Brazil is a large and populous country in South America, with land stretching from the Amazon basin in the north and, across the equator, down south to Iguaçu Falls and Porto Alegre. It is a country of incredible diversity, from busy and crowded cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to laid-back inland towns and tranquil beaches along the Atlantic coast.
Brazil’s diversity is seen very well in its population – there is a mixture of Portuguese and other European descents, such as Italians, Spanish and German, African, from sub-Saharan Africa, indigenous people from ethnic groups, Tupi and Guarani, Jewish and Arab immigrants, and a large percentage of mixed race and ethnicities, called Pardo.
What is common to all these diverse communities is a love for Brazilian nature, rain forests, beaches, and expansive seaside, great food, nice weather, and incredible rhythmic music and dance. The world-famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful parade of music, dance, culture, art, fashion, and universal joy of life.
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Federative Republic of Brazil
- Capital: Brasilia
- Population: 208 million
- Area: 8.55m sq km (3.3m sq miles)
- Major language: Portuguese
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 79 years (women)
- Currency: Real
2. Where is it?
Brazil is located in South America and it shares borders with nine countries: Guyana, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Colombia, Suriname, and Venezuela. Brazil is a very large country – based on its size, it is the 5th country in the world and the 2nd in the Americas.
3. Visa requirements
Unlike with many other countries, your passport must be valid only for at least one month (most of the countries require at least three months validity) after you complete your visit to Brazil, so please plan ahead. Most of EU countries do not require visa. Other nationals, such as US, Australia and Canada require visa and can apply online. South American countries do not require visa for tourism.
4. Getting there
Getting to Brazil is the best via one of several international airports: Sao Paulo (SAO), Rio de Janeiro (RIO), Fortaleza (FOR) and several more.
Here are some flights to Brazil from the US:
- Fort Lauderdale — Sao Paulo from $215
- Miami — Fortaleza from $219
- Fort Lauderdale — Goiania from $253
- Fort Lauderdale — Sao Jose Do Rio Preto from $295
- Miami — Goiania from $314
- Miami — Recife from $360
- New York — Rio De Janeiro from $371
- Miami — Sao Paulo from $373
- New York — Vitoria from $383
- Miami — Rio De Janeiro from $385
More cheap flights and hotels in Brazil:
5. Where to stay in Brazil?
Brazil has developed industry sector and can offer variety of accommodation to tourists. From standard and luxurious hotels and resorts, through pousadas (basically, Inns) and all the way to farm stays and jungle lodges, every type of visitor is covered!
It is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from in hostels.
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6. Moving around
Moving around by plane recommended as it is affordable, and there is also an option to buy Airpass and use it during 30 days on local routes.
Moving between cities can be also done via long distance buses which offer various option of comfort, such as fully reclining seats, air condition, toilets and tickets should be booked in advance.
Renting a car is also a good option, especially if traveling around south Brazil; roads in the north are not in very good condition.
Traveling by boat is also available in certain areas, such as route Manaus to Belem or from Manaus upstream towards Peru.
Within large cities, there is metro available, or regular bus and mini van network. Taxi service is also available, to flag on the street or book via phone or online. In more rural area, you can even have a ride with moto taxi – motorcycle taxi service.
7. Food in Brazil
Brazil has a very rich cuisine, influenced by different national dishes and by local ethnic flavor. The long colonial rule of Portugal has also left traces in food recipes.
Brazilian barbeque is something you can have throughout Brazil and each region has specific spices and ways in preparing various types of meat. Feijoada is a popular dish prepared for family lunches – it’s a slow-cooked bean stew with added various types of meat. Bacalhau, dried and salted codfish came from Portugal. Moqueca is a fish and seafood stew, characteristic of northeast Brazil.
Vatapá is another dish from the northeast – thick stew from seafood, bread, palm oil, and various herbs. Empadão is basically chicken potpie and it comes in various sizes and it is popular with street food sellers. Another popular street food is Pão de queijo or bread and cheese, made into a crispy roll with soft insides.
On the sweet side of the Brazilian menu, we have Quindim, a creamy sweet made with eggs, sugar, and coconut; Açaí, a sweet sorbet made out of this famous fruit; and very popular Brigadeiros, a very sweet chocolate truffle dessert.
How safe is Brazil for tourists and to move around? Brazil is not that safe for tourists as the crime rate is overall very high in this very populous country so visitors are advised to stay vigilant. This applies especially to tourists traveling alone, and not in organized groups or via travel agencies.
There is a high risk from pickpocketers and muggers, so this should be an area of huge concern for visitors.
Brazil is very affordable for tourists, especially for accommodation and food. If you travel throughout Brazil, your biggest expense might be flight tickets due to large distances between cities.
The most expensive places are, understandably, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia.
Brazil is a large country and most of it is in the southern hemisphere, below the equator. This means that the north of the country and most of the Amazon forest area is subject to tropical weather with a hot and humid climate.
South of country, especially areas around Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro get to have hot summers and mild winters, meaning winters start in June-July and summer in December January, due to inverted seasons related to the northern hemisphere.
11. Best time to visit Brazil
The high season is from before Christmas until February/March when the famous Carnival in Rio is held. This is important to know, as during these times airfare and hotel prices go up.
Another high season is during Easter and in July when schools go for winter break (remember, Brazil has inverted seasons compared to the northern hemisphere). Temperatures in places south of Rio de Janeiro can go low in that time, so the best is to visit areas in the north and northeast.
12. Money matters
Brazil’s currency is Real. The best exchange rate for cash can be obtained by simply withdrawing local currency from the ATMs. Due to the danger of pickpocketing and mugging, please do not hold large amounts of cash with you.
Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. There are many ATMs and banks in city areas and cash withdrawals are in local currency with a fee.
13. What to see in Brazil?
Brazil is a very large country and tourists might need to come to visit several times if they want to see all the attractions. We selected several top attractions that are a must, but the list is definitely much longer.
Christ the Redeemer. World-famous Christ statue atop a mountain in Rio de Janeiro. The recognized symbol of Rio and Brazil, globally, accessible by train.
Sugarloaf Mountain. A 396m tall peak on a peninsula in Rio de Janeiro, a recognizable landmark. Accessible by a cableway and offering spectacular views.
Copacabana. Famous beach and a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. A crescent-shaped beach with white sands is a very popular destination for both tourists and locals.
Ipanema. A neighborhood and a beach in south Rio de Janeiro. Chic and fashionable area, popular with tourists.
Corcovado. Landmark mountain in Rio de Janeiro, offering panoramic views. Famous for Christ the Redeemer statue on the top.
Fernando de Noronha. An island archipelago and national marine park, located 350 kilometers off Brazil’s northeast coast.
Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses. Located on the North Atlantic coast, this protected area has a unique combination of sand dunes, salt marsh, and lagoons.
Ilha Grande. Located southwest of Rio de Janeiro, this large island is covered in rainforest, has beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and picturesque coastal villages.
Santa Teresa. Popular hilltop neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, filled with art galleries, boutique hotels, cocktail bars, and charming restaurants.
Escadaria Selaron. Iconic work of art stairway in Rio de Janeiro, covered with hand-painted mosaic tiles. Created by artist Jorge Selarón.
Lapa. Bohemian quarter in Rio de Janeiro, famous for Samba parties, live music clubs, dance halls, and vintage and antique shopping.
Porto de Galinhas. Located on the east Brazil coast, in Ipojuca, south of Recife, this beach with natural pools and with beautiful turquoise water is a very popular tourist destination.
Leblon. Neighborhood and a beach in Rio de Janeiro. Trendy beach with high-end restaurants, cafes, and shopping.
Iguaçu National Park. Massive forested national park featuring famous waterfalls, with scenic views ad nature trails. Located in the south of Brazil and shared with Argentina.
Parque das Aves. Located near Iguaçu Falls, this privately owned zoo is featuring more than 140 species of birds. There are also some reptiles and butterflies.
Ibirapuera Park. Massive urban park in São Paulo, the most visited park in South America. Features cultural center, museums, planetarium, and bike and walking paths.
Beach Park. Located south of Fortaleza, this beachside waterpark and family resort is very popular with tourists.
Chapada Diamantina National Park. Natural preserve located west from the city of Salvador, in east Brazil. Famous for its waterfalls and caves. The area had diamond mines in the past.
Maracanã. Neighborhood and a football stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The stadium was opened in 1950, for the World Cup.
Guanabara Bay. Large harbor and a bay with a spectacular view, part of the larger Rio de Janeiro area.
Pipa Beach. Famous white-sand beach, popular with surfers and lined up with restaurants, bars, and hotels. Located south of the city of Natal, in the northeast of Brazil.
Paulista Avenue. A 2.8 kilometers (1.7 mi) long avenue in Sao Paulo, famous for cultural institutions, museums, shopping malls, and financial companies.
Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Veadeiros. National park in central Brazil, located north of capital Brasilia. Located on a high plateau with remains of early mining cultures. Rockpools and waterfalls.
Amazon Theatre. Famous Renaissance-style theater, built in 19th century in Manaus, in the heart of Amazon rainforest.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. Natural lagoon with seawater, next to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, popular for rowing and canoeing.
Baía do Sancho. Often declared the best beach in the world, this white sandy beach is located in the small island of Fernando de Noronha.
Meeting of Waters. Natural phenomena of mixing of dark waters of Rio Negro and lighter color of Amazon River, happening in the city of Manaus, in Amazon forest.
Pedra da Gávea. The massive, monolithic mountain on the ocean, next to Rio de Janeiro. Offering hiking trails and spectacular views of the ocean and the city.
Beto Carrero World. The largest theme park, showground, and zoo complex in South America, located in Penha, north of Florianopolis.
Botafogo. The beachfront neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, popular with tourists, lined up with bistros, cinemas, and hosted the Indian Museum.
Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand. Located on famous Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, this museum hosts a large collection of world-known artists. It is one of Latin America’s most important collections.
Parque Lage. Urban park in Rio de Janeiro, in the foothill of Corcovado, hosting famous Christ the Redeemer statue. Offering hike trails, and cafe, and an art school in an old mansion.
Canoa Quebrada. A beach resort on the east coast of Ceará, popular with tourists, is located south of Fortaleza.
Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. Stadium used for Olympic archery and marathon in Rio de Janeiro but built for the Rio Carnival parade.
Jardim Botânico. Neighborhood and Botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. Featuring diverse flora and fauna, a scientific research institute, and garden walking paths.
Red Beach. Enclosed volcanic beach with red cliffs and sand, just north of the famous Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.
Inhotim Museum. One of the largest open-air museums in South America, this collection of contemporary art is located south of Belo Horizonte in southeast Brazil.
Jericoacoara Beach. The unspoiled beach is famous for kitesurfing and windsurfing, located north of Fortaleza. Declared as one of the top beaches in the world.
Tijuca National Park. Rainforest in Rio de Janeiro area, offering hiking, waterfalls, birdwatching views of Rio.
Ilha da Queimada Grande. Also known as Snake Island, is located off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean south of Sao Paulo. Closed to the public in order to preserve natural habitat.
Carioca Aqueduct. Beautiful, 18th century built aqueduct in Rio de Janeiro. Consists of double rows of arches and is now used as a tram bridge.
Museu Oscar Niemeyer. Also known simply as MON, this contemporary art and design museum is located in the town of Curitiba in southeast Brazil. Famous for its unique architectural design and an eye-shaped tower.
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. Another Iconic architecture and modern art museum were designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, located across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, in Niteroi.
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Large, established museum of Brazilian art, including painting and sculpture and hosting educational programs.
14. Interesting facts about Brazil
Here are a few interesting facts about this amazing country:
- The capital of Brazil, Brasilia, was constructed in just 41 months, from 1956 to 1960. Rio de Janeiro was the capital for the previous 197 years.
- Brazil has been the world’s largest exporter of coffee for over 100 years.
- According to a 2007 report, there are at least 67 uncontacted tribes in the Brazilian Amazon.
- Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Brazil!