As much as we had the time of our lives in Brazil (you can read all about it in my previous posts), there are a few things we certainly wish had taken into account before and during our trip (we made some rookie mistakes). Hopefully these tips will be able to help you guys if you are planning a Brazil trip anytime soon.
Brush up on your Portuguese: Learn simple phrases that will help you communicate. Trust me when I say finding english speaking locals is a mission so rather take initiative and learn the basics. Even at establishments (hotels/airport/restaurants) where you think staff would speak english, they do not. Download the Google Translate app.
Keep copies of your travel documents on you at all times: Have a colour copy of your passport (leave the original locked up at your hotel) on you at all times, if you try and purchase simple things like a sim card, your passport is required. Certain establishments also require you to show proof of identity, it’s very rare but rather make your life easier by having it on you at all times. There’s nothing more annoying than not being able to do something you had planned all because you don’t have proof of identity.
Create a separate travel funds account from your main bank account: I know it’s easier to just use your Visa or Master cards but to avoid fraudulent activity rather have a separate travel wallet. A few of us had to deal with card fraud on the trip which was not a fun experience. The best option is to just withdraw the local currency from any airport approved ATMs but if you hate carrying cash then a travel wallet is a must. Also make sure you understand the currency exchange rate, for South Africans R$1 = R3.70
Stock up on Sunscreen & Water: This might seem like an obvious tip but we tend to forget and Rio sees temperatures of up to 50 degrees celsius on a regular. So if you are going to be walking around and exploring as much as we did, staying hydrated is a big must. Luckily because we are somewhat used to hot weather we were ok but if you are not then safety first. A bottle of water is anything from R$3 – R$5 = R18,50. It’s cheaper to go to the store and stock up on water and keep it in your hotel bar fridge. Hotel water is double the price of store water.
Get Vaccinated: Travelling to Brazil doesn’t require it but when you return to South Africa you are required to show your Yellow Fever vaccination.
Where possible use public transport: Uber’s and Taxi’s can be rather expensive when trying to get around Brazil so try out the public transport. What we would do if travelling far is use the train (it’s more like our Gautrain in South Africa) to go to the station nearest to our destination and then get an Uber or Taxi from there. Obviously remain vigilant at all times when using public transport, again safety first. A one way ticket on the train is R$5 = R18.50 where as an uber can be anything from R$60 – R$180 = R222 – R666. We ended up spending about R8000 just on Uber during our 10 day stay (rookie mistake, also because we couldn’t sit still in one place always exploring lol).
Book a tour guide to take you to all the attractions: It’s cheaper to book a bundled tour of all the tourist attractions than to try and do them individually on your own. Bundling everything in one day will cut your costs and chances are you will be able to get an english speaking guide. The only downside of booking a bundled tour is the weather in Rio tends to go from sunny to cloudy often and if it gets cloudy you won’t be able to see most of the mountain attractions. We gave up trying to get good deals from locals for tours because of the language barrier so getting an accredited guide was the next best thing.
Travel Insurance is a must: I know some people love to live on the edge but when it comes to Brazil make sure you are protected because a lot can go wrong and not being able to communicate makes things even harder. We were lucky enough to avoid any major problems but there were some touch and go moments here and there.
Patience is a virtue in Brazil: If you know you are short tempered then Brazil is definitely not for you. Customer service at most places in Brazil including airports and hotels is not of major importance. You will be left waiting for long and as annoying as it gets you eventually learn to get used to it. If you try and complain they will just keep you waiting longer so keep calm and just take it all with a pinch of salt. The second you mention the word English everyone moves away from you when it comes to service 🙁 – you will wait around until some brave soul decides to attend to you with their broken english.
Book your airport transfers in advance: The airports in Brazil get super busy and over crowded this can get very overwhelming so rather have your transfers booked in advance. If you book transport at the airport you are most likely going to get overcharged.
All in all just be smart about everything. Become a local and you will have the best time of your life. Don’t make it obvious that you are a tourist. THANK YOU BRAZIL FOR THE WONDERFUL MEMORIES!!