5 to Survive: Brazil

Olá! I’ve just returned from a 5 day trip to Brazil (Salvador da Bahia & Rio de Janeiro). I was so in love with the country that I started writing this article while there. Brazil has been in the media frequently lately for everything from zika to the Olympics. Several people discouraged me from visiting, but I’m stubborn, and in this instance I’m glad I did not heed others advice. Below I’ve listed the top 5 tips I wish I knew prior to visiting in hopes that I’ll save you some time in your research. I’ll be doing a subsequent post on a tour I took while in Salvador da Bahia that was both educational and interactive. But without further ado, here are 5 tips to surviving a trip to Brazil.

  1. Bring an outlet converter with “Europe” compatibility. All of the outlets in Brazil were as pictured below. On my converter, they were compatible with the “Europe” pins. There may be articles out there with this info, but literally no one I spoke to before my trip advised me of this. Luckily, I always travel with an outlet converter when I fly internationally, but this would’ve been useful to know in advance.

20160618_0617022. Learn some Portuguese. If I had a BRL for every person who told me that I could get by without a hitch speaking Spanish in Brazil, I’d be able to finance some of my trip. Repeat after me, Portuguese is not Spanish. While knowing Spanish did make understanding Portuguese a lot easier, there are several words in Portuguese that are completely different in Spanish. If you have some time before your trip, learn a couple words with the help of either DuoLingo or Memrise. If you don’t have time for that, try to learn the key phrases below. For more common sayings in Portuguese click here.

  • Hello, Good Morning = Olá, Bom dia
  • Thank you = Obrigado (said if you’re a man)/Obrigada (said if you’re a woman)
  • Please = Por favor
  • Excuse me (also means sorry) = Desculpe
  • Good night = Boa noite
  • I speak a little Portugues = Eu falo um pouco de português
  • Do you speak English? = Você fala inglês?
  • Yes = Sim
  • No = Não
  • Goodbye = Tchau
  • I don’t understand = Não entendi

3. Try to visit more than one city. My friend and I made the most of our 5 days in Brazil and visited both Rio (2 days) and Salvador (3 days). Getting to experience 2 different cities on one trip was amazing. Domestic flights in Brazil are not too expensive (around $150RT or less) and there are less restrictions on what you can carry in your luggage than if you were traveling elsewhere making security a breeze. Although traveling between cities by plane is the most efficient and safe way, travel is also possible by bus.

4. Take the bus to Ipanema or Copacabana if you’re not staying in the Zona Sul area. On our first day in Rio my friend and I decided to visit the Zona Sul area (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, etc…). Because we were staying by the airport (GIG) a taxi would’ve been pretty pricey. However, the concierge at our hotel informed us of the Executivo buses. These buses run from GIG to Zona Sul and cost 16BRL, roughly $5, each way/per person. The buses are air conditioned and even have free WiFi.  Be sure to confirm with the driver that the bus you’re boarding goes to the area you want to visit. Disclaimer: when leaving Ipanema around 7PM it was difficult to locate a bus back to the airport.

5. Prepare for the traffic in Rio. Being from the NYC metro area I’m no stranger to rush hour traffic. However the traffic in Rio was on another level! If you are planning to go out between the hours of 5-8PM don’t expect to get anywhere fast, unless it’s in walking distance. The average worker in downtown Rio gets off of work between 4-6PM, thus causing an ungodly amount of traffic.

Now, to get to the cost of the trip. My friend and I decided to visit in June due to the fact that Brazil has waived the visa requirement for American citizens from June 1st-September 18th. They’ve done this as an incentive for tourists to visit during the Olympics and this measure helped us save $160+ (the standard cost of a visa to Brazil for US citizens).

  • Cost of flight: $498 (located on SkipLagged)
  • Cost of lodging for 4 nights: $214/pp
  • BRL withdrawn for the entire trip: 650BRL or $194 (130BRL/day)
  • Flight to Salvador from Rio RT: $127
  • Average meal cost: $15
  • Total cost of trip: $1,033

Finding a great flight deal and not having to apply for a tourist visa greatly reduced the cost of this trip. It definitely could’ve been done for less than $1,000 if different lodging was chosen, however, my friend and I preferred to take advantage of the low cost of 5 star hotels.

I’d recommend visiting both cities to anyone considering a trip to Brazil. Do not let the media dissuade you from missing out on this beautiful country. Take safety precautions when visiting, as you should do anywhere else.

The people of both Rio and Salvador were extremely friendly, helpful, and charming. The beaches are stunning and the history is rich. The list of countries that I would visit more than once is short, but Brazil definitely has a place on there. Stay tuned for my upcoming article on my historic tour and cooking class in Salvador de Bahia. It’s a must do activity when visiting the city. Thanks for reading!

If you have any further questions or need help planning your trip to Rio de Janeiro or Salvador da Bahia, email me at support@survivingonashoestring.com. If you’ve gotten the chance to visit these beautiful cities share your tips below in the comment section.


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