Traveling to Brazil

Ben Pastore
Corcovado and its Christ the Redeemer Statue
Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is as hot a destination as any of its beaches, rainforests or nightlife. Encompassing the lion's share of the South American continent, visitors come to experience its dynamic cities, world-class beaches, and that little bio-zone called the Amazon Rainforest. Fortunately, planning a trip to Brazil is far less difficult than a jungle expedition as long as you take the time to learn all the necessary information for travel to the region.

Traveling to Brazil

Brazil is well-serviced by most major international carriers along with its national carrier LATAM airlines. Visitors may also arrive via cruise ship at various ports of call as well as overground from one of the ten countries with which it shares a border. Bear in mind, though, that residents from certain countries will need an entry visa.

Brazil Entry Requirements

Please note that entry requirement information provided here is specific to travelers from the U.S. Other passport holders should check with their local embassies.

U.S. residents currently require an entry visa to visit Brazil. Unless you live in a city with its own Brazilian consulate, it may be far easier to obtain your visa through an agency. A tourist visa (usually valid for 30 to 90 days) costs $160 U.S., not including any agency service fees.

To apply for an entry visa, you must provide

  • Your passport
  • A completed application form
  • Two passport-type photos
  • Proof of departure (usually an air ticket or cruise itinerary)
  • Any other requirements specific to the nature of your visit

Visas cannot be purchased at the airport, so handle this aspect well in advance. While the paperwork portion is a bit of a hassle, it is a necessary step and will be well worth the effort once you finally arrive.

Getting Around Brazil

Brazil is not just big. In fact, it's huge. This means that overland travel by road or bus should only be considered for short trips to nearby cities. Train service is mostly limited to cargo and therefore is not an option.

Both LATAM airlines and discount carrier GOL offer the option of purchasing a Brazil Air Pass, which allows passengers to visit multiple cities at a better fare. Prices vary according to the number of flight segments and region, but it is still a far better option than traveling by land.

Touring Brazil

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls

For the least amount of hassle, tour operators such as Craft Travel and Tripmasters are just a few of the many companies that can put together a package to fit your time and budget. Larger companies such as Vacations to Go and Collette also offer Brazilian tours as part of their worldwide offerings.

The amount of time you have available will dictate how much of the country you can see. As a rule of thumb, leave at least three days for touring Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or Iguazu Falls. For regions like the Amazon, Pantanal or Costa Verde, set aside at least five days or more to make it worth the extra effort to get there (and yes, it will be worth it).

Health Concerns for Brazil Travelers

Although no vaccines are required for a visit to Brazil, it would be a good idea to consult with your doctor before traveling. While visitors to major cities have little to worry about health-wise, visitors to the interior - particularly the Amazon or Pantanal regions - would do well to get a Yellow Fever vaccination. The CDC website is a valuable resource for more specifics and up to date information.

Safety Concerns for Brazil Travelers

Despite the bad reputation Brazil has when it comes to crime, most American visitors come and go unscathed by using some caution and common sense.

  • Caution involves being selective as to which areas you visit and at what time. By all means stay out of the shantytowns, or favelas, located within major cities.
  • Common sense includes not wearing or flashing expensive jewelry or electronics, being aware of one's surroundings - especially after dark - and not giving a potential thief an obviously-easy target.

It's also important to be careful after dark, take taxis after nightfall, and be suspicious of overly-friendly strangers at the bar. If you keep these precautions in mind, safety shouldn't be an issue.

Brazilian Currency

The unit of Brazilian currency is the real (pronounced hey-ow, or hey-ice for plural) and is used everywhere. See MoneyConverter.com for an exchange rate calculator. Credit cards are also commonly accepted, especially in major cities.

Language in Brazil

The official language of Brazil is not Spanish, as many assume, but Portuguese - Brazilian Portuguese to be specific. English is not widely spoken except in heavily-touristed areas, so learning a few basic phrases can go a long way to help you navigate both towns and souvenir shops.

Brazil's Regions in Brief

Since Brazil is a huge country, most visitors wisely do not attempt to visit it all on one trip. It's far more practical to choose one or two regions and save the rest for the return trip you'll likely be inspired to take.

Rio de Janeiro and Costa Verde

Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car
Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car

The 'Marvelous City' is truly a must-see destination on anyone's checklist. Set on a dramatic harbor - which is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World - Rio is home to iconic attractions such as Sugarloaf Mountain and its famous cable cars, as well as the train to Corcovado and its Christ the Redeemer statue. Lush Tijuca National Park is within city limits, and no visit to Rio would be complete without a stop at one of its three famous beaches: Leblon, Ipanema, and of course, Copacabana.

Elsewhere in the state of Rio de Janeiro, there are a few gems near enough for a few-days escape. This includes locations such as idyllic Ilha Grande with its gorgeous beaches and forested interior, and the postcard-worthy colonial town of Paraty, with its whitewashed buildings nestled against a verdant mountainous backdrop.

The Northeast

For a very different feel than the cosmopolitan south, northeastern Brazilian cities like Salvador, Recife and Natal offer a glimpse into the country's colonial past. For tourist with a deeper interest in nature (and deeper pockets) the Fernando de Noronha archipelago is an exotic escape off the beaten path.

The Amazon

Aerial view of Manaus, Brazil
Aerial view of Manaus

As the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon is a nature-lover's destination. Most accommodations and activities are reached via the city of Manaus, situated near the famous "Meeting of the Waters" where the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers flow side by side. There are numerous resorts which cater to all budgets and comfort levels. For an authentic and/or luxury experience, there are also several cruise operators who run riverboats along this famous waterway.

The Pantanal

This marshy region along the borders of Paraguay and Bolivia is a great place to spot wildlife. Campo Grande and Cuiaba serve as gateways to this hard-to access region. The payoff is the chance to meander waterways filled with piranhas, caimans, and a huge variety of birds.

Why Brazil Is Worth a Visit

Blessed with natural beauty and a warm climate, Brazil is a world-class tropical destination. The cities dazzle, the beaches sparkle, and samba rhythms can be heard everywhere. Regardless of the time of year, Brazil is always a popular destination for nature lovers, beach lovers, and immersive travelers who hope to see one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Traveling to Brazil