Think of Brazil and what first comes to mind ? The sun, the beaches, the bronzed bodies, the frenzied samba? This gargantuan South American country has an infectious zest for life that reverberates from reef to rainforest.
Life can’t always be a bed of roses, however, and its political landscape is incredibly complex, but Brazilians have an underling pride that’s hard to ignore. And there’s no doubting they’ve got a great nation to be proud of – it’s the fifth largest country in the world: a sprawling mass of 3.28 sq miles with achingly beautiful landscapes of all shapes and sizes. There are the thriving cities that’ll shake your senses; there are the coastal retreats – all cool hippie hideaways and gin-clear seas; there’s the mass of Amazonian rainforest; and there are the festivals firing on all cylinders. Living within its borders are a whopping two million people - this country is big and bold. Some time ago Brazil was hailed a rising star with progressive governments, but in recent years, there’s been a shift and the country has seen political and economic crises with a recession and corruption scandals embroiling political parties. It’ll be interesting to see how the next couple of decades pan out for this formidable force.
Our tip ? Always go with an open mind to Brazil. Things take time, they don’t just happen - you may get delayed, your journeys may be cancelled, but embrace the chaos and you’ll fit right in. They’re an affectionate nation: there are lots of pats on backs from men; women kiss on both cheeks in Sao Paulo, and three times in Rio.
Never forget to take out excellent travel insurance. Public service hospitals can be chaotic so it pays to ensure you have access to private hospitals, should the need for medical care arise.
Many Brazilians are members of exclusive clubs: get chatting with the locals and they might invite you along. Football chat is all the rage here and it’s a recurring theme, but if you’re not sure what to talk about, stick with the weather and food, and avoid politics.
Brazil is an incredible country with exceptional experiences, but follow these precautions to ensure you get the most out of your trip. This is the home of Formula One racing driver, Ayrton Senna, and his legacy fuels countless boy racers and erratic driving across the country. Driving isn’t what it is in the UK – drivers don’t always signal and rules and laws are an entirely different ball game, for example, cars often don’t stop at red lights after midnight, something that pedestrians must be aware of. As always, never drink or drive – police have no tolerance to this and will fine you if you’re found under the influence. Unusually, tyre wear is not something Brazilians enforce, and it’s seen as an optional expense. It’s still something to look for when hiring a car since vehicles can dangerously slip and slide after an onslaught of rain.
Don’t ever go topless in Brazil. This is a real no-no for Brazilians - it’s actually illegal and it’s a rule taken very seriously.
Furthermore, avoid wearing valuable jewellery or watches and keep an eye on your belongings whilst on the beach - it pays to avoid attracting unwanted attention. In crowds of people, it’s possible you’ll feel hands in your pockets so keep your cash hidden away.
Eating and drinking is all part of the good life in Brazil. Even if you’re looking for a quick snack of fruit, you’ll find juicy, colourful morsels that are incredibly cheap. Things kick off with breakfasts of just-baked pan de queijo - Brazilan cheese bread that’s light and fluffy, washed down with fruit juices. Aimezvous beans are a mainstay of Brazilian dishes – cooked up in earthy and comforting stews of feijoada with smoky sausage, meat and shredded cassava. Look to the northeast of the country, and there’s the seafood stew, moqueca, that’s dished up in restaurants and homes, simmered with coconut milk, palm oil and fiery peppers. Further south, barbeque joints cook up prime pieces of beef over sizzling grills with steaks from the gauchos of the pampas. Churrascarias are wildly popular spaces to munch down skewers of barbecued meat, or there’s also comida por quilo restaurants, where you literally pay for the weight of your dish. Feeling thirsty? There are excellent beers that can be picked up everywhere. And you have to sink a few capirinhas, mixed up with Brazil’s homespun cachaca.
You’ll relish your trip and get far more out of it if you learn a few Portuguese phrases. English is barely spoken apart from in the big cities, and neither is Spanish. That said, Brazilians are, on the whole, warm and welcoming and will happily communicate using hand gestures.
Brazil is a very diverse country. As for electricity, it ranges from 120 to 220 volts depending on the region of the city. Plugs have three branches but they’re not the same as in the UK, so don’t forget adaptors. Heavy rain can cut the power off, but most hotels have generators should the electricity go.
Ticket distributors are found almost everywhere in town. The shops often accept credit cards, as well as restaurants. Life here is actually quite simple, especially when you take the little annoyances with a smile and laugh when things don’t quite go to plan.
Finally, there’s the furious rhythm of samba – it’s not just a type of music and a dance, it’s a religion for many, and it’s ingrained in life here. You might not quite have a the rhythm of the locals, or be able to pull off the slick moves, but seek out samba clubs in Rio and watch as the city’s movers and shakers shimmy and grind across the dancefloor. You’ll be instantly won over.