Gritty, sexy, chaotic, captivating: it's Rio baby! With the alluring beat of samba as their soundtrack, Rio's cariocas (locals) have perfected the art of living for the moment. From the pulse of music in festive Lapa to the games of futvolei on Ipanema Beach, this city has a certain sexy vibe that makes you want to party. Fill your holiday in Rio de Janeiro with its festival atmosphere, lazing on sugary, white sand beaches during the day and drinking caipirinhas and dancing in a beachside club at night.
Towering over Rio's sparkling harbour, Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the city's icons. Riding the cable car to the top is one of Rio's best-known things to do here. From the top you have 360-degree views across Rio's beaches, the city centre, and God's Finger (a peak rising from Brazil's coastal range).
Copacabana is quintessentially Rio. This strip of silky white sand is what everyone imagines when the word Rio is mentioned. Beachfront bars, barely-bikini clad ladies and pure, unadulterated fun in the sun. Stroll the Burle Marx-designed sidewalks to see chic boutiques and pumping nightclubs or people watch as you laze on the sugary sand with a caipirinha in hand.
Rio’s Carnival is the most famously over-the-top carnival. Every year approximately 500,000 visitors come to take part in this elaborate street party. Carnival storms through Rio with hip-shaking samba and frevo, spectacular costumes, and an unforgettable party atmosphere. The highlight of Carnival is the samba school parade, an imaginative, colourful, elaborate, and festival parade illustrating floats and costumes of each school’s theme.
The wide open arms of the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue overlooks Rio from the top of Corcovado Mountain. Take the funicular train from Cosme Velho, ride the escalators, or take the elevators to the top, or if you want to skip the queue, climb the steps. From Corcovado the whole of Rio is spread beneath your feet.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Brazil from the UK.
Direct Carriers British Airways offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers American Airlines, Iberia, Lufthansa, Air France and Continental Airlines offer indirect services to Brazil.
Departure Taxes An international departure tax of USD38/R15 must be paid at Brazilian Airports.
None for British citizens
Brazil's currency is called the Real (Ray-al, plural Reais). There is an open currency here, so you can bring UK Pounds in and out of Brazil, although you may find it difficult to exchange UK Pounds (US Dollars are easier).
We recommend you use your credit or debit card and withdraw cash when you arrive in Brazil. This will give you the best exchange rate. There are casa de cambio (bureau de change) booths in the airport to exchange your UK Pounds, but away from the airport and Rio de Janeiro, you may find it difficult. Make sure you keep your receipt in case you want to change your money back. You will find the best exchange rates by using credit cards, which are accepted at most shops, hotels, and restaurants. Do keep in mind, though, that if you use cash you may be able to negotiate a better price. Don't bother bringing traveller's cheques as most shops will not accept them.
The average tipping rate you will find on your holiday in Brazil is 10 to 12 percent, although many restaurants include this in the bill, so be sure to check. Parking assistants do not receive a wage and rely wholly on tips, so expect to tip two Brazilian Reais. Tipping is not expected for taxis, although you can round up to the nearest Brazilian Real. Doorman and bellman typically receive one Brazilian Real, while the maid gets about five Brazilian Reais per day.
May - November
No specific vaccinations required
Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are the exact opposite of what you find in the UK: summer is December through March and winter is June through September. The climate throughout Brazil varies from region to region. Overall the temperature is quite temperate, although most of Brazil has very hot summers. What you pack for your holiday to Brazil will depend on what time of year you travel in and where you are going.
and shorts that will keep you cool;
Trousers (men) and dresses (women) for the evenings or for nightclubs;
Converter and adapter (check with your hotel regarding power supply
as you may find 110 or 220 volts in Brazil);
and rain gear if heading to the Amazon;
Sunscreen and sunglasses;
Warm clothes if heading south during the cool season or to the mountain resorts;
Swimming suits (thong in Rio de Janeiro) and sarong;
Hiking sandals or trainers;
The cuisine in Brazil varies greatly from region to region. This diversity is due to the natural crops that are available in each region, as well as who colonised these regions. Today the cuisine is a blend of influences inspired by native Indian, African, and Portuguese traditions. Root vegetables like cassava and yams are popular, as are fruits such as açai, mango, papaya, pineapple, and hog plum. The staple foods are black beans, farinha (flour), and arroz (white rice) and the typical everyday meal consists of rice and beans with beef and salad.
Cachaca literally means ‘burning water’, and one sip of this drink will show you it is not kidding. This cheap, high-proof alcohol is made from sugar cane and is extremely popular in Brazil. In fact, Brazil has 4,000 different brands. The favoured drink to sample it in is the caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, in which cachaca is mixed with lime, sugar, and crushed ice.
Feijoda is the national dish of Brazil. It takes a full day to prepare and is generally made to serve a large group. This rich stew is made by simmering black beans with beef, sausage, and various parts of the pig, then mixed with collard greens and served over white rice.
This seafood stew has been enjoyed for over 300 years in Brazil. Different variations are found in each of the regions, but it typically contains fish, garlic, onions, peppers, and a hint of cilantro, then served over rice. Sometimes it is made with coconut milk, crab, or shrimp rather than fish.
Brazil is where most of the coffee in the world is grown and you will certainly want to sample some on your holiday in Brazil. You will find vendors on every street corner selling Brazilian coffee in small, potent doses. Coffee here is made of Arabica or Robusta seeds and has a smooth flavour.
When it comes to street food, Brazil has some tasty treats to enjoy, especially in the vibrant larger cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Whether you are on the beach, hitting the shopping districts, or browsing the markets, you will find an array of fragrant vendors selling street food. Remember to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
This is Brazil’s favourite street food. Acaraje is a fritter made from black-eyed peas. The fritter is deep fried in palm oil, cut in half like a sandwich, and slathered with vatapá and caruru (spicy pastes made from okra, cassava, and cashews). It is then stuffed with fried shrimp, tomatoes, onion, and topped with cilantro and hot sauce.
If you have ever tried a tamale, you will vaguely be aware of what pamonhas tastes like. Unlike tamales, however, pamonhas are made from Brazilian corn, rather than corn meal. Since Brazilian corn is fibrous and not too sweet, the corn mashes easily into the wrapper and boils nicely. You will find this sweet and savoury street food sold all over the place, from street vendors to pamonhas cars to women playing a triangle and selling these tasty tid-bits.
Pastel de Feira
Pastel de feira have been around Brazil for so long nobody really remembers how they got there. You can find barracas de pastel (pastel stalls) throughout Brazil, especially in Sao Paulo. Pastel de feira is a large deep-fried dumpling served with a variety of fillings, such as cheese, ground beef, shrimp, palm hearts, pizza, or even chocolate.
Although you will find Brazil to be less expensive than the UK, it is still South America's most expensive country. From December to February prices increase by about 30 percent and during Carnival prices triple. If you plan to stay in nice resort areas, eat at the best restaurants, and go out to the nightclubs, you might spend about 250 to 500 Brazilian Reais a day. If you want to stay in hostels and eat street food you will spend considerably less than this. A 1.5 litre bottle of water costs about two Brazilian Reais and eating at an inexpensive restaurant costs about 15 Brazilian Reais.
Unless you are heading to a festival on your holiday in Brazil, you probably will not see the national dress here. Typically Brazilians wear shorts, T-shirts, or tank tops with flip flops. For national carnivals or celebrations, Brazilians have a number of national costumes. The most famous is the Samba costume, which is worn by dancers at festivals and includes head pieces, gloves, and necklaces and is embellished with beads, feathers, glitter, and multi-coloured rhinestones.The baiana dress is a colourful, long, full-skirted dress with a lovely embroidery border called bordado. It is paired with a white head turban, bead necklaces, and a long, colourful shawl. Bombachas, often called gaucho trousers, are loose fitting trousers that were originally worn by native cowboys. These are worn by both women and men, although men also wear a cloak over a white shirt, a wide straw hat, and leather shoes.
Brazilians are upbeat, energetic, and captivating. They live to party; at the beach, at a barbecue, at home, at a cafe, or on the streets. To them, the meaning of life is to socialise. These warm, friendly people are physically expressive and equate touching with friendship. Women are generally more expressive than men and greet with kisses on both cheeks, but men also greet with enthusiastic back pats or bear hugs. There is a relaxed attitude towards nudity and the body, as evident by the string bikinis worn on the beach and the costumes worn by carnival performers.
Despite a laid-back attitude, there are a few things you should know before you go on holiday to Brazil:
• Brazilians tend to stand much closer to each other than you might be used to in the UK.
• Time here is viewed as something flexible. Arrive for dinner parties 30 minutes late and parties up to an hour late.
• Brazilians dress up. To fit in, err on the side of caution and over dress rather than under dress.
• Despite their provocative swimwear, full nudity is considered quite taboo.
• The legal drinking and smoking age is 18, but it is not enforced. Drugs, on the other hand, could land you in jail or see you deported.
• Purple and black are considered mourning colours and you should avoid giving handkerchiefs as a gift, as these are associated with funerals.
• The okay sign (thumb and pointer finger in a circle) is considered an obscene gesture and making a fist with one hand and slapping the top twice means ‘screw you,’ so be careful not to use either.
• It is considered rude to eat a sandwich or pizza (or any other food) with your bare hands. Use a napkin or the wrapper of the sandwich and use cutlery to eat your pizza.
Brazil is a tropical paradise, teeming with one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. It is home to The Pantanal (the largest freshwater wetlands in the world), the Pampas (grasslands), tropical and subtropical rainforests, and 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. All of these regions are home to the most known species of mammals, fish, and plants in the world and the third highest number of bird species. Brazil is famous for its tropical creatures, including anacondas, jaguars, pumas, giant anteaters, toucans, cougars, crocodiles, sloths, and a variety of monkeys. In the lakes, rivers, and along the coastline there are more than 3,000 species of fish and 500 species of amphibians, including sharp-toothed piranhas, pink dolphins, poison dart frogs, and pirarucus (the world's largest river fish).
One of the world’s most elusive animals, the jaguar is a beautiful creature with an unforgettable presence. In Brazil, jaguar tourism has truly kicked off, with private group safaris heading deep into the Pantanal to help you catch sight of this gorgeous cat. Head down the Paraguay River or explore the labyrinth of rivers and lakes within the Pantanal between June and November with an expert guide who will point out these amber-eyed animals.
With 1,622 identified species of birds, you are sure to see something spectacular when you go bird watching in Brazil. These fantastically colourful birds vary from the Amazon to the Caatinga, Cerrado, Pantanal, Atlantic forest, and the Pampa. In the Cerrado and Pantanal you will see the largest bird in Brazil, the rhea (similar to the emu). In the Amazon and Pantanal you will see tropical birds such as parrots and toucans.
The world’s second largest river, the Amazon is surrounded by lush jungle terrain with endless plant and animal species, indigenous Indian tribes, and traditional villages. Take an Amazon Cruise to see the natural wonders of the Amazon River. Tour operators offer cruises that range from day trips upwards to 10-day itineraries.
While the Amazon gets most of the attention, you will actually see more (and better) wildlife in the Pantanal. This is the largest tropical wetlands in the world and the wide open areas are home to a rich and varied ecosystem with a variety of plant and animal species. See the Pantanal on a boat tour, horseback riding, hiking, or in an open-vehicle safari.
Sepetiba Bay Cruise
The wildlife-filled waters of Sepetiba Bay are best seen on a cruise. Saveiros (schooners) cruise the waters of the bay, helping you spot dolphins, turtles, stingrays, and giant kingfishers. Look to the skies and you will see colourful parrots riding the wind around you.