General information about Brazil
Brazil is a land which, according to a popular saying: “was blessed by God and is naturally beautiful” Brazil is continental in size, the fourth largest national territory in the world. In fact, its land expanse is greater than Europe and larger than the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). Visit to Brazil means the unexpected discovery of a place of warm tropical sun and 5000 miles of white-sand beaches, of coconut groves and mango trees, of music and dance, of baroque colonial towns and villages, plus impressive cities of 21st century opulence and sophistication. Brazil’s allure is not only in the climate, the landscapes and the architecture, it lies in the people themselves, whose sense of cordial hospitality and friendship create the perfect environment for your special interest travel. As a whole the climate is excellent all year round. From north to south, unique attractions are ready to amaze and excite participants on any kind of Special Interest Programs who are eager to see and learn about new, different things. Brazil offers a wide range of hotel accommodations ranging from deluxe resorts to lodges deep in the rainforest with something sure to match the budget and characteristics of any travelers. Whatever choice you make, personal attention and warm hospitality will be yours in everyday of your stay.
There are no compulsory health requirements for entry into Brazil. Precautions are advised for yellow Fever, Typhoid, Polio and Malaria. We suggest you contact your local G.P. for current advice and recommendations or telephone to one of the organizations listed below. You are advised to have full medical insurance coverage. Please note that if you are entering Brazil via Peru, Ecuador or Colombia, you will be required to provide an up-to-date yellow fever vaccination certificate for immigration purposes. Avoid eating and drinking local products from street vendors and restaurants with suspect hygiene or refrigeration practices. It is advisable to drink only bottled water at all times.
The Brazilian currency is the REAL; 100 centavos (one hundred cents) = one real. Bank bills are in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2; coins are 1.00 real; fifty centavos, twenty five centavos, 10 centavos, five centavos and on centavo. All banks and exchange offices accept travelers checks and foreign currency. It is advisable to take US Dollar travelers checks or currency as this is more readily exchanged than other currency. There is a currency exchange black market, but you are strongly advised to ignore anyone who approaches you, asking if you want to change money. Credit Cards: Access, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are accepted in the majority of hotels, shops and restaurants. Banking Hours: 10:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday (may vary in some banks). ATM are also available in the main cities. There is a limited amount to be withdrawn daily. After 10:00PM it is only possible to withdraw up to one hundred reais. Depending on the bank no withdrawals are allowed after 10:00 PM.
Airport taxes are usually included on the ticket price. To promote tourism and conventions, most of the hotels charge a non mandatory fee, that runs from U$ 1,00 to U$ 7,00 per room and per night,depending on the hotel category as a contribution to the Convention Bureau. If guests want to deny the payment they must inform to the reception clerk upon check out.
In most restaurants and bars a 10% service fee is added to the bill. More sophisticated places may add on 15%. If service is not included it will be stated at the bottom of the bill: Serviço “não incluído”. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is normal to round up the final price. You should be aware that the amount shown on the meter may not always correspond to the amount you are due to pay. In case the driver asks more than the amount in the meter, please look out for a separate sheet taped to the window which will tell you how much the amount on the meter equates to.
The most common dishes feature various meats, rice and the ubiquitous Brazilian black beans (feijão preto), whilst restaurants often offer all-you-can-eat barbecues and buffets. Brazil also has many regional varieties of cookery. An example is the Bahian cookery, which includes dishes such as: Vatapa (shrimps, fish oil, coconut milk, bread and rice), Sarapatel (liver, heart, tomatoes, peppers, onions and gravy). A typical dish from Rio Grande do Sul is Churrasco (a kind of barbecue). From the Amazon comes Tacaca (thick soup with shrimps, cassava gum and garlic) and unique river fish. All alcoholic drinks are available, including excellent large style beers: Skol, Brahma, Antarctica and Cerpa. The most popular local alcoholic beverage is Cachaça, most commonly served as ‘Caipirinha’ with slices of lemon. Soft drinks include Guarana (a carbonated cola-like drink) and many varieties of excellent fruit-juices (sucos) including several vitamin-rich fruits you will never have heard of. Coffee tends to be served as a very strong. If you want to avoid sugar in juices or coffee you should specifically ask for this.
Brazil’s climate ranges from tropical in the north to temperate in the south. Throughout the country, however, dress is informal. Generally, light cotton shirts, shorts, dresses and trousers are ideal for day wear, whilst in the evenings long-sleeved shirts and leather shoes are normal. You will not normally need a jacket and tie in Brazil. In their winter (June/September) it is worth bringing something warm, as the temperature can be quite cool in the south of the country.
Brazil, especially Rio, has had a bad reputation for personal security and many potential visitors have been put off travelling there. Much of this reputation can be put down to wild exaggeration, but it has had the beneficial effect of spurring the various city authorities into doing something about it. There are now far more tourist police, who are a great deal more helpful to visitors, and there is much better patrolling of problem areas. Although there is far more being done to improve security, an awareness of the following will lessen the risk to you and your belongings.
Be aware that most crime is opportunistic and the best way to avoid theft is to blend in and stay in safe areas (if in any doubt please check with your tour guide, hotel receptionist or concierge, whether where you want to go is safe). Take the absolute minimum when going out. A camera is a necessity for most travelers, but if it is possible to keep it in a jacket pocket, then do so. It is not advisable to take valuable jewelry or a visible wristwatch. Money should be taken in travelers checks, with the receipt numbers retained separately in case they are lost or stolen. Cash kept on your person should be kept to a minimum. Wherever possible, leave any valuables, documents and passports in your hotel safe-deposit box (most good hotel rooms in Brazil have safes, but you will normally have to pay a daily fee for this service). If you have to take a bag while you are out, hold it in front of you, where you can see it. Beaches: a great deal of Brazilian culture and leisure revolves around of it. As a result, the beaches can be great fun and very relaxing places. However, please bear the following in mind: beaches in and around the major cities tend to be quite crowded so the advice given above is especially applicable: never visit the beach after dark; always take a mat to lie on as sand flies are quite widely prevalent; please bear in mind that the sun in Brazil can be more direct and stronger than what you have experienced in Europe, so extra precautions are necessary; some areas, particularly in Rio, have dangerous undertows so you should stay near other bathers and observe the warning flags: red=dangerous / White Water is safe.
The climate varies from arid scrubland inland to impassable tropical rainforest of the northerly Amazon jungle and the tropical eastern coastal beaches. The south is more temperate. Rainy seasons occur from January to April in the north (average number of days when there is some rain is 22); April to July in the northeast (average number of days when there is some rain 14); December to March in the Rio/Sao Paulo area (average number of days when there is some rain is 10).
The official language is Portuguese. Some English is spoken, particularly in the main cities, but the nearest thing to a second language is Spanish with which you will generally be able to make yourself understood.
Brazil spans several times zones. However, the Brazilian Standard Time is three hours earlier than G.M.T., and two hours earlier in the summer (Oct to Feb).
Electric current in Brazil varies widely—from 100 to 127 volts or 220 to 240 volts and from 50 to 60Hz—even within the same city. Be aware before plugging in any electrical device. While many hotels clearly label electrical outlets, others don’t. If you’re in doubt, ask first. Check the power adapters of your laptop, battery chargers and other electric appliances before you go. Many are designed to automatically accommodate input current from 110 to 250 volts while others are only for 110. Some are switchable and others not. If you have something that only accepts 110 volts, you may want to consider purchasing a voltage adapter before you travel. Also be aware that many electrical outlets in Brazil that will only accept a standard Brazilian two round prong plug. You may need a plug adapter before you leave home.