I consider myself half Brazilian and Brazil my second home and it is my first choice for a country to retire in. Even though I don’t need any reasons to love this place so madly, I have plenty. My best friend is Brazilian, I love Brazilian grill, I have a lot of other friends from Brazil, I think Brazilian guys are the sexiest in the world along with Spaniards, this country is so vast you will get everything here, the beaches are amazing, people are incredibly warm and sweet and the list is almost endless.
The biggest country in South America has a proud and diverse history and have the world a lot in terms of culture, food, habits and in case of Portuguese empire lots of gold, tons and tons of it. This Portuguese speaking country is unique in South America based on language. Geography wise it is as diverse as it could get with north neighbouring Colombia and Venezuela and in the south Argentina.
The cultural diversity is also huge with aboriginal people from Amazonia to blondes and blue eyed population in the south, you name it Brazil has it… To some extent it becomes irrelevant why you are going to Brazil because you will taste the flavellas and white sand beaches and everything in between without asking for it and in experience in a good way..
The Racism Factor
A lot of times local people came up to me and started talking in Portuguese especially at the beaches and to my amazement it is because I could totally pass as a Brazilian( you have no idea how happy this makes me). My experience with the country has been really good with no incidents of racism at all but racism is a complicated concept in this tropical paradise.
On one side if you are a foreigner Brazilians will be super nice to you matter what the colour of your skin but if you are a local things change dramatically. Lighter skin and hair are a sign of beauty with cosmetic surgery one of the most valued industry along with the barrage of whitening treatments and people in South are considered more beautiful than aboriginal looking people in the north.
If you are a gringo however, you will be loved no matter what the colour of your skin.
The Gay Factor
Brazil is a majorly catholic country but these people know how to balance religion and good sex ?
I almost felt like sexuality is a very fluid thing in Brazil with a couple of instances where ‘straight’ guys hitting on me at the beach when their girlfriends were away and people generally oblivious to the difference in sexuality and the labels us Europeans and North Americans love. They might not be politically correct but these guys are no homophobes for sure. Go in with all your sass and enjoy your travels.
A word of caution though, too much sass in rough areas would mean issues because masculinity drives events in these areas but big cities are generally fine and always use protection because the sexual health clinics in Brazil are almost non existent and you don’t want to come back with STD’s.
Value for Money
Brazil is quite cheap generally especially when you are travelling from U.K. And I spent like a king on food, outings and transport and didn’t feel like I had to eat baked beans when I got back. Quality of things might not be great in normal areas but for the price, the country is worth its weight in gold.
I spent 4 days in São Paulo during the Christmas time, 3 days in Florianopolis and 4 days in Rio de Janeiro. I wish I had more vacation so I could spend more time on the lovely beaches drinking caipirinhas but generally it is a good amount of time to see these places.
I stayed in a hotel in São Paulo and through Airbnb in Floripa and Rio and it worked very well. Every city is different and you should explore every option accordingly.
The best area to stay in São Paulo is Jardims Paulista which is a nice upscale area with great restaurants and it is quite peaceful and easy to get to.
For Floripa there’s a lot of amazing options and I stayed near Lagoa de Conceicao in a beautiful house with an amazing outdoor pool and views. This area is quite central and easy to use whatever little public transport there is on the island and has plenty of restaurants and shops.
For Rio the gay area is near Ipanema Post 9 but I’d recommend staying between Ipanema and Copacabana, it is walking distance and it is easier to travel around from the middle.
The day to day food in Brazil is a lot of rice and beans and the famous Feijoada stew is made with beans and pork and eaten with rice but flip this a bit and you will have the most amazing BBQ and steaks you can imagine. If there’s anyone in the southern hamisphere who knows how to season and grill meat it is Brazilians.
Brazilian grill house is called Churascaria and the way it works is like a buffet. You choose the salad (which is a lot more than salad trust me) and sit on your table and the servers keep bringing different cuts of meat including different steak cuts (Picanha is my ultimate favourite), lamb, pork sausages, chicken and chicken hearts.
They will keep bringing the meat unless you turn the serving card to ‘Enough’ or ‘Stop’ which they give you when starting service, there is no end to this meat feast…
Brazil has a large Japanese population (actually the second largest outside Japan) and you will see the influence in the cuisine. There’s a lot of Japanese restaurants especially in São Paulo where there is a Japan town.
Phone & Internet
Phone reception is generally quite good in the centre of big cities but with a couple try as huge as this it gets shaky outside especially in rural areas. The shakiest perhaps in Florianopolos. I bought a Vivo sim which was neither easy to find nor to set up and top up.
You need to buy a SIM card, register it with your passport and then the company will set it up for you. The numbers and dialing system is also quite complicated where with a different number for each state but internet on these sims is quite cheap so you won’t need to call much anyway. Going from Europe roaming is not cheap so prepare yourself and go with your passport when buying a SIM card. For more details click here.
Internet is quite shady in most places and I relied on my phone data than using the internet. Similarly Wifi is barely good in most places but you can get it in good establishments. There is no wifi on any of the beaches though so keep some data on you for sure.
Cash & Cards
The official currency of Brazil is Real. It is roughly pronounced Hee- Ai. Cash is your friend generally in Brazil but keeping a lot on you isn’t a wise idea either. In terms of infrastructure cards are accepted mostly at big stores, hotels and luxury establishments and for the rest of the folk you will need hard cash.
Cash machines are quite common especially in shopping and tourist areas and very uncommon in rough areas and the same goes for money exchange.
Tip: Take some cash with you because I got stuck at the airport in São Paulo with none of the cash machines dispensing money from my card and I had to change terminals just to get some cash.
Brazil, especially the big cities have more and per square mile than elsewhere on the planet and everyone running around in skimpy shorts and thongs, be mentally prepared and possibly hit the gym to not feel so fat like I did.
- Locals are extremely friendly to gringos, it is bet to go to places you’re not sure of, with locals than on your own.
- Book your accommodation well in advance especially during peak season, New Years and carnivals.
- Take a cheaper phone with you for outside use or as a back up, in case you get robbed.
- Keep a few Teals on you and just hand it in if you are getting robbed, having nothing just pisses guys off and never fight back.
- Take the registered taxis number and always text someone where you’re off to and in which taxi
- Sunscreen, beach towels, swimming trunks, flip flops…
- Don’t eat from the vendors selling food on the beach during hot season, dysentery isn’t fun on holidays.
- Public transport is not very convenient especially for Florianopolos, make sure to factor that in.
- Book the tickets for Christ the redeemer and sugar loaf mountain well in advance for Rio, the queues are miles long in blazing sun.
- During summer it rains once a day and this is heavy downpour that will drench you in seconds, check the time and stay safe.