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South America : Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America. Famous for its annual carnival in Rio de Janeiro and its soccer tradition, the country is, in all aspects, characterized by great diversity. From the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Pernambuco and Bahia, the untouched wilderness of the Amazon rainforest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguazu Falls, there is plenty to see and do in Brazil.
Brazil is the fifth largest country on earth. So large it is that, for economic planning purposes, it had to be divided into five regions. The five regions (below) are drawn around state lines, but they more or less follow natural, economic and cultural borderlines.
See also: List of Brazilian states
Brazil has many enticing cities, ranging from pretty colonial towns and coastal hideouts to hectic, exciting metropolises; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations.
Other cities also attract a good deal of travellers:
History and Economy
Until 1500, Brazil was inhabited solely by indigenous people, mainly of the Tupi and Guarani ethnic groups. Actual settling by the Portuguese began later that century, with the extraction of valuable pau-brasil wood, from where the country draws its name. The following four centuries saw further exploitation of the country's natural riches - gold and rubber - besides the rise of an economy based on agriculture - sugar and coffee - and slave labor, millions of Africans taken to the new world in a forced diaspora. Meanwhile, extermination or Christianizing of indians kept its pace, and the 19th century saw a second wave of European (mainly Italian and German) immigration, adding to this unique and complex set of factors that generated today's equally complex and unique Brazilian culture and society.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 7 September, 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, it has also overcome more than two decades (1964-1988) of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue a democratic ruling, while facing the challenge of keeping its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, today Brazil is South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem. A consequence of this is a high crime rate, especially in large cities.
Owing to Brazil?s continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the country?s culture is rich and diverse. It has several regional variations, and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions are so different from each other that they could have become different countries altogether.
Music plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro, samba and bossa nova are considered genuinely Brazilian. Caipira music is also in the roots of sertanejo (the national equivalent to country music). MPB stands for Brazilian Popular Music, which mixes several national styles under a single concept. Forró, a north-eastern style, has also become common nationwide. New urban styles include funk - name given to a dance music genre from Rio's favelas that mixes heavy electronic beats and often raunchy rapping - and techno-brega, a crowd-pleaser in northern states, that fuses romantic pop, dance music and caribbean rhythms.
A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira was brought to Brazil by African slaves. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities.
Candomble and Umbanda are religions with African roots that have survived prejudice and persecution and still have a significant following in Brazil. Their places of cult are called terreiros and many are open for visitation.
Indigenous traits can be found everywhere in Brazilian culture, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in all Brazilian regions, although many have been deeply influenced by "western" culture, and several of the country's surviving indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing completely. The traditional lifestyle and graphic expressions of the Wajãpi indigenous group from the state of Amapá were proclaimed a Masterpiece of the World's Intangible Heritage 1 (http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/masterpiece.php?id=54&lg=en) by UNESCO.
The national television network also plays an important role in shaping the national identity. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians. TVs broadcast sports, movies, local and national news and telenovelas ? 6-month-long series that are one of the country?s main cultural exports.
Throughout its history, Brazil has appreciated and openly received different people and practices. The lack of British or Dutch-style puritanism in colonial history has contributed that Brazil constitutes a melting pot of the most diverse ethnic groups thus mitigating ethnic prejudices and preventing racial conflicts (though long lasting slavery and genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll). Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage.
In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While attitude in the South may be somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio upwards people usually boast a captivating attitude towards life and truly enjoy having a good time. Some may even tell you that beer, football, samba and barbecue is all they could crave for.
Almost everyone can dance and Brazilians are usually at ease with their bodies. While talking, they may stand closer to each other than the regular American or Northern European, and also tend to touch each other more. It?s not uncommon to touch each other on the shoulder or arm occasionally while speaking and foreigners should not take this as impolite or as a violation of personal space.
The Brazilian society exhibits many positive traits of friendship, hospitality and honor and highly values family and social connections. This may lead some people to think that Brazilians are a sympathetic people in a very peculiar way, as for many of them, the most important thing when dealing with other people may be the distinction between known and unknown people. To people they have met, or at least they know the name, they are very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous. Once introduced, until getting a good reason not to, a typical Brazilian may treat you as trustfully as he would treat a best friend. This may have an agreeable impact, but it also means that outsiders not always get the same special treatment as locals. Nevertheless, Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration.
Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to regional differences:
Whereas the "Western" roots of Brazilian culture are largely European (evidenced by its colonial towns and even sporadic historic buildings between the skyscrapers...), there has been a strong tendency in the last decades to adopt a more "American Way of Life" which is manifest in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a strongly positive feeling towards technical progress.
The contrasts of this huge country equally fascinates and shocks most visitors, as well as the indifference of many inhabitants towards the social, economic and ecological biases. Whereas an emerging elite of young, well-educated professionals indulge in amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and inhuman housing conditions still exist even in regions blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investments.
As much as Brazilians acknowledge their self-sustainability in raw materials, agriculture, and engergy sources as an enormous benefit for the future, most of them agree that without huge efforts in education there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Holidays and working hours
Brazil observes the following holidays:
Working hours are usually from 8 am or 9am to 6 pm. Shopping malls normally open from 10 am to 10 pm.
The government sponsored tourism portal (http://www.embratur.gov.br/) is a useful source of information on travel to Brazil.
For some regions you need yellow a fever vaccination and the certificate showing you had this. 2 (http://travel.guardian.co.uk/askatraveller/story/0,8915,673944,00.html)
Most travelers from other continents will land in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Some regional airports such as Belem and Manaus are also served by flights from Miami, Florida, French Guiana, Suriname and Guadeloupe. There are also regular flights from Europe (Lisbon) to Recife and Salvador. Besides, weekly 4-hour flights connect Fortaleza to Cape Verde (with further connections available to Senegal), a direct air link between Brazil and the African Continent. Charter tourism flights from Europe often land directly in Salvador.
The main border crossings are at:
Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries. The main capitals linked directly by bus are Buenos Aires, Asunción, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Lima. Direct connections from the first three can also be found easily, but from Lima it might be tricky, though easily accomplished by changing at one of the others. Those typically go to Sao Paulo, though Pelotas has good connections too. It should be kept in mind that distances between Sao Paulo and any foreign capitals are significant.
The national land transport authority has listings3 (https://appweb.antt.gov.br/transp/linha_internacional.asp) on all operating international bus lines.
Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The ride is a gruelling 12 days upriver though. From French Guiana, you can cross the river Oyapoque, which takes about 15 minutes.
Train service within Brazil, let alone from other countries, is almost nonexistent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and the most famous way to enter Brazil, or better to arrive in Brazil by train is with the "Trem da Morte" or Death Train, which goes from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to a small town just over the border from Cuiabá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There is still a train line from there all the way to Sao Paulo, but at the moment it is not in use, but bus connections to Sao Paulo via the state capital Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey itself is reputedly replete of robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased recently and the journey can be made without much difficulty. It goes through the Bolivian agricultural belt and one may see the technology averse religious community which resemble the American Amish in many ways, by the train along the journey.
Air service connects all major areas of Brazil. Note that not all air routes are as direct as they would seem on a map, and are often required to go through hubs such as Brasilia or Sao Paulo. Besides the traditional airlines (Varig (http://www.varig.com.br) or TAM (http://www.tam.com.br)) there are also cheaper "no frills" airlines such as BRA (http://www.voebra.com.br), Gol (http://www.voegol.com.br) and Webjet (http://www.webjet.com.br) booking over the internet. For international travelers, air passes for in-country flights may be available while buying your flight to Brazil.
Beware of flight listings at the airport which only show the final city in route (which you're probably not aware of). Always know and check your flight NUMBER, not just the city you're flying to (it might not be listed). Expect that a more distant city might be the only one listed for your flight, but the plane will still stop at the airport you have a ticket for. Strangely, international flights are just the opposite, with only the first destination in Brazil shown -- even though the same flight may go directly to other cities.
Many domestic flights in Brazil are considered "international," giving flyers a chance to purchase items at a "duty free" store in the airport. (There may be passengers on board from other South American countries who have not yet cleared customs.) Also, you must go through immigrations and customs again upon arrival, even though you never left Brazil. Foreign travelers on flights within Brazil do NOT fill out a new immigration form, but show the carbon copy of the one completed on arriving in Brazil the first time of same visit (with their passport and visa stamp).
The atlas "Guia de Estradas" provides not only maps and distances but also informs about current conditions of the roads (which can be indeed very bad). There are the usual car rental companies at the airports. A car is a good idea if you want to explore scenic areas, e.g. the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the Rio-Santos highway, or the beaches in North-East Brazil.
Driving anywhere in Brazil requires a maximum amount of attention. In a recent year, Brazilians won first, second, and third place at the Indy 500 auto race -- which should give you an idea on how they drive. If you're bold enough to drive at all in Brazil, at least consider avoiding night-time driving.
In rural areas in Brazil the bicycle is a common means of transport. This does not mean that cyclists are respected by car, truck, or bus drivers. But you may find good roads with little traffic outside the cities. It is also easy to get a lift by a pickup or to have the bike transported by a bus. Cycling is not very stimulated in big cities. An exception is Rio de Janeiro where there are cycle tracks along the beaches.
Brazil's railway system was mostly wrecked during the military regimes. Today there are few passenger lines left:
Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and sometimes (usually if you buy the most expensive ticket), rather comfortable way to travel between regions. Bus terminals in cities play a role akin to train stations in many countries.
Brazil has a very good bus transport system, Basically, long distance routes depart from capital cities or economical centers, so if the city is big it will have connections to neighbouring capitals at the very least. One can expect just about any town to have a bus route to the capital or a regional economic center. Generally speaking bus tickets are bought at bus terminals at the end points or at the scheduled stops along the route. The facility of flagging a bus and hopping on (if there are available seats) is widespread in the country. This is less likely to work along a few routes where armed robberies have happened frequently, such as those leading to the border with Paraguay and to Foz do Iguaçu.
ANTT, the national auhority for land transportation, has a search engine4 (https://appweb.antt.gov.br/transp/secao_duas_localidades.asp) (in Portuguese) for all available domestical bus lines.
In the Amazon region as well as on the coast west of Sao Luis, boat travel is often the only way to get around.
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by the entire population. Brazilian Portuguese has a number of pronunciation differences with the language spoken in Portugal, but speakers of either can understand each other.
Spanish speakers may be able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south. Probably because of the larger number of sounds of the Portuguese language, Brazilians can often understand Spanish but it's usually harder for Spanish-speakers to understand the reply. There are lots of Portuguese words that drop a middle syllable from the Spanish.
Not all Brazilians will be able to speak English, but one can always find a way to get around, especially among students and in financial areas. However, don't expect bus drivers or taxi drivers to understand English. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak English.
Brazil's unit of currency is the real (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural reais ('hay-AYS'). Prices are written as R$1,50 (means one and fifty cents) for example. The real can be difficult to sell after you leave South America, so convert any cash to US dollars if leaving the country for another continent.
Bank Machines often take VISA and other non-Brazilian cr cards. Check for the Cirrus or VISA PLUS logo. Shell Petrol/Gas stations with a shop might also have an ATM which does. Banco do Brasil may have many ATM's but only one per branch which accepts foreign cr/debit cards. There is often a long line of people waiting, as the machines are used by locals to pay bills. BankBoston, HSBC, Bradesco, and Citibank also accept PLUS and Cirrus ATM cards and usually have shorter lines. Cr card advance is through the ATM's (with the four digit PIN) ONLY -- no manual transactions.
In terms of the most common form of payment, cash in small bills is king in Brazil. If you have too many large bills, especially in the small towns and tourist destinations, you will find vendors often don't have enough small bills to make change. Therefore, make sure you carry a lot of small bills. Further, traveler checks are not easily or cheaply cashed in Brazil, except at international airports, which there are only a few: Sao Paulo, Rio, Curitiba, Salvador, etc. Brazilian banks charge an arm and a leg to cash traveler checks and the process can take a while, so don't try it if you are in a hurry.
The Real is a free-floating currency. As of January 2005, R$1 is worth about:
It's wise to pack light and acquire a Brazilian wardrobe within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist, and give you months of satisfied gloating back home about the great bargains you got whenever you are complimented on your clothing. Brazilians of almost any economic status tend to dress quite stylishly. This makes tourists, particularly Americans, stand out in the crowd. Have some fun shopping, and blend in. Another good reason for buying clothes and shoes in Brazil is that the quality is usually good and the prices, often cheap.
Store windows will often display a price followed by "X 5" or "X 10", etc. This is an installment-sale price. The price displayed is the per-installment price, so that, "R$50 X 10", for example, means 10 payments (typically monthly) of R$50. The actual price is always lower if you cash in.
Make sure any appliances you buy are either dual voltage or the same as in your home country. Brazil is 60Hz, so don't buy electric clocks or non-battery operated motorized items if you live in Europe or Australia.
Brazil uses a hybrid video system called "PAL-M." It is NOT at all compatible with the PAL system of Europe and Australia. Television began in black and white using the NTSC system of the USA and Canada, then years later, using PAL for its analogue colour -- making a totally unique system. Nowadays, most new TV sets are NTSC compatible. Digital video such as DVDs are also compatible with NTSC, but make sure the region code(s), if any, matches your home country (Brazil is part of region 4). Prices for imported electronic goods are quite high, and there is very little production inside the country.
Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. On the other hand, some may find it an unrefined melange, and everyday fare can be bland and monotonous. While there are some quite unique dishes of regional origin, many foods were brought by overseas immigrants and have been hybridized through the generations. In Brazil, Italian and Chinese food can often be as baffling as Amazonian fare.
Brazil's national dish is feijoada, a hearty stew made of black beans and pork (ears, knuckles, sausage and pieces of cow meat). It's served with a side of white rice, garnished with collard greens and sliced orange. It's usually not served in restaurants, and ones that do, typically have it only twice a week (usually Wednesday and Saturday). A typical mistake made by tourists is to take too much feijoada close after arriving. This is a heavy dish, that you need to get used to before you eat it. Even Brazilians usually eat it parcimoniously. While you are at it, try the caipirinha, Brazil´s signature drink made of wedged limes, sugar and cachaça.
Excellent seafood can be found in coastal towns.
In most towns, even the smallest, it is easy to find self-service restaurants with good food. Brazilian restaurants tend to be quite clean, considering that this is a developing country --and in many of them you can actually see the kitchen. At least you should, since it´s determined by law.
Most of the self-service restaurants offer two kinds of deals: they have an all-you-can-eat fixed price, or you go "by the kilo", which means that you weight you plate after your serve yourself. This is very common during lunch time throughout Brazil.
Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:
Eating out is a great bargain and a pleasure in Brazil. Service is excellent. Even in "expensive" Rio, and in the tourist areas where prices are marked-up, you can have an excellent meal at one of the better restaurants complete with drinks for US$10.
Note that the locals tip only 10% of total service amount. This value usually included in the bill. Use this as an opportunity to make somebody's day for extra special service. If you are going to stay for some time, choose a good reastaurant for everyday eating, make some friendship with a waiter (usually by giving him an extra tip) and you will enjoy excellent service.
Many inexpensive restaurants are buffet-by-weight, or por kilo. You pile up your plate with whatever you want, then place it on a scale at the counter, and pay by weight. These restaurants, being the least expensive, are those where Brazilians prefer to eat. Service may be hard to get by if you can't speak Portuguese, but this is the place to go if you want to eat good and cheap.
Brazilian restaurants often serve only for two, and you can't order a portion for a single person. It's usually not even indicated on the menu, so you may have to infer from the price or just ask. Also, a Brazilian couple sitting at a restaurant table usually sits side by side, rather than across from each other.
Fast food is also very popular, and the local takes on hamburgers and hot-dogs ("cachorro-quente", translated literally) are well worth trying. Brazilian sandwiches tend to come in many varieties, including various combinations of ingredients like mayonnaise, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, corn, peas, raisins, french fries, ketchup, eggs, pickles, etc.
Liquor and beer
Brazil's most famous alcoholic drink is cachaça, an extremely potent sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. A great place to visit in Rio de Janeiro's neighbourhood of Leblon is Academia da Cachaça. There are also tours of distillers in Minas Gerais, much in the same way as you'd tour vineyards in the Sonoma Valley or in France, with the added bonus of their famous regional cuisine.
The strong flavor can be tempered (hidden?) in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, a combination of cachaça with sugar and lemon juice. The city of Paraty gave its name to the drink: parati is a synonym for cachaça. Other words for it include: pinga, caninha, branquinha, malvada, aguardente ("burning water"). The same mixture using vodka is nicknamed a caipiroshka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima.
Drinking pure cachaça (like the Russians do with vodka) is not a common habit, however.
If you enjoy fine brandy or grappa, try an aged cachaça. Deep and complex, this drink is nothing like the ubiquitous clear liquor more commonly seen.
Beer in Brazil has a respectable history thanks to German immigrants. Draft lager beer is called chope or chopp ('SHOH-pee'). Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be less thick and bitter than actual German, Danish or English beer. The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica and Skol. Traditional brands include Bohemia, Caracu and Itaipava. Brazilians like their beer almost ice-cold when served. To keep the beer cold, it is often served in an insulated container and is drunk from small glasses. Served like this, the waiter may keep topping up the glasses and replacing the beer until you ask him to stop.
Imported alcohol is expensive! If you drink vodka, gin, or Scotch, your best bet is to buy this at the duty-free shop at the airport coming in. (Brazil is one of the few countries where you can buy duty-free goods on your way in.)
The production of wine is very strong on the north, but most of the wine appreciators live on the south. Rio Grande do Sul also has a great wine production. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruity and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. Popular brands (Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade and others, mostly those with prices below R$ 6,00) are usually seen as rubbish.
If you happen to be in Minas Gerais, look for licor de jabuticaba (jabuticaba liquor) or vinho de jabuticaba (jabuticaba wine), an exquisite purple-black beverage with a sweet taste. Jabuticaba is the name of a small grapelike black fruit native to Brazil.
Coffee and tea
Brazil is recognized world-wide for its high-quality and strong coffee. Cafezinho (little coffee) is a small cup of sweetened coffee which is usually served for free after meals in restaurants (just ask politely). Essentially it's just a shot of espresso. Café is so popular that it can name meals (just like rice does in China, Japan and Korea): breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã (morning coffee), while café com pão (coffee with bread) is a light afternoon meal. However, be aware that the average quality of the coffee consumed in Brazil can be low, as the prime product is for export.
Mate is a type of tea that's very high in caffeine, and often served chilled. It has been losing popularity over time (mostly because men think hot sweet mate lowers their sexual energy), but is still consumed all around the country. Chimarrão is the heated, bitter equivalent of mate. It can be found in the south, and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos. Unlike mate, chimarrão is still very popular and spreading over the country. Be careful though; it's usually taken very hot and without sugar! Tererê is a cold version of Chimarrão common in Mato Grosso.
If you're on the beach on a hot day, nothing beats coconut water, or água de coco - but be careful how you pronounce the word coco (hint: stress the first o as you would in the word orange, otherwise it will sound to them like you are ordering poo!).
If you want a Coca-Cola in Brazil, ask for coca, as "cola" means "glue", in Portuguese (but if you say "Coca-cola", everybody will understand).
Guaraná is a carbonated soft drink made from a berry (the guaraná) native to the Amazon area; Brazil is probably the only country where a native soft drink is more popular than Coca-cola. The major brands are Antarctica, Kuat and Brahma.
Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. There are fruit juice bars at nearly every corner. Açai (made of a fruit from the Amazon) is absolutely delicious and very nutritious on top of that. It is normally served cold and has a consistency of soft ice. Don't let the crazy purple color stop you from eating it! Maracuja (passion fruit) Caju (cashew) and Manga (mango) are also a great juice experiences. Don't be afraid to try what you see on the menu. Brazilians have great taste when it comes to mixing juices.
Hotels are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil. A fairly good and clean hotel is quite cheap.
In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas, which are ranches with guest facilities. In small towns of Minas Gerais people are fond of hotéis-fazenda (farm hotels) where you can swim, ride, walk, play football, and camp as well as sleep in picturesque barracks.
Also there is great fun in going on a "Boat Hotel" which will take you to inaccessible places on the rivers and lakes for great fishing trips or for simply relaxing and watching and photographing the wildlife which is very abundant in the Pantanal. The boats are large, safe, and comfortable with air-conditioned rooms (very necessary). Several small aluminum boats with outboard motor,carried by the Boat Hotel,driven by experienced fisher/guide will take 2 or 3 tourists to the best "points".
Motel is the local term for a "sex hotel", so be aware of the implications. There's no social stigma per se in staying in one, but the room service and rates are geared to consenting adults staying for 4 to 6 hour periods (alta rotatividade) with utmost discretion and privacy. Most motels include facilities like warm massage bathtubs, opening ceilings, sauna, etc. which may be fun to try.
Pousada means guesthouse (the local equivalent of a French auberge or a British boarding house). They are common in smaller tourist towns and can be quite comfortable (or downright awful...). The term implies that things like 24-hour room service, hot meals throughout the day, etc, are not available. Brazilian tourism regulation board imposes specific minimum m attributes for each type of facility. However, most pousadas offer common meals (comprised exclusively of what the owner likes). Pousadas also tend to impose restrictions like not allowing you to come back too late or forbidding taking people in with you.
Because Portuguese is not as visible worldwide as English or Spanish, it is not easy to find Portuguese courses for foreigners in Brazil -- especially in medium to small cities. A good alternative is to befriend language students and exchange lessons. Brazilians are usually interested in learning foreign languages and are very patient to teach their difficult, but very cherished language.
If you come to Brazil with some initial notions of Portuguese, you will see that people will treat you much better and you will get by much easier. Spanish and standard Italian are easily understood, especially in São Paulo or the South, but English is of no use unless the person specifically knows how to speak it.
Working in Brazil is much easier than in Europe, Japan or the U.S., mostly because there is much more informality. In theory you should have a permit to be allowed to have a job. However, trying to get a decent job in the first place can be hard because there is too much unemployment and because it does not pay well.
If you are a native English speaker, you can easily find an English-teaching part-time job; but don't expect that to save your holidays.
One of the unfortunate sides of travel in Brazil is the epidemic of violent street crime. Brazil's large cities are notorious for attacks (against foreigners and locals alike), but do not let that deter you. Taking extra precautions to keep yourself safe while travelling in Brazil will let you enjoy your stay like millions of visitors do every year.
Do not walk around big cities at night -- take taxis. On no account ever try to enter a slum ("favela") without a guide and do not walk down shadowy streets at night. If you cannot depend on a Brazilian friend or relative to be your guide, consult a travel book to learn which areas of the city to avoid and when, as well as other safety tips.
Use your hotel's safe for any valuables, or, better yet, don't bring to Brazil anything you don't really need. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, wearing expensive or expensive-looking jewelry, and carrying any unnecessary electronic gear, loose purses or bags. Try to stash some extra money in a hidden spot on your person -- such as a shoe or money belt -- to make sure you can get back to your hotel. Pay attention to the way the locals dress and buy similar clothes for yourself: looking like a foreigner is not wise as thieves will be after you for your money if they instantly see you are a gringo.
You don't need to carry your passport to walk in the city but if you like this, use a little pocket inside your clothes (you can buy in airport mall). But be sure to have a photocopy of your passport with you at all times as required by law (Brazilian police are entitled the right to request identification, i.e. documents, from anyone behaving suspiciously).
It's probably best to avoid the food peddled by vendors on the beach (before you buy any food from them, take a look of their hygiene and cleanness). Sanduíche Natural (Natural Sandwich) may or may not be organic as represented, but if you buy one late in the day a tummy-ache or worse is a likely result. Food and drink in formal restaurants is safe, excellent, and inexpensive.
If you are going to rent a flat and live on your own, store perishable foodstuffs with extra care, as the hot climate can make them rot quite soon.
Only buy closed drinks sold from street vendors (like cans and bottles). Always use a straw or rinse the drink container with fresh water, because the water used to cool the drinks is sometimes not fit for consumption. Unless you have been in the country for a few weeks or more, avoid all ice in drinks. Mineral water is safe, but only if you can be sure it is really mineral water. Don't ever drink tap water: it is either contaminated, saline or soaked with chlorine to kill germs.
Vaccination against yellow fever and taking anti-malaria medication may be necessary if you are traveling to central-western (Mato Grosso) or northern (Amazon) regions. If you're arriving from Peru, Colombia and Bolivia countries, the vaccination of yellow fever is required (i.e. you cannot leave these countries if your destination is Brazil without your vaccination card). Some countries, such as Australia and South Africa, will require evidence of yellow fever vaccination before allowing you entry if you have been in any part of Brazil within the previous week. Check the requirements of any country you will travel to after Brazil.
If you get ill don't look for help in public hospitals, which tend to be crowded and not too good. In most cities of at least 60,000 inhabitants good healthcare is available at a fair price.
Dentists abound and are very cheap (so cheap indeed that people come from other countries to treat their teeth there) however, the quality of their work is not always the same. Absolutely don't trust "popular dentists".
The emergency number is 190, but you must speak Portuguese.
Brazil is one of a few countries that uses both 120 and 240 volts for everyday appliances. Expect the voltage to change back and forth as you travel from one place to the next -- even within the same Brazilian state, sometimes even within the same building. There is no physical difference in the electric outlets (power mains) for the two voltages. Outlets with 240 volts are suppose to have a red and white label indicating the higher voltage -- but don't bet any expensive equipment on it. Travelers from the USA, Canada, and other countries with 120V should always ask first before plugging in appliances.
Electric outlets accept both the flat blades of the USA and Canada, and the thin round pins used in Brazil and some other countries. The round holes are not big enough for the German "Schuko" plugs. Either bring an adapter intended for the USA and Canada with both prongs the same size and no third round grounding pin, or one with THIN round pins (smaller than the Schuko). Even if you live in the USA/Canada you will probably need one of these adapters, as many appliances now use a polarized plug with one blade bigger than the other. These will not fit in Brazil, nor will anything with a third grounding pin.
Like most countries in North America, frequency is 60Hz (regardless of voltage). Don't bring electric clocks from Europe and Australia as they will gain 12 minutes per hour. Blackouts do sometimes occur -- especially in the smaller cities and towns during the wet season.
Brazilians tend to be very open and talk freely about their problems, especially about political corruption and other problems. But don't imitate them, as they are likely to feel offended if you criticise their country or customs. In some small towns, politics is a dangerous issue and you should be careful when talking about it.
Brazil has international country telephone code 55 and two-digit area codes. Most phone numbers are eight digits long, but some are still seven digits long. The number of digits has been increased from seven to eight recently in some areas, meaning you might still find some old seven-digit phone numbers which won't work unless you prepend another digit (which depends on the area code and the first digit of the original number).
Eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 2 to 6 are land lines, while eight-digit numbers beginning with digits 7 to 9 are mobile phones.
All cities use the following emergency numbers:
To dial to another area code or to another country, you must chose a carrier using a two-digit carrier code. Which carriers are available depends on the area you are dialing from and on the area you are dialing to. Carriers 21 (Embratel) and 23 (Intelig) are available in all areas.
The international phone number format for Brazil is +55-(area code)-(phone number)
Public payphones use prepaid cards with a number of crs. Phone booths are nearly everywhere in the cities and do not accept coins, but the standard prepaid cards can be used in all booths, regardless of the owner phone company. These cards cannot be recharged, but are easily available in shopping centers, gas stations, post offices, etc. Calls to cell phones (even local) will use up your crs very quickly (nearly as expensive as international calls). Calling the USA costs about one real per minute.
Mobiles use either the CDMA or GSM system. It is possible to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card for GSM phones, but make sure your phone is unlocked and uses the same frequency of Brazilian mobiles (usually 800MHz or 1,8 GHz). Same thing applies to buying a phone in Brazil - make sure it is unlocked so you can use another SIM card when you leave for a different country.
Internet cafes and Lan houses are increasingly common, and even smaller tourist cities often have at least one spot with more or less decent connections.
The Brazilian Correio5 (http://www.correios.com.br) is fairly reliable and post offices are literally everywhere. Be sure to use PRIORITÁRIO (priority mail) or foreign letters and postcards will take a VERY long time to arrive.