Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to some of the world’s most metropolitan cities, but this is just the beginning. The world famous Carnival takes place every year where millions dance, samba, and party the days away. Wildlife fans will enjoy exploring the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rainforest, while those who enjoy colonial architecture and historic cities will revel in the chance to visit Salvador. Throw in beaches, soccer, beautiful people, and cheap prices, and it’s pretty easy to convince someone this is a country worth seeing. Brazil sells itself and this travel guide can help you plan your trip there.
Accommodation – A dorm room in a hostel (8 beds) starts around 20-30 BRL. Private rooms are about upwards of 100 BRL. Small, family owned budget hotels are also widely abundant and cost between 70-100 BRL. Your own room in a homestay can cost as little as 35-50 BRL. An entire apartment through Airbnb averages around 140 BRL and a shared room averages around 32 BRL.
Food – Small, locally owned restaurants here cost 14 BRL for a meal that includes a couple of courses and a drink. Nicer meals at a more casual restaurant with a nicer décor will cost around 35 BRL. Grocery shopping is very cheap, just about 100 BRL per week. All prices are higher in Rio.
Transportation – Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and comfortable way to travel in the country. Bus tickets cost about 8-10 BRL per hour of travel. A ride from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo costs 440-650 BRL. A ride from Rio de Janeiro to Florianopolis costs 160-240 BRL. Be sure to buy your ticket at least one day in advance. Train service is limited to the tourist-oriented steam train that offers transport in between two important Brazilian tourist towns, Sao Jao del Rei and Tiradentes. Local public transportation costs 2.8-5 BRL per ride. Uber is an option for inner-city transportation and is currently available in 11 Brazilian cities.
Activities – Prices for football matches cost upwards of 35 BRL per ticket, depending on where you’re seated and entrance to Iguazu Falls is about 42 BRL. Amazon river cruises cost a few hundred dollars to thousands depending on how long and luxurious they are. Museums and similar attractions cost around 10-20 BRL.
Suggested daily budget: 170-250 BRL / 50-75 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Couchsurf — Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
- Agree on taxi prices – Agree on the price for your journey with the taxi driver before setting off—many drivers will refuse to use their meters and try to rip you off. It’s much better to take a bus most of the time.
- Go off season – December to March is also a pretty busy time as people from the Northern hemisphere escape the winter. Try to avoid these dates if you want to keep prices low.
- Eat Coxinha – These are the perfect snack to keep you going on long bus journeys. They are deep fried chicken pockets and cost just a few cents.
- Buddy up – In Brazil, you’ll pay a premium for a single room, almost twice the cost of a double. Pair up with a friend to halve the cost of your accommodation if you’re not keen on staying in a dorm.
Top Things to See and Do in Brazil
- Fútbol – Soccer is religion here, and going to a match is one of the most entertaining things you can do in Brazil. Maracana is one of the largest stadiums in the world and seats 100,000 supporters. With the 2016 Olympics turning the world’s attention to the country, soccer fever is all the rage. Take in a match if you can.
- Rio Carnival – The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous parties in the world. Music and dancing take over the streets with thousands of people enjoying the celebrations before the start of the somber period of Lent. Prices during this festival triple and you need to book months in advance, but it’s worth every penny to experience the local flavor.
- Florianópolis – In southern Brazil, this place is composed mostly of the island of Ilha de Santa Catarina. Florianópolis, or Floripa for short, has been attracting surfers and sun worshippers for years. It has become one of Brazil’s most popular beach destinations and is famous for its massive parties. Floripa is the ideal location for fun in the sun, offering visitors an endless array of beaches, excellent seafood, quaint Azorean fishing villages, and awesome nightlife. It’s an especially popular stop for young travelers seeking fun.
- Fernando de Noronha – This is an archipelago of volcanic islands 220 miles off the Brazilian coast. Fernando de Noronha was Brazil’s first Marine Park (70% of the island is protected) and has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beaches are fantastic and largely deserted as only 420 people are permitted on the island at a time. This place has recently become a haven for Brazilian celebrities, and as a result, prices have gone up a bit. If you’re looking for a deserted island experience with a bit of luxury, then Noronha is the place for you. To me, it’s one of the most gorgeous places in South America.
- Rio de Janeiro – Rio is the 5th largest city in the world and has so much to offer visitors that it will take you weeks to scratch the surface. Head up Corcovado to take in the statue of Christ the Redeemer and an amazing view of the city. Additionally, Rio has more museums than you could imagine, as well as endless beaches, parties, food, lively locals, and much more. It’s a great (albeit slightly expensive) city.
- Iguacu Fall – Known as ‘Iguazu Falls’ to the Argentines, these magnificent waterfalls lie across the border from Argentina and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The falls are higher than and twice as wide as Niagra Falls and one of the country’s best natural wonders. 450,000 cubic feet of water thunder down the 275 cascades every second. Admission price is 4 BRL.
- Brasilia – Although not as famous as Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia is definitely worth a visit. The city was inaugurated in 1960 and is a masterpiece of modernist architecture, attracting aficionados the world over. The city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Pantanal– These are the largest wetlands in the world, located in the west, stretching into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. As can be expected, the Pantanal is a wildlife watcher’s dream come true. Over 11,000 species of animal live in the wetlands, from the rare Marsh Deer to the Giant Anteater and the Hyacinth Macaw.
- Amazonia National Park – The Amazon covers 8% of the earth’s surface but is home to 50% of its biodiversity. The Amazonia National Park is almost 40% of the nation’s landmass and is perfect for birdwatching, trekking, and kayaking. There are many points of entry, chances to go hiking, camping, and river tours. No trip to Brazil is complete without seeing the Amazon.
- Recife – Recife is home to some of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches and is the second largest city on the country’s northeastern coast. The city’s historical center is extremely beautiful with dozens of restaurants and quaint establishments. Head to nearby Olinda, a colonial city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
- Salvador – Visit Brazil’s first city and cultural capital, Salvador on the country’s northeast coast. Also known as the ‘capital of happiness’, visitors enjoy the city’s easy-going atmosphere and colonial architecture. The colonial center of Perlourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
- Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo is the third largest city in the world and the largest in South America, home to over 17 million people. Visitors to this expansive city can enjoy world class nightlife, music, and cuisine. While it lacks the charm of Rio, I still like it.
- Manaus Opera House– The Amazon theater is located in the heart of Manaus. Built in 1896, it strongly reflects the Italian Renaissance influence from the time. It has been featured in several movies.
- Try Dancing Capoeira – This Afro-Brazilian martial art is a “war dance” practiced and performed by thousands of people throughout the country. If you aren’t too embarrassed to try it out, it’s a memorable experience for everyone involved.
- The Manaus Municipal Market – Located in Manaus, this building is right on the bank of the Rio Negro and covers 12,000 square meters. Many locals come here for their daily shopping. You can find almost anything you can imagine—fish, caimans, turtles, fruit, wine, and knick-knacks.