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This Brazil travel guide is from my constant visits to Brazil. I’ve been coming to Brazil since 2013 and have made a meaningful relationship with this country.
📬 Reader Mail: Trisha, fantastic content on solo travel! I have been following you for over a decade – I feel like I grew up with you and we are the same age! I learned about your blog through Rachel. You met her while traveling in Bolivia. When she showed me your blog, I was impressed because I also want to travel to South America as you did.
After being locked in Australia during the pandemic, I have not traveled a lot and now that travel is easing up everywhere, I plan to go to Brazil. I know you recently visited and I want to pick your brain about Brazil travel. Your experiences are inspiring so thank you in advance for the help!
By the way, I am a male traveler and as a man, I feel very included in your content. Thank you for advocating for solo travel for all genders!
-Jesse Newland, Australia
🇧🇷 Brazil travel at a glance
- Capital: Brasilia
- Currency: The currency in Brazil is called the Brazilian real (R$). US$1 = R$5.
- Power plug: Brazil uses the types C (two round pins) and N (two round pins and a grounding pin)
- Visa: Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, and most European citizens don’t need a visa to visit Peru. You can stay up to 4-6 months on a tourist visa.
- Language: The language in Brazil is Brazilian Portuguese. It does not sound similar to the Portuguese in Portugal. Many Brazilians say that they don’t understand anything when they travel to Portugal (and vice-versa).
- Transportation: Brazil is not a small country but public transport is efficient. There are trains and busses in major cities and domestic flights are affordable.
- Wifi/Internet in Brazil: Brazil has fiber-optic wifi and the Internet was never a problem here. Sao Paulo is a business hub with advanced infrastructure while Rio de Janeiro is the most visited place in Brazil. As a digital nomad who traveled and lived in Brazil for a while, I never had problems with the Internet except in remote areas (i.e. when I did the Amazon River Cruise).
- Suggested travel duration: Brazil is a big country so the ideal vacation duration is from 10 days to 2 weeks. In this time frame, you will be able to visit important landmarks.
Is Brazil safe? Can I travel to Brazil solo?
Is solo female travel in Brazil safe? Would I tell you not to go there? Of course, not! I consider traveling to Brazil by myself one of my greatest achievements in life. You deserve to see this country. If you ever find yourself forced to entertain unwelcome attention, all you have to do is ignore them – do it with all your heart to make them feel they don’t exist.
You know, like you are not hearing or seeing them. I have mastered this not just in Brazil but in most parts of the world. I realized that if you start a conversation with them, even just a simple hello, they will never stop bugging you.
Brazil, I guess is for experienced solo female travelers. If you are not sure of your level, do not go out at night by yourself. Make sure to always hang out with people. During my time in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, I have been super active in weekly Couchsurfing meet-ups which led me to meet a lot of locals. Whenever I am in doubt about going to a neighborhood I am not familiar with, I make sure that I always go with locals or a group.
You may also like:
- Rio de Janeiro solo travel: is this a good idea?!
- I traveled to Sao Paulo alone and stayed for 90 days
- Traveling solo to Peru for 6 months
✈️ Brazil travel guide: trip planning
Best time to visit Brazil
The best time to visit Brazil is from December to March. At this time of the year, it is summer in South America so it’s really a great escape from the harsh winters in Northern America. The biggest carnival celebrations in the world happen in Brazil every February and I go to this event yearly. Take note that summertime is also the rainy season in Brazil but it doesn’t stop the tourists from visiting.
There are many carnivals in Brazil but the best places to celebrate are in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador de Bahia. Either way, every place in the country has its own carnival celebrations, be it big or small.
April and October are shoulder seasons and is the best time to go to the beaches. At this time of the year, the weather is warmer on the coast but it can get chilly in the south. The busiest holiday within these months is Easter (April).
May to September in Brazil is the best time to visit the south while July to September is a great time to go to the Pantanal and the Amazon. Summer vacation for kids is in July so expect high tourism from locals. Below is a quick month-by-month account of celebrations, events, and weather in Brazil:
- January: New Year, Lavagem do Bonfim (the traditional washing of Bonfim’s staircases in Salvador de Bahia) and Sommerfest (a yearly summer party)
- February: Carnaval (best to celebrate in Rio de Janeiro), and Festa de Iemanjá (a tribute to the Goddess of the Sea).
- March: São Paulo Restaurant Week (get to know the best of gastronomy in Sao Paulo). This is also the final hurrah for the summer.
- April: Holy Week (Semana Santa), Festa do Divino Espírito Santo in Paraty, Comida di Buteco (another gastronomic event in Belo Horizonte, Goiania, Salvador de Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo)
- May: Festival Internacional de Balonismo (traditional hot air balloon festival in Torres, Rio Grande do Sul), Virada Cultural (the biggest 24-hour festival in the world that takes place in Sao Paulo)
- June: It gets cooler in the south but it is also a month of festivals and events! Some of the key events are the Pride Parade (Sao Paulo/Rio de Janeiro), Festival Internacional de Pesca (Caceres, Mato Grosso), Rio das Ostras Jazz & Blues Festival (Rio de Janeiro), Bumba Meu Boi (state of Maranhão), and Festival Folclórico do Amazona
- July: Festival Nacional de Forró (Itaunas), Festitália (Blumenau)
- August: Festival Literária Internacional (Paraty), Gramado Film Festival, Folclore Nordestino (Northern Brazil)
- September: Best time to visit the Amazon Jungle and the Pantanal
- October: Rio International Film Festival (Rio de Janeiro), Círio de Nazaré (The Taper of Our Lady of Nazareth in Belem), Bienal de São Paulo (Contemporary Art Fest), Oktoberfest (Blumenau)
- November: Still low season in Brazil and prices are low. Maceió Fest is a pre-carnival festival celebrated in Jaraguá do Sul
- December: High season and the beginning of summer in Brazil
Brazil entry requirements
When I went to Brazil in December 2021, they didn’t ask for a COVID vaccine but after a week of my arrival, they changed the Brazil entry requirements. Most establishments and restaurants ask for a vaccine card and they also ask for it in famous tourist attractions such as the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro.
These vaccine requirements depend on which state you are visiting as they have their own rules. Brazil still asks for a negative PCR test to be presented upon arrival (24h validity). Yellow fever vaccine is free in Brazil and you don’t have to present it. But if you are traveling to other countries like Colombia and Peru, these countries may ask for it, especially if they see that you came from Brazil.
Getting to Brazil
Travel to Brazil from USA: direct flights
The best airports to land in Brazil from the US are Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Both have direct flights from many US airports like Miami, New York, Dallas, Atlanta (American Airlines) and Houston (United Airlines). The flight duration is from 8-10 hours, depending on which US city you are flying from.
If you are coming from Canada, Air Canada flies the Toronto-Sao Paulo (direct) for 10 hours. For travelers who are coming from London, LatAm Airlines and British Airways fly from Heathrow to Sao Paulo (direct, 10 hours).
The best gateways in Europe to Brazil are Madrid (LatAm Airlines, Air Europa), Paris (Air France), Lisbon (TAP Portugal), and Amsterdam (KLM). All these flights are direct and can last up to 12 hours. You can also find fares for this route for less than US$1,000.
Getting to Brazil by bus
I crossed the borders many times from Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina but this was when I was traveling for long periods of time. I backpacked South America for 3.5 years (from Mexico and Argentina) and I took the bus many times since I came to Brazil a lot.
You can cross to Brazil from Bolivia through Corumba. Note that they will only give you 30 days of visa here so if you need more time, it’s better to fly. From Uruguay, you can take a 14-hour bus to Porto Iguazu and add Iguazu Falls on this visit.
Long-haul busses to and from Brazil are comfortable and are way cheaper than flying. South America is big and flight prices are the same as going to the US (i.e. Peru to Brazil, Argentina to Brazil). It takes longer to do the bus rides but I am including it for digital nomads and backpackers who are traveling for an indefinite time. If you are only doing a Brazil vacation for a week, it’s better to fly as it will save you time.
Getting around Brazil
Brazil is a big country and is usually navigated by flying. Domestic flights are more expensive (i.e. Sao Paulo – Rio de Janeiro is around US$300). The main domestic flag carriers in Brazil are LatAm and GOL which also has international flights. The budget airline in Brazil is called Azul. All cities in Brazil have airports so you won’t have a hard time going to where you want to go.
Traveling around Brazil by bus is my favorite as I feel like it’s more sustainable. Usually, I’d go on a night bus to get to my next destination the next morning. This way, I don’t have to pay for accommodations and it gives me the opportunity to visit Brazil in a shorter time.
Buses in Brazil are comfortable, cheap, and the best way to see the country. There are hundreds of bus companies in Brazil operating on different routes. Most of these websites are in Portuguese so if you don’t speak this language, a more convenient option is to use Busbud. It’s in English and I use it all the time whenever I am going around Brazil by bus.
Driving around Brazil
You can rent a car in Brazil and drive around the country easily. However, I do not recommend this if you don’t speak Portuguese or don’t know the country very well. Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro is a good 7 hours drive and is a tourist-friendly route. I suggest you rent a car in each city you are visiting instead of renting one car for the whole country. Alternatively, you can use ride-sharing apps in Brazil like Blahblah Car.
What to pack for Brazil
As a massive country, Brazil has different weather so better check the best time to visit Brazil before packing. If you are going to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in the summer (December to March), you can just bring summer clothes although it still can get cold in the evenings of December. Winter in Rio is bearable but if you are visiting Sao Paulo in the winter, you need proper winter clothing. I outlined some important packing items below:
- Light and easy to pack raincoat: Brazil gets drizzles and rain showers, even during the summer
- Stylish sandals (for men and women): I love these leather sandals because they are both stylish and useful. The leather is waterproof and sturdy – you can use it for going out and lounging by the beach
- Brazilian maxi dresses for parties and going out
- Hiking sandals that can be used both for outdoor activities and city trips
- Universal plug adapter: Brazil uses a different power plug. It is not the same as in North America.
- Insect repellent bracelet: the Amazon is home to many different types of mosquitos and animal species that you will only find in Brazil. Make sure to always use insect repellent but I personally just wear this bracelet all the time – it works!
- Anti-theft backpack: pickpocketing is very common in Brazil. Protect your important gears (like cameras) by making this bag your day bag
- Activewear like leggings and sports bras: best for hiking in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil
🩴 Tip: Havaianas are made in Brazil but they are not cheaper than in the US or abroad.
Basic Brazilian Portuguese
English is not widely spoken in Brazil (except in tourist areas). I actually learned Brazilian Portuguese easily because of my friends from Rio de Janeiro but I never have to really talk when I am with them. I only use Brazilian Portuguese when I am on my own and have to solve things myself.
Brazilian Portuguese is similar to Spanish so if you already have basic Spanish, you can easily learn Portuguese. Below are some helpful phrases:
- Ola/oi: Hello
- Com licenca / da licenca: Excuse me in the context if you want to pass-through
- Brazilians are like Latin Americans and are very polite. They always use greetings like bom dia (good morning), boa tarde (good afternoon), and boa noite (good night). Always start your sentences with a greeting when you are talking to locals.
- Tudo bom? means “how are you” and is also a form of greeting a friend
- Por favor: please
- Obrigada (female) / Obrigado (male): thank you
💰 Brazil travel costs
The currency in Brazil is called the Brazilian real (R$). R$1 = US$0.30. Below are some estimates for you to have an idea of Brazilian prices. Please note that these prices are from Rio de Janeiro as each city in Brazil has a different cost of living. Rio’s costs are higher than other places in Brazil so it’s a good price point comparison.
- Lunch in a business district restaurant: US$7
- Combo meal in a fast-food restaurant: US$6
- 1 bottle of red wine (good quality): US$9
- 2 liters of Coca-Cola: US$1.66
- 1 cocktail drink in a downtown club: US$7
- 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes: US$2
- Cappuccino in expat area of the city: US$3
Accommodation costs: Boutique hotels in Brazil start at US$50 per night (for 2 pax) but in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, it can go up to US$125 per room. Hostels in Brazil are cheap and are recommended for solo travelers. A shared dorm in Brazil starts at US$12. Luxury accommodations and hotels range fro US$250 – US$700.
Food costs: Food is very cheap in Brazil. The famous rodizio (all-you-can-eat meat) is only US$25. Many restaurants in Brazil have a price range of US$5 – US$20 while high-end fine dining starts at US$150.
Tour costs: Individual Brazil tours start for as low as US$25 (like basic walking tours). Day trips are less than US$150 while 3-4 day packages can go up to US$1,500.
💃🏻 I have a local tour guide in Rio de Janeiro and she truly is the best! She can take you to all the best spots in Rio and it’s better to book with her since she knows Rio de Janeiro in and out – she will definitely take you to the best local spots! Get in touch with me and I will introduce you to her, or join my Carnival trip to Brazil every February.
Money and costs: quick information
Money exchange in Brazil: The best currency to bring to Brazil is USD. There are many dollar exchange houses in every major city in Brazil but it is still best to walk in a proper bank (like Santander or Bradesco) for better conversion rates and safety.
ATM withdrawals in Brazil: It is very easy to take out cash from any ATMs in Brazil (see bank recommendations above). Brazil is not a cash society so don’t bring too much cash when you go out for safety.
Credit/debit cards: Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Brazil, I mean everywhere! Even the street food vendors have credit card machines. Pickpocketing and theft forced Brazil to be a non-cash society. It is really easy to move around without cash!
Tipping in Brazil: Tips are not required in Brazil but I still always give 10% and that makes the servers really happy because they are not expecting for tips!
📍 Places to visit in Brazil
Being the largest city in Latin America and being one of the world’s most globalized cities, Sao Paulo is full of life and diversity. It has a big population of both Italian and Japanese immigrants and a large indigenous reserve within the city limits so you can just imagine how this city is a cultural melting pot.
With this in mind, you can be assured that Sau Paulo’s nightlife is one that is bustling with energy. It’s blessed with a wide range of sophisticated genres and styles. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, whatever you feel like doing that night, you will be able to satisfy your need. Famous neighborhoods are Itaim Bibi, Jardins, Vila Madalena, and Vila Olimpia.
Other areas known for their nightlife are Baixo Augusto, Centro, and Barra Funda. Have fun!
Plan your trip to Sao Paulo
- Sao Paulo hotels
- Budget accommodations in Sao Paulo
- Sao Paulo tours and things to do
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Sao Paulo
Rio de Janeiro
Situated in central Rio de Janeiro is a mountain with a pretty famous statue atop its granite peak. Corcovado is home to the famous Cristo Redentor. Cristo’s open arms await you on top and so do stunning panoramic views of the whole city. Visitors can easily hop on one of the electric trains to get to the top or go on a guided tour in a van.
The more adventurous ones can take on the challenge of climbing to the top on foot. The hike up is not for the faint-hearted and should not be taken lightly. But hiking through a tropical forest definitely has its own rewards.
Rio de Janeiro is the most visited place in Brazil with major events like the Carnival and a spectacular fireworks show in Copacabana and Ipanema on New Year’s.
Plan your trip to Rio de Janeiro:
- Rio de Janeiro hotels
- Budget accommodations in Rio de Janeiro
- Rio de Janeiro tours and things to do
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Rio de Janeiro
The Amazon Jungle
Sixty percent of the Amazon can be found in Brazil. This includes the mouth of the great Amazon River and the largest chunk of the Amazon basin.
This is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet so expect to see flora and fauna that you have never seen before. The Brazilian Amazon is also home to a large number of indigenous tribes who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years.
Some of them, to this day, have not had contact with the outside world. Take a river cruise and witness the Meeting of Waters or go chase after some waterfalls.
Go on a tree-climbing trip and see how alive the forest canopy is. Look for guided trails and hikes where you can get up close and personal to the flora and fauna.
You could even learn a thing or two if you participate in a jungle survival course. It’s the Amazon. You really will not run out of things to do.
Plan your trip to The Amazon:
- Hotels in Manaus
- Budget accommodations in Manaus
- Things to do in the Amazon
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Manaus
Known as the top eco-tourism capital of Brazil, Bonito lives up to its name and its reputation. Located southwest of the country near the Bolivian and Paraguayan borders, Bonito is a haven for people who love the outdoors.
Expect to see crystal clear bodies of water full of life and surrounded by lush forests. Visitors can rappel down caves with otherworldly stalactite formations into a lake at the bottom (you can snorkel!).
Mystical sinkholes and enchanting waterfalls? You’ll find it in Bonito and its surrounding areas. This well-regulated and well-maintained attraction stands as a glimmer of hope for the future of ecotourism.
Plan your trip to Bonito:
- Hotels in Bonito
- Budget accommodations in Bonito
- Things to do in the Bonito
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Bonito
The Brazilian gold rush of the 18th century brought about an influx of Portuguese settlers literally waiting to strike gold. They settled mostly in the state of Minas Gerais and today it’s popular for its well-preserved colonial towns.
One of the state’s most famous towns is Tiradentes. Its remote location in the mountains helped preserve this charming town littered with picturesque homes boasting Portuguese architecture. Walk along its cobblestone-lined roads.
Maybe ride a horse-drawn carriage. Visit Ireja de Santo Antonio and bask in all its golden glory. Go for a hike on one of the trails in the surrounding mountains. You’ll satisfy both the history buff and nature seeker in you. Visit on a weekday to avoid crowds and you will live out your storybook fantasy.
Plan your trip to Tiradentes:
Pao de Acucar
Pao de Acucar or Sugarloaf Mountain is another destination where you can embark on an adventure when you spend time in Rio de Janeiro.
Atop its peak, you will be rewarded with unobstructed views of the city, Copacabana, and Christ the Redeemer. Visitors can take a cable car to the top or take a more active route and hike up.
There are about 40 different trail options for climbers of every level. Costao is the easiest. It’s also famous for being one of the largest urban climbing areas in the world.
All year round rock climbers take on the challenge and enjoy hundreds of routes. Near the mountain is a beach called Praia Vermelha where visitors can sit back and relax before or after their ascent to the peak. It’s a great day trip within the confines of Rio de Janeiro.
Salvador de Bahia
Salvador is located in the state of Bahia and is the first-ever capital of Colonial Brazil. Today, it is a city that happily marches to the beat of its own drum.
Deep colonial culture, the heart of the Afro-Brazilian community, this distinct dichotomy is what makes Salvador so vibrant and alive. You can only imagine how much energy is pulsating all throughout the city.
Impressive European architecture and streets dotted with colorful pastel-colored buildings and colonial churches can be seen in Pelourinho.
Visit the local markets and get a chance to see the strong African spirit still present in this Brazilian community. Let’s not forget that this place is in Bahia. Beaches in and out of the city are aplenty. As the locals say, “Sorria, voce esta na Bahia!” (Smile, you are in Bahia)
Plan your trip to Salvador de Bahia:
- Hotels in Salvador de Bahia
- Budget accommodations in Salvador de Bahia
- Things to do in the Salvador de Bahia
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Salvador de Bahia
Needing a break from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro? Ilha Grande is an absolute must and an absolute tropical paradise. Despite its proximity to a big metropolis, this paradise has no big chain hotels or any cars for that matter.
Why? It’s an unintended outcome of its unique history of being a former pirate’s lair, leper colony, and formerly housing maximum security prisons.
Beach hopping, trekking, and all kinds of water activities, Big Island offers it all and you can access everything on foot or, better yet, on a boat.
After hiking the different trails scattered all across the island, you will be rewarded to some of Brazil’s most spectacular and pristine beaches. Better enjoy it while it lasts.
Beers? Brazil? You might sound confused but Brazil is actually home to a number of breweries and crafts a pretty great selection of beers.
Brazil welcomed thousands of European immigrants both in the 19th and 20th centuries and a lot of them settled in the state of Santa Catarina.
Go to Blumenau and the German influence will be very apparent in the people, culture, and architecture of the city. The city’s Oktoberfest celebration is a huge event that lasts for 18 days.
If you are an avid fan of beer, you can visit different factories and artisan breweries and learn about the intricate process that goes through making this well-loved beverage. And of course, beer drinking is mandatory.
Plan your trip to Blumenau:
- Hotels in Blumenau
- Budget accommodations in Blumenau
- Things to do in the Blumenau
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Blumenau
Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago comprising of 21 islands and sits off of the coast of Brazil. Its beautiful white sand beaches, hikes with the most scenic ocean views, and healthy marine wildlife are some of the things that make this protected area worth the visit.
Visitors can enjoy a multitude of water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing. Renting a buggy is also a fun and cool alternative to getting around the island. The area is well preserved and activities and foot traffic are well regulated making it as much of a paradise as your wildest dreams could imagine.
It’s a place that puts the demands of wildlife at the forefront. Note that it’s not an ideal destination for budget travelers. But if you are willing to shed out the money, the archipelago will surely reward you tenfold.
All the pictures that you see online are legit. Iguacu Falls lives up to its hype. Literally meaning “big water” in the indigenous Guarani-Tupi language, this is the world’s largest waterfall system and it lies at the border of Brazil and Argentina.
Shrouded in mysticism and wonder, legend has it that an enraged deity sliced the river and formed the waterfalls to punish the woman he intended to marry who escaped with a mortal lover in a canoe thus condemning the lovers who escaped to an eternal fall.
But, really, this immense waterfall system was created when a huge volcanic eruption cracked the earth. Its undeniable brilliance and sheer majesty will surely leave you speechless.
Plan your trip to Foz do Iguazu:
- Hotels in Foz do Iguazu
- Budget accommodations in Foz do Iguazu
- Things to do in the Foz do Iguazu
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Foz do Iguazu
The Pantanal is another one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets. The region is considered to be the world’s largest inland tropical wetland area.
At 42 million acres, this wetland sprawls across the nations–Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Pantanal is the place to see wildlife in its pure, unaltered, unapologetic form. It’s a biodiversity hotspot and is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna.
The largest concentration of both caimans and jaguars can be found here. You’ll also be able to spot the world’s biggest parrot here, the hyacinth macaw.
Anacondas can be found in abundance. And that’s just to name a few. The best way to see the place is through a motorboat. You can get a chance to get up close and personal and you can also sneak in a little piranha fishing. Wildlife spotting is at its height from June to September.
If your main goal in visiting Brazil is to experience its world-famous beach lifestyle then the Northeastern coast of the country is where you have to go.
From Sao Luis to Salvador are some of the best beaches you thought only existed in your wildest dreams. The Northeast also offers a number of islands that you could visit and enjoy.
The coast also will entertain you with a multitude of activities for the water lover in you. Snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and kitesurfing are some of the most famous options here.
Rest assured, you will not run out of beaches to go to and you will probably find a place that will best suit your needs. Don’t miss out on Praia do Forte, Morro Branco, Morro de Sao Paulo, and Jericoacoara. Spend a couple of weeks in the area and surely you will find it hard to leave.
Historically the center of gold mining and government, Ouro Preto is one Minas Gerais’ most picturesque towns. This city is full of history and beautiful Baroque Portuguese colonial architecture.
Situated at the feet of the Serra do Espinhaco, the town is home to winding, steep cobblestone slopes. Take pit stops at the various plazas, museums, and churches scattered all over town.
Learn more about the Brazilian gold rush in Mine du Veloso. Satisfy your craving for the outdoors and go on a hike in Itacolomi State Park not too far away from town.
Ouro Preto today is a city with education and arts at its center meaning the whole place is abuzz with youthful energy. Note that this small town also celebrates Carnaval and would be a nice alternative to the craziness of Rio.
Overall, Ouro Preto gracefully balances old and new in a way that’s uniquely Brazilian.
Plan your trip to Ouro Preto:
An island city with a lively metropolitan area and 560 kilometers of coastline and 42 beaches, Florianopolis is a haven for beach lovers and city dwellers alike.
Its enchanting landscape and thrilling vibe are evident once you set foot. Azorean culture is deeply weaved into everyday life so you will find fishing villages and a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh seafood.
The best beaches are found in the south as well as the island’s energetic surf culture. Lagoinha do Leste, Praia Galheta, and Ilha do Campeche are must-sees for those seeking not only water adventure but seaside tranquility as well.
The island also offers great hiking trails with scenic ocean views. Dubbed as Ilha da Magia or the Magic Island, Floripa definitely lives up to its name.
Plan your trip to Florianopolis:
- Hotels in Florianopolis
- Budget accommodations in Florianopolis
- Things to do in Florianopolis
- Airbnbs and Vrbos in Florianopolis
Imagine a place where an Atlantic rainforest cascades into a colonial town sitting beside a beautiful bay. Too good to be true? That’s Paraty for you.
Paraty’s authentic colonial charm stems from being one of the most valuable ports during the Brazilian gold rush. Its historical center perfectly illustrates the town’s rich heritage as it’s filled with, colonial churches, cobblestone streets, and whitewashed homes with colorful doors and windows.
Besides majestic white sand beaches and coves and spectacular hiking trails, Paraty also offers unique sights such as the Jabaquara Mangroves and Saco do Mamangua (a fjord-like place in Brazil!). Enjoy the best of Costa Verde in Paraty.
Plan your trip to Paraty
Parque Nacional Chapada dos Veadeiros
With more than 300 waterfalls and great hiking trails, Chapada dos Veadeiros is one of the best spots near Brasilia. This national park is a feast for the eyes.
Sitting on top of an ancient plateau, the whole area within the national park is home to a web of canyons and otherworldly rock formations. Note that it’s properly regulated and well maintained and only 400 people can visit in a day.
Choose a trail, ideally get a guide to learn more about the national park and the surrounding flora and fauna (rare species can be found here), walk through lush vegetation and rolling hills, and finally cool off in a majestic waterfall or take a dip in a mystical swim hole.
And repeat this the following day. You might as well give yourself a day or two to really take in all the beauty and grandeur that this park has to offer.
Parque Nacional dos Lencois Maranhenses
Hands down, this is one of Brazil’s most beautiful areas. Lencois Maranhenses’ jaw-dropping, expansive dunes will leave you utterly speechless.
Note that this place is not a dessert. It receives too much annual rainfall to be considered one. Nevertheless, it’s an unbelievably dramatic and beautiful location.
Come June, July, August when rain filters through the sand dunes will create thousands of crystal clear freshwater lagoons all throughout the area.
The blue waters provide an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the sweeping white dunes. You can make your way through these dramatic landscapes via a 4×4 or might as well live up to the whole experience and do everything on horseback.
Honestly, just Google the place and you will instantly be sold.
🗺️ Brazil itinerary and routes
Of course, don’t miss the vibrant and active city of Rio de Janeiro, the most visited place in Brazil. You can easily spend 5 days in Rio to cover all the important landmarks. I visit Rio de Janeiro every year and I stay for a period of 7 weeks because I have many friends here!
Once you get tired of the partying, you can do outdoor adventures in Paraty and Ilha Grande. You can easily take a 7-hour bus to Sao Paulo to end your trip but if you still want to continue seeing places in Brazil, add Santa Catarina and Curitiba to your itinerary.
Finally, don’t miss Foz do Iguazu (where the Iguazu falls is located) then head to Mato Grosso to see the Pantanal. Bonito can also be added to this Southeast Brazil itinerary.
The northern part of Brazil is full of beaches and is ideal for beach lovers. There are also colonial cities like Salvador de Bahia. Chapada Diamantina National Park is where you can see the most stunning waterfalls of Brazil.
For more outdoors and beaches, Recife is a great place for diving and you will find a large population of Argentine expats here. Jericoacoara and Lencois Maranheses are definitenly a must-see, along with Canoa Quebrada and Genipabu.
🍲 Brazilian food: what to eat in Brazil
I mean, come on, you’re in Brazil. You have to try an acai bowl. Just look for huge signs saying acai and treat yourself to a bowl of frozen berries with bananas and granola. It’s a refreshing break from all the meaty stuff you will be surely eating.
In Brazil, acai is sold everywhere but what I observed about it is that they like to put very sweet stuff. Some even out gummy bears and sprinkles!
It’s really a very different image than that of the Acai bowls you are used to in Bali. In Brazil, Acai is presented as a super sweet snack even if all the acai restaurants say that it’s healthy.
It’s not hard to find Acai as they are specialty restaurants in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I think it’s best to try the street cart acai as independent vendors can give a very interesting twist.
This is the base of the world-famous caipirinhas. It’s a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice and can be found everywhere in Brazil.
This is an important drink and a must-try because, without cachacas, there simply won’t be any caipirinhas. If it’s your first time, I recommend you try cachaca without the fruity flavors to get to know what it really tastes like. Mind you, it’s super strong!
My favorite caipirinha flavor is with passion fruit. It’s the most common fruit that goes with the cachaca. Caipirinhas are also sold on the streets and beaches of Brazil. There are many caipirinha carts all over the country!
Caipirinha is equivalent to Mexico’s margarita in terms of a popular tourist drink. Not everyone likes it but even so, you will still see every tourist on the beaches drinking it!
Canjica is traditionally served during winter festivals. But this sweet and simple dish can be found any time of the year now. It’s made out of whole pieces of white corn and milk (coconut and/or condensed).
Cinnamon on top is also a popular choice. It’s honestly a bowl of comfort! Coconut milk is one of the main ingredients of Canjica. Some also add cloves to their recipe (northeast).
Peanuts and condensed milk are also added for an extra spike. Brazilians really love sweets and you will notice that in every Brazilian food that you will eat while in the country.
You will also find different variations of canjica in other Latin American countries. It is similar to mazamorra in Colombia. Canjica is known to be rich in fiber and protein.
Churrasco: the Brazilian bbq
Brazil is a meat-eating country and you can be sure as hell that they know how to grill their meat. Make your way to the nearest churrascaria wherever in Brazil you may be.
Also more famous as the rodizio, Brazilian bbq is a big hit for birthdays or any types of celebrations. You pay a fixed price (in Rio de Janeiro, it’s around $25 USD) and the waiters go around giving you different kinds of meat.
Each chair has a sign that you can flip whether you’d like to have more meat or not. The waiters are dependent on these signs and they won’t stop until you flip it to “no.”
These Brazilian bbqs also include a buffet of vegetables, sushi, potatoes, rice, and the most typical carbs that Brazilians usually consume.
Farofa was weird for me at the beginning. They were serving it in every Brazilian food I order (no matter what the dish was) and I never knew what it is.
When I tried it… I am sorry, I didn’t like it and I never understood why Brazilians love it so much! When I spent Christmas with a local family in Rio de Janeiro, they even taught me how to do this but I wasn’t really into it.
Farofa is basically fried tapioca flour. It doesn’t sound much but this Brazilian staple has an uncanny ability to absorb all flavors in a dish and is the accompaniment to any Brazilian meal.
I surely wouldn’t ask for this separately but many of my Brazilian friends always ask for it when we are eating in restaurants! It’s like they can’t eat without it!
Considered to be Brazil’s national dish, Feijoada is a hearty stew traditionally made out of beans and meat simmered with a variety of herbs and spices.
Like farofa, feijoada is also present in every meal, in every household, in every buffet and in every Brasilian dish no matter what it is. They simply love their beans!
I’ve seen many local homes cook it differently. My friends in Sao Paulo love it with meat while in Rio, they don’t put any protein. It’s fun to see how all families have their own feijoada recipe!
It is definitely a Brazilian food staple and you will encounter it even if you are not looking for it. It’s a very crucial part of the Brazilian food culture and they always claim it’s not your ordinary Latin American beans.
Originating in Bahia is a seafood stew cooked with diced tomatoes, onions, and coriander. Others add in a dash of coconut milk, a varied array of vegetables, and peppers.
Moqueca is always served hot. Eat with some rice or farofa (or both) and you will get up from the dining table feeling so satisfied. Actually, this is the first Brazilian food recommendation that I heard from people during my first visit to Brazil.
I’ve seen other Brazilian families make moqueca with shrimp and I didn’t really try it because I don’t eat shrimp (yes, I know). It is also sometimes served with plantains and white rice.
Using a clay pan is the traditional way cooking of moqueca. When I stayed in Rio de Janeiro, I didn’t find this in many food menus but it is very common in Bahia de Salvador (about 9h away from Rio).
Pao de Queijo
The moment you land at any airport in Brazil, you will already see the famous “Casa de Pao de Quiejo” which has many branches all over the country. It’s not the best pao de quiejo I’ve tried and I don’t really recommend it for first-timers unless you are really hungry at the airport.
Local bakeries in Sao Paulo do pao de quiejo well. Pao de quiejo translates to cheese bread in English. It is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Pao de Queijo is easy to find and can be enjoyed any time of the day. Different areas offer different types of cheese fillings and some areas even include meat in the mix.
PDQ is always served in cups in Brazil in small pieces of 12. It is definitely the Brazilian on-the-go snack as it is easy to eat and you can bring it anywhere! Many Brazilians also make their own PDQ at home.
It’s a crispy, golden brown, fried pie. Pastels are commonly filled with savory cheese and meat but your sweet tooth can also find ones that are filled with chocolate and jam. There’s a wide selection. Just take a pick.
Pastel can be eaten at any time of the day but is famously served in butecos (the equivalent of cantinas in Mexico). Every corner of Brazil has bakeries so it’s easy to find pastel. Brazilians love their bread!
Many people asked me if pastel is the same as empanada but I wouldn’t say so. The dough of the pastel is more crispy-friend than that of the traditional empanada.
Made of eggs, sugar, and coconuts, quindim is a melt-in-your-mouth custard dessert that is well-loved all throughout the country. It’s basically Brazil’s version of flan and is a must-try.
Quindim can be described as egg custards and it’s commonly topped with coconut shreds. The word quindim is originally from The Republic of Congo. Brazil has a very long story with its neighbor Africa so they have shared cultures and customs through the years.
Best restaurants in Brazil
Brazilian food is not really my favorite but I loved exploring the best restaurants here! There are over 10 that are on the 50 World’s best list (with Michellin stars). Make sure to go to the following restaurants:
- Mani (Sao Paulo): a Brazilian restaurant by the best female chef in the world 2014, Helena Rizzo
- A Bela Sintra (Sao Paulo): best Portuguese food in Sao Paulo
- A Casa do Porco (Sao Paulo): an all-pork restaurant with innovative dishes by Chef Jefferson Rueda
- Charco Restaurante (Sao Paulo): a restaurant that serves the best dishes from the south of Brazil
- Chef Rouge (Sao Paulo): best French restaurant in Brazil
- Corrutela (Sao Paulo): sustainable organic cuisine
- Mocoto (Sao Paulo): #43 in Latin America’s best restaurants 2019
- Murakami (Sao Paulo): an intimate omakase restaurant
- Picchi (Sao Paulo): Italian and Brazilian fusion
- Tordesilhas (Sao Paulo): traditional Brazilian food
Best bars in Brazil
Brazil has many upscale bars that are also among the World’s 50 best bars. Whenever I visit a country, I always make sure to visit the upscale bars and here are the best ones in Brazil:
- Bar dos Arcos (Sao Paulo): underground bar
- Guarita (Sao Paulo): casual cocktail bar
- Guilhotina (Sao Paulo): buzzy cocktail joint
- Jiquitaia (Sao Paulo): local Brazilian bar
✨ Brazil travel tips
Don’t walk alone at night
“Why are you walking the streets at 2:00 am! It’s not safe!”
My hostel mate from Belgium screamed as soon as I entered the hostel. She was working in her computer at this hour while I, half sh*t-faced, couldn’t utter the words to her welcome remark. It was already the first month of my solo female travel in Brazil so Sao Paulo already grew on me. I wasn’t sure how to answer back in a way that will be pleasing to her.
The receptionist was half paying attention. He was reading a magazine with his legs elevated on the table.
“She is from Manila and she lives in Mexico. Sao Paulo is not scary for her.”
That was something a response I never thought of saying but maybe he’s right? Maybe I am not scared of walking the streets of Sao Paulo because I lived in Manila and I live in Mexico?!
Because of that, I became comfortable and stayed for 90 days. Yes, I was just in Sao Paulo for 3 full months just because it didn’t feel strange. I have local friends there and that’s probably another factor why I didn’t feel unsafe.
Visit Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo always gets bad press. People skip it. Brazil is so big that others prefer to visit the most touristy parts (like Rio de Janeiro) to save time and money.
I, on the other hand, went to Sao Paulo and felt like staying. My South America journey was set on indefinite travel time so there wasn’t a rush – I can stay as long as I want to do my digital nomad work. I also believe that staying in a certain place for a long time contributes to its level of safety. The longer I stayed in Sao Paulo, the more it became my home.
Many Brazilians in Sao Paulo are often of European ancestry. For example, my Couchsurfing host didn’t grow up in Italy but has an Italian passport. The Italians migrated to Brazil in 1875 when Brazil opened its lands to increase their population. Today, there are more than a million Italians in Brazil.
Half of them live in Sao Paulo. By 1904, Italian migration decreased so Brazil and Japan signed an agreement allowing Japanese migration to Brazil.
With this, Sao Paulo has been very used to foreigners. I was once mistaken to be Brazilian-Japanese (because of my Asian eyes and brown skin). I am only speaking for myself but I’ve observed my European travel companions did not get any weird glances while traveling in Brazil. They are really used to foreign faces.
Pickpocketing in Brazil
On my second visit, I stayed for another 4 months and spent my time mostly in Rio de Janeiro and the north. It has always been my dream to go to the World Cup 2014. The streets were full of people from all parts of the world. I did not think of becoming cautious until one drunken morning, I got pickpocketed in Copacabana. I was living with a few people in a rented apartment.
We take turns in cooking every day and when my turn came, I went to the supermarket. As per any big sporting event in one of the busiest cities in the world, the supermarket was really crowded. I put my wallet in the basket and started strolling the crowded alleys. I wanted to cook adobo, a famous, tasty, and easy-to-cook Filipino dish. There was never a time that nobody liked it. It’s always a hit.
Though this dish is easy to cook, the ingredients in Brazil are different. Adobo’s main ingredient is soy sauce but based on experience, soy sauce in different countries is different. In Uruguay, it was less salty I had to put 2 liters. In Nicaragua, I got one that’s sweet. In Japan, well, Kikkoman. It took me a long time to decide which Brazilian soy sauce fits the Filipino adobo.
When I finally chose one, I put it in the basket clinging to my right arm, and to my surprise, my wallet was not there. It would’ve been okay if the contents of that wallet were easy to obtain but it was mostly identification cards (driver’s license, citizen ID, etc) that I can only get in the Philippines. It’s not a problem if I don’t have those because my passport is still safe (thank God!) but I wasn’t comfortable traveling with just one ID, especially I was traveling for an indefinite period of time. What hurts the most in that instance was that I just withdrew my salary from my online job. It was $800 USD down the drain.
I panicked. I went to the customer service area and asked for help. My Brazilian Portuguese was just okay to understand so the supermarket staff sort of understood me. They announced it on the PA but I was 100% sure I will not get it back. In a country as poor as Brazil, it will be a miracle to get this back. But I did give not much value to it just to please me. I still hoped that someone would be kind enough to leave it even without the money. But how do I win with that when the money weighs more value to me than the IDs.
I wanted to burst into tears outside the supermarket. I left my phone at the apartment so I couldn’t call my friends. Our place was a few minutes’ walk to the supermarket but I didn’t understand why I didn’t go back to the comfort of my friends. I just sat there quietly analyzing the first time I lost money in this long journey.
“Are you okay?”
A guy carrying a shopping bag approached me. I probably looked like I was going to cry any minute. I told him the story on how I lost my wallet. He was listening carefully and told me that pickpocketing is very common in Rio de Janeiro. He didn’t lecture me about being mindful though it’s probably what I deserved.
“Come to my house for lunch. It will make you feel better.”
My mom has always been worried about my habit of hanging out with people I don’t know. In recent years, there have been many rape and murder cases for solo female travelers. My mom’s (or another mom’s) greatest fear is to see her daughter killed in the news headlines. But somehow, I felt the sincerity of this stranger.
I felt his offer was genuine and what else can I lose anyway? My wallet is gone. He can never take anything from me. If he harms me, well, I will fight back for sure. I am not sure if I will be able to because I know that panicking is the first response when you are going to be attacked. “Groins, eyes and knees” are the three words that are the words I programmed my mind together with panic. These are the three places I will aim to hit if I get attacked.
Favelas are unsafe if you don’t know your way around
For the record, I was never attacked or physically assaulted in my travels all over the world. Not even in the Middle East. I never had to hit anyone on the groins, eyes, and knees but I’m sure it works. Repeating those three words, I went with this man to his home. The route he was walking to was going to Rocinha, the notorious favela where I use to volunteer as a teacher.
Favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro are considered unsafe. It is not advisable to go here on your own. It is worth seeing as it is one of the most iconic in Brazil but you will need to sign up with a tour company. My work experience there was the only reason I would go by myself.
Do they speak English in Brazil?
English is not widely spoken in Brazil so you might want to learn the basics for emergency purposes. Ajuda in the world for help. It’s only one word but everyone will understand this.
Proper clothing in Brazil (for women)
When it comes to what to wear, it is very known to us that Brazilians are really fashionable and love dressing up sexy. My choice of wardrobe was never a problem for me in Brazil. I wore anything I want without even thinking! The Brazilians are very progressive so there aren’t dress codes here – wear whatever you want!
✈️ Ready for your trip to Brazil? This blog thrives on reader questions so feel free to ask questions about Brazil travel by using the comment box below. You can also sign up for 1-on-1 coaching with me if you need more help!
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