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The gorgeous weather, perpetual party atmosphere and stunning natural wonders of the South American country combine to create the exuberant and passionate fabric of Brazilian culture. The long-lasting impression of visitors to the country, besides the unrivalled scenery, is of a carefree and colourful people, dancing and celebrating in street parades and carnivals.
Tourists descending on the country's exciting cities, such as hedonistic Rio de Janeiro, can enjoy five-star hotels, pristine beaches and a bustling nightlife. While most visit for the tropical glamour, some choose to go on tours of the impoverished favela townships, with meals and overnight stays becoming increasingly popular as tourists have begun to explore these (safer) neighbourhoods for an authentic Brazilian experience.
With booming mining, agricultural and manufacturing sectors, Brazil has the highest GDP in Latin America and is expected to be one of the world's dominant economies by the middle of the century. Brazil also caters well for business tourism and is a favoured destination for conventions, congresses and expos, particularly the city of São Paulo, which is the country's largest city and the business capital of Brazil.
Being so vast, Brazil is home to a variety of cultures and topographies: from the Amazon, Pantanal rainforests and secluded mountain towns of Minas Gerais to the urban jungle of São Paulo, and the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Every experience results in an exotic and exciting Latin American holiday destination where the common denominators are samba, sunshine and soccer.
The attractions of Brazil are delightfully varied, from the endless cultural intrigue of São Paulo to the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro. But the natural wonders are no less enticing, with the Amazon and Pantanal rainforests offering plenty of opportunities to experience its breathtaking scenery and fascinating local cultures.
Every year, thousands flock to the world-famous Carnival in Rio, when the entire city is awash in parties, parades, music and dancing. Rio also features the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which is one of the New7Wonders of the World, and the architectural wonder that is Samba City. The mild climate of the major cities makes them an attractive destination all year round, with the coastal areas being even warmer and suited to year-round sunbathing. Brazil's major cities are known for their wild nightlife, with enough bars, clubs and parties to satisfy even the most hedonistic revellers.
Brazil's beaches are just as famous, with spots such as Ipanema and Copacabana immortalised in song and pop culture. There are several well-known nude beaches, including one in the relaxed town of Pinho. The southern beaches, including Praia Do Rosa, offer big waves that attract top surfers from all over the world between April and November. There are also many popular scuba diving spots that boast beautiful coral reefs, volcanic islands, caves and shipwrecks.
Brazil is a huge country, and over half of it is verdant rainforest. The Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest, covers a jaw-dropping seven million square kilometres and is a wildlife and bird watching paradise, home to countless species of plants and animals you won't find anywhere else on Earth. The pink dolphin, for example, is only found in the Amazon and its tributaries. You might also find jaguars, howler monkeys, sloths, toucans and anacondas, among many other creatures.
The marine world off the coast of Brazil is no less wonderful. Dolphin and whale watching are popular in places such as Fernando de Noronha, and snorkelling in Bonito, which fittingly means 'beautiful', is an absolute delight. Praia do Forte and other beaches are also good places to witness the hatching of sea turtles.
The iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, arms spread to welcome the world, is the world-famous symbol of Rio de Janeiro. It stands atop a mountain 2,330 feet (710m) above the beaches below, and is accessed via a miniature train that runs from the Cosme Velho District through the Atlantic rainforest to the foot of the statue. The train ride offers stunning vistas of Rio, and the view from the summit is simply breathtaking. Spread out beneath the statue is the Tijuca Forest, an enchanting world of natural pools and waterfalls. Beneath the cooling canopy are attractions such as the Mayrink Chapel, which features murals painted by famous Brazillian artist Candido Portinari, and the Museu do Acude, which houses colonial furniture and an impressive collection of china.
An iconic fixture of the Rio skyline, Sugarloaf Mountain is known worldwide for its sweeping views of the city below. The summit of the 1,299 foot high (396m) belvedere can be reached by a two-stage cable car ride. The first stage takes visitors up 722 feet (220m) to the Morro da Urca, where there is a restaurant, amphitheatre and spectacular view of the Yacht Club and Botafogo Bay. The second stage ascends to the summit for a panoramic view of the city, and the whole of Copacabana beach. The Sugar Loaf cable car is a major icon of Rio's tourism and a must for first-time visitors to the city.
Immortalised in song, this Rio neighbourhood offers a legendary beach, excellent hotels, a bustling nightlife, sophisticated shopping and quality restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Ipanema is famous for setting fashion trends, particularly in the line of swimwear, and fashion followers should look out for the famous bikini boutiques such as Salinas, Blue Man and Bum-Bum. The Rua Garcia D'Avila is perfect for designer fashion, jewellery and furniture, while the nearby Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems has an interesting tour of its workshop. There are plenty of other popular shopping strips here, including the eclectic commercial street Visconde de Piraja, lined with speciality shops, boutiques and restaurants, as well as the bohemian fair at General Osorio Square on Sundays, with its collection of wooden sculptures, exotic musical instruments and artworks.
This famous Rio beach neighbourhood was just a small fishing village until a new highway built in the early 1900s brought crowds of visitors to its golden shores. The Copacabana Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1923 and heralded the construction of scores of Neoclassical and Art Nouveau skyscrapers, penthouses and apartments in the area. Visitors still flock to the hotel, which is the place to be seen, especially at the famed Cipriani restaurant. The white sands and calm waters of the beach make for an idyllic setting and is also a popular spot for beach soccer, volleyball and sunbathing. Copacabana beach is particularly popular on New Year's Day, when beachgoers dress in white and celebrate in droves, with more than 2 million people crowding the beach.
The Meeting of Waters is an incredible natural phenomenon occurring when the dark waters of the Rio Negro join the lighter-coloured stream of the Rio Solimoes. The difference between the blackwater and whitewater rivers is stark, running side by side for a length of more than four miles (6km) without mixing. The separation is caused by differences in temperature, density and flow, with the resultant display a true wonder of nature. Becoming a major tourist attraction in Brazil, the Meeting of Waters is accessed via an hour's boat journey from the floating docks in Manaus.
An hour by boat from Manaus on the Rio Negro, this breathtaking park provides visitors with a taste of the Amazon experience, encompassing 22,240 acres (9,000 hectares) of forest, lowlands and flooded forest (igapos). Day package trips are available from Manaus, including lunch in a typical regional restaurant and a visit to the area's other main attraction, The Meeting of the Waters, as well as a canoe trip exploring the park's lakes and streams. Visitors can also spot the symbol of the Amazon at Lake Janauari Park: the famous Victoria amazonica, a water lily measuring up to seven feet (2m) in diameter, and ubiquitous atop the still shallow waters. The beautiful flowers only bloom for three days, changing colour from white to dark red before dying.
This vast forest reserve, covering more than 39 square miles (100 sq km) to the east of Manaus, provides tourists with the opportunity to discover what lies beneath the dense Amazon canopy. The park building complex contains plant nurseries and an exhibition of the woods of Amazonas, as well as a library and an eatery. A network of trails has been created in the forest, and local youths are trained and employed as guides to direct visitors along the paths (although not all of them speak English). It can be difficult to get into the Amazon for a genuine experience of the rainforest and this vast botanical garden offers a convenient opportunity for a close look at a microcosm of this unspoilt forest world.
Even for non-football fans, São Paulo's Museu do Futebol is a must-see. The Brazilian team has unquestionably been the sport's most successful and exciting national football team, and the Seleção (the Brazillian national team) is worshipped with a religious fervour. Housed within the city's iconic Pacaembu Stadium, the museum takes a modern, interactive approach to its exhibitions, with holographic displays, touch-screen information panels and various other multimedia installations. Highlights of the museum include the 'History of the World Cup' section, and a display introducing Brazil's 25 greatest-ever players. An appreciation of what football means to the country is vital to getting to grips with Brazilian culture, and São Paulo's Football Museum is a wonderful and appropriate introduction.
The Parque do Ibirapuera is a large park near the centre of Sao Paulo with many interesting features, including a planetarium, a Japanese pavilion, a gymnasium, the Obelisk of Sao Paulo (a symbol of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932), and the Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion, which houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and is typically the venue for large events like the São Paulo Art Biennial and São Paulo Fashion Week. The park is home to many other museums, including the Air Force Museum and Folklore Museum. It also has jogging and walking trails and a picturesque lake. Generally the park is a good spot to explore for those wanting a bit of holiday exercise or some fresh air in the heart of this sprawling city.
Having had their fill of the beach, tourists who want to experience 'the real Rio de Janeiro' should make a beeline for one of its most iconic neighbourhoods, Santa Teresa. Located at the top of Santa Teresa Hill, the neighbourhood is famous for its winding, narrow streets, 19th century architecture and sublime array of restaurants, bars, art galleries and eclectic shops. A popular area for local artists and tourists alike, Santa Teresa is best reached using its historic tram service, which departs from Largo da Carioca square and runs up the hill. The only one of its kind in Rio, it wends through Santa Teresa's picturesque streets, offering magnificent views of the city below.
A tour through the sprawling urban township (favela) of Rocinha caters to those who wish to get to grips with the social reality facing most Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro. Thankfully, tours with local guide Zezinho aren't voyeuristic or intrusive as they are conducted with a great love for and desire to share their culture with foreigners. All who take part in his tour of Rocinha agree that it's a valuable, moving and humanising experience. There are also other guides and companies offering good tours of the various favelas and it's important to book in advance.
The Parque do Ibirapuera is a large and celebrated park near the centre of São Paulo, and is home to a planetarium, a Japanese pavilion, a gymnasium, the Obelisk of São Paulo (a symbol of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932), and the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, which houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and is typically the venue for large events such as the São Paulo Art Biennial and São Paulo Fashion Week. The park also contains a number of other museums, while also boasting jogging and walking trails and a picturesque lake. Generally the park is a good spot to explore for those wanting a bit of holiday exercise or just some fresh air in the heart of this sprawling city.
This cultural centre and concert venue is located in what was once the Julio Prestes Train Station, an imposing and meticulously restored building. The highlight of the centre is the Sala São Paulo, a concert venue which seats nearly 1,500 people and is home to the renowned São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra (OSESP). Specifically designed as a venue for symphonic and chamber music, the Sala has world-class acoustics and is the best place for classical music lovers to catch a concert in the city. Other events are also hosted at the cultural centre, including a vast variety of musical concerts, with pop and rock featuring alongside the traditional, classical offerings.
Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book
|por favor||please||por fah vor|
|o meu nome é||my name is||oh meo nomay ay|
|onde está||where is||onjee eshta|
|você fala Inglês||do you speak english||vosay fala eenglaysh|
|não compreendo||I don't understand||no compreendo|
|eu preciso de um medico||I need a doctor||eu preseeso jee um mejeeko|
|um, dois, três, quatro, cinco||one, two, three, four, five||oom, dohs, tres, quatro, sinko|
Brazil's weather is quite diverse as there are five different climatic regions: equatorial, tropical, semi-arid, highland tropical and subtropical. Cities such as São Paulo and Brasilia, on the plateau, have a mild climate with temperatures averaging 66°F (19°C). Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Natal and Salvador on the coast have warmer climates balanced by the Trade Winds. Rio, for example, has an average temperature of around 80°F (26°C), which will climb to over 100°F (38°C) during the summer months, between December and February.
In the southern Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, the subtropical climate is similar to parts of the US and Europe, with frosts occurring in the winter months, between July and August, when temperatures can fall below freezing. Summers are hot, though. Despite the popular image of the Amazon as a region of blistering heat, temperatures rarely rise above 90°F (32°C), and days are generally warm, wet, and humid. The region has two seasons: a rainy season (November to May) and a not-so-rainy season (June to October).
The Copacabana Palace Hotel houses three of Rio de Janeiro's most elegant restaurants. The Hotel Cipriani Restaurant serves excellent north Italian cuisine, while the poolside Pérgula Restaurant offers a buffet breakfast and delicious South American meals. Serving exotic pan-Asian cuisine, Mee is one of the first restaurants in South America to be awarded a prestigious Michelin star. Cipriani is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, while MEE is open daily from 7pm, and Pérgula is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday with a buffet lunch on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. Reservations required.
Not only does Fellini offer a variety of international cuisine, with everything from Japanese to Mexican, but it's all sold by the pound, allowing diners a choice of exactly how big their portions should be. Fellini has a funky, laid-back atmosphere and looks to match. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended.
The Confeitaria Colombo acts as an homage to an age long passed. Established in the late 1800s, this Victorian style hall-turned-restaurant hasn't changed much in over 100 years, so they must be doing something right. This is considered to be a perfect lunch spot for executives doing business in the city. Tea service is complemented by breads and condiments, while the meals are filling and appetising.
Join in the revelry with locals at this affordable eatery where authentic Brazilian cuisine is served in generous portions. Sardine sandwiches are a good bet for your taste buds, it being one of the more popular dishes. Have a plate or platter depending on how hungry you are, the price difference is negligible. The Paladino is always popular and beer flows steadily from the taps. Open Monday to Friday from 7am to 8.30pm. Reservations and credit cards are not accepted.
With its rustic, eco-friendly décor (couches, wooden tables and lots of palm trees) and its candlelit dining area, Palaphita Kitch has a romantic atmosphere, backed by excellent views of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The menu offers a selection of exotic Amazonian cuisine, with its carpaccio being a big favourite. Open every night for dinner, reservations recommended.
Originally from France, celebrity chef Claude Troisgros and his son Thomas blend French cuisine with Brazilian ingredients at one of Rio's top restaurants. Intimate and sophisticated, Olympe offers guests seasonal tasting menus and creative à la carte dishes such as scallops with tucupi and caviar, water yam and coconut purée, or açai crusted lamb loin, yucca gnocchi and sumac butter solids. Open Friday for lunch, and Monday to Saturday for dinner. Reservations essential.
Near the beach, this small and comfortable restaurant has an idyllic, rural atmospherem decorated with handmade arts and crafts. The menu offers authentic, homemade Brazilian cuisine such as a plate of rice, beans, (toasted manioc flour), steak and French fries, or the traditional soup, with beans and bacon. Reservations recommended.
The Brazilian currency is the Real (BRL). The US Dollar is also welcome in most tourist establishments. In the main cities, foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks or cambios. There is an extensive network of ATMs in the country and most major international credit cards are accepted.
The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.
Brazil has a variety of electrical voltages, sometimes within the same city. The better hotels offer 220 volts, 60Hz. If not, transformers are available in electrical stores. Two-pin plugs with a grounding pin are standard.
US nationals: Passports must be valid for six months beyond the departure date. Tourists can stay in the country without a visa for up to 90 days.
UK nationals: A valid passport is required. UK passport holders do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
CA nationals: Passports must be valid for six months beyond the departure date. Tourists can stay in the country without a visa for up to 90 days.
AU nationals: Passports must be valid for six months beyond the departure date. Tourists can stay in the country without a visa for up to 90 days.
ZA nationals: A valid passport is needed, but no visa is required by South African nationals for up to 90 days.
IR nationals: Irish nationals need a valid passport, but do not require a tourist or business visa for stays of up to 90 days.
NZ nationals: New Zealanders need a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
All visitors require passports that are valid for at least the period of intended stay in Brazil but we strongly recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended date of travel. Border control may well deny entry to holders of passports valid for the period of intended stay. Sufficient funds to cover their stay in Brazil, as well as a return or onward ticket and documentation required for further travel, are necessary for all travellers. Visa requirements vary from country to country.
Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in Brazil, so insect repellent and protective clothing is essential if visitors will be travelling to the countryside. Malaria exists below 2,953 feet (900m) in most rural areas, and outbreaks of dengue fever occur frequently.
Visitors travelling from infected areas outside the country require a yellow fever certificate, and vaccination is recommended for those travelling to rural areas, as outbreaks have occurred in recent years.
Typhoid vaccinations are recommended if travellers intend to spend a lot of time outside of major cities. Milk in rural areas is not pasteurised, so it's best to avoid it. Hospitals in the major cities are fairly good, with cash and card payments both acceptable and travel insurance common.
Nearly all hotels add a service charge to the bill, usually 10 percent. Most restaurants also add 10 percent or more to the total of the bill, but must make it clear that they have done so; waiters appreciate another five percent if their service was good. Otherwise, a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary.
Brazilians don't normally tip taxi drivers, except if they handle bags, although they may round up the total. Hotel staff expect small tips, and most other service personnel such as barbers and petrol station attendants, are usually rewarded with a 10 to 15 percent tip. Parking attendants earn no wages and expect a tip of around two real.
In Brazil's metropolitan areas, crime is a fact of life. Rio, in particular, is regarded as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world and, although violent crime is generally limited to the favelas, foreigners are advised to take precautions. Visitors should not attempt to visit these township areas, even on a guided tour. Violent crime is on the increase due to the establishment of drug and criminal gangs around Rio and São Paulo.
Muggings are frequent and visitors should dress down, conceal cameras and avoid wearing jewellery or expensive watches. Bank- and credit card fraud is common, including card cloning from ATMs, so tourists should keep sight of their card at all times and not use an ATM if they notice anything suspicious.
Thefts are common on public beaches and visitors should avoid taking valuables to the beach. The threat of personal attack is lower outside the main urban centres, but incidents do occur. Women should be aware that sexual assaults have been reported in coastal holiday destinations. Beware of unofficial taxis and those with blacked-out windows, and be particularly careful on public transport in Rio, Recife and Salvador.
Brazil is a diverse cultural and ethnic melting pot, but most social customs will be familiar to visitors. As a result of three centuries of colonisation by the Portuguese, the Brazilian culture is actually recognisably European in many ways. Physical appearance is considered important by most Brazilians and care is taken to dress well but generally not too formally.
Business practices vary quite substantially from city to city in Brazil: highly formal in São Paulo but more relaxed in Rio de Janeiro and other centres. Multinational companies have similar business etiquette to those in Europe or the US, while local businesses require a few more considerations, particularly preferring face-to-face meetings over phone calls or written communication.
Brazilians place a high value on personal relationships within business environments and will generally only conduct business through personal connections or with those whom they have already established a personal relationship. Nepotism is considered not only acceptable but actually desirable, because it is seen as ensuring trust and good relationships in business.
All meetings are preceded by handshakes and small talk, and visitors should avoid the temptation to rush things. Even after the meeting is over, it's considered rude to rush off. Entertaining is common, either at a restaurant or someone's home, again with the emphasis on building personal relationships. Punctuality is flexible, except when meeting at a restaurant, when tardiness is considered impolite, and a small gift or flowers for the host is common when invited to a home.
Business suits are expected, especially for first meetings. Portuguese is the dominant language, and although English is widely spoken in business, an interpreter might be required. Business cards, as well as written documents, should be printed in both English and Portuguese. Business hours are 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Brazil is +55. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free WiFi are widely available in tourist centred areas. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers to Brazil can enter the country with 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars; 24 units of alcoholic beverages, with a maximum of 12 units per type of beverage; and goods to the value of USD 500, without incurring customs duty. Restricted items include fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Strict regulations apply to temporary import or export of firearms, antiquities, tropical plants, medication and business equipment.
Brazilian Tourist Institute, Brasília: +61 429 7704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Brazilian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 238 2700
Brazilian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7747 4500
Brazilian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 1090.
Brazilian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 2372.
Brazilian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 366 5200.
Brazilian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 475 6000.
Brazilian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 3516.
United States Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3312 7000.
British Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3329 2300.
Canadian Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3424 5400.
Australian Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3226 3111.
South African Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3312 9500.
Irish Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3248 8800.
New Zealand Embassy, Brasilia: +55 (61) 3248 9900.
This peninsula and group of islands is a holiday playground containing 2,000 beautiful beaches and a wonderland of mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes and secret coves. Visitors can take trips by schooner or yacht to explore the delights of the area: fishing and scuba diving are the favoured activities for tourists among various other water sports, while on land there are hundreds of walking trails giving access to some of the less frequented beaches such as Canto, Abraãozinho, Morcego and Grande das Palmas. The beaches of Aventureiro and Lopes Mendes are popular surf spots. The islands can easily be reached from Rio by road in just over three hours, or accessed by bus with daily departures every hour from the Novo Rio Bus Station.
Once the preserve of pirates and slavers, the Buzios Peninsula is today the haunt of the rich and famous who flock here to enjoy the dozens of inviting beaches. Situated 109 miles (176km) northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Buzios Peninsula is a sophisticated beach resort with a buzzing nightlife and a selection of fine restaurants. The west coast beaches offer calm, clear waters ideal for swimming, while the east coast beaches face the open sea and are a little wilder, drawing surfers and water sports enthusiasts to its choppy waters. Among the most popular beaches are Azeda Beach, João Fernandinho Beach, Ferradura Beach and Geriba beach, which is particularly popular with surfers.
The Rio Iguaçu begins its journey in the coastal mountains of Paraná and Santa Catarina, snaking west for 370 miles (600km) before it widens and then plunges through the jungle in tiered falls at the border with Argentina and Paraguay.
The Foz do Iguaçu (Iguaçu Falls) are more than two miles (3km) wide and 262ft (80m) high (almost twice the height of Niagara Falls), and their beauty is unmatched. Almost twice the height of Niagara Falls, their name fittingly comes from the Guarani Indian word meaning 'great waters'. The deep flowing waters of the river tumble down 275 falls, the most famous of which is Devil's Throat on the Argentinian border, with a drop of 230ft (70m).
As well as taking in the stunning views, visitors can enjoy kayaking and other water sports in the river. The best time of year to visit is August to November, when there is least risk of floodwaters hindering the approach to the boardwalks. The falls are surrounded by the Iguaçu National Park, a huge sub-tropical rainforest covering 135,000 acres and home to thousands of different species of animals and birds, including flamboyant parrots and pretty hummingbirds.
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