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Brazil Tips & Tricks: Every FYI You Need To Know

BY JERRY ALONZO LEON

Home to lush rainforests and enchanting waterfalls, Brazil exudes a beauty and sense of wonderment worthy of every traveler’s bucket list. We’ve got a quick rundown of everything you’ll need to know, from Wi-Fi, cash exchange, SIM cards, walking tours…and more!

Flickr Alex Brazil Favela

Photo: Flickr/Alex

5 things to avoid:

  1. Avoid withdrawing money from ATMs in poorly lit areas or in sketchy, deserted streets. Go indoors to withdraw money.
  2. Avoid binge drinking in public. Brazilians are not fond of such behavior.
  3. Use only licensed and authorized taxi services from airports, hotels, and hostels.
  4. Beware of pickpockets, always keep your wallet/purse in your front pocket or in front of you, and only bring enough cash with you for the day (leave the credit/ATM card at your hotel/hostel).
  5. Never hitchhike, as it’s not commonplace and likely to be unsafe.

Weather:

  • Dec-Feb: Rainfall 4-6 in. Weather: 70-95 °F. Hot and humid with summer in full swing.
  • Aug-Nov: Rainfall 2-3 in. Weather: 65-85 °F. Mild weather as spring brings about pleasant temperatures.
  • Mar-Jul: Rainfall 1-5 in. Weather: 65-80 °F. Less rainfall and plenty of sun makes the offseason a great time to visit.

Language:

Though Portuguese is the official language of Brazil (which is the sixth most spoken language in the world), travelers who try to get by using Spanish alone may be considered a little rude since Brazilians are fiercely proud of their language. It’s better to attempt at least a little Portuguese in conversation, which will help endear you to the locals. Most Brazilians will not know much English or Spanish by the way, but are known to be extremely friendly and hospitable when foreigners attempt at least a little Portuguese.

Here are a few phrases you should know:

  • Hello = Olá
  • Goodbye = Tchau
  • How are you? = Como Vai?
  • Fine, and you? = Bem, e você?
  • Excuse me = Com licença
  • Sorry = Desculpa
  • Please = Por favor
  • Thank You = Obrigado/Obrigada (m/f)
  • You’re Welcome = De nada
  • Yes/No = Sim/Não
  • What’s your name? = Qual é o seu nome?
  • My name is… = Meu nome é…
  • Do you Speak English? = Você fala inglés?
  • I don’t understand = Não entendo

Etiquette:

Always maintain eye contact when shaking hands with someone. Kisses on the cheeks are common, with a kiss on the left cheek always being first.

Safety:

Despite what you may hear and see from the news, Brazil is generally safe for travelers to visit. It’s important to use always use common sense, such as: avoid walking alone at night or unattended in favelas; never flash any jewelry, iPhones or other expensive electronics; only take what you need for the day and leave all valuables in your hotel room; when riding public transportation always keep a hand or eye on your valuables.

Viniloco via Flickr Brazil real money

Photo: Flickr/Viniloco

Money:

Brazil uses the real (pronounced as “hey-ow,” with plural reais pronounced as “hey-ice”), which is written as R$.

Money exchange:

Never exchange money in the streets. If someone offers you a too good to be true exchange rate, then it probably is (beware of robbery schemes like these). For money exchange, go to a casa de cambio (exchange office), often found at the airport or in city centers.

ATM:

You will find that ATM’s are widely available, but beware of potential card-eating machines. Bringing an extra copy of your ATM card or other bankcard options would be a good idea. Due to new daily limits imposed on foreign ATM cards, travelers can only withdraw up to R$300 (about $113 USD) per day, unless you use Bradesco ATM machines.

Credit cards:

Visa is the most commonly accepted form of credit card, followed by MasterCard. American Express is less commonly accepted.

Flickr Diego Torres Silvestre Brazil phone

Photo: Flickr/Diego Torres Silvestre

Domestic calls:

For domestic calls dial 9090, then the number. If you’re making a call to another city, dial 0, then the long-distance carrier’s code, the two digits of the city you’re calling, and then the number. Carriers will use different codes in areas where their service is strongest, but for nationwide calling you can rely on Embratel (code 21) or Telmar (code 31) for dependable service. Phone cards (cartões telefônicos) from newsstands and kiosks can be purchased for R$4 to R$15.

International calls:

For international calling, your best bet is to use Skype, as it’s cheaper than standard landline calling. International calls using Brazil’s Embratel is about 66¢ a minute to the US and R$1.42 to Europe and Australia, respectively. Brazil’s country code is 55.

Mobile phone:

For travelers from North Americans, Europe, and Australia, make sure your phone is unlocked (ask your carrier to unlock it, though a fee be apply) and is compatible with at least one of the following GSMs: 850/900/1800/1900. All phone numbers are eight digits, except for São Paulo, which has nine.

SIM card:

SIM cards can be easily purchased from any local kiosk or newsstands, and, as of 2012, can now be purchased with a passport instead of requiring a CPF (tax ID number) to buy one.

Wi-Fi:

Brazil has an excellent network of free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country.

Electricity:

worldstandards.eu brazil PlugThe good news is that since 2010, Brazil has finally standardized its electrical current. The bad news is that it will take many more years to fully implement the changes, which means the old US type plugs (two-prong) will still be in use until it is replaced by the new three-prong style plug.

Unfortunately, however, Brazil has not standardized its electrical outlets, which means it can range from 110V and 220V. Make sure to bring a converter and a surge protector with you to protect your electronics.

Photo: worldstandards.eu

Water:

Tap water is fine to drink or brush your teeth with, though the quality of water may vary in urban areas. Make sure to filter water or drink only from bottled water when in rural areas.

Tipping:

Tipping in restaurants is not expected, as a standard “servicio” service fee of 10% is typically included in the bill. The same applies to bars and nightclubs where a 10% service fee will be added to the bill.

Flickr Roger Schultz Brazil taxi

Photo: Flickr/Roger Schultz

Taxi:

Taxis are convenient, safe and highly recommended, especially if you arrive at your destination after dark. Taxi rides in São Paulo, for instance, usually start at R$4.10 and rise to R$2.50 per kilometer (nights and Sundays will have higher rates). Just make sure the driver turns the meter on when you get in. Tarifa de Taxi is a great tool to calculate point-by-point directions and pricing in many Brazilian cities. If you’re concerned about the language barrier, it’s always a good idea to write down the address or name of place you’d like to visit to show the driver.

Walking Tour:

Free Walking Tours: This much beloved tour company, offers a free three-hour walk through Rio de Janiero’s most popular sights, including Selaron Steps and Lapa Arches.

São Paulo Free Walking Tour: Check out SP Free Walking Tour if you happen to be in São Paulo, featuring Old Downtown tour and Paulista Ave tour.

Brazil Expedition: For a chance to explore Brazil with experienced guides, try out Brazil Expedition, which feature football, hanging gliding, surfing, samba, cooking and even favela tours!

Jerry Leon contributor profile

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One Comment on “Brazil Tips & Tricks: Every FYI You Need To Know”

  1. March 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on msamba.

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