The Brazilian Real (BRL) is the main form of currency in Brazil. US dollars are accepted in some tourist-focused businesses, but carrying a little local cash is always a good idea. ATMs are available throughout the country and usually offer a reasonable exchange rate, but fees can be high. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. Debit cards can be used in most shops but carrying a little cash is still recommended for small vendors, local markets, and for safety reasons.
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, with a variety of different dialects heard throughout the country. English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German can be occasionally heard in larger cities and in tourist areas. Few Brazilians speak English outside the tourist hubs like Rio and Sao Paulo and there is little English signage, so learning a little Portuguese will help you a lot.
Best time to go
Brazil is a year-round destination and none of its regions have severe weather extremes. For Rio de Janeiro and its beaches, early spring between August and October is ideal. Tropical showers and tourist crowds dominate the summer between October and January, but these give way to the excitement of Carnaval by February, making this a great time to be in Rio (or anywhere in Brazil). Salvador, Recife, and Fortaleza never get cold but do experience late tropical showers from April to July. The Pantanal is driest between April and October but the wetter months, between January and March, provide the best opportunities to view wildlife. Central and southern Brazil, including Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, and Porto Alegre, can get cool in winter. The Amazon's dry season is from July to October.
The climate in Brazil varies a lot from the tropical north to temperate zones in the south. The coast 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 to February) experience temperatures exceeding 30˚C (86˚ F), while the rest of the year enjoys temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to mid-30s, celcius. 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 largest country is a seductive giant with tropical islands, picturesque colonial towns and some of the world’s top sights such as Iguassu Falls, the Amazon Jungle, Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal to name a few. Also,its unique mix of European, Native American, and African blood creates a cultural melting pot as diverse as any in the world. From the martial arts-based dance moves of Capoeira, to the African-backed beats of Samba and an absolute devotion to the game of football (soccer), culture combines with natural beauty to make a trip to Brazil a 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 international airports throughout the country, which makes connections to other destinations convenient and easy.
Major Air Routes from the United States
In the United States, various airlines have direct flights to Sao Paulo from Miami, Dallas, New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago, with Los Angeles joining the list in July 2023. Most flights throughou Brazil will connect through Sao Paulo, but nonstop flights to Rio de Janeiro do operate from Miami and Houston, with seasonal services from New York City and Atlanta. A limited number of nonstop flights service Manaus from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Major Air Routes from Canada
From Canada, Air Canada is the only airline with nonstop flights to Sao Paulo, operating from both Toronto and Montreal. Travellers from the rest of Canada will have to connect via the United States, Toronto, or Montreal.
Essential Sights in Brazil
Rio De Janeiro
There are so many reasons to visit Rio! Experience the music, dancing and partying of Carnival, the gorgeous mountains whose verdant slopes plunge toward the bay, inviting white sand beaches, the stunning Tijuca rainforest, and a rich cultural history as Brazil's former capital. 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 cascades. Most impressive is the “Devil’s Throat,” a u-shaped cataract that catches half of the river’s flow. Travelers can also enjoy the best overall view from the Brazilian side, or hop on a helicopter for the ultimate panorama.
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 that spread into two other countries, Paraguay and Bolivia. It’s also home to species ranging from piranhas and crocodiles to the elusive jaguar, plus 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 Pelourinho, 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 that still defines it today.
The largests city anywhere in the Americas, Brazil's megalopolis is also one of the most fun! A cutting-edge culinary scene ensures you'll never go hungry at any price point in between hopping through some of the country's best art museums, most charismatic neighbourhoods, and hopping nightclubs. Catch a moment of respite in Ibirapuera Park, the city's favourite green space and museum hub, or wander Liberdade, the world's largest Japanese community outside Japan.
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
Explore Rio by Night
Enjoy the lively atmosphere this diverse 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. It's the best way to party like a local in Rio!
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 offers 3 days visiting some of the most popular sites in Brazil, the famous Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, and a Rio city tour. Rio Carnival offers a 6-day opportunity to experience Rio de Janeiro during the incredible energy of Carnival while also taking in the 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. Brazil Complete is a more in-depth 12-day itinerary that includes the Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Iguassu Falls (both the Brazilian and Argentinian side of the Falls), and the wonders of the Amazon.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Try to 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. 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. Book with tour operators who are dedicated to sustainable travel and committed to responsible and ethical practices. Stay in eco-lodges and hotels when possible, as these focus on providing sustainable accommodations that reduce the impact on the environment and locals. Try using refillable water bottles, avoid plastic bags, and dispose of rubbish thoughtfully. 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 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.
27 Jul 2020, 10:18 p.m.