The long-lasting impression most visitors leave Brazil with is of carefree, colourful people dancing and celebrating in the street parades at Carnival, and of a passion for life and exuberance of spirit that charms visitors from around the world.
The country has much to offer visitors at all times of year, however. Tourists descending on the country's exciting cities, such as hedonistic Rio de Janeiro, can enjoy the five-star hotels, shopping malls, pristine beaches, sunny skies and bustling nightlife without really having to confront the hundreds of shantytowns (favelas) where the poorest of the poor eke out a living in the shadows of the skyscrapers.
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 this century. Brazil also caters well for business tourism and is a favoured destination for conventions, congresses and expos, particularly the city of Sao Paulo, which is the country's largest city and the business capital of Brazil.
Being so vast, larger than the continental United States, Brazil offers a variety of cultures and topographies. The range is evident in the contrast of the Amazon and Pantanal rain forests to the mountain towns of Minas Gerais, the urban jungle of Sao Paulo and the vast central plateau around Brasilia, and the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. It all adds up to an exotic and exciting Latin American mix where the common denominators are samba, sunshine, sultry smiles and soccer.
The Brazilian monetary unit is the real (BRL), plural reais.
There are 100 centavos to the real. The US dollar is also welcome
in most tourist establishments. In the main cities foreign
currencies and travellers cheques 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.
|BRL 1 =||US$ 0.56||Â£ 0.36||C$ 0.57||A$ 0.54||R 4.72||EUR 0.44||NZ$ 0.70|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are reccommended for all travellers. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in Brazil. Insect repellent and protective clothing is essential. Malaria exists below 2,953ft (900m) in most rural areas, and outbreaks of dengue fever occur frequently. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those travelling to rural areas and other parts of the country as a yellow fever outbreak occurred at the beginning of 2008. Visitors travelling from infected areas outside the country require a yellow fever certificate. Chagas disease, caused by a parasite, is widespread in rural areas of Brazil. Until recently infection was believed to be from insect bites only, but an outbreak in March 2005 caused three deaths in Santa Catarina and was traced to the ingestion of sugar cane juice contaminated with the faeces of vector insects, and further cases were linked to the ingestion of bacaba wine from roadside stalls; visitors are advised to seek medical advice urgently if any of the symptoms occur (fever, nausea, muscle aches and pains and/or swelling at the site of the insect bite). Tap water is heavily treated resulting in a strong chemical taste; bottled water is, however, freely available for drinking purposes. Typhoid vaccinations are reccommended if travellers intend to spend a lot of time outside of major cities. Milk in rural areas is not pasteurised. Travellers are advised to take along medication for travellers' diarrhoea. Hospitals in the major cities are fairly good, but most doctors will want cash payment, even for travellers with insurance.
All visitors require passports that are valid for at least the period of intended stay in Brazil. We strongly recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended date of travel. 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.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
EMBRATUR (Brazilian Tourist Board), Brasilia +55 (61) 3429 7774 or www.braziltour.com
Foreign Embassies in Brazil
Mention Rio to anyone and immediately the name evokes images of sultry street parades, the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain, and the 'itsy-bitsy teeny weeny' bikinis on the beach at Ipanema. The exuberant cultural capital of Brazil is tucked between the mountains and the sea and is endowed with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Rio's beaches, including the famous Ipanema and Copacabana, are a main attraction due to the city's warm climate. It also contains the biggest urban forest in the world, the Tijuca Forest, which was completely replanted during the second half of the 19th century.
The city pulses to the infectious beat of Brazilian music: the choro, the samba and the bossa nova, and the funk carioca, and is the cultural capital of Brazil. Its annual carnival, known simply as Carnaval, draws together the population of the city (known as the 'Cariocas') ranging from the very rich to the very poor, who take to the streets for the world's largest samba parade on the Sambodromo.
Rio is a never-ending story made up of 150 districts, each characterised by unique features like Santa Teresa, a winding maze of streets populated by artists and musicians, which is reached by taking an old tram across an ancient aqueduct called Arcos da Lapa. In the central city area of Rio there are historic monuments and public buildings like the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National History Museum, and the National Library. There are also beautiful examples of religious architecture such as the Sao Bento Monastery. No matter how long you spend exploring the city, it will always deliver new surprises.
Rio will be overrun with international sporting events in the next few years, as it is set to be the first South American city to host the Summer Olympics in 2016, and will be the primary host city for the FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2014.
To the north of the city is the Lakes region, which has more than 62 miles (100km) of beaches and sea-water lagoons and is the site of the main tourist resorts of BÃºzios, Cabo Frio, Arrial do Cabo, Rio das Ostras, Marica and Saquarema.
Originally a mission station set up in 1554 by Jesuit priests on the banks of the Rio Tiete, the city of Sao Paulo is today an awesome megalopolis, the industrial and commercial powerhouse of Brazil. The city grew wealthy on coffee cultivation in the mid-19th century, thanks to the rich soil of the region, and the plantation owners took up residence in the bustling regional centre. Gradually the coffee barons diversified their interests and invested some of their wealth in local industry, resulting in a demand for labour and a resultant surge in immigrant population. Today 16-million proud 'Paulistanos' live in the congested, chaotic and cosmopolitan city centre and its sprawling surrounds. Lacking in natural attractions, the city's leisure pursuits are mainly cultural and artistic, and there are some impressive public buildings to delight sightseers, as well as some top-notch museums, theatres, bars, and some of the best shopping in Brazil. Neighbourhoods like Bela Vista and Bixiga are very photogenic, with both ornate mansions and impressive skyscrapers.
The Amazon is a vast rainforest, the largest on the planet, comprising an expansive system of rivers that covers more than half of Brazil, and invades large tracts of its neighbouring countries. The Amazon River and its tributaries together create approximately 30,888 square miles (80,000 sq km) of navigable river systems. Large areas of the Amazon forest still remain unexplored, however, and tens of thousands of rare and unknown species of animals, birds, insects, fish and plants are sheltered in and beneath the thick tree canopies.
The Rio Solimoes is a powerful navigable stretch of river that enters Brazil from Peru, just above the city of Manaus. Close to the city, the light brown muddy river meets the Rio Negro with its darker waters and the two converge to form the mighty Rio Amazonas, which flows through Brazil to the city of Belem.
Manaus is the gateway for excursions into the jungle and river system, situated as it is in the middle of the forest. From the city, scores of operators run day trips and longer boat tours for visitors wishing to experience Amazonian flora and fauna and meet the 'caboclos' (residents of the river towns). The city itself does not have many attractions, apart from some interesting buildings like its opulent and famous opera house, which dates from the height of the rubber boom in 1896. As the commercial hub of the state of Amazonas, it is very busy, with a noisy and crowded port and several bustling markets.
Belem is the other major starting point for Amazon exploration with its busy port, small airport, and bus station. Located on the coast, it has a large number of indentations, estuaries, and islands that can be worthwhile to explore. It has a few scenic buildings as well, but more interesting are the markets near the quay.
The Amazon lacks a good tourism infrastructure in the form of good hotels and reliable transportation, but ecotourism is gaining in popularity there, and contributing to the enrichment of the local peoples.
Salvador de Bahia is Bahia state's capital city (locals generally abbreviate its name to Salvador or simply Bahia). Salvador was founded in 1549 and quickly became the premier city in Brazil, and the second most important city in the Portuguese Empire after Lisbon. Salvador prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was the country's major port and a significant portion of the sugar from the northeast and gold and diamonds from the mines in the southeast passed through the city. Today the wealth of impressive colonial architecture is evidence of the city's rich history. Between the modern tower blocks, well-restored enclaves of the old city remain with cobblestone streets, colourful mansions and dozens of ornate Baroque churches.
The spicy atmosphere of this delightfully decadent city is best soaked up on foot, within the narrow streets and in the markets, the best of which is the Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda, an Art Deco structure housing old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of the town, on the hill.
The only thing wrong with Salvador's excellent beaches is that visitors are spoilt for choice. The range extends from calm coves (ideal for swimming, sailing and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach) to wild beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean, such as Aleluia beach, which attracts surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. The beaches are the location for many of Salvador's great festivals, including the New Year festivities, which include performances and an impressive fireworks display.
Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state, a result of the thousands of slaves that were brought here 400 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations, and there is even a museum, the Museu Afro-Brasileira, which is dedicated to Black culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures had given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at city's many festivals, most notably the massive 'Carnaval' in mid-November which attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnaval.
Brasilia is the purpose-built capital of Brazil, inaugurated in 1960 and now the country's fourth-largest city. Most visitors pass through Brasilia International Airport, a major transport hub for the continent, without bothering to view the city, which as primarily the seat of government has little to compete with the allure and hedonism of Brazil's more exotic destinations.
Nevertheless, Brasilia is a major draw card for devotees of architecture who come to marvel at the monumental modernist buildings and city layout, collectively declared a World Heritage Site - the only city built in the 20th century to achieve this. The buildings serve as monuments to progress, technology and the promise of the future. And against a backdrop of perpetually blue sky their striking lines in bleached white granite and concrete are wonderfully photogenic.
Among the most famous of Brasilia's modernists structures are the cathedral of Santuario Dom Bosco, with 7,400 pieces of illuminated Murano glass; the incredibly beautiful PalÃ¡cio do Itamaraty; and the TV tower, which at 240 feet-high (72m) is home to the best views in town.
Viewed from above, the central city resembles an aeroplane or bird, thanks to the intersecting Highway Axis, reaching from the north to the southwest to link the key residential neighbourhoods; and the straight Monumental Axis, which connects the main governmental buildings. All the buildings of the original city were designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, while the urban planning was completed by Lucio Costa. Getting around the city is easy and convenient as there is excellent public transport - although walking is not an option given the vast distances between the picturesque landmarks.
Brasilia is preparing to receive its largest influx of tourists ever as it is scheduled to host football matches for both the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Brasilia is located 720 miles (1,160 km) from Rio de Janeiro and 630 miles (1,020 km) from Sao Paulo. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, the only major inland city in the vast country. There are some worthwhile excursions from Brasilia, although long distances make these overnight trips. Itiquira Falls is a 550 feet-high (168m) waterfall 60 miles (100 km) from the city, and Caldas Novas - the world's largest natural hot springs resort - can be found 220 miles (360 km) southeast of Brasilia.
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