Making your way in Brasil: Survival Guide

Brazil is the South American country most visited by tourists. Every year more than 5 million foreigners arrive in the country seeking majestic beaches, fair weather & nonstop parties.

In case you give into the temptation to visit the country of the carnival, soccer, forests and shorelines don´t forget to prepare a few things in advance. Brazilians are usually not offended easily and really enjoy being around foreigners. A few customs, however, may be very different from those of your home country, so keep an eye on that and don’t let cultural differences ruin your trip!


Surprisingly for many people, the language spoken in Brazil is not Spanish. Our mother tongue is Portuguese – but it doesn’t have a lot in common with the one spoken in Portugal.

Even in the most tourist-filled cities, English is not widely spoken. Don´t expect the bus driver or the supermarket cashier to understand your English, even if you speak slowly. Spanish may be understood, because it is very similar to Portuguese, but try to pronounce the words clearly.

Before visiting Brazil you should review a few sentences, like “Bom dia” (good morning), “Obrigado(a)” (Thank you) e “Você fala ingles?” (do you speak English?).


Unfortunately, Brazil is not only one big party. In the big cities, you should be mindful of your safety, and watch out for petty theft (which can really put a damper on your trip).

Avoid walking around in the evening – take taxis instead. Resist the temptation (that every tourist has) of visiting a “favela” or shanty-town. They are very dangerous, especially for foreigners without a Brazilian guide. Don´t carry a lot of money or wear expensive-looking jewelry. Try to have some extra money in a hidden spot, such as your shoe, to make sure you can get back to your hotel.

Pay attention to the way the locals dress and try to blend in the crowds: looking like a foreigner – for example by wearing dark socks with sandals – is not wise as thieves will be after you for your money if they see you are a gringo.


The Brazilian punctuality – or lack thereof – is not considered rude. Try to arrive on time, but don´t worry too much about it. For dinner or even at the movie theater being a few minutes late is considered normal. It is quite likely that you will have to wait for the Brazilians anyway…

In Brazil it is impolite to blow your nose when being around other people: you´d rather go to the toilet to do that. This might me shocking for Europeans, who are used to blow the nose in the train or while having a meal.

Don´t be scared if when talking to a Brazilian you are constantly touched in the arm or shoulder. While talking, Brazilians tend to be very close to each other, even when talking to someone we don´t know.
When meeting someone, it is common to kiss each other’s cheek – one, two or three times – but without really kissing, just touching the cheeks. Amongst men, the greetings are done by shaking hands.
Brazilians are very easygoing. But asking is always the best solution to avoid problems.

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