Vast and exotic, engaging and vibrant, Brazil has long been a playground for travellers from around the world. White-sand beaches and bright tree-studded islands dot the coastline from north to south. Inland, the intensity of natural wonder and the vibrancy of human activity will mean that, in Brazil, you are never too far from adventure.
Brazil is a beautiful mosaic of cultures and geography. The inhabitants’ roots stem from nearly every corner of the world; from the majority European population to the descendants of African slaves and Japanese immigrants, it seems that all of the world’s cultures have been melded together into one beautifully unique culture known as Brazilian.
Brazil’s geography, however, isn’t nearly as diverse as its people. The country is a great expanse of green wetland foliage which stretches across the country, bordered by a frontier of white-sand beaches. The climate has helped make it one of the most bio-diverse in the entire world. Regions like the Pantanal, in the country’s south, and the famous Amazon basin seem to burst at the seams with life.
There’s also plenty to do in Brazil. Brazilian Carnival is a must, regardless of where you take it in. Explore the historical city of Salvador de Bahia, the natural wonder of Iguazu Falls, and the sheer beauty of Rio de Janeiro. If you’re feeling more adventurous, head off the beaten path to places like Jericoacoara, Santeriem or the Pantanal. No matter where you go, Brazil will surely leave you wanting to explore a little bit more.
Getting to and from Brazil
There are a number of cities in Brazil that offer international flights. The most popular places of entry into the country are Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador de Bahia, all of which have direct flights from North America and Europe as well as other major Latin American countries.
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Assuming that you have the proper documentation, land crossings in Brazil are very simple. Remember that there is not just one border control but two. You will first have to visit the immigration office of the country you are exiting to receive your stamp, then continue to Brazilian immigration to receive your entrance stamp.
Brazil has overland borders with every neighbouring country. The most popular overland entries to Brazil are via Uruguay, or via Argentina at Iguazu Falls. Entrance into the country by road is also possible via Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, French Guyana, Suriname, and Guyana. If you want to enter from Peru or Colombia you can also enter by boat.
Getting a visa
Depending on your country you may or may not need a visa to enter Brazil. EU citizens and New Zealanders don’t need a visa, but Americans, Canadians, Australians, and visitors from a handful of other “western” countries do. From early 2018, citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and Japan will be able to apply for electronic visas, which will make things a bit easier!
At present, you can apply for a visa through the Brazilian embassy at home or while in South America; many people head to the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires to have their visas issued. The process has recently been simplified when done in Argentina and can be done in two or three business days.
The typical visa given is either five or ten years depending on the length of validity of your passport. A tourist visa allows 180 days per year with each visit being no longer than 90 days. Student and work visas are also available and must be organised abroad.
Getting around Brazil
In the south of Brazil the most popular means of transportation is bus, however the prices have escalated in recent years. You are now likely to pay about US$8-10 per hour on the bus.
In the north of Brazil the destinations are so far apart that the price of flying in comparison to that of taking the bus makes the long bus rides hardly worth the savings.
There are only a few trains left in Brazil, and most of them are situated in the country’s south, operating only as tourist attractions.
The most popular train route in the country is one that runs about four hours from the city of Curitiba to the coastal city of Paranagua.
Car and camper rental
If you’re in a group it may be a good idea to rent a car. The quality of driving in Brazil is high in comparison to the rest of South America. However, you’ll need to be prepared to read street signs in Portuguese as well as for the curvy coastline and busy cities.
Campsites are abundant in most of the country if you plan to camp or use a campervan.
Cycling and hiking
Although some people still hitchhike in Brazil the practice is not entirely safe, especially in the north of the country.
If you are planning on hitchhiking stick to the major roads, do it only during the day and, if you can, do so in the company of a partner.
Over recent years air travel in Brazil has become more and more popular thanks to a the arrival of a number of low-cost carriers.
If booked far enough in advance the cost of air travel in the country is often cheaper than taking the bus. There are national airports in almost every city of interest.
Top 10 things to do in Brazil
- Indulge in Brazilian Carnival. Carnival in Rio de Janerio may be the most popular party in the world, though the two million people dancing on the streets of Salvador think their version isn’t that bad either.
- Explore the beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Although only Christ the Redeemer is an official world wonder, one could argue that the entire city could be listed.
- Stand in awe of the power of Iguazu Falls. One of the natural wonders of the world, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the world’s most impressive waterfall. See day tours.
- Go on a wildlife safari in the Pantanal. This is the most bio-diverse place on earth; all types of wildlife, including big cats such as jaguars, are often spotted in the region.
- Cruise the Amazon.Take a boat from up the Amazon river and watch the world pass by as you swing away in your hammock refuge.
- Salvador de Bahia. The heart of colonial Brazil, Salvador de Bahia is blessed with beautiful beaches as well as one of the most important historical districts in the Americas.
- Relax in Jericoacoara. In Brazil’s premier hippie enclave, enormous sand dunes roll down onto crystal clear waters.
- Discover Santa Catalina Island. Metropolitan meets tropical on Santa Catalina island. Go shopping in Florianopolis or hang out on the beach or surf in Barra da Lagoa.
- Head to Sao Paulo. Perhaps South America’s version of New York City, Sao Paulo has a multi-cultural vibe with all the esteem of the world’s greatest cities.
- Journey to Ilha do Mel. This island getaway is popular with Brazilian surfers and beachcombers alike.
Brazil travel resources
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This page by Brendan van Son of Brendan’s Adventures.