you that a guide is obligatory for so and so, or that you’ll get lost if you visit so and so without a guide. Seek multiple sources of advice rather than believing any of the local guides.
6. Beaches and the rainy season - choosing a beach destination in the months of May to August is complicated. In the South of Brazil, this is winter time - the weather may be cool and unsuitable for beaches anywhere South of Rio. At this same time, it’s the rainy season in the North - including the regions of Natal, Recife and Salvador. Most destinations during the months of May to August are not suitable for a beach holiday, with the exception of the coast around Fortaleza which sees fine weather even during this rainy season. So my advice would be to head to either Jericoacoara, the Costa Branca, or even Fernando do Noronha during these months - the weather will be best.
7. Brazils best beaches are in Fernando do Noronha; best rainforest tours around Tefe; best wildlife viewing in the Pantanal; best trekking in the Chapada Diamantina; and the best nightlife is found in Sao Paulo.
8. About the language - very few people in Brazil speak English, or indeed any language other than Portuguese. Even where you would expect to find someone able to speak basic English (eg. the offices of global branded car rental companies in major cities) they don’t. Some of the best hotels have English speaking staff, but in few other places are they found. Those with a high level of ability in the Spanish language will be able to communicate with and vaguely understand the locals due to the similarities between the languages. If you speak neither Spanish nor Portuguese, you’ll really struggle to get by.
9. Crime - care should be taken in the major cities, many of which have drug and violent crime problems. Rio, Salvador and Sao Paulo are just a few examples. Heed local advice about which parts of the cities are safe to visit. Generally speaking, rural areas are safer than urban ones.
10. Malaria - you don’t need malaria pills if visiting Brazil, unless you go to the Amazon region (eg. Manaus, Tefe, Belem).
If you’ve any more Brazil travel tips to add, please do leave them in the comment box below. See our Brazil travel guide for extensive advice on travelling to Brazil.