The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

Brazil Travel Guide

Your complete brazil travel guide, with our tips, ideas on things to do, and best things to see in brazil. great for first-time travelers..

Brazil is the largest country in South America and a top tourist destination. In fact, Brazil has its own Ministry of Tourism, which ensures touring is as easy as possible for visitors.

It is a fun, vibrant country and home to iconic landmarks, including Iguazu Falls and the towering Christ the Redeemer statue.

Explore the Amazon Rainforest, go to one of many (over 2,000) beaches, meet friendly and diverse locals, or try some authentic Brazilian cuisine. There is a lot to see and do here.

This Brazil travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.

Popular Guides

  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Iguassu Falls
  • Brazil Cuisine

Our Highlight

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Table of contents

Table of Contents

Fast Facts about Brazil

  • Power voltage  is 127V- 220V at 60 Hz depending on location. About 60% of households use 127V. Plug C and N. 
  • Brazil’s currency  is the Brazilian Real (R$) and 1 R$ is equal to 0.26 USD. 
  • Traveling by bus  is considered the best way to get around Brazil. 
  • You no longer need a tourist visa, just a valid US passport. 
  • The most popular  cellular networks  in Brazil are Vivo, TIM, and Oi. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card through these networks. 
  • VAT:  The state average value-added tax (VAT) comes at 17%, though it goes 18% in São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Paraná, and 19% in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Language:  Remember Brazilians do not speak Spanish, they speak Portuguese. Try to avoid speaking to Brazilians in Spanish as its not the same language and they won’t necessarily understand what you are saying. Furthermore, English is not widely spoken, even in tourist cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, so brush up on some basic Portuguese words and sayings before you go. Remember it’s not Gracias but Obrigado | Obrigada. 

Things to See and Do in Brazil

  • Fly ov e r Rio de Janeiro:   Rio needs to be seen from a helicopter to truly take in the scope of its beauty. Helisul is the premier helicopter tour operator in the city, and we can understand why, these guys were friendly, welcoming and top-notch.
  • Go See Iguassu Falls : Iguassu Falls is one of the must-see natural wonders on earth. As a matter of fact, it was recently named one of the new 7 Natural Wonders in the world.
  • Sandboard in Floripa: Sandboarding at the dunes of the famous Joaquina beach, one of the most famous beaches of Florianopolis.
  • Visit the Ecotourism capital of Brazil:  if you are craving an adventure, than Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul is the just the place for you. Our recommendation? Abismo Anhumas a huge, stalactite-covered cavern that offers abseiling and diving in an underground lake.
  • Visit the Amazon and stay at the  Uakari Lodge :  the lodge is managed by shared management among Mamirauá Institute and the communities from Mamirauá Reserve. The enterprise’s aim is to generate income for the local people and to contribute to natural resources’ preservation. Ten communities from the reserve act managing the Lodge, the employees, the contractors, and the salespeople.
  • Visit Copacabana and Ipanema Beach:  While in Rio, we tried three different hotels on three different beaches. If you are going to stay in Rio, you may be interested in one of these three Rio hotels.
  • See Christ the Redeemer:  One of the most iconic things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to visit Christ the Redeemer. It’s one of the most recognized in the world. When picturing Rio, this is what everyone envisions. Christo Redentor stands proudly over the city at the top of Corcovado Mountain.
  • Visit Jericoacoara:  Jeri is a very special fishing village on the northeast coast of Brazil in Ceara, 330 kilometers northwest of Fortaleza. It was once hailed as having one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world by the Washington Post. Jericoacoara is surrounded by dunes, freshwater lagoons and set in a national park.  The only way to get to Jeri is a 4×4 Jardineira vehicle or buggy. It is known as the perfect place for kitesurfers and surfers. Paradise is waiting.
  • Take a Favela Tour:   If you want to learn more about Rio culture, take a favela tour to visit local communities. There are 800 favelas in Rio and nearly 1.5 million people inhabit these communities.
  • Explore the Downtown of Rio de Janeiro:   Downtown Rio is definitely worth spending a day to explore. The alleyways are charming mazes filled with cafés and stores. There’s markets, cathedrals, museums, and monasteries. If you get a chance, be sure to take a Rio City tour.
  • See the Museum of Tomorrow:  Opening in December 2015, it is one of the world’s most extraordinary architectural designs.
  • Go on on an  Afro-Walking Tour:   Did you know that Rio was the largest slave port in history? It is also the birthplace of samba. Learn about the rich history of Rio de Janeiro on this incredibly informative walking tour.

Brazil Travel Guides

  • Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
  • Things to do in Iguassu Falls
  • Top Brazil Cuisine

Accommodation

Budget:  Brazil offers many hostels in the range of 50-100 Brazilian Reals per night. 

Mid-Range:  For mid-range hotels, expect to pay around 190-260 Brazilian Reals per night. 

High-End:  Upscale hotels will cost 350-750 Brazilian Reals per night. 

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com , Tripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation.

Brazil offers many exciting options for food. Bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish balls) and pastels (deep-fried stuffed pastries) are some of the things you can find when in Brazil. Expect to pay around R$15 for a meal, or R$55 total per day. 

Food:  If you’re hungry, we would highly recommend visiting a por kilo restaurant. The concept is just like a buffet but in the end, you weigh your food and pay in terms of weight. The por kilo restaurants have a huge variety of delicious food, including some Brazilian favorites like farofa [a toasted cassava flour mixture], feijão, pastel [think deep-fried empanadas] and of course grilled-to-order meat [with garlic sauce!]. Yum!

Drinks:  Make sure to drink a Caipirinha! It Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar, and lime. They also make fruit caipirinhas, we would recommend the maracujá [passion fruit] caipirinha.

The tap water in Brazil is increasingly safe to drink. However, as a result of the treatment process, it still doesn’t taste great. To be on the safe side, drink bottled or filtered water (most Brazilians do). All brands are reliable; ask for agua sem gas for still water and agua com gas for carbonated water.

Water:  If you ask for water in a restaurant, you will be served with a bottle of water (charged to your account) unless you specifically request água da casa [water of the house].

The Best Ways to Get Around Brazil

Getting to brazil:.

Getting to Brazil:  If going to Rio de Janeiro, the Galeão Airport is one of the best and is located just 12 miles from the city center. For those traveling to São Paulo, São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport is the best. 

You can check for the best flights on Skyscanner .

Transportation:

Bus:  Buses are a cheap way to get around Brazil, as well as the preferred way to travel locals. Fares are 3 to 4 Brazilian Reals for one way. 

Train:  Trains are rarely used in Brazil except for cargo, though there are a few train rides made for tourists. To learn more,  click here.  

Renting a car:   To rent a car in Brazil, you must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license and passport. Prices start around 8 Brazilian Reals per day. Check out  Rentlcars.com  to compare the best rates

When to go To Brazil

As the temperature is great year-round (an average of 80s degrees Fahrenheit), the best time to visit depends on what you want to do.

If you want to see as many animals in the Amazon as you can, going between April to October is your best bet.

If traveling to Rio, December to March is the driest season and is also the season when popular events like the New Year’s Eve celebration (Réveillon) and the Fat Tuesday festival occurs.

For the cheapest flights, go in March.

Where to Stay in Brazil

Hilton Barra Rio de Janeiro:   This 5-star hotel is bus accessible and a short walk to the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, Citibank Hall, and the beach. The Hilton provides a full range of services, including babysitting, laundry, room service, bicycle rentals, a fitness room, outdoor pool and lounge area, and wheelchair ramps, as well as gorgeous views of Rio de Janeiro. 

Hotel Nacional Inn Campos do Jordão:   This three-star hotel is located in the entertainment center of Sao Paulo. Whether traveling alone, with a partner, or with a family, this hotel has multiple options for rooms, including a Quadruple room for up to 4 guests, and a romantic room complete with complimentary rose petals. Free high-speed Wi-Fi, a fitness room, minibars, sport court, and game room, and breakfast are also included. 

Sol Bahia:   Right by the water, this casual hotel offers beautiful ocean and beach views from the hotel. It’s just a few miles from Salvador shopping. The hotel also comes with a children’s play area, restaurant and bar, an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, single and family rooms, and LCD TVs with cable, among other things. 

Read our recommendations at Three Great Hotels in Rio on the Best of the City’s Beaches

Brazil Accommodation Guides

  • Three Great Hotels in Rio on the Best of the City’s Beaches
  • The Top 18 Most Excellent Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
  • Ultimate Iguazu Falls Tour

What to Pack for Brazil

Packing for Brazil can be tricky depending on the areas that you will be visiting and the time of year.

Temperatures below the equator are high and there is very little seasonal variation, although at times it can get cool enough to wear a jacket.

If visitors venture more South, especially during Brazil’s winter months [June – September], expect much colder temperature with the possibility of frost or even snow [although rare].

The cities of Belo Horizonte and Brasília have moderate temperatures, usually between 15 and 30 °C (59 and 86 °F). Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Salvador on the coast have warm climates, with average temperatures of each month ranging from 23 to 27 °C (73 to 81 °F), but enjoy constant trade winds.

Winter in Rio de Janeiro can be chilly. The cities of São Paulo, Curitiba, Florianópolis and Porto Alegre have a subtropical climate similar to that of the southern United States, and temperatures can fall below freezing in winter.

  • Leave your valuables at home  – New Apple watch? Expensive diamond earrings? Gold chain? Leave all your shiny, expensive valuables at home.
  • Classic Basic items – You do not need to be a fashionista to blend in. The key is in embracing neutrally toned items that can be mixed and matched easily. Avoid logos, baseball caps, shorts, hoodies, flip-flops, and running shoes as these items scream  tourist!
  • Personal Safety products  – Certain areas in Brazil are known as pickpocket hotspots; before leaving for your trip, make sure to pack some  personal safety products , like money belts and locks, so that you can keep
  • Get Medical Insurance  – adventure and eco-travel is common in Brazil; if you plan on trekking in the Amazon; paragliding and/or hiking, make sure to be  covered just in case .
  • Bug Spray! –  As of April 2017, the World Health Organization has updated their yellow fever vaccination recommendations in terms of Brazil as the yellow fever virus transmission continues to expand towards the Atlantic coast of Brazil in areas not deemed to be a risk for yellow fever transmission prior to the review risk assessment.
  • As a result of this make sure to cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE, also called para-menthane-diol [PMD]), IR3535, or 2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone)(Always use as directed)  OR  Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). 
  • Lastly, if you are traveling from Brazil to another country make sure to check if you need a yellow fever vaccination certificate or might be denied entry.
  • Rain gear –  if you plan on visiting São Paulo and/or Rio in the wintertime, be prepared for rain; make sure to bring along an umbrella and/or a raincoat.

Brazil Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources

Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.

We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.

  • Booking.com : This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
  • Trip Advisor :  What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
  • VRBO : is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
  • Hostelworld :  With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
  • Skyscanner : This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
  • Rome 2 Rio :  If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
  • Get Your Guide:  For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
  • World Nomads Insurance:  When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.

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Divergent Travelers

Ultimate BRAZIL Travel Guide

Brazil is a country located in South America .  Brasilia is the capital and it is a country known for its natural wonders, culture, architecture, and diversity. Our Brazil travel guide is here to help you see the best it offers.

Brazil eluded us for some time before we finally made a visit. We won’t lie to you, we were a bit put off by the crime and violence that is associated with the country. Having been now, though, we can’t believe we waited so long.

Rio de Janeiro easily made its way onto our list of favorite cities in the world. The way the city combines nature with urbanism is so unique. Taking a  favela tour  opened our eyes to the class system that haunts the country.

We spent three weeks traveling around Brazil and planned our visit to coincide with the world-famous Carnival.

Destinations

Brazil travel: quick tips.

Brazil

Don’t Visit BRAZIL Without:

UNIVERSAL TRAVEL ADAPTER

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GET A GUIDEBOOK

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REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE

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START PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO BRAZIL!

Where to stay in brazil.

Below you will find some of the places we have stayed during our travels in Brazil. These are individual properties that we enjoyed and would recommend to other travelers.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN BRAZIL

Anyone looking to travel to Brazil will likely fly into Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo and connect to the other airports across the country. From these major cities, it is possible to use public transportation to see the city or take buses further afield.

Many people choose to engage in group tours or day tours to get around and see things in Brazil. It is also possible to rent a car and plan a road trip that takes you further afield and out of the city.

TOP BRAZIL TOURS

David Stock in Paraty, Brazil

WONDERS OF BRAZIL

15 Days from Rio de Janeiro Visits: Ilha Grande, Paraty, Iguazu Falls, Bonito & Pantanal

Lina & David Stock (Divergent Travelers) at Iguazu Falls

EXPLORE BRAZIL – NAT GEO

9 Days from Rio de Janeiro Visits: Rio de Janeiro, Pantanal & Iguazu Falls

Ilha Grande Beach, Brazil

HIGHLIGHTS OF BRAZIL

8 Days from Rio de Janeiro Visits: Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Saco do Mamanguá and Paraty

DON’T MISS OUT ON ANY OF THE GOOD STUFF!

Brazil travel: booking resources, brazil travel guide: related articles.

Looking for more info? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel to Brazil and start planning your dream trip.

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Pantanal in Brazil: Ultimate Guide to the World’s Largest Wetlands

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Paraty, Brazil: Ultimate Planning Guide

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Join the journey: Click here to get our top tips for affordable travel!

TravelWanderGrow

Brazil 10 Day Itinerary | The Best Travel Guide

best travel guide brazil

Brazil is probably best known as the largest country in South American and for the very famous Christ the Redeemer Statue. Brazil is full of beautiful beaches, incredibly friendly people, great food, and great music. It is hands down one of my favorite countries visited of all time! If you are ready to visit this amazing country, and plan the best Brazil trip ever, keep reading for the best Brazil 10 day itinerary. 

Table of Contents

Brief History | Brazil

Early history.

Brazil was originally inhabited by hundreds of Jiquabu tribes before the arrival of the Europeans. The people living there consisted of semi-nomadic tribes in the east and agrarian civilization in the west coast. 

Neither group developed written records or monumental architecture; as a result little is known about the history of the country before 1500. What has remained of those civilizations is elaborate pottery and some mound-building suggest complex and sophisticated cultures. 

Colonizers from Europe first arrived to Brazil in 1493. They named the land Brazil, most likely due to the brazilwood trees that once lined the Brazilian coast. These trees were prized for their ability to produce red dye. In 1500, the land was claimed for Portugal, who really didn’t pay attention to it until 1529, given profitable trade with other countries. 

Once Brazil turned their attention to Brazil they managed the colony by donating strips of land to Portuguese noblemen. These men were to in turn, manage the land for the king. This system was called the Captaincy Colonies of Brazil, but ultimately did not work. In 1549, to solve this problem,  the Portuguese king established Salvador as the capital, and restructured the independent colonies into a single one known as the Governate General of Brazil. 

The early centuries of colonization were quite violent, with near constant war between the Portuguese colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the land. From the mid 16th century to the end of the 17th century, cane sugar became the largest export of Brazil. This led to a high reliance on slave labor, as in most of the Americas; which became Brazil’s largest import. Over 2.8 million slaves from West Africa came to Brazil between 1500 to 1800. 

United Kingdom of Portugal

There are two things I’ve found to be really interesting regarding the history of Brazil. The first is the fact that for a time (1807 – 1821) the official kingdom of Portugal moved to Brazil. The whole royal court and everything. This was really to escape the pending Spanish and Napoleonic forces that were threatening their security. Once the Peninsular War ended in 1814, the courts across Europe demanded that the royal family return, but they wanted to stay. So they established the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves to establish a multicontential monarchical state. 

They ultimately could not resist the pressure placed on them, so the royal court left Brazil in 1821. The second interesting fact here is that all that I mentioned above is what led to the independence of Brazil. Upon departing Brazil, the royal family wanted to establish Brazil as a colony, but the Brazilians were not interested. Prince Pedro (who stayed behind in Brazil) agreed with the Brazilians, and declared Brazil independent on September 7, 1822. Pedro was given the title of Dom Pedro I, the new Emperor of Brazil. Thus began the Brazilian War of Independence, which lasted until August 29, 1825. 

Early Empire to Present Day

The monarchy operated through 1889, when it was replaced by a republican government. During this time slavery was finally abolished in 1888, the last country to make this change in the Americas. 

Know Before You Go | Brazil

Getting to brazil.

When flying into Brazil I recommend flying into the larger cities for the best prices and flight schedules. This itinerary centers around Rio and Salvador, so we are going to talk about flying into both of those airports. 

If you are coming in from another country, you are most likely to fly into the Rio Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG). Flying into Rio gives you some of the most amazing views. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anything like flying into the city and seeing the mountains sitting in clouds over the water. And the runway may be one of the most intense I’ve ever landed on – it’s a whole experience! This airport is further from the Centro, about 20 minutes or so, depending on traffic. 

When leaving Rio to travel to the rest of Brazil, you are most likely to go through the Santos Dumont airport. This airport is a bit smaller and handles mostly domestic flights. This airport is quite close to the Centro area of Brazil, just 5-10 minutes. 

Brazil 10 day itinerary

Where to Stay in Brazil

This guide features three areas: Rio, Salvador, and Praia Do Forte. I’m sharing a recommendation for each area so you can get an idea of the available options:

Ipanema Inn Hotel: This is a larger hotel that has a smaller hotel vibe. Breakfast is included in the room, and guests note how great the service is here. It’s also located just 450 feet from Ipanema Beach and is also very close to a metro station as well. 

JW Marriott : I stayed here for part of my visit to Rio, and will say that the service was lovely and the breakfast was great. It is another option with easy access to the beach, but Copacabana in this instance.

Bahiacafé Hotel: This boutique hotel is built in a building from the 1700s, and is located just near the Praça da Sé in the very heart of Pelourinho. 

Praia Do Forte

Pousada João Sol: This eco-hotel features a treehouse vibe / decor, and includes an excellent breakfast. It’s also just a 10-minute walk to the beach.

Getting Around Brazil

When you are not in very walkable areas, it is quite easy to get around the city via Uber – and you’ll find they are quite cheap. It was my preferred way to get between neighborhoods in the grand city of Rio, and I felt very safe doing it. 

Language in Brazil

The language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, and while you can certainly find tour guides and people in more touristy areas that speak English, it is not widely spoken anywhere. At least that has been my personal experience. I recommend learning some basic phrases before you go, in order to be able to get around easily during your visit. Check out my post on Portuguese for Travel for some key phrases!

best travel guide brazil

Download now!

The portuguese phrases pdf.

Have all the common Portuguese travel phrases at your fingertips so that you are prepared for any situation!

money in brazil

The local currency in Brazil is the Real, or Reais (plural). The “r” has more of an “h” sound in Brazilian Portuguese, so it sounds more like hey-alle. At the time of writing this post, the exchange rate was R $1 = $5.23 USD. Despite this, things aren’t as cheap as you might expect, so keep this in mind as you plan your trip.

where to eat in brazil

Keep reading for food recommendations in the itinerary below!

The Ultimate Brazil 10 Day Itinerary

Rio de janeiro .

Rio is well known as one of the big cities of Brazil. In my humble opinion, Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.There is something really special about those rare cities that have both mountains and beaches, and Rio offers plenty of both. The captivating views really begin from the moment you fly into the city. 

best travel guide brazil

Full Day in Rio Tour

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Experience the beauty and splendor of Rio with a local guide on this full-day city tour. Learn why this city is known as the “Marvelous City” as you visit landmarks such as:

  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Christ the Redeemer Statue
  • Seralon Steps
  • Maracanã Stadium
  • …and more!

Day 1 – Explore Rio De Janiero

I recommend starting your time in Rio by visiting all the top sites in the city . A few places that you must see include the following:

Christ the Redeemer Statue : One of the “new wonders of the world”, this statue was commissioned by the Catholic Circle of Rio and completed in 1933. Jesus is meant to be a symbol of peace in the statue, given his open arms. The statue sits atop the 2,300 ft. Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca National Park, and hence offers impressive views of the city below as well. To visit the statue (and the park), you’ll travel up the mountain via Corcovado Rack Railway. 

best travel guide brazil

Maracanã Stadium : This is Rio’s main football (soccer) stadium, and is managed by the Flamengo and Fluminense clubs. The full name of the stadium is Maracanãzinho, and it features an indoor arena. This stadium was finished in just five months, opening in 1954. Other sports, such as volleyball, sometimes feature there as well. 

best travel guide brazil

Selarón Steps : Known in Portuguese as “Escadaria Selarón” these world-famous steps began as a small project by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón to renovate the broken down stairs outside his house. This is a fairly recent project that began in 1990 and was completed in 2013. Selarón worked on the stairs until his death, and actually was found dead on the steps in 2013. 

best travel guide brazil

The stairs are located between the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods, which feature more heavily later in this itinerary. These steps are great for a photo opp – but I’ll caution that its MUCH better to visit this in the morning, as they will be full of other tourists later in the day. 

Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro : Unlike most cathedrals around the world featured on city tours, this one is relatively new. It was constructed between 1964 and 1979 – which is also a really short time compared to other cathedrals. It was built in the architectural style of Mayan pyramids, and features beautiful (and huge) stained glass windows that are 210 ft tall. 

best travel guide brazil

Sugar Loaf Mountain : Known as “Pão de Açúcar” in Portuguese, this mountain sits at the mouth of Guanabara Bay and has a height of 1,299 ft. To get there, you’ll have to take two cable cars, switching to a different cable car at the midpoint up to the peak. At the top, there are places to eat and drink, and of course, views that you cannot believe. 

best travel guide brazil

Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon : This lagoon is in the Zona Sul (South Zone) of Rio. It is not a place to swim, but is used for events, such as a Rowing Stadium, at times.

If you are interested in seeing all of these sites, but do not want to coordinate yourself, I recommend checking out the Rio Highlights Tour , which provides transportation to all the sites above and includes lunch at a wonderful Churrascaria. 

In addition, check out this post that covers 6 Rio City Tours for more ideas.

Book your Full-Day Rio Tour now!

In addition to the above, you may want to plan a Helicopter Tour of Rio , so that you can see all the sites from above. I found this experience to provide a unique perspective of this beautiful city.

Day 2 | Beach Day

On your second day in Rio, take a break and spend some time at the beach. Rio offers incredible beach culture, and the most common beaches include: Ipanema, Copacabana, and Barra de Tijuca. It’s pretty easy to get the food and drinks you need just sitting on the beach or by visiting the beach restaurants close by. 

Just as a matter of safety, be sure to not carry too many valuables with you and be sure to keep an eye on your things at all times.

best travel guide brazil

Day 3 | Explore Centro & Santa Theresa

Now, when most people think of Rio, they think of the most famous areas: Copacabana, Ipanema, etc. But most people don’t know that the city actually started in the area now known as Centro (City Center). This is what you would also consider as “Downtown Rio”. Something that makes Rio different than many other Latin colonial cities is that in the 1800s, city leaders opted to make Rio “modern” and destroyed most of the colonial buildings. So what you’ll find is a mix of French-inspired architecture from the 1800s and skyscrapers built in the 1900s. 

While in the center, I recommend that you stop by the following sites:

Teatro Municipal: This is Rio’s opera house and is designed in an eclectic style. It features the French-inspired architecture mentioned above and is quite beautiful.

best travel guide brazil

Carioca Square : This is a square that is right in the city center of Rio. As the Center is where a lot of “Cariocas” (i.e., people from Rio), pass through on their way to and from work. 

Confeitaria Colombo : This is a coffee house that has become of one Centro’s major landmarks. It is a cafe that has European-inspired architecture, built by Portuguese immigrants in 1894. It is very grand, quite busy, and simply beautiful inside. Rightfully so, it has been listed as one of the most beautiful cafes in the world. Stop here for a nice break while exploring the city center. 

best travel guide brazil

Paço Imperial: Known as “Imperial Palace” in English, this is the building that served first as the home to Brazilian governors and eventually as home to the royal family when they made Brazil the (temporary) capital of their empire. Compared to European castles, it is relatively humble, but was used given the surprise nature of the Portuguese court’s move to Brazil.

best travel guide brazil

Capela Real do Rio de Janeiro : The name of this chapel translates to the “Royal Chapel”, which was built to organize religious events attended by the royal family. 

best travel guide brazil

Praça XV : Another famous plaza that is featured in the center of Rio. 

You can visit all of these sites with Free Tours by Foot , which offers a variety of walking tours in Rio. Each of them with the option to “pay what you want”. 

After your introduction to Rio, I recommend that you take the yellow tram from Centro to Santa Theresa . Santa Theresa is a lovely neighborhood that makes you feel a little like you are in a mountain town in California. The yellow tram goes for a loop and offers AMAZING views of the city below. 

If you decide to stay in Santa Theresa, I recommend that you eat at Aprazível . It has a really nice indoor/outdoor setup and gives nothing but great views and excellent food. I do recommend that you make a reservation in advance as it is pretty popular. 

best travel guide brazil

You may also want to check out the following landmarks:

  • Bar do Gomes (Armazémm São Thiago) : A bar/restaurant that gives you a feel of the local spots in the neighborhood. 
  • Parque das Ruinas : This is a public park that is built in the ruins of an old mansion. It was the former home of Laurinda Santos Lobo, who is known for inviting intellectuals and artists to her home in the early 1900s. 

Day 4 |  Explore the City Outskirts

Believe it or not, there is plenty of “jungle” left within the city limits of Rio. On your fourth day in Rio, I recommend exploring the beaches and natural environment on the outskirts of the city in the West Zone. 

Now, this is something that would be very tough to navigate alone, so I highly recommend you go with a guide. The Sunrise + Secret + Wild Beaches Airbnb experience is one of the most unique ones that I have done, and really gave me a whole new perspective of the city. Explaining doesn’t really do it justice, so here is a little collage showing off some of the sights from the experience.

best travel guide brazil

Another idea for this day would be to visit Ilha Grande, which is located off the coast of the city. This is a largely undeveloped island, that features lush vegetation and nice beaches. To get to Ilha Grade, I recommend you hire a tour to take you there. This Ilha Grande Tour from Ipanema includes lunch and a boat to get you around for the day as well.

Day 5 | Afro Brazilian History

Spend your last day in Rio getting to know a little more about the history and culture of the city. First stop – Little Africa. Also known as Pequena África in Portuguese, this area is located in the Port Region of Rio and has historically been home to a very prevalent Afro-Brazilian community. The moniker for the area came about after slave trade was outlawed in 1831. Over time freed slaves moved to this area to find work and a sense of community. The community provided food, shelter, a place to practice African religion, and gather with friends. 

Pedra do Sal: This is the oldest continually inhabited black neighborhood in Rio, and as such has a very strong sense of Afro-Brazilian culture. It is the area credited with the founding of samba, Carnival, and Bassanova. This area may have also been the first place where democracy existed in the country, as the people of the community had their own government and voted on their leaders annually. 

best travel guide brazil

Cais do Valongo : This archaeological site was once Rio’s most active slave market. It’s estimated that 500,000 to 700,000 enslaved peoples from Africa were sold here from 1774 to 1831. Valongo was initially built to hide the slave market from Rio’s elite, and then when the slave trade ended, it was covered up to “hide” the remnants of slavery. It was not until 2011 that the market was uncovered to shed light and pay respect to the history of Afro-Brazilians. 

best travel guide brazil

Graffiti Wall Etnias : A few steps away you’ll find the Mural das Etnias. This is a beautiful painted mural on the side of a building that depicts indigenous people from a variety of countries throughout the world. 

best travel guide brazil

Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã) : This is not part of the Afro-experience, but after seeing “Little Africa” I recommend checking out this museum. I did not get a chance to go on my tour, but have heard wonderful things about it. Please note that it is closed on Mondays. 

Again, you can visit each of these sites with Free Tours by Foot . I definitely recommend you do this part with a guide, as they can add a lot of color to the history of the Afro-Brazilians here.

Note: If you crave more cultural experiences, I recommend you consider a Favela Tour during your time in Rio as well.

Salvador De Bahia

Salvador is a culturally rich area, and also home to the largest population of people from the African diaspora in the world. It has vibrant street life and is a bit lesser known by non-Brazilians as a tourist destination. In addition, it has plentiful beaches with warm waters and people who are just as warm as well. 

10 Days in Brazil

Full City Tour History & Panoramic

Experience the history and Afro-Brazilizan culture that make Salvador such a special place. Alongside a local guide, visit classic sites such as:

  • Farol da Barra
  • Cathedral Basilica of Salvador
  • Elevator Lacerda
  • …and many more!

Day 6 | Explore Pelourinho

After a morning of flying from Rio to Salvador, I recommend you start your time by staying in, and exploring Pelourinho. This area is full of colorful colonial architecture – something that I mentioned earlier is missing from Rio. A few sights that you should certainly see while in the area include:

Lacerda Elevator : This elevator connects the Cidade Alta (High City) with the Cidade Baixa (Low City), it’s a pretty cool experience to get at least one ride on this during your time there.

best travel guide brazil

Mercado Modelo: This is a big market that you’ll see pretty much as soon as you exit the elevator to the Lower City. You can buy all the souvenirs your heart desires here.

Church of São Francisco : A lovely baroque church that is one of the best examples of this type of architecture in all of Brazil. 

best travel guide brazil

Palacio Rio Branco : This was the original seat of government in Brazil when the Portuguese first came to the area. It’s typically closed, but you can admire the architecture from the square.

Clube do Samba : Experience Samba with locals and travelers alike – they also offer great live music and good food.

Best Places to Eat in Pelorinho:

Cafélier: For breakfast, I recommend you stop at this café. It gives great views of the water and you can find many Brazilian classics on the menu too, such as pão de quejio.

best travel guide brazil

Coco Bistro : This restaurant has great food. If you visit here, be sure to try the fish moqueca – it’s amazing! One of the best parts of eating here at night is getting a chance to watch all the action from your seat. Usually you’ll find live music or other shows right outside the door. 

best travel guide brazil

Day 7 | Explore Greater Salvador

On your second day in Salvador, I recommend you explore more of the larger state by getting out of Pelourinho. Here are a few sites that you should see:

  • Praia do Porto da Barra : This beach is in the Barra neighborhood of Salvador, and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The waters are calm and warm – which differs from the waters you find in Rio.
  • Farol da Barra : This is the location of a fort and the first lighthouse in the Barra neighborhood. It’s a nice lookout point and a place to get a few nice shots. 
  • Basilica Do Senhor Do Bonfim: This basilica is best known for the colorful ties that those making wishes place outside the gates of the church. 
  • Dique do Tororo : This lake / natural water source for Salvador has lovely statues that represent the Orixás of Candomblé. If you are not aware, Candomblé is a religion that combines elements of African religion with catholicism. It is most revered in Salvador, given the large number of Afro-descendants. Around the area you’ll find a park with trails, nearby restaurants, an amphitheater, and colorful murals. 
  • Sorveteria da Ribeira : This ice cream shop has a wide variety of flavors, and given that it has been in operation since 1931, it is very popular with the locals. 
  • São Joaquim Market: This market provides plenty of fresh produce, fish, and meat, and in addition, there are a number of nearby restaurants on the water as well. 

best travel guide brazil

If this seems like a very long list, you might consider doing a Full-Day tour of Salvador. The Full City Tour Historic and Panoramic is a great option for this!

Book your Salvador City Tour Now!

Day 8 | Visit the Museums

On your third day in Salvador, I recommend you visit a few of the local museums – note there are a lot of options to choose from! Here are a few ideas:

  • Casa do Carnaval da Bahia : This museum gives the history of Carnival in Bahia, and given that it’s know as being the best Carnival in the world, I’d say it’s certainly worth checking out. On the roof, there are impressive views of the Lower City and the ocean as well. 
  • Afro Brasileiro Museum : This museum is located inside the building of the first medical school in Brazil and is dedicated to the study and dissemination of African-Brazilian culture.
  • Museum of Archaelogy and Ethnology : This museum is housed within the original Jesuit’s college built in the mid-1500’s. It sheds light on the history of the region and the people who live there.
  • MAM Museu de Arte Moderna : This museum is housed within a 16th century colonial building and features contemporary art inside and a sculpture park outside. 

best travel guide brazil

If you end your day at the MAM, I recommend that you then go eat at Ré Restaurante Dona Suzana . The owner, Suzana herself, was featured in the Netfilx docuseries Street Food: Latin America . I do recommend you watch it because the story about her food and how she got story is just beautiful. Oh and the food is excellent – and so are the views from the site! 

best travel guide brazil

If you have time, there is also a beach directly behind the MAM, which is more of a local beach. But a good find if you want a more chill experience.

Praia Do Forte is a beach within the same state as Salvador – Bahia – that also has a small village. The waters you find here are crystal clear and full of natural pools that make for a very relaxing experience. The area is known for the eco-resorts and the plentiful shopping there as well.

Day 9 | Praia Do Forte

Take the drive from Salvador to Praia Do Forte by car. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive or so, which is not bad. I recommend hiring a taxi to take you there if you haven’t rented a vehicle, as the price is pretty reasonable. Here is a link to do just that here: Transfer from Salvador to Praia Do Forte .

On your first day there, just spend time at the beach. As I mentioned before, the waters are lovely. And if you just sit at the beach, there will be plenty of folks walking by to sell you all the food, drinks, and snacks you need for the whole day. 

best travel guide brazil

Day 10 | Praia Do Forte

Spend your second day at Praia Do Forte visiting TAMAR, which is a site meant to protect endangered sea turtles. Then spend a bit of time shopping, if that is your thing :). 

From there, head back to the Salvador airport to make your way back home.

What to Do if You Have More Time in Brazil

If you are staying in Brazil for more than ten days, I there are some additional sites that you may want to visit:

Iguazú Falls / Iguazú National Park: Iguazú Falls consists of waterfalls that fall directly on the border between Brazil and Argentina. It is the largest waterfall system in the world! If you are interested in natural beauty, this should certainly be on your list.

São Paulo : This city is the most populous in all of Brazil, and located in the Southeast Region of the country. Contrary to popular belief, there is no beach located in the city, but it’s been described as comparable to New York City with the variety of things there are to do there. 

Amazon Rainforest : The western side of Brazil is actually quite sparsely populated as the Amazon really still reigns as king there. There are a variety of excursions that you can take to experience the rainforest (safely) while visiting Brazil. Here is an example tour for your reference: Amazon Jungle from Manaus .

Ouro Preto : This city, whose name means Black Gold in English, sits in the state of Minas Gerais. It is a former colonial mining town for all the gold once found there. It is a town that feels fixed in time, with well-preserved colonial architecture. 

For additional posts on traveling Latin America, click here !

Brazil FAQs

To get a taste of Brazil’s highlights, a minimum of 10 to 14 days is recommended. This duration allows you to explore major cities, visit iconic landmarks, and experience the country’s unique culture. For a more in-depth exploration, a longer stay of 3 to 4 weeks or more would be ideal.

Brazil can offer a range of travel experiences, and its affordability can vary depending on the region and activities. While some areas can be relatively affordable, major tourist destinations may be more expensive, especially during peak seasons. With careful planning and budget-conscious choices, it is possible to have an enjoyable and relatively affordable trip to Brazil.

The best time to travel to Brazil depends on your preferences. Peak tourist season is during the summer months from December to February, but it can be crowded and more expensive. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn for milder weather and fewer crowds, or the dry season from June to November for better wildlife sightings in the Amazon rainforest.

Americans can visit Brazil for up to 90 days for tourism purposes without a visa. This is part of Brazil’s visa waiver program for several countries, including the United States. However, it’s crucial to check for any updates or changes in visa requirements before planning your trip.

Final Tips | Brazil Itinerary 10 Days

If you plan to visit Brazil, I am sure that you won’t be disappointed. It’s a great place with plenty to do and see, and I simply cannot wait to get back there. As a recap, this itinerary recommends the following:

  • 5 Days in Rio
  • 3 Days in Salvador
  • 2 Days in Praia Do Forte

Bahia is often not at the top of folks’ lists when they think of visiting Brazil, but I do think it’s worth the visit (or many). If you have visited Brazil before, let me know in the comments below!

best travel guide brazil

Related Brazil Posts:

  • Best Rio Helicopter Tours
  • Best Rio Favela Tours
  • The Best Things to do in São Paulo
  • Rio de Janeiro Trav el Guide
  • Best City Tour of Rio de Janeiro

Additional Latin American Posts:

  • 4 Days in Puerto Rico
  • 4 Days in Tulum
  • Havana to Varadero
  • 1 Week in Cuba
  • Where to Eat in Havana
  • Muyil Ruins
  • 4 Days in Lima

best travel guide brazil

Christen Thomas is the founder of TravelWanderGrow, established in 2018. She has lived abroad and traveled extensively to over 30 countries. In addition, she is a certified Travel Advisor and is an expert in planning trips focused on city history and culture. As a frequent traveler, she also shares tips on how to prepare to travel well and how to save money while doing so.

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Ultimate Guide to Planning a Perfect Trip to Brazil: Expert Tips from a Local!

April 10, 2023

Paula Martinelli

If you are planning a dream trip to Brazil, this is your one-stop guide! Here you will find all you need to know to plan a safe trip to Brazil , plus all the useful tips prepared by a Brazileira ;-).

When you think about Brazil, what comes to  your  mind? Carnaval…Rio de Janeiro…Samba…Soccer (Futebol)…Beaches…Amazon forest? Most people have some association with Brazil from popular culture. I am here to EXPAND on those associations so that you can get to know this amazing country, diverse culture, and incredible people.

Join me as I take you beyond the usual associations with Brazil from popular culture, and delve into the rich history, culture, and people that make this country truly unique. With stunning landscapes, mouthwatering cuisine, and a blend of Portuguese, African, European, and Brazilian influences, Brazil has something for everyone.

Don’t miss out on experiencing the beauty and excitement of Brazil like a local. Let this guide be your go-to resource for planning the perfect trip to Brazil, tailor-made just for you. Get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime in this extraordinary destination!

Brazil trip planning

Why you Should Travel to Brazil

Well, amigo, let me start by saying why you should travel to Brazil. Brazil is one of the most awe-inspiring places to visit on the Planet, and I really mean it.

Visit the natural beauty of the falls at Iguaçu, meet the locals at the Copacabana beach, see one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, Christ the Redeemer, learn how to dance the samba, enjoy a barbecue, and cool off with a caipirinha and be able to cruise around some of the largest jungles in the planet, Pantanal and Amazon.

Brazil offers it all for any travel style –  from solo travelers to a family vacation trip of a lifetime, to adventure travelers, to one of the best routes to backpack in South America . 

Brazil is a very vast country, and because of its size, it is impossible to travel around and get to visit many places on your first trip. You will need good planning and longer than a week to visit 1-2 States.

planning a trip to Brazil

Brazil Travel Tips Essentials

LANGUAGE:  The official language in Brazil is Portuguese. English and Spanish are not widely spoken.

CURRENCY:  The currency in Brazil is the Brazilian Real, and the U.S. Dollar is not accepted. Check here  for the latest conversion rate.

TIPPING: It is not customary to tip in Brazil

CREDIT CARD & ATMs:  A credit card is widely accepted in Brazil. ATMs can be easily found in commercial areas, but they may be closed at night for security reasons.

PLUGS: In Brazil, the power plugs are type N, the standard voltage is 127 / 220 V, and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. I recommend buying a  universal adapter  and using a  converter  for hair dryers. 

WI-FI IN BRAZIL: You can get Wi-Fi service in Brazil pretty much everywhere (unless you are planning to visit some remote areas). Normally the hotels, restaurants and shopping malls offer free internet service.

CELL PHONE: Your international cell phone will work in Brazil. However, to avoid high international calling charges, you’ll want to pick up a local SIM card and get a local calling plan. You can buy these at street-corner kiosks (called bancas) and some supermarkets.

best travel guide brazil

HUAWEI E5577s-321 Mobile WiFi Router

I recommend buying this WiFi router. You can insert any SIM card around the world, and it shares data across all your devices, up to 10, via WiFi and the battery lasts up to 12 hours.

planning a trip to Brazil

Brazil Travel Planning: Orientation & Map

Brazil is the largest country in South America and the 5th largest country in the world, with a population of 212 million people (2.75% of the total world population). 

Brazil might be the largest country most of the world doesn’t know a whole lot about. Brazil’s economy ranks 1st in South America,  2nd in the Americas, and 8th in the world.

Although Brazil covers an area equal to 88% of the US and therefore is  almost  as large, being the size of the US without Alaska .

The coastline of Brazil measures 7,491 km, which makes it the 16th longest national coastline in the world. Throughout the coastal areas, geographical features can be found like islands, reefs, and bays.

Planning a trip to Brazil

What is the Visa Requirement to Travel to Brazil?

You need a valid passport for at least 6-months from the date of entry is required by all nationals referred below.

A visa to Travel to Brazil is not required by all nationals of EU countries for stays of up to 90-days. A Visa to travel to Brazil is required by nationals of Australia, Canada, and the USA.

Visa-Free Entry to stay up to 90 days for American, Canadian, Japanese, and Australian passport holders. Consult this website for more visa requirements.

What are the best Flights options to Brazil?

There are numerous options for flights to Brazil and many gateways in the US and Canada.

Direct flights leave from:  Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, Orlando, Washington, and Toronto.

TAM is the only Brazilian carrier serving the US at present, while the North American airlines are American, Air Canada, Continental, Delta, and United.

Most flights go to either Rio  or  São Paulo.  If your ultimate destination is somewhere other than these cities, it is usually best to connect in Rio or São Paulo.

Planning a trip to Brazil

What are the Best Places to Visit in Brazil?

When talking about visiting Brazil, everyone seems to gravitate to either  Rio de Janeiro ,  Iguaçu Falls,  or the  Amazon .

I regret to say that those places are very far distance from each other. Therefore, if you have only 2-week to visit Brazil you would need to pick one destination over another. You can see some ideas of the Best Brazil Route here . 

Just take a quick glance at a map to figure this out, I have picked my top 10 places to visit in Brazil and pinned the map to help to give a better perspective of each location:

  • SÃO PAULO (São Paulo State)  – Largest city, very metropolitan and cultural, great cuisine
  • RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio de Janeiro State)  – Second largest city, amazing natural beauty, and beaches
  • PARATY (Rio de Janeiro State)  – 4 hours driving from Rio, Brazilian imperial town by the ocean
  • ANGRA DOS REIS (Rio de Janeiro State): The most beautiful coastline in Brazil with over 2,000 beaches to choose from
  • CURITIBA (Paraná State)  – Large city praised with one of the world’s best models of  urban planning
  • FLORIANÓPOLIS (Santa Catarina State)  – Island in the South with perfect beaches and excellent surfing
  • PANTANAL (Mato Grosso & Mato Grosso do Sul State)  – The world’s largest inland wetland area, one of the best to spot animals
  • AMAZON FOREST (Amazonas State) – The largest tropical rainforest in the world
  • JALAPÃO (Tocantins)  –  Large variety of landscapes including sand dunes, rivers, waterfalls, and Savana
  • NATAL (Rio Grande do Norte State)  -Stunning beaches, white sand dunes, and rich diverse culture.

Brazil travel guide map

Plan Well Your Itinerary in Brazil

Remember that pre-planning, researching, and understanding what you are looking for will help make your travels far more successful and safe. I have spent years of my life living and traveling around Brazil and these articles will be extremely helpful with tons of Brazil Travel Tips for you:

  • 10 Best Backpacking Routes in South America
  • 15 Amazing day trip from Sao Paulo
  • 21 Amazing Facts about Rio de Janeiro
  • Rio de Janeiro Itinerary
  • Sao Paulo Itinerary
  • Jalapao, Brazil Itinerary
  • Angra dos Reis Itinerary
  • Petropolis Itinerary
  • Paraty itinerary
  • Bonito Itinerary

Sugar loaf interesting facts

How much does a Trip to Brazil Cost?

Brazil is one of the most expensive countries to visit in South America, but because of the exchange rate, when converted, prices are still very affordable.

The best time to travel to Brazil on a budget is in the off-season. If you travel outside of Christmas or Carnival, flying to Brazil can be quite affordable.

Check the average trip to Brazil cost below – Per day for 2 people – Based on 4 stars hotel, eating all meals at the restaurant, renting a car – Of course, it can be less, it will depend on your travel style:

Average Prices per Day/ 2 People

Planning a trip to brazil: transportation & getting around.

If you are visiting more than one state, I recommend flying instead of traveling by bus or car. The distances are long, and flying will save you time and allow you to visit more locations in less time.

You can get a 15% off your rental car when you book through this site . I use and recommend RentalCar because it is the most reliable rental car source, and it allows you to compare the prices of different places.

Planning a trip to Brazil

Planning a Trip to Brazil: Accommodations

Prices and options will vary a lot, depending on what area of Brazil you are visiting and what time of the year you are visiting. But the good news is that because of the exchange rate, the prices will be very affordable when converted.

I have selected 3 options for the most popular accommodation options in Brazil, and I recommend booking using Booking.com   because it is a reliable source and also, there is free cancelation policy:

Nepal Trip Cost

The capital of Nepal is a typical busy city, with pollution and traffic. But still, a fascinating place to visit including the Boudha Stupa, Asan Market, and Swayambhunath.

What is the Best time to Visit Brazil?

Brazil is one of the few destinations on Earth that is warm year-round. Because of its tropical landscapes, there are several climatic extremes, though none of which are too extreme to deter travelers.

Winter in Brazil lasts from May to September . No matter where in Brazil you are visiting, temperatures won’t drop below 60 F. It’s one of the best times to go sightseeing and hiking in cities like Rio, thanks to plenty of sunshine and cooler temps.

During the spring and summer (November to March) , temperatures can get up to 120 F so be sure to stack on a whole lot of sunscreen and prepare for some humidity.

Around February and March is when it happens the largest party on the Planet: Carnival!

What is the Weather in Brazil?

The summer months are from December to March and winter is from June to September

Because of the size of Brazil, the country is broken into different climate areas. Check here for the weather in Brazil.

  • The south of Brazil is the coldest part, with winters that can even be seeing some snowflakes.
  • The North of Brazil , where you can find the Amazon forest, is always hot with temperatures climbing up to 100F (40C).
  • The coastal areas in Brazil – If you are visiting the coastal areas, the weather is warm most of the year, with temperatures higher than 77F (25C).

Planning a trip to Brazil

Planning a Trip to Brazil: Safety

Let’s start with a million-dollar question. Every time I engage in a conversation with someone, I am asked this question: “Is it safe to travel to Brazil?”

Safety is a big concern for Brazilians. Drug gangs control certain territories, police corruption is not uncommon, and if you are not aware, you could become a victim of theft or pickpocketing.

With that being said, Brazil is not a dangerous place, and every year millions of people visit Brazil and it is not a reason you should avoid a trip to Brazil, just follow some basics suggested safety tips:

best travel guide brazil

Backpack Travel Anti Theft with USB Charging Port

To keep your belongings safe during your travels, I recommend this anti-theft backpack. The hidden theft-proof pocket designed on the back sits up against the wearer’s body. Anti-Pickpocket back pocket is difficult to steal personal items. It fits my 15.6” laptop with a bit to spare.

Planning a trip to Brazil

What is the food in Brazil?

Maybe you are already family with the Brazilian steakhouse. Yes, steak is very popular in Brazil, it seems that every weekend you will have at least 2 invites for a  churrasco  (barbecue) at your family or friend’s house. 

A  churrasco   usually includes sausages and several different cuts of meat, grilled over hardwood charcoal, sliced to bite-size pieces, and eaten hot off the cutting board.

In addition to  churrasco , there are many other delicious Brazilian foods to experiment with:

  • Açai:  Antioxidant super fruit gaining popularity outside of Brazil – açaí bowls are very popular
  • Pão de Queijo:  They are getting very popular in the US, they are the heaven version of cheese bread.
  • Cachorro Quente:  It is the Brazilian version of hot dog, it is another level
  • Moqueca:  Anyone who tries it, falls in love. Fresh fish cooked in coconut milk
  • Brazilian Pizza:  My vote goes to the Brazilian pizza. Want to know the difference between Brazilian and American pizza?
  • Feijoada:  Brazilian comfort food, which is a slow-cooked black bean, beef, and pork stew served with rice – a truly must try the traditional dish, that every time I cook it and invite my friends to try, they leave asking me for the secret recipe.
  • Brigadeiro:  Sweet like a bonbon and extremely scrumptious and delicious
  • Creme de papaya:  a perfect ending to a big meal, papaya helps digestion.
  • Caipirinha:  It is the Bazilian popular drink. Strong is the definition, made by sugar cane, sugar, lime, and ice.
  • Guaraná:  the Brazilian soda – loaded with caffeine from the guaraná plant

Brazilian feijoada

What to Pack for a Trip to Brazil?

I recommend packing light, and if you forget anything, buy it there. Brazil makes very good quality clothes and shoes and the prices are really good.

The packing will depend on what area of Brazil you are planning to visit, and what time of the year. But in general comfortable, light and colorful clothes are the best option. Some MUST PACK items are:

  • Colorful casual clothing: tank top, t-shirts, shorts, skirts,
  • Summer dresses
  • A pair of jean
  • Shawal – is always a great item for the cooler evening
  • A light rain jacket
  • a pair of Havaianas
  • Bikini/ bathing suit
  • Hat, sunblock, sunglasses
  • Dress shoes/ sandals – to go out at night
  • Long sleeve shirt/ nice dress – to go out at night
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • LifeStraw water bottle with a purifier
  • socks/ underwear
  • A day backpack
  • Universal charger/ adaptor

best travel guide brazil

PACK SMART ALERT!

If you are planning to carry a backpack for your trip to Brazil, I have compiled a very detailed review of the Best Backpacks for Travel in the market today – Also, it doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter, it is always smart to carry a jacket with you, so check my complete review guide on the Top Jackets for Travel and pack smart!

Brazil tip planning

Pack Light & Smart when you Travel to Brazil

Here is one of the most important Brazil travel tips to keep in mind. I recommend packing in a backpack if you are planning to travel around Brazil. Consider that you will be traveling from point A to point B on public transportation. Or even if you fly, it is easier to just have a carry-on item with you. Pack light and smart is always my rule of thumb!

I love traveling with my Osprey Backpack , and if you are taking a backpack, I recommend rolling your clothes and using small packing cubes separated by categories (pants, tops, socks…), so you don’t need to empty the backpack every time when you are trying to reach to the items you need. Here are the best backpacks for travel that I recommend:

best travel guide brazil

Osprey Talon 20 Liters

It doesn’t matter if you are traveling with luggage or a backpack, the fact is that you will need a day pack for Vietnam ! This is the backpack that I use and recommend because you can fit a lot, keep everything organized and it is super comfortable to carry around for hours.

best travel guide brazil

Osprey Levity 45 Liters

This is an ultralight backpack specially designed for minimalist travelers who are particular about light and smart packing. Made with breathable fabric and enough pockets for proper pack organization. It is a great backpack for hiking because it is light and very comfortable to carry.

best travel guide brazil

Osprey Atmos 65 Liters

This is the backpack I have been using for many years now and they are amazing! I love the anti-gravity system and it really works wonders, plus it has ventilated suspended mesh back panel and adjustable torso length and straps to ensure carrying comfort.

Photography Gear in Brazil

We all know that Brazil is a very unique and magical place. It is impossible to not take many pictures and want to capture the amazing moments while traveling around Brazil.

Therefore, do not forget to bring your camera equipment with you:

  • This is the camera I use and love – Sony Mirrorless a7III
  • Bring a couple of good lenses for different pictures – I always carry this lens with me
  • Extra memory cards 
  • I recommend bringing some filters
  • Tripod to photograph the waterfalls and depending on the time of the year, the Aurora Borealis. 
  • If you want to capture amazing videos, I use and recommend a Gimble Smartphone Stabilizer
  • I also recommend a GoPro HERO9 for some action images videos and pictures.
  • You can also capture incredible Drone images in Iceland. I use DJI Mavic Air 2

7-Steps for a well-planned trip to Brazil

  • CHOOSE A LOCATION TO VISIT:  Start by checking other itineraries and tips that I have prepared, as I am providing the best information for you to plan an independent trip to Brazil on my  BRAZILTRAVEL GUIDE .
  • BUY A GUIDE BOOK: An excellent guidebook that I recommend is  Lonely Planet Brazil Guidebook , as it has tons of great information on main attractions, places to stay, and many curiosities about Brazilian culture.
  • BOOK YOUR FLIGHT: There are great options to fly direct to Brazil to the major airports of the country. Book in advance to try to get a better deal. The flights are approx. 6-8 hours. The best way to start your South America backpacking route is to fly to a large city. 
  • BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ADVANCE:  Brazil has great options for accommodations, but make sure you book in advance to take advantage of the best prices and best options. I recommend  Booking.com  as it has a great policy of free cancelation.
  • START PACKING: It will depend on each area of Brazil you will visit to pack accordingly. Check my recommended packing list and my expert review on the Best Backpacks for Travel here.
  • BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER: Responsible and Ethical traveling is REALLY IMPORTANT.  Check my complete guide
  • BOOK ANY TOUR IN ADVANCE:  There are great options for group or VIP tours in Brazil, just make sure you check the many options and book in advance.  Check here  for options or check some options for you below:

Planning a Trip to Brazil Conclusion

Brazil is a very large country, and you will need to plan accordingly before your visit. Preplanning, researching, and understanding what you are looking for will help make your travels far more successful and safe.

Make sure you have the places you want to visit highlighted. Brazil offers everything from large cities to the Amazon Rainforest to stunning beaches. You can visit my Travel Planning and print the easy 10-steps to plan an international trip.  

Planning a trip to Brazil

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51 thoughts on “ultimate guide to planning a perfect trip to brazil: expert tips from a local”.

Great Post Paula and a perfect place for me to start. Thank you ?

I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil, but got lost in the vastness. This is so helpful, thank you!

Nice post Paula. I have always loved Brazil since childhood – from their football! 🙂 Someday I would like to visit the Amazon rainforest and the Iguazu falls in this large diverse country. Do you plan to write about these destinations?

I am so happy you liked my post and that you loved Brazil. Yes, I am planning to cover every special corner of the country on my blog and planning to write about Amazon and Iguaçu also. I saw you have some great content on Peru and I cannot wait to go back and explore more, I will be using your blog for reference.

It is hard to pick a destination when you are going to a big country. There is so much to explore in Brazil. My recommendation is start with São Paulo and/or Rio de Janeiro e explore the surrounding. You should go with me sometime 😉

Thank you! I am excited to continue to write about Brazil, and hopefully you will be there soon too. You will love it!

What a great article Paula! A great resource to demystify a lot of the misconceptions about Brazil and encourage travelers to visit our beautiful country. Also thanks for linking to my article about the difference between Brazilian vs American pizza. ? As “Brazileiras” we know which one will always win. Hehehe ?

One of these days I will visit this beautiful country!! The food looks amazing. Pinning for future reference!

Adorei o texto e o contexto…muito útil para amantes viajantes!!!! Nosso lindo país vale a pena ser visitado, experimentado, com tanta diversidade, fauna exótica, praias de tirar o fôlego, montanhas cheias de charme e tranquilidade, você certamente encontrará vários países dentro de um só. Aproveitem e pesquisem sobre Rio Grande do Sul, especialmente Gramado e Canela, Pantanal Mato Grossense, Nordeste e seus encantos, nossa culinária que é um grande patrimônio. Paula parabéns por este post completo e maravilhoso.

Obrigada Patricia – sim, o Brasil tem vários países dentro de um só, e com um lugares tão unicos e incriveis para visitar.

For the first time I want to visit Brazil. Thanks for the interesting review.

Really a complete guide!

Thanks for all the useful tips! I’ve been to Brasil once, and I’m definitely coming back one day!

Brazil is absolutely one of my favourite countries in the world. I’ve been 3 times, but still have so much to see. I haven’t been for nearly 15 years, so I’m definitely due a return visit!

I’ve only been to a few places in Brazil and I fell in love with it 🙂 This guide will be very helpful when I plan my next trip 🙂 Thanks!

This post comes to me just in time as I am actually planning my trip to South America next year! I was a bit concerned about travelling safely in Brazil, and luckily found lots of useful tips from your post. Thank you!

I loved Brazil but sadly could only stay for 2 days! I need to go back and see more places there for sure, and will definitely keep this comprehensive guide handy! Thank you! 🙂

This is such an amazing and comprehensive post about Brazil! I will definitely be saving this for when I go in the future!

Such a great post! Would love to visit Brazil!

I last went to South America in 2009 but have never been to Brazil so it’s always been on my bucket list. I’ve recently been watching Race Around the World so now I’ve moved it right at the top. I really want to go and photograph animals in the Pantanal. So this is a really great overview for a beginner like me!

You will absolutely LOVE Brazil. I have been in Pantanal twice and I was planning to go back this year again. Whenever you want to go, just let me know, maybe we can go together! Pantanal is so unique from any other place in the Planet.

Thanks Tyra. I hope you get to visit Brazil, it is so diverse and there is so much to explore.

I am so happy to hear you like it Marisa. I hope you get to visit Brazil one day, you will love it and see how diverse this amazing country is.

Only 2 days! Girl, you need to go back and with the photography skills you have, you will have the best time of your life just photographing and exploring this amazing country. Thanks for stopping by.

I am so glad to hear that this guide was helpful for you Fiona. Yes, it is a good start, Brazil is so big and so diverse. Let me know when you are getting ready and if I can help you with your plans.

Hi Or, I am so glad you found this guide helpful. Brazil need to be explored on many trips. I am from Brazil and I still haven’t explored half of this vast country.

Time to go back again Deborah 🙂 and really makes me so happy that you love Brazil. There is so much to do and so many places to visit. It is so awesome you have been 3 times and love it!

Thanks Mal, and I am so glad you have visited and enjoyed Brasil. Actually I read your blog about Brazil and make me so happy to see that you are helping to promote my beautiful home country.

Thanks for the guide! I have a colleague who lives in Brazil, and I would love to go visit! Your photos of the fresh fruit are calling my name. Also, love the link to the Brazilian pizza 101 article. Yummm!

It’s my dream to participate in Carnival in Brazil haha I love the costumes so much. Also really want to go to the Amazon and Iguazu falls. But like you said, they are so far from each other. Might have to be more than one trip 😛 These are such great tips! Always love hearing from someone from the country.

I went to Recife for two weeks this year. You are right, not many people speak English, it was a hurdle we had to get over. But the FOOD! Wow! a lot of the stuff we ate was regional (not even on your list!) and it was all SO good!

The size of Brazil has always been so intimidating to me – I’ve never known where to start. Thank you for simplifying the top points, especially the key areas to visit. I hope to make it to at least one of them some day.

What a comprehensive guide, and i love the mention on being a responsible traveler! I have to say its one of my dream destinations, but the safety aspect has always concerned me! Thank you for sharing it Paula!

This is such a helpful guide, thanks so much for putting this together! I’m hoping to visit Brazil when we can travel again, so this is great!

Hi Emma, I am so glad you enjoyed this guide. I hope so too that you get to travel to Brazil one day, you will love it.

hi Tia, I am so glad you found my guide helpful. I agree with you about the safety aspects, but during my last trip to Rio last year, I was as a solo and I felt really safe and enjoyed the beauty of this incredible city.

Thanks for your feedback, Katie. I hear that a lot, that people don’t even know where to start because Brazil is so big. If you evern decide to go, reach out to me and I will be happy to help you with some ideas of places to visit.

Amy, I am so happy to hear you visited Recife and loved it. Yes, Brazil is very diverse and each region has it’s own accent, food, culture…In order to explore all the amazing food, someone would need to spend at least a year traveling around the country. The food is really amazing!

I am so glad o hear you like this article Viola. I also have the Amazon on my bucket list, I haven’t been yet and I cannot wait to visit. You will love Brazil! Maybe we can go together one day 🙂

Brazil is very high on my bucket list. I love how vast and diverse the country is. Thank you for this great guide. Definitely will keep it handy for when I plan my future travels to Brazil. 🙂

Thanks for sharing such useful information .hope to visit Brazil someday

What an incredibly helpful guide. I especially loved the section on safety as well as suggestions for what to pack. As always, your pictures are stunning! I just pinned for future inspiration 🙂

Oh wow! i really want to visit one day! looks so stunning!

I really hope you get to visit Brazil one day, you will love it.

I am so glad you enjoyed this guide, Elena. Thank you so much!

I hope you get to visit Brazil someday too, you will love it.

Oh Taylor, you will fall in love with Brazil. I am so glad you found this guide helpful

Paula, nice blog. I’m heading to Brazil in 10 days for a 2 month trip. How do you deal with your camera equipment when passing through customs? I’m a wildlife photographer so I will be taking a camera body and several large lenses. For non-resident travellers, it appears that camera equipment over $500 dollars must be declared on the customs form.

Hi Shane, I am glad you found my blog and enjoyed it. That is a great question, and I always traveled to Brazil with a lot of electronics – 2 laptops (personal and work), 2 cell phones (personal and work), and my camera gears (lots of lenses, filters, etc.) and I never declared anything as they are all my personal items. Where are you planning to travel to, Guarulhos (GRU in Sao Paulo)? or any other city? It will depend on when you are traveling, but my experience is that if you are traveling to GRU you won’t have any issues if you are only carrying your personal electronic items.

so great infos thanks very much, also try this out ” atm fee saver” app, i just used it while travelling. its shows atm around with the lowest fees for withdrawing money. i always struggle to find good atms or i dont know how much i can withdraw, it has all the infos so i can totally recommend it 🙂

Hi Anni – this is a very good information, thanks so much. I will download it and use it myself too.

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Copacabana Beach, Brazil

Best of brazil: tips for a first-time visitor

Rio de janeiro.

Although famous for the Amazon, its beaches, football and samba, there is in fact a great deal more to Brazil.

Cities such as Rio, Salvador and Brasília boast striking architecture, the Pantanal has some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities in Latin America and there are endless walking options in some of its less well known national parks.

Read the chapters below to find out more about the best of Brazil and the places that should be included in any first trip to this country.

Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s and perhaps Latin America’s most well known city. It spills out from the Atlantic Ocean, rises up from its famous white beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema and spreads into tree-lined streets of white apartment buildings that skirt shady parks and plazas.

It is a city that should not be missed by any visitor to Brazil, whether it’s a first trip or the tenth. It’s a place of contrasts; a buzzing, modern metropolis yet home to the world’s largest urban forest. Rio epitomises the country in every way. It is culturally rich, full of music and dance and its beaches, and the Brazilians who strut purposefully along them, are among the most beautiful in the Americas.

The iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer embraces Rio in its outstretched arms. Look up from any point in the city and the chances are you will catch him looking down on you. Take the cog railway to the top of Corcovado to see it close up, and when the clouds lift, the views it offers over the city to the sea beyond are second to none.

A trip on the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain  to watch the sunset over Botafogo Bay and the twinkling city beyond is a truly unforgettable experience; do it late in the afternoon as the sun sets over the city.

Cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Iguaçu Falls

Legend has it that when Eleanor Roosevelt first visited Iguaçu Falls , she exclaimed, ‘poor Niagara’. Standing looking at these magnificent falls, hearing the roar of the water and feeling the spray on your face, it’s quite easy to understand her sentiments.

Iguaçu Falls, surrounded by lush green national parks, sit on the border of Brazil and Argentina and are made up of 275 individual falls, stretching 3 km (2 miles) in width and crashing down over 80 m (262 ft). The Brazilian side of the falls boasts breathtaking panoramic views.

Step out of the Hotel das Cataratas and you come face-to-face with a vast stretch of tumbling water, the spray from which rises up to a mile into the air. Cross the border to the Argentine side and take the opportunity to stroll the jungle clad walkways that weave in and out of the many smaller falls. Finally, ride the little railway to the aptly named ‘Garganta del Diablo’ or Devil’s Throat where thousands of litres of water will rush under your feet as they continue their hurried journey down the Iguaçu river.

Originally settled by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Brazil’s first capital city, Salvador , exudes energy from every pore, and no visitor will fail to become intoxicated by its architecture, colours, music and flavours. Pelourinho, the historic centre of the city, is without doubt a mecca for the Brazilian and international visitor but that doesn’t diminish the charm of its beautiful pastel coloured colonial buildings, its ornate 17th and 18th century churches and the warmth of its people.

Around every turn is a fresh delight; a baroque style church, an art museum, a café or bar spilling tables and chairs onto the cobbled street or a group of drummers beating out the complicated rhythms of samba. The heritage of the African slaves, trafficked over by the colonial power, is evident at every turn from the trance-like figures, dressed in white during a Candomblé ceremony to ‘moqueca’, the spicy fish stew flavoured with African spices, and the acrobatic capoeira dancers, spinning to the beat of the one stringed berimbau.

Salvador also boasts long stretches of beach and is a great starting point for a few days’ exploration of the Bahian hinterland with its miles of sugar cane plantations, sleepy riverside villages, mountains and caves.

Salvador

The word alone conjures images of vast roaring rivers, feisty tribal women, impenetrable jungle and tropical wildlife.

The Brazilian Amazon offers a comprehensive introduction to the jungle experience. Lodges and boats based around the tropical port city of Manaus offer excursions along the river and its tributaries, largely in motorised canoes. Night excursions with local guides along jungle trails surrounded by the buzz of cicadas and the distant screech of monkeys reveal huge spiders, waiting by their lairs for unsuspecting prey, and, as you approach the water, the bright red eyes of the many caiman that inhabit the area.

The wildlife of Brazil’s Amazon however is not as easily accessible to the visitor as that of other parts of the South American Amazon. Being relatively close to Manaus , much of the fauna around the area’s lodges has disappeared deeper into the rainforest to hide in its dense vegetation. A visit to this part of Brazil, whilst offering the chance to experience a taste of the authentic tropical rainforest that engulfs one of the world’s mightiest rivers, should not be undertaken with the sole purpose of observing the area’s wildlife.

For those with a general interest in all things tropical however, the accessibility of Brazil’s Amazon makes it just the place.

Brazilian Amazon

The Pantanal

Without doubt the best place for wildlife in Brazil is the vast area of wetlands bordering Bolivia and Paraguay in the west of the country. The  Pantanal  stretches for 109,435 sq km (42,253 sq miles), spread across the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. It is sparsely populated by humans but rich with birdlife and mammals.

Lodges in the Pantanal tend to be relatively simple and sometimes family run. They make an excellent base from which to get to know the local flora and fauna. Guides will accompany you on horseback, in kayaks, motorised canoes, open top jeeps and on foot to explore the area and giving you the opportunity to enjoy sightings of capybara, caiman, howler monkeys, anteaters, deer, porcupines, giant otters and jaguars if you’re lucky. In addition you’ll see macaws, storks, hawks, herons, ibis and rhea.

The best time to visit the Pantanal is between May to October, with the best birding opportunities between July and September and the best jaguar sightings in September and October. The rest of the year is very wet and can be very humid but shouldn’t be written off for visits. Access to the Pantanal is through the two nearest cities, Campo Grande and Cuiabá, both of which are easily accessible by air from Rio or São Paulo.

Jaguar in the Pantanal

One of the many things Brazil has in abundance is beaches. The country’s coastline stretches for over 7,242 km (4,499 miles) from its border with French Guyana to Uruguay in the south. There are city beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio, beaches to watch whales from, beaches backed by jungle, beaches from which to windsurf and simply miles and miles of deserted palm fringed beaches.

Many of the country’s most famous beaches stretch along the coast of Bahia. We love the area around Trancoso, a charming village with a beautiful main square and numerous lovely pousadas. Beaches in this area are almost empty for much of the year, making it a great spot for a romantic retreat.

Further north at the village of Jericoacoara the waves are perfect for windsurfing and you can even try your hand at kitesurfing whilst looking out to the Atlantic or inland to the area’s huge sand dunes.

The Green Coast between Rio and São Paulo is full of tiny sandy coves watched over by Atlantic rainforest. Schooner trips around the islands in this area make for a lovely day trip.

Given Brazil’s size and diversity, you should be prepared for an inevitable amount of flying but this also means that we can suggest ideas and itineraries to suit most tastes, interests and budgets.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Read more about trips to Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Simply Brazil tour: Rio, Iguaçu & Búzios

9 days from $5,700pp

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Classic Brazil tour

12 days from $7,995pp

The Amazon

Brazil in a nutshell: Iguaçu Falls, Amazon & Rio

10 days from $9,660pp

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They're just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

Further reading

  • What to do in Brazil: our highlights guide
  • Bitesize Brazil: how to cut down internal flights but not experiences
  • Honeymoons in Brazil
  • Family vacations in Brazil
  • Luxury vacations in Brazil

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Home » South America » Brazil » Backpacking Guide

The Ultimate Backpacking Brazil Travel Guide | 2024

Brazil is a country of extremes. The beaches are notorious, the cities are enormous, the nature is glorious – and that’s only scratching the surface. 

While travelling in Brazil, I fell in love so quickly and deeply that I ended up staying for 3 years. I worked any job that I could get, hitched rides around the country, and couchsurfed like no tomorrow. And you’ll bet I pay a visit every time I’m back in my native South America. 

The thing about this intense country is it’s a whole continent in itself. No seriously, this massive and incredibly diverse land does some magic and makes your experience so special. The biggest parties are always the most intimate, after all.

It has every potential to be full of surprises – the good and… not so good. So it pays dividends to get an idea of what you’re getting yourself in for, so you can flow with all the magical marvels . 

In this backpacking Brazil travel guide, you’ll find all the information to prepare yourself for this impeccable country : the best places to visit, unique experiences, Brazilian culture, and how to do it all safely. 

So pack your bags! Backpacking through Brazil is already shaping up to be a wild ride.

Crystal clear water and in the background an old colonial house surrounded by palm trees and white sand.

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Why Go Backpacking in Brazil?

It’s no secret, Brazil is a huge country – the 5th largest in the world, in fact. The landmass covers almost half of South America. So backpacking South America isn’t really ticked off until you step foot onto the Brazilian side. 

It’s hard to describe Brazil without sounding like I’m exaggerating. There is a huge diversity of life that only exists in this country. The landscapes are vast and distinct–there’s something simply magical about the terrain. Backpacking Brazil is one for the books. For starters, of course, you have the Amazon – no doubt you’ve heard of it. 

Rio de Janeiro view from top. Buildings and coastline beach near city.

Mountains pierce through the land. Nature greets you every day with extreme life and climate. World-famous metropolises like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are only a speck within the cornucopia of possibilities that await you while travelling Brazil.

Nature is king here. Life literally grows on top of life.

The Brazilians have a particular kind of rhythm to their existence. They have an incredible blend of cultures that creates an intense, beautiful, and soulfully electric nation. 

Even with a lifetime in this country, you couldn’t get around the whole thing. But with so much on offer, your trip to Brazil will be yours. From mad adrenaline heads to lazy beach bums, you can mold your travel route for Brazil into something unique.

Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking Brazil

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These backpacking Brazil itineraries are here only as a guide . They’re going to outline some of Brazil’s main bases and top attractions. I’ve also included some not-so-well-known places.  

But this is a massive country where I will actively encourage you to get off the beaten path. That’s where you’re going to find the secluded paradise beaches and the local hideouts – those magical spots that grab your heart and say “please don’t leave me, baby”. 

Feel free to take these itineraries, do them frontwards, backwards, inside out, chew them up, and shove them up your arse. They’re just a guide.

Backpacking Brazil 2 Week Itinerary #1: The North

best travel guide brazil

Ah, Northeast Brazil. Nature, humidity, and a whole lot of sand. If you’re a beach person, then you have to check out this area.

Start off this Brazilian backpacking route in  Salvador de Bahia , and dive into the colonial history of the city. A quick trip out to Morro de São Paulo will get you started.

After Bahia, if you’re a hiker, head towards Chapada Diamantina and chase some waterfalls. Then circle back to Bahia and head north!

In the state of Pernambuco , check out Recife . Then get out of the city and swing by Pipa or Porto Galinha . Making your way north towards Fortaleza , where you’ll have a chance to stop in Genipabu and Canoa Quebrada along the way as well.

Be careful when you stop in Jericoacoara and Lençóis Maranhenses : you might never want to leave. These are some of the Northeast’s greatest destinations.

Your final stop will be the Amazon Rainforest . Charter a boat in either Manaus or Belém  and cruise up the Amazon River in style.

Not enough beaches? Try combining this itinerary with Brazil travel itinerary #2 for the best beaches that Brazil has to offer.

Backpacking Brazil 1 Month Itinerary #2: The Southeast

best travel guide brazil

The southeast is home to some of Brazil’s most famous attractions! This 3-4 week itinerary will give you a taste of the big ones to backpack in Brazil. There’s a lot to see, so some backpackers may want to extend their trip.

This backpacking route through Brazil begins in glorious Rio de Janeiro . Chill in the city beach vibes, and don’t miss a night out in Lapa. If you have time (and a car) check out Bruzio, just up the coast. Home to beautiful beaches and epic Bruzio hostels .

Leaving Rio de Janeiro, you’ll travel along the coast and experience the Mata Atlântica . Experience the magical hidden getaways like Paraty and Ilha Grande .

The next stop is sprawling São Paulo . You have to experience the concrete jungle even just for a little while. The Pinheiros district makes a great party.

Exhausted after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro? Of course, you are.

Head to Florianopolis in Santa Catarina to find paradise. Stop by Curitiba on the way there to decompress.

If you can drag yourself away from Florianopolis, head back to Curitiba and head to Iguaçu Falls . It’s a long bus ride, but it’s worth it to see this mighty waterfall. You’ll sleep in Foz de Iguacu , and visit the park from there.

Final destination is Mato Grosso do Sul and the Pantanal. Stay in Bonito and take day trips out to the wetlands to get your David Attenborough on.

Backpacking Brazil 6 Week Itinerary #3: History and Culture

best travel guide brazil

So we’ve seen beaches. We’ve seen cities. Now, on this 6-week Brazil travel itinerary, let’s deep dive into some culture and history.

Starting in Rio Grande do Sul , journey from Porto Alegre to the ruins of São Miguel das Missões . This UNESCO Heritage Site was a Jesuit mission founded for the salvation of the Amerindian locals.

From Rio Grande do Sul to Santa Catarina : the south of Brazil hosts one of the largest concentrations of European immigrants in Brazil. See the German settlement of Blumenau and the Italian Joinville .

After Santa Catarina, continue north to the once capital of imperial, Rio de Janeiro .

Over the passing years, Rio has kept up with whatever was contemporary. For this reason, Rio de Janeiro is a blend of different architectural styles. The city as a whole has been deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site for its harmonious relationship with nature, too.

Next stop is Minas Gerais . Check out the capital, Belo Horizonte , for some of the best food in Brazil. The mining towns of Ouro Preto and Diamantina are super interesting too!

Moving on from Minas Gerais and the past, we enter Brasília and the future. Brasília is Brazil’s new capital and is full of utopian ideals. Take a walk up the “fuselage” and imagine what the founders were thinking when they envisioned Brasília.

Finally, we head northeast and back to the origins of Brazil. Salvador and Olinda are both ground zero for Brazil as we know it today. You can’t miss the colonial architecture and plenty of history.

Backpacking Brazil 3 month Itinerary #4: The Brazil National Parks

best travel guide brazil

I couldn’t justify a backpacking Brazil itinerary without suggesting the national parks. This is definitely a side that few get to experience. But prepare yourself: this backpacking route is a long one!

Visit Rio de Janeiro and visit the parks of Serra dos Órgãos and Itatiaia . Órgãos offers lots of climbing. Itatiaia is meant for more conventional hiking, through the Mata Atlântica and Rio de Janeiro’s highlands.

Next, catch the long bus to Iguaçu Falls . It’s one of the most majestic sights in the world!

After Iguaçu, head north to the Pantanal for some wildlife and a chance to swim in the crystalline waters of the wetlands. Depart from Mato Grosso do Sul to Campo Grande and the northern Pantanal.

In Campo Grande, you will be able to visit the rugged highlands of Chapada dos Guimarães. Check out the awesome falls, and hike up to the top of São Jerônimo Hill for breathtaking views.

From Mato Grosso, head east towards the state of Goiás and Chapada dos Veadeiros . Swim in the rock pools and marvel at surreal geology.

Keep heading east from Goiás and arrive at Chapada Diamantina in Bahia. Trek around the canyons and discover secret grottos.

Leave Chapada Diamantina, and catch a flight in Salvador to the remote Fernando de Noronha . This is heaven! Trek around the islands and find beautiful beaches all to yourself.

Back to the mainland, bus it to the surreal Lençóis Maranhenses . Wander among the bleached dunes and take a dip in the cerulean pools during the rainy season.

Finally, the Amazon Rainforest , of course! Along the way, you’ll visit the Parque Nacional do Jaú , which offers classic amazonian experiences.

Your Brazil backpacking route is going to be an unforgettable ride – no matter which direction you head in! If I listed all the places I think you should see, we’re going to be here for a very… very long time. 

So here’s the down-low on some of the top places to visit in Brazil. It wouldn’t be a legit backpacking Brazil travel guide without them. 

Backpacking Rio de Janeiro

A cidade maravilhosa (the wonderful city) is a blessed place. Its actual name literally means “River of January”: Rio de Janeiro.

Upon first sight, you’ll feel as if that giant Christ statue on the hill was put there by God himself. There are so many things to do in Rio!

Rio is the capital of the state of the same name and is the most likely part of your travels. There are many interesting places to stay in Rio , and each neighbourhood has a different vibe.

The CBD ( Centro ) itself is fairly uninteresting, except for a few museums. The nearby districts of Santa Teresa and Lapa are more noteworthy. Santa Teresa is a lovely artist’s neighbourhood, and Lapa is where the party is.

People walking, sitting and playing volleyball on a sunny day at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

The real action is in the south of Rio, where the beaches are located. The best hostels in Rio de Janeiro are here too.  Flamengo, Botafogo, Leme, Copacabana beach, Ipanema, and Leblon run back to back to one another and form a substantial strip of sand.

My personal favourite is Ipanema, which is the best beach by far. Be sure to hang around Posto Nove when you’re there.

Rio is infamous for its favelas or “shanty towns”. Some are pacified, and some are actively dangerous.

You can visit a favela, like Rocinha or Vidigal, but don’t go wandering into neighbourhoods you don’t know. Power among gangs is constantly shifting. A favela may be safe one month and a warzone the next.

Ilha Grande, Paraty, and the national parks are iconic. Paraty is an old colonial town that specializes in the distilling of cachaça  (Brazilian rum). Ilha Grande is just beautiful beaches galore.

Backpacking São Paulo

If there’s one word to describe São Paulo it’s really f*ucking massive . Wait… that’s 3 words. 

Nearly 20 million people live in this metropolitan giant. You’re in an ocean of skyscrapers, business centres, electric nightlife, and people just trying to make a life for themselves. 

The best places to stay in São Paulo are the central and western districts. This is where you’re going to find the most exciting action as a visitor. 

Building with colorful graffiti all over the front in a street in Sao Paulo city.

There is a big class divide between the very rich and the very poor, which can lead to Sao Paulo feeling unsafe . It can be a very intimidating place to visit, especially if you’re not a city person. But if you find your niche, there is a raucous social scene that awaits you.

People are very keen to express themselves in São Paulo. That means incredible art, soulful music, and lively nightlife. 

Downtown Sampa is where you’ll find the baroque and neoclassical architecture. Check out Catedral da Sé, Theatro Municipal, and the Praça da República for examples of Sampa’s stylistic diversity.

Western District is a much newer, and more dynamic area of the city. You’ll find lots of São Paulo’s best hostels here. 

Jardim Paulista is the fancy pants neighbourhood. Walk up Avenida Paulista, one of São Paulo’s most important throughways. Pay a visit to Sampa’s own Manhattan as well, which is conversely named Brooklin Novo .

A night in Vila Madalena and/or Vila Olímpia is an adventure, for sure: these neighbourhoods are magnets for the young, the successful, and the passionate. Hell, anyone with a beating heart goes out for a good time. Expect more pubs in the former, and clubs in the latter.

If it’s a choice between São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro , we would pick Sao Paulo, hands down!

Backpacking Paraná

So if Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo sound a bit bloody intense – I don’t blame you. Enter: Curitiba, the capital of Paraná. 

This laid-back, modern major Brazilian city is a fine example of places we could be seeing more of in the future. It’s recognised as one of the most innovative cities in the world and has one of the highest standards of living in Brazil. 

The city of Curitiba is a stark contrast to the rest of Brazil: composed, generally safe, and it can even get chilly – hey, maybe even snowy! 

A woman taking a picture  on a botanical garden with people around her and on the background a big construction of a green house.

Curitiba is abundant with lush public spaces. The blossoming Jardim Botânico is Curitiba’s pride and joy and resembles most gardens of French royalty. Barigüi Park , Barreirinha Park , and the German Wood are the places to wind down and watch the world go by.

Although lovely, you only need a few days in Curitiba. The rest of Paraná has a similar vibe and won’t let you down if you decide to explore the beaches or more inland here.

Once you travel this far south, you will notice that things begin to look increasingly European. Southern Brazil is where the vast majority of Europeans settled – German and Italian being dominant heritages. As well as the aesthetics of the big cities, notice how the culture and features of the people change.

Backpacking Santa Catarina

Santa Catarina is one of those places that’s definitive of Brazil. You could stop anywhere on the coast of Santa Catarina and find incredible beach hideouts. The state is the definition of ‘natural beauty’. 

People talk about Florianópolis like it’s some made-up universe. When, in reality, it’s even better. As soon as you drive over the bridge onto the island you’re already changing your plans to figure out how you can stay as long as possible.

Life in Floripa is very easy: pristine beaches, a relaxed pace of life, and that holiday feel 24/7. The best places to stay in Floripa are… everywhere. Though, there are certain areas that cater to different interests. 

View of an empty beach between the sea and the jungle in Brazil.

Central Florianopolis is nothing more than a little central hub. Take a bus here and get yourself out.

Northern Floripa is more resort-y and houses the island’s most popular nightclubs. South, towards Barra da Lagoa , things become less upscale.

Barra is more laid back and where you’ll find the most backpacker hostels in Floripa . Nearby Praia Mole is a popular surfer’s beach.

The far south of Floripa is totally undeveloped. If you enjoy a hike, you can find beaches that are literally abandoned because they require a trek to get to. Lagoinha do Leste is a stunning example of this phenomenon of untouched, hidden shores.

Outside of Florianópolis, check out the party city of Balneário Camboriú . World-famous Warung Beach Club and Green Valley are located just outside.

Joinville is the largest city in the region, and is predominantly Italian. Blumenau is a city of German heritage that hosts the world’s second-largest Oktoberfest.

Backpacking Bahia

Ask Brazilians where the “real” Brazil is, and they’ll most likely say “Salvador de Bahia.” Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and the former capital of the original Portuguese colony. The city is a treasure, filled with remnants from the days of colonialism and stories of Brazilian independence.

First: the touristy stuff. The historical district, called the Pelourinho is a bit of a tourist trap but still worth visiting. Be sure to see the important religious sites as well – the Cathedral Basilica of Salvador, Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, and Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.

Don’t miss the sunset at the Baía de Todos Santos . Take to the promenade or ride the Elevador Lacerda for the best view.

best travel guide brazil

Salvador hosts the world’s largest Carnaval celebration! Every Carnaval is different, but Salvador’s Carnaval tops even Rio’s and Recife’s. (Am I biased? Maybe.)

If you’re planning on going to this event (and you definitely should) the best hostels in Salvador book up fast. So plan ahead!

Bahian Carnaval is arranged in a giant parade. Floats and trucks troll the streets all night long surrounded a sea of dancing.

Each truck forms a bloco , which is separated from the others by a rope that encircles the crowd. The effect is a giant, moving dance floor, forming the world’s largest street party!

Outside of Salvador, you’ll find plenty of natural beauty. Morro de São Paulo and Itacaré are both wonderful beaches. Locals and tourists alike flock to these to relax and escape madness.

Two people walking on a long beach with palms trees on a sunny day in Bahia, Brazil.

Also worth seeing is Chapada Diamantina to the east of Salvador. This national park is one of Brazil’s outdoor jewels and is worth visiting for a couple of days. Check out the trekking section for more on that!

Backpacking North East Brazil

You’re in Northeastern Brazil now. Here, the climate and culture are distinctly different from the south of Brazil. Like Bahia, the ethnicity is predominantly African, the sun is almost always shining, and the beaches are abundant.

I’d love to speak about each of the northeastern states individually, but for the sake of time, they’re combined into one section. Most of these states will offer similar experiences. I’ll point out certain exceptions along the way.

Pernambuco and its capital Recife are the first stops. It’s one of the most historically significant cities in Brazil. Plus there are some incredible hostels in Recife !

The Old City and nearby Olinda are wonderful examples of Dutch and Portuguese Colonialism. Streetwalkers will notice the many canals that weave throughout the city as well.

The locals have dubbed their city Veneza Brasileira (Brazilian Venice) because of these waterways. The city beaches of Recife are also fantastic.

Colorful Colonial Architecture in Recife Brazil

Outside of Recife, there are lots of beach towns to check out. Porto Galinhas, Itamaracá, and Cabo de Santo Agostinho are wonderful examples.

Next up is Natal and the state of Rio Grande do Norte . Natal is a more laid-back city than Recife.

The economy of Natal developed more slowly than the rest of the north east. What it lacks in vibrancy and historical significance, it makes up for with a higher quality of life and public safety.

The beaches surrounding Natal are some of the best in the north east. Pipa and Genipabu are loved dearly by Brazilians, for (what else?) the perfect sand and water.

When you’re ready, create your own adventure in the other states: Sergipe, Alagoas, and Paraíba.

Backpacking Jericoacoara

The beach. The myth. The legend. Jericoacoara.

For many unknown reasons, Jericoacoara is the promised land for backpackers and hippies. I’ve known many people backpacking Brazil who have travelled north based only on a rumour. Upon arriving and discovering that this El Dorado does indeed exist, they quickly disappear into the depths of its pleasures.

The fame of Jericoacoara isn’t undeserved though. Time is non-existent. The streets are too – just white sand and stones.

People lounge in hammocks that rise picturesquely out of the shallows. Ah, Paradise.

best travel guide brazil

Kitesurfing is famous in Jericoacoara. If you’re not fancying that, there’s a whole lot of bumming around to do. You can walk the nearby National Park and the Pedra Furada – a half-day is sufficient for both.

Those wanting to visit Jericoacoara will most likely pass through Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará , the last big city in Northeastern Brazil. Fortaleza is not quite as clean as Natal, and not quite as rich as Recife. It’s a bit behind in many ways, but it still has its charm.

The performing arts – specifically comedy, and a local dance style called forro – are strong in Fortaleza. Nightlife is also booming, but do it safely.

Backpacking Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls is not to be missed! It is truly one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the world.

Iguaçu Falls is composed of nearly 275 falls that range between 200 and 270 ft in height. It is the world’s widest waterfall, and probably the most engrossing.

There are walkways that put you literally in the middle of the canyons where you’ll be surrounded on three sides by waterfalls. You will get wet, and you will love it.

Iguaçu is actually split between Brazil and Argentina: it’s one of the best places to cross the border to go and backpack Argentina too. So go ahead and see if from both sides!

The Brazilian side skims the edge of the falls and gives a better panoramic view. The Argentinian side traverses the top of the falls and gives a more up-close and personal experience. From the Argentine side, you get to stare down into A Garganta do Diabo (The Devil’s Throat), which is pretty fucking cool.

Iguacu Falls from the Brazilian Side

There’s a hot debate about which side is better. But we’re backpacking Brazil here… So it’s definitely Brazil, obviously.

Accommodation wise, you’ll be staying in the sleepy town of Foz do Iguacu . The town pretty much serves only as a gateway for the falls. Find the right hostel though, and your stay could be a lot of fun.

Backpacking Pantanal

The Amazon isn’t the only place where you can spot wildlife in Brazil: in the south of Brazil, there is the Pantanal wetlands. The Pantanal is actually considered the biggest  freshwater ecosystem in the world.

The chances of seeing animals are huge here; reportedly even better than in the Amazon actually. Local wildlife include capybaras, giant anteaters, rheas, jaguars, and lots more!

Given its size, there are several ways to access the Pantanal. The two most popular entryways are via Cuiabá of Mato Grosso , and Campo Grande/Bonito in the southern state Mato Grosso do Sul . Those coming from Iguaçu Falls will probably find Campo Grande more convenient.

best travel guide brazil

Campo Grande is a large, modern city that is well-known for its cattle industry. Visit a local churrascaria for some intensely delicious barbecued meats. 

Though Campo Grande gives access to the Pantanal, the real jewel is Bonito . Bonito is an eco-tourist destination that offers way more activities. Snorkel in the crystal clear Rio da Prata or visit one of the local caves to have your mind blown by the blue views.

Cuiabá is a small but vibrant city and very close to northern Pantanal. There’s actually a road, the Transpantaneira Highway, that runs directly into the Pantanal from the city. Motorists will have lots of opportunities to see breeding and feeding grounds on the side of the road.

Cuiabá is also a very convenient base to explore the nearby national park, Chapada dos Veadeiros . Veadeiros is a stunning area known for its ecological diversity, unique geology and stunning landscape. Rent a car in Cuiabá and visit both the park and the Transpantaneira in a few days.

Backpacking The Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest is tied with beaches as the most recognizable feature of Brazil. The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world.

There are reportedly over 400 billion individual trees there. That is more than fifty times the world’s human population.

Navigating such a large area can be daunting but your main gateway is going to be Manaus. Belém  is sometimes considered a jumping-off point but it’s far east and closer to the coast. A boat trip from Belém to Manaus may be worthwhile to some, as trips are quite lazy and chill.

From Manaus, you can charter a boat to take you up the Amazon River. While cruising the river, keep an eye out for all of those critters you grew up reading about – the pink river dolphin, three-toed sloth, and piranhas! The nearest national park is called Jaú , and it’s located very close to Manaus.

Jaguar growling in Amazon Rainforest of Brazil

You might want to try Ayahuasca while visiting the Amazon. This traditional and powerful hallucinogenic medicine has long been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, and addictions. I strongly recommend you find a reputable Shaman or join a healing lodge to appreciate this sacred ceremony.

Adventurous folk can ride the rivers all the way to the borders of Colombia or Peru. Heading towards the former on the Rio Negro , backpackers will have the chance to stop and see Pico da Neblina . Neblina is the highest mountain in Brazil and has a very distinct profile.

Backpacking Minas Gerais

Some people swear by Minas Gerais and its capital, Belo Horizonte , as the best city in Brazil though. It has a stunning example of nightlife in Brazil.

Belo Horizonte is the “bar capital of Brazil”. Thousands – twelve thousand, if you believe the local reports – of bars line the city streets, and every night they fill up. Locals come to shoot the shit and touch glasses.

The scene is a striking contrast to the hedonistic revelry found in Rio and Sampa. Drinking aside, Belo Horizonte is also where you’ll find the most farms and, therefore, the best food in Brazil.

best travel guide brazil

Minas Gerais is also famous for its colonial towns. Most are remnants from the days when the state was a center for the mining industry. Painstakingly preserved, these villages are a lovely journey back in time.

Ouro Preto is probably the most famous of these villages. Tiradentes and Diamantina are also worthy destinations.

Off the Beaten Path Travel in Brazil

In a country that’s bigger than Europe, you can imagine there are a plethora of places off the tourist trail . This is one of my favourite things about Brazil: you have every opportunity to make a route that no one else has made before. With a little patience, you can get pretty much everywhere.

And you should! Because off the beaten path, nature comes incredibly intimidating, culture is shocking, and food tastes delicious. 

The federal capital of Brazil is Brasília . It’s a bit out of the way but if you’re interested in architecture and/or Brazilian politics then it’s a must-see. If you’re not into those things though, you can happily skip over Brasília. 

Most backpackers don’t even consider the most Southern Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul . It’s a shame: Porto Alegre is one of my favourite cities in Brazil.

It’s a quiet place with a high standard of living but there aren’t many attractions. So why visit Rio Grande do Sul? Because the people are downright beautiful – that’s why. 

Aparados da Serra is a cool canyonland to the north of Porto Alegre with lots of hiking. To the west, São Miguel das Missões is one of Brazil’s most important heritage sites.

The state of Maranhão gets little attention compared to it’s southeastern neighbors. But this state has one BIG thing going for it: Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. This surreal park mostly consists of bleach-white sand dunes. 

During the short rainy season (May-September) the dunes fill with rainwater and small, landlocked lagoons form. It’s a surreal experience; elegant sheets of sand ( lencois means “bed sheets” in Portuguese) are painted with the cerulean colors of the lagoons. The scene definitely resembles a painter’s easel.

Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so  damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

1. Party at Carnaval, of course!

Be a part of the biggest party on Earth and one of the most famous festivals in the world ! Nearly the entire country shuts down for a week while everyone gets their last kicks in before Lent at Brazil’s biggest festival .

best travel guide brazil

2. Learn Portuguese

Portuguese is a gorgeous language. Stick around the country for a while and learn a bit of it. You’ll be one of the locals in no time.

3. Check out the National Parks

Brazil’s beaches get all of the attention, but its landscape is just as spectacular! Visit one of the national parks and see a more rugged side of the country.

best travel guide brazil

4. Fall in Love

Brazilian people are some of the most beautiful in the world! So if you’re ready for your story of love and sex on the road to unravel, this is definitely a place you won’t ever forget. You’d have to be an amoeba to not feel a little flushed around these intoxicating people.

5. Play on the Beach

Brazil has more than 4,600 miles of coastline! Go surfing, swimming, play volleyball, and smoke a nice joint while soaking in that vitamin D.

People playing soccer and other sports on the beach by the sea at sunset.

6. Get stuck somewhere

You know when you travel somewhere and all of a sudden you get that intense sense of belonging? Like you just never want to leave? Yeah… that’s pretty much Brazil in a nutshell.

So plan accordingly. Leave some time for those places that just steal your heart.

7. Watch a football match

In case you weren’t already aware, Brazil is football crazy! Sometimes a little too crazy, but that is what we want, isn’t it?

You don’t even have to necessarily go to a football game either. You’re probably going to see amateurs around and about; they’ll play basically anywhere. They’re very used to passersby stopping to catch some of the game too. So when you’re not in a hurry (who’s in a hurry?) stop to see how Brazilians become the word champions time and again.

Medellin Football

8. Visit the Amazon or Pantanal

No doubt, you know that Brazil is home to the world’s largest rainforest. You’ve been hearing stories about this mystical place since you were a kid. Finally , you can experience it for yourself.

Amazon boat tour

As well as the Amazon, Brazil also houses the largest wetland in the world, Pantanal! Between these, you can imagine all the incredible and unique wildlife that thrives.

9. Be humbled by Iguacu Falls

There are few sites in the world that are as mighty as Iguaçu Falls! Feel the power as tons of water spill over the edge and into the void.

10. Get out of the city!

Look, I know Brazil is famous for these insane big cities. But if you think that the culture is famous in major Brazilian cities, like Rio de Janeiro, imagine the extent of the culture outside of it. That’s where you’re going to find all the real food, music, parties, and general life.

best travel guide brazil

Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….

These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the  real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…

Brazil hostels are lively places and very common. Only in the most remote places will you need to resort to some other form of accommodation.

A good hostel should run you about $10-$15 in all of the major cities. You could find a bed for less than $10, but I would never pay more than $15 unless forced.

Many of the lesser-visited destinations – the beach towns, and especially the northeastern cities – are usually cheaper. It’s also where you’ll find some of the world’s most stunning hostels .

Pousadas are common. Essentially, a pousada is a local guesthouse; local vibes, cool people, and lots of options for all budgets.

Note that accommodation is subject to seasonal rates . This trend is very noticeable when backpacking Brazil. Rates could double or triple based on the time of year.

Man waiting topless by the roadside infront of a white wall with 'camping' spray painted in red.

When you’re in the wild, you’ll have to find some other way to rest your head. Fazendas are local ranches that essentially serve as a guesthouse and a farm at the same time. These can be a lot of fun!

Camping and lodges are very common in the jungle as well. Expect lots of these in places like the Amazon, Pantanal, and national parks.

Finally: be aware of the “motels” or moteis while backpacking Brazil. These are almost always exclusively used for sex, and most people only stay an hour or two, for obvious reasons.

The Best Places to Stay in Brazil

There’s nothing like the feeling when you find yourself in that killer accommodation. So here’s a quick rundown of the best of the best!

By South American standards, the cost of living in Brazil is quite expensive. Without caution, travel expenses can add up quickly.

Those who want to go backpacking through Brazil with relative comfort should budget $40-$50 per day. That will get you a nice dorm bed, food and snacks, a meal in a restaurant, and some fun on the side. But hey, it’s easy to save money on these things too.

Two men stood below a bar sign on a wooden cabin.

If you’re flying around Brazil, backpacking and heading on a load of excursions, be prepared to pay for it. Though if you’re prepared to slow it down, travelling on a budget is easily doable.

Prices in Brazil fluctuate heavily depending on the time of year too: the peak season is between December and April when locals are gearing up for Carnaval. This is where your Brazil trip costs would be at the highest point.

The price of a bed during the big holidays like New Year and Carnaval could triple or even quadruple. This effect is nationwide.

Prices will fall dramatically around the end of April. July rises slightly again for the Brazilian school holiday but this is brief.

Now you know all that, maybe using Couchsurfing is an answer. Brazilians are very hospitable and you’re usually getting a way better experience than just a bed. One of my hosts in São Paulo actually gave us the full apartment while we had to COVID quarantine for 10 days.

Partying in Brazil can suck your cash the most if you’re not careful. A beer here, a cocktail there, a bit of coke?

A Daily Budget for Brazil

So now we’ve covered the nitty-gritty, here’s a quick summary of what you can expect with the cost per day while backpacking Brazil.

Money in Brazil

The real is the national currency of Brazil, and this little guy likes to fluctuate…

Find out how much your money is worth today by using the up-to-date converter below.

ATMs are widely available throughout the country and chip and pin is pretty big here. So if you have an international card here you should be good. Most ATMs charge a transaction fee for foreign cards.

Just a heads up: there are reports of people having their credit card information stolen at ATMs. This is uncommon but can be avoided by exclusively using machines at official banks.

Brazilians reais and the Efígie da República

There are some remote parts of Brazil that have fewer cash withdrawal services or don’t accept cards. These locations are very remote though. Carry some cash, but not an excessive amount, unless you feel like losing it.

Robberies aren’t uncommon in Brazil. They are more common if you’re a doofus though.

If you’ve enough money to travel to Brazil, you’re going to see a lot of people poorer than you. Some of those people need money desperately.

Just be smart and hide your valuables well to avoid trouble. I’ve known people to actually carry a “dummy” wallet on them just in case a robbery should occur.

Travel Banking for Brazil

For all matters of finance and accounting on the road, The Broke Backpacker strongly recommends  Wise  – The artist is formerly known as transferwise! Our favourite online platform for holding funds, transferring money, and even paying for goods,

Wise is a 100% FREE platform with considerably lower fees than Paypal or traditional banks. Really, it even beats out Western Union .

Travel Tips – Brazil on a Budget

Hey, I was backpacking Brazil on a very similar budget to some of the cheapest places in the world. To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst backpacking Brazil I recommend sticking to the basic rules of budget adventuring….

  • Hitchhike; In Brazil, it is relatively easy to thumb a ride. Hitchhiking is an ace way to keep your transport costs down.
  • Camp; With plenty of gorgeous natural places to camp, Brazil is a dream. If you have a good quality tent , it’s usually much cheaper to pitch than staying in guesthouses. Sometimes you can even pitch for free.
  • Couchsurfing; Hey, Brazilians are great hosts. When you find a host, you’re definitely made to feel at home while saving some dolla’.
  • Eat local food; Street food is usually cheap. Look for the “prato feito” (prepared plate) or Marmitex too. They’re cheap and big enough to feed you all day. If you’re on a real tight budget – it’s worth taking a good portable stove .
  • Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!

Why You Should Travel to Brazil with a Water Bottle

Brazil is a place where nature is thriving more than most places on the whole planet. It makes it that much more heartbreaking when you see it littered with plastic. So please try to make a positive impact on the problem.

You can’t save the world overnight but you can make a difference! So I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead, keep nature happy, and never waste a cent again.

backpacker drinking using grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

Due to its huge size and drastic diversity, the climate in Brazil changes dramatically. But we can break Brazil down into 3 general areas: South/Central , Northeas t, and North .

A young person looking at the sky on a sunny day from a viewpoint and in the background the city of Rio de Janeiro, mountains and the beach.

Generally speaking, between November and March , the southern half of Brazil is rainy season . This coincides with the southern hemisphere’s summer. You can pretty much count on getting wet during this time.

Though nearly every state in this region has a hot humid summer, not everyone experiences the same winter. The southern states can be markedly cold in the winter.

This is a relative chill though. People from Northern Europe or America will still feel very warm.

The Northeastern section of Brazil receives tropical rains between April and August . This means that it pisses it down, but you can probably guarantee sun in a few hours. The temperature is very steady throughout the year in the Northeast.

If you leave the northeastern coast and travel inland, you’ll end up in the sertão , or “Brazilian Outback.” This is a desert and receives very little of the Northeast’s tropical rain. Draught is a frequent occurrence in the sertão.

The North consists mostly of the Amazon Rainforest. It pretty much rains all year in the Amazon. Some parts of the Amazon do see a more observable “dry season” between the months of July and December, but it still rains a lot. It’s hotter during dryer months too.

Depending on your preference, the north of Brazil can be visited year-round. But both seasons offer pros and cons.

The Amazonian dry season has better access to trails and fewer mosquitoes. The wet season has easier river navigation and cooler temperatures.

What to Pack for Brazil

Your South America packing list is likely to look very different than when you’re travelling to other continents. For starters, a mosquito net is invaluable. Actually, just bring everything to prepare for those little bastards.

As well as this, there are 6 things I wouldn’t travel to Brazil without:

Earplugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

nomatic_laundry_bag

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

sea to summit towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Monopoly Card Game

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier Bottle

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

You’ve probably heard some horror stories about how dangerous Brazil is. But let me get it straight: Brazil is safe to travel to.

That’s not to say it’s without its problems. For sure, I never saw someone being chased by some loco wielding a knife until I went to São Paulo. Yet, I left São Paulo completely unscathed.

If you’re following standard safety practices , like you should everywhere in the world , crime is very unlikely to affect you. If you do find yourself in an unfortunate situation though, don’t resist; it’s really not worth the risk.

For me, the most dangerous part of Brazil was some stairs. Yes… the stairs.

I slipped in the rain and broke my back. So if you’re a clumsy arse, like me, be aware that health and safety regulations don’t have your back here. (See what I did there?)

Colorful stairs made of mosaics in a neighborhood in Brazil seen from below.

Criminals target drunks because they are easy prey. Tourists have that invisible dollar sign floating above your head. So just be cautious, don’t wander into parts of town you know nothing about, and you needn’t be worried.

Be aware that drinking is not as ingrained in Brazilian culture as in the rest of the Western World. Most of those backpacking Brazil can go a little harder than usual. In this kinda state, again, you’re an easy target.

Keep an eye out for the Brazilian police as well. These guys are underpaid, stressed out, potentially corrupt, and a lot of times just don’t give a shit.

Now, I’m not saying that all policia are bad; there are always exceptions. I’m saying don’t risk breaking the law and dealing with the guy who’s had a bad day.

Lastly, many mosquito-borne illnesses like yellow fever and Zika are extremely uncommon nowadays. Though there’s no shortage of those little bastards so prepare yourself for mosquitos .

Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll

If you’ve been paying attention to this guide, then it’s pretty clear that Brazil loves to party. Carnaval is the world’s most renowned party . For Carnaval, all usual rules go out the window: dress code, dignity, and even monogamy – in some cases.

So how to party SAFELY while backpacking in Brazil? Instead of talking about the irresponsible amount of coke and sex that you can have, I’m going to share some words of caution.

best travel guide brazil

Of course, we are in South America now. So drugs on the road are almost unavoidable. Drug dealers are notorious for trying to scam naive tourists.

Generally, tourists are just easy to mug off. You arrive at a beautiful beach and all you want is a fat joint. Many of those mugs are ready to pay whatever extortionate price they are quoted.

They’re probably going to cut coke with a lot of shit – that’s just the truth. Unsuspecting tourists who don’t know any better can end up getting really fucked up.

Just be aware of who you are buying from. Don’t ever go searching for a score on your own! Tourists in the wrong part of town with large wads of cash, ready to score drugs make easy targets.

Try and enlist the help of a local. Hostel staff, though apprehensive, will usually have your best interest in mind.

Prostitution in Brazil

Look, I’m not going to beat around the bush when it comes to sex tourism in Brazil . (No pun intended.) Sex is one of Brazil’s biggest exports.

Prostitution is – and always has been – a legitimate profession. And there will always be a market for this service too. So it’s important that it’s addressed with respect and safety in mind.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has stymied in the last few years, but the disease isn’t completely eradicated. If you do lay with a hooker, please wrap your tool.

A common scam is prostitutes robbing you blind while you’re knocked out from that wild ride too. It doesn’t happen all the time, but be aware of it. Secure your belongings in a safe place, which you should be doing while backpacking around Brazil anyways.

And most importantly, just be considerate. They are humans, regardless of their profession, and they deserve respect, like everyone else.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting Brazil

Look, I know that having to pay for something you hopefully won’t use sounds very unexciting. But believe me, if (and when) things don’t go to plan, being prepared is a huge weight lifted. That’s why good travel insurance is essential BEFORE you start your adventure.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

There are many entries to Brazil by land and air. Almost every major Brazilian city has an international airport. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the largest airports in the country. Chances are you’ll probably fly into one of these.

You can fly directly to Brazil from pretty much every continent with the exception of Australia. You can generally find cheap flights to Brazil after April – once the holidays are over.

In case you’re not geographically aware: Brazil shares a border with every South American country besides Ecuador and Chile. With the exception of Suriname and French Guiana – where there are no roads – you can cross the land border from any of these.

best travel guide brazil

Note that travelling by road, especially by bus, can take a long time in South America. Journeying between capitals can take days.

Most of Brazil’s border crossings are safe. The ones in the south are especially secure. Border crossings do become limited and tedious when you’re in the Amazonas region, but the outposts shouldn’t hassle you any more than usual.

The Venezuelan border has become strict in the last few years following the nation’s economic collapse. Tourists travelling in Venezuela are not targeted too heavily: the increased security is mostly to control the influx of fleeing Venezuelans. But it is surely not the most friendly experience in the world.

Entry Requirements for Brazil

Depending on your nationality, visitors applying for a Brazilian tourist visa fall into one of three categories:

  • visa-free nations that require an ID card
  • visa-free nations that require a passport
  • nations that require a visa

Nearly every South American nation can enter Brazil visa-free with only an ID card. The exceptions are Suriname , French Guiana , and Guyana . These nations require a passport, but not a visa.

Aside from Venezuela, all South American nationals can stay in Brazil for up to 90 days. Venezuelans can only stay 60 days.

Good Vibes word written on a piece of wood on a beach in Brazil.

Many countries can enter Brazil visa-free with only a passport. Most Western nationalities, including the US, UK, and EU, are included in this category.

Some Asian and African nationalities are also included. Be sure to check your country’s status.

Some nationalities unfortunately need to pay for a visa to enter Brazil. These fees are based upon reciprocity i.e. whatever your nation charges for Brazilians to enter, Brazil charges you. Depending on your nationality, the fees can also be quite high.

Thankfully, Brazil has implemented an e-visa program in the last few years that has greatly streamlined the process. These e-Visas are convenient and sometimes cheaper.

E-Visas are not available to every country though. Be sure to check the Brazilian immigration website for specific details.

Buses are South America’s bread and butter. Understanding the system is easy and, once you’re familiar, it’s one of the most useful travel tips for the continent . You can get just about anywhere with them.

It’s just a case of preparing yourself: Brazil is massive and journeys can be long. Luckily, long-distance buses are very comfortable and the roads are smooth.

The sleeper buses in particular are very nice. I slept through many a multi-day journey on these sleepers like a baby. Long-distance buses will, of course, have a bathroom and stop for food every 4 hours or so.

Buying bus tickets in advance is recommended. It’s pretty disappointing to plan your journey to find out the bus you wanted to be on is sold out. Plus, companies will sometimes charge you less if you book in advance at the bus station.

two friends sitting outside a campervan in new zealand

Depending on your personal requirements, you can use domestic flights to get around Brazil. These days, air travel is becoming more affordable so planes are becoming more realistic for broke backpackers.

Brazil’s airports are generally well connected. There are “corridor” lines from big destinations such as São Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, etc. that offer cheaper flights to and from smaller destinations.

It is cheaper to purchase domestic tickets from inside Brazil too. This way, you avoid extra taxes.

Hitchhiking in Brazil

Travelling by hitchhiking in Brazil is comparable to many other large, industrialized countries, risks and rewards included. In touristy areas, you should find a ride easy enough. Locals are super friendly.

In less touristy areas, there’s every chance you may not find a ride at all and it can be pretty dodgy. I have personal reports to avoid the Northeast and the state of Espírito Santo.

Take the usual precautions, and use the same strategies. Note that Brazilian drivers do have a reputation for being reckless. You could also be mingling with dangerous types while waiting for a ride in the cities.

Onwards Travel From Brazil

Brazil shares a border with nearly every other South American country, apart from Chile  and Ecuador . Travel by bus is pretty straightforward.

They are very accustomed to moving people across borders in South America. It can be a bit cheaper but make sure you have all your documents prepared to avoid being stopped.

All borders can vary slightly, I’m not writing gospel here: it will pay to do your own research. But you may need to show the following documents:

  • Passport or ID card
  • Visa (if required)
  • Your entry/exit card (given to you when you arrive in Brazil)
  • Proof of onward travel
  • Proof of vaccinations (Covid, Yellow Fever etc. if required)

Flying across borders is a little less strict. But still, do I have to remind you – a traveller – to prepare your documents well, again?

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires is the place where people protest in front of the government house.

Visas are either issued at the border or are available as an e-Visa. Every passport has its own restrictions, so be sure to check with your government’s website.

Some South American countries want proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. If you’ve received one, make sure to have the document with you for proof.

Providing proof of onward travel is sometimes enforced, and sometimes not. If you find yourself without an onwards ticket, maybe you could talk your way out of it. Just be polite and you should be fine.

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Getting a traditional job in Brazil isn’t straightforward. Although unemployment isn’t as high as it is in other South American countries, work visas are pretty hard to come by – unless you’re from another South American country and part of the Mercosur .

But wait! Brazil is becoming an increasingly popular place for home working: beautiful nature, reasonable costs of living, and epic activities make one hell of a country for digital nomads .

Digital nomads might be drawn to typical Brazilian hotspots like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. They’re hectic to live in, expensive, fiercely competitive, and not overly safe. If that’s your jam, cool – you’re gonna love it.

But did you really come to Brazil to work in a massive metropolis when you’re surrounded by paradise? Co-working spaces are popping up everywhere. Internet is mostly trustworthy and life is certainly sweet.

Two boys sitting, one with a computer and both laughing in a hostel. Behind other people working and preparing food.

I am slightly biased toward Florianopolis : it is probably the most ideal place to live in Brazil – nomads and locals alike. The beaches are incredible, there are tons of things to do, and the quality of life is fantastic.

I really had to drag myself away from my tropical, beachside garden paradise. I can easily see myself back there one day.

But go and find your own haven. Belo Horizonte, Bahia, and backpacker hideout Jericoacoara all have growing communities too.

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A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and  ditch the plastic .

Volunteering in Brazil

Volunteering abroad is an amazing way to experience a culture whilst helping out a host. There are plenty of different volunteer projects in Brazil including teaching, construction, agriculture, and pretty much anything.

High levels of poverty mean Brazil is in desperate need of volunteers to offer a helping hand. English teaching, animal care, and social work are all areas where backpackers can make a big difference. Digital skills are also increasingly sought after including, web development, content writing, and photography.

Wetland Conservation Volunteer

You may need a temporary work visa to volunteer in Brazil. If so, apply before you go.

Programs run through reputable work exchange programs , like Worldpackers or Workaway , are generally very well-managed and highly reputable. Just remember to be responsible, especially if you’re working with animals or children.

Signing up for Worldpackers is a great way to connect to local hosts with volunteer opportunities. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll also get a special discount of $10. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $39.

Brazil is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world. Brazil’s breadth of colour comes from its colonial roots and forms its unique culture. Diversity is sung in Brazil and they are generally open about their race.

Fairer Europeans travelled across the ocean to the New World and settled in Brazil. They brought with them ebony slaves from Africa and subjugated the native Amerindian people. Eventually, all of these cultures commingled and gave birth to this dramatic, rhythmic, passionate nation.

Brazilian paint showing afro descendants playing music with African drums.

There is something about the warmth of Brazil that goes beyond the weather. Brazilians are a famously lovely and smiley people. Expect them to be very up-front and touchy.

Also, expect very candid conversations. Brazilians love to share their deepest secrets with others and have no shame in telling you how they feel.

Having European influences, the Brazilian culture is actually quite western. There are some who argue its place in Western society. In my opinion, though, it’s Western enough to warrant some worthy comparisons.

In other areas, Afro-Brazilian culture is dominant and the strong African influence is unmissable. This beautifully brilliant blend leads to some of the best music, art, and language in the world. These cultures combined with the native culture and respect create something you won’t find anywhere else.

Brazil relies heavily upon an industrialized economy and workforce. In fact, more Brazilians live in an urban setting than North Americans – 87% vs 79%.

It’s safe to say that Brazilian society is relatively modern. Much of the Brazilian mindset is in line with most of the developed world.

Useful Travel Phrases for Brazil

People often make the mistake of thinking that Brazil speaks Spanish, much to the ire of the locals. Brazil was a part of the Portuguese Empire. Brazil speaks Portuguese .

Though if you are a Spanish speaker, particularly familiar with South American Spanish, this will stand you in very good stead. It’s Latin based and the written form does look a lot like Spanish. Once you understand some minor differences, you’ll find many similarities.

Brazilian Portuguese is a gorgeous language and very different sounding from European Portuguese. The pronunciations could be mistaken for different languages. Brazilian Portuguese can sound like they are almost singing.

Even if their dialect and slang throw you off, locals will really appreciate you speaking some Portuguese. Though in many places it will actually be crucial to backpacking Brazil because English is not commonly spoken. This means it’s a great place to learn another language .

Arming yourself with some key phrases gets you off to a good start. Here’s a list of some of the most useful.

  • Bom dia/boa tarde/boa noite  – Good morning/afternoon/night
  • Tudo bem?  – All good?
  • Meu nome é…  – My name is…
  • Onde fica a banheiro?  – Where is the toilet?
  • (O)brigado/(O)brigada**  – Thank you
  • Que saudades! – It’s been so long (since I’ve seen you)!
  • Até logo – see you later
  • Nenhum saco de plástico  – No plastic bag
  • Posso comprar um bilhete – Can I buy a ticket?
  • Que horas são? – What time is it?
  • Você fala inglês?  – Do you speak English?
  • Quanto custo?  – How much?
  • Valeu  – Cool/thanks/cya

** Obrigado changes depending on the gender of the speaker. Men say obrigado . Women say obrigada. Though their language towards gender is still developing and there isn’t actually a neutral option – so I say use whatever you feel like really.

What to Eat in Brazil

Brazil has a reputation for a lot of street food involving meat and a lot of frying. Let me just tell you now, it’s true and it’s delicious. You will not struggle to find this kind of food.

But I would be doing Brazil a dishonour if I stopped there: Brazilian cuisine is fantastic! With all this crazy climate, things just grow in Brazil. One of the best things to do in Brazil is eating your body weight in exotic edibles.

Fruit drops off trees faster than you can eat it. I had 2 months of mangos and avocados coming out of my ears.

Traditionally, Brazilian food is a mix of European, Amerindian, and African styles. That being said, Brazilian cuisine is extremely variable. The food on your plate could be completely different depending on what region you’re in.

best travel guide brazil

Broadly speaking, each region will use more or less a specific culinary style. The Northeast will be lots of African food. The Amazon will have more Amerindian food. The Southeast will have more European food.

Must-Try Dishes in Brazil

There are plenty of dishes that are essential to try when you’re visiting Brazil. Here is a list of some top ones.

  • feijão  – bean stew with meat and vegetables
  • acai  – dark berry often served sorbet style
  • pão de queijo – cheesey bread bites
  • Romeu e Julieta – guava paste – in cheese, obviously
  • coxinhas  – magic fried stuffed mashed potato
  • vatapa  – creamy dish w/ shrimp, nuts, coconut
  • acarajé – hard to describe but damn delicious
  • pastéis  – fried pastries
  • beijinho de coco  – coconut truffles
  • churrasco – barbecued meats
  • cachaça  – distilled spirit made from sugarcane
  • caipirinha  – mixed drink using cachaça, fruit, and sugar

A Brief History of Brazil

The history of Brazil dates long before the arrival of the Portuguese. For thousands of years, indigenous people – specifically, the tupi and guarani – inhabited this land.

Unlike the Peruvian Maya, they were a nomadic people who moved frequently in pursuit of food and treasures, like the brazilwood, cherished for the red dye it yields. Most of these people died from diseases brought by visiting Europeans. Many indigenous people never even met a European, though they still perished from their diseases.

Following the arrival of Europeans in the 17th Century, Brazil became a colony of ‘the new world’. The region was mostly controlled by the Portuguese Empire, though the Dutch held a few settlements in the north around Recife.

View of the old colonial buildings area in Paraty bay in Brazil.

For centuries to come, the Portuguese would fight with the Dutch, Amerindians, and revolting slaves. The discovery of sugar, gold, rubber, and other precious resources made Brazil a valuable place.

In 1822, Brazil became independent from Portugal. This iteration was labelled the Brazilian Empire and included modern-day Brazil and Uruguay.

Slavery was widely practiced , even more so than in the United States. Over the next 150 years, Brazil would morph several times, from kingdom to republic to military dictatorship to what it is today.

Modern-day Brazil is a democratic country. Years of imperialism followed by despotism have left Brazil a nation with much to consider.

Though the nation is immensely rich, inequality is grossly apparent. Many have tried to reform Brazil for the betterment of the people, only to be setback by corruption and greed.

Like many new world countries, Brazil is a question waiting to be answered. Can wealth and social equality coexist? Only time will tell.

Your backpacking Brazil trip is not going to look like anyone else’s. You have the opportunity to make your experience in Brazil totally unique. However you think your trip to Brazil will go, you can very well find yourself falling in love with something (or someone?) and end up with a great story to tell.

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Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.

Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!

Trekking in Brazil

Trekking probably isn’t the first thing that pops into one’s mind when they plan on backpacking through Brazil. It’s a shame because Brazil has some of the best trails in the world .

People walking on a hill heading to the coast line and the beach on a sunny day.

The best hiking opportunities are usually to be found in the parques nacionais (national parks). Brazil has over 70 national parks, so you have plenty of options.

If you organize treks through tour companies, they will provide you with equipment. Maybe you’ll just need a solid pair of hiking boots . Bringing your own gear is always the best way to save cash though.

Consider buying a tent and a sleeping mat, or ditch both and get a hammock. A wilderness stove is also a good idea for making a kitchen wherever you go.

The Best Hikes in Brazil

People showering in a big waterfall in the jungle in Brazil.

  • Serra dos Órgãos, Rio de Janeiro – Large geological area located just north of Rio. Famous for picturesque, organ pipe spires. Passionate climbers may attempt these challenging mountains, including the iconic Dedo de Deus (Finger of God).
  • Itatiaia, Rio de Janeiro – Oldest national park in Brazil. Good mix of rainforest (Mata Atlântica) and mountainous terrain. Hike up to the Prateleiras massif, or Pico das Agulhas Negras. Stumble across insane waterfalls.
  • Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral – Twin parks created to protect the sensitive ecology of Brazil’s southern canyonlands. Located between Santa Catarina and Rio Grande da Sul. Most impressive is Itaimbezinho . Hike either above the rim, or into the reaches via multi-day wilderness backpacking trips.
  • Chapada dos Veadeiros, Goiás – Huge waterfalls, and some of the oldest geology in the world. Latter is thought to have special properties. See the surreal Vale da Lua (Valley of the Moon) and picturesque Santa Barbara Falls. Hike via the park’s two longest trails: Canyons and Saltos.
  • Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso – Dramatic highlands complete with waterfalls. Take a short trek to Guimarães’s most recognizable falls – Veú de Noiva. Or see several via the Circuito das Cachoeiras. Hike on the São Jerónimo trail for the panoramic view.
  • Chapada Diamantina – One of Brazil’s premier outdoor areas. Consists of escarpments, waterfalls, and underground pools. Must see is one of Brazil’s highest waterfalls, Cachoeira da Fumaça, and the perfectly blue water of Poço Encantado cave. Spend a few hours hiking up to Morro do Pai Inácio for a great view, or several days trekking into the Vale do Patí.

Diving in Brazil

Fernando de Noronha is the best place to go diving in Brazil. Noronha is an archipelago located about 200 miles northeast of Recife in the middle of the Atlantic. Most arrive by plane, but there are ferries running during the high season.

There are lots of coral and sea caves to explore here. The coral isn’t too bright, but the colourful tropical fish more than make up for this. Discover dolphins, turtles, and the occasional whale shark.

best travel guide brazil

Diving aside, Fernando de Noronha is one of the most beautiful places in Brazil. Many locals call it “the Hawaii of Brazil”.

Because of its natural significance, Fernando de Noronha is a designated national park. For that reason, the islands are very regulated in order to preserve the ecosystem. There are very few roads and very few human settlements.

Visiting some islands in the archipelago require permits. No matter where you go, expect high prices; potentially the highest prices that you’ll find while backpacking Brazil.

Joining an Organized Tour in Brazil

For most countries, Brazil included, solo travel is the name of the game. That said, if you are short on time and energy while backpacking Brazil, or you just want to be part of an awesome group of travellers, you can opt to join an organized tour .

G Adventures  is a solid down-to-earth tour company catering to backpackers just like you, and their prices and itineraries reflect the interests of the backpacker crowd. You can score some pretty sweet deals on epic trips in Brazil for a fraction of the price of what other tour operators charge.

Now, armed with your new backpacking Brazil travel guide, you are ready to take on the epic journey. This is one truly mighty country. Brazil will open your eyes and brand your soul.

While this is invigorating, keep your head screwed on. Brazil is one of those countries that doesn’t stop for anyone. No matter what’s going on over there, the hamster wheel is still running. 

You’ll need to bring your best sense of adventure. Using that Portuguese will help you out too.

Brazil tests you, changes you, and you leave feeling like you’ve achieved something massive. Those stories of travelling here are good to tell for the rest of your life. Get ready to be humbled by a nation with a very large heart.

Party hard and party smart. It’s going to be something you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

There’s no doubt: Brazil is a special place. But you’re going to find that out for yourself. Come back and tell me your stories when you do.

Man playing trumpet in the middle of a dancing crowd at a carnival festival

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Sebastian Garcia Vivas

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Thank you so much for this easy and detailed guide. A complete resume!

Hey, Great post really informative! If I am planning a 6 month trip what would you say the best time of year to come is? I was thinking of arriving in November? Thanks Lia

November would be a great time to start your trip, its coming into the warmer months of the year then.

Have a great time.

I was enjoying reading the article, buuuut. When you say “Good lord, the people of Porto Alegre make the visit worth it. They are absolutely gorgeous.” it got me.

You just minimize the bautiful people of Brazil. People from Porto Alegre are white european blond, so yeah. It’s just a bad point, make me feel bad.

Hey there Sad Brazilian (if that is what you’d like to be called),

Wasn’t my intention at all to minimize the beauty of the Brazilian people! Sorry if you got that impression. If you had read a bit further down the article you might have noticed that I mention several times that Brazilians people as a whole are probably the most beautiful people in the world.

In regards to Porto Alegre, I just found that people were there were exceptionally beautiful. Also, whilst Porto Alegre does have more European immigrants, I think it is inappropriate to say that there are just blond people there- I met lots of gente morena while I was there and they were equally as beautiful.

Incredibly beautiful pictures! It’s really an absolute delight to watch clicks. I appreciated clearly written and thought-provoking article.

Seriously your post is perfect and complete! I thank you a lot for the effort made and all the details 🙂

Your post couldn’t be more complete! I loved the different itineraries that you made, including routes and places that are off the beaten track. I also agree with your tip to get around Brazil… buses are so easier to get and cheaper too, specially if you leave for the last moment to buy the ticket. Another thing is that with buses you can get to places that the planes don’t… I’d like to include another tip for website to buy bus tickets online: https://brazilbustravel.com/ I usually use this one and I find it very simple and useful 🙂

Brazil is so amazing destination to enjoy natural things and you shared a great guide to that beautiful destination. The packing list is good to enjoy the things of brazil.

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Olga Sitnitsa

written by Olga Sitnitsa

updated 29.11.2023

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The mighty rivers of the Amazon, the pulsing Carnaval rhythms, bone-white beaches and footballing flair: almost everyone on the planet knows something about Brazil . Yet South America ’s biggest country still holds plenty of surprises. Discover the rich culture and stunning beauty of this destination with our Rough Guide list of the best things to do in Brazil and get inspiration for planning your trip.

1. Enjoy the views from the Corcovado in Rio

2. witness the spectacle of capoeira.

  • 3. Take a stroll through Brazil's bustling markets

4. Explore the wild beauty of the Pantanal

5. take a tour of the municipal theatre in rio, 6. trekking in the chapada diamantina - one of the best things to do in brazil for the views, 7. have a feast in churrascarias, 8. gaze at the breathtaking natural spectacle of pedra azul, 9. become a witness of candomblé celebrations, 10. go on a hike in parque nacional chapada dos veadeiros, 11. take a trip to paraty, 12. relax at florianópolis beaches, 13. visit the enchanting colonial ouro preto, 14. explore the northeast and its beaches, 15. go birdwatching in parque nacional da tijuca, 16. visit museu de arte contemporânea in niterói, 17. appreciate the impressive brazilian architecture, 18. take a boat trip down the amazon, 19. appreciate the legacy of colonial rio, 20. encounter marine life in the aquário natural, 21. have the perfect beach holiday at rio’s beaches, 22. be amazed by the magnificent views of iguazu falls, 23. immerse yourself in the atmosphere of brazilian carnaval, 24. spend some time in são paulo, 25. go diving to fernando de noronha, 26. explore the ilha grande, planning your trip to brazil, travel ideas for brazil, created by local experts.

Brazilian Beaches: Copacabana, Botafogo and more

Brazilian Beaches: Copacabana, Botafogo and more

Begin at Foz do Iguaçu, where you will stand in awe of the huge Iguaçu Falls. Next up, we'll head to the lively city of Rio de Janeiro, home of the legendary Copacabana, Botafogo and Flamengo beaches, and of course, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

Blissful Brazil

Blissful Brazil

Welcome to a lavish journey that marries adventure with style, featuring stays in carefully chosen four-star hotels. This reinvigorating trip will have you sightseeing in São Paulo, gazing at the spectacular Foz do Iguaçu falls and relaxing on Rio's finest beaches before you know it.

Breathtaking Brazil: Rio, Beaches and Waterfalls

Breathtaking Brazil: Rio, Beaches and Waterfalls

Explore the lively city of Rio de Janeiro, home to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches; experience the stunning Foz do Iguaçu National Park and see the world’s largest waterfalls system; immerse yourself in cultural Salvador, the magnificent former capital of Portugal’s New World colony.

Extraordinary Brazil - Paraty & Iguaçu

Extraordinary Brazil - Paraty & Iguaçu

Combine adventure and nature in Paraty with the stunning Iguaçu waterfalls. Your trip starts in the colonial town Paraty, Costa Verde's main attraction. Jeep rides, beaches, and a lot of culture are part of the program. Afterwards, fly to Foz do Iguaçu and see the falls from both Argentina & Brazil.

Jaguars in North Pantanal

Jaguars in North Pantanal

Spend a week in a lodge in North Pantanal with boat tours, walking trails, horseback riding and an unforgettable Jaguar expedition. Experienced wildlife guides are available in the lodge to explain more of the fascinating fauna and flora around you.

Pure Wildlife - North Pantanal & Amazonia

Pure Wildlife - North Pantanal & Amazonia

Discover the world's largest continental flood area - the Pantanal, one of the richest places in biodiversity. Continue your wildlife trip to the Amazon River. Your lodges throughout the trip are located right in nature, with easy access to lodge trails around.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Brazil , your essential guide for visiting Brazil .

Climbing Mount Corcovado, where the image of Christ the Redeemer, with its breathtaking views over the whole of Rio and Guanabara Bay, is one of the things to do in Brazil you shouldn't miss.

The most famous of all images of Rio is that of the vast statue of Christ the Redeemer gazing across the bay from the Corcovado (hunchback) hill, and to visit Rio without making the tourist pilgrimage up the Corcovado is nigh on unthinkable, but do plan ahead, as you need to buy your ticket in advance.

  • Best for rooftop views and pool: Casa Nova Hotel
  • Best for beach location: Windsor Tower Hotel

Find more accommodation options to stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rough Guide tip: If you are planning your trip to Brazil and don't want to miss out on anything contact our local experts who will help put together a unique Brazilian itinerary to meet your expectations.

View of Rio de Janeiro and Sugarloaf Mountain from Corcovado view point, Brazil © galaro/Shutterstock

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © galaro/Shutterstock

Step into a capoeira school, where you can watch the dance-like sparring of this distinctive martial art for free. Capoeira began in Angola as a ritual fight to gain the nuptial rights of women when they reached puberty; since then it has evolved into a graceful semi-balletic art form somewhere between fighting and dancing.

Displays of capoeira – often accompanied by the characteristic rhythmic twang of the berimbau – usually take the form of a pair of dancers/fighters leaping and whirling in stylized “combat”.

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Capoeira dancers © Vladimir Gappov/Shutterstock

3. Take a stroll through Brazil's bustling markets

Walk through any market in Brazil to get a sense of the country’s natural abundance. São Paulo ’s Mercado Municipal, crammed with produce from all over Brazil, is particularly impressive.

Apart from the phenomenal display of Brazilian and imported fruit, vegetables, cheese and other produce, the market is most noted for its enormous stained-glass windows depicting scenes of cattle raising, market gardening, and coffee and banana plantations.

The food stalls are particularly known for their especially tasty pastéis de bacalhau (saltfish pasties), and if you head up to the mezzanine, there’s a whole range of patio restaurants serving authentic food in a colourful setting.

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Municipal market in Sao Paulo, Brazil © Thiago Leite/Shutterstock

Increasingly known worldwide as the best place for wildlife spotting in South America, the Pantanal is fed by rivers and inhabited by rainforest bird and animal species from the Andes to the west and the Brazilian central plateau to the north.

The region is a stunning blend of swamp water with gallery forest, savannah and lakeside scrub forest, and it is dissected by around 175 rivers into roughly seventeen segments, each with its distinctive landscape and micro-ecosystem. If you are a fan of wildlife, visiting this place should be high on your list of things to do in Brazil. 

Discover the thrill of meeting jaguars in the North Pantanal! Join this trip for an extraordinary week filled with boat tours, trail rides, horseback riding and an unforgettable jaguar expedition. Our experienced guides will uncover the secrets of the amazing flora and fauna, guaranteeing an unforgettable wildlife experience.

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Water lilies, Pantanal, Brazil © Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock

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If you can’t catch a show inside Rio ’s sumptuous belle époque theatre, be sure to stop for lunch or a drink in its lavish, Assyrian-inspired café. The Theatro Municipal opened in 1909 and a dramatic example of Neoclassical architecture was modelled on the Paris Opéra – all granite, marble and bronze, with a foyer decorated in the white and gold characteristic of Louis XV style.

Since opening, the theatre has been Brazil’s most prestigious artistic venue, hosting visiting Brazilian and foreign orchestras, opera and theatre companies, and singers. Tours can be booked at the box office at the back of the building.

Things not to miss: Theatro Municipal, Municipal Theatre, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Municipal theatre, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Explore the dramatic terrain of this enormous national park, which includes mesas, forest, river beaches, waterfalls and a kilometre-long grotto. Chapada Diamantina's dramatic, untrammelled landscapes incorporate swampy valleys, barren peaks and scrubby forest, punctuated by dazzling waterfalls, rivers, streams and over fifty species of orchid.

The park is one of Brazil’s major trekking destinations but also offers plenty of opportunities for canoeing and climbing.

A visit to Diamantia promises not only active holiday opportunities but also insight into the local community and cultural enrichment. With our 5-day Brazilian Folk Art tour , you'll immerse yourself in the intense journey of learning, exchanging and discovering alongside a cultural mediator and the ceramics masters the empowerment of the communities.

Chapada Diamantina cave, Brazil © Alekk Pires/Shutterstock

Chapada Diamantina cave, Brazil © Alekk Pires/Shutterstock

Churrascarias are traditional Brazilian steakhouses where meat is cooked on skewers over an open flame, also known as the "rodizio" style. They typically offer a wide variety of meats, including beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, as well as a salad bar and various sides.

The servers, known as "gauchos," come to the table with the skewers of meat and carve portions directly onto the diners' plates. Churrascarias are popular in Brazil, particularly in the southern regions where the gaucho culture originated.

The Rough Guides to Brazil and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

The Rough Guide to South America on a Budget

Fresh vegetables, crispy roasted Churrasco © TMON/Shutterstock

This massive stone mountain is renowned for the shade of blue it seems to turn at dawn and sunset. Some 45km west of Domingos Martins the Belo Horizonte Highway passes the most remarkable sight in Espírito Santo, a towering, bare granite mountain shaped like a thumb and almost 1000m high – the Pedra Azul, or “blue stone”.

During the day sunlight does strange things to it – it does look blue in shadow – but the time to see it is at either dawn or sunset when it turns all kinds of colours in a spectacular natural show.

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Watching the stunning views of Pedra Azul is one of the breathtaking things to do in Brazil © Eduardo Menezes/Shutterstock

Candomblé, a popular Afro-Brazilian blend of Christian and African religious beliefs pervades all of El Salvador . Its followers often dress in white clothing and worship together in ecstatic dance rituals and make offerings to the Orixás spirits - personal protectors and intermediaries between humans and their creator god Olorum.

A candomblé cult house, or terreiro, is headed by a mãe do santo (literally “holy mother”) or pai do Santo (“holy father’”), who directs the operations of dozens of novices and initiates. The usual objective is to persuade the spirits to descend into the bodies of worshippers, which is achieved by sacrifices, offerings of food and drink, and above all by drumming, dancing and the invocations of the mãe or pai do Santo.

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Candomble, Brazil © Alf Ribeiro/Shutterstock

The Parque Nacional Chapada dos Veadeiros in the north of Goiás is the heart of the planalto, its stunning natural scenery is among the most beautiful and distinctive in Brazil. Hiking the hundreds of square kilometres of wild and sparse vegetation, extraordinary geological formations, cave systems, waterfalls and hiking trails make this one of the best things to do in Brazil for ecotourism.

A few hours north of Brasília and easily accessible by bus, the park has good local support for tourism, and apart from the occasional holidaying diplomat up from the capital, it is still remarkably unknown as a destination to foreign tourists.

The Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is in the state of Goias, in central Brazil © Luiz Antonio Nasser Jr/Shutterstock

The Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is in the state of Goias, in central Brazil © Luiz Antonio Nasser Jr/Shutterstock

About 300km from Rio is Costa Verde’s main attraction, the town of Paraty . The town centre’s narrow cobbled streets (closed to cars) are bordered by houses with inner courtyards full of brightly coloured flowers and hummingbirds. The cobbles of the streets are arranged in channels to drain off stormwater, allowing the sea to enter and wash the streets at high spring tides.

Although businesses in the historic centre are overwhelmingly geared toward tourists, the wider community has not been engulfed by wealthy outsiders. It’s a great place to wander around, each corner bringing another picturesque view, small enough that there’s no danger of getting lost, and safe at any hour of the day or night.

  • Best for chill vibes: Pousada Aconchego
  • Best for couples: Pousada Fortaleza

Find more accommodation options to stay in Paraty

Embark on the adventure of a lifetime with our Extraordinary Brazil - Paraty and Iguaçu trip . Explore the charming streets of Paraty and marvel at the breathtaking wonders of Iguaçu Falls. This journey promises an unrivalled blend of culture and nature, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Paraty, Brazil © LucVi/Shutterstock

Paraty, Brazil © LucVi/Shutterstock

Head to the island capital of Santa Catarina state, where kilometres of beaches include treacherous surfing spots and calm waters for safe swimming. Beyond the city of Florianópolis , Ilha Santa Catarina is noted throughout Brazil for its beaches, Mediterranean-like scenery and traditional fishing villages. The fishing boats, lacemakers, folklore, cuisine and colonial architecture add to the allure.

The island has a subtropical climate, rarely cold in winter and with a summer heat that is tempered by refreshing South Atlantic breezes. Nevertheless, don’t expect an untouched paradise. The island is peppered with resorts and holiday condos, and is surprisingly built up, with its mostly narrow roads often clogging up with local traffic regardless of tourists – this is one of the richest parts of Brazil and it looks it.

Explore the diversity of Brazil's beaches with our guide to the best beaches in Brazil .

  • Best for sea view: Novotel Florianopolis
  • Best for location: Parada Beach Apartamentos

Find more accommodation options to stay in Florianópolis

Matadeiro Florianopolis beach Armacao, Brazil © Gustavo Testo/Shutterstock

Matadeiro Florianopolis beach Armacao, Brazil © Gustavo Testo/Shutterstock

The most enchanting of all the colonial towns in Minas Gerais, Ouro Preto lies 100km southeast of Belo Horizonte at the central hub of the Estrada Real, its narrow, cobbled streets straddling impossibly steep hills topped with Baroque churches and lined with an assortment of candy-coloured eighteenth-century homes and mansions.

Unsurprisingly, the town is also the most visited in the region, but it’s far from becoming a giant museum. Touristy shops and restaurants dominate the centre, but this remains a working town with a population of over 70,000. Get up early on a weekday and you’ll see locals drinking coffee on the way to work, smell smoke from wood fires and hear church bells ringing for the faithful.

  • Best for contemporary design: Grande Hotel de Ouro Preto
  • Best for charming style: Pousada Solar da Ópera

Find more accommodation options to stay in Ouro Preto

Top view of the center of the historic Ouro Preto city in Minas Gerais, Brazil © Fred S. Pinheiro/Shutterstock

Top view of the centre of the historic Ouro Preto city in Minas Gerais, Brazil © Fred S. Pinheiro/Shutterstock

Long regarded as one of Brazil’s poorest areas, the Northeast is now a region with a modern economy and a continuously growing tourism business. There are major cities along the coast: some, such as Recife , Olinda , São Luís and Fortaleza, have a deep colonial heritage; others, such as Maceió and Natal, have developed mostly in recent decades.

All of these cities have their city beaches plus more idyllic and deserted resorts hidden up and down the coast. The Ilha de Fernando de Noronha , hundreds of kilometres offshore, is one of the finest oceanic wildlife reserves in the world – expensive, but perfect for ecotourism.

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Jangada fishing boat at beach Natal, Brazil © marchello74/Shutterstock

This impressive expanse of Mata Atlântica is crisscrossed by shaded trails and features refreshing waterfalls and spectacular views across Rio. Looking up from the streets of Zona Sul, you’ll see that the mountains running southwest from the Corcovado are covered with exuberant forest. This is the Parque Nacional da Tijuca, an area of some 120 square kilometres.

Today the park serves as a remarkable example of the potential for the regeneration of the Mata Atlântica. Fauna has also gradually been reintroduced, making the forest once again home to insects, reptiles, ocelots, howler monkeys, agoutis, three-toed sloths and other animals. Most successful of all has been the return of birdlife, making Tijuca a paradise for birdwatchers.

Rio de Janeiro Sugar Loaf, Botafogo beach and Corcovado mountain, Tijuca, Brazil © Dmitri Kalvan/Shutterstock

Rio Tijuca, Brazil © Dmitry V. Petrenko/Shutterstock

Oscar Niemeyer’s Museu de Arte Contemporânea, more commonly just MAC, opened in 1996 on a promontory south of central Niterói by the Praia da Boa Viagem. The flying-saucer-shaped building offers a 360-degree perspective of Niterói and across the bay to Rio. It also hosts a worthy, though not very exciting, exhibition of late twentieth-century Brazilian art, as well as temporary exhibitions, which are rarely of much interest.

Instead, the real work of art is the building itself, whose curved lines are simply beautiful. The views of the headland, nearby beaches and Guanabara Bay as you walk around inside are breathtaking.

  • Best for modern stays: H Niteroi Hotel
  • Best for couples: Icaraí Praia Hotel

Find more accommodation options to stay in Niterói

Things not to miss: Oscar Niemeyer, Niteroi, Brazil ©  Juliano Galvao Gomes/Shutterstock

Niteroi, Brazil © Juliano Galvao Gomes/Shutterstock

If you are looking for things to do in Brazil for your cultural experience then take a tour of the many contemporary architectural monuments. Whether it looks like a futuristic dream or a modern-day nightmare, Brazil’s contemporary architecture is often otherworldly. There are many notable examples of contemporary architecture in Brazil. Some examples include:

  • SESC Pompéia: designed by Lina Bo Bardi features a mix of traditional and modern elements, and its design is inspired by the surrounding landscape;
  • Casa do Penedo: designed by architect Ruy Ohtake is made of four large stone blocks and features a minimalist design with a focus on natural light and views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Edifício Copan: Designed by Oscar Niemeyer is known for its modernist design and its curving, sculptural form.
  • MASP: Designed by Lina Bo Bardi, the Museum of Art of São Paulo is known for its use of steel and glass, and its innovative design.

national-congress-oscar-niemeyer-brazil-shutterstock_671433037

National Congress by Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil © Thiago Fernandes BHZ/Shutterstock

Take a slow boat along the Amazon for close-up views of the mighty river and its wildlife. In Amazônia, rivers have been the main highways for centuries, and the Amazon itself is navigable to ocean-going ships as far west as Iquitos in Peru , nearly 3000km upstream from Belém . In all the large riverside cities of the Amazon – notably Belém, Manaus and Santarém – there are hidroviárias, ferry terminals for waterborne bus services.

Amazon river travel is slow and can be tough going, but it’s a fascinating experience. On bigger boats, there are several classes; in general, it’s better to avoid cabinet, where you swelter in a cabin, and choose primeiro (first class) instead, of sleeping in a hammock on deck. Segundo (second class) is usually hammock space in the lower deck or engine room.

Embark on an extraordinary journey on the exclusive Pure Wilderness - Northern Pantanal and Amazonia itinerary , designed to capture the quintessential Amazonian experience. Experience the unrivalled beauty of these natural wonders for a truly unforgettable adventure.

Crocodile on the river surface, animal in the water with evening light in nature habitat

Yacare caiman crocodile, Brazil © Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

Colonial Rio refers to the period in Rio de Janeiro's history during the 18th and 19th centuries when the city was a colony of Portugal. During this time, the city's architecture was heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial style, which is characterized by the use of simple geometric forms, white-washed walls, and tile roofs. Some examples of colonial architecture in Rio de Janeiro include:

  • The Church of Nossa Senhora da Candelária: this church is one of the most prominent examples of colonial architecture in the city. The church features a simple, white-washed exterior with a tile roof and a distinctive bell tower.
  • The Convent of Santa Teresa: this former convent is now a cultural centre and museum. The building features a mix of colonial and baroque architectural elements, including a tile roof, white-washed walls, and a central courtyard.

Church of Santa Rita de Cassia in central Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Church of Santa Rita de Cassia in central Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock

Snorkel among some thirty-odd species of fish in the crystalline waters of this marine sanctuary, or spy on them from above in a glass-bottomed boat. The Aquário Natural complex is justifiably Bonito’s next most popular attraction. Located at the source of the Baia Bonita, the Aquário is an incredibly clear spring that is full of fish.

Visitors are encouraged to put on a floating jacket, mask and snorkel, and get into the water with the 35 or so species of fish – mainly dorado and 35cm piripitanga fishes – a ticklish experience with no danger from piranhas, which never swim this far upriver.

Aquario Natural, Brazil ©  Vanessa Rung/Shutterstock

Snorkelling around the coral reefs in the Aquário Natural is among the most fascinating things to do in Brazil © Vanessa Rung/Shutterstock

Looking for relaxing things to do in Brazil? Then head to the amazing Rio beaches . The most renowned of Rio’s beaches, Copacabana Beach was originally an isolated area, cut off from the city by mountains until 1892 when the Túnel Velho link with Botafogo was inaugurated. Copacabana is amazing, the over-the-top atmosphere apparent even in the mosaic pavements, designed by Burle Marx to represent images of rolling waves.

West of the Forte de Copacabana, the lively waters of the Praia do Arpoador are popular with families and the elderly as the ocean here is slightly calmer than at Ipanema beach, which is further along, with Leblon beach beyond that. The beaches here are stupendous, and much more tranquil than in Copacabana.

With our tailor-made trip to Breathtaking Brazil , you'll have the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro, home to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches; visit the stunning Foz do Iguaçu National Park and see the world's largest waterfall system.

Things not to miss: Palms and Two Brothers Mountain on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

The power and beauty of the falls are quite simply astonishing, only rivalled by the tranquillity of the Mata Atlântica behind. The Iguazu Falls are, unquestionably, one of the world’s great natural wonders.

But it’s not the falls alone that make Iguaçu so special: the vast surrounding subtropical nature reserve – in Brazil the Parque Nacional do Iguazu, in Argentina, the Parque Nacional de Iguazú – is a timeless haunt that even the hordes of tourists fail to destroy.

This tailor-made trip to Paraty & Iguazu starts in the colonial town of Paraty, Costa Verde's main attraction. Jeep rides, beaches, and a lot of cultures are part of the program. Afterwards, fly to Foz do Iguaçu and see the falls from both Argentina & Brazil.

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Iguazu Falls, Brazil © Attila JANDI/Shutterstock

For a memorable experience, take in the most important of Brazil’s festivals, celebrated in notably grand style in Rio, Salvador and Olinda. Carnaval is celebrated in every Brazilian city, but Rio’s party is the biggest and flashiest of them all. From the Friday before Lent to the following Tuesday, the city shuts up shop and throws itself into the world’s most famous manifestation of unbridled hedonism.

Carnaval’s greatest quality is that it has never become stale, thanks to its status as the most important celebration on the Brazilian calendar, easily outstripping Christmas and Easter. In a city riven by poverty, Carnaval represents a moment of freedom and release. And at the end of the very intense long weekend, there’s a brief collective hangover before attention turns to preparing for the following year’s event.

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Carnival in Rio, Brazil © Gustavo Ardila/Shutterstock

São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state and home to its biggest city, is Brazil’s economic powerhouse. As well as being responsible for nearly half the country’s industrial output, it also has an agricultural sector that produces, among other things, more orange juice than any single nation worldwide. Ibirapuera Park, southeast of Jardins, is the most famous of São Paulo’s parks and the main sports centre for the city.

Oscar Niemeyer designed most of the buildings and Roberto Burle Marx produced impressive designs for landscaping. Inside the park, attractions include the peaceful and unusual Bosque de Leitura (reading woods). Here on Saturdays and Sundays you can borrow Portuguese books from a small outdoor library and sit among the trees reading them – and several of the city’s museums.

  • Best for budget: Hotel Amália
  • Best for friendly atmosphere: Ô de Casa Hostel

Also, you might find some attractive accommodation options in our expert guide to where to stay in São Paulo .

Sao Paulo, Octávio Frias de Oliveira Bridge © Shutterstock

Sao Paulo, Octávio Frias de Oliveira Bridge © Shutterstock

The staggeringly beautiful and environmentally protected archipelago of Fernando de Noronha lies in the equatorial Atlantic some 545km from Pernambuco and 350km from Natal and should be on your list of things to do in Brazil for diving and snorkelling.

Boasting sixteen stunning beaches, it’s also hard to beat for snorkelling and scuba diving. Its clear water stretches down to a depth of 40m in places, with a white sandy sea bottom, plenty of coral, crustaceans, turtles, dolphins and a wide range of fish species and shoal types. There’s just one small catch – visiting Noronha is extremely expensive.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil © Kcris Ramos/Shutterstock

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil © Kcris Ramos/Shutterstock

Ilha Grande comprises 193 square kilometres of mountainous jungle, historic ruins and beautiful beaches, excellent for some scenic tropical rambling. The island is a state park and the authorities have been successful at limiting development and maintaining a ban on motor vehicles. The main drawback is the ferocity of the insects, especially during the summer, so come equipped with repellent.

Ilha Grande offers lots of beautiful walks along well-maintained and fairly well-signposted trails, but it’s sensible to take some basic precautions. Be sure to set out as early as possible and always inform people at your pousada where you are going – in writing if possible.

Embark on a fascinating journey with our Islands and Falls: Ihla Grande and Iguazu tailor-made tour . This adventure promises a harmonious blend of the tranquillity of the islands and the breathtaking spectacle of the cascading waterfalls.

Ilha Grande, Brazil © Shutterstock

Ilha Grande, Brazil © Shutterstock

Discover the beauty of Brazil with the guidance of our local Brazil travel experts . We handle every detail of the planning and booking for your adventure. 

Whenever you're ready to set off on your journey, contact us , and we'll create a tailor-made itinerary to suit your desires.

Explore our existing Brazil itineraries for inspiration, knowing that each one can be adjusted to meet your specific preferences .

For more travel inspiration see our Rough Guide to Brazil . 

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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I Used Insider Tips to Plan a Multi-city Brazil Trip — Here's How You Can, Too

Recommendations from family and friends made my first trip to Rio, Trancoso, and Salvador unforgettable.

Rio de Janeiro

JohnnyGreig/Getty Images

After years of intermittent planning, replaying scenes from the famous film “Black Orpheus,” and seeing streets teeming with swaying hips and sparkle during Carnival, I finally visited Brazil for the first time.

Equipped with a list of guidance from friends who frequent the South American country each year, those recommendations doubled with the help of people I met while there. One conversation can lead to some of the most lasting travel tips and memories — a gift that no Google search or online research can replace.

Here are some highlights of my visits to Rio, Trancoso, and Salvador de Bahia that made my week-long trip memorable. 

Ismail Salahuddin

From my home base of Los Angeles, my Copa Airlines flight landed me in Rio a little after midnight. An overnight stay at Hotel Fasano , part of Leading Hotels of the World , offered views of the lulling waves of Ipanema Beach across the street at dusk — a vast contrast from the photos of shorelines brimming with tanned bodies and swimmers I’ve seen over the years. The moment was a peaceful introduction to a place where the city and sea spill into each other. The Phillipe Starck-designed property is an ode to modernism, with a lobby drenched in oceanside sunlight and buttery leather and wood textures. From my balcony, the golden sands of Copacabana, sounds of samba, and neighboring favelas seemed so close and far all at once. With just three days in Rio, I would, of course, visit the more well-known tourist attractions, but thanks to those recommendations and a bit of luck, I would learn much of the city's history and people, too.

Tomas Rangel

What to Do in Rio de Janeiro 

The following day, I checked into Hotel Emiliano , which would serve as the base for the rest of my Rio introduction. The 90-room hotel's distinctive exterior of white, foldable shutters makes it stand out among the row of unmarked high-rise buildings and vendors just below on Copacabana Beach.

A rooftop pool with expansive views of Copacabana’s shimmering shoreline, an intimate spa, and two restaurants — including a foliage-filled Brazilian and Italian fusion restaurant, Emile . My tour guide , Edson “Eddie” Vander Campos Alves, was lively and informative. We visited Sugarloaf Mountain on a rainy day, and despite the less-than-ideal visibility from a location known for its awe-inspiring panoramic views of the city, Eddie’s undeniable passion for Rio made the weather a second thought.

After lunch at the plant-filled Escama , where families and friends dined over seabass and grilled lobster paired with zippy viogniers, we headed to Little Africa, located on the port of Rio. Shaped much in part by Black matriarchs who played a critical role in the creation of samba and the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, Little Africa is the site of where nearly a million enslaved Africans finished their forced transcontinental journey to reach Brazil’s shores. Their traditions have had a lasting impact that still breathes life into every corner of Brazil — from samba drums to the palm oil and okra (quiabo) used in some of the country’s most famous dishes. Little Africa includes the port of Cais do Valongo — where enslaved Africans first arrived in Salvador — and Pedra do Sal, considered the samba's birthplace in Rio.

Mariana Monteiro

“In this region, Black people reimagined life in the diaspora, recreated affective bonds, resisted, earned money, made art, loved, and celebrated. Little Africa is a very important place to connect with the roots of Brazilian history and culture and to understand that the Black population was and is a fundamental part in building this nation, even though the official history denies it, “ said Luana Ferreira, a historian who offers licensed tours about Brazil’s Black history. Through her passionate knowledge, the streets of Little Africa came alive.

“Usually, Black people are only portrayed when the slavery system is spoken of, and on the tour, it is inevitable to touch on this subject. However, our main goal is to break this paradigm and present this region as the birthplace of Black culture in Rio de Janeiro, the birthplace of samba and our popular carnival.” Fortunately, several city officials and community members agree with this sentiment and advocate for bringing Little Africa to the forefront of tourism investments in the coming years. 

Where to Eat in Rio de Janeiro 

I arrived in Rio with a long list of restaurant recommendations from friends and colleagues. Some of my favorite meals included:

Mesa do Lado is a “gastrosensorial” experience created by Michelin chef Claude Troisgros. To get to the 12-seat experience, you’ll have to walk to the back of a restaurant called Chez Claude through red curtains. The orchestrated experience — more than two hours — is meant to heighten the dining experience through taste, hearing, sight, touch, and smell, achieved through projections of images and videos, set to songs by artists like Paulinho da Viola, Elza Soares, Cesária Évora, and even AC/DC. My favorite dishes of the night were the cassava biscuit served with truffle-infused parmesan cream and saumon à l'oseille — a salmon filet immersed in a cream-based sauce that contains chardonnay, dry vermouth, and sorrel leaves.

Then there's Oteque . Set in an old house in Rio’s Botafogo neighborhood, Chef Alberto Landgraf and his team execute an impressive seafood-based menu from an open-air kitchen. Landgraf's seasonal courses celebrate his Japanese heritage, including raw bluefin tuna with seaweed vinaigrette, pine nuts and caviar, monkfish with creamed burrata, and several fresh ceviches. Oteque also features many organic wines, chosen by sommelier Leonardo Silveira.

Lastly, up a winding hill in Rio’s bohemian Santa Marta neighborhood, Aprazível welcomes crowds from its multi-leveled, treehouse-like structure. Shaded wooden tables surrounded by lush plants offer views of Rio in the distance. It’s an ideal place to spend a slow afternoon and enjoy a passionfruit caipirinha and the catch of the day served alongside coconut rice and baked banana.

Located on the coastline of Bahia, Trancoso is a small fishing village turned bohemian enclave dotted with coral-colored buildings, long stretches of golden sand beaches, and dirt roads decorated with banana trees and bursts of jungle plants. To get there, I flew just under two hours from Rio to Porto Seguro airport. Then, it’s a 90-minute drive through bumpy dirt roads to get to the vibey beach town that's drawn celebrities like Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, and Leonardo DiCaprio to its shores.

What to Do in Trancoso 

Courtesy of Hotel Fasano Trancoso

Choosing Trancoso as a second stop on my multi-city Brazil trip was deliberate. There’s only so much to do in the laidback region, and that slow pace is exactly what I craved after leaving Rio’s busy streets.

I checked into Fasano Trancoso , a sprawling 740 acres set amongst a natural reserve between tropical forest and the ocean. Like its Rio sibling, the property, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, came highly recommended by several friends for its sweeping location. Here, 40 geometric white bungalows face the ocean, some with rooftop decks, and a beachside restaurant decked out with salvaged furniture is where I enjoyed a freshly grilled lobster and the addictive queijo de Coelho, a firm white cheese that’s grilled and topped with honey.

The hotel is just a 20-minute drive from Trancoso’s Quadrado, a historic town square that I quickly learned is the heartbeat of the area. During the day, most of the tropical-colored fishing homes and a 16th-century white church that borders its grassy center are closed, but at night, the live drumming and capoeira dancers fill the square, and several restaurants and bars open their doors to crowds. About a five-minute drive from the Quadrado, Nativos Beach is a popular stretch of sand that includes two volleyball fields, beach bars, and hotels. For a more isolated location, consider Rio da Barra, about a 15-minute drive north of the Quadrado.

JohannesCompaan/Getty Images

Where to Eat in Trancoso 

Proximity to the beach and a tropical environment means there’s no shortage of seafood and fruits like acerola, the fibrous and sweet mangaba, and carambola (star fruit). At Capim Santo , first created by celebrated Brazilian chef Morena Leite’s mother, Sandra Marques, the menu focuses on Brazilian dishes executed with French techniques. I ate alfresco in their garden restaurant, on grounds also home to a small boutique hotel.

While dining at Mesa do Lado in Rio, Chef Troisgrois insisted that I dine at Alma Ninho , helmed by Morena Leite, who was raised in the Quadrado and focuses on highlighting the seafood flavors of Bahia. “We are on the beach and eat a lot of foods influenced by African cuisine, so coconut milk with seafood and fruits is part of what makes our tropical cuisine in Bahia so special.”

Antonio Soto

At Alma Ninho’s wooden bar, alongside just five other diners, I indulged in courses like churros with tapioca, grilled lobster with salad and granola from the nearby garden, and black ravioli with seafood — all plated on seashell-shaped plates.

The gastronomic experience is hosted in Leite’s six-suite guesthouse that overlooks the ocean and a mountainside bursting with plants. “We want you to feel at home here, and I want to share all the research I’ve done around the world, from the flavors of the food to the art displayed on the walls,” she said. This intimate celebration of Bahian food was my favorite part of visiting Trancoso.  

From my hometown of Los Angeles, Copa Airlines offers the shortest flights, typically with a layover in Panama City. Once in Brazil, regional airlines like Azul Airlines offer flights out of Rio to nearby cities like Porto Seguro and Salvador. 

After Trancoso, a one-hour flight north on the reliable and regional AZUL airlines landed me in Salvador , a city I had dreamed of visiting for years because of its rich Afro-Brazilian history. Fortunately, I arrived equipped with a wealth of recommendations from a friend, Aja, who visits the region annually with her family.

“As an African-American and member of the larger African diaspora, I am inextricably linked to Salvador, its people, history, and culture,” she told me before my visit. “I fell in love in Bahia, and every time I return with my growing family, our love deepens. Because of all that Salvador has given me, I am continuously finding ways to give back to this amazing city and its people.”

During my three days there, she gave me several incredible tips on what to see in the UNESCO World Heritage city, including the open-air market Feira de São Joaquim and Solar de Unhao, a complex of historic buildings near the Modern Art Museum. Over the years, the community has opened several bars and restaurants in this location, including the beloved Afro-Brazilian-themed restaurant Dona Suzana.

I checked into Hotel Fasano Salvador , a towering retreat housed in a building from the 1930s that overlooks a sheltered bay that opens to the Atlantic Ocean called Bay of All Saints. Fasano is one of the few luxury hotels in Salvador, but that’s set to change, as the city — which offers several welcoming bed and breakfasts — is rife with luxury development. Inside, 70 rooms in the Art Deco space are highlighted with warm organic tones, and a rooftop pool offers the best sunset views in the city alongside people watching on Castro Alves Square just below.

Booking Tip

Brazil’s summer months are between October and November, when tourist crowds are few and hotel prices are reasonably low. Carnival celebrations in Rio and Salvador in 2025 will occur at the end of February.

What to Do in Salvador

If I did just one thing in Salvador, Aja advised, it would have to be getting tickets to the Balé Folclórico da Bahia show. The 38-member dance troupe pays tribute to African deities (orixás), reenacts Maculelê, a dance celebrated by enslaved at the end of sugar cane season; capoeira, a martial arts dance brought to Brazil from Angola; and, of course, samba, whose roots began in the sugar cane mills of Salvador. The palpable joy of this performance, the whirlwind of colors that took flight with dance, the remembrance of a people who found the will to go in the face of the unimaginable — this is what this performance succeeds in covering and what is ever present on every corner of Salvador.

Salvador has the largest population of African descendants outside of Africa. Nearly every revered tradition in Brazil today, from capoeira to Carnival, was created by formerly enslaved people. The origins of that world-famous celebration can be viewed in the historical center of Pelourinho at Salvador’s Caso do Carnaval , which features several video projections, large-scale exhibits, and even a cinema room where you can learn several traditional Brazilian dances.

At Blue Praia Bar in the seaside Vermelho neighborhood, the city’s cool kids are scattered about among Balinese-style beds built between swaying palms and tableside at an al fresco dining space that overlooks Buracão Beach. This is where I spent my last afternoon in Salvador, with plates of cod croquettes and espetinhos de queijo. Tucked away on a quiet street, I instantly felt as though I had discovered one of the city’s gems, where the hours pass with ease as residents play soccer on golden sands and order glasses of passion fruit caipirinhas.

Where to Eat in Salvador 

Central to food in Salvador are the flavors of Africa, like palm oil (dendê), coconut milk, and cassava. Walking around the city, Baiana women dressed in billowing white cloth to honor Oxalá (the god of creation) sell acarajé, a typical Bahian snack made of mashed black-eyed beans, onions, and shrimp fried in palm oil. During slavery, many descendants of enslaved women gained their freedom and financial independence by selling these snacks. Don’t miss an opportunity to stop at a tabuleiro (stand) on the street and get a taste of this important symbol of power. At Casa de Tereza , you can try acarajés and another famous Bahian dish — moqueca. The rich, coconut-based stew includes palm oil, dried shrimp, cassava flour, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

More flavors from Africa, like a black-eyed pea dumpling called abará, can be enjoyed at Zanzibar, which overlooks the Bay of All Saints and Dona Mariquita , where popular dishes include cassava leaf stew and a milk pudding used in Candomblé to celebrate the Orixá, Yemanjá.

One of my favorite evenings was watching the sunset with a caipirinha in hand at Antique Bistrô , a former mansion with a patio with panoramic bay views. There are several small plates to pair with their popular cocktails, such as the tender smoked rib I had, which could have easily won at any barbecue competition.

At Origem , various takes on Brazilian foodways, from Indigenous corn to the citrusy umbu fruit, take center stage at this fine-dining favorite. A rotating tasting menu focuses on the five biomes of Bahia (Cerrado, Caatinga, Atlantic Forest, Coastal, and Marine Zone) to create a genuinely expansive gastronomic experience.

On my last night, I reserved a marina-side table at Mistura Contorno, a seafood-focused restaurant highly recommended by everyone I spoke to about Salvador’s dining scene. Mistura’s menu results from Chef Andréa Ribeiro's vision to fuse Mediterranean and Brazilian flavors, which, based on the lively space filled with patrons, has succeeded.

During my splurge-worthy finale dinner in a city I will return to, I enjoyed plates of grilled fish, calamari, lobster, octopus ceviche with coconut and Sicilian lemon, and a pappardelle ossobucco.

A final sunset and crayola-colored sky from my hotel balcony completed my first visit to Brazil — though it certainly won’t be my last.

Related Articles

A beginner's guide to Brazil

Kevin Raub

Jan 21, 2016 • 7 min read

Man and woman wearing backpacks, looking at city scape, elevated view from balcony, on vacation

A couple with backpacks overlook Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Getty Images

What do you get if you combine cinematic landscapes, kaleidoscopic culture, head-spinning biodiversity and a constant rhythm of carefree joie de vivre? Welcome to Brazil!

The world's fifth-largest country commandeers the lion's share of  South America , all the way from the  Amazon Basin  – the world's largest tropical rainforest – to the pampas of southernmost Rio Grande do Sul, delivering 7500kms of sun-toasted sands in between.

It is these postcard-perfect shores for which Brazil is arguably most famous, but this Latin giant boasts far more than beaches. Lush jungle? Check. Colonial villages? Check. Unparalleled wildlife? Check. Delectable restaurants and pulse-pumping nightlife? Check. Stunning waterfalls, canyons, mountains and dunescapes? Pronto, pronto, pronto and pronto!

Carnival by Prefeitura de Olinda. CC BY 2.0.

Brazil owes its language and much of its cultural potpourri to  Portugal – both unique compared to its Spanish-settled South American neighbors – whose explorers arrived in the 1500s and settled what was then a land of largely indigenous inhabitants numbering between two and four million people. Waves of immigration from  Africa ,  Europe  and the  Middle East  have shaped and enriched the country throughout history. Today, with a population of nearly 200 million, Brazil is one of the world's most diverse nations.

A tropical wonderland

A visit to Brazil usually begins in Rio de Janeiro , one of the world's most vibrant urban landscapes, where dramatic, rainforest-crowned mountaintops surround a city nestled picturesquely between jungle and sea. The Amazon region – and its namesake river – are home to the planet's greatest collection of plants and animals, and this enigmatic landscape has long intrigued explorers, naturalists, novelists and travelers alike. Brazil's other hotspot for biodiversity, the Pantanal , is the world's largest wetland, where every moment throws up another photo opportunity full of colorful birds and wildlife.

Hyacinth macaws by Geoff Gallice. CC BY 2.0.

The roar of Iguaçu Falls will redefine your idea of the power of Mother Nature; this torrent thundering over the edges of cliffs is a spectacle without rival. And in a country with no shortage of world-class beaches, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha  serves up three of the best, and then adds the distinction of being Brazil's top spot for diving and surfing, and one of the best places on Earth to mingle with endangered sea turtles and Spinner dolphins.

Iguacu Falls by Mike Vondran. CC BY 2.0.

But wait, there's more! Pristinely preserved colonial villages (Ouro Prêto, Tiradentes, Paraty , Olinda), scenic national parks (Lençóis-Maranhenses ( parquelencois.com.br ), Chapada Diamantina , Chapada dos Veadeiros ( whc.unesco.org/en/list/1035 ), Chapada dos Guimarães ), idyllic tropical islands ( Ilha Grande , Ilhabela , Ilha de Santa Catarina, Morro de São Paulo , Boipeba, Ilha do Mel) and an even longer list of diverse regional cuisine and culture, from the African-fueled state of Bahía to the heavily German and Italian-influenced states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul , all unite in a seductive marriage that ticks off a traveler's wishlist.

Olympic fever (and fears)

Summer 2016 brings the Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro, the first time the world's most important amateur athletic event has been held on South American soil. From August 5-21, 2016, the world's spotlight will once again focus on Brazil in much the same way it did for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. And much like the world's greatest football tournament, the lead-up to the event has not been without controversy and concern.

Tennis Center at Rio's Olympic Park © Renato Sette Camara / Rio City Hall

For starters, the Brazil of 2016 is a very different country than the Brazil of two years prior, so economic woes and rising inflation have plagued costs and budgets. Several of the 14 under-construction Olympic venues are behind schedule, as are most infrastructure projects associated with the event, such as the new metro line built to link the city with the Olympic Park in suburban Barra di Tijuca. Finances and construction woes aside, a 2015 Associated Press investigation revealed dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria in all of Rio’s Olympic water venues, most notably Guanabara Bay, the host site for sailing and windsurfing events, and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which will host rowing and canoeing events. The lead-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup spawned similar pre-event outcry, but despite deeply concerning construction, budget, crime and social unrest woes, Brazil pulled off an excellent party in the end – and by all accounts, from athletic and spectator perspectives, the tournament was a roaring success.

The bottom line? Brazil has its fair share of problems, but throwing a party isn't one of them. The friendliness and hospitality of the Brazilian people and a deep pride in proving the naysayers wrong when the world's eyes are focused on the country will always prevail in the end. It's safe to say you can expect a wonderful Olympic Games, made all the more cinematic against the backdrop of one of the world's most remarkably gorgeous cities, Rio de Janeiro.

Visa-Free Travel

If you're planning on traveling to Brazil in 2016, and are a citizen of the United States, Canada, Japan or Australia, you're in luck. Brazil has announced the waiving of visa requirements for those nationalities entering the country through September 18, 2016, for a stay of up to 90 days.

During the much ballyhooed Brazil boom of the early 2000s, there was no sugarcoating it: Brazil was expensive. By 2016, however, the Brazil boom had flip-flopped to the Brazil gloom. The overvalued r eal has come crashing back down to earth amid a fast and furious economic collapse spurred by government mismanagement, rampant corruption scandals, alarming inflation and a president, Dilma Rousseff, who may or may not make it through her second term (impeachment proceedings remain a dark and looming cloud over her head). But what does a Brazilian economy in tatters (and projected to decline further) mean in practical terms from a tourism perspective? Brazil is on sale! With the r eal spending the better part of recent times hovering around R$3.7-4 to US$1, that gourmet burger that cost nearly US$20 in 2011 now costs just US$7. Bom apetite!

Brazil's official language is Portuguese. English is still under-spoken by most Brazilians, even by folks working in hospitality in major tourist destinations.

Brazil is home to extensive air and bus networks. The country's major domestic airlines include Latam ( latam.com) , the re-branded offering from the recent merger of Lan and Tam Airlines;  Gol ( voegol.com.br ), Azul ( voeazul.com.br ) and Avianca ( avianca.com ). Most visitors arrive at Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (Galeão;  aeroportogaleao.net/en ) in  Rio de Janeiro  or Aeroporto Internacional de Guarulhos (GRU Airport;  aeroportoguarulhos.net/en ) in  São Paulo , but there are also international arrivals in  Brasília ,  Fortaleza ,  Natal ,  Recife ,  Salvador ,  Belo Horizonte  and  Porto Alegre , among others. Flights are expensive, though competition-spawned mega-sales are common and, if you are covering a lot of ground, a Brazil Airpass is your new best friend. Miami-based BR Online Travel (BROL;  brol.com ) specializes in passes, which are available only to foreign visitors.

Itapemirim ( itapemirim.com.br ) and Cometa ( viacaocometa.com.br ) are two of the biggest and best bus companies. For a national database of bus routes, try Busca Ônibus ( buscaonibus.com.br) or ClickBus ( clickbus.com.br) , the latter accepting international credit cards and PayPal for payments. Fares begin around R$10 to R$12 per hour for the cheapest services and rise from there in price and comfort level.

In addition to the usual traveler precautions, malaria is a concern in certain areas of the Amazon and northwest Brazil. Travelers should weigh the risks of an appropriate preventative (chloroquine is not effective here), and cover up as much as possible to prevent mosquito bites. Brazil has become the epicenter of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Latin America, especially in and around Rio and in Bahía. Pregnant women in particular should take extreme caution against mosquitoes while in Brazil as an alarming surge in cases of the Zika virus in 2015 was blamed for 20 times more cases of an incurable fetal deformity known as microcephaly than previous years.

Tap water is safe in most urban areas but doesn't win any taste competitions. Bottled water is preferred by most Brazilians.

Brazil receives a lot of bad press about its violence and high crime rate but the country is generally safe for tourists. That said, extra precaution should be taken in major urban areas, Rio de Janeiro, Recife  and São Paulo in particular.

Besides all of the standard-issue traveler safety provisions, heed some added warnings: never take anything of value to the beach, use ATMs only inside banks or shopping malls, and do not walk along empty streets, deserted parks or urban beaches at night.

This article was first published in December 2013 and updated in January 2016.

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Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

Last Updated: August 30, 2023

Panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro with skyscrapers along the beach and mountains in the background

From the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to the magnificent summit of Corcovado, topped with the legendary Wonder of the World Christ the Redeemer, Rio combines big natural attractions with a sprawling metropolis. Home to over 12 million people, it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world.

Founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Rio de Janeiro caters to every type of tourist and budget, popular with backpackers, Carnival revelers, and luxury vacationers alike. It’s an exciting city that has a lot to offer — so don’t rush your visit. There’s too much to see, especially when you factor in all those lazy days at the beach!

While petty theft and crime are a big concern here (you’ll want to avoid walking around alone at night), with a little vigilance you’ll be able to enjoy your time in this vibrant city without too much worry.

This travel guide to Rio de Janeiro can help you save money, stay safe, and ensure you have a wonderful visit.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Rio de Janeiro

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Rio de Janeiro

The view of Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain with green mountains in the background and a cable car in the foreground

1. Celebrate Carnival

The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous festivals in the world, with people coming together from all corners of the globe to see the parade, listen to samba music, dance in the streets, and party for days. The city comes alive as thousands of people celebrate in bright, exotic regalia. You can reserve your 2024 Carnival tickets in advance here (highly recommended – they sell out quickly)!

2. Climb Sugarloaf Mountain

The famous Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. Its name dates to the 16th century (the height of Brazil’s sugarcane trade), named for its resemblance to a conical block of sugar. The mountain is 396 meters (1,300 feet) tall, and at its peak, the entire city unfolds below you with spectacular views of Ipanema and Guanabara Bay, especially at sunset or sunrise. The cable car to get there costs 150 BRL ( reserve online in advance to skip the often super long lines).

3. See Christ the Redeemer

The 30-meter (100-foot) high statue of Christ the Redeemer sits atop the Corcovado Mountain and can be seen from any point in Rio. From its vantage point, you can take in the mountains, the bay, and the entire cityscape from the favelas to the skyscrapers. It’s an incredible Wonder of the World! You can get there a few different ways: via cog train (that goes through the rainforest), shared vans that leave from designated points around the city, or by hiking the (quite steep) trail to the top (though for safety reasons, it’s not recommended to do the trail alone). You can reserve advance tickets for the train and statue here (155 BRL).

4. Hit the beaches

Ipanema and Copacabana are the two largest beaches, and they’re always jam-packed with people. Ipanema has more upscale restaurants and nightlife, while Copacabana has more things to do (like fishing, surfing, and beachside markets selling handicrafts and swimwear). For quieter spots, check out Barra de Tijuca Beach, Prainha Beach, or Leme Beach (at the further end of Copacabana Beach).

5. Watch a fútbol game

Other things to see and do in rio de janeiro, 1. visit the botanical gardens.

For a moment of calm, head to the city’s botanical gardens. Walk along the meandering paths and trails or take a free guided tour of the gardens. This place is home to over 8,000 plant species, designed in 1808 by order of the Prince Regent Dom João. Highlights include a lake filled with enormous Vitória Régia water lilies, an enclosed area with over 600 species of orchids, and a carnivorous greenhouse filled with Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. The gardens get super busy with families on the weekends, so come during the week. Admission is 67 BRL.

2. Wander the Rio de Janeiro Zoo

If your travels don’t include a trip to the Amazon, you can still experience Brazil’s indigenous animals at the Rio City Zoo. Over 1,300 animals from 350 species live here, including many rare and endangered native species such as harpy eagles, maned wolves, golden-headed lion tamarins, anteaters, and more. There’s also a particularly impressive reptile house and open aviary with macaws, toucans, and tropical birds flying freely around. Admission costs 47 BRL.

3. Learn the samba

You’ll hear samba music playing endlessly around Rio, especially during Carnival. Rio de Janeiro is one of the best places in Brazil to learn how to dance. Rio Samba Dancer is my favorite for its all-levels group classes, especially for the classes combined with social outings to samba clubs. Classes start from about 105 BRL.

4. Go to Paquetá Island

Paquetá Island in Guanabara Bay is a favorite with locals for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city center on weekends. The island is an hour-long ferry ride from Rio, and it’s made up of mainly beaches and quaint colonial towns. Transportation around the island is only by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carts. There’s not a lot to do here, but that’s kind of the point. The ferry costs 6.50 BRL one-way.

5. Ride the Santa Teresa tram

This tram has been running through the Santa Teresa neighborhood since 1877, making it the oldest electric railway in Latin America. It has always followed the same route from the city center, across the Lapa Arches, and passing by Ruinas Park overlooking Rio. The tram is open-sided, meaning you can lean out over the arches (a narrow former aqueduct) as you cross them – it’s a dizzying view! A return ticket on the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) route is 20 BRL.

6. Visit the Selaron Stairway

Located in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, this stairway has hundreds of steps all painted with more than 2,000 pieces of colorful tiles, mosaics, and mirrors. Starting in the early 1990s, artist Jorge Selarón began gathering contributions from artists in 60 different countries. He also visited antique shops and trash heaps to find pieces to add over time, working on the staircase’s construction for over 20 years until his death in 2013. It’s one of the most photogenic and popular sights in the city (you’ve probably seen it on Instagram) so don’t miss it!

7. Explore the Arcos da Lapa district

For those of you who love the nightlife, this is an awesome district to head out to on a Friday night. Bars, clubs, and food stalls dominate the area, and street parties run from the famous arches up Avenida Mem de Sá. For live music, go to Circo Voador, an open-air concert venue primarily featuring Brazilian bands and artists. If you want to experience the club scene, check out the three-story Rio Scenarium. If you’re not into partying at all, admire the photogenic Arcos de Lapa (Lapa Arches). These arches date back to the mid-18th century and were once used as aqueducts.

8. Visit Sitio Roberto Burle Marx

This home and World Heritage Site belongs to one of Brazil’s most celebrated landscape designers, Roberto Burle Marx. Begun in 1949 and developed over the course of over 40 years, this 100-acre property features over 3,500 tropical and subtropical plant species. Inside the Burle Marx House Museum is a huge collection of his personal artwork as well as a 17th-century Benedictine chapel. Tours cost 10 BRL and are available by appointment only.

9. Visit the São Bento Monastery

Built between 1617-1641, this colonial Baroque church is located on Morro de São Bentois (St. Benedict Hill) in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Although the exterior is simple, the inside is covered in gold decoration, wood carvings from Frei Domingos da Conceição and Alexandre Machado, and paintings from José de Oliveira Rosa. The monastery is still in operation today, and if you attend Sunday mass, you’ll get to hear some traditional Gregorian chanting. Just be sure to dress respectfully as it is a place of worship.

10. Hike in Tijuca National Park

Tijuca National Park is the largest urban rainforest in the world, stretching across 8,300 acres. Over 350 different species of mammals, birds, and reptiles make their home here, including howler monkeys, which only came back to the park recently after a 100-year hiatus. The Corcovado (Christo) hike through Parque Lage and to the top of Corcovado is a steep climb, but it’s shaded and only takes about three hours. Another scenic hike is to Tijuca Peak, starting in Rio’s North Zone and past waterfalls and dense rainforest. You’ll get views over Niteroi and Guanabara Bay, and it only takes about two hours to complete. Entrance to the park is free. This is a place where it’s really worth it to go with a tour though. You’ll not only have a more in-depth experience, learning history of the rainforest as well as how to recognize native flora and fauna, but get round-trip transportation to/from your accommodation as well. There are tons of tours available, from the popular jeep tours to full-day adventure hikes that go to lesser visited sections of the rainforest.

11. Go to the Ilha Fiscal

A little outside Rio’s city center is Ilha Fiscal, a Neo-Gothic castle on a secluded island in Guanabara Bay. It used to be a location for the Brazilian Custom Service but is now a work of architectural art, with mosaic floors, stained glass, and a traditional Ceremonial Room used by the Navy. You can only access the island by schooner and bus from the Naval Museum. Admission to the Naval Museum is free, while a return ticket to Ilha Fiscal is 42 BRL.

12. Visit the Museum of Tomorrow

The Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã) is a science museum that focuses on ecology, sustainability, and the future of our planet. Ultra-sleek and modern, the Museum of Tomorrow has high-tech visuals and simulators that let you consider the world’s past, present, and future. Although it might sound depressing, it’s incredibly well-curated, and the whole experience is captivating. Admission is 30 BRL.

13.Take a walking tour

Walking tours are my favorite way to get my bearings in a new place. Free Walker Tours and Rio by Foot both offer free walking tours through a variety of different Rio neighborhoods, as well as paid tours such as food tours, pub crawls, and rainforest tours. If you’re taking a free tour, just be sure to tip your guide at the end!

14. Explore Rio by Bike

Because of Rio’s geography, stretching along the coast between the ocean and the mountainous rainforest, the city can take some time to get around. You can cover a lot of ground by biking along the beach and through different neighborhoods on the many kilometers of dedicated bike lanes in the city. You can either explore on your own or with a local guide on a tour with Rio by Bike .

  For more information on other cities in Brazil, check out these guides:

  • Fernando de Noronha Travel Guide
  • Florianopolis Travel Guide
  • Sao Paulo Travel Guide

Rio de Janeiro Travel Costs

Brightly colored mosaic-lined stairs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hostel prices – Large dorm rooms with 8-10 beds start around 65-75 BRL per night. Dorm rooms with 4-6 beds are around 90-110 BRL per night. Standard twin or double private rooms cost 225-300 BRL per night for two people.

Free Wi-Fi is standard, and most hostels have a bar and outdoor patio with a BBQ. Free breakfast is usually included at hostels in Rio de Janeiro, and kitchen facilities are common too. Some hostels have a pool, coworking spaces, and bikes for rent.

If you book your bed well ahead of time for Carnival (at least six months), you’ll have more options. However, prices skyrocket — some of those dorms mentioned above increase to 200-300 BRL per night — during Carnival!

Budget hotel prices – A double room in a basic two-star hotel is around 150 BRL per night in the city center, including a private bathroom and balcony as well as free Wi-Fi. That price can nearly double in other places like Copacabana (the most popular place for tourists to stay).

A budget hotel with more amenities (free breakfast, a swimming pool, bar/restaurant) starts around 190 BRL per night for a double room.

Airbnb is another affordable option here. For a private room, expect to pay about 100-125 BRL per night, while you can find a comfortable home or apartment for about 275-350 BRL per night.

During Carnival time, private and hotel rooms can double in price and sell out fast.

Average cost of food – Brazilian cuisine – like the country itself – is a mix of many cultures, with European, Amerindian, African, and (more recently) Japanese influences. As such a large country, food varies per region, with seafood plentiful on the coastlines and Brazilian barbecue dominating plates in the south. Rice and beans are a staple throughout the country.

Common vegetables include tubers like cassava and yams, tomatoes, red peppers, okra, and more. Being a subtropical country, there’s a huge variety of fruits, with the most famous being the superfood açaí. Cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, are all commonly found in smoothies and fresh juices across the country.

Look for feijoada on the menu. It’s Brazil’s national dish, a meaty bean stew, traditionally eaten for Wednesday or Saturday lunch. Other popular dishes include moqueca (fish stew), polenta, vatapá (a stew of bread, shrimp, coconut milk, and peanuts), and farofa (toasted cassava flour, served as a side to feijoada ), among countless others.

Some popular street food snacks include pão de queijo (cheese bread rolls), acarajé (black-eyed pea and shrimp fritters), coxinha (chicken croquettes), and pastéis (savory fried pies with assorted fillings). In Rio, bolinhos de bacalhau (fried cod fritters) are especially popular due to the city’s coastal location.

Rio de Janeiro has lots of affordable food options, with street food like pastels, coxinha, and tapiocas costing 8-10 BRL each. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant serving typical Brazilian dishes costs about 20-40 BRL. An açaí (served pureed and frozen, with toppings you can choose from) from a street stand or takeaway spot is 15-20 BRL.

For fast food, a combo meal at McDonald’s or a takeaway meal from a Chinese restaurant both cost about 35 BRL.

A meal with two courses at a casual restaurant starts from 60 BRL, though prices at restaurants along the beach can go much higher, starting around 70-80 BRL for a dish. A three-course meal with a drink at a nicer restaurant is around 200 BRL.

A beer to go with your meal is around 7-10 BRL, while a cocktail starts at 20 BRL (though they can get upwards of 40 BRL in fancier places). In terms of non-alcoholic drinks, a cappuccino or fresh juice is 8-12 BRL.

One of the best ways to eat in Rio is to find a restaurant por kilo , which lets you pay for your meal by weight (so skip the super-thick steak). It generally costs around 70-90 BRL per kilo, with prices varying depending on the time of day and day of the week (nights and weekends are more expensive). Restaurante Temperarte near Copacabana is a great option for trying this.

Grocery shopping is very cheap, costing about 100-145 BRL per week for bread, meat, veggies, and other basics. You’ll just need to make sure you book accommodation with a kitchen.

Backpacking Rio de Janeiro Suggested Budgets

If you are backpacking Rio de Janeiro, expect to spend about 215 BRL per day. This covers staying in a hostel dorm, eating street food, cooking some of your meals, limiting your drinking, using public transportation to get around, and doing mostly free activities like enjoying the beach.

On a mid-range budget of about 470 BRL per day, you can stay in a private hostel or Airbnb room, eat out for all your meals at cheap local restaurants, take the occasional taxi to get around, enjoy a few drinks, and do more paid activities like visiting the zoo and attending a soccer game.

On a “luxury” budget of about 825 BRL per day or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, enjoy more drinks, take taxis everywhere, and enjoy all the tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

If you’re coming during Carnival time, expect prices for accommodations and activities to increase significantly (sometimes quadruple) — especially if you’re booking last minute.

You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in BRL.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

Rio has lots of free activities and attractions to enjoy, like beaches and hiking trails. While food and accommodation aren’t cheap, there are ways to keep your costs down. Here are some ways to save money in Rio de Janeiro:

  • Eat por kilo – As with elsewhere in Brazil, restaurants that have you pay by the kilo for your food is a good deal. Look out for these cheap options.
  • Visit the market – If you’re staying at a hostel with kitchen facilities, it’s a good idea to stock up on food at the market and eat like the locals.
  • Stay with a local – Couchsurfing connects you with locals who can give you a free place to stay and share their insider tips and advice. It’s the best way to meet locals and save money.
  • Go to free museum days – Almost all the museums in Rio have a free day to visit each week. Check their website for details!
  • Take a free walking tour – There are many excellent free walking tours in Rio, including Free Walker Tours and Rio By Foot. They’re the best way to see the main sights on a budget. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  • Avoid Carnival time – As exciting as Carnival is, visiting Rio any other time of the year is just as magical and saves you lots of money.
  • Pack a water bottle – The tap water here isn’t safe to drink so bring a water bottle with a filter to save money and reduce your single-use plastic usage. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw as it has a built-in filter to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a sprawling city. When you’re researching your hostel, make sure you find a neighborhood that fits your needs, whether you want to stay in the city center or somewhere near the beach. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money on taxis and sitting in the city’s terrible traffic. Here are my suggested places to stay:

  • Selina Lapa Rio de Janeiro
  • Mango Tree Hostel Ipanema
  • CabanaCopa Hostel

For more suggestions, check out this post on the best hostels in Rio .

How to Get Around Rio de Janeiro

People walking down a palm tree-lined street with a yellow taxi going by along the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Public Transportation – Rio’s BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) has quick and reliable routes in Copacabana, Barra, Ipanema, and Leblon. Fares cost from 3.80 BRL per trip. You’ll have to flag down a bus by waving at the driver. Otherwise, the Metrô Na Superfície shuttle passengers between metro stations, but they’re often very crowded. The bus is also not always the safest method of travel, so exercise caution here, and don’t use them at night.

Rio de Janeiro has three very efficient subway lines. Line 1 runs between Ipanema to the North Zone, while Line 2 runs between Botafogo and Pavuna (with Maracanã football stadium on the way). Line 3 runs between Ipanema and the Barra de Tijuca. You can get a prepaid card (called RioCard+Mais) at any kiosk for 4 BRL. A single metro ride costs 5 BRL.

For solo female travelers, note that there are women-only metro cars (marked in pink) during peak rush hours (6am-9am, 5-8pm, on weekdays).

The only remaining tram line in Rio is the famous Santa Teresa line, which runs from the tram station in Centro and travels across the Lapa Arches, Ruinas Park, and then turns around at Largo do Guimarães. A return ticket is 20 BRL.

Bicycle – Rio has tons of bike paths along its main beach areas. Unfortunately, only Brazilian citizens and residents with a CPF number can use the bike sharing system, though you can also rent bikes from a local shop for about 150 BRL per day to navigate the paths between Copacabana and Ipanema.

Ferry – You can take a ferry to visit several of Rio’s highlights, like Ilha Fiscal, Ilha de Paquetá, and Niterói. Ticket prices are generally 12-15 BRL round-trip.

Taxis – Taxis start at 6 BRL and cost an additional 2.65 BRL per kilometer. This rate increases to 3 BRL per kilometer at night and on Sundays. A ride around town generally costs 10-50 BRL. Use the 99 app (formerly 99Taxis) to get a safe, metered taxi.

Ridesharing – Uber is available in Rio de Janeiro and usually costs around the same a taxi.

When to Go to Rio de Janeiro

December to March is when Rio is at its warmest and sunniest. There isn’t much rain during these months, and temperatures tend to be around 32°C (90°F) and higher each day.

Autumn (April-May) and spring (October-November) offer slightly cooler temperatures, usually in the mid-20s°C (low 80s°F). Although Rio is busy year-round, you’ll avoid a lot of peak tourism madness by visiting during these months.

During February’s Carnival, prices skyrocket, and accommodation sells out very quickly. You should consider booking your travel at least six months (and up to a year) before Carnival time to snag the best deals and places to stay.

How to Stay Safe in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has a lot of crime and is not the safest city in the world. Violent attacks can occur, however, your biggest concern here is petty crime — especially after nightfall around popular tourist destinations.

Don’t walk alone at night. Instead, take taxis. Have your accommodation call one for you so you can be sure you get a reputable driver.

When withdrawing money, make sure you go inside a bank so that you can put your cash away without the risk of getting robbed.

Don’t flash your valuables and always make sure your possessions are secure and out of reach (especially your phone and wallet).

Never accept drinks from strangers and don’t leave anything unattended at the beach.

Unless you’re on a guided tour, avoid the favelas. The favelas are where the highest rate of crime occurs in the city, and you shouldn’t be exploring there on your own.

Carjacking and break-ins are common so avoid renting a car here.

Solo female travelers will want to exercise caution here. Travel with groups where you can and avoid getting too far off the beaten path if you’re alone.

If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.

If you experience an emergency, dial 190 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Brazil and continue planning your trip:

The 6 Best Hostels in Rio de Janeiro

The 6 Best Hostels in Rio de Janeiro

Is Brazil Safe to Visit?

Is Brazil Safe to Visit?

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  • Where To Stay
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These Are the Best Times to Visit Brazil

Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Sun, sand and caipirinhas to a samba soundtrack: Fun seekers can enjoy sultry weather and tropical beaches year-round in Brazil, South America's biggest country (and the fifth-largest on Earth), depending on which area you visit. Rio de Janeiro should be on every traveler's bucket list for its distinct tropical landscape, Christ the Redeemer statue (one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World, no less) and its legendary Carnival, but Brazil doesn't start and end in the Cidade Maravilhosa, or Marvelous City.

Sophisticated São Paulo, for example, is a hub for culture vultures, modern architecture fans and foodies, while Foz do Iguaçu is home to the breathtaking waterfalls shared with neighboring Argentina.

Best of all, starting June 17, Brazil is officially waiving visa requirements for citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and Japan. So if Brazil is at the top of your travel to-do list, it's time to start planning a trip.

The Best Times to Visit Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach and Ipanema beach, Rio de Janiero. (Photo by f11photo / Getty Images)

It's basically summer all year long in tropical Rio, given that the average winter daytime temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit; visit any time to soak up Brazilian beach action (though Rio's carioca residents might find that chilly and will be wearing woolen sweaters). Party lovers should live the Carnival experience in February at least once, though New Year's Eve is equally fun-packed. For a lighter dose of blocos (street parties) and parades, soak up some pre-Carnival ambience, when the city starts cranking up the good times, but with smaller crowds.

The Best Times to Visit São Paulo

(Photo by Wagner Garcia Photography / Getty Images)

Brazil's largest urban jungle, São Paulo is more seasonal, at least in contrast with Rio de Janeiro. Known as Sampa (and also unfortunately as the Land of Drizzle), this southern hemisphere city tucked slightly inland is best enjoyed in spring and autumn, though it rains less between April and August. There's plenty to keep residents and visitors entertained year round, from 100 museums such as the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP) to the International Art Festival of São Paulo , São Paulo Fashion Week and a diverse food scene.

The Best Times to Visit Foz do Iguaçu

(Photo by Craig Hastings / Getty Images)

Tropical Iguaçu National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — delivers varying degrees of humidity year round, with summer (December to March) packing the most intense mugginess. Summer is also rainy season, which actually has a positive spin: Water levels are higher in the park, meaning more H20 across the 275 falls, though trails will be muddier. Late March and April are a good time to visit, with fewer downpours, as are August and September.

When to Visit Brazil for Events

Rio de janeiro.

Undisputedly the world's biggest party, Carnival takes place ahead of Lent, 40 days before Easter. This is when the black, white and red sidewalks of Copacabana and other neighborhoods are packed with blocos , and revelers sporting tutus, wigs and glitter dance next to the ocean. In Rio for the New Year? Head to the beaches of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana with white roses as an offering to Iemenjá, a sea goddess from the Umbanda faith, on Dec. 31. The tropical city also hosts the biannual Rock in Rio concert; the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink, Iron Maiden and Foo Fighters will headline the 2019 edition which runs from Sept. 27 through Oct. 10.

The Samba Parade Float in Sambadromo, Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. (Photo by miralex / Getty Images)

And, while architecture might not be the first word you associate with Rio, the Marvelous City has been selected as UNESCO's first World Capital of Architecture for 2020.

This mega metropolis has 12 million Paulistas to keep entertained, so it's alive and kicking year round. Like any good Brazilian city, São Paulo hosts its own Carnival, while Pride is one of the biggest LGBT parades in the world and takes place in either May or June. (In 2019, the Pride Parade will take place on June 23.) The Museu de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Museum) hosts the world-class Art Biennial, the second-oldest after Venice; the 34th edition takes place in March 2020. The city also hosts Brazil's F1 Grand Prix, this year between Nov. 15 and 17.

Sao Paulo hosts the 22nd annual LGBT Parade. (Photo by NurPhoto / Getty Images)

Foz do Iguaçu

Given that the falls are the greatest attraction in Iguaçu, the city isn't exactly swarming with events. Do, however, visit the Argentine side of the falls for a different panorama (while racking up another visa stamp). Puerto Iguazú over in Argentina notches up the 10th edition of Iguazú en Concierto, a series of live music concerts, this June.

(Photo by Nino Fotos / Getty Images)

Other Events in Brazil

Brazil has particularly strong German roots, especially in the south of the country. Oktoberfest is the perfect fit for fun-loving Brazilians keen to dress up in lederhosen and knock back cerveja (beers); the city of Blumenau hosts the biggest such gathering.

The Best Times to See Wildlife in Brazil

Brazil is one of the world's most biodiverse countries, and Iguaçu National Park holds up its end of the deal: It's home to 2,000 avian, fauna and flora species. Look out year-round for capybara, the world's largest (and sweetest-looking) rodent; toucans; spectacled caiman; vibrant butterflies; and coati. The latter are friendliest with humans, as they're always keen for a snack.

While a pandemonium of scarlet macaws taking to Rio's skyline is the norm, reforested rainforest Tijuca National Park , just south of the city, is home to 62 mammal species including squirrel monkeys, crab-eating fox and coati that can be spotted year-round. Also check out avian wildlife in the Jardim Botânico (botanical garden).

Christ The Redeemer viewed from Tijuca Forest. (Photo by Leonardo Martins / Getty Images)

Travelers can also see jaguars in the Pantanal tropical wetlands in September and October; humpback whales in Abrolhos Marine National Park July through December; while in the Amazon rainforest you can spot sloth and giant river otters for most of the year.

The Cheapest Times to Visit Brazil

High season in Brazil is considered June through August, when North Americans and Europeans take summer vacation; March is the cheapest month to fly, according to Kayak . LATAM, American and Azul have the most flights from the US to Brazil, and though Kayak considers São Paulo its most popular destination, Rio has its own high season thanks to Carnival (which depends on Easter's date) so book rooms and flights well ahead for the best prices.

In Foz do Iguaçu, avoid January and February, when Brazilians and Argentinians take summer vacations, packing out hotels and restaurants; also avoid national holidays such as Easter and the second fortnight in July (school winter vacation) for the same reason.

In Rio de Janeiro, prices skyrocket in both pre- and Carnival season, especially in prime beachside neighborhoods like Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. You'll find affordable hotels in Santa Teresa and Botafogo.

As for São Paulo, check out the Vila Madalena neighborhood, home to street-art filled Beco do Batman alley and the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade for affordable accommodation.

Best Time to Visit

Weather & Climate

Guarulhos International Airport Guide

Public Transportation

Best Hotels

Top Things to Do

Coolest Attractions

Best Museums

Where to Shop

Sao Paulo's Architecture

Food to Try

Best Restaurants

Nightlife Guide

Your Trip to Sao Paulo: The Complete Guide

best travel guide brazil

On the Brazilian landscape, one city stands above the rest in gastronomy, shopping, nightlife, street art, and museum offerings: Sao Paulo. Here foodies come to try all the flavors of the regions of Brazil, dishes of its diasporas, and experimental projects by Michelin-starred chefs. Over 50 shopping malls, the most famous high fashion street in South America, and 60 specialized shopping streets for everything from electronics to wedding dresses draw enthusiastic buyers to its stores every day. Paulistinos (the city’s residents) party literally until dawn in its baladas (dance bars) and along the Baixo Augusta. During the day, world-famous museums like the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo opens its doors, while cultural centers like the SESC Pompéia offer free activities for residents and tourists alike. Stroll through the graffiti art of Beco do Batman or see Niemeyer’s massive Modernist building Edifício Copan. Everything can be found here, except a beach, but even those aren't too far away.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit : Come to Sao Paulo in the spring (September to November). During this shoulder season, days are long, nights are cool, and the city hosts weeks-long events focused on food, art, and entertainment.
  • Language: Portuguese  
  • Currency: Brazilian real  
  • Getting Around : The Metro, Sao Paulo’s public transit system, will be the easiest and one of the cheapest ways to travel throughout the city; download the Moovit app for simple navigation in English. Avoid renting a car as traffic can be horrendous—especially for those not familiar with the roads. Instead, take an Uber or taxi, both of which are plentiful.
  • Travel Tip: Most businesses accept credit and debit cards. Except for buying tickets to ride the Metro and in certain markets, you won’t need cash unless you prefer using it over your card.

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Things to Do

Sao Paulo has bangin’ nightlife, world-class shopping and museums, and live music throughout its streets. See art and learn the history of Brazil, soccer, and the Portuguese language in the city's museums, or cozy up with a good read in one of its many bookstores. Behold the structures of Modernist architects like the massive Edifício Copan and drum-factory-turned-cultural center SESC Pompéia, or walk down Paulista Avenue on a Sunday afternoon when it becomes a giant pedestrian thoroughfare. Sao Paulo has the largest city helicopter fleet in the world, so hire a chopper for an aerial view.

  • Wander Mercado Municipal sampling mangosteen, persimmon, dragon fruit, and other exotic produce from its 300 stalls. (Samples are free with no obligation to buy.) Afterwards, climb the stairs to the restaurant portion of the market and order a mortadella sandwich.
  • Spend the day at Ibirapuera Park museum hopping between the Afro Brasil Museum , Museum of Modern Art , and Museum of Contemporary Art . Walk along the park paths, rent a bike, or sunbathe with Paulistinos in its extensive green fields. See buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, like the Oca, and visit the spaceship-shaped planetarium. 
  • Visit the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP) to see the genius of architect Lina Bo Bardi and art work spanning continents and centuries. Works by Picasso and Candido Portinari hang in glass frames in an open floor plan, removing any barriers from the viewers and the art. Check out what’s happening in the pavilion beneath the museum, which acts as a meeting point for impromptu concerts, fairs, and protests.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the top things to do in Sao Paulo , important places to visit in Sao Paulo , and Sao Paulo's best museums .

Where to Eat and Drink

Sao Paulo has one of the most famous (and delicious) gastronomy scenes in the world, known for both its fine dining and street food. Regional dishes from all over Brazil, from the moqueca (seafood stew) of the north to the meaty farofa-topped barreado of the south, can be found here. Bite into a warm, crunchy coxinha full of shredded chicken; pop a cheesy, chewy pão de queijo; or try a flakey pastel. Order a mini-feast of feijoada from any neighborhood restaurant on a weekend, and after you’ve slept it off, refresh your pallet with an ice-cold açai bowl. In addition to offering food from all over the world due to its strong immigrant population, the city is also home to A Casa do Porco , an experimental pork restaurant with onsite butcher shop, and D.O.M ., which highlights regional ingredients from throughout Brazil using French, Italian, and Indigenous cooking methods.

Paulistinos love a cold, creamy chopp (draft beer), especially on weekend afternoons at botecas (neighborhood bars), which are plentiful in the Vila Madelena neighborhood. For something harder, the national liquor is cachaça, a sweet spirit made from sugarcane juice and the base ingredient in another famous Brazilian beverage: the caipirinha. Most bars will have these drinks, but to check out the microbrewery scene, head to a craft beer bar like Emporio Alto dos Pinheiros , one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in Brazil.

According to Sao Paulo Turismo S/A, the official tourism and events company of the city of Sao Paulo, the tap water is drinkable  . However, it’s recommended to have filtered water instead. You can easily find mineral water at supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.

Explore our articles on the best restaurants in Sao Paulo , the top foods to try in Sao Paulo , and nightlife in Sao Paulo .

Where to Stay

The art-filled Vila Madelena neighborhood offers well-priced Airbnbs and hostels, colorful streets of graffiti murals, third wave coffee shops, local bars, and friendly bohemian artists. Staying along Avenida Paulista in neighborhoods like Bela Vista will give you easy access to the MASP and the city’s best nightlife strip on Baixo Augusta. Centro might be a little rough, but bursts with personality and contains historic sites like Edifício Copan, Mercado Municipal, and Cathedral Sé. Stylish and LGBTQ-friendly Higienópolis is food heaven with swanky hotels and one of the city’s best malls, all only a mile or two from Avenida Paulista. Further out, Brooklin Novo offers luxury hotels and shopping, good for business travelers wanting to relax. Pinheiros has cultural centers with fascinating free activities, art galleries, funky boutiques, and a park great for midday lounging.

Check out our recommendations of the best hotels in Sao Paulo .

Getting There

Sao Paulo’s main airport is Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) , where most international flights will land. Two other airports service the city: Viracopos Airport (VCP) in Campinas for flights in Latin America and Congonhas Airport (CGH) for domestic flights. The Tietê Bus Terminal links Sao Paulo with all major cities in Brazil via clean, comfortable, and cheap long-distance buses.

Culture and Customs

Pickpocketing is a problem in Sao Paulo, especially in crowded, touristy areas. Be aware of your belongings, especially if going to large markets or festivals. While some areas are fine to walk at night, others are not. Check with your accommodation about the safety of where you are staying, and when in doubt, this issue is easily remedied by calling an Uber. Walking during the day throughout most of the city is safe.

This is not the laid-back beach side Brazil you would find in Rio or Florianopolis. Sao Paulo is the financial center of Brazil and one of the largest cities in the world. Expect a much faster pace of life, and people letting loose at night and on the weekends after long work days. When dining out, service will generally be fast, and the tip is already included.

Money Saving Tips

  • If you want quick, cheap food with lots of variety, go to a comida por quilo restaurant. Fill your plate from the buffet, then take it to the cashier to weigh it before you eat. You pay by weight rather than a set price, and it usually ends up costing the equivalent of a few dollars.
  • Go to the top of Edifício Copan for free by lining up outside gate F any day at 1:30 p.m. You’ll be let in at 2 p.m. to head to the roof where you can see panoramic views of Sao Paulo.
  • Take the Metro or a bus to the airport instead of an Uber or taxi. Give yourself a time cushion in case the transfers take a while.
  • The 99 Taxi app is usually a little cheaper than Uber and just as reliable.
  • Many of the museums like MASP and Pinoteca have free admission days. Others, like MIS and the Museu Afro Brasil, are fee all the time.
  • For free, quality entertainment, go to a centro culturai (cultural center). Sao Paulo contains about 40 cultural centers showcasing exhibitions, theater, art, concerts, debates, and more.
  • Check out Mamba Negra free music parties in abandoned buildings throughout the city.
  • Visit outside of high season (December to March) for cheaper accommodation.

São Paulo Turismo S/A. "FAQ: What is the language that the people of São Paulo (Paulistanos) speak?"

São Paulo Turismo S/A. "Practical Guide: Currency and Exchange."

São Paulo Turismo S/A. "FAQ: Is Tap Water Drinkable?"

Nightlife in Sao Paulo: The Best Bars, Clubs, & More

5 Best Art Museums in Brazil

A Complete Guide to the Architecture in Sao Paulo

15 Top Things to Do in São Paulo, Brazil

The Top 10 Museums in Sao Paulo

Cairo Guide: Planning Your Trip

Important Places to Visit in São Paulo, Brazil

New York City Guide: Planning Your Trip

The 9 Best Places to Shop in Sao Paulo

Weather in Sao Paulo: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Your Trip to the Netherlands: The Complete Guide

Rio de Janeiro's Coolest Architecture

48 Hours in Prague: The Ultimate Itinerary

The 15 Best Restaurants in Sao Paulo

The 8 Best Things to Do in Recife, Brazil

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Travel Guide to Brazil (2024): Discover wonders

Know everything you need to travel to Brazil with our Travel Guide for 2024! Learn how to move around and how to remain connected!

Manuel M.

January 1, 2024

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In today’s post, we’ve prepared the Brazil Travel Guide with everything you need to know to enjoy your stay in the main cities and tourist destinations of the fifth-largest country in the world and one of the most visited countries, thanks to its wide and diverse tourist, gastronomic and cultural offer.

In this guide, you will find plans and unmissable destinations, the best time to go to Brazil, what to bring in your suitcase, options to have internet, ideas for your travel itinerary, immigration requirements and other important issues that you cannot lose sight of. Let’s start!

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Best time to travel to Brazil

Before planning your trip, you should identify the best time to travel to Brazil, which is in this guide. For many travelers, summer is undoubtedly the ideal time to enjoy the iconic beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Praia do Forte, Fernando de Noronha, to name a few.

For other travelers, the best time is in the low season to enjoy a vacation without the crowds. Regardless of your choice, it is important to know the different seasons of the year to identify the best time for your next trip.

Spring in Brazil takes place from September to December. It is characterized by pleasant weather with mild temperatures and occasional rain in some regions of the country, although in destinations such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, tropical weather predominates.

On the other hand, it is a low season, so you can find cheaper flights and accommodations. And, as for the tourist offer, you will be able to appreciate the flowering of different species of trees in different regions and enjoy a wide cultural agenda, but we will talk about this later.

Summer in Brazil starts at the end of December and lasts until March. The weather is quite hot with temperatures that can exceed 40°C. As mentioned above, this is the best time to enjoy the iconic Brazilian beaches, as well as the rainforests and national parks.

Autumn starts in the last days of March and lasts until June. Here you will have mild weather with temperatures above 20°C, making it ideal to visit the main cities and enjoy cultural tourism plans.

Finally, there is winter, which begins at the end of June and lasts until September. The weather is particularly cool, although with lower temperatures, especially in the south of the country, so it would be advisable to visit mountainous areas.

Guide to must-see plans and destinations in Brazil

In every season of the year, you will find unmissable plans and destinations to enjoy in different regions of the country. The choice is up to you, as it all depends on your lifestyle, preferences and travel budget. Below, we’ll give you some inspiration with these recommended cultural activities:

World-class activities in Brazil

Oktoberfest Date : October Destination : Blumenau

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This festival is a tribute to the original version held annually in Munich, Germany. In Brazil, it is celebrated in several cities, especially in Blumenau, Santa Catarina and São Paulo . Beer is the great host of the event, which is also accompanied by a festive atmosphere with live music, dances, costumes and typical food, such as the famous German sausages.

Tomorrowland

Date : October Destination : São Paulo

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The Tomorrowland Festival is the largest electronic music event in the world. It is held three times a year, thanks to its different venues in Belgium, France and Brazil. It is widely recognized for its incredible performance and staging, with the participation of the best exponents of this musical genre. if you want to go, check on the official website for your tickets and add them to your itinerary for Brazil and follow this travel guide for more!

São Paulo Comic-Con (CCXP)

Date : November 30 to December 03 Destination : São Paulo

It is the largest pop culture event in the world. It is characterized by bringing together thousands of fans of comics, movies, TV and video games, through the recreation of worlds that recreate their favorite productions to live a unique experience, meeting their favorite stars, in addition to enjoying many activities, including the famous contest, cosplay.

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Date : December 31 Destination : Florianópolis, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraná

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This is the most important New Year’s Eve event in Brazil, although it is also celebrated in other parts of the world. On this date, it is common for families and friends to gather to celebrate the arrival of the new year in public (and even private) spaces to enjoy multiple cultural activities, organized by the local governments of each city. This is a must-go on your itinerary and is a top recommendation in this travel guide to Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival

Date : February / March Destination : Rio de Janeiro

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This travel guide to Brazil wouldn’t be complete with the Rio Carnival. This Rio Carnival is one of the most famous popular festivals in the world. For four days, thousands of people gather in the city to enjoy the parades of the Samba schools, parties and cultural activities that take place throughout the city, being one of the most anticipated celebrations by Brazilians and foreign tourists.

Lollapalooza

Date : March Destination : São Paulo

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The Lollapalooza Festival is an event created to annually bring together lovers of music, art, food, fashion, among other categories, with world-class artists. It originated in the United States and quickly expanded to countries such as Chile, Argentina, Germany, France, Sweden and Brazil.

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Brazil Flavor

Date : May / June Destination : All Brazil

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Of course, food can’t be skipped in this travel guide to Brazil. For food lovers there is the Brazil Sabor Festival , an event that already has its 18th version for 2024. Every year, more than 900 restaurants participate in the main cities of the country, so it is a great opportunity to discover the flavors, recipes and gastronomic secrets of Brazilians.

Rock in Rio

Date : Held every two years Destination : Rio de Janeiro

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The Rock in Rio music festival originated in Brazil and, thanks to its popularity, its celebration has expanded to cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Las Vegas. It features the participation of world-class artists in different musical genres: rock, electronic, pop and Brazilian music.

Popular festivals in Brazil

In addition to the Rio Carnival, there are other popular festivals, declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of the nation, such as the Festivities of the Divine Holy Spirit , held annually in Pirenópolis.

But there are also important celebrations such as the Congadas , which gather Catholic and African traditions; the Tiradents Day ; the Parintins Folklore Festival ; the Sâo Jôao Festivities ; the Junina Festival , among other religious representations.

Requirements to go to Brazil

The requirements to travel to Brazil as a tourist depend on your country of origin, continue reading this guide to find out more! In some countries, it is only necessary to present your passport to enter Brazil, while in other cases it is essential to have a visa. That is why in this section we will explain what you must provide:

Valid passport

This document must be valid for the length of your stay in Brazil. It must be in good condition and have a photo that allows clear identification of the holder.

Tourist Visa

A list of countries that can enter the country without a visitor’s visa (VIVIS) is published on the website of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs , among them: Argentina , Colombia , Chile , Spain and Mexico .

To enter the country by car, in addition to the immigration requirements, you must present a valid driver’s license, vehicle ownership card, valid compulsory insurance and other documents proving the authorized exit of private and public vehicles from each country, in accordance with national laws.

Fact : If you are traveling as a Digital Nomad , we explain the requirements and how to apply for a special visa.

Entry and exit airfare ticket

Upon arrival at the airport, the Brazilian immigration authorities will ask for your passport and/or visa to verify your identification and at the same time will ask you to fill out a form to allow you to enter and leave the country.

Confirmed reservation with round-trip flights

For your trip, you must have an airline ticket with a confirmed round-trip reservation. You will also have to justify the purpose of your trip to the immigration authorities.

Vaccinations

Currently, there are no health restrictions for entering Brazil. Neither is the yellow fever vaccine required as a migratory requirement, nor the presentation of an international vaccination certificate; however, this vaccination schedule is recommended to protect the traveler’s health.

How to create a travel itinerary in Brazil

Another important aspect in planning your trip to Brazil is to dedicate time to create a travel itinerary that will help you optimize your time , regarding the destinations you plan to visit and the activities you can do. This way you can book flights and accommodations without leaving it to the last minute, but also create a route to visit the most emblematic places of each destination.

Surely, you are thinking of going to traditional travel agencies to take care of the planning and organization of the trip, but thanks to mobile technology, you can create your own travel itinerary with different mobile applications, such as the ones we will present below:

This app gives you the possibility to find free tours in Brazil’s main cities , with the support of a local guide who speaks different languages and will accompany you while you travel through different cultural tours to learn about important places and interesting facts about each destination.

Another free app that can be very useful when planning your trip is Passporter . With this app, you can get inspired by the experiences of other travelers, choose the destinations of your interest, create a personalized travel route, upload your reservations and invite other participants to contribute ideas to your trip planning.

Options to get internet in Brazil

Having the internet is another important issue to have all the control of your trip in one place. Fortunately, in Brazil, you will have multiple alternatives to secure your internet connection, but not all options are as convenient either for budget, security, practicality or compatibility reasons.

Below, we will share with you the alternatives most used by travelers so that you can choose the best option, take note!

eSIM International

If you have a smartphone compatible with eSIM technology , you can activate a prepaid data plan for your trip to Brazil, without depending on an operator or paying roaming fees. The purchase, installation and activation of this eSIM is at your own expense since the process is 100% virtual, although you have a 24/7 customer service team to resolve any issues related to your eSIM.

There are currently providers specialized in travel eSIMs; one of them is Holafly. Their online store has eSIMs for multiple destinations, with flexible plans and rates. For Brazil, you can find an offer of plans with Unlimited Data, starting at $19 . Any of these also includes 500 MB per day for data sharing.

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Prepaid SIM cards

If you do not have a cell phone compatible with eSIM, the following alternative with SIM cards of the main local operators; in this case we are talking specifically about: TIM, Claro and Vivo. Each of these companies offers coverage in different regions of the country, so you should check the coverage you need before choosing any of these options.

These chips include data, minutes and SMS messages for local use with different plans and rates. However, keep in mind that to acquire a SIM and activate a package of mobile services you must meet the requirements indicated by each operator and therefore, it will take some time.

International roaming

The roaming service will allow you to continue using your cell phone in Brazil, as if you were at home. The activation of this service is done with the operator that manages your mobile service plan in your country, but keep in mind that the rates for each consumption you make abroad can be very high.

That is why we recommend other options such as Pocket WiFi, which are small pocket routers that you can take anywhere, but also have several associated costs that you must assume at the time of renting the equipment.

WiFi is the most practical alternative for many travelers, since it allows them to connect for certain periods of time in public establishments such as cafés, hotels, airports, libraries, among other places.

Although it is the cheapest option, it is not the safest and that is why we have left it for last. It is best to look for private connections to avoid putting your information at risk.

Guide to Public Transportation in Brazil

This is an important part of this travel guide for Brazil, so pay close attention. The country has several means of public and private transportation, available to everyone.

Buses : Each city has its own integrated transportation network and fares may vary, depending on the distance traveled. To use this service, you must purchase a card (cartão) at the main stations.

Metro : Cities such as Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have this transportation system, which is the fastest and most efficient in the country. Its fares are affordable and anyone can use it.

Trains : This means of transportation connects the metropolitan area of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro with outlying neighborhoods, also known as suburbs. It is very convenient for traveling long distances, connecting cities and towns that are located in the interior of the country.

Streetcars : This transportation system is a bit more traditional and is found in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre.

Cabs : Taxis in Brazil are available in various colors and provide different services. For example, in São Paulo, yellow taxis provide regular services, while white taxis provide special transportation.

  • Fact : Before accepting the service, check to confirm the estimated fare as some drivers may charge you more money because you are a foreigner.

Where to exchange currency in Brazil?

When it comes to options for exchanging currency in Brazil there are exchange houses, banks and ATMs.

Currency exchange offices in Brazil

Travelex Confidence Casa de Cambio Cotação Western Union

Banks for currency exchange

Banco do Brasil Caixa Econômica Federal Itaú Unibanco Banco Bradesco Banco Santander

ATM electronic tellers (Caixas eletrônicos)

Banco24Horas 24 Hour Network Bradesco Expresso Fact : Remember that before making currency exchange operations with any of these companies, it is important to investigate the rates and commissions to get the best offer.

Exchange houses usually offer the lowest rates, since they are establishments dedicated to offering this type of service.

Things worth buying in Brazil

In Brazil, you will find a wide range of products that you can take home as souvenirs. In addition, it is a way to contribute to the local economy and employment with handmade products, here are some ideas:

Leather handicrafts

Brazilian handicrafts are characterized by materials such as straw, açaí fibers, feathers from different species of birds, leather, wood, ceramics and textiles with traditional embroidery techniques. Additionally, you will find folk art and decorative objects such as lamps, mirrors and carved wood.

Brazilian Coffee

Brazilian coffee differs from other coffees in the world for its flavor and smoothness, with notes of chocolate and nuts; also for its consistency and export quality. It is a very traditional drink that you can bring as a gift for your family or friends.

Cachaça is a local drink, made from fermented sugar cane and distilled to produce a clear and strong liquor. It is used as a base to prepare the famous caipirinha, one of Brazil’s most popular cocktails.

Jewels and precious stones

Brazil is home to the most valuable gemstones in the world. We are talking about the emeralds, diamonds, sapphire, tourmaline, amethyst, among other high-quality stones. Hence, many tourists choose this destination to buy jewelry and gemstones at more affordable prices, compared to other countries such as India and Thailand.

Brazilian sweets

The brigadeiros and chocolates are local products with worldwide recognition for their delicious taste. So if you are thinking of giving an authentic gift to someone who enjoys these preparations, it can be a very good alternative.

What to take in your suitcase to Brazil?

Knowing what to take in your suitcase is an excellent way to optimize space and leave aside the famous “just in case” that can lead you to have extra weight when boarding the plane and carry a lot of weight, which can cause physical discomfort.

So to avoid this kind of uncomfortable situations, the best thing you can do is to prepare your travel suitcase with what will really be useful on your trip. Here is a list of the basics:

  • Travel documents such as passport, important documents, credit cards.
  • Light, comfortable and appropriate clothing for the activities you plan to do.
  • Comfortable walking shoes, sandals, beach shoes.
  • Accessories to cover yourself from the sun: sunglasses, hat or cap, sunscreen.
  • Electronic devices such as your laptop, cell phone, chargers, cameras.
  • Toiletries and personal care products in the quantities indicated in the travel policy.
  • Medications with their respective medical support that validates their consumption.
  • First aid kit

Fact : What you should bring in your suitcase may vary according to the region you visit and the season of the year, so it is advisable to create your travel itinerary to take what you need.

What to do in case of emergency on your trip to Brazil?

At any time on your trip you may have an emergency, whether due to accidents, diseases, natural disasters, organized crime, among other examples. It is therefore essential that you follow the recommendations provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country.

This information can be found on the website of each Ministry. For example, on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain, there is a section dedicated to travel information to Brazil. Among the important aspects to consider, keep in mind:

General protection recommendations.

Purchase a travel insurance with medical and hospital coverage with sufficient coverage in Brazil. It is advisable to be vaccinated against yellow fever and use repellent to avoid dengue, chikungunya fever and zika virus.

If you are traveling with children, you should always carry the parents authorization if not present. Avoid visiting risk areas such as favelas, especially in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, São Paulo and Brasilia. Caution in border areas and other places to avoid.

Keep this travel guide close or on your phone so you can quickly check it while in Brazil!

Useful telephone numbers in Brazil

Emergency number in Brazil: 190 Telephone number for violence against women: 180 Number to request an ambulance: 192

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Frequently Asked Questions

Vaccination is not an immigration requirement for travel to Brazil. However, it is important to be vaccinated against yellow fever to protect the health of travelers.

The official currency in Brazil is the real (BRL) and its symbol is R$. Its denominations in coins are: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and 1 real. And, as for banknotes: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 reais.

The official language is Portuguese, although there are also indigenous and immigrant languages spoken in different regions according to their cultural representations.

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for their beaches, carnivals and festivals; Iguassu Falls, Salvador de Bahia, Brasilia, Florianopolis, Recife, Fernando de Noronha, Manaus, Curitiba, Fortaleza, among others.

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    In this guide, you will find plans and unmissable destinations, the best time to go to Brazil, what to bring in your suitcase, options to have internet, ideas for your travel itinerary, immigration requirements and other important issues that you cannot lose sight of. Let's start!