BRAZIL CITY STOP OVERS
- Brasilia Add On, 3 days
- Buzios Beach Getaway, 3 days
- Colonial Salvador, 3 days
- Fantastic Fortaleza, 3 days
- Fernando de Noronha Beach Getaway, 4 days
- Manaus, Heart of the Amazon, 3 days
- Recife Stopover, 3 days
- Rio, Jewel in the Crown, 3 days
- Sea Side Salvador, 3 days
- Amazon Clipper 1st Class, 3, 4 & 7 days
- Amazon River Cruise, 4 days
- Argentina and Brazil - Nature and Nightlife, 8 days
- Brazil Complete, 12 days
- Brazilian Iguassu Falls, 2 days
- Clasico Latino, 8 days
- Iberostar Amazon Cruise
- Iguassu Falls Complete (from Rio), 3 days
- Iguassu Falls Complete Brazil to Brazil, 3 days
- Mountains, Rivers & Waterfalls Classic, 8 days
- Rio Carnaval, 5 days
- Voyage to the Heart of the Amazon, 8 days
- Pantanal Adventure, Caiman Lodge
BRAZIL VALUE GROUP TOURING
- Atacama to Sugarloaf Explorer, 16 days
- Brazilian Explorer, 14 days
- Buenos Aires and Rio Explorer, 11 days
- Santiago to Rio Explorer, 12 days
- South American Explorer, 22 days
- Value Brazil, 8 days
- Value South America, 15 days
LATIN AMERICAN DESTINATIONS
- Antarctica (12 trips)
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- Falkland Islands (2 trips)
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- Peru (36 trips)
- Uruguay (3 trips)
- Venezuela (2 trips)
HOLIDAYS OF A LIFETIME
- Splendours of South America (2012), 17 days
- Splendours of South America (2013), 15 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru (2012), 20 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru plus Bolivia (2013/2014), 23 days
- Best of Ecuador, 11 days
- Cradle of the Incas, 13 days
Trekking, walking, wildlife encounters, cycling, rafting, sailing, cruising, camping, safaris, overland journeys and more.
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Country General Information
South America's giant, Brazil is a seductive country with dazzling beaches, tropical islands and picturesque colonial towns. Its verdant rainforests boast an astounding array of wildlife, while its wildly energetic cities are home to a multitude of ethnic groups.
Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country in both size and population, and its thriving economy has made it Latin America's powerhouse, enjoying record growth in the last five years (Brazil currently ranks among the ten largest economies in the world). This is a country revered for its football prowess and rich musical traditions, which include samba, bossanova, tropicalismo, forró and numerous other distinctive styles.
Although Brazilians are a diverse bunch, joie de vivre is a characteristic shared by most of the country's 192 million citizens. Carnival is the best-known manifestation of this celebratory spirit and is feted throughout Brazil. Rio de Janeiro and Salvador are the best places to join the mayhem, when samba-filled parties erupt through the streets, and revellers dance and celebrate for days on end.
As well as the world's biggest rainforest in the Amazon, Brazil boasts many wilderness areas including the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Pantanal, the canyons and caves of the Chapada Diamantina and the colourful old gold-mining towns in the mountains of Minas Gerais.
The population of Brazil is a melting pot of races, including indigenous people, descendants of slaves from Africa and the offspring of European immigrants. This variety is reflected in the food, architecture, music and culture of Brazil. It is this assortment of places, people and traditions that makes Brazil such an unforgettable place to visit.
- Country Facts
- Food & Drinks
- Travel Info
- Passport & Visas
8,547,404 km² (3,300,171 sq miles).
203,429,773 (July 2011 est.)
22.5 per km².
Brasília. Population: 2.3 million (official estimate 2008).
Brazil covers almost half of the South American continent and it is bordered to the north, west and south by all South American countries except Chile and Ecuador; to the east is the Atlantic. The country is topographically quite flat and at no point do the highlands exceed 3,000m (10,000ft). Over 60% of the country is a plateau; the remainder consists of plains.
The River Plate Basin (the confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, both of which have their sources in Brazil) in the far south is more varied, higher and less heavily forested. North of the Amazon are the Guiana Highlands, partly forested, partly stony desert. The Brazilian Highlands of the interior, between the Amazon and the rivers of the south, form a vast tableland, the Mato Grosso, from which rise mountains in the southwest that form a steep protective barrier from the coast called the Great Escarpment, breached by deeply cut river beds.
The population is concentrated in the south-eastern states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The city of São Paulo has a population of over 12 million, while over 7 million people live in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The official language is Portuguese, with different regional accents characterising each state. Spanish, English, Italian, French and German are also spoken, particularly in tourist areas. Four linguistic roots survive in the indigenous areas: Gê, Tupi-guarani, Aruak and Karib.
There is no official religion, but approximately 74% of the population are Roman Catholics. A number of diverse evangelical cults are also represented, as are animist beliefs (particularly the Afro-Brazilian religion of candomblé).
Brazil spans several time zones:
Eastern Standard Time: GMT - 3 (GMT - 2 from third Sunday in October to third Saturday in March)
Western Standard Time: GMT - 4 (GMT - 3 from third Sunday in October to third Saturday in March)
North East States and East Parà: GMT - 3
Amapa and West Parà: GMT - 4
Acre State: GMT - 5
Fernando de Noronha Archipelago: GMT - 2
In informal situations, it is common to kiss women on both cheeks when meeting and taking one's leave. Handshaking is customary between men, and normal European courtesies are observed. Frequent offers of coffee and tea are customary. Flowers are acceptable as a gift on arrival or following a visit for a meal. A souvenir from the visitor's home country will be well-received as a gift of appreciation. Casual wear is normal, particularly during hot weather. For more formal occasions the mode of dress will be indicated on invitations. The Catholic Church is highly respected in the community, something which should be kept in mind by the visitor.
Brasília and Recife, 220 volts AC; Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, 127 volts AC or 220 volts in larger hotels. Plugs are of the two-pin type. Most hotels provide 110-volt and 220-volt outlets, transformers and adaptors.
Head of State
Brazil’s population, the fifth biggest in the world, reached its lands from Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the Americas – diverse origins that have created one of the planet’s most racially mixed societies. How they came, intermingled and developed the unique Brazilian identity that charms visitors today is a rough-and-tumble story of courage, greed, endurance and cruelty, eventually yielding a fitful progress towards the democracy the country now enjoys.
Before the Portuguese
By the time the Portuguese rolled up in AD 1500, what is now Brazil had already been populated for as many as 50,000 years. But unlike the Incas, Brazil’s early inhabitants never developed a highly advanced civilization and they left few clues for archaeologists to follow. One of the few certainties is that it wasn’t the Portuguese who discovered terra brasilis.
It’s generally believed that the early inhabitants of the Americas arrived from Siberia in waves between about 60,000 and 8000 BC, crossing land now submerged beneath the Bering Strait, then gradually spreading southward over many millennia. Researchers in the remote Serra da Capivara in the Northeastern state of Piauí have found evidence of human presence there 50,000 years ago, predating other finds in the Americas by about 30,000 years. The oldest traces of human life in the Amazon region can be seen on a detour from a river trip between Santarém and Belém: a series of rock paintings estimated to be 12,000 years old near Monte Alegre. Other remnants of early civilizations can be found on the Ilha de Marajó at the mouth of the Amazon, and at the Gruta da Lapinha in Minas Gerais.
By the time the Portuguese arrived in AD 1500, there were probably between two and four million people in what’s now Brazil, in over 1000 tribes.
Cabral & chums
The course of Brazilian history was changed forever in 1500, when a fleet of 12 Portuguese ships carrying nearly 1200 men rolled up near what is today Porto Seguro.
The fleet, ostensibly bound for East Africa and Asia to set up trading posts, had headed west after passing the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa. Increasingly it is thought that, far from having been simply blown off course, the Portuguese already had reason to suspect there was a large land mass across the southern Atlantic that would make such a giant detour worthwhile. Whatever the motive, on April 22, 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral and his gang stepped for the first time onto Brazilian soil. Their indigenous reception committee was ready and waiting.
‘There were 18 or 20 men, ’ marveled scribe Pero Vaz de Caminha in a letter back to the Portuguese king. ‘They were brown-skinned, all of them naked, without anything at all to cover their private parts. In their hands they carried bows and arrows.’
The festivities didn’t last long. Having erected a cross and held Mass in the land they baptized Terra da Vera Cruz (Land of the True Cross), the Portuguese took to the waves once again. With lucrative spice, ivory and diamond markets in Asia and Africa to exploit, Portugal had bigger fish to fry elsewhere. It wasn’t till 1531 that the first Portuguese settlers arrived in Brazil.
For Brazil’s Indians, April 22, 1500 marked the first chapter in their gradual extermination. Sixteenth-century European explorers along the Amazon encountered large, widespread populations; some were practising agriculture while others were still nomadic hunter-gatherers. Coastal peoples fell into three main groups: the Guarani (south of São Paulo and in the Paraguai and Paraná basins inland), the Tupi or Tupinambá (along most of the rest of the coast) and the Tapuia (other peoples inhabiting shorter stretches of coast in among the Tupi and Guarani). The Tupi and Guarani had much in common in language and culture. A European adaptation of the Tupi-Guarani language later spread throughout colonial Brazil and is still spoken by some people in Amazonia today.
Over the following centuries a four-front war was waged on the Indian way of life. It was a cultural war, as well as a physical, territorial and biological one. Many índios fell victim to the bandeirantes – groups of roaming adventurers who spent the 17th and 18th centuries exploring Brazil’s interior, pillaging Indian settlements as they went. Those who escaped such a fate were struck down by the illnesses shipped in from Europe, to which they had no natural resistance. Others were worked to death on sugar plantations.
If the bandeirantes were responsible for the physical destruction of the Indians, it was the Jesuits who began their cultural destruction, outlawing their traditions and customs and settling them in aldeias (missions), though at the same time they did oppose Indian slavery and attempted to protect the Indians from the bandeirantes.
By the start of the 21st century Brazil’s indigenous population had dwindled to somewhere between 350,000 and 600,000, the majority of them in the relatively isolated Amazonian forests.
Dividing the land
Thirty years after Brazil’s ‘discovery’, Portugal’s King João III decided it might actually be worth settling there after all. The first settlement sprang up at São Vicente, when a fleet of five ships carrying some 400 men docked near what is now the port of Santos.
In an attempt to ward off the ambitions of other European countries, the king divided the Brazilian coast into 15 captaincies, each with about 250km of coastline and lands stretching inland to the west. These territories were awarded to donatários, minor gentry favored by the king. It was hoped that, through settlement, the long coastline could be secured at minimal cost.
The settlers’ lives were made difficult by the climate, hostility from the Indians and competition from the Dutch and French. Four captaincies were never settled and four destroyed by Indians. Only Pernambuco and São Vicente were profitable.
In 1549 the king sent Tomé de Sousa to be the first governor of Brazil, to centralize authority and save the few remaining captaincies. Sousa was joined by some 1000 settlers; among them Portuguese officials, soldiers, exiled prisoners, New Christians (converted Jews) and the first six Jesuit priests. The city of Salvador was founded as Sousa’s base, and remained Brazil’s capital until 1763, when Rio de Janeiro took over.
Sugar & slavery
Brazil didn’t boast the ivory and spices of Africa and the East Indies, and the only thing that had interested the Portuguese in the early years after they had found it was a rock-hard tree known as pau brazil (brazilwood), which yielded a valuable red dye. Merchants began sending a few ships each year to harvest brazilwood and take it back to Europe, and the colony changed its name to Brazil in tribute to the tree. Alas, the most accessible trees were rapidly depleted, and the Indians soon stopped volunteering their labor. But after colonization in 1531, the settlers soon worked out that Brazil was a place where sugarcane grew well. Sugar came to Brazil in 1532 and hasn’t left since. It was coveted by a hungry European market, which used it for medicinal purposes, to flavor foods and even in wine.
These days sugar is as popular as ever in Brazil. You can sip it on the beach in the form of a caldo de cana (sugarcane juice). You can neck it in one of Brazil’s many pé-sujo (dirty-foot) bars as a shot of cachaça (white spirit made from sugarcane). You can pour copious amounts into your coffee, as do most Brazilians, and you can even run your car on it.
Perhaps envisaging Brazil’s sugarcoated future, the colonists turned to this new industry. They lacked just one thing: a work force.
The slave trade
Initially the Portuguese seemed to hit it off with Brazil’s natives. There was even an exchange of presents between Cabral’s men and the Indians on the beach, with a Portuguese sombrero swapped for feather headdresses. Relations cooled when the Portuguese started enslaving their neighbors for work on the sugarcane plantations. Yet, for a variety of reasons the Portuguese felt the Indians didn’t make great slaves and turned instead to Africa’s already existing slave trade.
African slaves started to pour into Brazil’s slave markets from about 1550. They were torn from a variety of tribes in Angola, Mozambique and Guiné, as well as the Sudan and Congo. Whatever their origins and cultures, their destinations were identical: slave markets such as Salvador’s Pelourinho or Belém’s Mercado Ver-o-Peso. By the time slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888, around 3.6 million Africans had been shipped to Brazil – nearly 40% of the total that came to the New World.
Africans were seen as better workers and less susceptible to the European diseases that had proved the undoing of so many Indians. In short, they were a better investment. Yet the Portuguese didn’t go out of their way to protect this investment. Slaves were brought to Brazil in subhuman conditions: taken from their families and packed into squalid ships for the month-long journey to Brazil.
Visitors to the beaches of Porto de Galinhas, near Recife, might not pick up on the area’s grim past. Even after abolition, slave traders continued to smuggle in slaves often packed into a ship’s hull under crates full of galinhas (chickens).
Masters & slaves
For those who survived such ordeals, arrival in Brazil meant only continued suffering. A slave’s existence was one of brutality and humiliation. Kind masters were the exception, not the rule, and labor on the plantations was relentless. In temperatures that often exceeded 30°C (86°F), slaves were required to work as many as 17 hours each day, before retiring to the squalid senzala (slave quarters), and with as many as 200 slaves packed into each dwelling, hygiene was a concept as remote as the distant coasts of Africa. Dysentery, typhus, yellow fever, malaria, tuberculosis and scurvy were rife; malnutrition a fact of life. Syphilis also plagued a slave population sexually exploited by its masters.
Sexual relations between masters and slaves were so common that a large mixed-race population soon emerged. Off the plantations there was a shortage of white women, so many poorer white settlers lived with black or Indian women. Brazil was already famous for its sexual permissiveness by the beginning of the 18th century.
Aside from the senzala, the other main institution of the sugar plantation was the casa grande (‘big house’) – the luxurious mansion from which the masters would control their slaves.
Resistance & the Quilombos
Resistance to slavery took many forms. Documents of the period refer to the desperation of the slaves who starved themselves to death, killed their babies or fled. Sabotage and theft were frequent, as were work slowdowns, stoppages and revolts.
Other slaves sought solace in African religion and culture. The mix of Catholicism (made compulsory by slave masters) and African traditions spawned a syncretic religion on the sugar plantations, known today as Candomblé. The slaves masked illegal customs with a facade of Catholic saints and rituals. The martial art capoeira also grew out of the slave communities.
Many slaves escaped from their masters to form quilombos, communities of runaway slaves that quickly spread across the countryside. The most famous, the Republic of Palmares, which survived through much of the 17th century, was home to some 20, 000 people. Palmares was a network of quilombos covering a broad tract of lush tropical forest straddling the border of Alagoas and Pernambuco states. Under their leaders Ganga Zumba and his son-in-law Zumbi, its citizens became pioneers of guerrilla warfare, repeatedly fending off Portuguese attacks between 1654 and 1695. Eventually Palmares fell to a force of bandeirantes from São Paulo.
As abolitionist sentiment grew in the 19th century, many (unsuccessful) slave rebellions were staged, the quilombos received more support and ever-greater numbers of slaves fled the plantations. Only abolition itself, in 1888, stopped the growth of quilombos. Over 700 villages that started as quilombos remain today. Some were so isolated that they remained completely out of contact with white Brazilians until the last couple of decades.
It’s hard to picture what Brazil would have been like under French or Dutch rule. Tom Jobim might have composed a track about the Meisje from Ipanema; Brazilians might be tucking into frogs’ legs and not feijoada (bean-and-meat stew) every Sunday. For a time, such outcomes were a distinct possibility.
Technically, the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. An imaginary line, running north–south from roughly the mouth of the Amazon to what is now Santa Catarina, was drawn on the map. Land to the east became Portuguese territory; land to the west fell under Spanish control.
But the line proved very imaginary indeed. As any traveler brave enough to venture into the further reaches of Mato Grosso will discover, enforcing such a vast border running through thick jungles and swamps was never a particularly viable idea. Brazil’s borders remained in flux until as late as 1930.
In 1555 three boatloads of French settlers landed on a small island in Rio’s Baía de Guanabara. Obviously liking what they found, the French decided to try to incorporate parts of southern Brazil into their ever-growing empire. Antarctic France would be its name.
Things didn’t go to plan – a few years later the franceses were expelled by the Portuguese, who landed near Praia Vermelha, at the foot of the Sugarloaf Mountain. It was here that Estácio de Sá founded the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro on March 1, 1565.
The French made another brief attempt to claw Brazilian soil from the Portuguese, further north, in 1612, when they founded the city of São Luís, which took its name from France’s then king, Louis XIII. Three years later, the Portuguese sent the French packing once again.
The challenge from Holland proved harder to shake off. The Dutch West India Company (DWIC), set up in 1621, was much more than a simple trading business. Its business, in fact, was war, and its goal was to take Brazil’s Northeast from the Portuguese.
The Dutch bombardment of Salvador began on the morning of May 9, 1624. By the following day, the invading force of 3000 men from 26 ships had captured and ransacked the city. Salvador’s return to Portuguese hands was almost as quick; it was just a year before a combined force of 12, 000 Spanish and Portuguese troops evicted the Dutch. But five years later the Dutch were back, storming the cities of Olinda and Recife and making Recife the capital of New Holland. In 1637 a Dutch prince, Maurice of Nassau, was brought in to govern the colony. Educated at university back home in, among other things, good manners, Nassau was a definite hit with the locals. His policy of freedom of worship, which left Brazil’s Catholics to their own devices despite the Protestant invasion, brought a definite stability to the region.
The Dutch extended their control over much of northeastern Brazil, from the São Francisco river in Bahia to Maranhão. That Brazilians didn’t go on to become Dutch speakers is largely down to the exit of Nassau, who returned to Holland in 1644 after a series of disagreements with the boys from the DWIC. New Holland had hardly waved its ruler goodbye when violent uprisings broke out, designed to uproot the Dutch. The following decade saw a series of bloody clashes in the Northeast: two crucial battles, in which the Portuguese came out victorious even though outnumbered, took place in 1648 and 1649. The Dutch were driven back into Recife and eventually surrendered in 1654, drawing a line under Holland’s part in Brazilian history.
The Bandeirantes & the Gold Rush
The bandeirantes, too, were keen to make inroads into Brazil. These bands of explorers roamed Brazil’s interior in search of Indian slaves, mapping out undiscovered territory and bumping off the odd indigenous community along the way.
The bandeirantes took their name from the trademark flag-bearer who would front their expeditions. During the 17th and 18th centuries, group after group of bandeirantes set out from São Paulo. The majority were bilingual in Portuguese and Tupi-Guarani, born of Portuguese fathers and Indian mothers. They benefited from both Indian survival techniques and European weaponry.
By the mid-17th century they had journeyed as far as the peaks of the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon lowlands. It was the exploits of these discoverers that stretched Brazil’s borders to their current extent. In 1750, after four years of negotiations with the Spanish, their conquests were secured. The Treaty of Madrid handed over 6 million sq km to the Portuguese and put Brazil’s western borders more or less where they are today.
The bandeirantes were known for more than just their colorful flags. Protected from Indian arrows by heavily padded cotton jackets, they waged an all-out war on Brazil’s natives, despite the fact that many of them had Indian mothers. Huge numbers of Indians fled inland, searching for shelter in the Jesuit missions. But there were few hiding places – it is thought the bandeirantes killed or enslaved well in excess of 500, 000 Indians.
‘As yet we have no way of knowing whether there might be gold, or silver or any kind of metal or iron [here], ’ reported Pero Vaz de Caminha to his king in 1500.
Though it wasn’t discovered until nearly two centuries later, there certainly was gold in Brazil. Unsurprisingly, it was the bandeirantes who, in between decapitating Indians, discovered it in the Serra do Espinhaço in Minas Gerais.
For part of the 18th century Brazil became the world’s greatest gold ‘producer’, unearthing wealth that helped build many of Minas Gerais’ historic cities. The full title of Ouro Prêto, one of the principal beneficiaries of the gold boom, is actually Vila Rica de Ouro Prêto (Rich Town of Black Gold).
Other wild boomtowns such as Sabará, Mariana and São João del Rei sprang up in the mountain valleys. Wealthy merchants built opulent mansions and bankrolled stunning baroque churches, many of which remain to this day.
Gold produced a major shift in Brazil’s population from the Northeast to the Southeast. When gold was first discovered, there were no white settlers in the territory of Minas Gerais. By 1710 the population had reached 30, 000, and by the end of the 18th century it was 500, 000. An estimated one-third of the two million slaves brought to Brazil in the 18th century were sent to the goldfields, where their lives were often worse than in the sugar fields.
But the gold boom didn’t last. By 1750 the mining regions were in decline and coastal Brazil was returning to center stage. Many of the gold-hunters ended up in Rio de Janeiro, which grew rapidly.
As if the French and Dutch hadn’t been enough to deal with, Brazil’s Portuguese rulers also faced threats from within. During the 18th century calls for independence grew ever stronger and in 1789 the first organized movement came to life.
In charge was Joaquim José da Silva Xavier – a dentist from Ouro Prêto known as Tiradentes (Tooth Puller). With 11 other conspirators – all outraged by attempts to collect taxes – Tiradentes began talks about how best to uproot the Portuguese.
Though the plotters earned themselves a grand name – the Inconfidência Mineira – their plans were quickly foiled. All 12 were arrested and sentenced to death and, although a royal pardon was eventually issued exiling the rebels to Angola and Mozambique, it came too late for Tiradentes, who was hanged in Rio de Janeiro in 1792. As a warning to other would-be rebels the authorities sliced up his body and displayed the parts across Minas Gerais. His head was put on show in Ouro Prêto, his house destroyed and salt scattered on the ground outside so that nothing would grow there. According to one version of events, soldiers formally recorded the event on a manuscript – using Tiradentes’ blood as ink.
Dom João VI
Brazil became a temporary sanctuary to the Portuguese royal family in 1807. Running scared from Napoleon, whose army was at that moment advancing on Lisbon, some 15,000 court members fled to Rio de Janeiro, led by the prince regent, Dom João.
Like so many estrangeiros (foreigners) arriving in Brazil, the regent fell in love with the place and granted himself the privilege of becoming the country’s ruler. He opened Rio’s Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens) to the public in 1822, and they remain there to this day in the upmarket Jardim Botânico neighborhood.
Even after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Dom João showed no sign of abandoning Brazil. When his mother, Dona Maria I, died the following year, he became king and declared Rio the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal and Brazil. Brazil became the only New World colony ever to have a European monarch ruling on its soil.
The climate varies from hot and dry in the arid interior to the humid tropical rainforests of the Amazon jungle. Coastal Brazil tends to be hot and sticky for most of the year but it can get cold in the south and in the mountains during the winter months. Rainy seasons occur from January to April in the north, April to July in the northeast and November to March in the Rio/São Paulo area.
Lightweight natural fabrics; waterproofs for the rainy season. Warm clothing is needed in the south during winter (June to August). Specialist clothing is needed for the Amazon region. The sunlight is extremely bright and sunglasses are recommended.
Real/Reais (BRL; symbol R$) = 100 centavos.
Notes are in denominations of R$100, 50, 10, 5, 2 and 1.
Coins are in denominations of R$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1 centavos.
All banks, cambios, travel agencies and authorised hotels exchange recognised traveller's cheques and foreign currency. The US Dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency.
Credit / Debit Cars
Most major international credit cards are accepted (Visa more so than other cards), though not universally. There is an extensive network of ATMs around the country.
Exchangeable at hotels, banks and tourist agencies. Tourists cannot exchange US traveller's cheques for US banknotes but they may, however, benefit from a 15% discount when paying hotel or restaurant bills in foreign currency or traveller's cheques. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, it is advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
Food and Drink
Brazilian food caters for all tastes and standards are generally very high. European, North American and Asian foods are widely available in resorts and main cities. There are many traditional dishes and regional specialities, such as those developed by slaves in Bahia during the days when they had to cook scraps and anything that could be caught locally, together with coconut milk and palm oil.
Things to know: Some bars have waiters and table service. There are no licensing hours or restrictions on drinking.
Feijoada (rich stew of black beans, chunks of pork, sausage, chops, pigs' ears and tails on white rice, chopped kale and orange slices).
Moqueca (fish or seafood stew from Bahia made with palm oil and coconut milk).
Vatapá (shrimps, fish oil, coconut milk, manioc paste and rice).
Acarajé (mashed, deep-fried bean fritters often served with dried shrimps, okra, onions and peppers).
Churrasco (mixed grilled meat served with manioc flour).
Draught beer is called chopp and Brahma is the most popular brand.
The local firewater is cachaça, a spirit derived from sugar cane popular with locals. It is often mixed with sugar, crushed ice and limes to make a caipirinha, a refreshing if intoxicating cocktail, and the Brazilian national drink.
Southern Brazilian wine is of a high quality.
Sucos (fruit juices) are freshly made at juice bars.
Guaraná is a popular fizzy drink made with energy-giving extract from an Amazonian plant.
10% is usual for most services not included on the bill.
The best entertainment occurs in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In Rio, the major clubs do not present their main acts until after midnight - the daily paper gives current information; small clubs (boites) provide nightly entertainment throughout the city. São Paulo nightlife is more sophisticated, with greater choice. Both cities host top international DJs. Samba clubs featuring live music are popular, especially in Rio. Outside the main cities, most towns have late night bars and clubs.
1 Jan New Year's Day; 20 Jan* Founding of Rio de Janeiro; 25 Jan* Founding of São Paulo; 12-17 Feb Carnival; 2 Apr Good Friday; 5 Apr Easter Day; 21Apr Tiradentes; 1 May Labour Day; 3 Jun Corpus Christi; 7 Sep Independence Day; 12 Oct Our Lady Aparecida, Patron St of Brazil; 2 Nov All Souls' Day; 15 Nov Republic Day; 24 Dec Christmas Eve; 25 Dec Christmas Day; 31 Dec New Year's Eve.
NOTE - *Regional observances only
Things to Do
Join the mayhem in one of the world's best parties at Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. While Rio's event is famed, Carnival is celebrated throughout Brazil. Salvador also holds a big city-wide carnival, as does Olinda, which throws the most traditional fest.
Explore the Amazon, the world's largest rain forest. It contains one-third of all the living species on earth and is crossed by 10 of the world's 20 largest rivers, including the River Amazon. The usual base for trips is Manaus.
Soar above the tropical landscape on a tandem hang-gliding flight from Pedra Bonita in São Conrado, just outside Rio. This popular adventure excursion gives a bird's-eye view of Rio and the Atlantic forest before landing on the beach.
Stroll along the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio de Janeiro, where sun-bronzed beauties share the sands with beach soccer and volleyball players.
Go wildlife watching in the Pantanal, a spectacularly rich ecosystem that is home to jaguars, caiman, giant river otters, toucans and hundreds of other species.
Explore the many islands and gorgeous beaches along Brazil's coastline, including the chic beach resort of Buzios, the bohemian Jericoacoara in Ceará state and the car-free Morro de São Paulo in Bahia.
Learn to dance the samba. Have a local show you the moves at a celebration inside an escola de samba (samba school), which open their doors to visitors a couple of months before Rio de Janeiro's Carnival.
Wander the historic streets of Salvador's lively Pelourinho District, a beautifully preserved colonial neighbourhood, set with baroque churches, colourful shops and vibrant restaurants and cafes.
Ride the waves on Brazil's fantastic surf beaches. Surfing hotspots include Joaquina Beach on Santa Catarina island, Saquarema in Rio state, Itacaré in Bahia, Pipa near Natal and Cacimba do Padre on Fernando de Noronha.
Dive into the deep blue waters of coastal Brazil. Diving is popular in the protected marine park on the island of Fernando de Noronha. The coast off Angra dos Reis in Rio de Janeiro state is littered with 300 islands ripe for underwater exploration.
Watch a game of football in Rio's Maracanã Stadium, which was the largest stadium in the world when it was built. Football is a national obsession and matches are colourful and noisy affairs.
Go rafting beneath the awe-inspiring Iguaçu Waterfalls. Set amid rain forest in southern Brazil, these majestic falls are one of the great wonders of the Americas, with 275 individual falls encompassing an area more than 3km wide.
Go hiking in Bahia's Diamantina National Park. This is one of Brazil's ecotourism hotspots and an adventure playground for trekking, caving, diving and rafting. The park is full of natural attractions including mountains, forests, caves, underground lakes and waterfalls.
Things to See
Take Rio de Janeiro's cog train (website: www.corcovado.com.br) to the top of Corcovado (Hunchback) mountain and enjoy one of the most beautiful views in the world from under the arms of the iconic Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue.
Witness the spectacular sight of Iguaçu Falls (website: www.fozdoiguacu.pr.gov.br) an awesome set of high waterfalls with 275 cataracts, including the impressive Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). The area surrounding the falls is protected national park containing abundant wildlife.
Explore the colourful city of Salvador da Bahia, with Pelourinho's colonial era buildings and winding cobblestone streets. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts a staggering number of churches. The Museu Afro-Brasileiro (website: www.ceao.ufba.br/mafro) gives a fascinating insight into Afro-Brazilian culture.
See Oscar Niemeyer's futuristic vision in the capital Brasília. Often overlooked by visitors, the city was designed by the renowned architect, and many of his creations, including the city's cathedral and the national congress, are now UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Visit Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon. Transformed by the 19th-century rubber boom, the city boasts some extraordinary colonial buildings including the famous Teatro Amazonas and the Centro Cultural de Palacio Rio Negro, containing extensive archives of naturalist Alexandre Ferreira.
Wander the cobblestone streets of Paraty (website: www.paraty.com.br), a charming town that was once a major port for the export of gold. This wealth is reflected in the beautiful colonial buildings, such as Santa Rita Church, built by freed slaves.
Photograph Brazil's natural beauty in the Pantanal (website: www.pantanal.com) in the southwest. This vast wilderness supports a number of different ecosystems, including the largest wetlands area in the Americas.
Join the carnival atmosphere in the historical town of Olinda, a colourful, colonial town that was once the centre of Brazil's slave trade and is another of the country's UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Journey to the northern coastal city of Fortaleza, a popular resort and the starting point for a trip to Jericoacoara. Just four hours by car, this picturesque village sits between a dazzling white sand-dune desert and a balmy turquoise sea.
Visit the ruins of 300-year-old Jesuit missions (website: www.rotamissoes.com.br) in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. One of the most fascinating is Saõ Miguel das Missões, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site.
Experience a little piece of Germany in Blumenau (website: www.blumenau.com.br) and Joinville (website: www.promotur.com.br)in Santa Catarina state, where many German immigrants settled in the 19th century. German architecture and culture lives on, as does Blumenau's hugely popular annual Oktoberfest.
Head to the mountainous inland state of Minas Gerais (website: www.turismo.mg.gov.br) and witness some of Brazil's best preserved colonial architecture. Owing to the area's abundant gold and diamond mines, the state has become a gold and baroque art.
Journey to the mouth of the Amazon at Belém, a thriving port city with an exquisite historical centre. The Goeldi Museum (website: www.museu-goeldi.br) boasts a breathtaking collection of tropical plants. The docks house the early morning Ver O Peso market.
DETAILS - CANADA
DETAILS - US
NOTE: Requirements listed below are based on Canadians living in the West. Historically requirements for East Canada are less stringent. Also processing time for the west has been up to 6 weeks whereas for the East as quickly as 5 days. Please contact your nearest Brazilian Embassy for the latest information.
Original, signed Canada passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity.
Passport-type photograph: 1
Driver's license. Copy of driver's license or utility bill, showing the applicants name and current address.
Itinerary. Copy of round trip tickets or itinerary.
Conference or Seminar. If attending a conference or seminar, a letter of invitation from the organization in Brazil which is hosting the event.
Yellow Fever Vaccination. If the applicant has traveled within the last 90 days to any of the Yellow Fever Countries an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever will be required.
Bank Statement. Copy of a recent bank statement showing proof of sufficient funds.
Employment/Enrollment Letter. A letter from your employer on business letterhead, with contact details, describing your duties, and stating that a leave of absence has been granted, purpose and duration of the trip, and that you will be returning to your current job. For students, please submit an official letter from your school stating your course of study and indicating that you are in good standing and that you are registered for the upcoming semester. If you are retired please submit a personal letter explaining your employment history.
Personal Invitation. If visiting friends or family, you must provide letter of invitation with the contact information of the host and visitor, purpose and duration of the visit, confirmation of accommodation including the address, signature and date. You will also need to provide proof of the host's status in Brazil ie. copy of their Brazil passport's information page, or, if they are not a citizen of Brazil, copies of their Brazil residence permit and their national passport's information pages.
Personal Letter. A personal letter from the applicant addressed to the Embassy of Brazil, explaining the purpose of the trip, dates of travel, and cities to be visited.
Pay Stub. A copy of your most recent pay stub
Affidavit (for travellers under 18 years old). Notarized affidavit of financial support stating that the parents are responsible financially for the minor's trip
Long Birth Certificate (for travellers under 18 years old). Copy of the child's long birth certificate with the parent's name on it
Authorization form (for travellers under 18 years old). Form authorizing that both parents are allowing the minor to apply for a Brazilian Visa
Type of visa - Multiple entry Maximum validity - up to 1825 days Processing time - 15-25 business days Embassy fee $107.00
"Original, signed United States passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity.
Passport-type photograph: 1
Payment Authorization. Complete and sign the Credit Card Authorization Form.
Driver's license. Copy of driver's license, state issued ID, or major utility bill (Water, Gas, Electric, Sewage), showing the applicant's name and current address.
Itinerary. A photocopy of round trip tickets or a letter signed by a travel agent with confirmed round trip tickets. Itinerary is not acceptable unless showing ticket numbers and that the ticket is paid for. If you will be entering and/or exiting Brazil by LAND please submit:
If you will be entering and/or exiting Brazil by SEA please submit:
Yellow Fever Vaccination. If the applicant has traveled within the last 90 days to any of the Yellow Fever Countries an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever will be required.
Conference or Seminar. If attending a conference or seminar, a letter of invitation from the organization in Brazil which is hosting the event and a day-by-day itinerary of the event.
Bank Statement. Copy of the applicant's most recent monthly bank statement showing proof of sufficient funds (at least $100 per day). The statement must clearly show the applicant's name as the account holder, the balances of the accounts, and the date of the statement. Type of visa - Multiple entry Maximum validity - up to 1825 days Processing time - 15-25 business days Embassy fee $135.00
9 city stop over(s) and 12 itineraries are available for Brazil
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