Brazil: 7 tips for first timers

In Travel Guides
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As a Brazilian living in Australia, I often hear people say: “I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil!”. So if you are just like them – except you followed through with the saving up and buying the ticket part of the plan – here are some tips that I would give my friends if they were as good as budgeting as you are:

 

Tip #1: Getting there

If you’re flying from Australia, you’ll have 13 hours difference from the time zone you are used to living your life by. When you’re waking up Brazilians are going to bed and vice versa. Jet lag will get to you, so be smart on your choices: during the flight drink plenty of water. Last time I went back, the flight attendant just gave me a whole two liters’ bottle of water, so I didn’t need to call him for that anymore. As it is a really long flight, adjust the times that you fall asleep to the times that you’d be going to bed in Brazil. Whenever you’re awake, try moving around little bit so the blood circulation keeps flowing – specially if you’re in an aisle seat, get up and take a few strolls around the plane. This will help your body diminish the swelling and get familiar with the new time zone you’re about to enter.

Coconut Water

Coconut Water

Tip #2: Stay hydrated

Brazil is generally a warm country – specially if you go during summer – so water is essential. A friendly reminder to all of those used to drinking tap water: do not drink tap water in Brazil.  It’s just not clean enough. Brazilians have filters at home or buy gallons of spring water for the week. No one adventures on drinking tap water, so I really would advise it against it. Coconut Water, on the other hand, is one of the greatest ways of keeping hydrated! Wherever there’s a beach, there are street vendors with their huge knifes and fresh green coconuts. You can choose between the cold coconut (that has been sitting on ice) or the natural one, and they’ll cut it open for you – sometimes even take it to you, at your spot on the beach. And best of all, at the end of drinking the water you can go back to the vendor and they will cut it open for you, so you can eat the flesh as well! WIN WIN WIN

Tip #3: Money 

Get familiar with the Real. Know the value of each note and the coins as well. Once you exchange your money (and if you want to exchange it over in Brazil, the easiest currency to change from is the American Dollar), be careful with it. Don’t count how much money you have when you’re out in the open, in the middle of the street… And if you need to do it, don’t be obvious about it. Also, make sure you get the right change. People in Brazil are lovely, but some think they can ‘outsmart’ foreigners, so watch out for those ones!

Tip #4: Be safe

If you’re planning to go to Brazil, I’m sure you’ve heard it can be dangerous. And it can, depending where you are, so just follow some Brazilian common sense: be aware of where your phone, wallet and passport are at all times – specially on busy places like public transport or music concerts. Phone on the table whilst having a meal? Not a great idea. Keep it in your pocket. Expensive watch going to the beach? Another not so great option, leave it at the hotel/hostel, preferably locked up. If you have an expensive camera, be mindful where to take it. Of course with so many beautiful spots you will want to take it everywhere, but if you know that you’re going to a busy (yet not so touristy place), maybe you should think about just taking the phone for that day. And finally, keep your bags closed (zip it up!) and close to you. And if you start feeling silly of hugging a bag of keep touching your back pocket to ensure everything is there, remember: better be safe than sorry.

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Tip #5: Food

Brazilian food is delicious, hands down – and I’m not just saying that because I’m Brazilian. The country is huge, so every region you go to has its own typical foods. The South region of the country is famous for its Churrasco (or Brazilian barbecue) for the meat lovers out there. The South East region varies depending where you go: Minas Gerais is famous for its cheeses and the Pão de Queijo (literally translated by ‘cheesy bread’), Espírito Santo does a famous fish stew on clay pans called Moqueca Capixaba, São Paulo is famous for its Sanduíche de Mortadela (a type of ham’s sandwich that you can find at the Municipal Market) –  although if you’re in São Paulo, do yourself a favour and eat a Coxinha at Veloso (you can thank me later for that). I could go on and on about food, so I might just do an article on it later. Bowls of Açaí with granola and banana are also a must. Wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a delicious and new dish. And if you feel you can’t, ask a local. Which lead us to our new tip…

Tip #6: People

“The best of Brazil are the Brazilians” is what we say. And I couldn’t agree more. People there are lovely and warm. Hugs and kisses are given before they even know your name (if you’re in Rio you’ll get two kisses on each cheek, and in São Paulo just one). If you’re not fluent in Portuguese they’ll do their best to understand what you’re trying to say, or find someone that speaks English to help you out. I’d say learn a few key words like: ‘oi’ (hi), ‘tchau’ (bye), ‘obrigada’ (thank you), ‘quanto custa’ (how much is it). And maybe a pick up line if you’re going solo and find someone interesting – which I can assure you, you will. I’ll leave the pick up line to your own research. Don’t feel daunted of asking around for directions or recommendations. Most people will be happy to give you an local’s look of wherever you find yourself.

Tip #7: Enjoy the experience

It will be different. Probably more crowded, most likely louder. A lot of social differences and some cultural surprises. Open yourself up for it. Immerse yourself into the gorgeous landscapes, the beautiful language and the contagious Brazilian laugh. Take photos, but most of all, make memories and connections! And if you don’t know how long are you staying – and you have time – stay long, and travel around! By car, bus or plane. And please, don’t mention last year’s World Cup. Some people are still mourning that 7×1 that Germany buried us with.

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