The Brazilian Real (BRL) is the main form of currency in Brazil. US dollars are accepted in many places. ATMs are available throughout the country and usually offer a reasonable exchange rate. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. Credit and debit cards can be used in most shops but cash is still preferred and recommended for local markets.
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, with a variety of different dialects that can be heard throughout the country. English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German can be occasionally heard in larger cities and in tourist areas. Portuguese is the main language spoken in more rural areas.
Best time to go
Brazil is a year round destination as none of the regions have severe weather extremes, so it's really dependent on the activities of interest. For Rio de Janeiro and its beaches, the best time to visit is between August and October when spring arrives. Rio experiences tropical showers between October and January. Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza never get cold but they do experience tropical showers, usually in the afternoon, from April to July. The Pantanal is the driest between April and October but the wetter months, between January and March provide the best opportunities to view wildlife. The only parts of Brazil that get cold are places such as Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, Porto Alegre. Amazon's dry season is from July to October. Carnaval is also another popular time to go which is usually between February and March.
The climate in Brazil varies considerably from the tropical north to temperate zones in the south. The coast of Brazil is characterized by cool and comfortable winters, however, the temperature does not change much throughout the year in this part of the country. In the northeastern part of the country (extending down to Rio), summer months (December- February) experience temperatures exceeding 30˚C (86˚ F)while the rest of the year enjoys temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to mid-30s. The southern part of Brazil sees the most diverse weather. Winter months (June-August) can experience 15˚C (59˚F), but can reach 35˚C (95 ˚F) in the summer. Finally, the Amazon region is characterized by high humidity and considerable tropical rainfall. In the north, the rainy season is from January to April, in the northeast, it is from April to July and cities like Rio and Sao Paulo have a rainy season from November to March.
South America's giant is a seductive country with tropical islands, picturesque colonial towns and some of the world’s most iconic sights such as Iguassu Falls, Amazon Jungle, Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal to name a few. Also,with a true mix of European and African blood, the cultural melting pot is as diverse as anywhere in the world. The martial arts based dance moves of Capoeira, the African backed beats of the Samba and the absolute devotion to the game of football (soccer) to the natural beauty of one of the world’s longest white sand coastlines make a trip to Brazil a truly once in a lifetime opportunity for a variety of different travellers.
Getting There From North America
Brazil has three main international Airports - Governador Andre Franco Montoro International Airport (also referred to as GRU Airport) in São Paulo/Guarulhos (GRU), Tom Jobim International Airport (also known as Galeao International Airport) in Rio de Janeiro/Galeão (GIG), and Eduardo Gomes International Airport (also known as Manau International Airport) in Manaus (MAO). Brazil also has a variety of domestic and other international airports throughout the country which makes connections onto various other destinations convenient and easy.
Major Air Routes from the United States
In the United States, many airlines have direct flights to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus and other destinations throughout Brazil from New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, Chicago, Washington and Newark.
Major Air Routes from Canada
In Canada, Air Canada is the only airline that has direct flights to Sao Paulo from Toronto, with a seasonal service from Montreal. Throughout the rest of Canada, travellers will have to connect via the United States, Toronto, or Montreal.
Essential Sights in Brazil
Rio De Janeiro
There are many reasons to visit Rio, whether it’s to experience the music, dancing and partying of Carnival, the gorgeous mountains and bay, white sandy beaches, the stunning Tijuca rainforest or to explore its rich history. Rio has something to offer everyone.
Shared by Argentina and Brazil, Iguassu Falls has the largest average annual water flow of any falls in the world, being made up of 275 individual water cascades. Most impressive is the “Devil’s Throat,” a u-shaped cataract where half of the river’s flow falls. Travelers can also enjoy the view from the Brazilian side, or hop on a helicopter for the ultimate view.
The Amazon River, Jungle and Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest accounts for more than half of the world's remaining forests and 20% of the world's oxygen. 1 in 10 known species in the world can be found in the Amazon region, including 25 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and thousands of birds and mammals. The villages along the river or in the jungle are mostly untouched by modern lifestyles.
The Pantanal is the world's largest wetlands area, consisting of forests, lakes, and grasslands, spread into two other countries-Paraguay and Bolivia. It’s also home to species ranging from piranhas and crocodiles to the elusive jaguar, to 3500 plant species, making the Pantanal a nature lover's dream.
One of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, Salvador is the largest city in Brazil’s northeast region. The upper part of the city, called the , is where the most beautiful churches and monasteries can be found, built at a time when Brazil was the source of Portugal's riches. Salvador is noted for its cuisine, music, and dance with strong African influence.
Other Highlights of Brazil Off the Beaten Path
Buzios has become a popular getaway from Rio de Janeiro, and is home to twenty-three stunning beaches. Despite its popularity, spurred on by Brigitte Bardot’s 1964 visit, Buzios has been able to maintain the feel of a small fishing village after all these years.
Recife has also been called the “Venice of Brazil” due to the many inlets, canals and bridges that crisscross the city allowing for an interesting walk, but it is best known for its beaches.Travelers also come to visit neighbouring Olinda, founded in the 16th century.
Fortaleza has around 25km (16mi) of stunning beaches, each having its own unique characteristics. Architectural treasures include the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Art Nouveau-style Jose de Alencar Theatre and its beautiful garden, and the Fortaleza Central Market.
Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago consisting of twenty one islands and islets located 354 km (220 mi) off the coast of Brazil. A refuge for endangered species, it allows only 460 visitors at any given time, helping preserve its fragile ecosystem. This is also a popular diving spot, allowing for diving to depths of 30 to 40m without a wetsuit, with visibility as far as 50m.
Top Activities and Experiences in Brazil
Rio by Night
Enjoy the lively atmosphere this cosmopolitan city has to offer by night on an escorted tour. Get a taste of local cuisine and explore the city from another perspective away from its tourist-dominated beach districts.
Corcovado Mountain and Cristo Redentor
One of Brazil’s most popular attractions. Board the famous tram to reach the top of Corcovado Mountain for a closer look at the famous Christ the Redeemer (or climb if you’re feeling super fit). The statue of Christ reaches 100 feet (30 meters) in height with an overall arm span of 90 feet (28 meters), making it hard to miss anywhere you go in Rio. Get to the top and enjoy the spectacular views of the city and coastline.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a rounded rock peak at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. It gets its name from the resemblance it bears to the traditional shape of concentrated, refined blocks of sugar that were transported in the 16th century. It is 1135 Feet (395 meters) in height and towers above the beaches and city. It can be reached by cable car starting from the ground to Morro da Urca, then a second cable car to the summit.
The Rio Carnaval
One of the biggest and most infamous festivals in the world, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is held every year before Lent, ending on Ash Wednesday, with roughly two million people in attendance. This boisterous event has been occurring in Rio since 1723 and is filled with revelers, floats and samba dancers from numerous Samba schools who compete over 5 days. While the competition takes place in the Sambadrome, the party continues on the streets with music and dancing for everyone to enjoy and participate in.
Amazon Cruise and the “Meeting of the Waters”
Witness the amazing natural spectacle that forms the Amazon we know, attributed to the difference in plant matter, density, temperature and velocity of the two rivers that join to create it. After visiting the “Meeting of the Waters,” head to the Ecological Park where to find the famous Vitoria Regia and various Native Amazonian artisans. This is a good spot to buy genuine locally produced art, watch the abundant birdlife, and admire waterlilies and other aquatic plants.
Essential Brazilian Foods to Try
Originally of Portuguese origin, this is considered the national dish of Brazil a rich stew made from a variety of ingredients including pork, sausages, pigs ears and tails with black beans which is then served over white rice, chopped kale, and orange slices.
This dish is popular in the Bahia region and consists of fish or other seafood made into stew that is cooked with palm oil, coconut milk, onions, garlic, tomatoes and cilantro.
This is a popular street food found around northeastern Brazil. It is made of deep fried bean fritters served with shrimp, okra, onions, and peppers.
In Brazil, churrasco is the term for barbeque. A mixed variety of grilled meat is served with gluten-free manioc flour, made from cassava. Take it easy on the sides, as it can fill you up fast!
Caruru de Camarao
This dish is a Brazilian shrimp and okra gumbo thickened with manioc meal in some parts of Brazil and with ground peanuts in others. Both delicious variations are typically served with rice.
Most Popular Itineraries for Brazil
Rio: Jewel the Crown provides 3 days of visiting some of the most popular sites in Brazil, the famous Corcovado, Sugar Loaf and a tour of the city of Rio. Rio Carnival offers a 6=day opportunity to experience Rio de Janeiro during the incredible hustle and bustle of Carnival while also exploring Corcovado, Sugar Loaf and the Tijuca Forest. The Amazon River Cruise offers a 6 day tour on a traditional river boat including the Amazon jungle, the Meeting of the Waters, and the Rio Negro, exploring the city of Manaus and various archipelagosalong the way. The Brazil Complete is a 12-day itinerary that includes some of Brazil's essential sights such as Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Iguassu Falls (both Brazilian and Argentinian side of the Falls), and the wonders of the Amazon.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Buy local. Shop at local markets or buy from communities where items are handcrafted by local artisans. This way, the money goes back into the community and you're helping local families. You also get a keepsake with a story to tell as to where and from whom you purchased it. Make sure the company you are booking your tour or trek with treats their guides and porters fairly and respects the cultures and environments their tours are based in. Book with tour operators who are dedicated to sustainable travel and committed to responsible and ethical practices. Rest peacefully and stay in eco-lodges and hotels when possible as they focus on providing sustainable accommodations that reduce the impact on the environment and locals. Try using refillable water bottles, avoid plastic bags, and try to take rubbish with you when you can. A good guideline? If it came in your luggage, it should leave in your luggage.
Where to Go Next
With Brazil bordering just about every country in South America, it’s a great destination to pair with another for a longer holiday itinerary. Travellers can explore a less travelled but equally beautiful country like Guyana, or choose from other exciting destinations such as the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, Machu Picchu and Lima in Peru, or Iguassu Falls and Buenos Aires in Argentina. To really extend the adventure, head to Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina, both jump-off points for a journey to Antarctica.