First of all: If you want to travel cheaply anywhere you should try to avoid the most touristic places. However, as a foreigner, you probably will want to see the most famous (and therefore touristic) spots – and not just travel randomly through cities you´ve never heard of. Very well, let´s get to business and go to the ‘insider’ tips for those who want to travel in Brazil.
As Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, if you want to visit more than one place you will notice that it is almost impossible to avoid the plane. Anyway, considering all the possibilities:
- Bus: The roads in Brazil are not what I would define as “good” – and most of them have a speed limit of 80 km/h. This means that it would take hours (or maybe days) to reach the place you want – and believe me, especially in summer you don´t want to be inside a bus for more than a couple of hours. The prices vary, but lots of times plane tickets are cheaper than bus tickets.
- Car: Renting a car is a nice alternative because you are free to go wherever you want whenever you want. But you should be good at reading maps, because we still have no GPS system for the roads. And as I said before, the roads are not super-good and you can´t go super-fast. Plus, gas is quite expensive.
- Train: I am sorry to tell you that the train service within Brazil is almost nonexistent. There are very few exceptions, but don´t expect to go anywhere by train. In big cities like São Paulo the train/metro system is good and not expensive, but just for short distances.
- Plane: My vote goes for this alternative. Travelling by plane may not always be cheap (since we don´t really have low-fare companies), but if for sure the easiest way to visit different places in Brazil. Here you can find some nice Wikitravel tips about travelling by plane and Brazilian airlines.
As European or American you will notice that the prices in Brazil tend to be lower than what you are used to. Our currency, the Real (pronounced ‘hay-AHL’), plural Reais (‘ha-EYES’) (displayed as R$) varies a lot according to the Dollar, but as an average you could say 1 Dollar is about 2 Reais (ok I checked today and it was 2,24, but still) and 1 Euro is usually about 3 Reais.
So if you plan to do some shopping during your trip, Brazil is a nice place to go. Tips:
- If you want to buy clothes you should come to Brazil with some place left in your suitcase – the clothes usually have good quality and are very cheap in comparison to European countries for example.
- Don´t let be deceived: Store windows often display a price followed by “x3” or “x5”, etc. This means you can pay in installments. The price displayed is the per-installment price, so “R$35 x5”, for example, means 5 payments (usually monthly) of R$35 each. The actual price is almost always lower if you pay in cash.
- Havaianas, the typical Brazilian flip-flops, are very cheap in Brazil – except in the shops for tourists. If you plan on taking some as gifts you can buy them in most supermarkets for about R$ 6.
- Electronics or technological things are not the best things to buy in Brazil – they are usually more expensive than in more “developed” countries – so you should buy it in your next trip somewhere else.
When to visit
To travel a bit cheaply and avoid the crowds you should choose the right month to go to Brazil. July and August are the months when most tourists from the northern hemisphere visit the country, whereas January and February are the summer holidays for Brazilians, so that´s when they travel around. Needless to say, the days around Carnival are when everything is super-über-crowded so unless you REALLY want to experience the Carnival in Rio you should try to avoid this time.
What to visit
Being such a huge country it is hard to decide what is worth visiting. As a Brazilian I´d prefer to avoid the cliché places like the Corcovado – but I know that this is one of the first things a tourist would like to see. So just to make a bit easier for you to decide, here is a summary of the 6 regions of Brazil. Please notice that this contains my personal opinion – is what I´d recommend, even if I didn´t visit all this places yet.
- Federal District: That is where our capital, Brasilia, is located. I´d recommend you visit the capital only if you are very interested in architecture (or maybe politics…).
- Central-West: Nice landscape, lots of green. Worth visiting are the Pantanal and Chapada dos Guimarães.
- Northeast: The nicest beaches in Brazil are there, also the famous city Salvador, and the island Fernando de Noronha.
- North: This is where the Amazon is.
- Southeast: São Paulo – Brazil´s business center – and the overall famous Rio de Janeiro.
- South: This is the part of Brazil where it gets cold in winter – and where there are lots of German and Italian descendants. You can visit the Oktoberfest or also the typically European cities like Gramado but also some beautiful beaches in Santa Catarina.