This page is a work in progress, I have tried to cover things that I think would be useful to the general traveler but I am not an expert on Brazil so please check all information for yourself, rules are liable to change and this is meant as a general guide with tips / things I have found out along the way and is by no means to be taken as law.
This page covers various topic, clicking on any of the following topics will take you to the relevant section of the page.
Health (vaccines, general health, dangerous animals, rabies, prescription medicine)
The language spoken is Portuguese, not Spanish as in the rest of South America. If you speak Spanish you will find it relatively easy to be understood in Brazil, although it does irritate some Brazilians if you speak to them in Spanish.
More and more Brazilians are learning English but do not expect to be understood by the average person, even in airports and tourist information services. Speaking Portuguese will help you get more from your stay but don’t worry if you can’t, people are generally very helpful and are used to visitors not being able to speak the language.
Where to visit:
I cannot give much specific advice about where to go in Brazil, it is a vast country and frankly I have only been to a tiny part of it but there are plenty of travel guides out there and many wonderful places to visit. One place I loved is Ubajara National Park (here in the North East), we stayed at site run by a German man called sitio-do-alemao, set in beautiful scenery atop a mountain with spectacular views, surrounded by forest and coffee plantations, I would highly reccomend it. I would love to visit more of the National Parks, there are several of them throughout the country, each unique in the environment and animals they protect.
Brazil is blessed with many places of spectacular beauty (even if I’ve only ever seen them on the TV) and if you are adventurous, it is worth checking out places that are off the beaten track. Please consider community based tourism (click here for a network in the North-East) this type of tourism ensures the people of the area receive the benefits of your spending, and not some multinational company.
Click here for the Brazilian Governments Tourist information site (available in several languages).
This is something you MUST talk to your health professional about and the following is intended only as a brief guide and is in no way a substitute for professional medical advice.
There is no requirement for vaccines in order to enter Brazil (*see note on Yellow fever below) and whether you need to be vaccinated for anything very much depends on where you will be in Brazil and how you behave while you are here.
It is generally recommended that you check your routine vaccines are up to date (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio) and consider Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever and Typhoid Fever vaccines, among others.
- Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for all travellers over nine months of age who going to the following states / regions: Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Federal District of Brasilia (including the capital), Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Piauí, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocatins, rural areas of the western third of Bahia, western half of the state of São Paulo, the western half of Paraná, the southern tip and western part of Santa Caterina, and the central and western parts of Rio Grande do Sul.
Vaccination is also highly recommended for travellers visiting Iguaçu Falls.
There is no risk in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Fortaleza, Recife, and Salvador.
*International Yellow Fever vaccination certificate:
Visitors who have been to any of the countries listed below within 90 days before entering Brazil, are required to present a valid International Yellow Fever vaccination certificate:
Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Venezuela, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guine, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan.
- Make sure you have adequate health insurance cover.
- Stick to bottled water and make sure you drink enough.
- Coconut water is extremely good for you, very refreshing and great for combating dehydration and mild stomach upsets but only drink from coconuts that are freshly opened in front of you, the water should be clear, don’t drink if cloudy or fizzy.
- Private dentists usually work to a very high standard and are often cheaper than in Europe, I know several people who combine their Brazilian holiday with some planned dental treatment. If you lose a filling or break a tooth, don’t suffer, you can always ask someone with decent teeth for their dentists contact details, depending on your travel insurance, you may be able to claim back the cost.
- Sun-stroke and sunburn are best avoided by following the simple steps of avoiding being out in the sun in the middle of the day, covering up, using a hat, using sunscreen and drinking enough water.
Again this very much depends on where you will be traveling to, Brazil has its share of venomous snakes, scorpions and spiders all over the country, but having said that I’ve not personally had a problem with any of them in over ten years. If bitten try to photograph the creature or get as good a description as you can (aids in knowing which anti-venom to give) and go to the nearest hospital. There are of course many snakes, scorpions and spiders that do not cause any problems to humans at all.
In some regions, the Amazon, the Pantanal for example, there are many animals that pose a risk to man but if you are going there, you probably don’t need me telling you about them, most people who go to these regions are hoping to catch sight of at least some of these amazing creatures, just don’t go trekking about in inappropriate gear, especially footwear (as we did when I first came here and my friend described us, quite rightly, as “a bunch of twats in flip-flops).
Rabies is a risk all over the country and although the government run a domestic animal vaccination programme you should not assume that an animal has been vaccinated. It’s not just dogs and cats that get rabies, almost any mammal can get it and pass it to you, bats and monkeys are common carriers of the disease. Do not attempt to feed or pet an unknown animal, especially one that is behaving strangely.
If you are bitten by a rabid animal there is a short period, whereby taking the vaccine will stop the disease from developing. However, once rabies develops it is fatal in almost 100% of cases (rabies is a very common illness in many countries and there have only been a handful of survivors world-wide). If you are bitten you should wash the wound site well with water and go to the local hospital for treatment immediately. If you know you will be travelling to a remote area, or are particularly concerned, there is a set of jabs that can be taken in advance as a preventative and to give you more time to reach a hospital to complete the course, (it is still necessary to complete the full course for the treatment to be effective). Talk to your doctor about this.
Not all animals that bite will have rabies of course (see my page, Dog Bite). If you are bitten by a domestic animal (or one that has been captured and you know it will remain in captivity) the law in Brazil states that the animal must be kept under observation for a period of ten days. If at the end of that period the animal is still free from signs of rabies, you will not need the vaccine shots. If the animal has been killed (or is killed at any point within ten days of biting you), the animal’s head must be taken to a qualified veterinarian for an examination of the brain tissue. You must still go to the hospital for the bite wound to be treated and for the incident to be registered. Obviously if you will not be staying in the area for the full ten days to know the result, you should have the vaccine course as a precaution.
If you are on prescription medicine and need to bring large amounts with you, make sure you have a doctor’s letter and prescription (preferably translated into Portuguese) covering the medicines you are travelling with, if you are stopped at customs and the authorities think you are importing medicines to sell (rather than for your personal use) you will be heavily fined.
I’m often asked how much people should budget for, this is impossible for me to answer. We live on very little here, partly because we have to, we don’t have to pay rent, my husband catches our dinner, we don’t really go anywhere, don’t drink much, don’t smoke, don’t have access to theatres and cinema etc. I’m not complaining, it’s how it is and we are happy but many people would find our frugal life style intolerable, add in travel costs, hotel costs, restaurant costs etc and you will see why I can’t answer that question. As a very rough rule, I tend to say that £1.00 will buy the equivalent of what R$1.00 will buy. Luxury items (including luxury food items) are expensive, as are electrical goods.
In towns and cities, street venders sell a vast array of pirate goods (DVD’s, CD’s, Phones etc), don’t waste your money, aside from the legality issue, most pirate goods are crap and often simply don’t work. (DVD’s are often region specific and so those purchased here, pirate or not, will often not work in Europe unless your DVD player is multi region).
British and New Zealand citizens and those of most but not all European countries do not need a visa to visit Brazil as tourists, you will receive an automatic 90 day visa at immigration. However your passport must have at least 6 months validity, you must have a return ticket and proof of sufficient funds may be asked for on entry.
For Nationals of other countries to see if you need a visa for Brazil click here for a country by country visa guide.
U.S., Canadian and Australian citizens need to apply for a tourist visa in advance.
- There is a fee for the visa which varies dependant on nationality, please check with the Brazilian consulate for the area where you live and for what payment methods are acceptable, consulates will not accept cash.
- Your application form will take at least 10 working days to be processed (longer in busy periods).
- You must enter Brazil within 90 days of your visa being issued or it becomes invalid.
To apply for a visa you will need:
- A valid passport with at least 6 months (from the intended date of entry into Brazil) before the expiry date.
- A completed application form, signed by the parents or legal guardians in the case of minors under the age of 18.
- 2×2 colour passport photo with white background.
- Copy of itinerary confirming ticket purchase, flight numbers, arrival and departure dates.
All tourists can apply to extend their visas while in Brazil for a further 90 days (total permitted stay is 180 days in a year). Apply at the Federal Police, the extension is issued at their discresion and there is a charge. Over-staying your visa will result in a fine, payable at the airport on departure (this is best avoided as it can be a long process and could result in you missing your flight).
If you are planning on working or studying in Brazil you will need to apply for the relevant visa / permit.
For British citizens, information on different types of visas click here
Travelling with children.
There are strict rules for Brazilians travelling with children, these do not apply to foreign nationals but it is sensible to always carry some form of identification (ie a passport or copies of) which has the child’s photo and states the parents names.
When I first came to Brazil I was travelling with three young children, I found people to be extremely welcoming of the children, very friendly and helpful. In general Brazil is family orrientated and preference is given (in banks, shops, Post offices etc) to people with young children. The biggest problem we had was getting used to the heat.
Lost or stolen travel documents
Lost or stolen documents must be reported to the police. Unless you have a good grasp of Portuguese, I would advice using an online translation service (google translate for example) to write out and print details of the incident in Portuguese, the translation wont be perfect but it should help.
Make copies of your travel documents, you can not use them for travel but they will considerably ease the process of replacing a lost/stolen passport, which can be a complicated procedure in Brazil because of the size of the country and the fact that most countries require you to apply in person at the Embassy or Consulate. It helps to know the location of your country’s Embassy / Consulate(s) BEFORE you travel.
Aeroporto Internacional de Belém (BEL)
Aeroporto Internacional de Belo Horizonte/Tancredo Neves/Confins (CNF)
Aeroporto Internacional de Brasília/Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek (BSB)
Aeroporto Internacional de Campinas/Viracopos (VCP)
Mato Grosso do Sul
Aeroporto Internacional de Campo Grande (CGR)
Aeroporto Internacional Marechal Rondon (CGB)
Aeroporto Internacional Afonso Pena (CWB)
Aeroporto Internacional Hercílio Luz (FLN)
Aeroporto Internacional Pinto Martins (FOR)
Aeroporto Internacional de Maceió/Zumbi dos Palmares (MCZ)
Aeroporto Internacional de Manaus/Eduardo Gomes (MAO)
Rio Grande do Norte
Aeroporto Internacional Augusto Severo (NAT)
Rio Grande do Sul
Aeroporto Internacional Salgado Filho (POA)
Aeroporto Internacional do Recife/Guararapes/Gilberto Freyre (REC)
RIO DE JANEIRO
Rio de Janeiro
Aeroporto Internacional do Rio de Janeiro/Galeão/Antônio Carlos Jobim (GIG)
Aeroporto Internacional de Salvador/Dep. Luís Eduardo Magalhães (SSA)
Aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo/Guarulhos (GRU)
Rio de Janeiro (Galeão/Antonio Carlos Jobim) and São Paulo (Guarulhos) are by far the biggest of the international airports and carry the most international traffic.
It is considerably cheaper to book internal flights for Brazil from outside of the country and can be complicated for non Brazilians to book internal flights in Brazil, it makes sense to plan your route in advance and book accordingly.
Customs and Immigration
While you are still on the plane, the staff should hand out forms, fill these out before landing as you will need them to pass through immigration and customs. At immigration there are two queues, one for Brazilians the other for all foreign nationals, it can be a long wait. Brazil operates a reciprocal immigration system, in other words you will go through the same immigration process entering Brazil as Brazilian does when entering your country. Don’t get shirty with the Federal immigration officers, you’ll be out on your ear before you can blink! Once the immigration officer has stamped your passport he/she will hand it back together with a date of entry paper, make sure you keep this paper safe, you will need to hand it in on departure, there is a fine if it’s lost and a huge hassle on departure which could result in you missing your flight.
British citizens with a full UK driving license can, for a small fee, get a temporary international license in the post office, you will need two passport photos and your current driving license. There are two international licenses, make sure you state you are going to Brazil as one covers most everywhere but not here, if travelling to other South American countries you may need both licenses. The license is valid for a year.
Highways in Brazil run the gamut from excellent newly created, smooth surfaced well laid out joys to drive on through to “I can’t believe they can call this a road!” with car sized pot holes or knee-deep mud and no possible way to pass through. It is getting better but you will see (especially in rural areas) many vehicles that simply are not road worthy, often filled way beyond capacity and sometimes driven with reckless regard for life.
Road traffic accidents are the second leading cause of deaths behind homicides in Brazil, with 40,000 deaths each year according to figures from the Ministry of Health. Some of these accidents are caused by drunk driving which was such a huge problem, that to combat it Brazil introduced the “Lei Seca” (Dry law) in 2009, which made it illegal to drink and drive. The amount of alcohol permitted is so low (under 0.06% of total blood content) even one small can of beer or small glass of wine can see you facing a massive fine.
Petrol / Gas stations are not self service here, an attendant will fill your car for you and take your money. There are several different types of fuel in Brazil: Ethanol, Gasoline (Petrol) and GNV gas with many cars being able to run on a combination of two or all three of these fuels (Diesel is used mainly for larger vehicles, not those used by car hire firms). I have never hired a car in Brazil, if you do make sure you take the full insurance cover, check what fuel the car uses and good luck.
Cash, Cards and Banks
Currency: The Brazilian Real = R$.
It is a good idea to buy some currency in your home country before traveling, just incase the bank cash machines* have had a melt down on the day you arrive (It is easy to do an online search for who is offering the best rate of exchange and lowest commission fees). However it is generally easier to use the cash machines with your bank card once you have arrived in Brazil, as it saves carrying a large amount of cash. Check with your bank re any charges you may incur.
Some banks require that you tell them you will be using your card abroad and your dates of travel, if you don’t your card will be blocked when you attempt to use it, nothing worse than arriving here and finding none of your cards will work.
Visa / MasterCard are accepted pretty much everywhere, American Express is less common and Travelers cheques hardly at all anymore.
If you don’t already have it, set up internet banking. If you have a non-urgent problem, it can be easier to send a secure email to your bank than phoning them, which is expensive and sometimes almost impossible to do. For emergencies, make sure you have the overseas phone number for your bank and plenty of credit on your phone, my bank in England will not ring me back.
Bank machines, credit and debit cards:
You can withdraw cash from most machines marked with the Visa / MasterCard symbols, though the machine must be what’s known as 24 hour (although many of them are not available 24hrs). You will find the right type of machine in the foyers of many (but not all) banks and out side most shopping centers, where there are money machine kiosks. If you have tried in a bank and your card is refused ask for “Saques Internacional” it could be that they do not have the correct machines or only one of them in a row will function for you. The machines of Bradesco / HSBC offer the option to read the on-screen commands in English and some foreign nationals have found these are the only bank machines that will work with their cards. Some machines are touch screen, others have a line of push buttons down either side or along the base of the screen.
Generally the machine asks you to:
- Put in your card, the machine will read it and tell you to remove it, (some machines say “put in your card and remove it” Don’t put it in and remove it right away, wait for the machine to bleep)
- Choose the option: “Saques” (cash withdrawal) then the type of card you are using, debit or credit etc.
- Enter the amount you wish to withdraw then “Fim” (End) followed by your 4 digit pin code (where it says “SENHA“) If you make a mistake while entering the amount or the code press “Corrigir” which will allow you to delete digits.
- You will be prompted to re-enter your card, wait until the machine beeps or tells you to remove it again.
- The machine says something like “Transação com sucesso” (successful transaction) followed by “Contando cédulas” (or as the machines of one bank say “Please await the counting of the monies.”) Your transaction has been successful and the money is being processed. Some machines will prompt you to ask if you would like a printed receipt “Imprimir recibo.“
These are set by your home bank. I have not been charged by the Brazilian banks I use for a withdrawal (I tend to stick to Bradesco, Bank of Brazil and ITAU because they are convenient for me but there are many other banks and some may charge).
Some bank machines warn that the minimum withdrawal you can make is R$10: but you are unlikely to want to withdraw less.
Cash machine problems and possible solutions.
Some machines will tell you the reason your transaction has been refused, more often than not they leave you guessing, sometimes a simple adjustment is all that is needed. If the on-screen notification says “Cartão bloqueado” Your card has been blocked by your bank, the only solution is to phone them.
- Make sure the machine accepts Visa /MasterCard and is of the 24 hour type.
- When prompted, choose the correct option for the type of card you are using. Debit, Credit, Universal Checking account etc (this last option is the one to choose if using a debit card and the debit card option is not shown).
- Transaction failure, try again using a different card type option or asking for less money, the machine will not pay out above the limit set by your home bank and that will vary dependant on the rate of exchange (see note* below).
- Check the opening screen to see if there is a limit on the amount available for withdrawal or on the denomination of notes in the machine, you may have one that only has R$100 notes and therefore cannot give you the R$450: you are asking for. Likewise a machine with only R$20. notes is unlikely to give you R$1000: as requested.
- If all fails you can ask inside the main body of a bank for “Saques internacional“.(international withdrawal) You will need your card and passport for this, it is not available in all banks and there is often a long queue.
- It is not uncommon for bank machines to run out of money or go off-line for long periods, try another bank.
- Sometimes the Brazilian bank will have difficulty communicating with your bank, due to a connection problem, try again later.
Owing to the high level of illiteracy in Brazil, it is common (especially in rural banks) to have members of staff helping people carry out their transactions (they usually wear a bib with the name of the bank on and only work during the normal banking hours). If you need to ask for help from one of these agents DO NOT give them your card or password (I see people do it every time I’m in the bank) enter your card and code yourself. If a member of the public offers to do the transaction for you, politely refuse.
I heard from someone who was unable to withdraw money in the bank but was still able to use his cards in the shops.
It is illegal to use a phone inside the bank, this is to stop someone inside the bank allerting an acomplice outside of a possible robbery victim. Pay attention to people around you and before leaving the bank make sure you have securely put away your wallet etc.
*Cash machines in airports often have a R$100: limit on withdrawals, cash machines elsewhere will usually give up to the equivalent of the daily cash limit set by your home bank for cash machines withdrawals.
Using your Debit / Credit cards in shops.
Cards are accepted pretty much everywhere, using the chip and pin service but there are some oddities about the system.
- You will usually be asked if you want the transaction as debit or credit (débito ou crédito?) and then if you wish it to be “ A vista ou parcelas?” You want “a vista”, meaning one payment. Parcelas is an option to pay in installments and as far as I’m aware is not available to international card holders.
If your Debit card is refused in a shop:
- Do not let the cashier swipe your card through the magnetic reader on the top of the machine, doing this can result in the cards being blocked by your bank as a security precaution.
- Do ask the cashier to try it again as a credit card (“Por favor tente no crédito”), some chip and pin machines do not recognise foreign debit cards but will allow them if processed as credit cards. Which ever way your debit card transaction is processed (as debit or credit) your transaction will still appear on your statement as a normal debit. This does not mean your card will not work in all shops, but it will not work in those with that particular make of machine.
I have never had this problem with a credit card.
- As a rule you should not be charged by the shop for using a foreign credit / debit card (your own bank may charge you), though on one occasion I was told by an airline agent that I would have to pay a whopping R$200: to use my card in their shop, they claimed not to have the right machine, I queried it and was told if I went to the airport to make my purchase, I wouldn’t have to pay the extra charge. It cost R$2.20 to take the short bus ride to the airport, no contest. Always query an extra charge.
- The Cash Back service in supermarkets in England is not available here.
As with anywhere else in the world card fraud is a problem, including scams involving automated machines and in shops and restaurants. Do not let a cashier take your card out of your sight (most restaurants, petrol stations etc have mobile card machines which they can bring to you), check you bank statements regularly, preferably on an app on your own phone (public computers are another obvious area of risk) and report any unauthorised transactions or lost / stolen cards immediately.
I use XE.com to check the currency rate (they have a handy phone app), though be aware that the rate you get from the bank may not match exactly.
Flights To Fortaleza.
Aeroporto Internacional Pinto Martins (FOR)
There are no direct flights from London airports to Fortaleza, the most popular flight routes are:
London – Europe*- Fortaleza
London – Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro – Fortaleza
Flying via Europe is the shorter flight time, though overall journey time will depend on how long the stop over is.
I generally fly with TAP airlines (Air Portugal) London – Lisbon – Fortaleza, with an average total journey time of about 14 hours (dependant on stop over time).
*(which European city you stop over in depends on the company you are flying with)
It is considerably cheaper to book internal flights for Brazil from outside of the country and it can be complicated for non Brazilians to book internal flights in Brazil, it makes sense to plan your route in advance and book accordingly.
Leaving the Airport.
Busses leave for the center of the city from the airport, however if you have arrived late at night, have a large amount of baggage or are in a hurry you would be better taking an official taxi.
Brazil has an extensive coach network which covers the whole country, the coaches are (with the bigger companies at least) first class and run on time, however Brazil is a huge country, travel times can be incredibly long (Fortaleza to São Paulo = 3 days) and it is often no cheaper than flying.
To book tickets on coaches you will need to have your passport and that of anyone else travelling with you.
Specific instructions from Fortaleza to Prainha:
By car: 2 hour drive on the CE-040 (120km) until sign posts for Prainha do Canto Verde (turning on the left), follow the secondary road for 7km into Prainha. The main road (the CE-040) has recently been widened (three lanes in places) and relaid.
The coach to Prainha is with the São Benedito line, from the Terminal Rodoviário Engenheiro João Tomé Av. Borges de Melo, 1630 – Fátima Fortaleza – CE which can be reached by local bus from the airport or a short taxi ride.
At the Rodoviário the booking office for the São Benedito line is in front to the left at the terminal’s main entrance, book a ticket to QUATRO BOCAS. Journey time 2 hours*. You get off the coach at Lagoa Poeira, which is just after Quatro Bocas, ask the conductor to advise you.**
*some busses make more frequent stops than others, so travel times vary. The bus makes a longer stop at Beberibe, passing Quatro Bocas roughly half an hour after leaving Beberibe. **It is best to remind the conductor when leaving Beberibe that you wish to get off at Lagoa Poeira and gather your things together when at Quatro Bocas so you are ready to get off, the coaches generally run on time and they don’t like to hang about at the bus stops.
(Sometimes the timetable can be a bit of a fiddle when used on a smart phone, you have to put in the date of travel with the year in 4 figures, it doesn’t always accept passed 20, I have found if you click out of the box and then return to fill in the rest of the year, it will accept it.
Map of Prainha and surrounding area
*Please note that the map of Prainha as shown on Google maps has mixed up the names of the lagoons, the WikiMapia is correct and far more detailed.
Staying in Prainha.
In Prainha there is a choice of pousadas / guest houses offering bed and breakfast or full board. This link will take you to the English version of the Associations web site tourism page.
links to other relevant pages on this blog.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to be helpful.