Brazil (or Brasil as it is actually spelled in the country… why don’t we just learn it this way to begin with? I’ll never know.) is one of my absolute favourite countries on earth. Home to incredible beaches, mountains, vibrant cities and people who are so open, friendly and a blast to be around. Yes, they are going through a bit of political trouble right now, but it’s nothing I personally would recommend staying home for.
First things first: if you are Canadian, American or Australian, you’ll need a visa before entering the country. Kiwis and Brits do not (at time of writing). In any case, best to check with your consulate before planning your trip.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio, located in southern Brazil, is famous for Carnival celebrations. Carnival dates fluctuate each year, but are typically in February or March, before lent. Carnival in Rio is considered the biggest carnival in the world, hosting about 2 million people each year.
Ipanema Beach is the place to be, and where most of the action is during the day; the beach is packed with people from all over the world. Guys will be walking up and down the beach selling beers for about 2-3 reals (pronounced hay-ice) and there will also be people selling snacks, so you can literally chill out on the beach all day. Watch your bag, or better yet, don’t even bring one. All you’ll need is a towel, some sunscreen and a few bucks.
Copacobana Beach is also popular, and more geared towards families as it is a bit quieter during the celebrations.
If you’ve done a bit of (ahem) basic research, you’ll know that Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. Although it has similarities to Spanish (ie/ Cerveja means beer) it follows a slightly different grammatical pattern. Some Brazilians feel annoyed when you try to speak to them in Spanish and much of the older population don’t understand Spanish or English, so it’s a good idea to grab a phrase book before you go, and brush up on a few key words.
Know: Brazil is not cheap, especially during Carnival. Budget how you would for a trip in Canada.
Stay: Try to stay near Ipanema Beach, but if it is out of your price-range, you can stay a bit farther away and take the subway to the beach. We stayed on Botofogo beach, which is not swimmable (or even really walk-able along the beach due to the debris), but was more affordable.
- Hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. Access is at the bottom (obviously), near the gondola station. It’s a well marked path, and you’ll be able to get up the first peak. After that (as it spans over 2 peaks), you’ll need to take the gondola the rest of the way. The views from the top are incredible, and you’ll be able to see the beaches, peaks and city views from (almost) 360
- Cristo. Take a tour up to Cristo, the Jesus statue. This is nothing new, and everyone does this so the novelty is a bit worn and is super crowded. However, it is an iconic symbol of Rio and there are spectacular views from the top.
We skipped merrily past Sao Paulo, and from what others told us, it was a good decision.
Floripa is probably my favourite city on earth. It boasts an incredible 42 beaches (praias) and a population of 1.2 million (about the size of Calgary). You could spend your entire trip exploring the region; surfing, beaching and hiking along the way.
- Check out English Beach and Barra de Lagoa, and definitely try your hand at surfing while you’re there.
- Cab into the city for a night out. Most clubs will give you a card to charge drinks to, and then you are charged before you can leave the club. You may have some mysterious extra charges on your bill, but there is no sense arguing.
Foz de Iguazu (Iguazu Falls)
Brazil and Argentina share the falls, similar to how US and Canada share Niagara Falls. Argentina actually has access to the better side, and you can take a boat on the river right up to the falls, and hike through kilometers upon kilometers of the jungle.
Stay: If you’re viewing the falls from Argentina, it’s best to stay in the same country as you can go back the next day for a reduced price if you didn’t get to see it all. We stayed at Hostel Inn Iguazu, which has a great pool, little huts backing onto the jungle, pool DJ, entertainment (learn salsa dancing) and basic rooms.
There are also major hotel chains like the Marriot, Delta and Westin near the falls, and more accommodation in the town.
Getting Around: Buses are your best bet, unless you have budget to fly to each destination.